Here are some news articles announcing their arrival:
Chechens join pro-Russians in battle for east Ukraine in Donetsk Financial Times By Courtney Weaver
Vladimir Putin, Russian president, has repeatedly denied that Russian forces are operating on-the-ground in eastern Ukraine and helping the separatists.
A Russian foreign ministry official said it was foreign media “hype” to report the presence of armed Chechens in eastern Ukraine.
“If they are Chechens, they are citizens of the Russian Federation. We can’t control where our citizens go,” he said. “But I can assure you that we have not sent our forces there.”
But authorities in Kiev said the Chechens’ presence was further evidence of the Kremlin’s aim to destabilise the region with whatever means possible.
In a statement on Tuesday, Ukraine’s foreign ministry claimed it was now facing “undisguised aggression” from Russia and “the export of Russian terrorism to our country”.
“There are grounds to affirm that Russian terrorists funnelled on to the territory of Ukraine are being organised and financed through the direct control of the Kremlin and Russian special forces,” the ministry said. “Our law enforcement today in eastern region of Ukraine are facing well prepared and armed Russian mercenaries ready to rob, intimidate, torture and kill Ukrainian citizens.”
The Chechen fighters emerged as Kiev continued to press an assault in the east that resulted in dozens of deaths on Monday.
At the same time, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation on Tuesday said it had lost contact with four of its Donetsk special monitors. Michael Bociurkiw, a representative for the OSCE chief monitoring mission in Kiev, said the OSCE had lost contact with the monitors while they were travelling east of Donetsk, near the border with Lugansk.
As of Tuesday evening, the OSCE still had not heard from the monitors, who had travelled to Ukraine from Switzerland, Denmark, Estonia and Turkey.
Chechen fighters have a reputation for brutal war tactics, having fought two long and bloody wars for independence from Russia. Chechen extremists have been responsible for many of the terrorist attacks in Russia in recent years as part of their continued fight for their republic’s independence.
But other Chechen fighters have chosen to side with Mr Kadyrov, the republic’s authoritarian leader, who receives substantial financial assistance from Moscow in return for keeping the region under the Kremlin’s control.
Zelimkhan, the Chechen fighter, said he had travelled to Donetsk with 33 other militants from Grozny via the Russian city of Rostov and that they were stationed at a Donetsk military base alongside three local pro-Russian paramilitary groups, each of which had its own commander.
He added that there were 16 fighters from Ossetia, another republic in Russia’s North Caucasus, who had been in eastern Ukraine for a month and were fighting alongside them.
Asked whether there were Russian fighters on the ground in eastern Ukraine, Zelimkhan replied: “Am I not Russian?”
“The Russians can’t openly attack Ukraine,” he added. They’re not officially here. Everything is underground.”
The Chechens described a devastating attack against their unit and other pro-Russia separatists on Monday, alleging that the Ukrainian military had employed two fighter planes and eight helicopters as well as snipers.
Magomed pointed to blood wounds seeping through his camouflage uniform on both the upper and lower parts of his leg – the result of two sniper bullets, he said. Two other militants, Said and Khyzyr, had bullet wounds on their arms, while others were being operated on inside the hospital.
Magomed said the unit’s casualties would not go unanswered. “In our nation,” he said, waving his pistol, “there is a belief in blood revenge.”
Russians Revealed Amongst Ukraine Fighters
For weeks, rumors have flown about the foreign fighters involved in the deepening conflict in Ukraine’s troubled east, each one stranger than the last: mercenaries from an American company, Blackwater; Russian special forces; and even Chechen soldiers of fortune.
Yet there they were on Tuesday afternoon, resting outside a hospital here: Chechen men with automatic rifles, some bearing bloodstained bandages, protecting their wounded comrades in a city hospital after a firefight with the Ukrainian Army.
“We received an invitation to help our brothers,” said one of the fighters in heavily accented Russian. He said he was from Grozny and had fought in the Chechen War that began in 1999. He said he arrived here last week with several dozen men to join a pro-Russian militia group.
The scene at the hospital was new evidence that fighters from Russia are an increasingly visible part of the conflict here, a development that raises new questions about that country’s role in the unrest. Moscow has denied that its regular soldiers are part of the conflict, and there is no evidence that they are. But motley assortments of fighters from other war zones that are intimately associated with Russia would be unlikely to surface against the powerful will of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, experts said.
The disclosure of Russian nationals among the fighters here muddies an already murky picture of the complex connections and allegiances that are beginning to form. While their presence does not draw a straight line to the Kremlin, it raises the possibility of a more subtle Russian game that could keep Ukraine unbalanced for years.
The revelation about foreign fighters received an unexpected official confirmation on Tuesday, when the mayor of Donetsk, Aleksandr A. Lukyanchenko, said at least eight people with Russian passports were among the wounded rebels who had been taken to the city’s hospitals.
He said the Russians were from Moscow and from the cities of Grozny and Gudermes in Chechnya, a republic that is part of Russia and whose leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, was installed by the Kremlin to bring the region under control after bitter wars starting in the 1990s. On Tuesday, Mr. Kadyrov denied any connection to the fighters.
Mr. Lukyanchenko added that residents of Crimea, the peninsula in the Black Sea that Russia seized in March, were also among the wounded.
The Kremlin has said it would work with the government of Petro O. Poroshenko, the Ukrainian billionaire elected in a landslide on Sunday, who accepted congratulations from President Obama on Tuesday.
Mr. Poroshenko has pledged to crush the separatists who seized public buildings in two regions in eastern Ukraine in March. But Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, suggested Tuesday that ending the violence would be a criterion for improved relations, a line that could leave Ukraine’s new government in a tight spot.
Many here say the fighters speak to the shadowy nature of a conflict that sometimes seems manufactured. “It’s irritating but not very surprising,” said Stanislav Kucherenko, 32, a massage therapist who lives near the airport and woke to the sound of shelling Tuesday. “It shows that this war is not clean. It is artificially created. If this is an uprising by the Donetsk People’s Republic, what are foreigners doing here?”
The men are Donetsk’s worst kept secret. Several appeared on a CNN report at a military parade this weekend, and others were caught on a Vice News video, saying, “We are volunteers, Chechens, Afghans and Muslims who have come to protect Russia, to protect Russians, to protect the interests of this country.”
It is unclear what portion of the rebel fighters the men represent, whom they work for or whether they were paid. The soldier at the hospital Tuesday said all the men were volunteers, a commonly given explanation but one locals say is not convincing.
“They say they are patriots,” Mr. Kucherenko said of the foreign fighters. “I don’t think there are that many patriots.”
The Chechen fighter at the hospital, who declined to give his name, seemed to be losing his resolve.The unit had a commander who had given an order to stay and fight for the city. Otherwise, he said, he would be happy to go home. “I haven’t slept for four nights,” he said, resting his head on a wooden bench outside the hospital with a Kalashnikov across his knees.
Donetsk was mostly quiet on Tuesday. Schools were closed, and residents were warned not to leave their homes. But signs of Monday’s battle remained. A truck that had been carrying rebel fighters and was hit by Ukrainians lay on its side.
Many pro-Russian residents praised the foreign fighters, saying they were all that stood between them and what they saw as a hostile Ukrainian force from Kiev. Yevgeny Matvichyuk, 26, who is from the embattled city of Slovyansk, said he had spoken with two foreign fighters, one from North Ossetia, a republic in Russia, and another from Tajikistan in Central Asia.
“They said we came from Russia to help you,” he said standing at the bus depot in Donetsk. “What’s wrong with that?”
Warfare remains a violent clash of interests between organised groups characterised by the use of force.
Achieving victory still depends on a group’s ability to mobilise support for its political interests and to generate enough violence to achieve political consequences.
Gen Petraeus & Gen Amos Counterinsurgency Fieldmanual FM 3-24
For more on Ukrainian nationalists who fought in Chechnya and killed innocent civilians see: