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Zelenskyy orders study on extending diplomatic recognition to Chechnya-Ichkeria

yeltsin Chechen war peace treaty
Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov after signing a treaty on peace and principles of relations between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in the Kremlin, May 12, 1997. Photo: TASS

Having declared Chechnya-Ichkeria a temporarily occupied land last month and pressed by a petition signed by more than 25,000 to recognize that republic, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has directed his foreign ministry to study the question, noting that he alone has the power to decide whether to extend recognition or not.

Zelenskyy’s response came on the Ukrainian government portal dealing with petitions to him and by itself does not mean that he is about to recognize Chechnya-Ichkeria or that republic’s government in exile. But it is an indication that Kyiv’s earlier move in declaring that republic temporarily occupied is unlikely to be the last.

[editorial]

The Chechen Republic of Ichkeria declared its independence back in 1991 and lasted as a de-facto independent state until 2000 when Russia won the so-called Second Chechen War and eventually installed its puppet government in Chechnya led by Akhmad Kadyrov then, to this day, by his odious son, Ramzan Kadyrov. Georgia was the only UN member state to recognize Chechnya’s independence. After the Ichkeria’s defeat, the Chechens continued insurgency on the republic’s territory for years. Meanwhile, the republic’s government-in-exile was established abroad with former Ichkerian PM Akhmed Zakayev being its current head since 2007.

Amid Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Zakayev visited to Kyiv in May 2022 and met with several Ukrainian MPs and later announced the creation of the Separate Special Purpose Battalion of the Chechen Republic’s Armed Forces to fight against Russians in Ukraine. Currently, there are four Chechen battalions fighting with Ukrainian troops against the Russian military – the Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion, the Sheikh Mansur Battalion, the Hamzat Gelayet joint detachment, and the Zakayev-announced battalion. Meanwhile, Ramzan Kadyrov’s troops colloquially known as Kadyrovvtsi are part of the Russian invasion force in Ukraine.

On 18 October 2022, Ukraine’s parliament Verkhovna Rada recognized the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria as “temporarily occupied” land.

[/editorial]

The earlier move has already created expectations other East European and Baltic countries will go at least as far and calls by other republics within Russia’s current borders that Kyiv does at least as much for them.

Even if Kyiv does not move on the Chechen issue or the others anytime soon, the mere fact that it has gone this far will not only infuriate Moscow but will increase the likelihood that many in non-Russian regions who had thought that achieving independence was impossible may now change their minds and increasingly become involved in nationalist causes.

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