09.12.22 War Review

Failed State: even early 2000s "terrorists" are sent to fight in Ukraine

The list of Chechen volunteers published by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry includes people from the Rosfinmonitoring terrorist list, the "Verstka" newspaper discovered. In particular, associates of Shamil Basayev and participants in the storming of the Budennovsk hospital were found at the front lines. Many of them were serving prison sentences when they were sent to the front or were not allowed to leave the Chechen Republic because of administrative oversight. In fact, several large irregular armed formations are fighting now with the Ukrainian army on the Russian side, with their own command and their own legal orders.

Back at the beginning of the war, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov announced that there were tens of thousands of volunteers in the region, "ready to carry out the orders of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief in Ukraine". According to the "Verstka" investigation, out of the 2,425 Chechen volunteers whose names were published in May by the Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, 14 people were previously on the Rosfinmonitoring's terrorist list, and five of them are still on it today. Some of those who were mobilised to the front line had to serve their sentences in prisons or had no right to leave the republic, as they were under administrative supervision. According to the GUR, the "volunteers" were sent to Ukraine in groups on March 12, 13, and 16.

Isa Dukayev, one of Shamil Basayev's closest associates, was included on the GUR's list under number 1017. The "Kommersant" wrote that in 1995 he was defending Dzhokhar Dudaev's presidential palace and later took part in the seizure of a hospital in Budennovsk (129 people were killed in this tragedy). In 2001 he was detained in the Vedensky district of Chechnya, and a year later the Stavropol regional court sentenced him to 12 years in prison on charges of banditry, committing a terrorist attack, and hostage-taking. In 2005 Dukaev was convicted again for kidnapping a minor, but the Court of Cassation released him from punishment because the statute of limitations had expired. As a result, Isa Dukaev was to be released in 2014.

Akhmed Dulaev, who in the early 2000s fought in the detachment of field commander Ruslan Gelayev, the former Ichkerian Defense Minister, was numbered 2120 on the GUR's list. In 2003, the Supreme Court of North Ossetia sentenced Dulaev to 13 years in a strict regime penal colony for illegal border crossing, hostage-taking, and banditry. "Kavkaz.Realii," citing the Chechen Telegram channel "Niiso," wrote that Akhmed Dulayev died in Ukraine in the fighting. The channel claimed that the man went to war after being threatened with a new criminal case. 28-year-old Alkhast Idalov from Chechnya, with number 1885 on the GUR's list, has been on the official list of terrorists since February 2020, but a court decision on his inclusion to this list could not be found. In May 2022, Idalov posted several photos of him wearing a military uniform and holding weapons. In one of the pictures, he is standing on an armored personnel carrier with the letter Z painted on it.

Nine more people from the Chechen volunteer list were on Rosfinmonitoring's list of terrorists in different years but were removed from it later on. It is noticeable that they have received quite moderate sentences, especially in comparison with the terms given for "terrorist" cases to members of Muslim circles. Many terrorists are released even before the end of their sentences and the information about the criminal records of others disappears without a trace. For example, Magdan Vakhayev, convicted of robbery, was included in the Rosfinmonitoring lists. In 2005 the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Chechnya reported the arrest of Vakhayev, pointing out that he was a relative of the militant Ruslan Vakhayev and a member of his gang. There is no information about Magdan Vakhaev's convictions under terrorist articles, and a 2017 Moscow court verdict states that he has no criminal record.

Abubakar Yangulbayev, a former lawyer of the North Caucasus branch of the "Committee against Torture", believes that Kadyrov was betting on the Chechen prisoners' interest in rewards, large cash payments, and reduced sentences, since those accused of terrorism usually receive large sentences, and after release, they are often prosecuted again. In addition, Yangulbayev believes, those accused of serious crimes are much more prone to violence, which also plays a role in the hostilities. However, Kadyrov has failed to achieve his goal, because the war in Ukraine reminds the mobilised of the Chechen wars. 

In fact, several large irregular armed formations are now fighting the Ukrainian army on the Russian side, with their own command and their own legal orders involving lynching and murder. This largely determines the atmosphere in the troops and is fraught with serious problems in the future. For example, Ukrainian media were reporting that an entire group of former prisoners have left their combat positions but were eliminated later on. In general, there is no data on where former prisoners and terrorists end up after combat operations. The widespread practice of bringing convicts to the front line indicates the deplorable state of the Russian army and the progressive distortion of the Russian authorities' legal consciousness and signs of the collapse or diffusion of the regular state in Russia, the catalyst for which proves to be the war in Ukraine.