Russia might use Chechens soldiers loyal to the formerly war-torn republic’s pro-Moscow regime in Ukraine.
According to NPR, there are multiple reports from Russia, Chechnya, and Ukraine suggest that there is pro-Russian Chechen military involvement in the eastern part of Ukraine.
The current evidence is not conclusive. But Ramzan Kadyrov, the Moscow-installed warlord in charge of Chechnya, has written that “there are tens of thousands of volunteers in Chechnya who are ready to help those who are being abused by fascistic thugs, whose blood is being shed by the unlawful government of Kiev,” according to the online magazine Ozymandias.
Chechnya’s government is now run by Kadyrov, a former (and some would argue current) warlord. If Kadyrov does send militants to eastern Ukraine, then both Moscow and Grozny would be following Russia’s playbook from the 2008 Georgia war.
“What’s going on with Ukraine is a classic covert operation,” Former CIA deputy director John McLaughlin told the online magazine Ozymandias. “The Russians probably won’t have to go in militarily with special forces because they are gradually stirring it up, co-opting it … everyone assumes this is not spontaneously generated by someone who woke up and said, ‘Hey, I’d like to be a part of Russia.’ They are doing this very indirectly. Involving the Chechens in that would be also kind of classic, to the extent that you can confuse the adversary.”
There were consistent reports that Chechen militias were involved in Russia’s incursion into Georgia, and they did not behave themselves. This report, from the Guardian’s Luke Harding, was typical — and an ominous sign of what Eastern Ukraine could be in for if the current conflict intensifies:
Behind them, according to people fleeing those villages, came a militia army of Chechen and Ossetian volunteers who had joined up with the regular Russian army. The volunteers embarked on an orgy of looting, burning, murdering and rape, witnesses claimed, adding that the irregulars had carried off young girls and men.
Russia fought multiple wars against Chechen separatists in the 1990s and early 2000s. The conflicts culminated in the installation of a pro-Russian government in Grozny, as well as the complete reconstruction of the republic’s ruined capital city.
The Chechnya war is one of the signal accomplishments of Vladimir Putin’s rule. In a time of internal weakness and economic collapse, Moscow brutally crushed a determined and broadly-supported insurgency, reducing a popular movement to a hardened core of Islamist extremists. Moscow then rebuilt the republic in a way that erased all evidence of its past. Compare these photos of Grozny, taken in early 2000:
…to one from after the city’sreconstruction, in October of 2011:
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