Russia sent Chechen soldiers to Aleppo as part of the military police battalion tasked with restoring law and order in the Syrian city. The battalion went to Aleppo in late December after the Syrian Arab Army liberated the city from militant occupation, providing security to humanitarian aid workers and Russian sappers who are helping Syrians to rebuild their lives. Now, it has the task of maintaining law and order on the streets of a city devastated by a drawn-out conflict. R A Kadyrov, the Head of the Chechen Republic, stated that around 400 Chechen soldiers are taking part in the policing and law enforcement operation as well as helping with the reconstruction efforts in Aleppo. On 23 January, Kadyrov wrote on his Instagram page that a Chechen Gosduma deputy and a Chechen mufti visited Syria and met with Chechens serving in the military there. He said:
The soldiers were proud to have the honour of serving in Aleppo as part of a peacekeeping force that protects civilians from terrorists.
RT’s Mariya Finoshina, who recently returned from Aleppo, said locals appreciated patrols in the streets, as people are afraid of looters who took to plundering devastated houses at the same time as residents started returning to their homes. Those trying to reclaim their belongings in the abandoned neighbourhoods or wishing to stay view the Russians as their protectors. Finoshina believed:
Many of the Chechens are Sunni Muslims, so their part in the mission is logical. You don’t want to see a total stranger patrolling the streets of your home town. Therefore, sending Chechens was a logical decision because they aren’t only Muslims, they’re Sunnis. Aleppo is a conservative city… and the Chechens are familiar with the religious and cultural traditions of the people on the ground.
Aki Rizk, a Middle East expert, told us:
The participation of Chechens could really make the Russian military police mission more successful. It’s a very good step; it’d lessen tension. The people of Chechnya and Aleppo have much in common, both in a cultural and religious sense. The anti-terrorist mood amongst the [Aleppo] population also contributes to the mission’s success. The Syrian people are sick and tired of terrorist groups and they’ll cooperate with anyone who stands against these groups.
30 January 2017