The authorities in Chechnya have opened a criminal case against two Chechen men suspected of fighting alongside militants in Syria.
The men were named as Ilyas Mezhiyev, 24, and Ibragim Mezhiyev, 22, both from the village of Burunskoye in the Shelkovskoy district in northeastern Chechnya.
The two men are brothers who allegedly went to Syria last year and fought "in the ranks of one of the Islamist groups" there, a spokesman for the Investigative Committee of Russia (ICR) in the Chechen Republic said.
The ICR source said that the Mezhiyev brothers had been detained on March 30 during "special operations" in the Burunskoye, where they had returned after fighting in Syria. The brothers had admitted their participation in fighting in Syria and "gave a confession," the source said.
The two face between five and 10 years in prison if found guilty, which -- given their alleged confessions -- is almost certain to be the case.
A resident of Burunskoye told the Caucasus Knot that the Mezhiyev brothers had been university students in Krasnodar in southern Russia.
"As far as I know, they were studying at the medical institute in Krasnodar. The thought never crossed anyone's mind that they could go fight in Syria," the source said.
The ICR did not specify which "Islamist group" the Mezhiyev brothers had joined.
There are Chechen nationals and ethnic Chechens fighting alongside a number of Islamist groups in Syria. The largest North Caucasian group, which includes Chechens, is fighting in the ranks of the Islamic State (IS) group.
Ethnic Chechens, including Kists from Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, are also fighting in a group known as Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (JMA), which considers itself to be the Syrian affiliate of the North Caucasus militant Islamist group the Caucasus Emirate.
Other Chechen-led groups include the Latakia-based factions Junud al-Sham, which is led by an ethnic Kist named Murad Margoshvili or Muslim Shishani; Ajnad al-Kavkaz, whose commander is a veteran Chechen militant named Rustam Azhiyev or Abdul Hakim Shishani; Ahadun Ahad, which is led by a Kist from Georgia's Pankisi Gorge named Al Bara Shishani; and the small group Tarkhan's Jamaat, which includes followers of the Chechen militant Tarkhan Ismailovich Gaziyev.
Of these groups, it is most likely that the Mezhiyev brothers had fought alongside the largest non-IS group, JMA, which has the strongest links to the Caucasus Emirate.
Had the brothers fought alongside IS, it is unlikely they would have been allowed to leave the group to travel home to Chechnya.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk