Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of Russia's Chechen Republic, has denied reports that he sent troops to eastern Ukraine to aid pro-Russian separatists. He did not rule out that some Chechens may have gone to Ukraine on their own.
In a statement posted to Instagram on Wednesday, Kadyrov rejected the claim that Chechen soldiers were fighting along side pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
"I officially declare that this does not correspond to the truth," Kadyrov said. "There are no 'Chechen servicemen' or even 'military columns from Chechnya' in the conflict."
He added, "Chechnya is one of the federal subjects of Russia and according to the Constitution does not have [its own] armed forces."
If there were Chechens in Ukraine, Kadyrov said, then they were there of their own accord and had not been sent.
Reports from earlier this week indicated heavily-armed Chechen fighters were taking part in an attack on the Donetsk airport by pro-Russian rebels.
Poroshenko vows action
Ukraine's president-elect Petro Poroshenko, who won an absolute majority in elections on Sunday, told the German mass-circulation daily Bild on Wednesday that military efforts against separatist fighters in the east would continue.
"We are in a war situation in the east, Crimea was occupied by Russia, and there is great instability. We must react," Poroshenko told Bild.
"We will no longer permit these terrorists to kidnap and kill people, to occupy buildings and to nullify laws. We will end these shocks, a real war is being waged here against our country," he said.
Poroshenko said that his goal was to arrest separatist fighters and try them in courts, but he cautioned that soldiers should also be able to fight back when attacked.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cautioned on Wednesday that Ukraine was being pushed by the West into a "fratricidal war" and called on Kyiv to stop its military action against the separatists.
mz/dr (dpa, Reuters, AP, AFP)