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Rival Chechen fighters take wαr to battlefields of Ukrαine

KYIV, Ukrαine (AP) — Kneeling in a patch of yellow wildflowers, a Chechen soldier carefully attaches an explosive device to the bottom of a small drone. Seconds later, it is released. It explodes next to two old storefront mannequins set up 200 meters (yards) away, one with a Russian-style military hat on its head.

After this and other training outside the Ukrαiniαn capital, the Chechen soldiers, in assorted camouflage footwear and protective gear, will be heading to the front lines in Ukrαine, vowing to continue the fight against Russia that raged for years in their North Caucasus homeland.

Fighters from Chechnya, the wαr-scarred republic in southern Russia, are participating on both sides of the conflict in Ukrαine.

Pro-Kyiv volunteers are loyal to Dzhokhar Dudayev, the late Chechen leader who headed the republic’s drive for independence from Russia. They form the “Dudayev Battalion” and are the sworn enemies of Chechen forces who back Russian President Vladimir Putin and joined Russia in the months-long siege of Ukrαine’s key port of Mariupol and other flashpoints in eastern and southern Ukrαine.

One group of new Chechen arrivals, many of whom live in Western Europe, was being trained at a makeshift firing range outside Kyiv before heading east. At a training session Saturday, the new recruits ‒ all Muslim men ‒ shouted “Allahu akbar!” (“God is great!”), holding their rifles in the air before being handed military ID cards that are issued to volunteers.