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Rare footage released by Russia TV this week, revealed to the world that Russian special forces units are already on the ground in Syria, actively engaged in combat operations alongside the Syrian army in the war against terrorism. And if the recent Russian Izvestia news report is true – more elite soldiers are on their way.
Two of Chechnya’s top-notch special forces battalions “Vostok” and “Zapad” have reportedly been transformed into military police units and prepared for deployment to Syria by the end of December, where, according to the same reports, they will be defending the Russian Khmeimim Air Base in Latakia.
Both battalions have extensive combat experience, having been actively engaged in fighting terrorism at home as well as in missions abroad, including Russia’s brief war with Georgia in 2008.
Chechnya’s strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov neither denied nor confirmed the reports, saying that his elite troops would be happy to fight the terrorist “scum” in Syria on the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In fact, Kadyrov has repeatedly described himself and his troops as “Putin’s foot soldiers”. Earlier this year, he said in a Russian documentary that he had sent Chechens to infiltrate ISIS in Syria and gather intelligence.
Should this latest report prove to be accurate, it will speak to the miraculous transformation which Chechnya has undergone over the last decade – turning from what was once known as Russia’s Achilles’ heel and the epicenter of separatism, into a stable regional shield and training ground for the country’s elite counter-terrorism forces.