The Interpreter

A special project of Institute of Modern Russia
Armband: "Vostok" [East]. Photo by Paul Glypteau

Chechen Residents: Dozens of Those Killed in Battle in Ukraine Have Been Delivered to the Republic.

Local residents say that several dozen residents of Chechnya, who took part in the fighting in Ukraine and died in the Donetsk region, have been brought back to their homeland in the last few days, giving numbers from 35 to 40-45 dead. The Republic’s security agencies declined to comment on these reports, writes a correspondent for Caucasian Knot.

Caucasian Knot has reported that, following the change of power in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea by Russia, clashes broke out in the towns of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine. On the 27th of May, the head of the media task force for the anti-terrorist operation, Vladislav Seleznev, stated that a large number of those fighting on the side of the illegal armed groups hailed from the Caucasus.

Chechen residents say that those Chechens who had been kiled had been fighting on the side of the militia in the Donbass.

“I have a relative working in the security forces. He told me that yesterday, several dozen bodies of our boys, who had been fighting on the side of the militia, were brought to the Republic from Ukraine. Most of those killed were from the Gudermes, Shali and Urus-Martan districts. Six corpses were allegedly brought to one of the districts, four to another. But this information has been kept hush-hush. Because such instructions have been given by the leadership. They’re burying the dead in local cemeteries”, said one Chechen resident to a Caucasian Knot correspondent today.

Former soldiers from spetsnaz battalions and volunteers from other organisations are participating in the fighting in Ukraine, says Apti, a resident of the Shali district.

“When they say that there are no Chechens there, it’s a bare-faced lie. Over the last two weeks former soldiers from the Zapad and Vostok spetsnaz battalions, which came under GRU command, have been sent there. There are also some sorts of volunteers from other organisations. No one talks about the losses suffered there, but I know that among the dead there is a resident of our district, from the village of Germenchuk, who was brought home yesterday from Donetsk. There are also dead from Urus-Martan, Gudermes and other places”, he said to the Caucasian Knot correspondent.

The participation of Chechens in combat operations on Ukrainian territory doesn’t come as a surprise, according to a former member of the parliament of the self-declared Chechen Republic of Ichkeria during the Dzhokhar Dudayev government.

“The practice of using Chechens and other peoples from the North Caucasus, to deal with one conflict or another that affected the interests of Russia, has been in use since the early 90s. Suffice it to recall the events in Nagorno-Karabakh and Abkhazia, where Chechen field commanders who would later become well-known fought such as Umalt Dashayev, Shamil Basayev, Ruslan Gelayev and others”, he said on condition of anonymity.

According to the source, today, the so-called ‘kadyrovtsy’ have been thrown at Ukraine. Those who are going there are mercenaries, who have been promised good money, and those who have been sent there on some sort of mission. The general population has an extremely negative attitude to what is happening today in eastern Ukraine because our people have experienced the horrors of war twice over the last 20 years”, he said to the Caucasian Knot correspondent.

The Chechen security bodies say that all staff from law enforcement agencies of the Republic are “at their places of permanent deployment and are not carrying out any tasks outside the region”.

There are none of our colleagues in Ukraine. It’s possible that a certain number of volunteers are there, but they have no relationship to the Republic’s security agencies. With regards to data on fatalities from our Republic in Donetsk, we have no reliable information on this subject”, said an officer from the Chechen security services to a Caucasian Knot correspondent.

On the 28th of May the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, denied reports about the presence of armed citizens from the Republic in eastern Ukraine. “I am officially declaring that this is not true. No ‘Chechen soldiers’ or still less, ‘military convoys from Chechnya’ are taking part in the conflict”, wrote Kadyrov on his Instagram account.