War in Ukraine | Kadyrov’s men, brutality in the service of Putin

(Paris) Chechens shooting in all directions with assault rifles, Ukrainian prisoners kneeling, staring blankly, or dragged in the middle of lifeless bodies: on his Telegram channel, the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov praises the merits of his troops every day , the “kadyrovtsy”, militias of sinister reputation deployed alongside the Russian army in Ukraine.

Posted at 12:11 p.m.

Valerie LEROUX
France Media Agency

From Mariupol, a martyred city besieged by the Russians, to the pro-Russian separatist East, the strong man of Chechnya displays his contribution to the war with great support from videos embellished with captions praising the “bravery” of his men in the face of those whom he calls the “Nazis of Kyiv”, using the terminology of Moscow.

Son of a Chechen separatist who sided with the Russians, protected by Vladimir Putin and regularly accused of serious human rights violations, he himself appeared in mid-March, posing in the midst of around thirty armed men, in this which he introduced as Mariupol.

On the networks, Ramzan Kadyrov also claims to have found and “punished” with his own hands a Ukrainian because he had “tortured” a Russian. His men proudly display their “prizes”, wounded, bloodied Ukrainian soldiers.

So many images that live up to their reputation forged in all the theaters of operations they have visited, from Chechnya to Syria via Ukraine already in 2014.

In the “psychological warfare” which is raging “the announcement of the entry into the war of Kadyrov’s troops and the propaganda which surrounds it are part of this effort to destabilize the enemy”, deciphers Aurélie Campana, specialist in political violence and of Russia at the University of Laval in Canada.

“Feeding Fear”

“They are known for their cruelty […] The invocation of the use of Chechen troops therefore serves to fuel fear within the Ukrainian population, ”she adds in an analysis on the site The Conversation.

At the start of the war, when Vladimir Putin was still counting on a quick overthrow of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, word spread that they were on a mission to kill him.

Ramzan Kadyrov, who rules Chechnya, an entity of the Russian Federation, with an iron fist, then promised Vladimir Zelensky that he would soon be “the former president of Ukraine”.

The Ukrainian leader has since become the symbol of the resistance of an entire people, challenging Vladimir Putin every day through his interventions on social networks, where his supporters also try to make fun of the kadyrovtsy.

How many of them went to Ukraine? A thousand, assured their leader in mid-March, unverifiable information from an independent source.

For the Russian political scientist Alexei Malachenko, a specialist in Islam, “nobody knows how many Chechens are fighting in Ukraine and where they are deployed exactly”. Moreover, other Chechens have joined the Ukrainian camp.

They are above all specialists in maintaining order, which adds to their formidable image of brutality and arbitrariness, whose feats of arms remain to be proven.

Ramzan Kadyrov thus triumphantly announced the conquest by his men of the town hall Mariupol, before publishing a video where it was no longer a question of the capture of a secondary administrative building.

“Kadyrov is taking part in the operation in Ukraine to show that he is completely loyal to Putin and to maintain his influence. For him, participation in the operation is personal publicity,” notes Russian political scientist Konstantin Kalatchev.

“Disciplining the Russians”

He himself is suspected of being behind several assassinations of Kremlin opponents, including Boris Nemtsov, as well as journalist Anna Politkovskaïa, a critic of power.

Rouslan Gueremeïev, commander of the Chechen forces in Mariupol and suspected of having organized the assassination of Boris Nemtsov in 2015, was also injured at the end of March in this strategic city located on the shores of the Sea of ​​​​Azov.

In Ukraine, the kadyrovtsy could also serve as an auxiliary force to subdue the most recalcitrant, including in the Russian army, as they had done in 2014 with certain disputed pro-Russian separatists.

“The experience of Kadyrov’s troops could be an asset, not only for locally overcoming Ukrainian resistance, but also for disciplining Russian troops and their cronies”, considers Aurélie Campana.

Kadyrov’s men certainly do not only have friends in Moscow. The services retain resentment against the Chechen separatists who held off the Russian army until the latter imposed itself by razing Grozny, a modus operandi reissued today in Mariupol.

“But Putin completely trusts them. Kadyrov always says he is Putin’s “foot soldier”. For him, participation in the operation in Ukraine is a personal success,” said Alexei Malachenko.

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