- Putin’s military allies said he was stunned by the Ukrainian-Russian prisoner swap.
- Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said he was ‘extremely dissatisfied’ with the deal.
- In particular, he took issue with the fact that high-ranking Azov Battalion fighters were freed.
One of Vladimir Putin’s top military allies broke ranks and sharply criticized the Russian-Ukrainian prisoner swap, claiming he and his Chechen colleagues were blindsided.
Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s leader and typically a staunch Putin supporter, was skeptical that around 100 soldiers from the Ukrainian Azov Regiment – a battalion linked to neo-Nazis – were returned to Ukraine. In the first months of the war, Chechen soldiers called in to help Russian soldiers clash with Ukrainian Azov fighters in Mariupol when Russians briefly occupied the city.
Kadyrov said on Thursday he was “extremely dissatisfied” with the looting and called the Azov fighters “terrorists”.
“I am extremely dissatisfied with yesterday’s news. The whole situation does not even make sense to me,” Kadyrov said in a telegram postaccording to a translation by Russian outlet Meduza. “When combat or tactical decisions have been made, they have always consulted with us, the active participants in the special military operation. But now…” Kadyrov added.
On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak said in an update posted in the administration’s telegram channel that 215 Ukrainians were returned as a result of the prisoner swap, which Yermak added was also negotiated by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Along with 55 Russian fighters, Viktor Medvedchuk, an MP and one of Putin’s staunchest Ukrainian allies, was sent to Russia. This was reported by Reuters. He was arrested by the Ukrainian authorities in April.
Among the 215 Ukrainians released were 100 fighters from the controversial, hard-right Azov Battalion, which Russia has previously called “neo-Nazis”. Some of the founding members of the paramilitary group, which emerged as a result of Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, have also worn Nazi paraphernalia and attributed to the moniker.
“Handing over even one of these Azov terrorists should have been out of the question,” Kadyrov wrote in his post.
He also added that he would continue to follow Putin’s orders.
“Those at the top of the Ministry of Defense and the FSB can see things much more clearly,” Kadyrov wrote, adding that his forces would adhere to “our most important unshakable principle: that we will follow all orders of our commander-in-chief!”
On Wednesday, 10 foreign fighters fighting on behalf of Ukraine who were captured by Russia – including two Americans – was also released in a settlement negotiated in part by Saudi Arabia. The bilateral prisoner exchange is a massive coup for Ukrainians, who have achieved significant gains against Russian attackers in recent weeks.