Two allegedly Russian groups have claimed responsibility for the attack on Russia’s Belgorod region from Ukraine. It was the largest attack on Russia since the beginning of the war. What is known so far about the attackers.
The militias behind the attack on Belgorod
The “Russian Volunteer Corps” emerged in March claiming to have entered Russia in the Bryansk border region for the first time. It is led by Denis Nikitin (actually Kapustin), a well-known figure in the hooligan and right-wing extremist scene. According to the North Rhine-Westphalian Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Kapustin, who was born in Russia, had lived in North Rhine-Westphalia for almost 20 years, but his residence permit expired in 2019. According to this, he has been living in Ukraine since 2019. Russia classifies him as “terrorists” a.
At the beginning of the war, Kapustin called on his Telegram channel in German and English to come to Ukraine to fight alongside Kiev, according to the 2022 report for the protection of the constitution.
The founder of the right-wing extremist martial arts brand “White Rex” appeared in the previous years in the reports of the authorities with his label as an organizer of martial arts events: With “White Rex” be him “active throughout Europe” and have “contributed significantly to “to professionalize the right-wing extremist martial arts scene”writes the North Rhine-Westphalian authority around 2019. Kapustin also taught martial arts training in Germany and other European countries.
Also the second militia involved in the attack in Belgorod, the force created in early 2022 “Freedom of Russia”is considered by Moscow “terrorist” classified. Its political leader is former Russian MP Ilya Ponomarev, who was the only one who voted against the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and subsequently emigrated to Ukraine.
In the Ukrainian media coverage of the latest attack in Belgorod, a representative of the militia appeared under an alias “Caesar” in the foreground. The AFP news agency interviewed him on Ukraine’s eastern front in December.
he fights “against the regime of Vladimir Putin”he said at the time, describing himself as a Russian patriot and “right-wing nationalists”. He comes from St. Petersburg and is a physiotherapist. The Russian investigative portal Agentstvo attributes him to the right-wing extremist nationalist scene. Both groups claim to have hundreds of fighters.
The targets of the attackers
The declared aim of both groups is to overthrow Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin. The “Russian Volunteer Corps” according to its own statements, undertakes reconnaissance and sabotage operations on Russian territory. The operations in Ukraine would be coordinated with the Ukrainian army, on Russian territory the corps acted independently, said a fighter with an alias “fortune” told AFP in March. The corps fight for “a Russian nation-state on the territory of the majority ethnic Russian regions”said one of his representatives, Vladimir “cardinal”the independent Russian online medium Sota in April.
the militia “Freedom for Russia” describes itself as a group of “partisans”the “a new, free Russia” want to build. According to its website, the group is organizing attacks on Russia’s military and railway infrastructure. “Caesar” announced on Ukrainian television after the attack in Belgorod the scale of the operations “increase over time”.
Kyiv speaks of one “internal” problem of Russia and is silent about possible links to the two groups, which themselves do not provide any information about their financiers. Ponomarev told British radio LBC this week that Ukrainians “help us train our armed forces and provide us with the necessary equipment”. The militia stated on Twitter that they had French RT61 mortars.
According to the Russian authorities, mortars, artillery and drones were used in the attack by the militias in Belgorod. The attackers themselves released videos from an armored personnel carrier allegedly belonging to Russia’s domestic intelligence agency FSB, which controls border guard troops.
The reaction of Russia
The Kremlin stressed that the attackers were Ukrainian fighters and not Russian insurgents. Moscow accuses Kiev of planning the attack to distract attention from its own defeat in Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. The popular Telegram channel Rybar said the attacks were aimed at Ukraine in Russia “to spread panic”.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.