Following the entry of Russian forces into the centre of the strategically located city of Mariupol in southern Ukraine on March 24, conflict in the city has increasingly come to a halt as remaining Ukrainian forces primarily from the Azov Battalion militias of the National Guard have reportedly suffered extreme casualties. The move into the city was spearheaded by units from Russia’s Chechen Autonomous Region, the special forces of which in particular have gained a reputation for their fighting prowess, and following their successes in the field Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov travelled to the city on March 28. Kadyrov had previously criticised the significant restraints placed on Chechen and other Russian forces, which Russian sources claimed were intended to avoid civilian casualties, but which were criticised as excessively slowing the advance of ground units and causing greater casualties for Russian forces themselves including for Chechen units.
Kadyrov’s arrival in Mariupol was described as being intended “to raise the fighting spirit of our fighters,” and he was accompanied by new caches of equipment. Chechnya’s National Politics Minister Akhmed Dudayev reported that Kadyrov had been promoted to the rank of General-Lieutenant for his role in the Mariupol campaign, adding that the Chechen leader would work to help “correct and finalise strategy for further actions for a couple of days, in order to free Mariupol.” Russian sources have described Azov battalion militia groups in Mariupol as “Nazi bandit groups,” with officials reporting severe war crimes against the civilian population perpetrated by them. Azov fighters filmed themselves in the war’s first week dipping bullets in pork fat in preparation for confrontation with Muslim-majority Chechen units in the Russian Military, which the referred to as “Kadyrov orcs.” The militia with well established Neo Nazi roots and a strongly Western supremacist ideology was expected to fight particularly fiercely against Muslim combatants.