Head of Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov.Ramil Sitdikov/RIA Novosti
Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Chechnya, has vigorously denied reports in the Russian media that a detachment of Chechen special forces has been dispatched to Syria, declaring that the battalions alleged to be participating do not actually exist.
“Russian media are circulating reports about the ‘dispatch’ to Syria of the ‘Vostok and Zapad military battalions’ and the ‘Chechen special forces.’ I responsibly declare that in the Chechen Republic there are no such battalions as the ‘Vostok and Zapad’,” wrote Kadyrov on his Instagram page on Dec. 8.
Earlier the same day, a Kommersant source on a military base in the Chechen town of Khankhala (1,160 miles south of Moscow) told the Russian business daily that a joint detachment of fighters of the Defense Ministry’s Vostok (East) and Zapad (West) special force battalions) had been sent on a mission to Syria.
According to the source, the Vostok and Zapad battalions are stationed in Chechnya and also count local residents among their number, giving them the unofficial name of the “Chechen special force.”
Earlier a video reportedly featuring the departure ceremony in Khankhala was published online. The Kommersant source confirmed the authenticity of the video and drew attention to the fact that the soldiers were clean shaven, which is “not typical for them.”
He explained that his is a measure to distinguish Russian soldiers from the Chechens fighting on the side of Islamic State.
According to the Kommersant source, the special task force is expected to perform the role of military police: It will guard the Russian air base in Khmeimim and operate solely in areas liberated by the Syrian army.
The detachment allegedly includes not only Chechens, but also representatives of other ethnicities: Before the departure of the task force both a Russian Orthodox priest and a mufti came to greet the soldiers.
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