Chechen Head Ramzan Kadyrov is planning to visit Syria, Russian MP and Kadyrov’s cousin Adam Delimkhanov told media on 22 March, during a trip of Russian MPs to Aleppo. Delimkhanov refused to specify when Kadyrov was planning to visit.
A detachment of 500 Russian military servicemen, including Chechens and Russian instructors, was sent to Syria at the end of last year. The main contingent of Chechen fighters consists of former soldiers from the disbanded Russian Vostok (east) and Zapad (west) special forces battalions. In Syria, the detachment performs the function of military police.
The deployment of Chechen soldiers to Syria was marred by controversy even before they left. A soldier recorded with his phone his colleagues ready to board a military plane. The video went viral, publicly exposing the secret military operation before it could even begin. Five of Kadyrov’s men were detained in connection to the leak. Twelve more people refused to go to Syria, and were dismissed from the army.
In recent years, the Russian authorities have been trying to strengthen their influence in the Middle East, and Kadyrov and his soldiers are seen as one such instrument for this. In Syria, Saudi Arabia, and other countries, large sums of money from the Kadyrov Foundation are being spent on mass distribution of food.
The Chechen leader was in the narrow circle of Saudi King Salman, however, following a theological conference in Grozny, which sowed discord between Sufis and Salafis, his visits to Riyadh have become rarer. While the conference may not be the ultimate reason for this, Ingush Head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov has now become a frequent guest in Saudi Arabia, tasked by Russia to strengthen ties with the kingdom. Kadyrov and his soldiers have been left with the most thankless work in Syria.
Rumours have recently circulated in Chechnya that Chechen soldiers were among recent Russian military casualties in Syria. It has so far been impossible to verify this information, but if true, it will be confirmed by upcoming funerals and mourning ceremonies.