The Kremlin-backed head of Russia's Chechnya region, Ramzan Kadyrov, has sparked controversy by saying he is "ready to resign and fight" alongside pro-Russian separatists in their conflict with governent forces in eastern Ukraine.
In an interview with Russia's NTV television on December 16, the outspoken Kadyrov said that he intends to ask President Vladimir Putin to let him resign so that he can go to eastern Ukraine "to destroy devils who have neither honor nor dignity."
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on December 17 that Kadyrov had made no request to resign.
Ukrainian authorities say Chechen troops loyal to Kadyrov have fought alongside the pro-Russian rebels in the conflict, which has killed more than 4,700 people since April.
Kadyrov denies the claim.
Nonetheless, he expressed anger last week over what he said were expressions of support by several Ukrainian lawmakers for militants involved in an attack in Chechen capital, Grozny, that killed 14 police on December 4.
Meanwhile, the European Union has called for a "measured response" from the Russian republic's leadership to maintain order there in the wake of the Grozny terrorist attack.
Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, said in a statement that the EU extends its condolences to the families of victims of the December 4 attacks in the Chechen capital.
But Kocijancic said Ramzan Kadyrov's order to expel the relatives of militants from Chechnya and demolish their homes only makes the situation worse.
"Calls from President Kadyrov for the collective punishment of families of armed militants will only exacerbate tensions," Kocijancic wrote.
Kocijancic also criticized recent attacks on rights activists in Chechnya, including the firebombing of the Joint Mobile Group rights organization last weekend and the threats against the organization's head Igor Kalyapin.
With reporting by NTV, TASS and Interfax