|Active||1999 – present|
|Allegiance||Head of the Chechen Republic|
|Branch||National Guard of Russia|
Second Chechen War|
Syrian Civil War
2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine
The Kadyrovites, also known as the Kadyrovtsy (from Russian: Кадыровцы, lit. 'Kadyrov's followers'), is a paramilitary organization in Chechnya, Russia, that serves as the protection of the Head of the Chechen Republic. The term Kadyrovtsy is commonly used in Chechnya to refer to any armed Chechen men under the control of Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov. Although nominally they are under the umbrella of the National Guard of Russia.
The Kadyrovtsy originated in 1994 as a Chechen separatist militia under Akhmad Kadyrov, and fought against the Russian Armed Forces for the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in the First Chechen War. Kadyrov defected to the Russian side in the Second Chechen War in 1999, and the Kadyrovtsy began fighting separatists and jihadists during the "Guerilla phase" as a de facto unit of the state police after he was appointed Chechen President in July 2000. Kadyrov was assassinated in 2004, and control of the militia was inherited by his son, Ramzan Kadyrov. In 2006, the Kadyrovtsy were legalized as a motorized regiment of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and when Kadyrov was elected Chechen President in 2007 its current official role as a personal protective service was established.
The Kadyrovtsy has been criticized of being Ramzan Kadyrov's private army, and is accused of committing widespread human rights abuses such as kidnapping, forced disappearances, torture and murder. Critics claim the Kadyrovtsy use extrajudicial punishment to cement Kadyrov's autocratic rule, and now surpass jihadist insurgents as the most feared organization among Chechnya's civilian population. The Kadyrovtsy have been involved in international conflicts including the Syrian Civil War in 2017 and the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Akhmad Kadyrov, a supporter of Dzhokhar Dudayev, began the formation of a personal militia following the outbreak of the First Chechen War in 1994, shortly after the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria declared its official independence from the Russian Federation. The militia, nicknamed the Kadyrovtsy after him, consisted of thousands of armed ethnic Chechen men devoted to the Chechen separatist cause, and participated in fighting against the Russian Armed Forces sent to restore sovereignty over Chechnya. Kadyrov distinguished himself as a militia leader, rising to prominence in the independent Chechen government under Dudayev, and was appointed Chief Mufti in 1995. Dudayev was killed in April 1996, shortly before the Chechen separatist victory in August following the Khasav-Yurt Accord and Russia–Chechen Peace Treaty. Chechnya's economy and administration had begun to break down largely due to early failed policies enacted by Dudayev and was worsened rapidly by the devastation of the war. The nationalist and secular government almost immediately came under the increasing control of Islamists and warlords. From 1997, the President Aslan Maskhadov replaced the secular Chechen government with an Islamic government based on sharia law and declared Chechnya an Islamic republic.
Kadyrov was a powerful official in independent Chechnya and the Kadyrovtsy were maintained for his own interests, however, he was an opponent of the Wahhabism which the increasingly influential foreign jihadist fighters of the Arab Mujahideen in Chechnya adhered to. Kadyrov abandoned the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria shortly after the outbreak of the Second Chechen War in August 1999, when the country was invaded by Russian federal troops in response to the Dagestan War, and his offer to defect was accepted by the Russian government. The Kadyrovtsy, composed mostly of separatist veterans of the first war, were now fighting for Russia against Maskhadov government troops and Islamist insurgents. The return of Russian rule over Chechnya was declared in July 2000, beginning the "Guerilla phase", and Kadyrov was appointed acting President of the Chechen Republic by Russian President Vladimir Putin until he was elected President of the Chechen Republic on 5 October 2003. The Kadyrovtsy acted as bodyguards for Kadyrov, who experience several assassination attempts, with security detail headed by Movladi Baisarov. Technically still a personal militia, it functioned as an unofficial part of the Chechen Republic's state police without any legal status in either the republican or federal government. In May 2003, the Kadyrovs established effective control over the Chechen OMON, then estimated at 300 men, earlier considered one of the strongholds of the anti-Kadyrov opposition in the power structures led by Musa Gazimagomadov, who died in a road accident under "strange circumstances". The Kadyrovtsy OMON was now run by Ruslan Alkhanov, who had been a rebel commander amnestied just a year before, and later became the Chechnya's Interior Minister. In October 2003, Akhmad Kadyrov became the President of the Chechen Republic; by this time his Security Service (SB) was already the largest security body consisting of the Chechens, numbering 3,000 according to Kadyrov himself. According to the next President Alu Alkhanov, in 2005 this figure has grown up to 7,000 armed men.
Kadyrov was killed on 9 May 2004 in the 2004 Grozny stadium bombing, in what is considered to be a deliberate assassination. Control of the Kadyrovtsy was inherited by his son, Ramzan Kadyrov, who was already the second-in-command of the militia. At this point, the backbone of the militia was still made up of former separatist fighters (more than 70% in 2004 according to the Russian military sources), and allegiance to their new leader was questioned. Many of them continued as members of the Kadyrovtsy under Ramzan due to the pressure upon the welfare of their relatives, as coercion was commonly used in Chechnya to demand compliance. The practice of hostage taking, in particular, was widespread and affected many in the country, including the former rebel Minister of Defence Magomed Khambiyev. Shortly after Akhmad Kadyrov's death, the unit of the Kadyrovtsy responsible for his protection was formally liquidated, and most of the remaining units were integrated into the system of Russian law enforcement agencies and security authorities in Chechnya under the Ministry of Internal Affairs. By 2005, two units were formed: the "Akhmad Kadyrov" Second Road Patrol Regiment of the Police (PPSM-2, Kadyrov Regiment), and the Oil Regiment Neftepolk headed by the Kadyrov's cousin Adam Delimkhanov, comprising around 1,500 to 2,000 men, respectively. By 2006, the total strength of the Kadyrovtsy, which by then included the PPSM-2, the Oil Regiment, and so-called Anti-Terrorist Centers (commanded by Muslim Ilyasov), was not disclosed. Memorial's estimations spoke of around 5,000 people, and in 2007 a similar estimation was made by Reuters.
On April 29, 2006, Ramzan Kadyrov officially disbanded his security service, saying on television that "These structures are no longer existent, and those calling themselves Kadyrovites are impostors and must be punished in accordance with the law." Some of the Kadyrovtsy gunmen were completely legalized into the Chechen government's power structures, while others, estimated at least 1,800, continued to exist in the semi-legal form of paramilitary formations. The ATCs were quickly closed down and some of the members were transferred to newly formed battalions: Sever (North, led by Muslim Ilyasov and composed of an estimated 500 men) and Yug (South, led by Alimbek Delimkhanov and composed of an estimated 700 men). The Kadyrovtsy were rearmed and given heavy equipment, such as armoured personnel carriers they previously did not possess. Observers have considered the open existence of the Kadyrovtsy, and the reason for its legalization by the Russian government as a law enforcement unit, to be so that the presence of federal troops in Chechnya can be decreased and redeployed to the neighboring state of Dagestan where the majority of Islamist insurgency continued. In 2007, Ramzan Kadyrov became the new President of the Chechen Republic and is now controlling all of the Chechen Interior Ministry forces, with the top seats of his government occupied by the former commanders of the Kadyrovtsy.
In 2016, after a series of reforms, most of the Russian internal military and paramilitary troops were placed under the command of the newly-created National Guard of Russia (also known as Rosgvardiya). As such, the Chechen internal troops were placed under nominal control of the National Guard, although still under direct control of Kadyrov. Researcher Gordon M. Hahn, for The Duran, and Russian political scientist Gleb Pavlovsky, who heads the analytics department of the Center for Political Technologies (CPT), said one of the objectives of the National Guard was a way to the President of Russia Vladimir Putin to limit Ramzan Kadyrov's power over his troops by putting them under the control of the National Guard, which respond directly to Putin.
Human rights violations
A significant number of members of these groups are people with a criminal past, including people who had committed criminal offences in the period between wars.[not in citation given] Particularly feared are the PPSM-2, named after Akhmad Kadyrov, and the Oil Regiment. Officially PPSM-2 is responsible for security on the streets and the Oil Regiment for the security of industrial sites. In reality, both structures are involved in so-called "anti-terrorist operations," according to human rights groups accompanied by grave human rights violations. Human rights activists working in Chechnya have said the group has been heavily involved in kidnapping, torture and murder to cement Kadyrov's clan rule.
In October 2006 German human rights group the Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV), which branded Kadyrov a "war criminal", has alleged that up to 75 percent of recent incidents of murder, torture, rape and kidnapping in Chechnya have been committed by Ramzan's paramilitary forces.
The Memorial group investigator stated in its report: "Considering the evidence we have gathered, we have no doubt that most of the crimes which are being committed now in Chechnya are the work of Kadyrov's men. There is also no doubt in our minds that Kadyrov has personally taken part in beating and torturing people. What they are doing is pure lawlessness. To make matters worse, they also go after people who are innocent, whose names were given by someone being tortured to death. He and his henchmen spread fear and terror in Chechnya. (...) They travel by night as death squads, kidnapping civilians, who are then locked in a torture chamber, raped and murdered,".
Anna Politkovskaya, a veteran Russian reporter (murdered in 2006; case unsolved as of April 2008) who specialized in Chechen reporting, claimed that she had received a video footage of a man identical in appearance to Ramzan. "....On them (the clips) were the murders of federal servicemen by the Kadyrovtsy, and also kidnappings directed by Kadyrov. These are very serious things; on the basis of this evidence a criminal case and investigation should follow. This could allow this person to be brought to justice, something he has long richly deserved," she said. She was allegedly working on an article revealing human rights abuses and regular incidences of torture in Chechnya at the time of her murder. Some observers alleged that Kadyrov or his men were possibly behind the assassination.
The Kadyrovtsy are often accused of working as a death squad against Kadyrov's enemies. Ramzan is rumoured to own a private prison in his stronghold of Tsentoroi, his home village south-east of Grozny. Fields around Tsentoroi are reportedly mined and all access routes are blocked by checkpoints. On May 2, 2006, representatives of the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) stated that they were prevented from entering the fortress. They have also begun using cell phones to record videos of them beating and humiliating ordinary Chechens accused of crimes. The videos are later circulated, with the intention of intimidating civilians.
According to the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights Unofficial Places of Detention in the Chechen Republic" report, many illegal places of detention exist in the Chechen Republic; most of them are run by Kadyrovites. In Tsentoroi (Khosi-Yurt), where the Kadyrovite headquarters is located, there are at least two illegal prisons functioning. One consists of concrete bunkers or pillboxes, where kidnapped relatives of armed Chechen fighters are held hostages while the second prison in Tsentoroi is evidently located in the yard—or in immediate vicinity—of the house of Ramzan Kadyrov.
On November 13, 2006, Human Rights Watch published a briefing paper on torture in Chechnya that it had prepared for the 37th session of the United Nations Committee Against Torture. The paper covered torture by personnel of the Second Operational Investigative Bureau (ORB-2), torture by units under the effective command of Ramzan Kadyrov, torture in secret detentions, and the continuing "disappearances." According to HRW, torture "in both official and secret detention facilities is widespread and systematic in Chechnya." In many cases, the perpetrators were so confident that there would be no consequences for their abuses that they did not even attempt to conceal their identity. Based on extensive research, HRW concluded in 2005 that forced disappearances in Chechnya are so widespread and systematic that they constitute crimes against humanity.
On March 1, 2007, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group rights organisation, stated "Kadyrov is to blame for kidnappings of many innocent people. Their bodies were found later with signs of torture."
The Kadyrovtsy were accused of mass kidnappings (occasionally, even members of the Russian security forces have been kidnapped), tortures and summary executions, rapes, racketeering, participation in the illegal oil trade and other crimes even by Chechen and Russian officials. In October 2003, the former Chechen official and presidential candidate Shamil Burayev, accused the Security Service of "hunting for the dissidents". In May 2004, Russian Presidential adviser Aslambek Aslakhanov acknowledged that the "security guard of the Kadyrovs" was operating outside of the law. In June 2005, Beslan Gantamirov, the former Chechen Prime Minister, accused the SB of "abductions and murder even of the FSB employees" and "gangsterism in the territory of all the North Caucasus". In April 2006, Mikhail Babich, another former Prime Minister of Chechnya and then Deputy Chairman of the Committee of the Russian State Duma on Defense, called the armed formations of Kadyrov "an absolutely illegal structure".
In May 2007, more than 100 members of the United Kingdom's political and cultural elite have appealed to President Vladimir Putin of Russia to restore "peace and justice" to Chechnya, calling Kadyrov's presidency "little more than a regime of fear and oppression".
In 2006, a video leaked out in which armed men loyal to Ramzan Kadyrov displayed the severed head of a Chechen guerrilla who was killed in July 2006, separated from his body for public display in the village of Kurchaloi, marking the brutality of the Kadyrovtsy. They mounted the head on a pipe, together with blood-stained trousers, and put a cigarette on him. It was displayed for at least a day as they came back a day later to record it again. According to human rights group Memorial as well as Anna Politkovskaya, the Deputy Prime Minister of Chechnya Idris Gaibov had orchestrated the atrocities by Kadyrovites in the outskirts of the Chechen village in the Kurchaloy on July 27–28, 2006. Reportedly, he hung the severed head of a killed rebel fighter up as a warning to the rest of the village. As a Chechen state official, he had given orders to members of the Russian security forces who were not subordinate to him to decapitate a dead body. Armed men then spent the next two hours photographing the head with their mobile phones; the head remained there for 24 hours.
On September 21, 2005 a similar incident occurred, as published by Memorial as well as Kavkazky Uzel which described "shocking details" of a special operation conducted by forces loyal to Ramzan Kadyrov earlier in September in the town of Argun and the settlement of Tsotsin-Yurt. Citing local residents, the human rights group reported that on September 14, a group of kadyrovtsy placed a severed head on a pipe on a footbridge across the Khulkulau River for "general viewing" and intimidation purposes.
In 2005 unidentified men kidnapped separatist field commander Dokka Umarov's father Khamad, his wife, and one-year-old son. Several months previous, his brother Ruslan Umarov, father of four children, had also been kidnapped by masked men in uniform. His wife and son were later freed, but his father and brothers disappeared. According to some sources, Umarov's father, Khamad Umarov, was kidnapped back on May 5, 2008, by the Kadyrovite employees of the Oil Regiment (Neftepolk) headed by Chechnya's First Deputy Prime Minister Adam Delimkhanov. In April 2007 Umarov declared his 74-year-old father was murdered in captivity. His sister Natalia Khumaidova was also abducted in Urus-Martan in August 2005 by "unidentified armed men"; she was released days later after local residents protested for her return. In the past years a cousin Zaurbek and nephew Roman Atayev were also kidnapped; nothing has been heard of these people since. Shortly after the Beslan hostage-taking raid in 2004, Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov suggested the practice of taking rebel leaders' relatives hostage. Memorial, who largely condemned such practices, blamed pro-Russian Chechen forces for the abductions. According to separatists, all the kidnapped persons were put into Ramzan Kadyrov's personal prison in Tsentaroy.
On April 28, 2006, security forces loyal to Ramzan Kadyrov fought a fist and then gun battle with the bodyguards of the pro-Russian then-president Alu Alkhanov. Up to two men were reportedly killed and four injured in the clash at the presidential administration, sparking fears of a broader power struggle between the groups of Chechen men who control the republic in support of the Russian authorities. The exchange of fire happened during a meeting between Alkhanov and a federal official, Sergei Stepashin. The Moskovskij Komsomolets newspaper reported that Alkhanov had banned Kadyrov from bringing more than two men of his private army with him into meetings; it reported that Kadyrov had rung Alkhanov and given him 30 minutes to flee the presidential administration as his men wanted to storm it. The official explanation of the whole incident was that "an ordinary quarrel" had occurred between two men who worked in the security services, and that no shots whatsoever were ever fired. It was the next day that reports came out how Ramzan Kadyrov officially disbanded his security service. On June 4, 2006, President Alu Alkhanov said he would prefer his republic be governed by Sharia law and suggested adapting the Islamic code, as it is championed by Kadyrov; he also dismissed reports of conflicts with Ramzan.
People in Chechnya long ago started talking about the Kadyrov-Alkhanov struggle that already included armed confrontation, murders, and hostage-taking; many of these incidents are provoked by Kadyrov's men. In February 2005, for example, two of Alkhanov's men were killed and three civilians were injured during an attack in the Kurchaloev region of the republic, which was essentially in Kadyrov's personal domain; the ITAR-TASS attributed the killing to "members of one of the republic's security services currently involved in anti-terrorist operations". In the other incident, members of an OMON unit based at the Grozny railway station exchanged fire with and then jailed a group of Kadyrovites. This incident outraged Kadyrov, who ordered his men to shoot to kill anyone who stood in their way and reportedly called Alkhanov to warn him that there would be a "war" if his men were further provoked. Both sides called for reinforcements and there was further shooting before the situation was defused.
Murder of Abdul Halim Sadulayev
On 17 June 2006, a group of the Kadyrovtsy and FSB officers killed the President of Ichkeria, Abdul Halim Sadulayev (also known as Sheikh Abdul-Halim), whose body was driven to Tsentoroy and presented to Ramzan Kadyrov. According to the FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev, two members of the federal forces were killed and five were wounded in a firefight in which Sadulayev and his bodyguard were killed, and two other rebels escaped. In August 2006, rebel commander Isa Muskiev said the federals and the kadyrovtsy lost five men killed in the shootout, one of them shot by Sadulayev personally, and three fighters escaped. The killing of Sheikh Abdul Halim was trumpeted by leaders of the Russian-backed official government of the province, claiming that the separatist forces there had been dealt a "decapitating" blow "from which they will never recover." The next day, June 18, Sadulayev was succeeded as head of the Chechen resistance by the rebel vice-president and an active guerilla commander Dokka Umarov.
Goretz unit mutiny
The Goretz (Mountaineer) detachment of the Kadyrovtsy was a spetsnaz unit of the FSB headed by Movladi Baisarov, the close ally and chief bodyguard to Akhmad Kadyrov, but was formally disbanded and its servicemen were to be reassigned to the Chechen Interior Ministry. After Akhmad Kadyrov's death, conflict with Ramzan Kadyrov led to Baisarov being declared an outlaw, and many men in the detachment refused the reassignment. The Guardian in June 2006 detailed a showdown between Kadyrov's and Baisarov's forces that had taken place the previous month. The Kadyrovtsy ended up backing down in that confrontation when another Chechen warlord, Said-Magomed Kakiev, head of the Spetsnaz GRU unit the Special Battalion Zapad, came down on Baisarov's side. Baisarov went to Moscow and appeared in the Russian media saying that Ramzan Kadyrov was trying to hunt him down to get rid of possible competition. He accused Kadyrov of directing numerous political murders and kidnappings. At the same time, he told Kommersant that he was not hiding from anyone in Moscow and was expecting to return to Chechnya soon to become the Deputy Prime Minister in charge of law enforcement. While as for October 2006, Baisarov was in Moscow, it was believed he still commanded 50 to little over 100 men based in Grozny. On November 18, 2006, Baisarov was shot dead in central Moscow by a detachment of the Kadyrovtsy.
As part of Russian military intervention in the Syrian civil war, Kadyrovtsy police units were deployed on the ground in Aleppo to "preserve order" and engage in civic outreach.
Kadyrovtsy volunteer units participated in the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24. Ramzan Kadyrov confirmed on February 26 that the Kadyrovtsy had been deployed in Ukraine. According to Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, they were deployed to capture and kill Ukraine's leaders, including Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Western sources described the deployment of Chechen Kadyrovtsy as "leveraging the very presence of Chechen soldiers in Ukraine as a psychological weapon against Ukrainians".
The Kyiv Independent reported the destruction of a Chechen column of 56 tanks by Ukrainian missiles near Hostomel on 27 February. According to Ukrainian sources, the missile attack had been delayed because the Kadyrovtsy had been hiding behind civilian infrastructure. On March 1, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said that Chechen fighters in Ukraine had sustained losses of two killed and six wounded. According to the Ukrainian intelligence sources, the Chechen units suffered "hundreds" of casualties, including Major General Magomed Tushayev, while being deployed around Kyiv and were eventually withdrawn to Chechnya on 13 March 2022.
- Ramzan Kadyrov
- Artur Akhmadov
- Ruslan Alkhanov
- Movladi Baisarov
- Alimbek Delimkhanov
- Adam Delimkhanov
- Idris Gaibov
- Muslim Ilyasov
- Zelimkhan Kadyrov
- Ibragim Khultygov
- Alambek Yasayev
- Politics of Chechnya
- Sulim Yamadayev–Ramzan Kadyrov power struggle
- Special Battalions Vostok and Zapad
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- New Chechen Army Threatens Moscow, AIA, 12.07.2006
- Ramzan's World, Newsweek, October 15, 2007
- Russia rearms former rebels to patrol Chechnya, Reuters/ReliefWeb, 19 March 2008
- Behind the scenes at the death squads of Chechnya, OpenDemocracy, 8 September 2011
- Kadyrovtsy: “Vladimir Putin’s Combat Infantry” and Ramzan Kadyrov’s Henchmen
- Russian TV on the Chechen MVD forces
- Revival of Brutality in Chechnya (The New York Times investigation)
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