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Russian Volunteer Corps: the far-Right militia fighting Putin

Head of the Russian Volunteer Corps Denis Nikitin (left)

March 7, 2023 - 10:13am

Earlier this month, Ukrainian-aligned sabotage forces crossed into Russia’s Bryansk region and conducted a lethal military operation. Though the casualty figures remain unclear, Russian media reported that civilians were shot, and security forces subsequently engaged the attackers. The military incursion occurred just days after a series of attempted drone attacks on Russian soil and an operation targeting an airbase in Belarus. It later surfaced that a contingent involved in the Bryansk raid identified as part of the Russian Volunteer Corps in videos released during the shootout.

The militia said: “the Russian Volunteer Corps crossed the state border of the Russian Federation 
 Now it’s time for the regular Russian citizens to realise they are not slaves. Start a mutiny, fight!” A second video was released in which two other militants were seen holding up the group’s flag with gunfire raging in the background, claiming that they are a “liberating army for our homeland” and impugned “Putin’s army” as comprising “rapists and murderers.” Like the first video, they called upon Russians to “take up arms and fight against Putin, the Kremlin, the bloody regime,” signing off with: “Death to the Kremlin’s tyrant!”

Ukrainian authorities denied responsibility for the attack. However, Denis Nikitin, the alleged leader of the Russian Volunteer Corps, claimed that the operation was approved by their host government in Kyiv. Nikitin stated that, in addition to inciting other Russian nationals to commit anti-state violence, the operation was designed to expose Russia’s border security weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Without substantiating, he claimed that the militants who slipped into the country linked up with domestic Russian partisans.

The assault was also geared toward recruitment and bolstering their ranks inside and outside of Russia. Elements of the Russian Volunteer Corps are overtly sympathetic to neo-Nazi ideology and praise Hitler on Telegram. The militia is part of Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces and was formed in 2022 from Russian volunteers who had been fighting for the Azov Brigade and other groups in the Donbas since the start of hostilities in 2014. Colin Clarke, Director of Research for the Soufan Group, told UnHerd:

Any time there is an attack by a group so ideologically hardcore, the goal is to raise the profile of the ideology and the group’s objectives, and to bring new members into the organisation. It’s also likely to be a PR disaster of sorts for Ukraine, because it plays into Putin’s disinformation narratives around de-Nazification.
- Colin Clarke

The attack undoubtedly raised the group’s profile, prompting a surge in media coverage and a boost in social media promotion. Nikitin’s “White Powder” Telegram channel grew to over 17,000 followers, while the Russian Volunteer Corps’ official channel has almost reached 45,000 subscribers. Seeking to capitalise on their publicity, Nikitin and his men have sought to ramp up fundraising efforts, with groups like the hard Right ‘Ultras Not Reds’ hooligan channel urging its over 11,000 followers to join the group and support them financially. The Azov-linked Misanthropic Division likewise celebrated the group’s actions.

The Russian hard Right is split in supporting and opposing Moscow and the invasion of Ukraine. Groups such as Rusich and WPRS are actively participating in Russia’s military campaign, while the Russian Volunteer Corps are fighting on the side of Ukraine. The latter crowd disapproves of Russia, viewing it as a multi-racial and ethnically pluralistic imperial power attacking a predominantly white sovereign country.

It is too early to tell how effective the Bryansk attack will be in leading to further attacks within Russia. But since Bryansk, the group’s attacks have become more brazen: this week, the FSB claimed that it had thwarted an assassination attempt against Konstantin Malofeev, founder of Russian Orthodox TV network Tsargrad, by the Russian Volunteer Corps. Given the unprecedented media attention it has been receiving along with Ukraine’s strategy of cross-border raids, we can certainly expect to see more attacks of this nature in the future.


Lucas Webber is the co-founder and editor of Militant Wire

LucasADWebber

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polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

By far the best source of analyses that I have found on the war seems to come from an Australian site – Perun. His latest piece is on the proliferation of mercenary groups (Wagner is just the best known). These are in reality private armies, serving the interest of their respective warlord. They are not on Ukraine’s side. They are not on The Kremin’s side. They are on their own side.
You should fear that Russia might implode. Who gets the nuclear arsenals? With a bit of luck the warheads and guidance systems have been sold to the Chinese. Everything is for sale in Russia it would seem.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Yes, Perun is excellent. His videos are usually around 1 hour and very thorough and well researched. The one on the top to bottom corruption of the Russian armed forces is also quite amusingly scripted and convincingly explains just how an organisation rots from the head.

Andy E
Andy E
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

“They are on their own side” —
Well if it is the case they would shoot both sides, right?
If they kill Ukrainian troops they are on the Russian side and vice versa. Simple as that.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andy E
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Sounds interesting. It seems that Wagner are being used as cannon fodder by Putin. I think their star is in the descendent.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Yes, Perun is excellent. His videos are usually around 1 hour and very thorough and well researched. The one on the top to bottom corruption of the Russian armed forces is also quite amusingly scripted and convincingly explains just how an organisation rots from the head.

Andy E
Andy E
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

“They are on their own side” —
Well if it is the case they would shoot both sides, right?
If they kill Ukrainian troops they are on the Russian side and vice versa. Simple as that.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andy E
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Sounds interesting. It seems that Wagner are being used as cannon fodder by Putin. I think their star is in the descendent.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

By far the best source of analyses that I have found on the war seems to come from an Australian site – Perun. His latest piece is on the proliferation of mercenary groups (Wagner is just the best known). These are in reality private armies, serving the interest of their respective warlord. They are not on Ukraine’s side. They are not on The Kremin’s side. They are on their own side.
You should fear that Russia might implode. Who gets the nuclear arsenals? With a bit of luck the warheads and guidance systems have been sold to the Chinese. Everything is for sale in Russia it would seem.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago

Western media consistently dismisses Putin’s claims that he’s “ne-Nazifying” Ukraine as Russian propaganda. And it almost certainly is.
However, having actual Nazis who are fighting for the Ukrainians and posting about their exploits and ideology on Twitter does kind of undercut that narrative.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

I think there’s a typo : “ne-Nazifying”. Did you mean “de-” ? Or perhaps even “re-“. Or both – trying to achieve the first and actually doing more of the second ?

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

And Putin’s ethnic cleansing of a whole people rather undercuts his own narrative.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

11

Last edited 1 year ago by polidori redux
polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

One of the lessons that I draw from Perun’s videos is that nothing is as it seems. As I implied above, the “naz**” are not fighting for Ukraine – They are fighting for themselves.
As an aside, I am getting fed up with the constant blocking of naughty words on Unherd. I appreciate that censorship probably comes with the platform, but it is time for a grown-up approach to moderation.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago

Sure, but didn’t Hitler overthrow a very Right wing government in Austria in 1938. There is absolutely no reason why two groups of Far Right forces should not be in opposition, any more than two Communist ones as we have seen”. Putin isn’t a Nazi, but the rhetoric of the Russian government is veering closer and closer to hatred and advocation of purges in Ukraine, including of the civilian population.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

I think there’s a typo : “ne-Nazifying”. Did you mean “de-” ? Or perhaps even “re-“. Or both – trying to achieve the first and actually doing more of the second ?

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

And Putin’s ethnic cleansing of a whole people rather undercuts his own narrative.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

11

Last edited 1 year ago by polidori redux
polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

One of the lessons that I draw from Perun’s videos is that nothing is as it seems. As I implied above, the “naz**” are not fighting for Ukraine – They are fighting for themselves.
As an aside, I am getting fed up with the constant blocking of naughty words on Unherd. I appreciate that censorship probably comes with the platform, but it is time for a grown-up approach to moderation.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago

Sure, but didn’t Hitler overthrow a very Right wing government in Austria in 1938. There is absolutely no reason why two groups of Far Right forces should not be in opposition, any more than two Communist ones as we have seen”. Putin isn’t a Nazi, but the rhetoric of the Russian government is veering closer and closer to hatred and advocation of purges in Ukraine, including of the civilian population.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago

Western media consistently dismisses Putin’s claims that he’s “ne-Nazifying” Ukraine as Russian propaganda. And it almost certainly is.
However, having actual Nazis who are fighting for the Ukrainians and posting about their exploits and ideology on Twitter does kind of undercut that narrative.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson
1 year ago

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – anyone who thinks he really understands what’s going on in this war is either a Russian, a Ukrainian, or a fool.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson
1 year ago

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – anyone who thinks he really understands what’s going on in this war is either a Russian, a Ukrainian, or a fool.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

The rather obvious point is that Nikitin/Kapustin has no interest in Ukraine.
He’s a “N*z*” who’s interested in Russia.
Just as Russia’s entry into WW1 led to the downfall of a Muscovite state 800 years old, looks like Putin’s gamble is failing just as spectacularly.
HIs army has made zero progress in half a year. HIs Aerospace forces wasted all their cruise missiles for almost zero effect. It won’t be long now before he falls.
No one knows who will then take over. That the Bolsheviks turned out to be the winners was just chance. Any other faction could have won.
We’re in as uncharted waters as in 1917…or 1991.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

The rather obvious point is that Nikitin/Kapustin has no interest in Ukraine.
He’s a “N*z*” who’s interested in Russia.
Just as Russia’s entry into WW1 led to the downfall of a Muscovite state 800 years old, looks like Putin’s gamble is failing just as spectacularly.
HIs army has made zero progress in half a year. HIs Aerospace forces wasted all their cruise missiles for almost zero effect. It won’t be long now before he falls.
No one knows who will then take over. That the Bolsheviks turned out to be the winners was just chance. Any other faction could have won.
We’re in as uncharted waters as in 1917…or 1991.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

We’re going to see a lot more of these groups inside Russia, as Putin’s regime implodes.
Might as well get used to it.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

We’re going to see a lot more of these groups inside Russia, as Putin’s regime implodes.
Might as well get used to it.