While we’re fighting the Islamic State, a.k.a. ISIS, in Iraq and Syria, and American officials tout the alleged danger of an attack on the US homeland, in Ukraine Washington and the Caliphate are fighting on the same side. A remarkable series of articles by Marcin Mamon in The Intercept has documented an aspect of the Ukraine conflict that no one else has paid any attention to: the role played by the "Dudayev Battalion," a fighting force of radical Islamists consisting of Chechens, but also including fighters from throughout the Caucasus as well as some Ukrainains.
The keys to Ukranie’s Islamist underground were handed to Mamon by a contact in Istanbul, "Khalid," who commands the ISIS branch there. "Our brothers are there," he told Mamon, and the reporter traveled to Ukraine where he was put in touch with a contact named Ruslan, who led him to Munayev’s clandestine camp.
Named after the first "president" of breakaway Chechnya, Dzhokhar Dudaev, the Dudayev Battalion was commanded by Isa Munayev, recently killed in a east Ukraine. Imbued with a fanatical hatred of the Russians, who are backing the rebels in the east, Munayev’s men also feel they are paying back a debt, since the ultra-nationalist Right Sector battalions now fighting for Kiev apparently helped the Chechens in the past. Right Sector is an openly neo-fascist paramilitary group which provided much of the muscle that made the coup against Viktor Yanukovych, former Ukrainian president, possible. Organized into various battalions, including the notorious Azov Brigade, they idolize the World War II collaborators with the Nazis, who fought Soviet troops: the ultra-nationalists have been accused of carrying out atrocities in the Donbass, as well as terrorizing their political opponents on the home front. According to Mamon, they also have been involved in fighting the Russians in far-off Chechnya, where former Right Sector bigwig Oleksandr Muzychko fought alongside Munayev and "the brothers" against the Russians. As Ruslan told Mamon:
"I am here today because my brother, Isa, called us and said, ‘It’s time to repay your debt. There was a time when the brothers from Ukraine came [to Chechnya] and fought against the common enemy, the aggressor, the occupier."
Aside from this solemn warrior ethic, another likely reason for ISIS support to Kiev is the access this gives the terrorists to Western targets. As Mamon puts it:
"Ukraine is now becoming an important stop-off point for the brothers, like Ruslan. In Ukraine, you can buy a passport and a new identity. For $15,000, a fighter receives a new name and a legal document attesting to Ukrainian citizenship. Ukraine doesn’t belong to the European Union, but it’s an easy pathway for immigration to the West. Ukrainians have few difficulties obtaining visas to neighboring Poland, where they can work on construction sites and in restaurants, filling the gap left by the millions of Poles who have left in search of work in the United Kingdom and Germany."
We are told that ISIS is planning terrorist attacks in Europe, and security forces are busy rounding up suspects all across the continent – and yet here is this gaping hole in the West’s defenses, where "the brothers" are quietly infiltrating without much notice in the Western media. In cooperation with ultra-nationalist groups like Right Sector, which have also formed their semiautonomous battalions, the Islamists of Ukraine, brandishing Ukrainian passports, have opened a gateway to the West.
Demands that Washington start giving lethal aid to the Ukrainian regime are now part of the foreign policy debate in Washington, with the usual suspects urging the administration to open the weapons spigot. Yet the Ukrainians are saying they’re already getting lethal aid from countries they refuse to identify, according to Ukrainian national security council official Oleg Gladovsky:
"[The aid is coming from] places where we have no influence and where there’s no public uproar about it (which we ourselves have helped created in some places, unfortunately). It’s from these countries that we’re now receiving lethal aid."
So where is this aid coming from?
"In eastern Ukraine," writes Mamon, "the green flag of jihad flies over some of the private battalions’ bases." But how "private" are these fighting groups?
The tatterdemalion Ukrainian army, consisting of poorly-motivated and poorly-armed conscripts, is a poor match for the separatists, who are fighting on their home turf against an invader. The Kiev regime is dependent on these "private" armies to provide the backbone of its fighting force, and there appears to be an uneasy symbiotic relationship between the regular Ukrainian army and these volunteers, with a hands-off approach taken by Kiev to the latter. If the Ukrainian regime is now openly acknowledging getting aid from unnamed countries, it’s fair to ask: is the Dudayev Battalion getting direct aid from the same sources supplying Syria’s radical Islamist rebels with arms – Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and the Saudis?
As the US-funded-and –supported Syrian "moderate" rebels defect to ISIS in droves, the international jihadist network is extending its tentacles into Ukraine to take up the fight on behalf of their "brothers."
One of the key links between the Ukrainian ultra-nationalist factions and the Islamists was Oleksandr Muzychko, who fought alongside Chechen terrorist leader Shamil Basayev – the mastermind behind the Beslan school massacre – in the Chechen wars. Last year Muzychko was killed in a shoot-out with Ukrainian police, but before he went down he was the very visible public face of Ukraine’s ultra-nationalist movement.
In a video that went viral, Muzychko and a group of his fellow Right Sector stormtroopers entered the state prosecutor’s office in the city of Rivne, in northwestern Ukraine, and slapped the prosecutor around for not doing his job to Muzychko’s satisfaction. He also broke into a meeting of the Rivne city council, brandishing a gun, and declaring Right Sector would never disarm. While the authorities no doubt found Muzychko’s antics annoying, this sort of thing is "normal" in the new Ukraine, and it’s likely his involvement with the ISIS underground, rather than his public antics, brought down the ire of the authorities, who ambushed and shot him down on March 24 of last year. Was his involvement with the ISIS cell in Ukraine was becoming increasingly obvious, even to those in the West who had been content to look the other way?
That the Kiev authorities are working with the ISIS outpost is implied throughout Mamon’s piece: as Mamon made his way Munayev’s encampment in the company of Ruslan, they had no trouble at Ukrainian army checkpoints, where the opportunity to collect bribes was foregone and they were waved right through. Throughout Mamon’s piece we hear Munayev’s complaints of poverty: the Dudayev Battalion, we are told, must depend on criminal activities to finance their jihad. Yet one minor oligarch, named "Dima," hands them $20,000, and there is talk of selling black market amber to "buyers in the Persian Gulf, including wealthy sheikhs" – perhaps the same wealthy donors who have so generously funded ISIS.
The links between the Kiev regime and the ISIS enclave in Ukraine are numerous, and only half-hidden. When Mamon arrived at Munayev’s camp, he was met by an armored car that, we are told, was donated by Ihor Kolomoisky, one of the richest men in Ukraine who was recently appointed governor of Dnipropetrovsk. Kolomoisky, despite his Jewish heritage, has no compunctions about allying himself with openly anti-Semitic groups like Right Sector, whose battalions he has financed: like the ISIS-affiliated jihadists he gifted with an armored car, all he cares about is the fight against Vladimir Putin, whom he despises.
Another indication of the ISIS-Kiev alliance is the escape of Adam Osmayev, deputy commander of the Dudayev Battalion, from a Ukrainian jail, where he had been serving a sentence for plotting Putin’s assassination. After the coup in Kiev, Munayev and his fellow fighters broke Osmayev out of prison: when they were confronted by Ukrainian police at a checkpoint, they were mysteriously allowed to pass. As Mamon reports:
"After a dramatic standoff, the Ukrainians allowed the Chechens to go free. (There is no way to confirm Ruslan’s account, but in the fall of 2014, the Odessa court suddenly declared that Osmayev had fulfilled enough of his sentence and had been set free). Osmayev and Munayev came back to Kiev, and the Dudayev battalion was created."
"From time to time," writes Mamon, "Munayev met with representatives of the Ukrainian Security Service, known as the SBU."
The Dudayev Battalion numbers around 500 fighters, but there are also other jihadist brigades in Ukraine, organized into "the Sheikh Mansour battalion, which broke off from the Dudayev battalion" and "is based close to Mariupol, in the southeast of Ukraine," as well as two other groups composed of Crimean Tatars, each consisting of about 500 jihadists.
As US aid flows into Ukraine, how much of it will trickle down to these allies of ISIS – and to what future use will it be put? If John McCain and Lindsey Graham have their way, US arms will soon find their way into the hands of these terrorists, whose jihad against the Russians is bound to turn westward and strike at the capitals of Europe.
This is blowback with a vengeance: we are creating our own enemies, and giving them the weapons to harm us, even as we claim the need for universal surveillance in order to fight them. The mad scientists formulating US foreign policy are raising an army of Frankenstein monsters – who are sure to come after their deluded creators.
Please note: Yes, our fundraiser is still running. But, guess what – we’re almost there!
Unfortunately, "almost" isn’t good enough.
Unlike those numerous thinktanks endowed by eccentric billionaires, we here at Antiwar.com can’t afford to "almost’ make our fundraising goal. We’re on such a tight budget that we need to make it all the way. We really need your contribution to put us over the top.
I mean, who else is covering Ukraine outside the new cold war paradigm, as per above? We told the truth about the coup in Kiev and the horrific attack on east Ukraine by the regime when no one else would. That’s why you come here – to get the facts that the "mainstream" media overlooks, suppresses, and downright ignores. But we can’t continue to do this vital job without your financial support. So please – give what you can as soon as you can.
Make your tax-deductible donation today – and I promise to stop dunning you as soon as we make it.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.