Russia-Ukraine war: Cousin to Chechen chief deployed as field commander in Mariupol, UK defense ministry says

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The cousin of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov was deployed to Mariupol as a part of Russia’s push to end the months-long resistance holed up in the Azovstal steel plant, the U.K.’s defense ministry said Wednesday.

“In attempting to overcome Ukrainian resistance, Russia has made significant use of axillary personnel. This includes a deployment of Chechen forces, likely consisting of several thousand fighters primarily concentrated in the Mariupol and Luhansk sectors,” the ministry said in a post to Twitter. 

Fighters of the Chechen special forces unit walk in a courtyard in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Thursday, April 21.
(REUTERS/Chingis Kondarov)

RUSSIA’S WAR IS NOT AGAINST UKRAINE BUT NATO, CHECHEN LEADER CLAIMS

U.K. defense officials believe these forces were primarily composed of National Guard units and individual volunteers that were overseen by the Chechen leader.

“Kadyrov likely maintains close personal oversight of the deployment, while his cousin Adam Delimkhanov has likely acted as the Chechen field commander in Mariupol,” the defense ministry added. 

The ministry claimed the deployment of various types of fighting forces to the region demonstrates Moscow’s “significant resourcing problems” and suggested this is leading to a “disunited” command.

Senior U.S. defense officials have repeatedly said there are some indications that morale and unit cohesion remains a problem for Russia.

Ukrainian defense officials on Wednesday said it had also obtained information revealing that some soldiers from Russian rifle regiments have “openly refused to take part in the war.”

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 5: (RUSSIA OUT) Governor of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov attends Russian-Saudi talks at the Grand Kremlin Palace on October 5, 2017 in Moscow, Russia. King Salman is on a state visit to Russia. 

MOSCOW, RUSSIA – OCTOBER 5: (RUSSIA OUT) Governor of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov attends Russian-Saudi talks at the Grand Kremlin Palace on October 5, 2017 in Moscow, Russia. King Salman is on a state visit to Russia. 
(Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images))

AZOVSTAL FIGHTERS WILL FACE RUSSIAN INTERROGATION, COURT

Russia has said its goal is to take “full control” over eastern and southern Ukraine, though Ukrainian defense officials have warned they believe Moscow will make another attempt to take the capital city of Kyiv.

The last resistance stronghold in Mariupol fell this week after Ukrainian fighters holed up in the Azovstal steel plant surrendered after weeks of Russian shelling.

Russia claimed that nearly 960 Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered and the leader of the Donetsk separatist group, Denis Pushilin, said Wednesday their fate will be determined by a Russian court. 

In this photo taken from video released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, wounded Ukrainian servicemen lay in a bus as they are being evacuated as they are being evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine. 

In this photo taken from video released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, wounded Ukrainian servicemen lay in a bus as they are being evacuated as they are being evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine. 
(Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

Despite this week’s victory for Moscow, Kadyrov admitted that Russian forces are finding it “difficult” to continue fending off Ukrainian forces with the backing of NATO allies. 

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“Today we’re fighting not against Ukraine…we’re fighting against NATO,” he said in a televised address. “NATO and the West, their mercenaries are there. And that’s why our state is finding it difficult.

“But it’s a really good experience and we’ll prove once again that Russia cannot be defeated,” he added. 

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