Taras Panyo, Espreso TV, May 27, 2014
Ukrainians have become almost used to reading news that “Chechens are operating in the Donbas.” Peaceful civilians occasionally see people “of Caucasian nationality.” Leaders of pro-Ukrainian forces claim they fought with “trained Chechens.”
Sometimes there are even strange reports that supposedly unwilling Chechens are being forced to fight in Ukraine. Nobody can say with absolute accuracy how much truth there is to all these reports — not even the Moscow organizers of the operation in eastern Ukraine — or their Grozny puppets.
This is because, despite the fiery rhetoric of Ramzan Kadyrov*, Chechens organized as a military force do not appear to be participating in the conflict. Regular units of the Russian army, including those from Chechnya, are absent. Otherwise, sooner of later the Ukrainian military would have been able to trace characteristic radio communications, weapons and equipment and so on. Besides, the regular army is not needed there — that was not the point of the Russian operation.
Furthermore, it would be difficult to imagine that an irregular Chechen unit would not take the opportunity to show off its participation in battles, victories, and trophies. It would be equally difficult to understand why forces composed of ethnic Chechens would be brought into Ukraine — Chechens who, for obvious reasons, would be practically useless for guerrilla warfare in the Donbas. And who, sooner or later, would enter into conflict with, for example, the exiled Don Cossacks. Similarly, the Chechens would not find agreement with the supporters of “Orthodoxy, self-rule and nationality,” who actually make up the lion’s share of the rather narrow social base of Donetsk separatism.
Therefore, it seems that in reality a terrorist international is operating in the Donbas, in the ranks of which the scum of any ethnic or national origin can fight, including Chechens, Dagestanis or Ingush — people whose identity most Ukrainian would find difficult to determine and useless to do so.
Why then are the Russian militants, at least those whose appearance obviously indicates Caucasian origins, so often associated in the minds of Ukrainian with Chechens?
There are several reasons. The first, and most obvious, is the fear that most Ukrainian have of Chechen fighters dating from the pacification of the Caucasus by the Russian Empire and their terrible reputation, as in “Angry Chechen crawls ashore, sharpening his dagger”(from poem by 19th cen. Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov — Ed.). Little has changed over 200 years. Two Chechen wars over the past two decades did not leave much room for kindness.
Another point, which only reinforces the fear, is the reputation of the fighters of Ramzan Kadyrov. Unlimited rights, kidnappings, torture, meaningless executions — this reputation follows Kadyrov’s people like a dark, purple plume since the days of the “pacification” of Chechnya.
Russian mass media is also adding to the hysteria by willingly relaying loud statements by the Chechen leader about volunteers willing to support the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine — to defend the interests of an empire that for more than 10 years drowned their land in blood and now is brewing another bloody mess in another one of its neighbors.
Russian propaganda has created an image of Chechens as menacing dogs of the Putin regime, who will “tear anyone apart.” However, they do not mention the fact that Chechnya did not join Russia willingly or through conquest, but was purchased through federalization. The same Kadyrov will demonstrate extreme loyalty to the Kremlin as long as he enjoys complete and unconditional power in the republic and is satisfied with the cash flowing in for “building a brighter future in Chechnya.”
However, boasting that some other regions of the Caucasus are “hurrying to rescue the abused Russians” would be inappropriate. In the case of Ingushetia and especially of Dagestan, it would be difficult to believe that the people of these republics, where local antiterrorist operations take place practically every day and where police either kill the “militants” with gas pistols or later die themselves, would be much concerned with the geopolitical rights and interests of the “Great Russian ethnic group.”
On the other hand, it is quite possible that there really is a large number of Chechens in the Donbas, and that they got there with the consent of Ramzan Kadyrov. This is because since the time of the total amnesty for militants, there are still quite a few militants and commanders left whose loyalty he has reason to doubt. By sending them to Ukraine, Kadyrov gives them opportunity either to serve the “national leader” and glorify Chechen weapons, or to die heroically on the battlefield. The Chechen leader would probably consider either result positive.
Only one question remains. Why would Ukrainians care about the ethnicity of people who came armed to their land and who have been responsible for the deaths of Ukrainian citizens and soldiers. The main objective, obviously, is to neutralize or liquidate them. Then, after peace and tranquility prevail on the streets of Donbas, there will be no unpleasant insinuations to trouble the peaceful and friendly relations between the Ukrainian and Chechen peoples.
*Current head of the Chechen Republic in the Russian Federation. Supported by Putin.
Translated by Anna Mostovych
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