Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia’s Chechnya region and ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has claimed that he travelled to Ukraine to meet Chechen troops fighting alongside Russian forces.
Chechen television channel Grozny posted a video on its Telegram social media channel earlier on Sunday that showed Kadyrov in a darkened room in military uniform discussing with Chechen troops a military operation they said took place 7km (4.3 miles) from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
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According to the AFP news agency, Kadyrov, who also posted the video, said in a message that it had been shot at Hostomel, an airfield near Kyiv captured by Russian forces in the first days of their offensive.
Al Jazeera could not independently verify Kadyrov’s claims.
“The other day we were about 20km from you Kyiv Nazis and now we are even closer,” Kadyrov wrote.
He called on Ukrainian forces to surrender “or you will be finished”.
Russia’s Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said later on Monday that he had no information about whether Kadyrov was in Ukraine.
“He (Kadyrov), in my opinion, did not directly claim that he was (in Ukraine). There were no direct statements, so I ask you to contact the administration of the head of the republic in Chechnya,” Peskov told reporters.
Kadyrov sarcastic on doubts
Later, Kadyrov made fun of another post that cast doubt on whether he had travelled to the Kyiv region.
“Why ‘if’? Did you not see the video,” Kadyrov wrote on his official Telegram account.
He has been repeatedly accused by human rights groups, the United States and the European Union of rights abuses, which he denies.
Moscow fought two wars with separatists in Chechnya, a mainly Muslim region in southern Russia, after the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union. But it has since poured huge sums of money into the region to rebuild it and given Kadyrov a large measure of autonomy.
The Kremlin describes its actions in Ukraine as a “special operation” to demilitarise and “de-Nazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and Western allies call this a baseless pretext for a war of choice.