A video posted to Reddit’s popular r/PublicFreakout forum on Monday shows Chechen fighters warning Ukraine that they are preparing to invade. Claims began circulating online that the group was killed just one hour later after being met by a harsh Ukrainian resistance. But are the claims actually true?
The Chechen special forces unit was reportedly dispatched at the behest of Russia to assassinate Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has remained in the capital city of Kyiv amid the invasion.
The footage, which has spread widely across social media, shows the group laughing and greeting one another next to a line of military vehicles while allegedly preparing to assault the Capitol from the northeast. Soldiers from Chechnya, a constituent republic of Russia situated in the North Caucasus in Eastern Europe, are notorious for their human rights abuses.
It wasn’t long after that numerous media outlets, including the Daily Mail and the Times of Israel, began reporting that the unit’s column of 56 tanks had been completely destroyed by Ukrainian missile fire. Magomed Tushayev, the head general of the group, was reportedly killed alongside hundreds of others as well.
The news was celebrated across social media sites such as Telegram, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter.
Given the ongoing propaganda wars between Russia and Ukraine, which has led to a bombardment of inaccurate information intended to deceive the other side, many experts are hesitant to call the incident proven.
All media reporting has cited a Ukrainian outlet known as the Kyiv Independent thus far, which claimed on Sunday that the incident had been officially confirmed by the president’s office.
Experts also say that despite such reassurances, further verification is needed given the major incentive among nation-states to use propaganda to demoralize their enemy. According to an expert the Daily Dot spoke with, the incident remains unverified and the Chechen commander reportedly denied the event on Telegram.
Just last week a widely covered report alleged that a group of of Ukrainian soldiers stationed on an island military outpost had been killed after refusing to surrender to a Russian warship. The group was claimed to have told the invading Russian force to “go f*ck yourself” before being gunned down.
Ukrainian officials later revealed on Sunday that they weren’t actually sure of the soldiers fate and that the group may not have been killed after all. The story highlights just how quickly the narrative can change during a military conflict.
So while the Chechen group may very well have been killed, the reality of the situation continues to remain disputed.
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