RussiaUkraine War Who Are Chechens Why Are They Targeting Volodymyr Zelenskyy

After Russian President Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine, the Prime Minister of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, confirmed that Chechen fighters have been deployed in the country to “capture and kill” Ukrainian leaders.

Days later, Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Secretary confirmed that a group of Chechen assassins sent to kill Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was eliminated. “An elite group of Kadyrov forces unit who planned to kill Zelensky was destroyed. This is our land. Get out of here,” said Oleksiy Danilov.

The announcement came after Ukraine’s military reportedly destroyed a column of Chechen tanks controlled by Ramzan Kadyrov near Hostomel, a key battleground outside Kyiv. According to reports, the attack killed top Chechen general Magomed Tushayev, head of the 141 motorized regiment of the Chechnya National Guard.

Who are Chechens? Why are they fighting for Putin?
The Chechen forces, also known as Kadyrovites, are fighters from the small country of Chechnya, located in southern Russia. Known for their brutality, these fighters are currently part of the Russian Federation. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov is known for his ardent support of the Kremlin, going so far as to call himself a Russian “foot soldier.”

Ramzan is the son of Akhmad Kadyrov, who served as the First President of the Chechen Republic beginning in 2003 after the Second Chechen War with the USSR. In 2007, Akhmad Kadyrov was killed in a bombing attack, and Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed his son Ramzan as his successor and he has been running the country ever since.

The rebel-turned-Kremlin ally has deployed at least 12,000 Chechen soldiers in Ukraine to support the invasion. Kadyrov has deployed his forces abroad to support Kremlin military operations before – in Syria and Georgia.

It appears that Russia is weaponizing the idea that Chechens are fierce and ruthless to create psychological pressure on Ukraine. Russia has also handed over a list of Ukrainian officials for Chechen fighters to arrest.

The Kremlin, in its state media, was seen using stereotypical images and tropes of the Chechen fighters to demoralize Ukrainian fighters. Whether this tactic has been effective or not is still unknown.