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Chechnya's Kadyrov plans mercenary group, praises Wagner

February 19, 2023

The pro-Kremlin strongman Ramzan Kadyrov has sent soldiers to Ukraine to help Russia, but he has been critical of Moscow's forces. Once he leaves his role as Chechen leader, he's keen to set up his own mercenary group.

Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov attends a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II
The staunch ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin was full of praise for the Wagner groupImage: Chingis Kondarov/REUTERS

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said Sunday that he intends to form his own group of professional mercenaries once he no longer serves in a state office.

On his Telegram channel, Kadyrov, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, praised the Wagner Group of mercenaries and its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, for "impressive results" amid the war in Ukraine.

"We can say confidently that Wagner has shown its mettle in military terms and drawn a line under discussions about whether or not such private military companies are needed," the 46-year-old Chechen leader said.

The ascent of the Wagner Group, along with Prigozhin and other mercenary forces outside the traditional Russian military command structures, is something Kadyrov said he is keen to emulate once he leaves office.

"When my service to the state is completed, I seriously plan to compete with our dear brother Yevgeny Prigozhin and create a private military company. I think it will all work out."

Chechens fight for and against Russia in Ukraine

Putin's staunch ally, but critical of Moscow's forces

Kadyrov and Prigozhin both lead forces in Ukraine that operate outside of Russia's military command. The men are also both staunch allies of Putin, though they have also spoken out in public against the Moscow forces' operations since the invasion began almost exactly a year ago.

The Wagner Group has played an increasingly important role in Russia's war against Ukraine, leading months of fighting in the Donetsk region's town of Bakhmut.

Putin has relied on Kadyrov to keep the North Caucasus republic of Chechnya stable and repress any unrest. Kadyrov has vowed to "fulfill any military command from Russia's commander-in-chief Vladimir Putin."

In return for his unwavering loyalty, Kadyrov has enjoyed considerable freedom in governing Chechnya and speaking his mind. He has not shied away, for example, from lambasting Russia's top brass for recent military setbacks in Ukraine. And he has even called for the deployment of low-yield nuclear weapons.

jsi/sms (dpa, Reuters)