Do Chechens really support Putin’s war in Ukraine?

Immediately after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov loudly announced the active involvement of Chechen security forces in it. Units of the Russian army and the Interior Ministry for Chechnya, which de facto report to Kadyrov personally, lined the grounds of his residence in the centre of the Chechen capital. Kadyrov said at the time that 12,000 Chechen volunteers were ready to leave for any special operation in the interests of Russia.

Since then, various sources have claimed that about 200 Chechens have been killed. The figure for the number of Chechens fighting for Russia is about 10,000 according to Kadyrov. Russian human rights activists put the number at around 3,000.

In September 2022 several women decided to organise a demonstration against sending Chechens to join Russia’s war. In a voice message that circulated on social media at the time, the organisers called on people to come to the central square of the city of Grozny: “They killed us in two wars, aren’t there enough dead, mutilated and crippled?” the woman in the message asks. On the same day, Kadyrov said on his Telegram channel that the women had been detained, a preventive conversation was held with them, and he promised to send their sons to fight in Ukraine.

This was something of an understatement. The human rights group Memorial has since confirmed that the women were taken to Grozny’s City Hall and their husbands forced to beat them. The son of at least one of the women was sent to Ukraine and her husband died a few days later, seemingly of “a broken heart”.

This kind of harsh reaction had an effect: people became afraid to express their opinions, even in front of their long-time friends. Umar from Grozny says that recently a friend of his sent a meme about the war in Ukraine into a group chat room, and five minutes later deleted it. “This has never happened before, everyone knows everyone in this chat room and before the war everyone trusted each other,” said Umar.

That said, one activist of a Russian human rights organisation believes that the situation of free speech in Chechnya has changed, but not necessarily for the worse. She confirms that people are less likely to express their discontent with the authorities in public, but among trusted circles, criticism of the Chechen authorities has become harsher. She says that even those who used to be apolitical are now speaking out against the actions of the authorities. She believes that the people who fear that their sons who survived the Chechen wars or were born later will die in a new, “alien war”.

According to Marina, a 33-year-old who works at a public institution in Chechnya, “not a single lunch with friends goes by without talking about Ukraine”. She follows all the news from the front and cheers for Ukraine’s victory. Most of Marina’s friends also support Ukraine and want Russia to lose. When she and her friends discuss Ukraine in a café, everyone keeps asking each other to keep their voices down.

“Ukraine is going through the same thing we went through. The same rhetoric, only we were accused of being a nation of terrorists, while the Ukrainians are ‘Nazis’,” Marina said. She is sure that among Chechens there is no patriotism toward Russia. “Where does it come from?” she asked rhetorically.

“The Chechens we see on social networks and state channels talking about love for Russia are people who need something from the authorities. They pursue purely material goals.”

Marina personally knows Chechens who went to Ukraine for money but that was at the very beginning of the war (the minimum amount paid by the Russian government for participation in the war is 195,000 rubles monthly, about $2615),

Umar, 43, a courier from Grozny, tells of his neighbour who was sent to Ukraine recently. “He liked to drink and make noise. He was taken to prison and stayed there for several months. Then he was offered: either you go to Ukraine or we put you in jail for a long time. He agreed to Ukraine. I recently saw a picture of him standing somewhere in the Luhansk region of Ukraine, in a Russian military uniform, with a submachine gun in his hands”. According to Umar, there are many such cases.

There are also those in Chechnya who think differently and support Kadyrov’s army. These are mostly families of Chechens who are fighting on the side of Russia. “They are not rooting for Russia’s victory, but for their family members,” said Tamara, a 49-year-old housewife from a Chechen village. Those whose children have gone to fight in Ukraine sincerely want them to return home and support them. These parents need to explain to themselves that their sons are not risking their lives for nothing, and they speak “the language of television” Tamara said. Most of their rhetoric boils down to a line they’ve been told that Russia was forced to attack and that “the (Russian) government isn’t stupid”.

For the residents of Grozny, which was rebuilt after almost total destruction in the early 2000s, today they live ordinary, peaceful lives. As in other Russian cities, there is almost no indication that the country is waging an aggressive war against its neighbour. It is almost the same war Russia waged against Chechnya in the 1990s and 2000s when it fought for independence. The graffiti on the walls that used to say “Welcome to hell”, left for the Russian soldiers by Chechen fighters for independence, has been replaced by murals depicting Kadyrov and his men. But there is little faith in the sincerity of Kadyrov’s love for the Russian leadership. Marina says:

“Kadyrov has no patriotism for Russia. All he protects is his position and his stability.”

This article is written by a journalist from Chechnya. For their safety they wished to remain anonymous and excluded identifying features of those they spoke to as well

Major new global free expression index sees UK ranking stumble across academic, digital and media freedom

A major new global ranking index tracking the state of free expression published today (Wednesday, 25 January) by Index on Censorship sees the UK ranked as only “partially open” in every key area measured.

In the overall rankings, the UK fell below countries including Australia, Israel, Costa Rica, Chile, Jamaica and Japan. European neighbours such as Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and Denmark also all rank higher than the UK.

The Index Index, developed by Index on Censorship and experts in machine learning and journalism at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), uses innovative machine learning techniques to map the free expression landscape across the globe, giving a country-by-country view of the state of free expression across academic, digital and media/press freedoms.

Key findings include:

  • The countries with the highest ranking (“open”) on the overall Index are clustered around western Europe and Australasia – Australia, Austria, Belgium, Costa Rica, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland.

  • The UK and USA join countries such as Botswana, Czechia, Greece, Moldova, Panama, Romania, South Africa and Tunisia ranked as “partially open”.

  • The poorest performing countries across all metrics, ranked as “closed”, are Bahrain, Belarus, Burma/Myanmar, China, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini, Laos, Nicaragua, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

  • Countries such as China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates performed poorly in the Index Index but are embedded in key international mechanisms including G20 and the UN Security Council.

Ruth Anderson, Index on Censorship CEO, said:

“The launch of the new Index Index is a landmark moment in how we track freedom of expression in key areas across the world. Index on Censorship and the team at Liverpool John Moores University have developed a rankings system that provides a unique insight into the freedom of expression landscape in every country for which data is available.

“The findings of the pilot project are illuminating, surprising and concerning in equal measure. The United Kingdom ranking may well raise some eyebrows, though is not entirely unexpected. Index on Censorship’s recent work on issues as diverse as Chinese Communist Party influence in the art world through to the chilling effect of the UK Government’s Online Safety Bill all point to backward steps for a country that has long viewed itself as a bastion of freedom of expression.

“On a global scale, the Index Index shines a light once again on those countries such as China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates with considerable influence on international bodies and mechanisms – but with barely any protections for freedom of expression across the digital, academic and media spheres.”

Nik Williams, Index on Censorship policy and campaigns officer, said:

“With global threats to free expression growing, developing an accurate country-by-country view of threats to academic, digital and media freedom is the first necessary step towards identifying what needs to change. With gaps in current data sets, it is hoped that future ‘Index Index’ rankings will have further country-level data that can be verified and shared with partners and policy-makers.

“As the ‘Index Index’ grows and develops beyond this pilot year, it will not only map threats to free expression but also where we need to focus our efforts to ensure that academics, artists, writers, journalists, campaigners and civil society do not suffer in silence.”

Steve Harrison, LJMU senior lecturer in journalism, said: 

“Journalists need credible and authoritative sources of information to counter the glut of dis-information and downright untruths which we’re being bombarded with these days. The Index Index is one such source, and LJMU is proud to have played our part in developing it.

“We hope it becomes a useful tool for journalists investigating censorship, as well as a learning resource for students. Journalism has been defined as providing information someone, somewhere wants suppressed – the Index Index goes some way to living up to that definition.”

Index Index

What is the Index Index? The Index Index is a pilot project that uses innovative machine learning techniques to map the free expression landscape across the globe to gain a clearer country-by-country view of the state of free expression across academic, digital and...

Statement of support for Ukraine

We, the undersigned organisations, stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, but particularly Ukrainian journalists who now find themselves at the frontlines of a large-scale European war.

We unequivocally condemn the violence and aggression that puts thousands of our colleagues all over Ukraine in grave danger.

We call on the international community to provide any possible assistance to those who are taking on the brave role of reporting from the war zone that is now Ukraine. 

We condemn the physical violence, the cyberattacks, disinformation and all other weapons employed by the aggressor against the free and democratic Ukrainian press. 

We also stand in solidarity with independent Russian media who continue to report the truth in unprecedented conditions.

Join the statement of support for Ukraine by signing it here



  1. Justice for Journalists Foundation 
  2. Index on Censorship
  3. International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech “Adil Soz” 
  4. International Media Support (IMS)
  5. Yerevan Press Club 
  7. Free Press Unlimited
  8. Human Rights Center “Viasna”
  9. Albanian Helsinki Committee
  10. Media Rights Group, Azerbaijan 
  11. European Centre for Press and Media Freedom
  12. Association of European Journalists
  13. School of Peacemaking and Media Technology in Central Asia 
  14. Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan
  15. Reporters Without Borders, RSF
  16. Association of Independent Press of Moldova, API 
  17. Public Association “Dignity”, Kazakhstan
  18. PEN International 
  19. Human Rights House Foundation, Norway
  20. IFEX
  21. UNITED for Intercultural Action
  22. Human Rights House Yerevan
  23. Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Vanadzor, Armenia
  24. Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, Norway
  25. Society of Journalists, Warsaw
  26. The Swedish OSCE-network
  27. Hungarian Helsinki Committee 
  28. Legal policy research centre, Kazakhstan
  29. Public Foundation Notabene – Tajikistan 
  30. HR NGO “Citizens’ Watch – St. Petersburg, Russia
  31. English PEN
  32. Public organization “Dawn” – Tajikistan
  33. International Press Institute (IPI)
  34. The Union of Journalists of Kazakhstan 
  35. ARTICLE 19
  36. Human Rights House Tbilisi
  37. Rights Georgia
  38. Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center, Azerbaijan
  39. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  40. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
  41. Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD)
  42. European Federation of Journalists
  43. Social Media Development Center, Georgia
  44. Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia
  45. OBC Transeuropa
  46. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism
  47. Journalists Union YENI NESIL, Azerbaijan
  48. Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) , Istanbul
  49. Baku Press Club 
  50. Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development
  51. Union Sapari
  52. The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)
  53. Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, Armenia 
  56. CFDT-Journalistes
  57. Belarusian Association of Journalists 
  58. SafeJournalists network
  59. Association of Journalists of Kosovo
  60. Association of Journalists of Macedonia
  61. BH Journalists Association
  62. Croatian Journalists’ Association
  63. Independent Journalists Association of Serbia
  64. Trade Union of Media of Montenegro
  65. Analytical Center for Central Asia (ACCA)
  66. Trade Union of Croatian Journalists 
  67. European Press Prize
  68. Ethical Journalism Network
  69. European Journalism Centre 
  70. Slovene Association of Journalists
  71. Investigative Studios
  72. PEN Belarus
  73. Public Media Alliance (PMA)
  74. Estonian Association of Journalists
  75. Federación de Sindicatos de Periodistas (FeSP) (Spain)
  76. DJV, German Journalist Federation  
  77. Free Russia Foundation   
  78. Association for Human Rights in Central Asia – AHRCA 
  79. “Human Rights Consulting Group” Public Foundation, Kazakhstan
  80. Committee to Protect Journalists
  81. Ski Club of International Journalists (SCIJ)
  82. Women In Journalism Institute, Canada – associate of CFWIJ
  83. Romanian Trade Union of Journalists MediaSind
  84. Romanian Federation Culture and Mass-Media FAIR, MediaSind
  85. New Generation of Human Rights Defenders Coalition, Kazakhstan
  86. Coalition for the Security and Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Activists, Kazakhstan
  87. Legal policy Research Centre, Kazakhstan 
  88. Eurasian Digital Foundation, Kazakhstan
  89. Legal Analysis and Research Public Union, Azerbaijan
  90. German Journalists Union
  91. Digital Rights Expert Group, Kazakhstan
  92. Bella Fox, LRT/Bellarus Media, Lithuania
  93. Syndicat national des journalistes CGT (SNJ-CGT), France
  94. Karin Wenk, Editor in Chief Menschen Machen Medien
  95. Press Emblem Campaign 
  96. Federacion de Servicios, Consumo y Movilidad (FeSMC) – UGT (Spain)   
  97. Sindicato dos Jornalistas, Portugal
  98. International media project Август2020/August2020 (, Belarus
  99. Independent Association of Georgian Journalists (
  100. Independent Trade Union of Journalists and Media Workers, Macedonia
  101. Adam Hug, Director, Foreign Policy Centre
  102. Zlatko Herljević, Croatian journalist, lecturer of journalism at University VERN, Zagreb, Croatia
  103. Independent Journalists’ and Media Workers’ Union (JMWU), Russia
  104. The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation
  105. Hungarian Press Union (HPU), Hungary
  106. Lithuanian Journalists Union
  107. National Union of Journalists UK & Ireland 
  108. Federazione Nazionale Stampa Italiana (Italy)
  109. Dutch Association of Journalists (NVJ) 
  110. Uzbek Forum for Human Rights
  111. Association of Journalists, Turkey
  112. Slovak Syndicate of Journalist, Slovakia
  113. GAMAG Europe (European Chapter of the Global Alliance for Media and Gender)
  114. Slovenian Union of Journalists (SNS)
  115. Federación de Asociaciones de Periodistas de España (FAPE)
  116. Syndicate of Journalists of Czech Republic
  117. 360 Degrees, Media outlet, North Macedonia
  118. Frontline, Skopje, North Macedonia
  119. Community Media Solutions (UK)
  120. The Norwegian Union of Journalists, Norway
  121. Rentgen Media (Kyrgyz Republic)
  122. Union of Journalists in Finland (UJF)
  123. Syndicat National des Journalistes (SNJ), France
  124. The Swedish Union of Journalists, Sweden
  125. Asociación Nacional de Informadores de la Salud. ANIS. España
  126. Association Générale des Journalistes professionnels de Belgique (AGJPB/AVBB)
  127. Macedonian Institute for Media (MIM), North Macedonia  
  128. Lithuanian Journalism Centre, Lithuania
  129. Club Internacional de Prensa (CIP), España
  130. Periodical and Electronic Press Union
  131. Fojo Media Institute, Sweden
  132. Mediacentar Sarajevo 
  133. Media Diversity Institute
  134. Impressum – les journalistes suisses
  135. Agrupación de Periodistas FSC-CCOO
  136. South East European Network for Profession­alization of Media (SEENPM)
  137. TGS, Turkey
  138. Investigative Journalism Center, Croatia
  139. Verband Albanischer Berufsjournalisten der Diaspora, Schweiz
  140. IlijašNet
  141. Journalists Union of Macedonia and Thrace (Greece)
  142. The Union of Journalists of Armenia (UJA) 
  143. Associació de Periodistes Europeus de Catalunya (APEC)
  144. International Association of Public Media Researchers (IAPMR)
  145. FREELENS e.V. – German Association of Photojournalists & Photographers
  146. LawTransform (CMI-UiB Centre on Law & Social Transformation, Bergen, Norway)
  147. Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio & Communication
  148. Platform for Independent Journalism (P24), Turkey
  149. Novi Sad School of Journalism (Serbia) 
  150. Col·legi de Periodistes de Catalunya (Catalunya)