The Insider: "They threaten mothers and sisters." How “volunteers” are forcibly sent to fight in Ukraine in Chechnya
Torture, threats of criminal cases- The tactics the Kremlin and their loyalists are using to get fighters for Ukraine
In Chechnya, men are forcibly sent to fight in Ukraine - there are almost no real volunteers left, and the security forces intimidate residents, torture them and threaten them with criminal cases. Many agree to go to war in order to save their families from humiliation, and themselves from cases under terrorist articles and torture. The Insider spoke to lawyers, human rights activists, and the families of Chechens who were forcibly sent to war. According to them, there is no chance to refuse mobilization, and only a few manage to escape from the republic.
On June 7, the leadership of Chechnya reported that more than eight thousand people left the republic for the war in Ukraine. According to the speaker of the Chechen parliament, Magomed Daudov, 1,360 of them are Chechen volunteers.
Ramzan Kadyrov declares that hundreds of thousands of volunteers all over Russia are “rushing to the front lines to eradicate the Bandera bastard” and every day publishes texts and videos on Telegram about the exploits of soldiers from Chechnya, threatens Ukrainians and rejoices in the capture of cities that have been occupied or are about to be occupied by Russian troops.
"The sacred duty to serve for the good of Russia became a powerful consolidating factor for them and strengthened them on the inviolability of the principles of military brotherhood."
However, according to the lawyer and human rights activist Abubakar Yangulbaev, ethnic Chechens are in no hurry to die for the “padishah”. Even in the Chechen units of the National Guard and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, only about half are local, and even less in the units of the Ministry of Defense.
Therefore, in order to replenish the Russian ranks in Ukraine at the expense of the local population, the Chechen security forces resorted to repressive measures familiar to the region. So, the brother of the opposition Chechen blogger Khasan Khalitov was kidnapped by local security forces and sent to Ukraine, the oppositionist himself told The Insider. Threats, intimidation, blackmail, coercion through torture, and kidnapping of loved ones are far from being the full toolkit of Chechen military recruiting.
According to the leadership of the Chechen human rights association Vayfond, since the beginning of the war, employees have received dozens of complaints from the republic about illegal attempts to send men to Ukraine:
“It is even difficult for us to calculate the exact number of applicants. Many are so intimidated that, as soon as they receive a response, they erase the correspondence and delete their account. After going through humiliation and torture, people are very intimidated. Others write from a secret chat to Telegram, where messages are deleted.
At first, we did not think that this problem would be so acute, and did not specifically count, but there are definitely fifty applications already. We did not think that the Chechen authorities would go so crazy that they would force people to go to war. There are many Kadyrovites themselves, but apparently they worry about their lives. It is not as easy to fight against the Ukrainian military and die as against the peaceful Chechen population.”
According to an interlocutor of The Insider in Vayfond, at the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, a rally was held in Grozny, where state employees from all over the republic were herded. People feared that they would immediately be sent to the front from there, but those who came were only recorded in the reserve. Even nine days before the start of the war, letters were sent to the administrations of rural settlements in Chechnya from the heads of districts with a demand to send one reservist from the village to the training camp. The officials then assured that this was not a mobilization and no one would be sent to hot spots.
Criminal cases in case of refusal
Ibragim Yangulbaev, a representative of the Chechen opposition movement 1ADAT, said that in Chechnya people are kidnapped and given an ultimatum: either you go to Ukraine to fight, or you will be imprisoned on a fabricated criminal case:
“We have a lot of appeals about the forced sending of Chechens to the war. Those already imprisoned on trumped-up criminal cases are offered to sign a contract with the armed structures. They are promised release if they agree.
Police chiefs in every district have been ordered to gather volunteers by any means. Everyone has a roster of "extremists" - people who do not sympathize with the local authorities. They are called for a conversation and threatened with a criminal case in case of refusal. Some are offered money for going to the front without any written contract. Others are promised: “We will only send you to the rear, we won’t leave you on the front lines, if you agree, you prove that you are loyal to the authorities and subsequently we will not take you away, interrogate you, make a “result” out of you.” They have different methods. They can gently persuade, exhort. Or they can kidnap and act tough.”
In addition, threats of kidnapping and captivity to relatives of a potential "volunteer" are not uncommon. Thus, family members become hostages. And the security forces do not miss the opportunity to monetize the situation.
“Some heads of the police department make money on this. After the kidnapping, the family is told: “Your son or brother has done something wrong. Either he will now go to Ukraine, or we will now close him in a criminal case.” Relatives offer money, and police chiefs willingly take it. The head of the Sernovodsk District Department of Internal Affairs, Khas-Magomed Magomadov, even set a fee of 450,000 rubles for paying off Ukraine. We know for sure that he takes bribes, as we were able to confirm the facts of the kidnapping and ransoming of several people.”
The head of the Department of Internal Affairs of the Sernovodsk district set a fee of 450 thousand rubles for farming from Ukraine
According to a representative of Vayfond, it is impossible to refuse to go to war in Chechnya, people obey because they believe that dying from a bullet is not as terrible as torture. The security forces also use more exotic methods:
“It is terrible when they encroach on the honor of a man or the honor of his wife, sister, daughter. The security forces come to the house, begin to molest the woman, undress her. For our mentality, this is the worst thing. Better to die than be so humiliated. After that, you and the man will not be considered. And for Kadyrovites, this is a common practice. Torture, murder - this is something ordinary, ordinary. If a refusal is punished with dismissal or a short term, then this is considered great luck. Many refuseniks would agree to such conditions.”
The security forces begin to pester the woman, undress her. It is better for Chechens to die than to be so humiliated
How they recruit: along with the contract, they give you an empty form to sign
In social networks and even the statuses of their messengers, the Chechen security forces and officials were responsible for the mobilization post campaigning for young men.
“The recruitment to the Vostok Akhmat battalion is urgently announced with all social guarantees, benefits, full medical and pension coverage for military service under the contract of men from 21 to 49 years old in the military unit 65384 of the village of Borzoi, Shatoi district.”
Campaigning on social media
One of the officials of the city of Shali publishes a whole price list on social networks: the amount of remuneration for downed enemy equipment (from a drone and installation of self-propelled guns to tanks and aircraft) in case of signing a contract and sending it to Ukraine. For some reason, daily allowances in excess of salary from 34 to 100 thousand rubles are offered in US dollars, at 53 per day.
Islam Belokiev is another Chechen blogger. He recently joined his countrymen in the Sheikh Mansour Battalion, which is fighting on the side of Ukraine. He runs the YouTube channel "Thoughts of Islam", where he openly opposes the current authorities of Chechnya. According to Belokiyev, he receives 3-4 messages daily about the forced transfer of Chechen residents to Ukraine and attempts to force them to sign a contract with the National Guard.
“Forcing, blackmailing, kidnapping relatives. If a person refuses to go to Ukraine, they begin to threaten their mothers and sisters. They say that they will be taken away, that drugs and weapons will be planted on them, they will be declared Islamic terrorists, they will be accused of traveling to Syria, to ISIS. This is a very common form of blackmail. Everyone understands that these are easily executable threats. I know cases of initiation of criminal cases against those who refuse to go to Ukraine. People are accused of "terrorist" articles (represented as Islamic radicals) or narcotics. One of my subscribers was accused of evading military duty in 1992! He is about fifty years old."
According to Belokiev, along with the contract, a person is given an empty form to sign. This happens regardless of whether the mercenary came voluntarily or not.
“If he is later wounded or killed in battles, died, then he can be “written off” using this form, that is, dismissed retroactively. As if the fighter himself broke the contract long before death or injury. In this case, no payments to him or his family are due.
According to the blogger, the monetary compensation itself comes from Moscow to the republic, since officials provide real documents “upstairs”. And for the wounded or the family of the killed, they are not in this case. Funds end up in the pockets of Kadyrov and his entourage. The blogger is sure that the Kremlin knows about this, it's just an agreement. The family of the deceased is ordered to quickly bury their son, brother, husband and “keep their mouths shut.”
The family of the deceased is ordered to quickly bury their son, brother, husband and “keep their mouths shut”
He saved his family, but he died
Residents of Chechnya talk about their personal losses in this war solely on condition of anonymity. The Insider cites their stories, changing their names for safety's sake.
Ahmed from Goi-Chu village is 80 years old, he is a labor veteran. Three weeks ago, he received his grandson's body for burial. According to him, the grandson did not go to Ukraine voluntarily.
“He left without telling us anything, because he knew we would be in trouble if we objected. He saved his family, but he died. The district police officer came to me and said: “There is a Gazelle with the dead standing on the street, go, choose yours.” And they ordered to quietly bury, without arranging a burden <wake - The Insider>. Usually, three days after the funeral, the gates of the house are kept open so that people come and condole. We were warned by the police not to tell anyone about Ukraine. About the grandson to lie, so and so, fell asleep and did not wake up, and very quickly buried without noise. I tried to argue: our preachers say that young men are taken away for ghazavat, that they are heroes, why can't they be honorably buried? But the police didn’t even listen, they were rude.”
They ordered to lie about the grandson that he fell asleep and did not wake up, and to bury him very quickly without noise
Ahmed was not interested in payments from the Ministry of Defense, the parents of the deceased are trying to draw up the necessary documents.
Alina from Argun is a widow. Her husband went to fight in Syria under a contract for the sake of good earnings and went to Ukraine in March. The body was brought back in April.
“I wanted to make payments for the loss of a breadwinner, I can’t pull a child alone. But I didn't receive any money. When I came to his unit for a death certificate, they told me that nothing would be given out, because he allegedly went over to the side of Ukraine and died there. They told me: “Do you understand what you are asking? Say thank you for bringing the body and letting it be buried.” And then for two weeks they were summoned to the district police department for interrogation.”
Say thank you that the body was brought and given to bury
The husband of Grozny resident Raisat returned without legs: “He used to be so active, an athlete, he ran in the mornings, but now he sits drooping, hunched in a wheelchair. And a faded look. He was paid three million for the injury." According to her, the payment allowed her to close loans and pay off debts, including to the staff of the grocery store, where she used to borrow food for herself and her children. This summer she plans to send the children to a camp in the Crimea, by the sea.
Liana is a nurse from the suburbs of the Chechen capital and an opponent of the war. She said that one of her relatives was severely shell-shocked in Ukraine.
“The clouding of the mind, as we say,“ the roof leaked. He goes out into the yard, and everyone shied away from him. The Ministry of Defense provided him with free treatment, but he needs to go with him, and all the relatives are busy. They give him pills, that's all. Wound insurance was not paid. And he himself is unable to achieve. What is contusion, I know firsthand. My ex-husband worked in the OMON and in one of the clashes he received a heavy box on the head. Since then, it used to get stuck in his head, as if someone were switching a toggle switch, and from a normal person he turned into a monster. If I was also drunk at that time, I ran away to look for the fifth corner.
What to do
Vayfond sees the reason for the forced mobilization in Chechnya as discrimination based on nationality:
“Apparently, it has been decided that it is possible to safely sacrifice such a contingent, “chunks, black-assed.” Mercenaries from the Caucasus are perceived as second class, as savages. Discrimination based on nationality is very strong in Russia. Kadyrov wants to curry favor with the Kremlin in order to look cooler. He loves fame, wants praise and money and gets it. But Kadyrov's entourage, the elite are not touched. When one day a part of his entourage did go to Ukraine, he was very dissatisfied.”
In the first weeks of the war, there were enough real volunteers. According to the observations of human rights activists, Chechen units were more often not sent to the front line, instead, they were assigned to clean up in already occupied areas. According to The Insider's source at Vayfond, the Kadyrovites are doing dirty work, and even the Russian military has expressed dissatisfaction that they are hardly ever sent to the front lines.
The only chance to alleviate the fate of those whom the security forces decided to hunt is to leave the republic. True, human rights activists from Vayfond admit that they cannot help the victims of forced mobilization to leave the country:
“One woman wrote. Her child suffers from oncology, and her husband is sent to Ukraine, threatening with a criminal case. She is completely desperate, but we are powerless here.
Human rights activists remind us that a forcibly signed contract has no legal force, but it is unlikely that in modern Russia this will convince the court:
“Violence can be physical or moral (blackmail, threats, etc.). It is understood that it is provided to the signatory of the contract or to a family member, a close friend. When forced to participate in a war, a number of articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the right to life, liberty and security of person...and others) are violated. But in a country like Russia, one can hardly count on justice.”