Citizens of the Russian republic of Chechnya are reporting that they are being kidnapped against their will and forced to fight as “volunteers” in Russia’s war in Ukraine, according to several human rights organizations.
Hundreds of Chechen people are being rounded up for “mass abductions,” 1Adat, a human rights group that advocates against corruption in Chechnya and Russian propaganda, reported.
“The abducted are required to sign a paper stating that they are volunteers to be sent to Ukraine, otherwise they are threatened with fabrication of criminal cases,” 1Adat said in a statement. “Everyone who goes to Ukraine in this way will be used on the front line, like cannon fodder.”
Vayfond, another human rights organization, said earlier this month that it was receiving “dozens” of messages from people in Chechnya that they were being forced to prepare to go to Ukraine, despite the fact that they weren’t members of law enforcement or military as well.
The Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, who has been one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most aggressive supporters during the war in Ukraine, has also suggested that citizens who volunteers to fight in Ukraine could be paid 300,000 rubles.
The reported forceful recruitment of fighters in Chechnya is just the latest indication that Russian troops are faltering in Ukraine. They’ve lost tens of thousands of soldiers over three months into the war, according to Ukrainian military tallies, so much so that they have had to abandon some ambitious goals in the war and regroup to focus their assault on the east of Ukraine.
In light of the losses, for months, Moscow has been working to lean on other sources of personnel and mercenary fighters, such as those from the Russian Wagner Group, according to U.S. intelligence assessments.
Lately, Russian forces have been “finding it difficult” to fight the war in Ukraine, Kadyrov noted during remarks in Moscow last week.
Kadyrov has previously claimed that he was working in Ukraine to help with the war effort. And although the Kremlin has denied Kadyrov’s claims—Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said he had “no knowledge” of Kadyrov being in Ukraine—according to multiple intelligence outfits, Chechen fighters are indeed deployed in Ukraine now.
According to British intelligence, the Russian government has already relied on Chechen fighters in its assault on Mariupol. After meeting stiff resistance from Ukrainians, Russian forces suffered significant personnel losses and needed to supplement with alternative fighters, an intelligence assessment from the U.K. Ministry of Defense earlier this month said.
“Staunch Ukrainian resistance delayed Russia’s ability to gain full control over the city,” the U.K. Ministry of Defense said. “In attempting to overcome Ukrainian resistance, Russia has made significant use of auxiliary personnel. This includes a deployment of Chechen forces, likely consisting of several thousand fighters primarily concentrated in the Mariupol and Luhansk sectors.”
Those fighting forces at the time likely included individual volunteers and National Guard units, according to the U.K. intelligence readout. Kadyrov and his cousin Adam Delimkhanov had close control over the deployments.
“The combat deployment of such disparate personnel demonstrates Russia’s significant resourcing problems in Ukraine and is likely contributing to a disunited command which continues to hamper Russia’s operations,” the Ministry of Defense added.
Ukrainian intelligence has also accused Chechnya of recruiting fighters for the war in Ukraine, primarily for Mariupol and Luhansk. The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine shared a list of names of 2425 Chechen fighters allegedly involved in the fighting earlier this month.
“The so-called ‘Kadyrovites’ began to enter the territory of Ukraine in the first days of the large-scale military invasion of Russia,” the intelligence agency said.