Ukraine conflict and Muslim ‘mujahideen’ among the Russian forces

Muslim and Chechen troops in Ukraine can be considered ‘mujahideen’ according to Adam Shakhidov (Credits: Из Грозного на Украину отправилась новая группа добровольцев, Grozny Inform)

Geopolitical Report ISSN 2785-2598 Volume 19 Issue 5
Author: Giuliano Bifolchi

Since several Muslim soldiers are fighting in Ukraine among the ranks of the Russian troops, there is considerable debate and propaganda if they can be considered ‘mujahideen’ who fight in ‘the path of Allah’ or ‘disbelievers’.

A few days after the beginning of the Ukraine conflict, media reported that the Chechen kadyrovtsy could have been deployed on Ukrainian soil to support what the Kremlin has always defined as a ‘military special operation’.[1] Therefore, there was a massive debate and propaganda in the Russian language on how the Muslim ummah (community) should have considered those Muslims, especially the Chechens, who were fighting for the Russian or Ukrainian Armed Forces.

According to Adam Shakhidov, adviser to the Head of the Chechen republic, the Muslims who participate in the ‘special operation’ in Ukraine are Mujahideen who work in the way of Allah, and the one who dies on this path becomes a Shaheed (martyr).

Shakhidov stated that:

“We must confidently say that our fighters, brothers in faith, not only from the Chechen Republic but from all over Russia, protect the values ​​of our people, our religion and the honour of our state, all of which is the goal of protecting Islam. When the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was asked by some companions who are on the path of Allah, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) outlined the rule through which the one who is on the path of Allah is determined – this is the one who fights to exalt the word of Allah Almighty.”

In his interview for the media agency Grozny Inform, Adam Shakhidov added that “satanic states led by the United States have fought against Muslims and Islam throughout their history…What is happening in Ukraine now is the West’s attempts to destroy the Russian state, our traditional, greatest culture, which our ancestors adhered to.”[2]

Geopolitical scenario

Since Muslim soldiers are fighting in Ukraine for the Russian and Ukrainian forces, the world of Internet and social media has hosted several debates about who is fighting ‘in the path of Allah’ and who might be considered a ‘disbeliever’.

Abu Hamza, Amir of the Mujahideen-Muhajirs of the Vilayat Nokhchichoy of Imarat Kavkaz (Caucasus Emirate), commented several times on kadyrovtsy‘s presence in Ukraine, stating that they cannot be considered ‘real Chechens’ because they are ‘Kremlin’s puppets’ who are fighting for Vladimir Putin and not in the path of Allah. In one of his videos, Abu Hamza attacked what he called “Kadyrov’s shameless mullah, Salah Mezhiev”, for declaring jihad in Putin’s name and thus allowing the participation of Chechen soldiers in the conflict in Ukraine in support of the Russian armed forces.[3]

On February 28th, 2022, the Crimean Tatar fighter Isa Akayev known as the commander of the volunteer battalion “Crimea”, appealed to the Russian Muslims and “fellow believers” who are fighting in Ukraine to throw down their weapons or join the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the fight against Russia.[4]

In the middle of March 2022, leaders of Muslim Russian religious organisations adopted an appeal for their support of the leadership of Russia to contrast the propaganda spread by Abu Hamza, Isa Akayev and the Chechen volunteer fighting groups in Ukraine known as the Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion and Shaykh Mansur Battalion. The statement confirms that the Russian military operation in Ukraine to force the nationalists to peace is a forced defensive and preventive measure to protect Russia and all its citizens from the real threat of nuclear and biological weapons by NATO countries and the collective West.[5]

Conclusion

The Chechen leadership needs to legitimise the military intervention in Ukraine, support Kremlin’s operations on the ground and contrast strategic communication based on accusing the Muslim soldiers in the Russian forces of not following the ‘right path of Allah’. Since around 15-20 million Muslims live in the Russian Federation, Moscow cannot allow that terrorist jihadist groups such as Imarat Kavkaz (Caucasus Emirate), the Islamic State or al-Qa’ida to take advantage of the current situation to spread their propaganda, recruit fighters on the Russian soil, particularly in the North Caucasus, and organise violent attacks. Furthermore, the propaganda might also negatively affect the Russian foreign policy in the Arab-Muslim world and military presence in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Central Asia, making Russian soldiers targets for terrorist attacks.

In the era of the Internet and social media, where information and psychological warfare are essential as the military operation on the ground, Islam and the Muslim ummah are a critical target that Russia, Ukraine and terrorist organisations are trying to influence by legitimising their decisions through spiritual leaders’ support and attacking enemies’ stance.

Sources

[1] Giuliano Bifolchi (2022) Ukraine conflict, kadyrovtsy and Chechnya, SpecialEurasia. Link: https://www.specialeurasia.com/2022/02/25/ukraine-kadyrovtsy-chechnya/.

[2] Grozny Inform (2022) А.Шахидов: Мусульмане на спецоперации в Украине является муджахидами (A. Shahidov: Muslims in the special operation in Ukraine are mujahideen). Link: https://www.grozny-inform.ru/news/society/138429.

[3] Svobodny Kavkaz (2022) Абу Хамза: Обращение к путинским рабам, кадыровцам, которых посылают на войну против Украины (Abu Hamza: Appeal to Putin’s slaves and kadyrovtsy who are sent to war against Ukraine). Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dsv6Xv5Q4EE;

[4] Giuliano Bifolchi (2022) Ukraine conflict, foreign fighters and European security, SpecialEurasia. Link: https://www.specialeurasia.com/2022/02/28/ukraine-foreign-fighters/.

[5] Giuliano Bifolchi (2022) Ukraine conflict and Russian Muslim leaders’ support to the Kremlin, SpecialEurasia. Link: https://www.specialeurasia.com/2022/03/17/ukraine-russia-muslims/.