Troops from Chechnya in Ukraine. Credit:

Troops from Chechnya in Ukraine. Credit: 

Opinion, Russian War Crimes

Ukraine’s intelligence service has established that only 53 percent of the men who are listed as volunteers from Chechnya are in fact ethnic Chechens. The remainder are overwhelmingly ethnic Russians.

Related: Inter-ethnic animosity saps effectiveness of Russia’s army in Ukraine

Given the attention Ramzan Kadyrov’s units have attracted because of their numbers and brutality in Ukraine, this finding is important in at least three ways:

  • First, it suggests that the boss of Chechnya has been far less successful in attracting Chechens to his units than he claims despite his use of repressive measure to get people of the republic under his control to “volunteer.”
  • Second, it helps to explain conflicts between Kadyrov’s unit and others in the Russian invasion force such as the Buryats, something that may have less to do with hostility among non-Russians than with hostility between all non-Russians and the ethnic Russians who dominate the Russian command if not always its lower ranks.
  • And third – and this is far and away the most important – it indicates that much of the brutality that the Kadyrov force has engaged in has less to do with Chechens than with Putin loyalist Kadyrov’s desire to show how tough he is, even if he has to do it with ethnic Russians who may be far more guilty than many suppose.

Following the publication of this data and the Ukrainian military intelligence service’s offer a list of the names on which they draw the conclusions about the numbers, Moscow propagandists will no longer be able to credibly claim that the Chechens and other non-Russians are responsible for any crimes against humanity in Ukraine.

Related: League of Free Nations: Indigenous activists from Russia to fight for independence from Moscow

These numbers show that the ethnic Russians are playing the dominant role even when they are operating in nominally “Chechen” units.

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