A senior Chechen commander and member of Russia’s parliament has been reported wounded in Ukraine, although colleagues have been quick to say he is alive and well.
Adam Delimkhanov is a close ally of notorious Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who initially described him as “incommunicado”.
He appealed to Ukrainian intelligence to help “find my dear brother”.
Chechen paramilitaries have joined Russian forces in the war in Ukraine.
The missing MP had commanded Chechen forces in 2022, as Russia fought for months to seize the Ukrainian port of Mariupol.
Earlier this week, the missing MP said he had met the head of Russia’s Belgorod border region and promised to help protect the area from attack. Belgorod has been targeted in recent weeks by a series of cross-border raids from Ukraine.
His whereabouts on Wednesday, however, were a mystery.
Russia’s official military TV channel Zvezda reported that he was “alive but wounded”, citing information from the lower house of the Russian parliament.
Zvezda said the report rebuffed some social media reports that he had been killed. Ukrainian sources have referred to an unconfirmed attack on the Chechen Akhmat paramilitary in the coastal city of Prymorsk, a long way from the front line in the southern Zaporizhzhia region.
Ramzan Kadyrov then offered a big reward for help in finding his “dear brother”, even going so far as to call for help from Ukrainian intelligence.
However, Russian officials have since sought to quell reports of such a high-ranking commander being wounded.
Fellow MP Dmitry Kuznetsov quoted Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin as saying that he had just talked to Adam Delimkhanov and that he was “alive and well”.
Hours later, the Chechen leader backtracked on his earlier comments, claiming that his close ally was “not even wounded” and accusing Ukrainians of lying.
“I knew this from the very beginning of the injection of fake news, but I decided to show everyone, primarily Ukrainians, to what degree their media have sunk,” he said.
He published a video along with his comments that showed the two men with several aides in front of the map, but BBC Verify has found a number of inconsistencies in the clip that indicate it may have been manipulated.
Some of the audio of the Chechen leader was out of sync with his lip movements and some military analysts have suggested the map dates back to last year.
Delimkhanov put out a message debunking rumours surrounding his health to his half-a-million followers on social media, and then on Thursday he reposted the Chechen leader’s video.
Nevertheless, the MP’s reported injuries did prompt Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov to say it was following events with great concern and awaiting clarification of what had happened.