Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion: Chechen Fighters in Ukraine


    1.0 Introduction

    The Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion is a capable and elusive Ichkerian unit fighting for Ukraine since 2014. Since its inception, the unit has fought in some of the most intense battles fought between Ukrainian and Russian forces post-2014. 

    2.0 Motto, Symbols And Patches

    2.1 Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion Motto 

    The Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion’s motto is “Freedom Or Death” (Marşo ya joƶalla in Chechen). Though no source confirms this, this motto was likely chosen to represent the battalion’s struggle against the Russian state.  (source) (source)

    2.2 Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion Emblem 

    The Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion does not appear to utilise a particular emblem. Instead, the battalion uses its unit patch and the Republic of Ichkeria flag to distinguish itself. A social media account linked to the Battalion also has an adaptation of its patch which it uses as an emblem for the unit. (source)

    Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion Emblem with its founder pictured
    Emblem saying “International Peacekeeping Battalion Named After Dzhokhar Dudayev” on the battalion’s Telegram account. (source)

    2.3 Patches

    The Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion uses a range of distinctive patches to make itself stand out as a unit. 

    2.3.1 Original Patch of the Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion

    Members of the Dudayev Battalion sport a patch which is unique to the unit. On its outside, the patch includes the words “International Peacekeeping Battalion Named After Dzhokhar Dudayev” written in Ukrainian.  These words are also written in yellow on a blue background, likely to match the colours of the Ukrainian flag. (source)

    The patch also has an image of Dzhokhar Dudayev himself in its centre. On the left of the image, a symbol bordering it is in the colours of the Ukrainian flag. On its right, a symbol borders the image in the colours of the Ichkeria flag. (source)

    Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion Patch with its founder pictured in Ukrainian Colours
    An image of the battalion’s patch (source)

    2.3.2 Newer Patch of the Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion

    More recently, the battalion’s Telegram account posted one of its personnel holding a newer unit patch. This patch utilises a brown and green colour scheme and is in a shield shape. Though this may be a new patch, it could also be a tactical variant of the battalion’s original patch. (Source)

    A Dudayev combatant holding a Dudayev Battalion chevron (source)

    2.3.3 Ichkerian Flag Patches

    Ickherian flag patches are also worn by Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion personnel. These Ichkerian flag patches can often be slightly different in appearance, with some incorporating a lion or Dudayev’s portrait. However, all variants of the Ichkerian flag patch incorporate the red, white, green and black used for the flag. (source) (source)

    Dzokhar Dudayev fighter posing in front of a T-80 tank in Kharkiv Oblast holding an Ichkerian flag with a lion on it (source)
    Dzokhar Dudayev fighter posing in front of a T-80 tank in Kharkiv Oblast holding an Ichkerian flag with a lion on it (source)

    2.3.4 Other Patches

    Alongside the aforementioned patches, the battalion’s personnel can also be seen wearing some of the following:

    • Blackbeard’s Flag patches – These patches are worn by many personnel fighting on the Ukrainian side, despite being popularised by Western military personnel. These patches are often mistaken for Blackbeard-inspired Forward Observation Group patches due to their visual similarity. (source)
    • Ukrainian flag patches – Like many other units fighting for Ukraine, many Dudayev personnel wear Ukrainian flag patches. (source)
    • Callsign patches – Many Dudayev personnel can be seen wearing patches with their callsigns on them. These are often on a tan-green background and have black writing. (source)

    3.0 Organisation

    Though the Dudayev Dzokhar Battalion was formed in 2014, the organisation is also influenced significantly by both Chechen Wars. Whilst some details exist about the battalion and its key figures, it remains highly opaque. This can be attributed to its strict adherence to operational security. 

    3.1 History Of The Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion

    Originally, the Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalionwas formed in 2014 in the wake of Russia’s low-intensity invasion of Ukraine. The initial commander of the battalion, the Ichkerian general Isa Munayev, was pivotal in its formation at the time. During the battle of Debeltseve in 2015, Munayev was killed when fighting Russian personnel and Russian-backed forces in Eastern Ukraine. (source)

    Named after the First President of the Ichkerian Republic, the Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion has continued to fight against Russian forces in Ukraine during the widened invasion. The Dudayev Battalion used to be composed of only ethnic Chechens. However, when it was incorporated into the Ukrainian military, some ethnically Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar members joined its ranks. (source) (source)

    The battalion has a diversionary reconnaissance group (DRG) within it called the Adam Group. According to Harold Chambers, an expert on Chechen and Ichkerian units, the Adam Tactical Group “acts as the battalion’s special forces unit”. Adam has conducted numerous missions behind Russian lines in Ukraine as part of its DRG function. (source)

    Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion "ADAM Group" fighter in Ukraine
    Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion “ADAM Group” fighter in Ukraine

    3.2 Place Within The Ukrainian Military Nexus

    Like most other Ichkerian formations fighting for Ukraine, the Dudayev Battalion is part of the Foreign Legion encased in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Chambers claims that it is probable that the unit is under GUR control after it was integrated into the ranks of the International Legion. This integration likely occurred in March 2022 early into Russia’s widened invasion. (source

    3.3 Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion Relation To Other Ichkerian Units

    The battalion shares a clear relationship with other Ichkerian units fighting for Ukraine presently. These include elements like the Ichkerian OBON, the Sheikh Mansur Battalion and the Khamzat Gelayev Battalion. Moreover, Chambers has suggested that the battalion has conducted joint exercises and operations with these other Ichkerian groups. (source)

    Many of the Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion ’s personnel have previously served in other Ichkerian formations. Indeed, it is common for personnel serving in Ichkerian units like the Dudayev battalion to go back and forth between other Ichkerian units. However, despite their clear relationship, there are clear political and factional differences in the leadership of these formations according to Chambers.

    Picture of a Dudayev Battalion sniper taken from its Telegram page
    Picture of a Dudayev Battalion sniper taken from its Telegram page (source)

    3.4 Key Figures

    The Dudayev Battalion cannot be completely understood without an examination. In the case of Akhmat, the individuals most pivotal to it are the following:

    3.4.1 Isa Munayev (1965-2015)

    Isa Munayev was central to the founding of the battalion in 2014 and was its first and most senior commander. He was pivotal in shaping what the Dzokhar Dudayev Battalion is today and was known as ‘Ichkeria’s last general’ before his death. (source) Early History

    He was born in Yandy-Kotar, Achkoi-Martan district of Chechnya in 1965. Shortly after graduating, Munayev was drafted into the Soviet Army and deployed to Afghanistan during the USSR’s invasion of it (from 1979-1989). (source) (source) (source)

    Just before the First Chechen War in 1994, Munayev was a district inspector within the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Grozny. He took up arms against Russia as soon as the First Chechen War erupted, participating in major battles such as the defence of Grozny. (source) (source) (source)

    Munayev was made commander of the Southwestern Front of the Armed Forces Of the Ichkerian Republic when the Second Chechen War started. After the Republic’s President, Aslan Maskhadov, was killed, he was forced to travel to Denmark in 2006 to treat his injuries. 3 years later, in 2009, he was elected chairman of the OPD “Free Caucasus” movement. (source) (source) (source) Role In Fighting Against Pre-2022 Russian Invasion

    Just after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and low-intensity invasion into Eastern Ukraine began, Munayev played a central role in forming the Dudayev Battalion. It was originally formed in March 2014 in Denmark.  Due to his military experience, Munayev was appointed as its commander by the decision of the OPD Free Caucus Movement. (source) (source) (source

    Munayev deployed with the battalion in the Donbas to fight Russian and Russian-backed forces. By most accounts, Munayev was killed by artillery fire during the Battle for Debaltseve in February 2015 whilst providing cover for other Ukrainian forces. At the time, Kadyrov falsely claimed that Munayev was killed by those within his rank at the behest of the CIA and SBU. (source) (source) (source)

    3.4.2 Amina Okueva (1983-2017) 

    Like Munayev, Amina Okueva was an important figure within the battalion, despite also serving in the Kyiv-2 police battalion. She was a prominent political voice for Ickheria-aligned Chechen and within Ukraine itself. Additionally, she was the wife of the battalion’s current commander Adam Osmayev. (source) Early History

    Okueva was born in Odesa, Ukraine on June 5, 1983, to a Chechen father and a Soviet-Polish mother. Briefly, she worked as a model in Moscow during the late 1990s. Yet, in 1999, she went to Chechnya to fight against Russian forces during the Second Chechen War. This was when she also converted to Islam and changed her name from Natalie Kifarovka to Amina Okueva. (source) (source)

    In 2003, she moved with her then-husband Islam Okuyev to Odesa to train as a surgeon. She also interned in various Ukrainian hospitals after completing her training. Around the same time, her husband was deported for violating the rule of stay in Ukraine. He was arrested in 2004 after working with militants in Dagestan and Chechnya, leading to him getting a life sentence in 2006. (source) (source) Euromaidan, Eastern Ukraine And Assassinations 

    During Euromaidan protests between 2013-2014, Okueva worked with other activists to run a medical tent which treated injured protestors. Shortly after in 2014, Okueva took up arms as a sniper and fought in Eastern Ukraine. She also acted as the Dudayev Battalion’s press secretary during this period. (source) (source)

    A first assassination attempt was made on Okueva and Adam Osmayev on June 17 2017, leading to both of them being hospitalised with gunshot wounds. According to a Ukrainian official at the time, someone disguised as a journalist opened fire on them with a pistol. Both Okueva and Osmayev survived and recovered from their injuries. (source) (source)

    Later that year in October, another assassination attempt on Okueva ended up being successful. As reported, a car that Okueva and Osmayev were shot at when driving in the Glevakha village in the region of Kyiv. Osmayev survived the attempt with only injuries but Okueva was killed. (source) (source) (source)

    A photo of Isa Munayev and Amina Okueva together
    A photo of Isa Munayev and Amina Okueva together (source)

    3.4.3 Adam Osmayev 

    Adam Osmayev is the current commander of the Dudayev Battalion. Alongside being close to both Munayev and Okueva, Osmayev’s reputation for opposing the Russian state likely made him suited for the role. History Before 2014

    Adam Osmayev was born in Grozny sometime between 1981 and 1984. Osmayev was born into an influential family. His father ran an oil business and his uncle was the chairman of the Parliament of Chechnya between 1996 and 1998. In 1996, his family moved to Moscow and Osmayev then ended up studying abroad in the UK in 1999. (source) (source)

    Osmayev is believed to have been involved in the plotting of an assassination attempt against Vladimir Putin in 2012. In the same year, Osmayev was detained for culpability in what was likely an accidental detonation of explosives in an apartment within Odesa. The SBU was reported to have conducted a joint operation with the FSB to arrest Osmayev in Ukraine in 2012. (source) (source) (source) Post-2014 Role In The Battalion 

    Shortly after his release in November 2014, Osmayev joined the battalion and its fight in Eastern Ukraine. When Munayev was killed in Debaltseve in 2015, Osmayev took up the role of the highest-ranking commander of the battalion. Despite playing a prominent role in the battalion, Osmayev has kept an “extremely low profile” according to Chambers.  (source) (source)

    It is unclear how exactly the two assassination attempts on him and Okueva have affected Osmayev. However, social media accounts connected to the Dudayev Battalion have frequently posted messages in Okueva’s memory. What is clear is that despite these events, Osmayev continues to play an active role as a commander within the battalion presently. (source) (source)

    On September 4, the battalion’s Telegram posted an interview of Osmayev in which he told Russian personnel to “Surrender while they are breathing”. Also, on February 27 2022, Osmayev put out a video condemning the deployment of Kadyrovite personnel in Ukraine. He also made clear the battalion’s desire to fight for Ukraine against Russia’s widened invasion. (source) (source)

    A Picture of Current Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion Commander Osmayev in front of an Ichkeria flag
    A Picture of Osmayev in front of an Ichkeria flag (source)

    3.5 Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion Recruitment 

    Due to the effective operational and informational security practices employed by the Dudayev Battalion, details concerning recruitment are sparse. However, a collection of open-source information gives some insights into this area. 

    3.5.1 Methods Of Recruiting

    Though the battalion does use social media, its presence is rather limited. Yet, Chambers claims that the group has used Telegram bots and posted phone numbers to aid recruitment. Given the elusive nature of the battalion, it is also probable that people are recruited based on being trusted within Ichkerian circles. This could lead to recruitment through word of mouth. (source)

    However, more conventional channels for recruitment may be also pursued by the battalion. Given that the Adam Tactical Group has recruited Ukrainian personnel, it is feasible that contracts for the unit are signed through the Ministry of Defence. However, whether this extends to the broader elements of the Dudayev Battalion is unclear. (source

    3.5.2 Requirements To Serve Within The Dudayev Battalion

    As mentioned, the opaque nature of the battalion makes it difficult to discern details around its recruitment, including requirements to join. However, those joining the units are likely subject to significant vetting by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence (MoD) for any infiltration. It is also probable that additional screening is done by original members of the unit.

    3.5.3 Remuneration 

    Limited information exists on the average pay afforded to Dudayev personnel. However, an article by the outlet ‘Important Stories’ suggests remuneration is around €4000 per month. This excludes any equipment provided by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to Dudayev Battalion personnel. It is also likely the battalion relies on donations of equipment not provided by the MoD. (source)

    Specific details about the compensation given to Dudayev personnel in the event of death or injury are not publicly available. Since the Dudayev Battalion is integrated into the Ukrainian military, such compensation may be similar to those of other Ukrainian Army personnel. Estimates of this compensation are:

    • Roughly ₴15 million (Ukrainian Hryvnia) (Roughly £325,553.00) – in case of death during combat operations or hospital within a year after being wounded. This sum is normally paid out to the family or other relatives of a soldier.
    • Approximately ₴2 million (Around £43,407.00) – For the death of a fighter, which occurred during service, but not as a result of combat operations or wounding. 
    • Around ₴1.3 million (Nearly £28,214.00) – For death not related to service. (source)
    Adam Tactical Group combatant operating an FPV drone at the frontline
    Adam Tactical Group combatant operating an FPV drone at the frontline. (source)

    4.0 Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion Equipment

    Dudayev Battalion is highly well-equipped, though a void of information exists regarding its access to heavy weaponry. However, through open-source information, some analysis can be done on the capabilities at its disposal.

    4.1 Weapons 

    • AKS-74 assault rifles with GP-25 under-barrel grenade launchers 
    • AKS-74U rifles with thermal scopes
    • Slovakian Grand Power Stribog SP9 A3 with suppressors 
    • Various Daniel Defense assault rifles and sniper rifles
    • PKM light machine guns
    • PKP Pecheneg light machine guns
    • RPG-7 Anti-Tank (AT) weapons
    • RPG-22 ‘Netto’ ATs
    • FGM-148 Javelin advanced ATs
    • M-777 howitzers

    4.2 Vehicles

    • Captured T80-MV main battle tanks (MBTs)
    • Civilian pick-up trucks
    • BTR-4 infantry fighting vehicles
    • BM-21 Grad multiple launch rocket systems
    • Various models of DJI Mavic civilian drones (often equipped with infrared and thermal imaging capabilities)
    • Various Soviet-era and modernised armoured personnel carriers 

    4.3 Armor And Kit

    • Ear defenders
    • Headsets
    • Plate carriers 
    • Western-made night vision goggles
    • Helmets, many mounted with cameras
    • Ballistic eyewear
    • Balaclavas
    Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion personnel posing with weapons in Ukraine sometime in March 2022
    Dudayev Battalion personnel posing with weapons in Ukraine sometime in March 2022. (source)

    5.0 Tactical-Operational Information

    Due to its accrued experience and capabilities, the Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion has been seen employing an area of tactics during various operations. Despite a void of certain tactical-operational information, some insights can be gleaned into how the battalion operates.  

    5.1 Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion Notable Operations

    • Pre-2022 operations such as the Battle of Debaltseve in 2015. (source)
    • Battle for Kyiv from February to April 2022. (source)
    • Kharkiv offensive from September to October 2022. (source)

    5.2 Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion Core Roles

    • Infiltration 
    • Reconnaissance
    • Fielding DRGs
    • Assault infantry functions
    • Psychological warfare – Chambers suggests the Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion is employed as part of a strategy of intimidation by Ukraine.
    • Special operations 

    5.3 Tactics

    Analysis of combat footage and images involving the Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion and its Adam Tactical Group shows them using the following tactics:

    5.3.1 Munition Dropping Drones

    Like many units fighting in Ukraine presently, the Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion utilises munition-dropping civilian-grade drones on the battlefield. These drones are often equipped with thermal vision and drop mortar rounds. The battalion has used this tactic against both Russian personnel and Russian equipment. (source)

    5.3.2 Drone-Corrected Artillery Strikes

    The Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion has also utilised civilian drones to guide artillery strikes. Typically, these drones are used to identify targets and monitor artillery strikes. Whilst monitoring such strikes, artillery specialists can readjust their fires to make them more accurate. At night time, drones equipped with thermal vision also enable the effective employment of artillery in this way. (source) (source)

    5.3.3 Other Potential Tactics

    Based on its capabilities, the unit may also be employing the following tactics that have not been documented in photos or videos. These include:

    • Deep reconnaissance operations
    • Manhunting – Eliminating high-value Russian personnel targets 

    5.4 Personnel Size

    No reliable evidence exists regarding the manpower of the Dudayev Battalion. According to Kadyrov, the battalion manpower was only 150 personnel in 2015. Understandably, the battalion has likely grown in size since then. The Dudayev Battalion itself has not disclosed the numbers of its personnel. (source)

    6.0 The Future of the Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion 

    Presently, the future of the Dudayev Battalion looks unclear and dependent on the success of Ukraine’s counter-offensive. Currently, the battalion claims to be involved in operations within the direction of Bakhmut. If the offensive is successful, the unit may be used to exploit a breakthrough or re-assigned to a new area of operations.  

    The Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion  could also take part in raids into Russia. Another Ichkerian unit, the Ichkerian OBON, has already conducted such raids into the Belgorod region. However, unlike the OBON, the battalion has not been seen sending DRGs into Russia. This makes it unclear whether the unit has the capabilities and could signal Ukrainian wishes to utilise its personnel differently. (source)

    Potentially, the unit could deploy into the Chechen Republic if instability grows within Russia. A successful counter-offensive or internal conflict within could create such instability. Yet, Chambers notes that the battalion’s only path into Chechnya would be through Georgia and Azerbaijan. This could make deploying into the Chechen Republic too logistically intensive.

    7.0 Conclusion

    Overall, the Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion is a well-equipped and experienced force that has played a crucial role in aiding Ukraine. The extent of its manpower, recruitment practices and tactics on the battlefield are challenging to identify given its operational and informational security.

    Moreover, the battalion is part of a broader network of Ichkerian military formations seeking to oppose the Russian state and regain Chechnya’s independence. If instability within Russia continues to grow as a result of its invasion of Ukraine, the battalion will likely exploit it. This makes it, and other Ickherian units, a threat to not just Kadyrov but the Russian state itself.

    Alec Bertina
    Alec Bertina
    Alec is a researcher on Russian non-traditional security actors, with a focus on Russian PMCs. He has also done analysis on the Russian invasion of Ukraine since 2022. Alec has a BA Politics & International Relations and an MA in International Security from the University of East Anglia.

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