If the European Union has decided to work hand in hand to help Ukraine, Vladimir Putin can count on the unfailing support of Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen president, who mobilized his soldiers last week to come to the aid to Russian troops.
But the army of this predominantly Muslim Caucasian Russian republic, led with an iron fist by Ramzan Kadyrov since 2007, is best known for its violence and brutality. Acts of torture and barbarism, kidnappings, murders… Chechen troops, called the “Kadyrovtsy”, are regularly accused of serious violations of the rights of political opponents, women and LGBT people. Who are they ? What is their role in this war? 20 Minutes make the point.
Persecutions against homosexuals
It didn’t take long for the Chechen president to support Vladimir Putin. On Friday, the day after the Russian offensive in Ukraine, Ramzan Kadyrov gathered his troops in Grozny, the Chechen capital, to announce his commitment alongside Moscow, according to Novaïa Gazeta, a Russian opposition newspaper. “I take this opportunity to advise President Zelensky, until he is the former President of Ukraine, to call our President, Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, and apologize to him.” , said in front of a huge crowd of fighters, several international media reported.
These soldiers, called the “Kadyrovtsy”, are part of the “internal security forces of Chechnya, which itself is part of the Russian federation”, explains to 20 Minutes the specialist Wassim Nasr, journalist and analyst specializing in jihadist movements at France 24. “They participated in several operations abroad, such as in the Donbass in 2014 or as military police in Syria in 2016”, adds the author of the book Islamic State, the fait accomplipublished by Plon.
These “henchmen of President Kadyrov” sow terror abroad, but also in Chechnya where they have committed “exactions against their own population”, continues the specialist. “They are known for acts of indescribable brutality, and this with complete impunity”, adds Aude Merlin, member of Cevipol teaching at the Free University of Brussels, specialist in Russia and the Caucasus, to 20 Minutes. In 2017, the daily Novaïa Gazeta revealed that homosexuals had been arrested, sometimes tortured, and locked up in camps or murdered by Kadyrov’s men, who also incited their families to kill them to “clear their honor”. The same year, three French LGBT associations had also filed a complaint for “genocide” before the International Criminal Court against President Ramzan Kadyrov for persecutions committed against homosexuals in the country.
If the Chechen population is mainly Muslim, the “Kadyrovtsy” are not jihadists, reminds Wassim Nasr, pointing out a mistake regularly made: “They are Muslims, but they are not jihadists. They have no connection with the Islamic State or with Al-Qaeda, they fight in the ranks of the Russian army against terrorists, he continues. This does not mean that they are not fanatics, that they are not responsible for abuses. Moreover, the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda consider them as apostates, mercenaries. »
On social networks, many videos have been shared for several days, showing Ramzan Kadyrov’s fighters alongside Russian troops in Ukraine. “They themselves broadcast images of their deployment,” explains the specialist.
“We do not yet have images of them in combat but, on the images broadcast, we can see that they are mainly present in the north of the country, in the Pripyat exclusion zone where the power station is located. nuclear weapons from Chernobyl, alongside Russian tanks,” he adds, without being able to estimate their number.
A signal sent to Moscow’s allies
And for Wassim Nasr, Kadyrov’s troops, which most likely should be assigned to urban combat, could play a psychological role. “The Kadyrovtsy scare the Ukrainians, they could have an effect on the soldiers. »
“This is really not good news for Ukraine, they are experienced fighters known for their barbarism and their violence”, warns Carole Grimaut Potter, professor of geopolitics of Russia at Montpellier University and at the University of Montpellier. Diplomatic Institute of Paris and founder of the think tank CREER in Geneva.
For the specialist, the presence of Chechen troops alongside the Russians is not surprising: “Kadyrov is an unwavering supporter of Vladimir Putin, he is in power thanks to him. There is an agreement between the two men, Chechnya is on an economic drip from Moscow on the condition that Kadyrov rules the country with an iron fist. If the commitment of the “Kadyrovtsy” shows Chechnya’s loyalty to the Kremlin, it is also a strong signal sent by the Russian president to his allies, according to the professor: “It allows him to prove that he does not is not alone, that he has allies. This is a message for the other republics. Hopefully it will be limited to Chechnya. »