These Top Putin Cronies Vowed to Fight in Ukraine Themselves. So Where Are They?

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty
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Vladimir Putin’s most devoted bootlickers went into a frenzy to prop up his ailing war against Ukraine after his mobilization announcement last month sparked backlash. But just a few weeks later, some of those who yelled the loudest about their willingness to join the war–or to send their own underage kids there–seem to have slinked away from their promises.

Perhaps the most shocking show of support had come from Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who promised last week that three of his sons—aged 14, 15, and 16—would soon head to the “most difficult” parts of the front line.

“Akhmat, Eli and Adam are ready to use their skills in the [special military operation] zone. And I'm not kidding. The time has come to prove themselves in a real battle, and this is their desire, which I only welcome,” the Putin loyalist announced on Telegram.

He then went on to perhaps inadvertently reveal that his own bruised ego was likely the real reason behind the decision.

“I appeal to the blabbermouths who claimed that my relatives are not taking part in the [special military operation]: in the near future you will have the opportunity to find the guys [on the front line] and personally see that AKHMAT is POWER!” he said, apparently referring to the Akhmat special forces unit deployed in Ukraine.

To critics abroad, whom he deemed “Chechen-speaking armchair warriors,” Kadyrov said: “We are convinced that even underage children will be able to crush you to smithereens, because you have neither spirit, nor honor, nor dignity. Just wait!”

The announcement was accompanied by nearly three minutes of his teenage sons cosplaying soldiers to dramatic music in an empty lot. It was met with praise by some—and warnings from legal experts that sending children into a warzone was more than enough to see the Chechen braggart stripped of parental rights.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Two of Kadyrov’s teenage sons high-fiving in a video the Chechen leader shared to apparently prove they are ready for war.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Telegram</div>

Two of Kadyrov’s teenage sons high-fiving in a video the Chechen leader shared to apparently prove they are ready for war.


In the dozens of social media posts made in the twelve days since, Kadyrov has shared poetry and footage of Chechen fighters he said were preparing to “punish Satanists” in Ukraine, but has made no mention of his sons joining them.

His vow also seemed conveniently forgotten when he announced the deployment of hundreds more Chechen volunteers this week.

Kadyrov’s press secretary and several of his aides did not respond to requests for comment on whether the teenagers would still be hitting the battlefield.

Denis Pushilin, Russia’s puppet leader in occupied Donetsk, however, did share a photo on Telegram early Sunday purporting to show Kadyrov’s three sons in Donetsk. The teens were decked out in military garb, but bizarrely, Pushilin made no mention of them whatsoever, instead announcing that he had awarded Chechen Culture Minister Aishat Kadyrov–Ramzan Kadyrov’s daughter–with the Order of Friendship for supporting those involved in Putin’s war.

If the photo of Kadyrov’s mini-mes was intended to appease critics waiting for the Chechen leader to follow through on his promise, it seemed to fall flat.

“We are waiting for the long-awaited ‘participation in the war’ of Kadyrov’s sons in the form of a couple of videos from behind the lines,” the Chechen Telegram channel NIYSOO wrote in response to the photo.

And if Kadyrov had hoped his pledge would be quickly forgotten, many Russian commentators made clear they were still waiting for him to keep his word.

“How are those glorious warriors, the sons of Kadyrov, have they already been broken in?” one man wrote.

“Where are Kadyrov’s sons fighting?” another commented.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>A soldier of Ukraine’s 5th Regiment of Assault Infantry fires a U.S.-made MK-19 automatic grenade launcher toward Russian positions less than 800 meters away at a front line near Toretsk in the Donetsk region on Oct. 12, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP via Getty</div>

“Kadyrov is ready to send anybody to the front, as long as he doesn’t have to go himself,” blogger Tumso Abdurakhmanov, an outspoken critic, wrote on Telegram.

“OK, we’re waiting for your sons on the front, Kadyrov.”

“Kadyrov, where are you, they’re calling you. Are you going yourself? Or you’ll send your three fools?” another Chechen blogger critical of Kadyrov, Khazan Khalitov, wrote Sunday while sharing footage of Ukrainian troops in newly liberated territory.

“Mind you, no cheating with gas stations,” he said, referring to Kadyrov’s attempt early on in the “special military operation” to claim he was in Mariupol, Ukraine–by posting a selfie in front of a gas station located in Russia.

Ukrainian officials, meanwhile, mocked the Chechen leader for bragging about Chechen fighters while doing nothing himself. “While his dear brothers fight in Ukraine for glory on TikTok, Ramzan Kadyrov himself heroically sits by in his office, training on a $175,000 punching bag from Louis Vuitton,” Anton Herashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, wrote on Telegram.

Kadyrov was not alone in trying to prop Vladimir Putin’s war machine up with promises of personal sacrifice. Several Russian lawmakers also pledged to join the battlefield as public outrage over the president’s mobilization order spread throughout the country.

Dmitry Sablin, Sergei Sokol, and Dmitry Khubezov—all members of Putin’s United Russia party—vowed to take part in the war.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Russian lawmaker Dmitry Sablin.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">VK</div>

Russian lawmaker Dmitry Sablin.


“I will ask for the most dangerous part of the front and am ready to work as a paramedic, dragging guys out of the battlefield,” Khubezov declared in a video posted to Telegram.

As of Sunday, it was not clear if Sablin, Sokol, or Khubezov had already headed to the battlefield. Sablin shared several photos taken in the Moscow region on Thursday and was otherwise mum on his plans to join the war. Khubezov, apart from sharing a poem on VK that was widely interpreted as a sign he was preparing for the front, also provided no further updates.

Even some of his apparent constituents seemed skeptical, however.

“We are waiting for photo reports of the mobilized deputies of the State Duma, … how they were equipped, which military training centers they were sent to, and so on,” one commentator wrote in response to his poem last week.

United Russia confirmed in a statement last week that Khubezov, Sablin, and Sokol have all filed paperwork to join the so-called “special military operation.” Several other lawmakers—Igor Kastyukevich, Alexander Borodai, Oleg Kolesnikov, Vitaly Milonov—were also said to have previously signed up to join the war, though Milonov was spotted in St. Petersburg this week in what he told reporters was only a quick trip to file paperwork changing his military status.

Andrei Turchak, the general secretary of United Russia, issued a statement on the same day saying Milonov was soon heading to the “special operation zone” after visiting his local military kommissariat.

Several other Russian lawmakers said they were ready to join Russian troops on the front in the wake of Putin’s mobilization order, but there has since been no sign of them following through.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials have made clear they are eagerly awaiting the arrival of high-profile Russian figures who have championed the war. Ukrainian intelligence on Sunday announced a $100,000 reward for the capture of Igor Strelkov (a.k.a. Girkin), the Russian nationalist who commanded troops in the Donbas during Putin’s first stage of the war against Ukraine in 2014. Strelkov, also wanted in connection with the downing of MH17, had frequently taken to social media to bash Russian military leaders in recent weeks, before suddenly going dark for several days and, according to pro-Kremlin Russian war reporters, heading to the frontline.

The effort to bolster domestic support for the war with the help of Russian lawmakers and three hapless teenagers comes as Russian officials have finally begun to acknowledge that troops called up to fight just three weeks ago have already been killed.

“Unfortunately, the military registration and enlistment office confirmed the information about the deaths of five South Uralsmen called up from the Korkino military commissariat. We mourn together with the family, we express sincere and deep condolences,” authorities in the Chelyabinsk region were quoted saying Thursday.

Several other draftees from the Sverdlovsk region have also been killed, along with a lawyer called up in St. Petersburg, according to local media reports.

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