State-backed Russian news outlet RT published video footage on Friday showing an enormous rally of, it reported, 12,000 “local volunteers” in the Chechen capital of Grozny, with Kadyrov telling the assembly that his advice to Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky was to “[call] our President, Supreme Commander Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, and [apologise] for not doing so sooner. Do it in order to save Ukraine. Ask for forgiveness and agree to all the conditions that Russia puts forward.”
British newspaper of record The Times quoted Kadyrov's speech slightly differently, reporting that he had said: “I want to give some advice to current President Zelensky before he becomes the ex-president of Ukraine. He should call our president as quickly as possible, the commander-in-chief Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, and ask for forgiveness.”
The London-based news outlet added that the Chechen leader — who participated in a jihadist insurrection against Moscow in the mid-'90s but defected to the Russian side during an expanded jihad in 1999 — boasted he could recruit 70,000 men to fight in the “hottest spots in Ukraine,” and that the assembled masses responded with chants of “Allahu Akbar!”
Twelve thousand Chechens ready to deploy to #Ukraine – Kadyrov
— RT (@RT_com) February 26, 2022
It was initially suggested that Kadyrov's forces were merely prepared for service “in any special operation” and had not actually been deployed to Ukraine yet, but Chechen media now reports that his men are in theatre, sharing video footage which purports to show them capturing a Ukrainian military facility and replacing its Ukrainian flag with a Russian one.
Reuters, citing Chechen media, quoted Kadyrov as saying that his forces currently “do not have one single casualty, or wounded, not a single man has even had a runny nose” and that they will “carry out [President Putin's] orders under any circumstances”.
Leading British tabloids The Daily Mail and The Sun have also published sensational reports of Chechen “hunters” being tasked with finding and killing particular Ukrainian officials for the Kremlin, but they are unsubstantiated and appear to be poorly sourced.