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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Kadyrov's Bully Tactics Won't Help Russia Recruit More Soldiers In Chechnya

A skirmish between two law enforcement officers in Chechnya turned deadly last month, and ultimately led to a widespread crackdown by authorities. Strongman Ramzan Kadyrov taking sides in the dispute raises deeper questions about the lack of Chechen soldiers showing up for the war in Ukraine.

Photo of head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov​

Head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov

-Analysis-

Ten days ago in the Chechen town of Urus-Martan, a small dispute broke out between a Rosguardian soldier of the National Guard of Russia and a local traffic police officer. What appeared to be just a minor skirmish quickly escalated, turning into an all-out attack on citizens who don't support the regime of Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's longtime strongman ruler.

It is yet another attempt by Kadyrov to show that he keeps complete control over Chechnya, a Russian republic that waged a failed war for independence against Moscow in the mid-1990s. But it's also clear that the situation is aggravated by the fact that many Chechens refuse to go to war in Ukraine.

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On the evening of Dec. 11, military special forces in one of the districts of Chechnya raided the homes of people who had witnessed the clash between the two law enforcement officers the day before, which led to the stabbing death of the traffic officer.


Vazhnyye Istorii talked with Abubakar Yangulbayev, a human rights activist and former lawyer with the Russian human rights organization Crew Against Torture about what is happening, why the conflict arose, and what Kadyrov's threats and provocations mean.

Fighting dissent

For several days, there have been security forces at all entry and exit points of the city of Urus-Martan, as well as along its whole perimeter. However, these heavily armed officers had no identification marks on their uniforms, as they stop and check every car: the interiors, trunks, compartments.

They have also begun entering people's houses, directly provoke people saying: “If you are men, get out here.”

Kadyrov wants to show that he has Chechnya under control.

The conflict [between the National Guard officer and traffic officer] had to be resolved by the law: bringing to justice the one who is guilty. But Kadyrov decided to put an end to it. Since the head of the traffic police is his nephew, his sister's son, he took the side of the traffic police.

Kadyrov is taking this story further to show that he has Chechnya under control. Urus-Martan, like other mountainous regions, has always been one of the most opposed to the central authorities in the capital of Grozny. People here have always resisted the Kadyrovites [Kadyrov's followers] most fiercely, and Kadyrov wanted to show people that he will terrorize anyone who is critical of anything — for example, even the actions of a local traffic officer.

Photo of a traffic police car in the Druzhby Narodov Square

A traffic police car is seen in Druzhby Narodov Square after a traffic police officer was attacked

Stringer/TASS

Why are Chechens refusing to fight in Ukraine war?

How can we imagine sending disgruntled citizens to war on a massive scale? But Kadyrov uses the topic of the war in Ukraine as both scaremongering and another method of fighting any dissent and legalizing the killing of opponents. “We will send you to war, to the front, to the front line, and there you will die...” That is his message.

Since the beginning of the war, there has been an issue with the fact that both Kadyrov and Vladimir Putin expected Chechnya to go to war, but Chechnya had not forgotten its recent history: Russia had bombed Chechnya in the 1990s to crush an independence movement. The pain from this is still very much alive throughout the republic.

Kadyrov and Putin have boasted much larger, false numbers, but in fact, no more than 3,000 ethnic Chechens have gone to war on Russia's behalf over the past 10 months: this is Kadyrov's regiment and several battalions of 400 people maximum.

Over time, this number has significantly dropped due to injuries and deaths. They cannot recruit new people: even the poor refuse to work even in the so-called civilian service, for example, in the police, because it is easily turned into a military service.

It is difficult to arrange a mass recruitment of Chechens to go to war. They can be forced by threat of jailing and torture, but this requires major resources. For even if every police department has a person who specializes in torture, they too must be forced to follow through.

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