KEY POINTS

  • A Chechen volunteer battalion is preparing to launch a second offensive against Moscow
  • More than 150,000 Chechens are believed to have been killed in wars against Russia
  • The Russian army was accused of committing human rights abuses during the Chechen wars

A group of volunteer Chechen fighters is reportedly planning an offensive against Moscow amid Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ongoing war in Ukraine, the force’s spokesman said.

Islam Belokiev, spokesman for the Chechen fighting force Sheikh Mansur Battalion, said the group is preparing to launch a second offensive against Russia in hopes of gaining their independence once again.

“We know the enemy’s positions, where Russian military bases are," Belokiev said in a video, a copy of which was obtained by Fox News. “We have divided the Chechen Republic of Icheriya into three fronts and 16 sectors.”

This strategy could distract Putin and the Russian army from its focus on invading Ukraine. The effort could help both Chechnya regain its independence and Ukraine establish a stronger offensive against a diverted Russian army, Rebekah Koffler, a former intelligence officer for the Defense Intelligence Agency, told Fox News.

"The possibility of them taking advantage of Putin’s forces being tied up in Ukraine to assert their independence is very plausible," Koffler said.

"Make Putin and the Russians believe that they will have to divert their attention and take eyes off Ukraine, so Ukrainians could launch a counter-offensive ... That’s very clever," she added, noting that it's unclear if the Chechen battalion is working with Kyiv on this diversion.

Chechens have long since had animosity towards Russian rule. During World War II, then-Soviet leader Joseph Stalin accused the Chechens of working with Germans and were later subjected to mass deportations to Central Asia.

In 1957, exiled Chechens were allowed to return to their homeland under the rule of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, according to Britannica.

Chechens began calling for independence from Russia in 1991 after the Soviet Union collapsed. Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin granted Chechens broad autonomy by signing a peace treaty, which was later voided by then-Prime Minister Putin in 1999.

“We will rub them out, even in the toilet,” Putin said of the Chechens at that time, according to History.

Chechen officials estimated that as many as 150,000 to 160,000 people were killed in both conflicts. Additionally, officials said rough estimates show that between 30,000 to 40,000 ethnic Chechens were killed in both campaigns. However, the Russian statistics office claimed that only 40,000 civilians were killed in the war.

The Russian army was also accused of committing human rights abuses during the conflicts, including torture, executions, kidnapping, raping and looting. Russians were also accused of killing more than a hundred Chechen civilians in the town of Samashki in 1995, the World Peace Foundation reported.

Report about Chechen battalions fighting against Russia comes as Moscow continues to suffer massive losses among its ranks in the war in Ukraine. As of Wednesday, about 38,750 Russian soldiers have been killed amid the invasion, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine estimated.

Founded in 2014 following Russia's annexation of Crimea, the Sheikh Mansur battalion is mostly made up of veterans of the Chechen wars
Founded in 2014 following Russia's annexation of Crimea, the Sheikh Mansur battalion is mostly made up of veterans of the Chechen wars AFP / Genya SAVILOV
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