Skip to main content

Chechen special forces are on the ground in Syria and 'have infiltrated Isis cells', says Ramzan Kadyrov



Chechen special forces loyal to Vladimir Putin are on the ground in Syria, embedded inside Isis-controlled territory as part of an intelligence-gathering mission, the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has said.

In a teaser for a documentary to be aired on Russia’s state-controlled TV channel, Russia One, later this week, Mr Kadyrov is shown at a training camp for special units in Chechnya. Shooting high-powered weapons and observing the troops, Mr Kadyrov tells the camera that his “best fighters” were sent undercover to Syria to train alongside Isis fighters, while Chechen agents had infiltrated Isis cells “to gather information about the terrorist group”.

“An extensive spy network has been set up inside Isis,” Mr Kadyrov said. Russia One’s report said that the time had come to talk about those “who have safeguarded the success of Russian air strikes on the ground at the cost of their own lives”.


However, in a rare discrepancy between the Kremlin’s official line and the information broadcast on state TV, a presidential spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, refused to confirm the report. Mr Peskov told journalists that Russia’s defence ministry has already given “exhaustive information [about] who has been deployed to Syria and for how long and what they’re doing there … and one should not speak about the Chechen special task force but about relevant federal units”.

Thousands flee Syria amid Russian-backed offensive on Aleppo

The report and its rebuttal by the Kremlin show cracks in the official narrative about Russia’s presence in Syria. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied the presence of its troops on the ground and remained evasive over whether Russian special forces are operating in the country. The report adds to mounting evidence that Mr Kadyrov has spun out of Moscow’s control and may be vying for greater influence in the region.

Mr Kadyrov, a self-professed “foot soldier for Putin”, has ruled Chechnya with a strong hand since taking power in 2007, coming under heavy international criticism for accusations of widespread human rights abuses. He also controls thousands of paramilitary fighters known in the region as “Kadyrovtsky” (Kadyrov’s men), who are meant to serve the Kremlin but in reality are personally loyal to the Chechen leader.

In April last year, Mr Kadyrov authorised Chechen police to open fire at any officers from other parts of Russia who arrive in Chechnya without giving warning, after a wanted Chechen was shot dead by police in the neighbouring Stavropol region.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why States Still Use Barrel Bombs

Smoke ascends after a Syrian military helicopter allegedly dropped a barrel bomb over the city of Daraya on Jan. 31.(FADI DIRANI/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary
Barrel bombs are not especially effective weapons. They are often poorly constructed; they fail to detonate more often than other devices constructed for a similar purpose; and their lack of precision means they can have a disproportionate effect on civilian populations.

However, combatants continue to use barrel bombs in conflicts, including in recent and ongoing conflicts in Africa and the Middle East, and they are ideally suited to the requirements of resource-poor states.

Analysis


Barrel bombs are improvised devices that contain explosive filling and shrapnel packed into a container, often in a cylindrical shape such as a barrel. The devices continue to be dropped on towns all over Syria. Indeed, there have been several documented cases of their use in Iraq over the past months, and residents of the city of Mosul, which was recently …

Russia Looks East for New Oil Markets

Click to Enlarge


In the final years of the Soviet Union, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev began orienting his foreign policy toward Asia in response to a rising Japan. Putin has also piloted a much-touted pivot to Asia, coinciding with renewed U.S. interest in the area. A good expression of intent was Russia's hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in 2012 in Vladivostok, near Russia's borders with China and North Korea. Although its efforts in Asia have been limited by more direct interests in Russia's periphery and in Europe, Moscow recently has been able to look more to the east.

Part of this renewed interest involves finding new export markets for Russian hydrocarbons. Russia's economy relies on energy exports, particularly crude oil and natural gas exported via pipeline to the West. However, Western Europe is diversifying its energy sources as new supplies come online out of a desire to reduce its dependence on Russian energy supplies.

This has forced…

In Yemen, a Rebel Advance Could Topple the Regime

Shia loyal to the al-Houthi movement ride past Yemeni soldiers near Yaz, Yemen, in May. (MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


The success of a rebel campaign in northern Yemen is threatening to destabilize the already weak and overwhelmed government in Sanaa. After capturing the city of Amran, a mere 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the capital, in early July, the rebels from the al-Houthi tribe are in their strongest position yet. The Yemeni government is developing plans to divide the country into six federal regions, and the rebels believe this is their chance to claim territory for the future bargaining.

The central government is nearly powerless to fend off the rebels; its forces are already stretched thin. Neighboring Saudi Arabia has intervened in Yemen before and still supports Sunni tribes in the north, but the risk of inciting a Shiite backlash or creating space for jihadists to move in could deter another intervention.

Analysis


Followers of Zaidi Islam, a branch of Shiism, rul…