The Gentleman’s Agreement between Vladimir Putin and the Kadyrov Family: How have some Chechen Fighters become a part of Russian Military Operations?

Apart from the Russian Army and Wagner Group, one of themost important weapons of Russian President Vladimir Putin inthe Russia-Ukraine war that started in February 2022 and in itsoperations in Syria since 2015 was the Chechen forces.Nevertheless, in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union,there were two major Russian-Chechen wars. As soon asVladimir Putin became prime minister in 1999, his most crucialaction was to end major Chechen insurgency in 1999. It is arguedthat the first Chechen War -started by the Chechen Republic ofIchkeria (which has been autonomous to some degree) againstthe Russian Federation (1994-1996)- took place in order to gainindependence. While the First Chechen War was carried out bynationalist sentiments to a higher degree, the Second ChechenWar was on the grounds of more Islamist sentiments.Nonetheless, when some Chechen Islamist fighters infiltratedillegally and attacked the Dagestan region in 1999, Russian forcescarried out operations to restore order in the region. So far therewere no major Chechen insurgency (apart from some eventsinitiated by some radical Chechens which were considered aslow-insurgency until 2017) after the second Chechen war whichlasted until 2009. However, after the war ended in 2009, someterrorist attacks occurred in Russia (in the years 2010 and 2011)by the “North Caucasus Emirate” (which was founded in 2007).It should also be remembered that the Syrian Civil War alsocaused the spill-over threat of radicalism beyond the borders.Nevertheless, some Chechen jihadist fighters also demonstratedtheir allegiance to ISIS terrorist organization in Syria.Considering those events, Chechen radicalism has beenperceived as a threat to stability and order in Russian Federation.On the other hand, Chechen fighters have been also a usefulinstrument for Russian military operations. So how did Putinmanage to utilize Chechen fighters to fight alongside Russia?What are the main parameters for this phenomenon? And finallyare these relations with the Russian military and Chechenfighters sustainable considering the latest revolt initiated by theWagner Group?The personal relations between the Chechen Kadyrov family andPutin are important determinants in analyzing the Chechensupport to the Russian army. Nevertheless, Akhmad Kadyrovwho was one of the main leading figures in Chechen separatismswitched sides and declared its support to Russian federal forcesduring the Second Chechen War in 1999. And following his deathin 2004, his son Ramzan Kadyrov has become a more apparentfigure and assumed office as the Head of the Chechen Republicin 2007. In their win-win relations, the Kadyrov family hasestablished and maintained ostensibly economic wealth (to somedegree) and effective rule against their domestic opposition inthe Republic as well as gained more autonomy to a degree in theFederation (even Moscow subsidized the Chechen economy infavor of Kadyrovs); while Russian central leadership manages topassivate the centrifugal insurgency. Nevertheless, this situationis based on a gentleman's agreement between Putin and Kadyrovand has not been fully institutionalized. As a matter of fact,during the Russo-Ukraine war, Kadyrov has not abstained fromcriticizing the Russian Defence Ministry and the management ofthe war situation. For instance, he opposed the plan ofSeptember 2022 (conducted also by the Russian Ministry ofDefence) regarding the exchange of prisoners of war during theRusso-Ukraine war. In fact, he advocates harsher methods (suchas utilizing nuclear weapons against Ukraine) in themanagement of the war. Do these kinds of discourses alsorepresent the sought-for maneuver in the political scene againstcentral authority while seemingly channeling his opposition toRussian Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu? Why do Chechenfighters under Kadyrov support the Russian Army? Thosequestions will lead us to understand the Chechen fighters in theRussian military operations and their relations with the centralauthority.In this research, our main question is: How have Chechenfighters become a part of Russian military operations?To answer this question, firstly the historical panoramaconcerning Chechnya’s status vis-a-vis the Russian SovietFederative Socialist Republic’s central power will be given veryshortly. Secondly, the collapse of the USSR in 1991 and its impacton Chechnya and the First Chechen War will be discussed. Whilethere are some differences between the first and the secondChechen Wars, those differences might also determine theestablishment of relations between the Kadyrov family andPutin. Thus, assessing those differences may provide invaluableclues concerning this research. Finally, the main determinantsof the Chechen fighters (mainly Kadyrovites) in the Russianmilitary will be analyzed accordingly.Keywords: Chechen Fighters, Relations between VladimirPutin and Ramzan Kadyrov, Russian Military Operations, Russo-Ukraine War, Politics of Chechnya
6th Politics and International Relations Congress
Citation Formats
M. İ. Çoban and T. Kalaycı, “The Gentleman’s Agreement between Vladimir Putin and the Kadyrov Family: How have some Chechen Fighters become a part of Russian Military Operations?,” presented at the 6th Politics and International Relations Congress, Trabzon, Türkiye, 2023, Accessed: 00, 2023. [Online]. Available: