A prominent Chechen militia leader implicated in a failed plot to assassinate Russian President Vladimir in 2012 was ambushed by unknown assailants in Ukraine who reportedly sprayed automatic weapons fire into his vehicle, wounding him and killing his wife.

Adam Osmayev, who has commanded a Chechen battalion fighting alongside Ukrainian forces against pro-Russian separatists since 2015, was reportedly wounded in the leg during the attack. He has long been an enemy of the Russian government, and has now survived two assassination attempts in this year alone, although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Amina Okuyeva, Osmayev’s wife and an accomplished partisan fighter, thwarted the last attempt in June when she drew her own weapon and shot the would-be assassin.

Okuyeva’s killing highlights the ongoing violence between a number of armed groups associated with the conflict in Ukraine, where the fighting in the country’s east continues, albeit on a smaller scale than some of the peak clashes in previous years. This ambush comes shortly after another killing in Kiev last Thursday, which targeted Ukrainian member of parliament Ihor Mosiychuk. A bomb detonated as Mosiychuk was exiting a building, killing one of his bodyguards and another person but leaving him only injured.

Osmayev and Okuyeva are a famous couple in Ukraine, who are hailed locally as heroes for volunteering to fight against the pro-Russian elements which remain entrenched in the Donbass. Amina was Ukrainian by birth, having grown up in Odessa. The war in Ukraine has drawn hundreds of foreign volunteers, who fall in under units overseen by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.

Previously, Osmayev was jailed by Ukraine for two years, only to be released while Ukraine ignored calls from Russia to extradite him. He has said he came to Ukraine to fight against a “great injustice” in the form of “Russian aggression,” and was obliged to help to keep Ukraine free with the hopes that it could serve as an example for Russia, and his own homeland in Chechnya. After the “Dzhokhar Dudayev” volunteer battalion appeared on the battlefield fighting for Ukraine and its original leader, Isa Munayev was killed in combat in 2015, Osmayev assumed command and has retained it since.

Osmayev has been accused of being involved with other assassination plots, including against current Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov in 2007. Perhaps unusually for a rebel leader, Osmayev grew up the son of a wealthy oil businessman in Chechnya, attending a private school in England as a teenager. As a boy, he reportedly told others that he wanted to one day be president of Chechnya.

Okuyeva’s assassination is among a series of killings attributed to the Russian government in recent years. A report in Business Insider traced 33 murders or mysterious deaths since 2003 back to Moscow.

Kadyrov Expands Role of Chechen Special Forces

Read Next: Kadyrov Expands Role of Chechen Special Forces

But Chechens have been found fighting on both sides of the Ukrainian conflict, with those fighting for pro-Russian separatists seemingly sent and encouraged by Chechen leader Kadyrov. Osmayev says those Chechens fighting for Russia are not Chechens at all, but “Chechen speaking Russians”.

Oleksandr Turchynov, head of Ukraine’s National Security Council, wrote on Facebook “Russia, continuing its aggression in eastern Ukraine, has unleashed terror deep behind the lines, killing courageous defenders of our country”.

The killing of Ms Okuyeva “is a challenge to our country which requires a harsh and suitable response” he wrote.

Image courtesy of YouTube