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Ukraine lawmakers brand Chechnya ‘Russian-occupied’ in dig at Kremlin

KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine’s parliament voted on Tuesday to declare the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria “temporarily Russian-occupied” land in a resolution certain to anger Moscow, which takes a zero-tolerance line on any talk of separatism inside its borders.

Ichkeria is the historical name of Russia’s southern region of Chechnya that was devastated by two bloody wars between Russian troops and Chechen separatists after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.

The Muslim-majority region is now headed by Ramzan Kadyrov, a former warlord who emerged out of the devastation and, backed by the Kremlin and huge financial support for Chechnya, now describes himself as a footsoldier of President Vladimir Putin.

Kadyrov has emerged as one of Russia’s most outspoken hawks during its eight-month war in Ukraine, which has killed tens of thousands, displaced millions and destroyed towns and cities.

A majority of Ukrainian lawmakers voted on Tuesday to back a resolution that “recognises the Chechen republic of Ichkeria as territory temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation as a result of armed aggression which contravened the UN’s Statute”.

Ukraine uses the same language – “temporarily occupied” – to describe swathes of Ukrainian territory that were seized by Russian forces in 2014 and following this year’s invasion.

The lawmakers’ resolution condemned what it said were war crimes committed by Russia in the two Chechen wars following the Soviet breakup, as well as what it said were other historic crimes committed in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Ukraine’s 450-seat parliament, which has continued to function behind closed doors despite Russian attacks on the capital Kyiv and other cities, said 290 lawmakers had voted to adopt the resolution.

The parliament known in Ukraine as the Verkhovna Rada said 352 lawmakers were present for the vote.

Moscow earlier this month declared four partially-occupied Ukrainian regions – those of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson – to be a part of Russia after it held what Kyiv and the West described as coercive, sham referendums.

Ukraine’s parliamentary resolution echoed the spirit of an impassioned speech delivered by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy last month, in which he urged Russia’s ethnic minorities to resist the Kremlin’s move to mobilise more forces for its war in Ukraine.

Non-Russian groups – from parts of the North Caucasus or far-flung area of Siberia – are over-represented in Russia’s military contingents in Ukraine and violent protests against the mobilisation drive have flared in some areas gripped by poverty.

(Reporting by Max Hunder; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Grant McCool)

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