North Caucasians Fighting on Both Sides in Eastern Ukraine, Ingushetia Leader Says

July 4, 2014
Ingushetia's President Yunus-Bek Evkurov

Staunton, July 3 – Many commentators have speculated about the possibility that the fighting in eastern Ukraine could spill back into the Russian Federation, but now, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, head of the North Caucasian republic of Ingushetia, has pointed to a way this could easily happen that Ukrainian sources have suggested but that has attracted little attention.

In an interview published in Moscow’s Kommersant yesterday, Yevkurov says that he has information that there are Ingushes fighting on both sides in eastern Ukraine, some fighting for the pro-Russian forces and others for Ukraine. He adds that he sees nothing especially surprising in this.

The Ingush leader says he draws that conclusion “because a war is going on there” and because those who want to fight go where the fighting is. At the same time, he continues, he does not have any precise figures on the numbers and on losses. But, he says, “those who go there should think about the consequences.”

In other comments, Yevkurov suggests that “many so-called patriots of Russia are prepared with shouts of ‘Glory to Russia!’ to surrender Russia just as Ukraine’s ‘patriots’ have surrendered to the Americans.” And he suggests that when non-Russians from Russia are abroad, they “must conduct themselves as Russians [russkiye or ethnic Russians], not by nationality but by spirit.”

At the same time, he adds, “Russia is a multi-national and multi-confessional people.”

Yevkurov’s comments suggest at least three conclusions. First, people from the North Caucasus really are involved in the fighting in eastern Ukraine, and Ukrainian reports of this should not be dismissed as many have. Second, the longer the fighting in Ukraine goes on, the more from that restive region are likely to be involved.

And third – and from Moscow’s point of view most ominously – the fighting in eastern Ukraine is likely to trigger a new round of fighting in the North Caucasus, with Ingushes and other nationalities from that region having gained experience and additional motivation from their experiences in Ukraine to continue the fight at home.