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Russian neo-Nazis are fighting in Ukraine, say German spy services

A confidential report by the German spy services (BND in the original acronym) notes the presence of neo-Nazi groups that are fighting in Ukraine supporting the Russian military, namely the Russian Imperial League and the Rusich group, according to Der Spiegel magazine.

The report was sent to several ministries last week and analysts note that the Russian army’s collaboration with these groups reduces “the reason invoked for the war, the so-called ‘denazification’ of Ukraine, to absurdity”.

The two groups mentioned in particular in the document are known for their brutality and their elements had already fought against Ukraine in Donbass in 2014 and 2015.

On 25 February, the day after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the leader of the Russian Imperial League, Denis Gariev, wrote on Telegram to his followers: “We undoubtedly defend the liquidation of the separatist entity Ukraine”. Shortly after, the group decided to go into combat, recruiting members with military experience or who had participated in their own training center in St. Petersburg.

In Russia, it is legal to have military training, and the training center of this group also received foreigners, including German neo-Nazis, as revealed in 2020 the German magazine Focus. In the same year, the US included the Russian Imperial League in its list of foreign terrorist organizations – the first time it included a white supremacist organization in this list, then underlined the State Department, as quoted by Foreign Policy magazine.

It is unclear, according to the secret document, whether Gariev’s decision to fight this war in Ukraine was taken “at the request or in talks with the Russian leadership”. The document also says that Gariev’s “number two” died in combat in Ukraine and that Gariev was wounded.

The Rusich group is also from Saint Petersburg and fought in Donbass between 2014 and 2015, but is smaller. According to German espionage, he was known for his special brutality at the time, for “never taking prisoners” and having a founder who would be sadistic.

In an article in the British magazine The Spectator, Russian military affairs expert Mark Galeotti wrote that this group has a reputation for “violence, mutilation and burning the bodies of the dead and even posting videos of their atrocities online”, and “one of their commanders bragged about it”. if to cut off the ears of the dead.”

Rusich will also be involved in fighting on Ukrainian territory since at least the beginning of April, the document says. His presence in Kharkiv had already been reported by the British newspaper The Sunday Times, which recalled that the leader, Alexei Milchakov, spoke one day of his enthusiasm for “the smell of human flesh burning”.

The group will also have links to the Wagner group, which considers it a kind of satellite in its system, and which gained relevance in Donbass in 2014. The Wagner group is described as a private security group or a network of mercenaries, which trains so much soldiers as it provides security for Russian companies (for example, oil or gas) or even engages in clashes on the ground, as in Syria,​ and increasingly in Africa, from Libya to the Central African Republic, via Cabo Delgado.

Rusich left Ukraine in 2015, shortly after Milchakov was targeted by international sanctions following reports of war crimes in the Donbass, according to New America magazine. After that, reported by the US magazine and Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Milchakov and another commander of the group were in Syria, where Russian soldiers support the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and where they were suspected of torturing a Syrian prisoner.

The current report by the German spy agency also mentions the presence of a Donetsk extremist who, in April, tried to recruit volunteers to form a battalion to support Russian and pro-Russian forces.

Source: With Agencies

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