Foreign soldiers who volunteered to fight for Ukraine participate in training exercises. Kiev is welcoming Chechens to join the war against Russia. Photo: NurPhoto via Getty / Geovien So
Jihadists coming fresh from Syria exemplify yet again that War on Terror is a fraud.
In early March, Asia Times reported that the Ukrainian government under Volodymyr Zelensky had signed a deal with newly arrived Chechen fighters from Syria to establish an all-Chechen brigade reporting directly to the Ministry of Defense.
Many of the Chechens in Syria had been part of ISIS and other al-Qaeda offshoots like Jabhat al-Nusra, with Chechen commander Abu Omar al-Shishani serving as ISIS Minister of War.
The Chechens wanted to directly fight the Russians with whom they have been at war for more than 300 years—and to fight against Chechen forces on the Russian side led by Ramzan Kadyrov, who switched sides after brokering a deal with Russia in 2006.
Asia Times reported that “the influx of Chechen fighters to Ukraine will likely encourage other regional jihadist groups in Syria to follow suit” in traveling to fight the Russians in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s acceptance of these groups marks a new phase of desperation on the part of the Zelensky government since Ukraine has lost tens of thousands of soldiers in the war and is reportedly low on ammunition.
The presence of the Chechens also demonstrates the phoniness of the U.S. War on Terror since the U.S. is the key financier of the Ukrainian government and army, having provided well over $100 billion in aid since February 2022.
In his 2005 book, Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, historian Robert Dreyfuss detailed a historical pattern dating to the 1950s in which the U.S. supported Islamists as an antidote to socialism and communism.
Dreyfuss describes a pivotal conference at Princeton University in 1953 funded by a branch of the State Department with roots in the U.S. intelligence community in which Said Ramadan, an ideologue with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, participated with leading Orientalist academics who rallied behind the strategy of supporting Islamists in the Cold War.
The CIA went on to support Muslim resistance to Soviet rule in Central Asia and the Caucasus, putting it on the side of the Chechens in a prelude to today.
U.S. strategy builds on the precedent of the British, which recruited as intelligence assets Islamists like Jamal al-din al-Afghani (1838-1897) and Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905) in Egypt and fomented Islamist insurrections when they suited British imperial goals.
A key case study in Devil’s Game is Afghanistan, where the CIA recruited the most hardline Islamic elements in the 1970s to induce a Soviet invasion to give the Soviets their Vietnam and to take the war against the Soviets into Central Asia.
In recent decades, the U.S. has found itself on the side of the Islamists in Libya, which were used to overthrow secular nationalist Muammar Qaddafi, as well as in the Balkans, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Syria and also now Ukraine.
Sheikh Mansur Battalion
In September 2022, National Public Radio (NPR) featured Chechen fighters in Ukraine who formed the Sheikh Mansur Battalion—an all-Chechen brigade.
A member of the battalion named Masour recalled Russians burning Chechen villages during the Chechen War for independence in the 1990s and vowed revenge.
Chechen fighters committed legions of human rights abuses in the Chechen war and in Syria and were known for the use of suicide bombing and other terrorist tactics.
According to the U.S. State Department, the Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade (IIPB) is the primary channel for Islamic funding of Chechen guerrillas, in part through links to al-Qaeda-related financiers on the Arabian Peninsula.
In 2003, the Bush administration defined the Chechnya-based Special Purpose Islamic Regiment (SPIR) and the Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs as terrorist entities, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
The Sheikh Mansur Battalion has been active in Ukraine since 2014 and fought in Mariupol and Bakhmut among other places. The battalion is named in honor of Sheikh Mansur, a Chechen military commander and Islamic leader who fought against the expansion of the Russian Empire into the Caucasus during the late 18th century.
For a time, the battalion operated under the command of the Ukrainian Volunteer Corps, an independent volunteer battalion of the far-right Right Sector party.
Foreign Fighters in Ukraine
The International Studies Association (ISA) conference in Montreal in mid-March featured a panel on foreign fighters in Ukraine, which included discussion of the Wagner Group, Kadyrov forces and Serbs on the Russian side, and the presence of Chechen, Croat and Georgian fighters as well as Muslim Crimean Tatars on the Ukrainian side.
The first speaker on the panel, Helene Olsen of King’s College in London, emphasized that the term mercenary is no longer used because of its negative connotation though that essentially is what the foreign fighters are.
While money, adventure seeking and a desire to run away from personal problems may be a motivating factor, a lot of the foreign fighters on the Ukrainian side especially are motivated by a revenge motive and hatred for the Russians.
Dr. Iva Vukusic of Utrecht University in the Netherlands emphasized that a number of the Croats worked directly with the far-right Azov Battalion. Both came from a Nazi lineage, with Croat fighters having collaborated with the Nazi puppet-state in Croatia during World War II.
Vukusic also emphasized that many of the mercenaries on both sides subscribed to an anti-LGBTQ, anti-feminist and anti-immigrant worldview and were involved in war crimes, some of which have been broadcast on their Telegram channels.
Elena E. Pokalova of the National Defense University pointed to the existence in Ukraine of many foreign fighters from the Caucasus, including the Chechens and members of the Georgian Legion, who wanted an opportunity to fight the Russians after the 2008 war over South Ossetia and Abkhazia that the Russians won.
Brutality of Georgian Legion Exposed
CovertAction Magazine published an important two-part exposé on the Georgian Legion, noting how it carried out ISIS-style executions in Ukraine.
Author Evan Reif wrote that “the Georgian Legion prides itself on never taking prisoners, releasing videos on its social media of ISIS-style executions of bound, tortured POWs that are so brazen even Western intelligence cutouts such as Bellingcat and Western press agencies like CNN and The New York Times have confirmed their authenticity. Despite this, the Georgian Legion finds support…from people at the highest echelons of American power. Congressman Adam Kinzinger, the ‘never Trump’ Republican, is one of their most vocal backers.”
The head of the Georgian Legion, Mamuka Mamulashvili, has had deep ties with far right and neo-Nazi groups and was accused of launching black-flag sniper attacks in Ukraine during the February 2014 Maidan coup that were blamed on the pro-Russian Yanukovych regime.
After Yanukovych was forced to flee, Mamuka’s men trained the infamous Special Tasks Patrol police units, recruited from among the thousands of neo-Nazis (many of them CIA-affiliated) which led the way in crushing the nascent counter-revolution in Donbas.
Reif wrote that the Georgian Legion “carried out their mission [at this time] with extreme brutality, subjugating cities and towns by any means necessary.”
This same brutality was seen in a recent video in which several bound Russian soldiers are depicted lying on the ground with their throats slit in pools of blood as the cameraman brags about Georgian prowess and then shoots a prisoner who starts to gurgle as he fights for air.
Reif concluded that, despite claims by Mamuka to the contrary, the Georgian Legion was rife with neo-Nazis from around the world. Among them was Paul Gray, an Iraq and Afghan war veteran affiliated with at least four known neo-Nazi groups, the Traditionalist Workers Party (TWP), Vanguard America, Patriot Front, and the infamous Atomwaffen.
A New Operation Gladio?
Christopher Helali, in another important article for CAM that profiles foreign mercenary fighters in Ukraine, suggests that the nexus of military personnel, neo-Nazis, and intelligence networks being mobilized is reminiscent of Operation Gladio following the Second World War—a state terrorist operation involving the creation of underground armies to fight the Soviet Union and political left in Europe.
The CIA, as we know, has played an outsized role in the Ukraine conflict—spreading propaganda, overseeing the Ukrainian secret service (Служба безпеки України), and providing paramilitary training to Ukrainian Special Forces engaged in dirty-war tactics in eastern Ukraine.
Thousands of American mercenaries, many with white supremacist backgrounds, have also gone to fight on the frontlines of Ukraine. The New York York Times on March 26 profiled some of them, including James Vasquez, who fought alongside the Da Vince’s Wolves, a Ukrainian far-right battalion.
What the Times did not report is that Vasquez and some of his associates may be working under intelligence cover to coordinate the activities of the Chechens, Croats, Georgians and other foreign fighters that have been unleashed on eastern Ukraine to kill Russians and terrorize the people.
- Robert Dreyfuss, Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2005). ↑
- The killer was identified as Georgian Legionnaire Teymuraz Khizanishvili, a former bodyguard of Mikheil Saakashvili, the disgraced pro-NATO prime minister of Georgia from 2004 to 2013 and a close ally of the Mamulashvili family. The crime was so brazen that even British intelligence asset Eliot Higgins of Bellingcat and The New York Times were forced to confirm its veracity. For his part, Mamuka doubled down when confronted with this evidence in an interview, stating,“Yes, we tie their hands and feet sometimes. I speak for the Georgian Legion, we will never take Russian soldiers prisoner. Not a single one of them will be taken prisoner.” ↑
- Vasquez was a charlatan who lied about being deployed to Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm and to Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom. ↑
Jeremy Kuzmarov is Managing Editor of CovertAction Magazine. He is the author of four books on U.S. foreign policy, including Obama’s Unending Wars (Clarity Press, 2019) and The Russians Are Coming, Again, with John Marciano (Monthly Review Press, 2018). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chechen Jihadists Have Joined the Ranks of the Ukrainian Army
Georgian Legion Carries Out ISIS-Style Executions in Ukraine