Memorial Human Rights Centre: the armed conflict in the Caucasus has in fact been relocated to the Donbass

posted 7 Oct 2014, 12:47 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 7 Oct 2014, 12:51 ]
3 October 1014

Source: (info)
According to a bulletin published by Memorial Human Rights Centre on the conflict in the North Caucasus, people who have had military experience in the Caucasus are taking part in the armed conflict in the Donbass region of Ukraine.

The human rights defenders state that the armed conflict has in fact been displaced from the Caucasus to the eastern part of Ukraine: Chechens are taking part in the fighting on both sides of the conflict, Rosbalt reports.

According to the report of the Memorial Human Rights Centre, the largest number of Chechens are fighting on the side of the Donetsk and Lugansk "People's Republics", but it is difficult to determine their numbers.

At the same time, the human rights defenders note that when the war was just beginning, Ukrainian mass media used any excuse to use the bogey of the "Chechens" and "Kadyrov's men" who, in Ukrainian everyday consciousness, have extremely negative and frightening connotations.

But on the accessible Chechen internet forums practically no discussion is going on about the circumstances under which the Chechens have appeared in the Donbass – which the report's authors attribute to the overall closed nature of modern Chechen society. For this reason, the authors can only judge the degree of participation of Chechens in the Donbass conflict on the basis of information which appears in the public domain and in mass media outlets.

According to the findings of the human rights experts, the available evidence about the Chechens in the Donbas speaks of two waves, which suggests an organized appearance in the conflict zone. The first wave was noted at the beginning of the military escalation of the conflict in May, the second in August.

In late May, there was a much publicized fierce battle between units of the Ukrainian army and the militia of the "Vostok" battalion which took place not far from the Donetsk airport. According to numerous testimonies, Chechens actively participated in that battle. On May 29, the leader of the Donetsk “People’s Republic” Aleksandr Borodai reported the bodies of 34 fighters had been sent to Russia, all of whom had been "volunteers from the Russian Federation" who had died during the fighting in Donetsk.

In August, Chechens were seen in many places in east Ukraine where fighting was going on and their presence has been documented by a number of pieces of video footage, according to Memorial.

In some of the North Caucasus regions, the regular enlistment of recruits into the Russian army has been limited for many years. At the same time, people from the North Caucasus are taken on by the Ministry of Interior of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Defense on a contract basis, and are stationed in their national republics.

The report by Memorial Human Rights Centre indicates that military service personnel form units permanently stationed in Chechnya (8th, 17th and 18th Brigades, etc.) have been taking part in the fighting in the Donbass region of Ukraine.

The number of Chechens fighting on the other side, for the Ukrainian army, is smaller, according to the report. A breeding ground for the recruitment of Chechens to the Ukraine army are the many thousand members of the Chechen diaspora which is in the main anti-Russian and also hostile to Kadyrov. According to Magomed Shamaeva, one of the leaders of the Chechen community in Austria, their volunteers have gone to Ukraine and have taken part in the fighting.

Translated by Eva Cukier