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Reports: Russia Sent Chechen Forces to Syria with Claim to Protect Hmeimim Base | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Kadyrov (center) and other Chechen top commanders at the Dinamo stadium in Grozny, Russia/ AP File Photo/ Musa Sadulayev

Moscow – Under the claim of protecting its air base in the Hmeimim airport in Syria’s Latakia province, Russian newspaper quoted sources at the Defense Ministry saying Moscow has decided to dispatch two units of the Vostok and Zapad military battalions to Syria.

However, leader of Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov denied the reports in the Russian media and declared that the battalions alleged to be participating do not actually exist.

“Russian media are circulating reports about the ‘dispatch’ to Syria of the ‘Vostok and Zapad military battalions”… I responsibly declare that in the Chechen Republic there are no such battalions as the ‘Vostok and Zapad’,” tweeted Kadyrov on Thursday evening.

Kadyrov said in case troops linked to the Defense Ministry currently stationed in Chechnya are asked to deploy to Syria and protect the airbase there, then those troops would be lucky to receive the order.

“If the servicemen of the units deployed at Chechen Republic are ordered to serve their duties protecting the airbase in Syria, then they will be lucky,” Kadyrov said.

Russia had legalized the establishment of the two battalions in 2003. The battalions count local residents among their number, giving them the unofficial name of the “Chechen special force.”

Since their creation, the two battalions were tasked with dangerous missions, including the job to confront terrorist organizations in Chechnya. Also, some members of the troops had accompanied the Russian team to remove cluster bombs to Lebanon in 2006.

Earlier on Thursday, Russia’s Izvestia newspaper reported that the two mentioned battalions possess a wide experience in mountainous areas, making their units more efficient than others in protecting Russian bases in Syria’s mountainous areas. According to Izvestia, dispatching Chechen troops will continue until the end of December.

Observers believe that the mission of the Chechen troops would not be similar to the announced one.

Meanwhile, Leonid Kalashnikov, the First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma lower house International Affairs Committee told reporters on Thursday that Chechen forces dispatched to Syria would play a role in tracking Chechen civilians fighting along terrorist organizations in the country.