Shamil Battalion From Daghestan Fighting Russian Forces In Ukraine – OpEd


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  (

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 (

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.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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