Procession of armed Chechen soldiers appeals on Instagram to Putin for action over ‘vile attacks’ from liberal Moscow newspaper

Special forces from the Republic of Chechnya have implored President Vladimir Putin to weigh into a row between its leaders and a prominent Russian newspaper, using a dramatic video to claim they are fighting an information war.

Fighters from the Akhmat Kadyrov regiment, named in honor of the father of the region’s incumbent leader, recorded the striking clip for Instagram on Wednesday. In it, soldiers say that “after a successful special operation to destroy the last gang of international terrorists in Chechnya… a real information war was launched against our troops.”

According to them, “the main mouthpiece of this is Novaya Gazeta,” and behind it are Western security agencies which “do not like that the regiment has made a great contribution to the establishment of peace and order.”

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One spokesman featured in the video asks Putin to “pay attention to the vile attacks of the fake newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, against our fighters.”

The Moscow-based title has been accused of “hostile activities towards the Chechen people” by the Republic’s Press Minister, Akhmed Dudayev. The spat comes after Novaya Gazeta published an interview with a former member of the regiment, who alleged that at least 13 people had been detained in the basement of a gym and executed without trial as part of a crackdown on terrorism in 2017. Dudayev said the publication was “writing fakes.”

On Tuesday, Novaya claimed that the entrance to the building where its journalists are based was “subjected to a chemical attack” after printing the interview. A video published online appeared to show a man dressed as a bicycle courier dispensing gas from a container outside. The Ministry of Emergency Situations and the country’s top security force, the FSB, is reportedly investigating the incident.

At the time the article was published, President Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that the Kremlin was unlikely to become embroiled in the row. He told journalists earlier this week that “we have seen the article. If [Chechen authorities] want to conduct investigations on this basis, then they can. We saw it, but given we are not a part of this, it is not our prerogative.”

In 2017, the liberal newspaper published an article alleging secret killings and detentions of LGBT+ people were taking place in the majority-Muslim republic. Authorities denied the claims, and the Mufti of the Chechen republic called for “retribution” against the journalists. Salakh Meziev told reporters at the time that “Allah will punish those who slandered the entire Chechen people and the clergy.”

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