The president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, refused to meet with his troops released by Ukrainian forces who had been taken prisoner, saying “a Chechen soldier should have no reason to be captured.”
On Saturday, five Chechen soldiers were met by relatives and government officials in Grozny, the capital of the southern Russian republic, following a prisoner exchange for Ukrainian prisoners of war (POW), state news agency Tass reported.
The Chechen troops had been taken captive on December 14 and negotiations for their release had been “kept secret, so that our enemies cannot interfere with the process,” said Magomed Daudov, chairman of Chechnya’s Parliament.
But in a Telegram post, Kadyrov said he had not been among those welcoming the returnees, writing that a Chechen “warrior must prove that he had no other choice to being captured.”
“You need to prove it by returning to the front line,” he said, describing how it was a “matter of honor” for a soldier to show that they did not shirk battle, “were not afraid to confront the enemy and did not look for a chance to lay down their arms.”
He gave the example of one Chechen soldier, Kirgiz Musikhanov, who had been wounded in battle and captured by Ukraine. After he was returned, he recovered enough to rejoin the Akhmat special forces, Kadyrov’s units fighting for Moscow in Ukraine.
“Of course, captivity is not a crime, and we are glad that the fighters survived,” Kadyrov wrote. But the Chechen leader, loyal to Vladimir Putin, said that before their capture, his soldiers had communicated they were running low on ammunition and he suggested they should have been careful with “every cartridge.”
While he said it was “also my fault” they had not been “sufficiently prepared,” the released soldiers “now have a chance to prove to themselves, their comrades, the commander and the whole country” that they had been forced into captivity.
The soldiers were part of a POW swap in which the Wagner Group private military company returned 130 Ukrainian soldiers. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said that the mercenary group headed by Yevgeny Prigozhin may have engaged in the exchange independent from the Russian Ministry of Defense.
“Kadyrov is likely using the POW exchange to fortify his own reputation as a capable and brutal silovik,” the ISW said on Sunday, using the Russian word for an influential person in Russia usually aligned with the armed forces or the security services.
Newsweek has emailed the Russian Defense Ministry for comment.
What does this bloated bladder think his troops are, special forces? They are tiktok twits, and nothing more.