Since Russia escalated its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, there has been considerable international involvement with fighters around the world coming to fight on either side of the conflict. One element of this to note is the presence of Chechen fighters on both sides of the conflict, Ukrainian and Russian. Immediate history would be that in the matter of the two Chechen wars, the Russians installed a loyalist faction of the native Chechen population to reinforce Russian rule and stamp out resistance. Despite this, there remains a significant part of ethnic Chechens are deeply hostile to Russia, considering it to be a country that committed war crimes to suppress the authority of their people.
The pro-Russian government is led By Ramzan Kadyrov whose father switched sides against the Russians during the second war. In the context of Ukraine, Kadyrov and his forces have been active in supporting Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
According to NPR, “In 2006, Moscow appointed pro-Russian leader Ramzan Kadyrov to rule Chechnya, and Kadyrov has pledged his support and loyalty to Putin and his invasion of Ukraine. Kadyrov has claimed that Chechen fighters loyal to Russia have been sent to Ukraine to fight for Putin, meaning it is entirely possible Chechens are now fighting Chechens.” On the other hand, there are Chechen fighters who have joined with Ukrainian forces to repulse the Russian invaders.
Despite Russia maintaining control over Chechnya, many Chechens are opposed to Russian rule. Additionally, many Chechens fled the region to surrounding countries and have come to Ukraine from there. According to NPR, this is the story of one Chechen fighter on the Ukrainian side: “Today, Mansur is the deputy commander of the Sheikh Mansur Battalion (no relation), one of at least two all-Chechen battalions fighting in Ukraine against Russia. These Chechens are among the 20,000 foreign fighters that the Ukrainian government estimated to have joined its forces as of early March, near the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Chechens say they are ready to fight Russian forces as well as against the other ethnic Chechen soldiers who have been sent to fight on behalf of Russia.”
These fighters see the conflict as an opportunity to inflict losses on those who they believed to have wronged them so much in the past. They report having witnessed the leveling of their towns and cities including buildings being burned with flamethrowers. Putin quashed the Chechen republic in 1999 when he was prime minister. Mansur concluded by saying that Chechans would be there to fight Russian focus wherever they may invade.