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War against Ukraine – Clandestine recruitment in Russia

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Status: 08/03/2022 09:22

So far, the Russian leadership has refrained from general mobilization and relies on secret mobilization. Apparently, recruitment is done through the Wagner group and also in prisons. Right-wing extremists are also fighting.

By Silvia Stöber, tagesschau.de

The war of Russian aggression in Ukraine entails enormous losses for the armed forces of both sides. In order not to lose in this war of attrition, they need tens of thousands of soldiers. Since the Russian leadership has so far refrained from general mobilization for domestic political reasons, secret mobilization is carried out by recruiting contract soldiers, who are attracted by a higher salary than usual or who are forced to do so.

Telegram news channels from Russian regions such as Bashkortostan, Tatarstan and cities such as Perm and Chelyabinsk reported the formation of “volunteer battalions” sent to Ukraine. The Internet portal “Meduza” also reports about a regiment in Moscow, the members of which, according to a recruiter, must receive their salaries from the Moscow city budget.

The Wagner Group at the forefront

“Meduza” reports in the same article that the Russian Ministry of Defense has taken control of the networks of the private military company Gruppe Wagner and is using its reputation for recruitment. However, the requirements have been reduced. Even drug tests would not be done before the service.

Relatives of detainees in several prison camps also reported recruitment drives. Russian human rights organization gulagu.net has named penal colonies in or near St. Petersburg, Tver, Ryazan, Smolensk, Rostov, Voronezh and Lipetsk, where the Wagner group is believed to be looking for inmates. with combat experience for operations in Ukraine. In Adygia, 300 men were accepted into the army.

The Russian army is currently using fighters from the Wagner group to reinforce and compensate for losses on the front line, British military intelligence also reported: Wagner most likely played a central role in the capture of the towns of Popasna and Lysychansk and suffered heavy losses. Apparently, he was involved in the fighting only after the defeat of the Russian armed forces at the beginning of the war of aggression.

Close connection with the military structures of the State

According to “Meduza”, the Wagner Group depends on the regular army and the GRU military intelligence service for equipment and infrastructure. Its origin goes back to the Russian General Staff. He instructed businessman Yevgeny Prigoschin to build up the troops with income from orders for the food supply of the Russian Armed Forces. Prigozhin in the meantime received the title “Hero of the Russian Federation”.

The latter, in turn, demanded criminal charges against two employees of “Meduza” for disinformation after receiving questions about Wagner’s involvement in the war in Ukraine.

Far-right militias implicated

The Wagner group was already active in eastern Ukraine in 2014. There are indications of links with other groups active in Donbass and also in Syria at the time. This includes the “Russitsch” militia, which is known for its particular cruelty and openly appears with neo-Nazi symbols.

Russian citizen Jan P. identified himself as one of its members. There are many traces of him on the Internet. According to popular Russian news platform fontanka.ru, he attended the funeral of a deceased comrade in St. Petersburg in mid-June. He gave a eulogy surrounded by uniformed members of the Union of Donbass Volunteers. Fontanka.ru quoted Jan P.: They had crossed the border together since February 24 and started “liberating our Russian territories from invaders.” The deceased died as a “true warrior with arms in hand”. Warriors like him destroyed the enemy “by tearing them to pieces”.

According to various media, Jan P. fought in the Donbass as early as 2014. Therefore, he is on the wanted list of the Ukrainian military prosecutor’s office. Norwegian broadcaster NRK followed suit: he came to Norway in 2004 as a teenager and gained attention through his connections to the far-right scene in the city of Tønsberg. He went on patrol with a controversial “civil defense group” called “The Soldiers of Odin”. He was deported from Norway in 2016 and authorities classified him as a threat to national security. According to messages on Telegram, he is now the leader of Russich, although the information cannot be independently verified.

Training center in St. Petersburg

Another group implicated in the war is said to be the “Russian Imperial Legion” (RIL), which presents itself as ultra-nationalist, revisionist and monarchist. As a paramalitarian arm of St. Petersburg’s “Imperial Russian Movement”, it was reportedly involved in fighting in Ukraine in 2014 in Donbass. It is listed as a terrorist organization in the United States and Canada.

RIL and “Russitsch” appeared in a confidential Federal Intelligence Service (BND) report, cited by “Spiegel” in mid-May. In response to a request from Martina Renner, a member of the Left Party Bundestag, the Federal Interior Ministry announced that RIL operates a “partisan” training center in St. Petersburg, where veterans receive weapons training , close combat and the use of paramilitary strategies and tactics. A few EU citizens also participated, including members of the organization “Young Nationalists” and the party “The Third Way”.

“Denazification has no basis”

Renner points out that there are many links between German neo-Nazis in Russia and that intensive work is being done on the networks. “Great power nationalist fantasies, anti-Semitism and racism are ideological commonalities on which the struggle of Russian-influenced separatist groups in eastern Ukraine has been based since 2014. German security authorities will have to do so. take a closer look in the future if German right-wing extremists want to go to Russia,” Renner wrote. tagesschau.de.

According to Renner, the Russian account of denazification in Ukraine is completely unfounded. “Ultimately, this serves to dehumanize Ukrainian society in order to justify its own war crimes which have obviously been committed.”

Far-right scene in Russia

After years of serious crimes against migrants, the Russian state has taken massive action against the far-right scene. The Maidan uprising and the war in eastern Ukraine from 2014 also led to a split. Some remained opposed to the Russian leadership, some even sided with the “brotherly Ukrainian people”.

Another part increasingly adopts imperialist and revisionist positions and is therefore not very far from the positions taken by the leaders around Putin. Apparently, Russian military leaders tolerate their activities in Ukraine, and even encourage them through recruiting measures, in order to fill their own ranks and achieve the goal of destroying the Ukrainian state.

The BND report quoted by “Spiegel” aroused a greater echo in the Russian and Ukrainian media, which stressed on the one hand that the involvement of Russian ultra-nationalists and right-wing extremists in the war in Ukraine was a open secret. On the other hand, reference was made to the director of the SOWA analysis center for nationalism and racism, Alexander Werchowski. According to him, the number of right-wing extremists in Ukraine is not high.

Source www.tagesschau.de

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