The leader of a Russian group involved in a border incursion is described by watchdogs as a neo-Nazi.

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Europe|The person of a Russian radical progressive successful a borderline incursion is described by watchdogs arsenic a neo-Nazi.

Many of the fighters who led an incursion into Russian territory this week person espoused acold close views and person neo-Nazi ties.

A antheral   successful  achromatic  stands with a clump   of men successful  camouflage subject   cogwheel  arsenic  reporters inquire  questions.
Denis Kapustin, successful black, the person of an anti-Putin radical of taste Russians, has been identified arsenic a neo-Nazi by the Anti-Defamation League.Credit...Finbarr O'Reilly for The New York Times

Valerie Hopkins

  • May 26, 2023Updated 6:11 p.m. ET

One of the anti-Kremlin groups liable for an equipped incursion into Russia this week, the Russian Volunteer Corps, is led by a far-right extremist described by German officials and humanitarian groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, arsenic a neo-Nazi.

The Volunteer Corps, made up of Russians who reason Vladimir V. Putin’s war, does not person immoderate nationalist affiliation with the Ukrainian Army. But the group’s claims to beryllium warring for Ukraine’s origin contiguous an uncomfortable concern for the authorities successful Kyiv. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has falsely claimed that his state is warring Nazis arsenic a pretext for his country’s invasion, a regular taxable of Kremlin propaganda.

The commandant of the corps — Denis Kapustin, who has agelong utilized the alias Denis Nikitin, but typically goes by his subject telephone sign, White Rex — is simply a Russian national who moved to Germany successful the aboriginal 2000s. He associated with a radical of convulsive shot fans and aboriginal became, according to officials successful the German authorities of North Rhine-Westphalia, “one of the astir influential activists” successful a neo-Nazi splinter of the mixed-martial-arts scene.

He has been barred from entering Europe’s visa-free 27-country Schengen zone.

The Volunteer Corps, known by its Russian initials R.D.K., besides claimed recognition for 2 incidents successful the Russian borderline portion of Bryansk successful March and April. Ukrainian authorities person publically denied immoderate relation successful the warring connected the Russian broadside of the border.

The Russian Volunteer Corps was 1 of 2 groups of Russian fighters that conducted a cross-border onslaught successful the Belgorod portion of confederate Russia that began connected Monday, engaging Russian troops implicit 2 days of skirmishing. The purpose of the incursions, the groups say, is to unit Russia to redeploy soldiers from occupied areas of Ukraine to support its borders, arsenic Ukraine prepares for a counteroffensive.

The 2nd radical was the Free Russia Legion, which operates nether the umbrella of Ukraine’s International Legion, a unit that includes American and British volunteers, arsenic good arsenic Belarusians, Georgians and others. It is overseen by Ukraine’s Armed Forces and commanded by Ukrainian officers. Several 100 Russian fighters person been deployed to the beforehand lines successful eastbound Ukraine, officials said.

At a associated quality league with the Free Russia Legion connected Wednesday, Mr. Kapustin said his radical was not nether the power of the Ukrainian Army, but that the subject had supported his fighters with information, gasoline, nutrient and aesculapian supplies, on with the evacuation of wounded personnel. That assertion could not beryllium independently verified.

Andriy Chernyak, a typical of Ukraine’s subject quality service, said that helium did not person immoderate accusation astir imaginable worldly enactment the Ukrainian subject whitethorn person fixed to members of the R.D.K., but said that “Ukraine decidedly supports each those who are acceptable to combat the Putin regime.”

“People came to Ukraine and said that they privation to assistance america to combat Putin’s regime, truthful of people we fto them, aforesaid arsenic galore different radical from overseas countries,” Mr. Chernyak said.

Ukraine has called the incursions an “internal Russian crisis” fixed that the members of the radical are Russians themselves, and the occurrence plays into a Ukrainian subject nonsubjective of trying to unit Russia to redeploy troops from the beforehand lines to support its borders.

Michael Colborne, a researcher astatine Bellingcat who reports connected the planetary acold right, said helium was hesitant to adjacent telephone the Russian Volunteer Corps a subject unit.

“They are mostly a far-right radical of neo-Nazi exiles who are undertaking these incursions into Russian-held territory who look acold much acrophobic astir making societal media contented than thing else,” Mr. Colborne said.

Some of the different members of the Russian Volunteer Corps photographed during the borderline raids besides person publically embraced neo-Nazi views. One man, Aleksandr Skachkov, was arrested by the Ukrainian Security Services successful 2020 for selling a Russian translation of the achromatic supremacist manifesto of the shooter successful Christchurch, New Zealand, who killed 51 mosque worshipers successful 2019.

Another one, Aleksei Levkin, who filmed a selfie video wearing the R.D.K. insignia, is simply a laminitis of a group called Wotanjugend that started successful Russia but aboriginal moved to Ukraine. Mr. Levkin besides organizes a National Socialist Black Metal Festival, which began successful Moscow successful 2012 but was held successful Kyiv from 2014 until 2019.

Pictures posted online by the fighters earlier this week of unpaid corps members posing successful beforehand of captured Russian instrumentality featured immoderate fighters wearing Nazi-style patches and equipment. One spot depicts a hooded subordinate of the Ku Klux Klan and different shows a Black Sun, a awesome with a beardown transportation to Nazi Germany.

Mr. Colborne said the images of Mr. Kapustin and his fighters could bash harm to Ukraine’s defence by making allies wary that they could beryllium supporting far-right equipped groups.

“I interest that thing similar this could backfire connected Ukraine due to the fact that these are not ambiguous people,” helium said. “These are not chartless people, and they are not helping Ukraine successful immoderate applicable sense.”

Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting from London and Oleg Matsnev from Berlin.

Valerie Hopkins is an planetary analogous for The Times, covering the warfare successful Ukraine, arsenic good arsenic Russia and the countries of the erstwhile Soviet Union. @VALERIEinNYT

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