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“Vladimir Putin justifies his war of aggression with the ‘denazification’ of Ukraine. An internal document from the German Federal Intelligence Service BND shows that Moscow’s troops are supported by right-wing extremist groups,” wrote the German weekly Der Spiegel. According to German intelligence, the groups of Russian “right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis” fighting in Ukraine turned out to be a division of the Russian Imperial Movement and the Rusich group.
The Russian service of the BBC tells what is known about them.
In a story published on Sunday, Spiegel refers to a confidential BND report sent to federal ministries the week before last.
According to the BND, at least two right-wing extremist groups are involved in the fighting in Ukraine.
The Germans call one of them the Russian Imperial League, but they specify that it is the Russian Imperial Legion, a paramilitary unit of the Russian Imperial Movement (RID). In addition, the report refers to the Rusich group.
The number of militants fighting in Ukraine is not specified in the report. Both groups fought on the side of Russia in the Donbass in 2014 and 2015.
Collaboration with these groups takes the Kremlin’s stated cause of war – the so-called “denazification” of Ukraine – to the point of absurdity, Spiegel recounts the intelligence document.
The report says that on the day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the head of the Russian Imperial Legion, Denis Gariev, wrote on Telegram: “We absolutely support the elimination of the separatist entity called Ukraine.”
The BBC found this post on a Telegram channel that was renamed PARTIZAN on February 27. Under the post is the signature “Head of the Center for Tactical and Fire Training “Partizan” Gariev Denis.”
The same post was posted on February 24 by the Russian Imperial Movement telegram channel, Deutsche Welle notes.
BND draws attention to the fact that one of the telegram channels announced the recruitment of fighters with combat experience and graduates of the training center of the Partizan organization in St. Petersburg. At the same time, it is not clear whether the recruitment was carried out at the request or on the basis of consultations with the Russian leadership, the authors of the report note.
The recruitment of volunteers wishing to take part in the war with Ukraine was announced on March 8 by the same Partizan telegram channel, the BBC was convinced.
The report says that Gariev’s deputy died in Ukraine, and Gariev himself was wounded. At least two more of their comrades-in-arms were seriously injured.
On the page of the Partizan Center, the BBC found a message about Gariev’s injury dated April 19: “Our commander Denis Gariev, was wounded, in the leg, the bones are intact, evacuated to Russia, feeling fine, aiming to return to duty soon” .
In May, a post about the death of Gariev’s deputy Denis Nekrasov near Izyum appeared on the RID telegram channel, Deutsche Welle draws attention.
According to Spiegel, the Rusich group has been fighting in Ukraine since the beginning of April at the latest.
In 2014 and 2015, its fighters were “known for their extreme cruelty” and the reputation of “never taking prisoners,” the German publication Der Tagesspiegel emphasizes in a retelling of the material.
The Russian social network VKontakte has a page for the “Rusich sabotage and assault reconnaissance group (DSHRG)”: they call themselves a “volunteer unit”, which from June 2014 to July 2015 actively took part in the armed conflict in Ukraine on the side of the separatists.
It also states that since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the group has been taking part in hostilities.
What are the people involved in the BND report known for?
Members of the “Russian Imperial Movement”, as reported by the media, had previously taken part in hostilities not only in eastern Ukraine, but also in the Middle East.
In 2020, the BBC also reported on links between Russian and Swedish nationalists, including two “bombers” convicted of terrorist attacks in Sweden, who were trained in the military camp of the same St. Petersburg center “Partizan”, organized by the “Russian Imperial motion.”
In a 2015 video interview posted on the page of the Partizan Center, Denis Gariev is presented as “the head of the militia training center.”
In the early years of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, he, according to the Kartoteka.ru electronic database, was the chairman and co-founder of the St. Petersburg regional public organization DND “Reserve Druzhina” (it was located at the same address as “Partizan”). And in 2018, it turned into Evrika LLC, which previously received government orders in the amount of more than 10 million rubles. from the structures of the FSB, the FSO, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office and others.
Former participants in military operations in eastern Ukraine told Fontanka that the Partizan program, in addition to public classes in combat tactics, high-altitude training, precision shooting and military field medicine, also contained a non-public block – for experienced fighters.
The open course program of the Partizan center, as the BBC wrote , largely coincides with the description of the training that was imputed to those convicted in the high-profile Network case (they were recognized as members of the community called the Network, which in Russia was introduced listed as terrorist and prohibited).
In Partizan, one of the convicts in the Network case, industrial climber Yuli Boyarshinov, also underwent public training. The defenders of the “Network” case failed to verify the legality of the activities of this center.
In 2020, the US State Department included the “Russian Imperial Movement” in the list of international terrorist organizations, and Denis Gariev and two of his associates as leaders of the RIM – in a separate list of “specially designated” and blocked persons.
The Russian Foreign Ministry then called the US decision “unreasonable.” In 2021, Canada also designated RIM as a terrorist organization.
The Rusich group and its commander Alexei Milchakov are also included in the sanctions lists of Canada, Deutsche Welle notes.
In 2015, the BBC told how the commanders of the Rusich group, Milchakov and Yan Petrovsky, received certificates of members of the Union of Donbass Volunteers along with the commanders of other groups.