Live Updates: Both the leaders of Ingushetia and Chechnya have provided details on the military police battalions that have been sent from their republics to serve in Syria.
The previous post in our Putin in Syria column can be found here.
“We had a battalion of military police leave for Syria made up of residents of the republic to work in the population centers, cities where the sides have been separated and peace agreements were signed.”
“Naturally, our guys from the Republic of Ingushetia serve there as well. The Ministry of Defense determines their assignments. And our job is only to help, to support, when they flew out on Monday [February 13], we provided everything necessary for them. Their assignment is one of peace-keeping, monitoring of the maintenance of order in the regions where they will serve their assignments.”
Yevkurov said among the battalion’s tasks would be to accompany humanitarian aid convoys. He added that Ingushetia was prepared to send 30-40 tons of humanitarian aid for those areas where the Ingush battalion would serve.
The Russian Defense Ministry did not have a comment for RBC.
Video Surfaces of Send-off of Chechen Police to Syria; Kadyrov Denies
On December 8, 2016, a video purporting to be of a send-off of a Chechen battalion was posted to YouTube. The video appeared to be taken at the airfield of the Russian base in Khankala. Pictures of buildings known to be taken at the Khankala base appeared to match scenes in the video.
Subsequently, there were reports that the soldiers who had uploaded the video from their cell phones to social media were dismissed from the army.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov denied that he had sent troops to Syria.
The video was removed but TV Rain included it in a broadcast at the time, and a copy was saved. The Daily Beast also confirmed the video and interviewed a pro-government Chechen activist who said his relative was going to serve in Syria.
But ultimately the story was confirmed by both independent media and the Russian Defense Ministry.
Chechen Battalion Sent to Syria
The Chechen battalion was also supposed to guard specialists at the Center for Reconciliation and also personnel at mobile hospitals and in humanitarian convoys, as well as assist local authorities in maintaining order.
Kadyrov Admits Chechen Military Police Are in Syria
Russian Muslims from Caucasus Chosen for Police Role with Syrian Population
“The issue is that Kadyrov has extensive ties in the Arab world, including in Oman, and therefore he believes it possible to take part in the Syrian operation. Yevkurov doesn’t have those ties, however, although the Russian military considers him one of theirs.”
Konstantin Kazenin, an expert at the Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy, said relations between the leaders of Chechnya and Ingushetia “were not without problems” but the decision to send the military police battalions was made at a federal level.
“I don’t think that in making this decision, regional factors were taken into consideration,” he added.
As we have reported, Russian officials have given various figures for the number of these fighters in Syria at different times. RBC quoted the Interior Ministry and FSB as saying 2,800 Russian citizens are fighting in Syria and Iraq, and that by the end of 2015, 889 of them had returned from Syria but were now under criminal investigation.
RBC also cites a report from the Russian Institute for Strategic Research (RISI) published in 2015 that in a division of ISIS under the command of Chechen Abu Umar al-Shishani, there were from 700 to 1,000 fighters from Russia. Al-Shishani himself said he commanded “several hundred natives of the Caucasus.” He was killed in July 2016.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick