One of many anti-Kremlin teams accountable for an armed incursion into Russia this week, the Russian Volunteer Corps, is led by a far-right extremist described by German officers and humanitarian teams, including the Anti-Defamation League, as a neo-Nazi.
The Volunteer Corps, made up of Russians who oppose Vladimir V. Putin’s struggle, doesn’t have any public affiliation with the Ukrainian Military. However the group’s claims to be combating for Ukraine’s trigger current an uncomfortable state of affairs for the federal government in Kyiv. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has falsely claimed that his nation is combating Nazis as a pretext for his nation’s invasion, an everyday theme of Kremlin propaganda.
The commander of the corps — Denis Kapustin, who has lengthy used the alias Denis Nikitin, however usually goes by his military call sign, White Rex — is a Russian citizen who moved to Germany within the early 2000s. He related to a bunch of violent soccer followers and later grew to become, based on officers within the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, “probably the most influential activists” in a neo-Nazi splinter of the mixed-martial-arts scene.
He has been barred from getting into Europe’s visa-free 27-country Schengen zone.
The Volunteer Corps, recognized by its Russian initials R.D.Ok., additionally claimed credit score for 2 incidents within the Russian border area of Bryansk in March and April. Ukrainian authorities have publicly denied any position within the combating on the Russian facet of the border.
The Russian Volunteer Corps was considered one of two teams of Russian fighters that performed a cross-border assault within the Belgorod area of southern Russia that started on Monday, partaking Russian troops over two days of skirmishing. The purpose of the incursions, the teams say, is to pressure Russia to redeploy troopers from occupied areas of Ukraine to defend its borders, as Ukraine prepares for a counteroffensive.
The second group was the Free Russia Legion, which operates beneath the umbrella of Ukraine’s Worldwide Legion, a pressure that features American and British volunteers, in addition to Belarusians, Georgians and others. It’s overseen by Ukraine’s Armed Forces and commanded by Ukrainian officers. A number of hundred Russian fighters have been deployed to the entrance strains in jap Ukraine, officers stated.
At a joint information convention with the Free Russia Legion on Wednesday, Mr. Kapustin stated his group was not beneath the management of the Ukrainian Military, however that the navy had supported his fighters with data, gasoline, meals and medical provides, together with the evacuation of wounded personnel. That declare couldn’t be independently verified.
Andriy Chernyak, a consultant of Ukraine’s navy intelligence service, stated that he didn’t have any details about potential materials assist the Ukrainian navy could have given to members of the R.D.Ok., however stated that “Ukraine undoubtedly helps all those that are able to struggle the Putin regime.”
“Folks got here to Ukraine and stated that they need to assist us to struggle Putin’s regime, so after all we allow them to, similar as many different individuals from overseas international locations,” Mr. Chernyak stated.
Ukraine has referred to as the incursions an “inside Russian disaster” provided that the members of the group are Russians themselves, and the episode performs right into a Ukrainian navy goal of attempting to pressure Russia to redeploy troops from the entrance strains to defend its borders.
Michael Colborne, a researcher at Bellingcat who reviews on the worldwide far proper, stated he was hesitant to even name the Russian Volunteer Corps a navy unit.
“They’re largely a far-right group of neo-Nazi exiles who’re endeavor these incursions into Russian-held territory who appear way more involved about making social media content material than the rest,” Mr. Colborne stated.
A few of the different members of the Russian Volunteer Corps photographed in the course of the border raids even have publicly embraced neo-Nazi views. One man, Aleksandr Skachkov, was arrested by the Ukrainian Safety Companies in 2020 for promoting a Russian translation of the white supremacist manifesto of the shooter in Christchurch, New Zealand, who killed 51 mosque worshipers in 2019.
One other one, Aleksei Levkin, who filmed a selfie video carrying the R.D.Ok. insignia, is a founding father of a group referred to as Wotanjugend that began in Russia however later moved to Ukraine. Mr. Levkin additionally organizes a Nationwide Socialist Black Metallic Competition, which started in Moscow in 2012 however was held in Kyiv from 2014 till 2019.
Photos posted on-line by the fighters earlier this week of volunteer corps members posing in entrance of captured Russian gear featured some fighters carrying Nazi-style patches and gear. One patch depicts a hooded member of the Ku Klux Klan and one other reveals a Black Solar, an emblem with a robust connection to Nazi Germany.
Mr. Colborne stated the pictures of Mr. Kapustin and his fighters might do injury to Ukraine’s protection by making allies cautious that they may very well be supporting far-right armed teams.
“I fear that one thing like this might backfire on Ukraine as a result of these should not ambiguous individuals,” he stated. “These should not unknown individuals, and they aren’t serving to Ukraine in any sensible sense.”
Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting from London and Oleg Matsnev from Berlin.