Russia's Chechen Soldiers in Syria
We reported last month a mainly Chechen unit of Russia's military police was dispatched to Syria.

Now ANNA News, a very active Russian-language news service based in Abkhazia, has visited the men in Aleppo and produced a 25 minute reportage.


Some highlights:
  • Their job is to provide security for the Russian sappers clearing mines and unexploded ordnance.
  • They are also tasked with cordoning off explosives-infested areas to prevent civilian casualties and guarding Russian mobile hospitals.
  • They're mainly Sunni, but they also have a Budhist, Shia and Orthodox Christians. Commander says "we've got 4 nationalities and 4 confessions" but "we're first of all Russian citizens and in service of the Russian army".
  • A Russian soldier says they were welcome by the city's residents and do not mistrust them. (Appropriately they wear brightly-colored berets rather than helmets.)
  • At one point in the video Russians demand the reluctant Syrians bury the corpse of a believed al-Qaeda (Jabhat al-Nusra) fighter, ("Jabhat al-Nusra are people too.")k
  • Aside from the Russian command in Syria they also send daily reports to Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov.
  • The ommander believes they were sent because as Chechens they are close by faith and traditions and can better understand and relate to Syrians.
  • He also says the locals initially had a very bad image of Chechens based on jihadis that came before them, and are surprised when they learn the 'Russians' in red berets are Chechen as well.
Overall bits of the video seem somewhat staged (Syrians find an unexploded bomb just when the cameras are there), but you definitely get the feeling Russia's soldiers are not seen as occupiers and have nothing to fear from the population. They are quite relaxed in their dealings with their locals and their cordons have nothing like the tense feel of trigger happy American checkpoints in Iraq.