Two Russian soldiers have been killed while returning from the front line in Ukraine after they were ambushed by Chechen soldiers, footage purports to show.
A small group of pro-Ukrainian Chechen fighters were filmed hiding in the bushes lining a highway as a Russian military truck drove through. The letter “Z” can be seen emblazoned on the vehicle’s left door.
It is believed the attack happened near the Russian village of Sereda, which is on the border with Ukraine, near the city of Kharkiv.
The Belgorod region, within which Sereda is located, has recently been the site of pro-Ukrainian Russian rebel attacks.
While Chechnya is a republic of Russia – many of its Armed Forces are fighting against Ukraine – there are still “long-standing grievances” felt among the Chechen diaspora against Vladimir Putin, who used his military to force an approved puppet leader on the region as one of his first presidential acts in 2000.
In the video, posted online by Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence on Monday (July 17), a handful of suspected Chechen fighters can be seen frantically shooting at the Russian military truck.
The vehicle then crashes off the road, having been hit multiple times, before the rebels approach the vehicle and kill the two Russian soldiers in the front seats.
The text accompanying the video reads: “Chechen soldiers continue the fight against the Russian invaders, protecting the Ukrainian and Chechen peoples.
“As a result of the operation, the military equipment and personnel of the Rashists [derisive term for Russian troops used in Ukraine] were destroyed.”
Ukraine did not offer the location of the attack but a Russian source reviewing the consequences of the ambush claimed the incident had taken place near the small village of Sereda in the Belgorod region.
The source said the two soldiers driving the military truck had been “returning from some logistical mission” in Ukraine when they were fatally attacked.
The nearest Russian forces in Ukraine to Sereda are about a two-hour drive further south, in Kharkiv Oblast.
The source added that “the driver and the vehicle commander” were both killed and an “investigation [by local Russian authorities] is ongoing”.
Russia reclaimed control of Chechnya in 2000 when Vladimir Putin, less than a year into his first term as president, declared separatist-turned-loyalist Akhmat Kadyrov as head of the administration of the small state. Chechnya claimed independence after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991; by 2003, Russia re-established the region as a part of its federation.
The current leader, Ramzan Kadryov, who took over from his father Akhmat in 2007 (Akhmat was assassinated by separatists in 2004), is a close ally of Putin.
While members of Kadyrov’s personal army fight for Russia, many displaced separatists have joined with the Ukrainian forces.
They see the fight for Ukraine as contributing to their long-term goal of Chechen independence, according to experts.