Kavkaz Files ISSN 2975-0474 Volume Issue 19 Issue 2
Author: Giuliano Bifolchi
The presence of North Caucasian volunteer fighters within the international legion in Ukraine presents a complex dynamic with implications for the broader regional and geopolitical landscape. Notably, their vocal expressions of solidarity with Palestine and criticism of Kyiv’s support for Israel underscore a nuanced discord within the Ukrainian conflict theatre.
While Ukraine’s primary aim is to combat Russian forces, Muslim volunteer battalions from North Caucasus introduce an element of ideological divergence that merits attention.
This development highlights the multifaceted nature of the conflict, in which international actors, driven by their own geopolitical interests and ideological affiliations, contribute to the intricate tapestry of the ongoing Ukrainian crisis. Understanding and navigating these dynamics is imperative for regional stability and pursuing Ukraine’s strategic objectives.
North Caucasian volunteer fighters’ criticism against Kyiv
On October 7th, 2023, Hamas launched a military attack against Israel which resulted in a staggering toll of over a thousand casualties, further exacerbated by the reprehensible abduction of approximately 100 to 150 hostages, encompassing both soldiers and innocent civilians.
The event hugely affected the international community. Western countries quickly condemned Hamas, describing its strategy as an act of terrorism. President Volodymir Zelensky went beyond the diplomatic realm, drawing a stark parallel between Hamas’s aggression and Russia’s incursion into Ukrainian soil and showed Ukraine’s support to Israel.
On October 8th, 2023, Muaz Kabardinsky, one of the member and leaders of the volunteer battalion in Ukraine Musul’manskij korpus ‘Kavkaz’ (Muslim Corp ‘Kavkaz’)published a post on its Telegram channel in which he criticised Kyiv’s support to Tel Aviv.
Kabardinsky assessed the political landscape in Ukraine regarding its stance on Palestine and expressed unrealistic expectations that Ukrainian authorities would unequivocally align with Muslim interests.
Instead, he suggested that current cooperation arises from a shared adversary, cautioning against assuming a lasting allegiance. Although the member of the Muslim Corp ‘Kavkaz’ invited his followers to refrain from blanket condemnation, emphasising the importance of discerning between the actions of those in power and the sentiments of the populace, he asked why Kyiv’s political establishment did not officially address the plight of oppressed Muslims.
Muaz Kabardinsk’s statement, articulated in a video released on October 9th, 2023, draws a parallel between the characterisation of Palestinians as terrorists by Kyiv and the historical narrative propagated by Moscow and its allies regarding Ukraine and Ukrainians. By highlighting the perceived inconsistency in labelling those who defend their land, Kabardinsky challenges the legitimacy of such designations.
On October 12th, 2023, Muaz Kabardinsky issued a statement, asserting that Telegram channels’ owner, whom he labelled as a pawn of Russia, attempted to disseminate fabricated information about his earlier video in which he criticised Kyiv’s support to Israel.
This declaration dispelled any misconceptions surrounding the original video and reaffirmed the commitment of the battalion to ongoing combat operations in the Bakhmut region.
Despite this clarification, the fervent support for Palestine exhibited by North Caucasian fighters in Ukraine did not go unnoticed.
The Dagestan National Centre, known for founding the Dagestan Volunteer Battalion ‘Imam Shamil’ in Ukraine, showed its support to Palestine after the Ukrainian government sided with Israel.
On October 11th, 2023, the Dagestan National Centre reinforced its solidarity with Palestine through a published statement which invited Muslims across Russia, Ukraine, and globally, to orchestrate events to support Palestine on October 13th, 2023, after Friday’s prayer.
On October 8th, 2023, the Ingush Independence Committee (KIN) took a proactive step by releasing a statement, apprising its followers of ongoing negotiations with representatives of the Ukrainian establishment about the situation in Palestine.
The Committee expressed a deep-seated concern over the discernible unilateral stance adopted by a majority of Ukrainian politicians in this conflict.
The KIN emphasised that such a one-sided and partial interpretation of the intricate Palestinian-Israeli confrontation not only casts a negative light on the Ukrainian people within the broader Arab-Muslim world, but also inadvertently bolsters the narratives propagated by the Kremlin.
The day before, on October 7th, 2023, both the KIN and the Ingush Liberation Army (ILA) jointly voiced their endorsement for the Ingush Independence Committee’s stance in support of “the oppressed people of Palestine in the struggle for freedom and independence.” Both groups laid blame on the doorstep of the Netanyahu government for the tumultuous events transpiring in Israel and Palestine.
Why does it matter?
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the recent Hamas military action have not only reverberated in the Middle East but have also had repercussions on the Ukraine conflict.
On one hand, the Ukrainian government harbours concerns that the United States may redirect its focus from Ukraine towards Israel, despite Washington’s affirmation of continued military and economic support for Kyiv.
This apprehension highlights the delicate balance that Ukraine must navigate to ensure its interests remain a priority on the international stage, especially amidst the complexities of global geopolitical dynamics.
On the other hand, the presence of Muslim fighters within the international legion, particularly those integrated into the North Caucasian volunteer battalions, introduces an additional layer of complexity.
Their varying stances on the Israeli-Palestinian issue could potentially strain relations with the Ukrainian central authority. This raises a pivotal question: can Kyiv effectively manage this situation without compromising its international standing or altering its position on Israel?
The pressure exerted by Muslim foreign fighters in the Ukraine conflict may, in fact, lead to a collision of interests in the near future, potentially increasing the regional geopolitical risk whose consequences might reverberate not only inside the Ukrainian territory but also in the entire European Union.
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