Chechen Muslims start a civil war on Ukrainian soil

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Regimental commander Zamid Chalaev of the Chechen Republic fires a grenade launcher in the city of Mariupol. / Reuters/Video: Atlas

Two Islamic battalions opposed to Putin face the pro-Russians of Khadyrov, the puppet president of Moscow in Chechnya

In Ukraine, different groups of Chechen Muslims are annihilating each other to the cry of ‘Allah Akbar’, immersed in a battle that has transferred to cities like Mariupol the disputes that have persisted in their native region for decades. Currently, at least two independent anti-Russian Muslim battalions are operating in the invaded country. In front of them is the also follower of Islam Ramzán Khadyrov, Putin’s man in Chechnya and whose followers, the ‘kadyrovsky’, fight alongside the Russian troops.

The two main Chechen militias that have moved into Ukraine to support Zelensky are the Sheikh Mansur and the Dozhjar Dudayev battalions. The number of people that make up these units is unknown and their weapons, apparently, have been provided by the Ukrainian Army. In the propaganda images that both groups have spread, many of these Muslim soldiers show distinctive features of the Caucasus regions, such as endless beards and fur caps. They are the same signs of identity of the ‘kadyrovsky’, which shows the state of civil war in which this ethnic group lives in Ukraine.

The oldest unit of Chechen Muslims deployed in Ukraine is the group named after Dozhjar Dudayev, the first president of the independent republic of Chechnya born after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This former general of the Russian air force was assassinated by the Russians by means of a precision missile in 1996, with which he went on to become a martyr for independence. The battalion that bears his name was created in 2014 in Denmark, the country where hundreds of Chechens had taken refuge after the victory of Russian troops in Grozny, the capital of the republic. Its first commander was Isa Munayev, a city policeman who had led lethal ambushes against Russian troops in urban combat. Munayev died in 2015, when he was hit by a tank shot in the Donnbas area, Ukraine. On that date, this group of Chechen Muslims had joined, as an independent unit, the fight against the pro-Russians in this region.

The second anti-Putin Muslim unit in Ukraine is Sheikh Mansur’s battalion. This group of fighters is named after an 18th-century Chechen imam who rose up against Tsarina Catherine the Great. After his death in captivity in 1794 he became a martyr for the Chechen cause and independence movements have raised his figure to lead the various revolts organized in the region. According to various sources, this battalion is now fighting in Mariupol, the city where Khadyrov’s supporters are also found.

This fight between Chechen Muslims has a strong propaganda charge around it. On the one hand, the fighters of that former Soviet republic have a reputation for ruthlessness and efficiency, which is being used as a tool to terrorize the rival on both sides. From Russia, for its part, Muslims who support Ukraine are being accused without evidence of having collaborated with the Islamic State (IS) in an attempt to discredit them. In their official statements, pro-Putin Muslims call them ‘shaitan’, the Koranic term for the devil.

For their part, spokesmen for Sheikh Mansur’s battalion, who have denied any involvement with IS, are using the battle to challenge President Khadyrov. In his speeches they accuse him of being a coward for not being in the front line and they are proud that this leader has put a price on his head: 500,000 dollars for the bosses of ‘Sheikh Mansur’.

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