Staunton, July 28 – Chechens who have been fighting alongside Ukrainians against Russian forces since 2014 say that their participation in the conflict there is a training ground for the eventual resumption of a war of liberation in the North Caucasus. Such declarations have rattled Ramzan Kadyrov but most observers say that a new rising in Chechnya is a long way off.
Ten days ago, Islam Belokiyev, a spokesman for the Sheikh Mansur Battalion of anti-Moscow Chechens fighting in Ukraine, said that his group was not only fighting Russians now but “conducting military training, the purpose of which is the de-occupation, de-colonization and subsequent de-nuclearization of the Russian Empire (youtube.com/watch?v=YZhXHcdPa_Y).
His words, the latest in a series (twitter.com/Torsi_3/status/1549797575552909312 and oc-media.org/features/is-a-new-armed-uprising-on-the-horizon-in-chechnya/), appeared to imply that such a move by Chechen militants was imminent and that they would soon be returning to the North Caucasus to fight.
They certainly rattled Moscow’s man in Grozny, Ramzan Kadyrov, who issued his own statement that his forces and those of Russia must be ready for anything (t.me/RKadyrov_95/2571). But both other Chechen leaders, like Dzhambulat Suleymanov of Bart Marsho organization, say the time is not yet right and that the Chechens are not suicidal.
Most Western experts agree, but Belokiyev’s statement and Kadyrov’s reaction does suggest that at least some see Ukraine as a training ground for resistance in the future, and that conclusion about the anti-Moscow Chechen forces may lead some in the Russian capital to be worried about what participation in the war by other non-Russians may mean.
Perhaps most important, that conclusion may lead some in Moscow to argue against forming non-Russian battalions to fight on Russia’s side there. After all, if non-Russians do get military experience in this way, they may ultimately decide to use it against those who initially provided it, something not unknown in international experience.