Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
The Islamist factor more and more often reminds us of its presence, especially in the southeast regions of Ukraine. Regions in which the Maidan regime wasn’t able to obtain authority and respect are by degrees started to be filled with a new problem.
In some places Islamisation takes place impudently and pushily, as in the Kherson region; in others the corresponding work is being conducted on the sly.
Since the autumn of 2015, when the blockade of Crimea began, near the “Chongar”, “Kalanchak”, “Chaplinka” checkpoints people with a Middle Eastern appearance participated in the illegal examination of transport and other illegal actions. And, besides Crimean Tatar symbols, flags of several Islamist movements and radical organisations also appeared at checkpoints.
Aleksey Zhuravko, the deputy of the Verkhovna Rada in 2006-2012, repeatedly declared the danger coming from radical Islamist organisations in the Kherson region. He predicts that the destructive activity of Refat Chubarov and Lenur Islyamov will echo to citizens of Ukraine. After all, for already more than two years the inhabitants of the Kherson region are obliged to feel on their own skin all the delights of the visiting members of the radical organisations “Hizb ut-Tahrir“, “Bozkurtlar“ (“Gray wolves”), fighters of the Crimean Tatar voluntary battalion named after Noman Çelebicihan, etc.
“Refat Chubarov and Lenur Islyamov appeared in the region in 2014. And since the autumn of 2015, when the blockade of Crimea started, their presence in the Kherson region became notable. Today it seems they calmed down and laid low. In reality the cells of Chubarov, Islyamov, Dzhemilev (the leader of so-called Mejlis) act, and expand all over the region. Tension is created periodically in those places where they have the greatest human assets and resources — Chaplinka, Chongar, Kalanchak, Genichesk, near Tarasovka. Caches of the radical groups forbidden in the Russian Federation are across all the territory of the region.
This militarised underground poses a real threat, but the authorities [in Kiev – ed] don’t trouble themselves to think about the possible consequences. In total, it is from 800 to 1200 people. They are scattered around, some of them are in the zone of military operations.”
“SP”: At the beginning of the year the Ukrainian military cleansed the bases of the Çelebicihan battalion, disarming an illegal formation…
“Such a thing happened. Many unaccounted for weapons were found. But none of the militants were brought to responsiblity. They were allegedly disarmed. But soon information appeared that the weapons were returned to them. It is Islyamov who took care of it. No cleansing is being carried out in the Kherson region. The authorities [in Kiev – ed] don’t have any influence over it any more. And the ignorant and toothless police is afraid of radical Islamists.”
“SP”: Passengers of the Ukrainian trains at Novoalekseyevka station often hear how namaz is being performed nearby.
“Now a mosque is under construction there. Chubarov and Dzhemilev during recent years pushed their affairs forward deep into the region. According to some information, the money for the construction of the mosque was allocated by Rinat Akhmetov.”
“SP”: Locals aren’t delighted with the uninvited guests and unexpected neighbors?
“It is clear that relations are bad. Locals suffer from constant robberies and excesses. Caucasian groups that took part in the war in Syria on the side of ISIS act on the territory of the region, and Tatar groups – under Islyamov’s cover. In August there were cases of lawlessness when militants (Chechens and Tatars) took away a harvest from people. And there were also raider captures: in Chaplinka and Kalanchak. There were cases when militants kidnapped farmers and extorted money. In September law enforcement bodies detained a large group in Chernobayevka, with a big arsenal of weapons – Caucasians and citizens of Ukraine, as well as natives of Asia. They were suspected of robbery. But in court the detainees paid bail, and they were released.”
“SP”: The idea of a caliphate in the Kherson region isn’t yet put aside?
“Everything continues. Preparation is being carried out. Militant Islamists merge together with the local population and bide their time. Ukrainian radicals behave towards these ideas aggressively. But when it will be required, they will unite with radical Islamists. I know that Americans directly help Chubarov. In Kiev and Lvov there are training camps. These projects are supervised by the American intelligence agencies. It is interesting for them to create a terrorist springboard near Crimea. And Ukraine thus becomes a terrorist State.”
The Kharkov Anti-maidan activist Aleksandr Aleksandrovsky spoke about the Islamist advance in the “first capital” and in other regions of Ukraine:
“The number of Muslims in large cities considerably increased. In Kharkov and Odessa there are large Syrian and Lebanese diasporas. They are peaceful. Syrians and Lebanese are normally pro-Assad, and thus – also pro-Russian. But Libyans, Iraqis, Tunisians have completely opposite views… An illustrative example of this is Islamist graffiti, which can be seen even more often on the streets of Kharkov.
A disturbing bell was sounded two years ago. On October 3rd, 2015, in Baghdad there was a double terrorist attack with a large number of victims. The Jordanian Mohammed Dalain, a student of the medical faculty of the Kharkov National University, was one of suicide bombers. This case forced the SBU to imitate a fight against the ‘ISIS-isation’ of Kharkov. The leadership of the Kharkov SBU stated that attempts by supporters of the terrorist organisation ‘Islamic State’ to recruit foreign students became more frequent.
I have information that in Odessa Azerbaijani and Chechen groups try to put the security business in their pocket. What Chechen groups? The authorities in Kiev frighten the residents of Ukraine with ‘Kadyrov’s group in Donbass’, which Tymchuk ‘saw‘ personally. But Ukrainians see for themselves that shootings and murders take place in the capital, which are in one way or another connected to anti-Kadyrov groups with emigrants like Adam Osmayev — a terrorist who was safely released from prison by the Odessa court at the end of 2014. So similar groups now feel free in Odessa. There is continuous infighting: Caucasians try to expel the inhabitants of Odessa from the security business.”
“SP”: What is meant but the “ISIS-isation” of Kharkov?
“The recruitment of supporters of ISIS is not an invention of the SBU. It is indeed actively carried out. Just that the SBU couldn’t close its eyes anymore to the obvious facts, after the Baghdad act of terrorism. But anyway it can’t fully fight against this. After all, we see how the SBU documents dissidents or ordinary casual co-citizens as terrorists. And here the new reality approaches — and the SBU employees don’t know what to do with it. Or don’t want to do anything. Arabs have tried-and-tested mechanisms for the financing of terrorism. The SBU can’t do anything with these systems of money transfers and schemes of mutual currency conversion. It has its own monetary subjects.
In Kharkov, near the Studencheskaya metro station, there was a Syrian cafe. The owner once sharply ‘changed his shoes’. And, on the basis of the cafe, recruitment for ISIS was conducted. Then the cafe burned down. Another example: the market of ‘used’ NATO uniforms is completely controlled by oppositional Syrians. In Kharkov there is the largest warehouse of these uniforms, the ‘Yana’ company. It is here that Donik and other volunteers of the ‘ATO’ buy their things. It is also from there that the Maidan in Kiev was supplied. The Arab owners of the company closely cooperated with the ‘Azov’ battalion, having received diplomas expressing thanks.”
“SP”: Does “religion” allow “Azov” to associate with them?
“This is a separate topic: ‘Azov’ and Islam. There is information that in Kharkov, on the basis of the Islamist Al-Manar center, the recruitment of Arab students is conducted for participation in military operations in Syria. Moreover, in the mosques there is active work also with citizens of Ukraine, with a Slavic appearance. According to the available information, during such events calls to conduct full-scale war against Russia on its territory are being sounded. The same work is put on a conveyor belt in the Kharkov National Agricultural University named after V.V. Dokuchayev — this activity is carried out by Tatar students who head the labour union of foreign students. And all this happens under the patronage of the ‘Azov’ battalion. The selected applicants pass through further training in ‘Azov’ field camps: fire preparation, knife combat, mine-laying, tactics of conducting urban combat… It is possible to assume that Ukrainians with Slavic appearance are being prepared for infiltration on the territory of the Russian Federation. As far as I understand, the Kharkov regional department of the SBU is aware of this activity and doesn’t interfere with it.
But all of this concerns jihadists that are useful to the cause from the point of view of ‘Azov’. And there are foreigners who the Ukrainian nazis traditionally hate. According to information from representatives of the Syrian diaspora, some of their acquaintances were already subjected to attacks by ‘Azov’ and football ultras. That’s why these guys attended to questions of self-defense: they go to gyms and are engaged in martial arts. Arabs have no serious coordination. Some are engaged in trade, others in pharmaceuticals, plus there is a large number of students. These categories of foreign citizens are, as a rule, are quiet and law-abiding (for some reason it is precisely they who are attacked by nazis and ultras). But after the ‘Arab spring’ a lot of youth came from there, who behave provocatively and aggressively. We will call this category of arriving people ‘bad apples’, in order to not tar everyone with the same brush. But ordinary Kharkov citizens feel for themselves some new threat.”
“SP”: What are its manifestations?
“In the conditions of general impoverishment, ‘bad apples’, who have dollars, behave very impudently, they harass young girls and organise fights. The cases of road accidents became more frequent, where the cars of Arabs with Baltic numberplates are abandoned and the driver at fault flees. Recently Arabs beat up two girls in one of the dormitory districts of Kharkov (Saltovka). The police officers who arrived to the scene released the assailant on a bribe. If in the central districts of the city they behave with restraint, then in the suburbs and in places of compact accommodation — they behave completely on the contrary. Well, they also introduced some variety concerning the narcotic topic.”
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