On December the 8th, 2016, Izvestia has reported that the “Chechen special forces are to guard the Khmeimim airbase in Syria”, where the Russian air contingent is permanently based. The report adds “Soldiers of the battalion Vostok(East) and Zapad(West) are to protect Russian military facilities in Syria”.
Not long after the news spread, the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov was quick to deny the breaking news on his Instagram account, alleging that Vostok and Zapad no longer exist!”. Ramzan is kind of right regarding his latter claim, but to his probable dismay, it seems that the remnants of Kakiyevtsy and Yamadayevtsy, as members of Zapad and Vostok battalions were respectively known, are indeed being deployed to Syria. In the video bellow, shot at Khankala airport in Chechnya before their departure, the Russian military police markings and red beret are clearly visible. It is worth mentioning that the primary task of military police in Syria is guarding the Russian military facilities in that country.
Although belonging to the same Benoi clan(teip), where infighting is not uncommon, Ramzan and Yamadayev brothers were involved in a bitter feud that escalated into open hostility and armed clashes in 2008. Since then, two leading Yamadayev brothers have been shot dead. Consequently, the battalion Vostok was disbanded with its remnants absorbed into the 18th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade(OMSBR). In May 2014, in Eastern Ukraine, a number of unit veterans have temporarily resurrected the name Vostok. Most probaly to capitalise on their battle hardened aura in hope of evoking fear amongst the enemy but also within the ill disciplined rebel ranks. For many years prior, to Ramzan’s certain disdain, both Vostok and Zapad were directly subordinated to powerful Russian military intelligence – the GRU. There was never much love between Kadyrovtsy and senior Russian army and GRU figures, who probably deplore his ostentatious ways and brazen assassinations of their “associates” – Yamadayev brothers. Ramzan’s Kadyrovtsy subordinate to Russian Interior Ministry(MVD) – officially at least. The head of its internal army(VV) troops, Viktor Zolotov – Putin’s former head of personal security(FSO) and part of his inner circle, is according to some Ramzan’s powerful advocate in the Kremlin.
Said-Magomed Kakiyev, the ex commander of the now disbanded Zapad battalion, was also involved in the Chechen power struggle in the post war period with both Yamadayevs and Kadyrov. Kakiyev often distanced himself from their propensity for violent and criminal antics. It is also worth noting that Kakiyev and his men fought on the federal side since the first Chechen war and never changed sides, unlike the Kadyrovtsy and Yamadayevtsy. The Zapad battalion saw action in the 8/08/2008 war in Georgia, but has since been disbanded, only to be somewhat resurrected and absorbed by the 8th OMSBR in 2009. Although directly subordinated to the GRU, both battalions operated withing the 42nd Motor Rifle Division structure until their disbandment in late 2008.