February 25, 2024

Athens News

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Belgorod raid: who provoked the Russian CTO

Who penetrated the territory of Russia, causing a panic of the population and becoming the reason for the counter-terrorist operation? Ukrainian militants, saboteurs, Russian volunteers?

Russia claims that after two days of fighting in the Belgorod region, it surrounded “troublemakers” and killed more than 70 of them, and “forced” the rest back to Ukraine. The Russian Federation defines them as Ukrainian militants, but Kyiv claims that they come from two anti-Kremlin paramilitary groups.

Ukrainian officials say they are Russian citizens from the Freedom of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK) who want to create a “safe zone” for Ukrainians in the border area. Both groups have been described in the past as part of an international legion involved in the territorial defense of Ukraine.

Andriy Yusov of the Kiev Intelligence Directorate stated that both groups were operating “autonomously on Russian territory” and no Ukrainians were involved, while Ukrainian television claimed they were militias and “Russian volunteers” writes Air Force.

The Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK) made itself known in March 2023 by carrying out a cross-border raid into the Bryansk region of Russia, in which 45 people took part. Unconfirmed Russian reports spoke of shootings, casualties and hostages, with the RDK claiming to have crossed the border to call on Russians to rise up against their government. The group claimed to have taken no hostages and retreated safely to Ukrainian territory.

The leader of the RDK is known as Denis Kapustin or Denis Nikitin. This is a Russian nationalist and the group openly supports a mono-ethnic Russian state. In 2020, a Ukrainian investigative website claimed he had ties to neo-Nazi groups, and Nikitin has spoken in the past of belonging to the football hooligan movement. The RDC accuses the mainstream Russian opposition of being inactive regarding the war in Ukraine.

Another member of the corps, Fortuna, told Ukrainian media last November that there were 120 of them: “We are a voluntary unit, we are not conscripts or contract soldiers, like citizens of Ukraine.”

The Freedom of Russia Legion (SRL) is a completely different organization that fights alongside Ukrainian troops against Russian troops. He uses a white-blue-white flag, part of the Russian opposition considers it the flag of “free Russia”. Volunteer corps commander Denis Nikitin said that while they both sought to “overthrow the Putin regime,” the legion’s fighters were more likely to describe themselves as centrists.

In a statement dated May 22, the Legion announced that it had “liberated” the Russian village of Kozinka, located just across the border with Ukraine and southwest of Belgorod: “The Legion and the RDC continue to liberate the Belgorod region”: “Once again, the myth that Russian citizens are safe and the Russian Federation is strong.” He later posted a video of balloons flying his flag over Moscow.

The size of the legion is unclear, but its website states that it “fights in full cooperation with the armed forces of Ukraine and under the leadership of the Ukrainian command.” One of the members of the Caesar formation, perhaps the most famous fighter, insisted that “there are no people in the legion who were forced to join it,” and all members were contract soldiers of the Ukrainian International Legion. He emphasized that although a small number of Russian soldiers surrendered to Ukrainian forces, they did so precisely in order to switch sides.

Edition “Country” under the heading “Hitler’s Hammer” tellsthat the participant in the raid in the Belgorod region turned out to be a well-known Russian neo-Nazi. This is 38-year-old Aleksey Levkin, a very well-known figure among the ultra-right in the post-Soviet space. He is the leader of the Russian neo-Nazi black metal band M8L8TH (the name stands for Hitler’s Hammer). “The o’s in M8L8TH’s name have been changed to 8’s to create the neo-Nazi code number 88, which means ‘Heil Hitler.’ At the end of each song of ‘Hammer of Hitler’, people in the audience zigging and shouting ‘Sieg Heil!'” the media wrote.

According to Bellingcat, Levkin was part of a neo-Nazi group that was involved in the desecration of Jewish and Muslim graves, several attacks, and at least four murders. Since 2014, Levkin has been in Ukraine. He fought in the Donbass as part of Azov. In 2016, he became one of the founders of the neo-Nazi structure Wotanjugend, which was described as a network “mini-university for supporters of right-wing ideology”, proclaiming the heroes of such ultra-right terrorists as Timothy McVeigh and Anders Breivik. Bellingcat described the organization as follows: Wotanjugend practice such blatant neo-Nazism, including open glorification of Hitler, that even their leader admits that this group is too tough for public space.

Another famous person is the Russian actor Kirill Kanakhin. In March, he participated in the attack on the Bryansk villages, and now he is seen among those who attacked the Belgorod region, writes publication “Bryansk news”. The forty-year-old actor from St. Petersburg played in Glukhara-3 and several other films. He emigrated to the Odessa region, and in March he participated in the attack on the Bryansk villages of Sushany and Lyubechany. The Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation put Kirill Kanakhin and Denis Kapustin on the wanted list of the participants in the sortie, they were included in the list of terrorists and extremists.

There are some doubts about the military significance of these two groups. Volodymyr Fesenko, a Ukrainian expert, notes that there are several different units there, and they are more connected with PR than with real actions.

Former Russian MP Ilya Ponamarev, now a citizen of Ukraine, posted on Facebook in August 2022 that the Legion, the Volunteer Corps and another group called the National Republican Army had signed a declaration agreeing on the common goal of freeing Russia from the rule of Vladimir Putin.

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