Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has poured cold water on the latest claims that the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, is in Ukraine.
On Sunday, footage of Kadyrov was circulated online showing him discussing the alleged ‘successful’ capture of an orphanage close to Kyiv with ethnic-Chechen soldiers.
On Monday afternoon, Peskov said that they had ‘no information’ about Kadyrov's presence on the territory of Ukraine.
‘The Kremlin has no information that he is there. No, there is no such information’, Peskov said.
He said that Kadyrov had himself not directly claimed to be in Ukraine, despite his having done so in an exchange with Ukrainian officials.
On Sunday, Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser at the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, challenged Kadyrov.
‘You shouldn’t sit in a basement in distant Ivankovo. Sit on a tank — storm Kyiv. Show yourself Ramzan, and don’t hide like a rat in basements!’, Gerashchenko wrote on Telegram.
Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to the Head of the President’s Office, also issued a statement saying they were verifying if Kadyrov was truely in Ukraine or not.
‘There is information that he was seen yesterday in Grozny’, he said. ‘His appearance would not solve anything. If there is information, we will destroy him. If we don’t establish information, we will destroy him next time’.
On Monday night, Kadyrov replied to Arestovich on his Telegram channel and turned also on Zelensky, later attaching a video of Chechen fighters of the National Guard and Adam Delimkhanov, deputy chair of the Government of Chechnya, allegedly filmed in Ukraine’s Donetsk Oblast.
‘Why “if” [I am here]? Have you not seen the video or should I knock on your door?’, Kadyrov said to Arestovich. ‘And now an appeal personally to Zelensky and his gang. Wherever you go, wherever you hide, our fighters will overtake you.’
‘A coward and a bullshiter’
The footage has been met with sckepticism from many social media commentators, as it is not the first video claiming to show the head of Chechnya in Ukraine since the start of the war.
1ADAT, a Chechen public movement that runs a popular Telegram channel critical of the authorities, told OC Media that according to their informants in Chechnya, Kadyrov was definitely not in Ukraine.
‘According to our information, Kadyrov is not in Ukraine. As you have noticed, Kadyrov loves attention, and on the subject of the war in Ukraine, he tries to promote himself as much as possible.’
On 23 February, hours before the Russian invasion began, the head of Chechnya posted a video on Instagram from inside a plane in which he is heard saying: ‘If Allah wills, we will be there in a couple of minutes’. The next day, Kadyrov published a photo in which Chechen fighters of the National Guard pray in a forest, allegedly in Ukraine. However, this photo, according to 1ADAT, was previously published on 22 February by a national guard commander.
‘That fake news that allegedly Kadyrov flew to Ukraine was also exposed.’
‘All this information is thrown out there by Kadyrov’s propaganda arm, headed by the Minister of Press and Information Akhmed Dudayev’ 1ADAT said.
They said the aim of such publications was to establish a ‘masculine’ image of Kadyrov.
‘Because they do everything they can to show Kadyrov as some kind of warrior, but in reality, he is just a coward and bullshiter. If Kadyrov really was in Ukraine, you have no idea the kind of Bollywood films Kadyrov's propaganda would be filming there.’
On 25 February, when asked by Russian state news agency RIA, Kadyrov said he could not reveal if he was in Ukraine as it was secret.
‘I am a general of the Russian Guard and cannot declassify information. If I say something, I will be punished for it.’