The Chechen Republic or simply Chechnya is one of Russia’s federal subjects. Head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov has long been known for his extravagant outbursts in regard to Moscow’s demands. The last such outburst was Kadyrov refusing to open the borders of the region after he was demanded to do so by Prime Minister of Russia Mikhail Mishustin.
Kadyrov said: “Of course, we won’t allow people in if they are not registered as living in Chechnya.” It was stated that these restrictions came into force after several Chechnyan residents tested positive for Covid-19 upon returning from Moscow.1
Despite Kadyrov’s words being more than praiseful of Putin, his actions in Chechnya have essentially shown that he does as he pleases and has minimum concern for the wishes of Moscow. This also makes one wonder about Putin’s high tolerance towards Kadyrov’s outbursts, especially when 85% of the republic’s budget is provided by Moscow.
Many believe that it was not in fact Chechnya that was added to Russia, but instead Russia was the one added to Chechnya. After both wars between Russia and Chechnya, an agreement was formed where the Chechen leader retains control over the rebels and establishes a regime loyal to Putin.2
Let’s now return to Kadyrov’s announcement about closing the border. One thing is certain, Kadyrov holds his promises, therefore we cannot ignore the news that in the villages of Bratskoye, Beno-Yurt and Znamenskoye in Chechnya’s Nadterechny District a gathering of federal forces was caught on tape via a dashboard camera. The footage showed Ural trucks and erected tent cities. It was assumed that these are some sort of military exercises, but neither of the local branches of Ministry of Interior, Federal Security Service or the Investigative Committee had been informed about any exercises being held in that area.3
Interestingly, the representatives within the power structures of Nadterechny District also knew nothing about any such exercises. Usually, to hold military training an inter-institutional decree is issued, and such training should take place at a military range far away from inhabited areas.4
In response, the head of the Southern Military District’s media service explained that no additional military forces have been brought to Chechnya and that there are no exercises taking place there at the moment. It was added that the 42nd Guards Motor Rifle Division stationed in Chechnya is engaged in routine training at their permanent deployment locations.5
So, now we have a contradiction between what a dashboard camera caught on tape and what official representatives are saying.
First, let us try to understand the number of people engaged in this bizarre gathering. From the footage we can conclude that there are at least 8 tents there (these look like UST-56 able to house 10 soldiers each) and 13 trucks. This means there are around 80 people, which corresponds to a single company. It was stated that the gatherings took place in three villages, therefore we can assume that there are a total of three companies located in the said region, which is basically a battalion.
The next crucial aspect in this regard is the announcement by the representative of Russia’s Southern Military District that all training is being held at permanent deployment locations.
Looking through publicly available information on the forces stationed in Chechnya, we can conclude that no military units are station in the Nadterechny District. Units of the 42nd Guards Motor Rifle Division are stationed far from the location of the gathering: these units are deployed in Grozny (98km away), Khankala (98km), Shali (122km), Kalinovskaya (70km) and Borzoy (160km). In addition, the fact that these military persons are being housed in tents doesn’t really fit with the statement that units are at their permanent deployment locations, because we can see that they are quite a few kilometers away from the tent city.
It should be noted that no one even attempted to question the authenticity of the dashboard camera footage, so we can assume it’s real. The only thing left is to draw conclusions, and none of them are flattering to the Russian Army.
Either the representative of the Southern Military District is lying about bringing additional forces to Chechnya, or he has no idea about what these units are actually doing, i.e. he has lost control over them.
It is hardly believable that the units stationed in Chechnya have been brought to exercises and stationed near inhabited areas and roads. It is also hardly believable that the units deployed in Chechnya would have engaged in some kind of drills and then on their way back decided to erect a leisure camp. This is unlikely because it would take approximately two hours to set up such a camp, but this time would be enough to reach their permanent deployment location form the area of the camp.
At this moment, it is difficult to tell what is going on in Chechnya, but we did find out something – Russian military persons are outright lying.