Kavkaz Realii, part of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, has published a lengthy interview with an ethnic Chechen who is currently fighting in Ukraine with the Imam Shamil Battalion. The fighter discusses the similarities between the Russia-Ukraine conflict and Chechnya’s struggle for independence, his personal biography, and the military dynamics around Bakhmut (Kavkaz Realii, 4 May).
In the interview, Aslan Ocherkhadzhiyev draws parallels between the brutality of the Russian armed forces in Chechnya and its behaviour in Ukraine, as well as the conduct of “falsified referenda.” Both conflicts are depicted as evidence of Russia’s “insatiable empire.” However, he sees distinct differences between the response of the international community, which has been supportive of Ukraine but “in the situation with Ichkeria [Chechnya] was more inclined towards Russia’s side.”
Ocherkhadzhiyev had previously fought in both Chechen wars. Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he was permanently resident in Norway and had changed his name to Adam Fredricksen because of Interpol requests submitted by Russia. Ocherkhadzhiyev claims he left Russia in 2007, but was accused of killing security service personnel in 2008 and 2013-2016.
Ocherkhadzhiyev reports that he sees no evidence that Russia is suffering from ammunition shortages. He characterises those fighting with Russian Private Military Company (PMC) Wagner as mostly poorly trained. He also says his group have not clashed with anyone from the security forces of Chechen Head Ramzan Kadyrov — because “they are not on the front lines; the Kadyrovtsy completely lack any motivation to die for the Kremlin’s interests. They only simulate their participation in the war.”
Ocherkhadzhiyev’s story is another example of displaced conflict, whereby former Ichkerian fighters have joined the fight in Ukraine as much as a continuation of their own conflict with Russia as they have because of support for Ukraine’s cause. He expressed how that Chechnya would secure its independence in future.