PUTIN is set to replace his mercenary Wagner group with ruthless Chechen soldiers after Yevgeny Prigozhin's unexpected death.
A worrying report first released in May suggested the Kremlin may turn to their "little green men" to regain control in parts of Ukraine – a concern which has re-emerged in recent weeks.
Chechen soldiers – or Kadyrovites, named after their brutal leader, Ramzan Kadyrov – have assisted Russia in its military operations since the early 2000s.
Vicious warlord Kadyrov once operated an Instagram account where he liked to flaunt his fortune before he was banned – but he still keeps his "fans" updated via Russian social media and on Telegram.
The unconventional warlord also makes sure he is pictured with celebrities, including Hollywood star Liz Hurley and footballers Ronaldinho and Mo Salah.
But the Chechen leader has a penchant for torture, murder, kidnapping and anti-gay purges – and could send his soldiers to lead the offensive into Ukraine.
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The Institute for the Study of War raised the alarm about the Kadyrovites only three weeks before Wagner troops were banished to Belarus for their attempted march on Moscow.
They said: "The Kremlin may be attempting to reintroduce Kadyrovites as the main offensive force following the culmination of Wagner forces and their withdrawal from the frontlines.
"The Kremlin may perceive Chechen units as an untapped assault force that can restore Russia’s ability to sustain simultaneous offensive efforts on multiple axes of advance."
His experienced Chechen soldiers have been involved in the Ukraine conflict since 2014, when tensions first boiled over in the Donbas, and now more than 7,000 Chechen troops are reported to be in Ukraine.
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But since Wagner troops have withdrawn from many front line posts following the "capture" of Bakhmut in early May and the Wagner march in June, Putin may be looking to replace his mercenary army.
Kadyrov, with an estimated fortune of up to £150million, was first installed by Putin as leader of the Chechen republic in 2007.
Experts told The Sun Online his obscene wealth is nothing but blood money as he is kept in his lifestyle with bungs from Putin in return for keeping an iron grip on Chechnya.
And Kadyrov is necessary for Putin as he keeps Chechnya under his lawless control with an iron fist terrorising his subjects through "kidnap, rape and murder as standard practice".
Kadyrov and his crony soldiers have also been accused of war crimes in Ukraine – ranging from kidnapping to human rights violations.
The soldiers who committed brutal human rights violations in Bucha in the early days of Ukraine are rumoured to have been mainly Chechens.
This horrifying history makes them an ideal candidate to replace Prigozhin's army of thugs and criminals, who are without a leader after his death by plane crash last week.
The soldiers left in Wagner PMC have been told they will have to swear an oath to the Russian flag – only two days after Prigozhin's death.
Only days ago, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said of Wagner: "I can’t tell you anything now, I don’t know. Legally, no such structure exists."
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Peskov's comments have raised further questions about who – if anyone – will replace Prigozhin and his mercenaries on the Ukrainian front lines.
Reports said only Prigozhin’s close family and friends were allowed to be present at his funeral yesterday, amounting to only around 30 people gathering to say goodbye to the failed coup leader.
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