Ex-Leader Of Syria-Based Jihadi Group Commands Chechen Unit Fighting In Ukraine Against Russia, Receives Ukrainian Passport

October 18, 2022

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On October 16, 2022 a Russian-language Telegram channel covering news from Chechnya shared photos showing the former emir of Syria-based Ajnad Al-Kavkas, Abdul Hakim Al-Shishani (a.k.a. Rustam Azhiev) attending a meeting in Ukraine.[1] The news of his arrival from Syria, along with a group of jihadi fighters, first surfaced on pro-jihadi Twitter accounts on October 10.[2]

Commander Of A Chechen Unit

The channel posted photos showing Al-Shishani attending a meeting with other commanders. The post was accompanied by captions explaining that Al-Shishani was appointed the commander of the Ichkerian ("Chechen") unit fighting in Ukraine against Russia. The channel also shared a YouTube video documenting the meeting.[3]

New Passport

In a subsequent post, the Telegram channel shared a photo showing a Ukrainian passport that had been issued to Al-Shishani.

Video Message

On October 18, the channel shared a video showing Al-Shishani making a video message together with two other Chechen leaders: Akhmed Zakaev, the former prime minister of the unrecognized Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, and Abdulа Ortkhanov, а minister of state of the unrecognized Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.

"Experienced Fighter"

In March 2022, the channel shared a post highlighting Al-Shishani's jihadi record. It read: "This is a member of the Chechen resistance who actively participated in the partisan war against Russia in the aughts in Chechnya. Later, when the revolution began in Syria, he moved there to help and support the Syrian revolutionaries in the battle against the tyranny of Bashar Al-Assad and his closest ally, Putin. Very quickly and successfully, [Al-Shishani] assembled and trained a battalion of Chechens, and other Caucasians, who fought against the government forces of Syria and its ally Russia in Syria." The post noted that Al-Shishani and his battalion are experienced in guerrilla and front-line warfare because of the many years of jihad in Syria.


[1] Telegram, October 16, 2022.

[3] Youtube.com, last accessed October 18, 2022.

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