Chechen fighter in Ukraine interview; Prilepin attacker charged; Prigozhin in conflict with Defence Ministry and Kadyrov

Threatologist Eurasia: 11 May 2023


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This week's main stories:

  • Kavkaz Realii publishes interview with Chechen fighter in Ukraine
  • Prilepin attacker charged with terrorism
  • Prigozhin in conflict with Defence Ministry and Kadyrov
Kavkaz Realii publishes interview with Chechen fighter in Ukraine

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.

Prilepin attacker charged with terrorism

Russia’s Investigative Committee has reported that Alexander Permyakov, a 29-year-old man from Donetsk Oblast, has been charged with carrying out a terrorist attack and illegal arms trafficking. Permyakov allegedly carried out an assassination attempt on Russian pro-war writer and nationalist Zakhar (Yevgeniy Nikolayevich) Prilepin on 6 May (Novaya Gazeta, 8 May).


Prilepin was driving a car in Nizhniy Novgorod region when it exploded. His security guard was killed, while Prilepin was placed in a medically induced coma. Prilepin has subsequently emerged from the coma and claimed he only survived because the bomb was placed under the passenger seat (BBC News, 8 May).


The Investigative Committee has claimed that Permyakov has admitted to being recruited by the Ukrainian security services in 2018 and acting on their orders.  Moskovskiy Komsomolets reported that Permyakov had fought with the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in 2014-2015. He supposedly came to Russia in August 2022 (Moskovskiy Komsomolets, 7 May)


Prilepin — who fought in Chechnya between 1996 and 1999, before also participating in the conflict in eastern Ukraine — is not the first pro-war figure to have been targeted in recent months. Maksim Fomin, better known as Vladlen Tatarskiy, was killed on 2 April as a result of a terrorist attack on a cafe in St Petersburg (see Threatologist Eurasia: 6 April 2023). Darya Dugina, another pro-regime figure, was killed in August 2022.

Prigozhin in conflict with Defence Ministry and Kadyrov

Wagner owner Yevgeniy Prigozhin continued his long-running feud with the Russian Defence Ministry, threatening on 4 May to withdraw Wagner troops from around Bakhmut by 10 May because of failures to supply them with ammunition. He subsequently intimated that Wagner would stay after receiving guarantees of more supplies (BBC News, 7 May).


Wagner had asked the Defence Ministry to transfer Wagner positions to the control of Kadyrov’s security forces. Kadyrov, meanwhile, claimed his forces were ready to take on the role, appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to issue an order to that effect, and said that three units — two battalions and a regiment — had already been dispatched for the purpose (Caucasian Knot, 6 May). He also issued a video address that criticised Prigozhin for making inflated claims and taking credit for military successes achieved by his own forces (Kavkaz Realii, 8 May).

Other stories of interest
  • A man suspected of killing two people in Krasnodar fought with Wagner in Ukraine. He had earlier been released from an 18-year prison sentence to join the group (Caucasian Knot, 3 May).
  • Police in the Armenian capital of Yerevan have detained a teenager from Volgograd whom Russia suspected of preparing a school shooting. He was seeking political asylum, having posted anti-war material online, but was reported to the authorities by his father (Nastoyashcheye Vremya, 3 May).
  • Authorities in Belgium have reported the arrest of seven alleged supporters of the Islamic State (IS), “almost all” of whom are of Chechen origin (Caucasian Knot, 5 May). 
  • Georgia’s State Security Service has reported the arrest of a Turkish citizen who allegedly planned to carry out terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States on behalf of IS (Caucasian Knot, 6 May).
  • A fighter from the Sever-Akhmat Chechen security service unit has publicly apologised to Kadyrov for having been take captive by the Ukrainian military. Kadyrov regularly forces people to debase themselves in such a manner (Kavkaz Realii, 9 May).

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