Social media video from the controversial Azov Battalion of the Ukrainian National Guard shows members coating bullets in pig fat to deter Russian fighters who hail from the majority-Muslim region of Chechnya.
The video comes as Ramzan Kadyrov, a Chechen strongman loyal to Russian President Vladimir Putin, has bragged of his soldiers’ prowess and claimed that his soldiers could help take Ukraine’s major cities.
While it’s unclear where the video originated, it was published to the Ukrainian National Guard’s Twitter account in a Sunday posting, which was promptly slapped with a “hateful conduct” label by the social media giant.
“Azov fighters of the National Guard greased the bullets with lard against the Kadyrov orcs,” the English text in the tweet read.
The 35-second video showed what was purportedly an Azov Battalion soldier larding up bullets from a box and placing them in the magazine of his weapon.
Lard is considered unclean according to Muslim religious law, which regards anything proceeding from the pig as unclean. Smearing bullets with lard, would be the ultimate insult against Muslim fighters.
(The idea that a Muslim who dies as a result of a wound inflicted by such bullet would be unable to enter paradise makes the rounds periodically, but is unfounded, a religious scholar told The Washington Post, in a 2013 report.)
Twitter let the tweet remain up even though it said it violated company’s “hateful conduct” rules, noting that “that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”
Azov fighters of the National Guard greased the bullets with lard against the Kadyrov orcs👊
Бійці Азова Нацгвардії змастили кулі салом проти кадировських орків👊
— НГУ (@ng_ukraine) February 27, 2022
Both the deployment of Chechen soldiers by Russia and Ukraine’s use of the Azov Battalion have been matters of considerable controversy.
The Azov Battalion, as the Washington Examiner noted, is “linked to a neo-Nazi volunteer militia that became part of the Ukrainian National Guard in 2014 after Russia seized Crimea and moved into the Donbas region.”
“It was the Azov fighters Putin likely referred to when he said part of the ongoing mission is to ‘de-Nazify’ Ukraine.”
“In a fight between Kadyrov’s Islamist death squads and the Azov fighters, who raped and tortured ethnic Russians during the 2014 Russian invasion of the Donbas region, it may be difficult to find heroes. So reviled were the Azov fighters that until the current war, Facebook in 2019 banned any posts praising them, though it lifted the ban now that they are fighting to save their country.”
Meanwhile, the soldiers deployed from Chechnya are hardly any better — and have been the subject of plenty of Russian propaganda, given that Moscow has twice fought long struggles against Chechen separatist groups. Reuters noted that after defeating the rebels, Russia “has since poured huge sums of money into the region to rebuild it and given Kadyrov a large measure of autonomy to run things.”
A squad of Chechen special forces 'hunters' has been ordered to detain or kill specific Ukrainian officials, including President #VolodymyrZelenskiy. #RamzanKadyrov’s kill squad was pictured in a Ukrainian forest as they took part in prayer rituals.https://t.co/xnAkJAJzNL pic.twitter.com/Fuy7tTlq8P
— Ahmad Hashemi (@MrAhmadHashemi) February 26, 2022
On Friday, the Daily Mail reported that every soldier in the kill squads “was reportedly given a special ‘deck of cards’ with Ukrainian officials’ photos and descriptions on them, a Moscow Telegram channel with links to the security establishment reported.”
Not only that, but Kadyrov has been saber-rattling to move the conflict at a faster pace.
“The time has come to make a concrete decision and start a large-scale operation in all directions and territories of Ukraine,” Kadyrov wrote on his Telegram channel, according to the Examiner.
“I myself have repeatedly developed tactics and strategies against terrorists, participated in battles. In my understanding, the tactics chosen in Ukraine are too slow. It lasts a long time and, in my view, are not effective.”
On Sunday, Scott Stedman of Forensic News reported that Chechen soldiers were in satellite images reportedly captured of a Russian convoy close to the Ukrainian capital.
The Maxar images of a 3+ mile-long Russian convoy 40 miles from Kyiv are extremely worrying. Coupled with reports on the ground that at least some of those in the convoy are the notoriously brutal Chechen fighters, this does not look good at all. https://t.co/xeoyUIj8nn
— Scott Stedman (@ScottMStedman) February 27, 2022
“The Maxar images of a 3+ mile-long Russian convoy 40 miles from Kyiv are extremely worrying. Coupled with reports on the ground that at least some of those in the convoy are the notoriously brutal Chechen fighters, this does not look good at all,” Stedman tweeted.
All of which is to say that war isn’t just brutal and unromantic but also complicated. Putin’s almost-naked revanchism and the heroism of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made it easy to pick a side. Not that the Azov Battalion’s embrace by the Ukrainian National Guard changes any of that — or makes the Chechen forces look better by comparison — but nothing is as easy as a straightforward rooting interest.