Chechen volunteers who fought in Ukraine on the side of that country's government have warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that he risks ending up at the International Criminal Court in The Hague and laid out five steps he needs to take to avoid that fate. Topping that list is "cracking down on [Chechen Republic head Ramzan] Kadyrov and those like him, who subject the freedom-loving Chechen people to humiliations never seen before."
The Chechens' open letter is of interest not simply for its content but because Adam Osmayev, the current commander of the volunteer force in question, was apprehended in Ukraine four years ago on charges, which later proved to be false, of plotting to assassinate Putin at the behest of Doku Umarov, the Chechen leader of the self-proclaimed Caucasus Emirate.
The authors describe Putin as "our enemy" and go on to brand him "the head of a terrorist state, as London's High Court has just confirmed," an apparent reference to a British public inquiry that concluded the Russian president "probably approved" of the killing in London by radioactive poisoning of former Russian security agent Aleksandr Litvinenko. They call the Russian Federation "a petro-colony." They also say Russians "bring death and destruction to all those who come into contact with them."
The Chechens affirm that "the whole world understands that you have sustained a total failure in your efforts to occupy Crimea and Donbas." They warn Putin that "you...may still be an authority for the zombified Russian people. But it is just one step from love to hatred, and you will not be able to transform the territories under your control into a second North Korea, however hard you try. The sanctions are taking effect and the era of oil is slowly and irrevocably coming to an end -- you can see this happening and are furious at your inability to change it."
They warn the Russian president that "a sad and shameful fate awaits you: If you don't have the willpower to commit suicide like [German Nazi leader Adolf] Hitler, and if you're not torn to pieces by an angry mob like [Libyan leader Muammar] Qaddafi, then you'll end up at The Hague like [former Yugoslav and Serbian President Slobodan] Milosevic."
The authors then advise Putin that "you still have a slight chance to put an end to the crimes committed by your dogs and save the lives of many thousands of potential victims." They then list the following five things they claim he needs to do:
-- Rein in Kadyrov and his thugs (whose reprisals against Chechnya's civilian population have been painstakingly chronicled by both Russian and international human rights watchdogs)
-- Release unconditionally all "political prisoners" who are citizens of other countries and were "treacherously abducted" in Ukraine and Crimea
-- Release those "tens of thousands" of Chechens currently held in Russian "concentration camps" (presumably meaning Chechens sentenced by Russian courts on dubious criminal charges)
-- Abandon all efforts at preserving Russia's influence over Ukraine by countering the aspirations of the Ukrainian people to become part of Europe
-- Withdraw his "hordes" from Ukrainian territory immediately and return control of Ukraine's borders to Kyiv as required by the Minsk agreements. Pay adequate compensation to all "victims of Russian aggression," including the relatives of those who died in the downing over Ukraine in July 2014 of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17.
They advise Putin to waste no time in meeting those demands, as his window of opportunity is "narrowing day by day."
The International PeaceKeeping Battalion (MMB) named after Dzhokhar Dudayev, the Russian Air Force general who in October 1991 became the first president of the Chechen Republic Ichkeria, was established in 2014 by veteran Chechen field commander Isa Munayev to fight alongside the Ukrainian Army against the Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.
The announcement of its foundation prompted dozens of inquiries from people keen to enlist. Not all were Chechens: They also included Ukrainians, a woman from the town of Kaspiisk in Daghestan, and a Lithuanian living in the United Kingdom.
Munayev was killed one year ago during the battle for the Donbas town of Debaltseve, whereupon Osmayev took over as battalion commander.
Osmayev had been apprehended by Ukrainian security personnel in early February 2012, a few weeks after an explosion in the rented apartment in Odesa where he lived in which a man initially said to be one of his fellow plotters was killed. During the pretrial investigation he confessed to the assassination plot charge, but he subsequently retracted that confession, which he said was extracted under torture.
Ukraine's prosecutor-general suspended extradition proceedings against Osmayev in August 2014 at the recommendation of the European Court of Human Rights.
In November 2014, by which time Russian-backed separatists were battling Ukrainian forces following Russia's forced annexation of Crimea, an Odesa district court sentenced Osmayev to two years and nine months in prison on a charge of illegal possession of explosives and damaging another person's property. He walked free from the courtroom, having already spent that much time in pretrial custody.