All fighters from Chechnya that went to fight for the Russian-backed rebels in the eastern Ukraine war have now returned home, said Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov Friday, according to a report by the Russian government news agency Tass. The leader of the de facto independent state in the north caucuses region had previously denied that his citizens from Chechnya have ever gone to fight in the 16-month long war in the contested region of Donbas, despite saying in December that he wanted to quit his post and join the fight with Russian rebel fighters.
"Everybody says that there are Chechen volunteers there [in Donbas],” said Kadyrov according to the Tass report. “When the ceasefire agreement was reached there, we invited all our volunteers home. We have taken home the hooligans that were there. So, none of them should now be present there.”
While Kadyrov has said that he doesn’t believe Russia was involved in the east Ukraine war and enjoys a cordial relationship with his appointee Russian president Vladimir Putin, the two don’t always see eye-to-eye. Like many former Soviet Republics and fringe Russian Federation states, Putin generally sees Chechnya as Moscow’s property.
In April, Kadyrov ordered Chechen security forces to fire on any Russian military units operating in the region without permission. “I would like to officially state: Open fire if someone from Moscow or Stavropol, it doesn’t matter, appears on your turf without your knowledge,” Kadyrov said according to the Associated Press . “We have to be reckoned with.”
Meanwhile, Kadyrov said Thursday that he would like nothing more to fight against the Islamic State group, which said last month that it has opened branches in the predominately Muslim north caucuses region. Kadyrov has denied that ISIS are operating inside the country.