By Paul Goble
Moscow’s use of non-Russians and Cossacks in Ukraine has received far more attention than the appearance of non-Russian units there that are taking part in the fight against Russian aggression. But there are a number of them: the latest to appear is the Imam Shamil battalion consisting of Daghestanis.
Named for the Islamic divine who led the North Caucasian resistance to the advance of tsarist forces in that region in the 19th century, the new unit is of as yet unknown size but is committed to defeating Russians first in Ukraine and then in Daghestan and across the North Caucasus.
Its commander, Magomed Saypulayev, says that his group began to fight Russia “ten to fifteen years ago” but recently decided to join the battle in Ukraine against Russian imperialism there (kavkazr.com/a/dagestanskiy-bataljon-imeni-imama-shamilya-vystupit-v-voyne-na-storone-ukrainy-/32106693.html).
There are also three Chechen units fighting on the side of Ukraine – the Dudayev Battalion, the Mansur Battalion, and a Chechen unit within the Ukrainian army. Akhmed Zakayev, leader of the Ichkerian government in exile, says these represent the rebirth of the Ichkerian army (newcaucasus.com/nc-other/21761-ahmed-zakaev-v-ukraine-vozrozhdaetsya-armiya-ichkerii.html).
In addition to these units, there have been numerous non-Russians from elsewhere in the North Caucasus and the Russian Federation who have made their way to Ukraine to fight for Kyiv against Russia in the hopes that Moscow’s defeat there will open the way for their freedom and independence.