Sheikh Mansur, commander of the Chechen Sheikh Mansur Battalion – one of the two Chechen battalions fighting alongside Ukraine – told Al Arabiya in a video interview that Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Russian republic of Chechnya, was a “traitor” who Russian President Vladimir Putin “bought.”
Kadyrov has been actively involved in the Ukraine war, sending troops to fight alongside Russia against Ukraine. However, there have been accounts of some Chechens fighting alongside Ukraine on the battlefield, taking a stance against Russia.
“Unfortunately, Kadyrov is a traitor, and of course if you asked us about it, we would have never allowed someone like Kadyrov to represent the Chechen people,” he said. “We are an open-minded, freedom-loving people, and we provide help to anyone in need. We would never say that we are anyone’s soldiers or slaves.”
He continued, “Putin has actually bought Kadyrov. He fed him a lavish meal, then ordered him to go and invade Ukraine.”
‘We are fighting against a common enemy’
The battalion has been present in Ukraine since 2014, “when the war started,” according to Sheikh Mansur, who also revealed that they were invited by Ukrainian forces to fight against Russia but to do so under their own national flag of Ichkeria.
“Of course, we coordinate all our actions with the Ukrainian Forces as we are fighting together against a common enemy, a common evil.”
Ukrainian Forces have provided the Battalion with the necessary weaponry needed to fight against the Russian offensive in the war-torn country.
“The Battalion consists of more than 100 gunmen, and they are regarded as elite forces deployed at the war’s hotspots,” the commander said.
Russia invaded Ukraine in what it called a “special military operation” on February 24.
“At the start of the [Russian] invasion, we were deployed at the outskirts of Kyiv,” said Mansur, adding that they were relocated as the fighting intensified and were given frontline positions.
They are now present in the besieged port city of Mariupol and other areas where the fighting continues to intensify which he could not disclose.
“We have some 100 fighters and we carry out special operations such as mining, tactical attacks, ambushes, and we also secure particular positions,” he explained.
Arabs seen fighting alongside Ukraine, Chechen battalions
The commander also said that there were “several Arabs” and Muslims who have joined the fight alongside Ukraine and the two Chechen battalions.
“There are several Arabs whom I don’t know personally among the ranks of various brigades and battalions of the Ukrainian Army. Most of them were living in Ukraine prior to the current war,” Mansur revealed.
Many of them include people from Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Georgia among others.
“Besides, there are many Ukrainians who converted to Islam,” he said.
“All volunteers fighting alongside the Ukrainians have to go through a security clearance check by the Ukrainian Intelligence Service, Mansur continued.
“Many are trying to infiltrate our ranks, especially those who are Russia-affiliated, beside some of Kadyrov’s men, and others from different organizations.”
Battalion not linked to ISIS, al-Qaeda
While the commander did not explicitly disclose his opinion of al-Qaeda or ISIS, he ruled out any suspected links between his battalion and ISIS.
Mansur said that he knew people who fought against Russia in Syria, then returned to their families in Chechnya.
“When the civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, many from around the world volunteered to fight there. Back then, there was no al-Qaeda or ISIS, as all fighters were unified against President [Bashar] al-Asad, but in one or two years, they started to split up and ISIS was formed,” he explained.
He said that at the beginning of the war in Syria, they asked them not to go there and fight since they were already dealing with their own war.
“They chose their path, and we chose ours.”
“Some of those fighters were dispersed to other countries, such as Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and that was the end of their story. [But] right now, we have a huge mission to fulfill, and we have no time to spend on other issues that are secondary to the current war.”
The commander expects the war in Ukraine to be long-term.
“There is no difference between Kadyrov’s troops and the Russian Army,” he said, affirming his and his battalion’s continued support for Ukraine throughout the conflict.
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