Russia was involved in two bitter wars in Chechnya during the 1990s and early 2000s after Chechen separatists pursued independence from Moscow after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The First Chechen War took place between 1994-1996 under President Boris Yeltsin and resulted in a humiliating defeat for Russia. Then in 1999, Putin once again sent in the troops to crush Chechen rebels in a brutal campaign which saw Chechnya’s capital Grozny raised to the ground.
Akhmat Kadyrov, a local warlord who had switched allegiances from the rebels to Moscow, was put in charge as President of the Islamic Republic until his assassination in 2004.
He was succeeded by his son Ramzan Kadyrov, who has remained in power ever since and proved a loyal supporter of the Russian president.
Kadrov has sent his soldiers to fight for Putin in Ukraine, providing much-needed manpower for Russian commanders.
However, Chechen rebels have formed their own battalions that are fighting for Ukraine.
One such unit is named after Sheikh Mansur, a legendary Chechen commander and Islamic leader who fought the Russians during the late 18th century.
Islam Belokiev, a spokesman for the battalion, said in a recent video address that Chechen rebels were preparing for new hostilities in their homeland.
“We also know about the dirtiest secrets of your worthless life, which we will soon reveal to the whole world.
“We call on all free people in Ichkeria to carry out resistance at all levels – later we will unite with you, shoulder to shoulder. Allah willing, we will prevail.
“We, the sons of Ichkeria, refuse to live under the flag of occupation. Kadyrov – the time has come which you have feared. Freedom for Ichkeria! Allahu Akbar!”
Masked gunmen then set fire to Chechnya’s current national flag, before unfurling the Ichkerian flag and vowing to return it to its rightful place.
The Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (CRI) was an unrecognised secessionist government in Chechnya, which declared its secession from Russia in 1991 but did not obtain de facto independence until 1996.