Macedonian Military Victory Day Raid on National Liberaton Army (UCK) HQ Kumanovo 9th May 2015

Macedonian prosecutors have charged 30 people with terrorism after a shootout in the northern town of Kumanovo left 22 dead, including eight police officers.

Dozens of cars and houses were destroyed during the violence in Kumanovo, around 40 kilometres north of Skopje.

“I was awaken by grenades early on Saturday morning,” 57-year-old resident Bafti Ramadan said.

“I immediately went to the basement with my family and we hid there until police came in the evening.

“We were taken to Skopje for questioning and released only on Sunday morning. When we came back we found our house destroyed and robbed, I saw blood stains in a room on the floor.”

The incident came less than three weeks after around 40 Kosovo Albanians briefly seized control of a police station on Macedonia’s northern border, demanding the creation of an Albanian state in Macedonia.

Ethnic Albanians make up around one quarter of Macedonia’s 2.1 million population.

The 2001 Macedonian conflict with ethnic Albanian rebels ended with an agreement providing more rights to the minority community.

However, relations between ethnic Macedonians and Albanians remain strained.

The prosecutor’s office said some had also been charged with illegal possession of arms and explosives.

It said 18 of the accused were ethnic Albanians from neighbouring Serbian region of Kosovo, most of whom entered Macedonia illegally.

The breakaway territory’s top leaders condemned “any involvement” of Kosovans from Serbia in the clashes, which erupted when police moved in on the gunmen on Saturday.


The clashes in Kumanovo were the worst in Macedonia for 14 years, and raised fears of fresh unrest similar to the country’s 2001 ethnic conflict.

Macedonian prime minister Nikola Gruevski claimed a “particularly dangerous terrorist group” of ethnic Albanians had been planning a major attack in the Balkan country.

But Macedonian opposition and analysts suggested the timing of the violence — with the government under huge pressure over a series of alleged misdemeanours — was suspicious.

List of Names of Those Arrested in Anti-Terror Operation in Kumanovo Macedonia

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In the list of attackers are Kosovars, Macedonians, and one citizen from Germany and Albania

Macedonian police announced a list of 28 names of persons who were in cud Ndrecjeva named Commander of NATO, and about which the Serbian Blic already written.

On the list of 16 people from Kosovo and Metohija, and in Macedonian citizens, there are an Albanian and a German citizen. List of fully možetre look HERE.

Macedonian media, however, are being seen as the terrorist group was planning an attack in which a large number of civilians killed.

They were arrested in fact, admitted that they were planning to blow up the stone bridge in Skopje, bringing vecer.mk.

This horrific attack was planned for mid-May, and the bridge is supposed to be hit and the police, courts and hospitals.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFJqV57tHaA

“Blic” conveys the full list of detainees, including 16 people from Kosovo and Metohija, and in addition to Macedonian citizens, there are an Albanian and a German citizen.

1st Muhamed Krasniqi “Malisheva” (Kosovo)
Second Fadil Fejzullahu (Kumanovo)
3rd Dem Shehu “Junik” (Kosovo)
4th Sami Uskini “Sokoli” (Kosovo)
5th Irfan Lutfiu (Kumanovo)
6th Arsim Bajrami (Vaksince)
7th Fadil Elshani (Kosovo)
8th Esat Kafedžoli (Kosovo)
9th Ardian Bujari (Kosovo)
10th Kenan Eljmi (Kumanovo)
11th Šefket AVAC (Kosovo)
12th Lirim Demiri (Kumanovo)
13th Ajrus Avdi (Kosovo)
14th Betim Card Players (Kosovo)
15th Genci Head (Albania)
16th Lendrit Rustemi (Kosovo)
17th Enver Klein (Germany)
18th Rufki Dogani (Kosovo)
19th Nasuf Beqiri (Aracinovo)
20th Valdet Zekaj (Kosovo)
21st Eid Elshani (Kosovo)
22nd Nedžmedin Lika (Tetovo)
23rd Lirim Krasniqi (Kosovo)
24th Sevdail Miftari (Kumanovo)
25th Fatmir Recica (Kosovo)
26th Beg Bajra – Naser Bajraliu (Kosovo)
27th Fejzula Rušitovski (Brest)
28th Besnik Ajdini (Kumanovo)

Mekedonski media write today that the terrorist group responsible for the attacks in Kumanovo, was about the terrible terrorist attacks in which many civilians were killed.

The arrested terrorists revealed that one of the plans of the attack was the lifting of the stone bridge in Skopje in the air, according vecer.mk.

The attack was to take place in mid-May, and in addition to the bridge planned attacks on police, court and hospital. The attack killed a large number of civilians and police officers.

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The Final Days of Isa Munaev – Confirmed Three Islamic State Battalions Fighting for Poroshenko

By Marcin Mamon The Intercept IN SEPTEMBER OF 2014, I found myself standing on a narrow, potholed street in Kiev, east of the Dnieper River, in an area known as the Left Bank. I didn’t even know, at that point, whom I was meeting. I knew only that Khalid, my contact in Turkey with the Islamic State, had told me his “brothers” were in Ukraine, and I could trust them. When one of them called me, I was given the address of a small street in the Ukrainian capital where I should go, and no other information. When I arrived, I found myself in a maze of Soviet apartment blocks. I immediately noticed two well-built men walking by; they were bearded, with black sunglasses and black leather jackets. When I looked closely, I could see sticking out of their jackets the barrels of small machine guns. Right Sector Picture of Khalid key ISIS leader based in Istanbul Turkey left in both pictures first picture with Aleksandr Muzychko during First Chechen War Second with ISIS leader Omar Al-Shishani

“Kandahar, Kandahar,” one of them said into his radio, after approaching me. Could we go in? “No,” was the answer. The “commander” was still busy. The armed men guided me past rows of Soviet-era apartment buildings, and then we waited in a wide, open square among the tall, concrete buildings. After half an hour of waiting, we wove through the housing complex until we approached a 10-story building, then took the elevator up to a mid-level floor and entered a small apartment. The single room was furnished with a bed, a kitchen table and two chairs. Sitting inside the small apartment was Isa Munayev. I recognized him immediately, because he was one of the few Chechens serving in Ukraine who was photographed frequently without a mask. He was upset, and shouting into the phone: “We came to die for you, and you don’t even want to do what you promised.”

Even before he arrived in Ukraine, Munayev was well-known. He fought against Russian forces in both Chechen wars; in the second, he was the commander of the war in Grozny. After the Chechen capital was captured by Russian forces between 1999 and 2000, Munayev and his men took refuge in the mountains. He fought from there until 2005, when he was seriously injured and went to Europe for treatment. Munayev lived in Denmark until 2014. Then war broke out in Ukraine, and he decided it was time to fight the Russians again. As Russian-backed separatist forces began battling Ukrainian forces, Munayev came to Ukraine and established one of what would become several dozen private battalions that sprang up to fight on the side of the Ukrainian government, operating separately from the military. Munayev’s group was called the Dzhokhar Dudayev battalion, named after the first president of independent Chechnya, who was killed by Russian forces in 1996. Munayev was the head of the battalion. He was not at the front in the fall of 2014, because he was busy training forces and organizing money and weapons, from Kiev.

An older man in a leather jacket introduced me to Munayev. “Our good brother Khalid recommended this man,” the man said. (Khalid is today one of the most important leaders of the Islamic State. Khalid and Munayev knew each other from years spent fighting together in Chechnya.) Munayev had reason for all the security precautions. Vladimir Putin regarded him as a personal enemy, and so did Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-friendly leader of Chechnya. Yet once I was inside the apartment, Munayev greeted me like an old friend, and we chatted casually about friends and colleagues we both knew from Chechnya; some were dead, a few still alive. For those looking for an easy narrative in today’s wars, whether in the Middle East or in eastern Ukraine, the Dzhokhar Dudayev battalion is not the place to find it. The battalion is not strictly Muslim, though it includes a number of Muslims from former Soviet republics, including Chechens who have fought on the side of the Islamic State in Syria. It also includes many Ukrainians. But all are fighting against what they perceive to be a common enemy: Russian aggression.

Munayev was full of nervous energy, gesturing and talking loudly. He rarely stood still; even in the small apartment, he got up frequently, walked around and sat down again. When I asked whether I could visit him once he moved to the front lines, he told me to call him next time I was in Kiev. A few months later when I returned to Ukraine, in early 2015, Munayev was no longer in Kiev. He was fighting in the east, in the so-called Debaltseve “cauldron,” which had become the center of an intense battle between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists. But Munayev gave permission for Ruslan, a member of his battalion, to take me to his secret base. Ruslan Picture of ‘Ruslan’

I was the first journalist allowed to visit the base, and I would end up being the last journalist to see Munayev before his death. THE TRIP FROM Kiev to the base of the Dzhokhar Dudayev battalion in the east winds along 500 miles of poorly maintained roads pocked with holes, and in the winter, often covered in snow. When we passed the city of Dnipropetrovsk, in southeastern Ukraine, we were told to turn off our phones and remove the batteries. We approached Munayev’s base late at night after many hours inside a cramped, overheated car. On the last bit of road, Ruslan got lost in the fog. He wasn’t the only one. We stopped at one point to talk with the driver of a Ukrainian army truck; the soldier was completely confused. He didn’t know where to go, and we couldn’t help him. On the horizon, we saw the flash of rockets as troops fired at positions near Donetsk. Dull explosions punctuated the silence of the night. We rendezvoused with Munayev’s men at the crossroads of a small village, near a Soviet-era monument to “working women” painted bright white. An armored van, similar to one designed to carry cash to the bank, pulled up next to us. Ihor Kolomoisky, a Ukrainian oligarch from Dnipropetrovsk, had given the car to Munayev’s fighters. From there we drove together to the base. The Dudayev battalion base was situated in an old, dilapidated complex of buildings, a former psychiatric hospital that once treated drug addicts, among others. The conditions were tough, but at least the main building was warm, heated by a wood-burning oven. Fighters cut down the trees from around the hospital to feed the oven.

LiveLeak-dot-com-5df_1422922129-Semen_1422923659 LiveLeak-dot-com-5df_1422922129-Semen2_1422923657 About 50 to 60 fighters were in the building, at least half of them Ukrainians, many from the city of Cherkasy. Others came from Chechnya, and the republic of Kabardino-Balkaria in the North Caucasus. There were also Crimean Tatars, Azeris and one Georgian from Batumi. All were there to defend Ukraine against Russia. “I know how much this great nation needs help, and we really want to help them,” Munayev said. Munayev also admitted, however, that he hoped the weapons he got in Ukraine would end up in the hands of militants in the Caucasus. He had a clear goal. “I defend Ukraine and Chechnya,” he told me. “If we succeed in Ukraine, then we can succeed in Chechnya.” In Ukraine, Munayev was seeking revenge for the wrongs that he and his people had suffered. Russians had killed his father, his wife and his children. “These are the enemies who murdered my people, who took my country from me,” he said. “They killed all those who were dear to us. There is no one in Chechnya who hasn’t suffered at the hands of the Russian army.” Adam Osmayev, the deputy commander of the battalion, is famous in his own right. Two years before the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine, the British-educated Chechen was arrested in Odessa, a port city in the south of Ukraine, on suspicion of conspiring to assassinate Vladimir Putin. Osmayev initially pleaded guilty, but then withdrew the plea, writing in a statement he submitted before the court that the admission was “obtained through physical and psychological coercion.” Osmayev claimed that after his arrest in 2012, representatives of Ukraine’s security service beat him on the head with fists, gun handles and rifle butts. He said they kicked him, partially suffocated him with a plastic bag over his head, and injected him with drugs. In the spring of 2014, after a new Ukrainian government came to power, Isa Munayev and three of his men broke Osmayev out of prison, according to Ruslan, who was one of the fighters involved.

On the way back to Kiev, special forces surrounded them at one of the militia checkpoints, Ruslan said, and after a dramatic standoff, the Ukrainians allowed the Chechens to go free. (There is no way to confirm Ruslan’s account, but in the fall of 2014, the Odessa court suddenly declared that Osmayev had fulfilled enough of his sentence and had been set free). Osmayev and Munayev came back to Kiev, and the Dudayev battalion was created. At the time I visited, most of the fighters were at the front in the vicinity of Luhansk. But the exact number serving in the battalion is a mystery. According to one source, there are 500 volunteers. Assuming that number is correct, it’s a significant force, which is why it’s increasingly feared in Kiev. The battalion is not subject to any political leader in Kiev, or subordinate to any political structure there. The Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky helped create the first volunteer battalions — the Dnipro and Dnipro-1 — each with about 500 people. For several months, he also financially supported several other battalions, including Azov, Aidar, Donbass, and Right Sector battalion. In the end, Kolomoisky also invited the Chechens, hoping they would protect his businesses and factories, if needed.

Since the 1990s, Kolomoisky has been one of the most powerful men in Ukraine. His influence extends across almost the entire Ukrainian economy. Among other companies, he controls PrivatBank, the country’s largest bank, and exercises significant authority over Ukrnafta, its largest oil and gas producer. His influence extends over the media through several television stations, including the popular channel 1+1. The oligarch also owns the football club Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk. Most of Kolomoisky’s assets, however, focus on Privat Group, which The Wall Street Journal described as “an informal nebula of companies controlled by Mr. Kolomoisky and his partners.” In 2008, Forbes estimated that Kolomoisky’s fortune was $4.2 billion. When Kolomoisky saw that the Russians might capture Dnipropetrovsk — where his business was centered — he decided to cooperate with the new president of Ukraine, who, like him, was a businessman. Kolomoisky also wanted to help bail out the government’s army, which had been hobbled by years of corruption. After Russia annexed Crimea and separatists began fighting in eastern Ukraine, Kolomoisky announced his candidacy for the post of governor of Dnipropetrovsk. He was immediately appointed to the position. When the Russians stopped approximately 120 miles short of Dnipropetrovsk, Kolomoisky suddenly lost interest and stopped paying the volunteer battalions. The Right Sector battalion responded by seizing his property, but Munayev couldn’t do that. He was a foreigner, and feared the Ukrainian authorities would regard his battalion as an illegal armed group, then disband it. Munayev was bitter, but would not openly speak ill of the authorities in Kiev. The Ukrainian people were still helping his fighters.

There are three volunteer battalions with a significant number of Muslim fighters operating in Ukraine today (it would be wrong to describe any of the battalions as “Muslim,” since they also include Ukrainians and other nationalities). The Dudayev battalion operates between Donetsk and Luhansk, the Sheikh Mansour battalion, which broke off from the Dudayev battalion, is based close to Mariupol, in the southeast of Ukraine, and in the northeast is the Crimea battalion, based in Krematorsk, which consists mostly of Crimean Tatars. (There is also a separate company of Crimean Tatar fighters that operate as part of a sotnya, a Slavic term for “hundred.”) From time to time, Munayev met with representatives of the Ukrainian Security Service, known as the SBU. The Ukrainian government and President Petro Poroshenko fear that Chechens — along with other branches of voluntary battalions dissatisfied with the developments in Ukraine — could one day threaten the government in Kiev. That concern isn’t totally without merit. “It doesn’t matter whether the Ukrainian authorities help us or not,” a commander from the Tatar battalion told me. “Now we have weapons and we will never given them up.” That commander recently arrived in Ukraine from Syria. He wants to fight to free Crimea, which he does not believe Ukraine will ever recover through negotiations. “It can be done only by force, with weapons in hand,” he said.

IN THE END, I spent three days at the base with Munayev. As a volunteer battalion, the relationship between commander and fighters relies on mutual trust, rather than traditional military structures. The volunteers weren’t there because they were paid soldiers or conscripts; they were there because they believed in Munayev’s instincts and abilities as a commander. And Munayev believed in them. “These are my fighters,” he said at one point. “These wonderful, beautiful young men.” Over the past month, Munayev had been organizing raids behind enemy lines, attacking the command posts, artillery, rocket launchers and entrenched tanks. He would personally go to the front lines for a week or two, then return to the base just to pick up a new group of fighters, allowing the others to rest.

Munayev went to battle for the last time on Jan. 26. He went to Debaltseve, which the separatists took in February following an intense battle that left much of the city in ruins. Before getting into the white armored van that last day, he told me the same thing he told his fighters — that he didn’t know when he would return. “We are going deep behind enemy lines,” he said. “I hope everything will be fine. If we die, at least we die as soldiers, and not as slaves.” Munayev didn’t return. What happened next depends on whom you believe. There are suspicions that his location was betrayed to the Russians. But one of the fighters I spoke with, a Chechen who came to Ukraine with a Turkish passport, does not believe that. According to his account, on Feb. 1 Munayev’s group went to help the volunteer Donbass battalion fighting near Debaltseve. Most of the fighters stayed at the Ukrainian positions, but Munayev took four fighters and went on a scouting mission. He wanted to get to the rear of the enemy. They walked a little over 2 miles into “no man’s land,” between the two sides.

Caucus Emirate Akbaar They came to a small village called Chernukhino, where they stumbled upon Russian soldiers. There was shooting, and the Chechens killed a few Russians — the rest of the Russians withdrew. The Russians, however, managed to give the village’s coordinates to their artillery, and soon all hell broke loose. At the same time, the assault began on Debaltseve, which was defended by the Ukrainian army, as well as volunteer battalions including Donbass and Dudayev.

Munayev’s body was left on the battlefield, something strictly prohibited by the Chechen honor code.

The five lightly armed Dudayev fighters were attacked by infantry and tanks, and so they fled. They came upon a courtyard, where they saw a building with a shop. Munayev emptied some rounds into the front door and ordered his men to take refuge inside. When the last one entered, there was an explosion. The room filled with clouds of black smoke. When the dust settled, the commander of the militants was lying at the entrance to the building. Munayev had been hit by shrapnel from a tank shell, and had a large gaping wound. Munayev, who had survived two brutal wars in Chechnya, died instantly. He was 49 years old. What happened next is even more controversial. The commander’s body was left on the battlefield, something strictly prohibited by the Chechen honor code.

I spoke with a fighter from the Chechen battalion of Sheikh Mansour, which broke away from Munayev’s branch a few months ago. Relations between the two battalions are not good. He didn’t want to talk about the death of Munayev, or why the commander was left on the battlefield. Ask the people “who were with Isa in his last moments,” the fighter said when I asked him about it. “Of course we know what happened, but it is not our business.” Munayev’s fighters said they didn’t take him from the battlefield because they were too far from the Ukrainian positions, and wouldn’t have been able to carry the body. They were convinced that no one would escape alive. Fleeing, they had to jump over fences, walls and sometimes on top of the roofs of houses. In the evening, they came to the trenches of the Donbass Battalion. Before Munayev left the base for the last time, I had asked him what he thought of the Chechens fighting in Syria alongside ISIS and other Islamic organizations. What were they fighting for there? “I don’t know what they’re fighting for, but I know what I’m fighting for,” he answered. “I fight for freedom.” Adam Osmayev, Munayev’s deputy, was a few miles away fighting alongside the Ukrainian troops when Munayev was killed. When Munayev’s death was reported in the Russian media, one of the claims was that Osmayev had murdered him. Osmayev wouldn’t even comment on that allegation. He said that type of information must have come from Russian security services trying to discredit him. Osmayev said that a few days after Munayev’s death, when the fighting “subsided a little,” he went to retrieve his commander’s body. Osmayev carried the body from the battlefield, and he and his comrades buried him in the wild fields of Ukraine. Osmayev’s debt to Munayev was repaid. Osmayev, who has now taken over leadership of the Dudayev battalion, said he didn’t know for sure what happened, but he was sure Munayev died like a soldier. “He was looking for his end,” Osmayev said. “It found him.” (ed note: There are also reports that Munaev died as a result of shelling by the Kiev based Kievan Rus Battalion a nationalist battalion who object to the presence of Muslims in Ukraine)

Photos: Tomasz Glowacki 

* At the request of the writer, “Ruslan” is identified by a pseudonym.

– The material for this story is part of BROTHERS, a documentary film being developed for Germany’s broadcaster WDR – Die Story and Autentic, produced by Propellerfilm, broadcast date May 18th, 10pm (MET).

Original Article here https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/02/27/isa-munayevs-war/

See also https://theother14.wordpress.com/2015/04/28/upcoming-german-tv-documentry-set-to-expose-ukraine-volunteer-battalions-links-to-arms-smuggling-organised-crime-and-islamic-state/

https://theother14.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/russian-terrorist-adam-osmayev-chief-suspect-in-executions-of-ukraine-opposition-politicians-oleg-kalashnikov-and-sergey-melnichuk/ https://theother14.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/australian-based-ukrainian-oligrach-linked-to-cia-sponsored-weapons-shipments-to-isis-2/4 https://theother14.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/islamic-state-linked-militia-appears-in-ukraine/ https://theother14.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/ukraine-conflict-being-used-for-islamic-state-recruitment-by-chechens-fighting-for-pro-us-regime/ https://theother14.wordpress.com/2015/01/15/french-police-suspect-ukrainian-volunteer-battalion-origion-for-charlie-hebdo-ak47s/

Right Sector Members Protests Against Poroshenko Crackdown on Fascist Militia after Online Death Threats

Non military members of Ukrainian far right group the Right Sector have protested in Kiev after the Ukraine Army blockaded the base in Eastern Ukraine demanding they disarm. The attempt to disarm the Right Sector fighters came after US troops arrived in Lvov to train Ukraine Army recruits to help disarm rogue volunteer battalions. In recent video the Right Sector’s Andrey Grachev in a series of videos uploaded anonymously was seen making threats to the lives of pro-US President Poroshenko and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov..

Azov Battalion Sniper Mikael Skillt Explains How Battalion Was Formed Under Yanokovich to Fight ISIS

Swedish Volunteer Mikael Skillt has explained in an interview with an Italian TV Station how the Azov Battalion was formed under Ukraine President Victor Yanokovich as a fighting force to go fight under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against the Islamic State when the hostilities broke out in Kiev that led to the coup. Now the Azov Battalion fights with members of the Islamic State and for the interests of the United States in Europe. In the whole 5th Crusade allover again.The question remains whose side were these fighters on during the Maidan Coup and whether the coup took place to stop these fighters going to Syria to fight against the Islamic State and what is their current relationship like with the Ukraine regime?

Upcoming German TV Documentary Set to Expose Ukraine Volunteer Battalions Links to Arms Smuggling, Organised Crime and Islamic State

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In Midst of War, Ukraine Becomes Gateway for Jihad

By Marcin Mamon The Intercept

“OUR BROTHERS ARE there,” Khalid said when he heard I was going to Ukraine. “Buy a local SIM card when you get there, send me the number and then wait for someone to call you.”

Khalid, who uses a pseudonym, leads the Islamic State’s underground branch in Istanbul. He came from Syria to help control the flood of volunteers arriving in Turkey from all over the world, wanting to join the global jihad. Now, he wanted to put me in touch with Ruslan, a “brother” fighting with Muslims in Ukraine.

The “brothers” are members of ISIS and other underground Islamic organizations, men who have abandoned their own countries and cities. Often using pseudonyms and fake identities, they are working and fighting in the Middle East, Africa and the Caucasus, slipping across borders without visas. Some are fighting to create a new Caliphate — heaven on earth. Others — like Chechens, Kurds and Dagestanis — say they are fighting for freedom, independence and self-determination. They are on every continent, and in almost every country, and now they are in Ukraine, too.

In the West, most look at the war in Ukraine as simply a battle between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian government. But the truth on the ground is now far more complex, particularly when it comes to the volunteer battalions fighting on the side of Ukraine. Ostensibly state-sanctioned, but not necessarily state-controlled, some have been supported by Ukrainian oligarchs, and others by private citizens. Less talked about, however, is the Dudayev battalion, named after the first president of Chechnya, Dzhokhar Dudayev, and founded by Isa Munayev, a Chechen commander who fought in two wars against Russia.

Ukraine is now becoming an important stop-off point for the brothers, like Ruslan.

In Ukraine, you can buy a passport and a new identity. For $15,000, a fighter receives a new name and a legal document attesting to Ukrainian citizenship. Ukraine doesn’t belong to the European Union, but it’s an easy pathway for immigration to the West. Ukrainians have few difficulties obtaining visas to neighboring Poland, where they can work on construction sites and in restaurants, filling the gap left by the millions of Poles who have left in search of work in the United Kingdom and Germany.

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You can also do business in Ukraine that’s not quite legal. You can earn easy money for the brothers fighting in the Caucasus, Syria and Afghanistan. You can “legally” acquire unregistered weapons to fight the Russian-backed separatists, and then export them by bribing corrupt Ukrainian customs officers.

“Our goal here is to get weapons, which will be sent to the Caucasus,” Ruslan, the brother who meets me first in Kiev, admits without hesitation.

WITH HIS WHITE hair and beard, Ruslan is still physically fit, even at 57. He’s been a fighter his entire adult life. Born in a small mountain village in the Caucasus, on the border between Dagestan and Chechnya, Ruslan belongs to an ethnic minority known as the Lak, who are predominantly Sunni Muslim.

The world that Ruslan inhabits — the world of the brothers — is something new. When he first became a fighter, there wasn’t any Internet or cell phones, or cameras on the street, or drones. Ruslan joined the brothers when the Soviet Union collapsed, and he went to fight for a better world, first against the Russians in Chechnya and Dagestan during the first Chechen war in the mid-1990s. He then moved to Azerbaijan, where he was eventually arrested in 2004 on suspicion of maintaining contact with al Qaeda.

Even though Ruslan admits to fighting with Islamic organizations, he claims the actual basis for the arrest in Azerbaijan — illegal possession of weapons — was false. Authorities couldn’t find anything suspicious where he was living (Ruslan was staying at the time with his “brothers” in the jihad movement) but in his wife’s home they found a single hand grenade. Ruslan was charged with illegal weapons possession and sent to prison for several years.

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In prison, he says he was tortured and deliberately housed in a cell with prisoners infected with tuberculosis. Ruslan took his case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, accusing the authorities in Azerbaijan of depriving him of due process. The court eventually agreed, and asked the Azerbaijani government to pay Ruslan 2,400 euros in compensation, plus another 1,000 euros for court costs.

But when Ruslan was released from prison, he didn’t want to stay in Azerbaijan, fearing he would be rearrested, or even framed for a crime and again accused of terrorism. “Some of our people disappear and are never found,” he says. “There was one brother [who disappeared], and when he was brought for burial, a card was found showing that he was one of 30 people held in detention in Russia.”
In Russia, a warrant was issued for Riuan’s arrest. Returning to his small mountain village was out of the question. If he goes back, his family will end up paying for what he does, anyhow. “They get to us through our families,” he says. He condemns those who refused to leave their own country and fight the infidels. This was the choice: either stay, or go abroad where “you can breathe freedom.”

“Man is born free,” Ruslan says. “We are slaves of God and not the slaves of people, especially those who are against their own people, and break the laws of God. There is only one law: the law of God.”

After his release from prison in Azerbaijan, Ruslan became the eternal wanderer, a rebel — and one of the brothers now in Ukraine. He came because Munayev, now head of the Dudayev battalion, decided the brothers should fight in Ukraine. “I am here today because my brother, Isa, called us and said, ‘It’s time to repay your debt,’” Ruslan says. “There was a time when the brothers from Ukraine came [to Chechnya] and fought against the common enemy, the aggressor, the occupier.”

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That debt is to Ukrainians like Oleksandr Muzychko, who became one of the brothers, even though he never converted to Islam. Muzyczko, along with other Ukrainian volunteers, joined Chechen fighters and took part in the first Chechen war against Russia. He commanded a branch of Ukrainian volunteers, called “Viking,” which fought under famed Chechen militant leader Shamil Basayev. Muzychko died last year in Ukraine under mysterious circumstances.

Ruslan has been in Ukraine for almost a year, and hasn’t seen his family since he arrived. Their last separation lasted almost seven years. He’s never had time to raise children, or even really to get to know them. Although he’s a grandfather, he only has one son — a small family by Caucasian standards, but better for him, since a smaller family costs less. His wife calls often and asks for money, but Ruslan rarely has any to give her.

I N THE 17th century, the area to the east of the Dnieper River was known as the “wilderness,” an ungoverned territory that attracted refugees, criminals and peasants — a place beyond the reach of the Russian empire. Today, this part of Ukraine plays a similar role, this time for Muslim brothers. In eastern Ukraine, the green flag of jihad flies over some of the private battalions’ bases.

For many Muslims, like Ruslan, the war in Ukraine’s Donbass region is just the next stage in the fight against the Russian empire. It doesn’t matter to them whether their ultimate goal is a Caliphate in the Middle East, or simply to have the Caucuses free of Russian influence — the brothers are united not by nation, but by a sense of community and solidarity.

But the brothers barely have the financial means for fighting or living. They are poor, and very rarely receive grants from the so-called Islamic humanitarian organizations. They must earn money for themselves, and this is usually done by force. Amber is one of the ideas Ruslan has for financing the “company of brothers” fighting in eastern Ukraine — the Dudayev battalion, which includes Muslims from several nations, Ukrainians, Georgians, and even a few Russians.

The brothers had hoped the Ukrainian authorities would appreciate their dedication and willingness to give their lives in defense of Ukrainian sovereignty, but they miscalculated. Like other branches of fighters — Aidar, Azov and Donbass — the government, for the most part, ignores them. They’re armed volunteers outside the control of Kiev, and Ukraine’s politicians also fear that one day, instead of fighting Russians in the east, the volunteers will turn on the government in Kiev. So ordinary people help the volunteers, but it’s not enough. The fighters associated with the Ukrainian nationalist Right Sector get money, cars and houses from the rich oligarchs.

Ruslan has a different plan. He’s afraid that if they begin stealing from the rich, the Ukrainian government will quickly declare their armed branch illegal. He’s decided to work in the underground economy — uncontrolled by the state — which the brothers know best.

Back in the ’90s, the amber mines in the vast forests surrounding the city of Rivne were state-owned and badly run, so residents began illegally mining; it was a chance at easy money. Soon, however, the mafia took over. For the right daily fee, miners could work and sell amber to the mafia at a fixed price: $100 per kilogram. The mafia conspired with local militia, prosecutors and the governor. That was the way business worked.

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As a result, although Ukraine officially produces 3 tons of amber annually, more than 15 tons are illegally exported to Poland each year. There, the ore is processed and sold at a substantial profit. The Rivne mines operate 24 hours a day. Hundreds of people with shovels in hand search the forest; they pay less to the mafia, but they extract less amber and earn less. The better off are those who have a water pump. Those people pump water at high pressure into the earth between the trees, until a cavity 2 to 3 meters deep forms. Amber, which is lighter than water, rises to the surface.

At one point, Ruslan disappeared in Rivne for several weeks. When he returned, he was disappointed; he’d failed to convince the local mafia to cooperate with the brothers’ fight for an independent Ukraine. But now, he has other arguments to persuade them. His men are holding up the mines, by not allowing anyone into the forest. Either the local gangsters share their profits, or no one will get paid.

Ruslan doesn’t like this job. He knows it won’t bring him any glory, and could land him in prison. He would have preferred to be among the fighters at the front lines, where everything is clear and clean. He says he can still fight, but he’s already too old to really endure the rigors of battle, even if he doesn’t want to admit it. He may still be physically fit, but fighters don’t usually last longer than a few years. Then they lose their strength and will to fight.

He has other orders from Munayev: he’s supposed to organize a “direct response group” in Kiev. The group will be a sort of rear echelon unit that take care of problems, like if someone tries to discredit the Dudayev battalion. It will also collect debts or scare off competition. There’s no doubt the new branch will work behind the lines, where there isn’t war, but there is money — as long as you know where to get it. If need be, the direct response group volunteers will watch over the mines in Rivne, or “will acquire” money from illegal casinos, which operate by the hundreds in Kiev.

Ruslan sends me photos of the group’s criminal exploits: they came into the casinos with weapons, and broke into the safes and slot machines. They disappeared quickly, and were never punished. The money went to food, uniforms, boots, tactical vests and other equipment necessary for the fighters. The mafia knows they can’t beat them at this game. The brothers are too good, because they are armed and experienced in battle. The police aren’t interested in getting involved either. In the end, it’s illegal gambling.

I told Ruslan that it’s a dangerous game. He laughed. “It’s child’s play,” he says. “We used to do this in Dagestan. No one will lift a finger. Don’t worry.”

RUSLAN FINALLY DROVE me to see his “older brother,” to Isa Munayev, and his secret base located many miles west of Donetsk. Riding in an old Chrysler that Ruslan bought in Poland, we drove for several hours, on potholed and snowy roads. Ruslan had glued to the car one of the emblems of Ukraine’s ATO, the so-called Anti-Terrorist Operation, which includes both soldiers and volunteers in the fight against separatists.

The bumper sticker allows him to drive through police traffic stops without being held up — or if he is stopped, they won’t demand bribes as they do from other drivers. The ATO sticker, Ruslan’s camouflage uniform, and a gun in his belt are enough to settle matters. Policemen salute him and wish him good luck.

He drives fast, not wanting to rest, sleep or even drink coffee. If he stops, it’s to check the compass on his belt to check the direction of Mecca. When it’s time to pray, he stops the car, turns off the engine, places his scarf in the snow and bows down to Allah.

Asked whether — after so many hardships, after so many years, and at his age, almost 60 now — he would finally like to rest, he answered indignantly, “How could I feel tired?”

There’s much more work to do, according to Ruslan. “There’s been a small result, but we will rest only when we’ve reached our goals,” he says. “I’m carrying out orders, written in the Holy Quran. ‘Listen to God, the Prophet.’ And I listen to him and do what I’m told.”

On the way into the city of Kryvyi Rih, we met with Dima, a young businessman — under 40 — but already worth some $5 million. He’s recently lost nearly $3 million from his business in Donetsk, which has been hit hard by the war. Dima worked for Igor Kolomoisky, one of the oligarchs who had been funding Ukraine’s volunteer battalions. Dima and Ruslan have only known each other for a short time. Ruslan claimed Dima owed him a lot of money, although it’s unclear from what. Ruslan kept bothering him, threatening to blackmail him. Finally, he got $20,000 from Dima.

That’s not nearly enough to support the Dudayev battalion. But Ruslan had something bigger to offer Dima: amber. Now, Dima was ready to talk. He came up with the idea to find buyers in the Persian Gulf, including wealthy sheikhs. They would like to sell an entire house of amber: furniture, stairs, floors, and inlaid stones. It only takes contacts, and Ruslan has them. The brothers from Saudi Arabia like to help the jihad in the Caucasus and the Middle East.

The next day, Ruslan was behind the wheel again. The old Chrysler barely moved, its engine overheated. A mechanic with an engineering degree and experience working in Soviet arms factories connected a plastic bottle filled with dirty water to the radiator using a rubber hose.

“I don’t know how long I’ll last,” Ruslan says suddenly. “It depends on God. I’ll probably die on this road. But I don’t have any other road to take.”

Photos: Tomasz Glowacki

Next: The Life and Death of a Chechen Commander

* At the request of the writer, “Ruslan” is identified by a pseudonym.


The material for this story is part of BROTHERS, a documentary film being developed for Germany’s broadcaster WDR – Die Story and Autentic, produced by Propellerfilm, broadcast date May 18th, 10pm (MET).

Link to article https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/02/26/midst-war-ukraine-becomes-gateway-europe-jihad/