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Opinion
Clara Ferreira Marques

Putin’s Pet Warlord Doubles Down in Ukraine

The Kremlin needs fighters, and that includes Ramzan Kadyrov’s men. But their over-promoted presence in Ukraine is evidence of the hubris and desperate self-preservation underpinning this invasion.

A friend in need.

A friend in need.

Photographer: Emile Alain Ducke/picture alliance via Getty Images

In a war fought over Telegram as well as on Ukraine’s pummeled streets, the country’s actor-turned-president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has excelled. But for over-the-top showmanship, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and his men have been hard to beat.

Kadyrov’s fighters, known as “kadyrovtsy,” have been waging an all-out propaganda war for the TikTok era, attempting to demonstrate their leader’s loyalty to Russian President Vladimir Putin, while burnishing a reputation for being ruthless and battle-hardened, leaning heavily on useful Caucasus stereotypes. Dramatic social media footage of soldiers with cutting-edge kit abounds. Last month, Kadyrov taunted billionaire Elon Musk, who had offered to fight Putin, calling him “Elona” and suggesting he train in Chechnya to “pump up”.