Those fighting alongside Ukrainian troops include Russian President Vladimir Putin’s oldest and fiercest enemies — veterans of the wars in their homeland and separatists wanted by Moscow who have been on Kyiv’s side since 2014.
At the same time, Russia has used Chechens loyal to the Kremlin to discipline and reportedly even execute dissenting soldiers, as well as intimidate civilians in Ukraine.
But what are Chechens doing in Ukraine? Why are they there? And what effect are they having on — and off — the battlefield?
Why are Chechen soldiers fighting for Russia in Ukraine?
Chechnya is a restive part of southern Russia in the Caucus region. After the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, its primarily Muslim population tried to break away and establish their own state. This led to two horrific wars during the 90s, which ended in Moscow establishing control over Chechnya.
Chechens waging war for Russia in Ukraine today, say experts, are those who teamed up with Moscow to break the rebellion of their own people during the Second Chechen War from 1999 to 2009.
Since then, they’ve acted as the security forces of the semi-autonomous Chechen Republic, maintaining an iron grip on the population and suppressing separatist rebels and some Islamists, who may try to challenge Moscow once again.
The Ichkerian OBON (Separate Special Purpose Battalion) of the UA Foreign Legion during recent urban fighting in #Bakhmut.
Some of you may notice someone with an interesting pedigree and an AT-4… pic.twitter.com/aLXMLKHV6k
— Cᴀʟɪʙʀᴇ Oʙsᴄᴜʀᴀ (@CalibreObscura) January 7, 2023