Chechen Jihadis Leave Syria, Join the Fight in Ukraine - The Daily Beast
Pete Kiehart for The Daily Beast (Photo Illustration)
MARIUPOL, Ukraine — Just an hour’s drive from this city under siege, at an old resort on the Azov Sea that’s now a military base, militants from Chechnya—veterans of the jihad in their own lands and, more recently, in Syria—now serve in what’s called the Sheikh Mansur Battalion. Some of them say they have trained, at least, in the Middle East with fighters for the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS.
Among the irregular forces who’ve enlisted in the fight against the Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, few are more controversial or more dangerous to the credibility of the cause they say they want to serve. Russian President Vladimir Putin would love to portray the fighters he supports as crusaders against wild-eyed jihadists rather than the government in Ukraine that wants to integrate the country more closely with Western Europe.
Yet many Ukrainian patriots, desperate to gain an edge in the fight against the Russian-backed forces, are willing to accept the Chechen militants on their side.
Over the past year, dozens of Chechen fighters have come across Ukraine’s border, some legally, some illegally, and connected in Donbas with the Right Sector, a far-right-wing militia. The two groups, with two battalions, have little in common, but they share an enemy and they share this base.