Razman Kadyrov, the strongman leader of Russia’s Chechen Republic and outspoken supporter of Vladimir Putin, just took to the internet and social media – again- because of some particularly bad news from Ukraine.
Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) commanders on Monday, 24 Oct. in the southern Kherson Region ordered a HIMARS precision-guided rocket strike on an administrative building in the Russian Federation (RF)-occupied village of Kairy, in the southern Kherson Region, to hit an “enemy concentration of force”.
At least two, and probably three or four, of the U.S.-made GPS-aimed weapons scored direct hits, flattening the middle third of the brick, wood beam and steel-girder building. Explosions blew out the insides of the rest of the structure.
According to news and official reports from both Ukrainian news and official sources, as well as RF-controlled information platforms, at least 150 and probably more “Kadyrovtsi”, Chechen nationals recruited to fight in Ukraine by Moscow, were in the building when it was struck.
Estimates of the casualty count varied, but by all accounts it was a lot. A Chechen opposition-associated Telegram channel called 1Adat claimed that more than 100 Kadyrovtsi fighters died, practically all from Neftekhran, a Chechen National Guard unit raised by and personally loyal to Kadyrov himself.
Serhiy Khlan, a Ukrainian official servicing as deputy head of Kherson Regional Council, told reporters on Tuesday, Oct. 25, that Ukrainian army intelligence believed the unit had suffered 40 dead and 60 seriously injured.
On Tuesday evening, Kadyrov launched a counterattack on the internet, publishing a rambling and at times mumbled audio and later video recording in which he complained Russia was not tough enough with Ukraine, that Ukrainian strikes were not just hitting Russian troops in Ukraine but Russian cities in Russia, and that the Kremlin should in retaliation “wipe [Ukrainian] cities off the Earth.”
Wearing a blue track suit and a black Muslim prayer cap, Kardyrov called on his fellow Chechens to get on board with the national war effort against Ukraine, and on Chechen men to defend Russia in a holy war.
“Age doesn’t matter, you still have to be in the military registration and enlistment offices!,” Kadyrov said. “You either shave off your beards or show true religiosity not in words, but in deeds to come out in defense of religion…to raise the flag of the victory of the Almighty over Satanism.”
Most Chechen opposition members and many Islamist activists consider Kadyrov a traitor. According to them he is a sell-out, a former jihad fighter now collaborating with Putin to keep Chechnya’s overwhelmingly Muslim population under the thumb of Orthodox Christian Russia, and to feed the Kremlin a reliable stream of cannon fodder for Putin’s foreign invasions.
Kadyrov, who during the late 1990s was a guerrilla fighter in Chechnya’s unsuccessful bid for independence from the Kremlin, claimed in the Tuesday recording he has “always fought for his Motherland…[that] things happen in war…[and that he]…cannot understand why people could not want to defend their Motherland now.”
Military-age Chechen men have, by most accounts, good grounds to avoid Ukraine. In March, in the first weeks of Russia’s war on Ukraine, thousands of Chechen paramilitary police, according to AFU reports, followed in the wake of RF armored columns invading Ukraine from the north. The lightly-armed Chechen troops, lacking heavy weapons or serious combat experience, were gutted by Ukrainian artillery bombardments and in infantry ambushes. During May, June and July Chechen troops were at the forefront of bloody house-to-house fighting, particularly in Mariupol and Severodonetsk.
Kadyrov-controlled media outlets have, nonetheless, tried to paint a picture of Chechen troops welcomed by Ukrainians and always winning their battles. Most common are images of fighters charging through ruined villages firing fiercely at unseen targets. Battle-hardened Ukrainian soldiers, able to view the content on their own devices, and dismissive of faked war images from any source, sometimes call Chechens “theatrical performers” and “Tik Tok warriors”.
But a bigger problem for Kadyrov is the information security discipline of Chechen soldiers which, arguably, is poor even by the Russian army’s low standards. Almost daily, a stream of seemingly unfiltered video clips, filmed in most cases by soldiers themselves has, for months, made its way to the internet documenting Chechen soldiers in Ukraine killed, wounded, and even cut down by shell splinters during a live feed. On Friday, Oct. 21, it was a soldier with his foot blown off. On Oct. 23 a recording showed Chechen fighters pointing to a fire caused by an AFU mortar strike and telling the camera two comrades had just burnt to death there.
In a video likely recorded minutes after the Oct. 24 HIMARS strike on the barracks in Kairy, and posted within minutes to the internet, bleeding and dust-covered Chechen soldiers confirm it was a Ukrainian weapon and, in evident pain, declare “God is Great” to a cameraman. Like Kadyrov’s own video clips, the images are readily accessed via Telegram, by far Russia’s most popular information post platform.
Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, in a statement released on Tuesday, Oct. 25 on multiple social media platforms, responded to Kadyrov’s call to erase Ukrainian cities with some advice of his own.
“Before it’s too late, leave Ukraine and fight for the independence of Ichkeria [Chechnya] – this is the best guarantee [for Chechnya] that Russia will not erase the city of Dzhokhar [Grozny] from the Earth for a second time. As long as the Russian Federation exists, they [Russians] will return to kill Chechen women and children again.”
Ukraine’s Army General Staff in its traditional 6 A.M. situation update reported on Wednesday, Oct. 26 that, among other long-range attacks conducted across the front over the last 24 hours, AFU weapons destroyed a RF ammunition dump in the Luhansk sector, along with 10 “Kadyrovites”.
According to UNIAN, a Ukrainian news agency, the Chechens had been faking combat activities and filming themselves in the generally peaceful village of Novoivanivka when the UAF weapons hit them.
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