The head of Russia’s North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, has confirmed that men from Chechnya are serving in Syria.
Kadyrov wrote on Instagram on January 24 that Chechen Mufti Salakh-Hadzhi Mezhiyev and Adam Delimkhanov, a close Kadyrov ally who is a member of the Russian parliament, recently returned from a trip to Syria.
He said that the two had visited a Russian Defense Ministry military police battalion “in which young men from Chechnya are serving.”
Media reports in December said that members of Chechen special police forces had been sent to Syria to guard Russia’s Hmeimim air base near the coastal city of Latakia. Kadyrov rejected the reports at the time.
In the Instagram post, Kadyrov said the Chechen told the visitors they had served in Aleppo, whose eastern part was recaptured from rebels by Syrian forces backed by Russia in December, but it was not clear when that was or where the meeting took place.
Kadyrov also said that Mezhiyev and Delimkhanov had met with President Bashar al-Assad’s brother Maher al-Assad, a senior military commander.
Russia has given the Syrian government crucial diplomatic and military support throughout the six-year war that has killed more than 300,000 people.