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Putin Sends Chechen Fighters to Ukraine, with Results Unclear

Chechen fighters in Ukraine may be under pressure to fight harder, analysts say
Putin and Russia are said to have relied on Chechen fighters many times in past decades. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
Putin and Russia are said to have relied on Chechen fighters many times in past decades. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

Vladimir Putin’s move to send the battle-hardened and much-feared Chechen fighters to reinforce his invasion into Ukraine might have initially backfired, according to reports coming out of Ukraine.

Observers said the soldiers could have been sent in as headhunters to kill or capture senior Ukrainian politicians, but they say those initial efforts have been thwarted by Ukraine’s military.

The Chechens are part of a Russian national guard unit and are well known for fighting insurgencies, using brutal tactics that even jolted Russia during its two brutal wars in the '90s against them. The Chechens have been employed to hunt down terrorists in Syria and used by Russia to fight elsewhere, including in Georgia. They also fought the Ukrainians in Donbas when hostilities began there in 2014.

The Chechen Republic is a predominantly Muslim region in the Caucuses, and while it's still part of Russia, it has been granted a lot of autonomy by Putin, who is close to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Kadyrov announced this weekend that his troops were in Ukraine. 

Reports on their number varied from 7,000 to tens of thousands. Kadyrov said he supported Putin’s decision to invade and that his troops, "will carry out his orders under any circumstances," Reuters reported. He also claimed none of his troops have died or suffered injuries, according to Reuters.

Yet, unconfirmed reports coming out of Kyiv claimed Ukrainian forces had taken out some 56 Chechen tanks and killed one of its high-ranking commanders on the way to the capital. While the Chechen leader denied his commander’s death, if true, observers said, even this early on in the campaign it could be a problem for Putin, given the massive fight of resistance being put on by Ukrainian military forces against the Russian aggressor.

Theodore Karasik, a fellow on Russia and Middle East affairs at the Jamestown Foundation, told Fox News Digital, "The Chechens are getting hit for now, and it’s based on the fact that they [the Ukrainians] did their homework. They understood how Chechens fight." 

Karasik said even with the Chechens’ historic background of being lethal fighters on the battleground, during these early stages of the invasion, "instead of the Chechens targeting them, (the Ukrainians) have targeted the Chechens. They got them before they had time to really act. That doesn’t mean the Chechen units are inactive, but they are getting slowed down tremendously in these first few days."

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