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Chechen 'death' unit fighting with rebels in eastern Ukraine

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By Joanna Gill
Chechen 'death' unit fighting with rebels in eastern Ukraine

Hundreds of fighters from the Russian republic of Chechnya have joined the insurgents in East Ukraine.

The so-called “death unit” has made a former tourist camp on the outskirts of the rebel-held city of Donetsk into its base.The leader, nicknamed Stinger, claims around 300 volunteers are stationed there and explained their involvement in the conflict.

“The people need our help and we are remaining here, and we’ve been here since May,” said Stinger.

“We have battlefield experience from 10 to 20 years starting from 1995, each of us with battlefield experience. Practically 70 percent are special forces from various structures. 75 percent have been injured before and received state medals.”

Chechnya has seen two wars in which insurgents were quashed by Russia between 1994-96 and 1999-2000. Stinger said that stability and peace was restored in the country when local leaders allied with the Kremlin. Some in the “death unit” said they had originally fought against Russia but switched sides and were offered amnesty.

Seasoned fighters from Chechnya are fighting on both sides in Ukraine, adding to the complexity of the situation.

The West accuses Russia of sending troops, an accusation the Kremlin denies.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev called for a US-Russia summit to thaw the frosty relations.

It comes as Ukraine’s military accused separatists of violating a truce on the ‘Day of Silence’ on Tuesday. The ceasefire had been declared with the aim of securing a new round of peace talks.