When pro-Moscow militants return from Ukraine to Russia…

Russian mercenaries in Ukraine

Russian mercenaries in Ukraine  

Analysis & Opinion, Russia

Yesterday, Nikolay Patrushev, secretary of Putin’s Security Council, warned that Russia will face a serious terrorist threat if and when militants from Russia who have been fighting with various Islamist groups in the Middle East return home.

But he said nothing about what may be a more immediate and serious threat: the return to the Russian Federation of pro-Moscow “volunteers” who have been fighting in Ukraine, a group that is far more numerous than the relative handful of those in the Middle East and that consists largely but not exclusively of ethnic Russians.

Patrushev’s concentration on Islamist groups, of course, reflects Moscow’s desire to position itself with European countries and the West more generally as a potential victim of Islamist violence and thus to suggest to its own population and to the West that any measures it takes against such people are justified.

Russia’s record of dealing with the return of large numbers of people who have fought abroad either under orders from the government or freelance is not encouraging. In 1825, the Russian government brutally suppressed the Decembrist Uprising against the monarchy that was led by Russian officers who had seen Europe in the Napoleonic wars and hoped for better future at home.

After World War II, Stalin secured Western help in the forced repatriation of five million Soviet citizens who had found themselves abroad as a result of that conflict, executing many and sending many more to the GULAG lest they challenge his order. And even after his death, these people suffered the stigma of having that experience abroad recorded in their documents.

More recently, the veterans of the Soviet campaign in Afghanistan – the so-called “Afgantsy” – sparked a crime wave at the end of Soviet times and formed a significant portion of the criminal underworld in the 1990s, where their ranks were swelled by Russians demobilized after fighting in the two post-Soviet Chechen wars.

Now, with thousands of Russian citizens who have been sent to fight in Ukraine by Moscow or who have volunteered to do so at the point of a possible return, Moscow faces at least three challenges about which Patrushev and his colleagues in the Kremlin are likely concerned even if they do not speak about it yet in public.

First, most of these groups have been radicalized by the experience of fighting in the Donbas and support radical groups, some allied with Putin like the Anti-Maidan but others very much not. They are thus likely to become involved in street politics, and because of their experience with weaponry, they are likely to become increasingly violent.

The experience of the Freikorps movements in Germany in the 1920s whose members helped power the rise of Hitler may be instructive in this regard. The Nazis were delighted to have their backing, until Hitler took power. Then, recognizing the threat such people posed because of their radicalism, they were suppressed in the Rohm Purge and other actions.

Second, some of those “veterans” of the Ukrainian fighting who do not become politically active are likely to move into the Russian criminal world, leading to possibly dramatic rises in violent crime. That prospect is all the more likely given the dire economic straits many of them will face on returning home.

And third, those non-Russians who have gone to fight for Moscow in Ukraine are likely to create problems as well. While they are not terribly numerous except for the Chechens, some of their number are likely to be radicalized as well, and on returning home, they may turn their anger either at their own non-Russian governments or at the Moscow authorities who back them.

In either case, they too will present a problem for Putin, yet another unfortunate result for Russia and Russians of his criminal policies in Ukraine.

Edited by: A. N.

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  • Vlad Pufagtinenko

    Its all good.

  • chios

    Let us see…
    The Us government has helped, for 4 years now, “rebel fighters” in Syria.
    That crowd has turned in an organised state, ISIL, DAESH, their fancy Toyotas and Nike boots, and colorfull beheadings….
    Who are they?
    Are they still helping the US?
    Think of it, when the Us says that it will take them 15 to 30 years to crush them…

    This article is pushing the idea that the people in Dombass fighting against the Kiev government armies are dangerous extremist, and it is sure that some of them are people with extreme nationalistic views. But then, is it not evidence that only people with extremist views are able to risk their lives fotr the principles they stand for? And we of course should question their motives.

    But if we look at the Dombass, we have people who didn’t agree with the oveerthrow of the government they had chosen.

    For me it is the exact equivalent of the Spanish civil war of 1936….
    Many good people back then, like André Malraux, the future french Minister of Culture after the war, the writer of 1984, George Orwell…and many others, went to fight in Spain, as volunteers and also remember Guernica, the Picasso’s masterpiece…
    It all went wrong, and they lost. Franco was in power for the next forty years.

    But than, my question is, you Ukrainians, , on what side, Franco or the Republicans, are you?


    • caap02

      It’s Donbas, not “Dombass”.

      The conflict in the Donbas is NOT a civil war and it is not comparable to the Spanish Civil War. The conflict in the Donbas was planned, initiated, executed, managed, financed and staffed by the Kremlin. It took them over 8 months to find a local who could pretend to be the pretend “leader” of this pretend “rebellion” (and the best they could do was the troglodyte Zakharchenko)- prior to that ALL the “leaders” of the “rebellion” were ethnic Russian citizens from Russia who curiously enough had also been in Transdniesteria and/or Crimea and/or other areas where Russians had sent their military. The start of this conflict came with the seizure of key building (radas, police HQ etc) in several Donbas cities and towns. These seizures were executed by well-armed, well-trained, well-dressed Russian forces.

      • Michel Cloarec

        Your comment is right. Problem is, that it is only people with democratical values who understand, The other facist putinoid do not think so ! But keep on the good work !

    • Brent

      Look at the freshly released troll and his question to “you Ukrainians”….now doesn’t that tell us a lot about “Comrade Chios”!

      You claim the U.S. helped the ‘rebel fighters’ in Syria for 4 years. Interesting. Can your provide some proof of that or is this just Russian propaganda? Here’s a link you should read (most trolls refuse to) and it’s not even from the evil Liberal Western Main Stream Media you all love to denounce. It’s from Al Jazeera, and as you know they are mid Eastern so I hope we both can accept their ‘timeline’ as being legitimate.

      Now back to the fight in Ukraine….”overthrow of the government”….yeah, I always take issue when a troll who claims a coward President who flees his country was ‘overthrown’, especially after he ordered the murder of innocent protesters and was also incredibly corrupt and robbed from his country and people billions of dollars. I’m sure you and I are going to debate this further, But you’d better be better prepared to back your claims of an ‘overthrow’ and be versed in the platform Yanukovych ran on in 2010 and how he refused to sign the EU Association agreement in November of 2013 even though his government claimed it was going to. No one is disputing he was democratically elected in 2010, but he sure did not run his government or follow through on the change he promised Ukraine voters. Any such leader is a democratic country can face leaving office before the end of his mandate if he does not fulfill the promised mandate.

      You can draw the comparison to Spain’s ‘civil war’ all you like. However, can you point out any ‘outside forces’ that INITIATED that civil war along the lines of your “Comrade Strelkov” and the Russian forces who participated in both Crimea and Donbass prior to any supposed ‘civil war’ actually occurring? Ukraine’s forces stayed in their barracks in Crimea AFTER Russia’s ‘little green men’ were sent in by Putin in order not to create a war, and were not sent into Donbass until after “Strelkov” and his Russian troops had already seized Ukrainian government buildings. A bit of a difference to your Spanish Civil War scenario, n’est ce pas?
      All of Putin’s bluster and b.s. about having to ‘protect Russian speakers’, but no one has been to show any evidence they were ever in danger….

      Oh and one last thing. If you promote the rights of those ‘standing for their principles’ to secede from a country, can you explain why Russia did not allow that in Chechnya or Dagestan? Can you explain why the rights and principles of the majority of citizens who DO NOT want to secede to Russia are being trampled on by the vocal minority that do?

    • Michel Cloarec

      What is a dangerous extremist ?

      What does a dangerous extremist ?

      Sign an agreement ?

      Respect agreement ?

      Read what the Gauleiter od DPR says today !

      “At the moment we fully follow the Minsk Agreement. We have withdrawn the heavy weaponry. We are getting ready for the sowing campaign. We are living peaceful life, we are engaged in constructive work and will be doing everything necessary for the peaceful life. And Ukraine, which is used to solving its issues with the help of war, will lose the country sooner or later”, — added the head of the DPR.”

      Another lies from the majorgeneral of dpr .

      “The debt of Ukraine of social payments to citizens of the Donetsk People’s Republic is 100 billion UAN, the head of the DPR Alexandr Zaharchenko reported.

      Pension payments interruptions, credits and social payments for children and salaries for state employees began in Summar, and the Ministry Cabinet took official decision to freeze all payments for citizens who live in the territory of the DPR and LPR.”
      Redan in spring 2014 , the terrorists stole all funds from Kiew which were supposed to pay for the salaries of civil servants, the pensions and social benefits. They needed money to arm themselves. When they had enough weapons they started to attack the ATO forces who were sent to Donbas to stop the anarchy of the so-called separatists. They knew that the people would suffer with the lack of money. But they did not hesitate one second to rob what they could. I am sure that the majorgeneral never had lack of bread and food, he has the dpr wallet.
      Therefore this man and his croonies humiliated and fooled by putins as useful idiots can´t give up ! How does it feel for them to be the servants of a dictator , can I imagine . But that is what all the dictators do. The dictator ordered to destroy, they destroy, clap in handies, bravo ! Now you have nothing in your small so-called republics than to receive worthless medals and clap on your shoulders for services rendered to the loving russia and the POK of kremlin.
      As the spanish would say FACISM NO PASSERA ! Without putin and his army you are nothing than a gang of opportunists who should go back to work to rebuild what you have destroyed on orders from kremlin. Even if a working life is maybe not as attractive than a lazy cards play time in bunkers. You have no choices, putin will destroy you exactly when he will be tired with you and your claims of so-called dpr/lpr democracy which is a myth from the bolcheviks times. Putin is not a democrat, so stop this BS, he will or send some specials thugs to get rid of you . GO HOME , GO TO WORK,

  • disqus_aJpixObjG7

    There are NO REBELS in UKRAINE because there is NO CIVIL WAR,
    NO REBELLION. Report clearly from the perspective of TRUTH. There is a RUSSIAN
    INVASION of UKRAINE BY russian FASCIST FORCES. Anyone who brings the word nazi
    or fascist in a reportage re UKRAINE is in fact an ACTIVE PUTINIST.


    At this point the farce has developed to typical repetitive macchiavellian
    historical proportions.

    It is a BLACK AND WHITE story of GOOD AGAINST EVIL of UKRAINE defending itself against
    russia. It is a story of Abominable cowardice, abominable betrayal, abominable
    appeasement on the part of the West.

    A neo fascist, illegitimate, unelected (“elected” by massive electoral fraud)
    dictator and his neo fascist regime

    (78% of the Russian Duma are neo nazi, neo fascist and /or extreme right

    invades a neighboring sovereign nation.

    He invades to punish it, to reconquer it for the crime of rising up en masse in
    a people’s revolution, overthrowing a murderous russian puppet who actively
    worked to destroy Ukraine and on the side embezzled over 100 billion dollars of
    state funds.

    In response, the West –all its politicians and all its media- rushes, scurries
    to the Kremlin to kneel behind the mass muderer Putin and get a long brown

    Ukraine does not need to ASK NATO for help because great Britain and the USA
    together with France and China are LEGALLY BOUND by the Budapest Memorandum to
    do- WITHOUT ANY ASKING- all that is necessary to drive russian invaders and
    their murderous terrorist proxies out of Ukraine, which includes Crimea, and to
    secure Ukraine’s borders.

    This implies not just the LEGALLY BINDING RESPONSIBILITY to supply Ukraine with
    overwhelming modern weaponry but also to provide ALL the “boots” on the ground
    as well as air and naval power needed to quickly accomplish this.

    So any talk of perhaps, maybe, one day considering to eventually propose to
    think about and possibly discuss the abstract idea of deciding to supply arms
    to Ukraine” is simply ILLEGAL AND CRIMINAL-

    a negation of international law and Legally binding obligations.

    As putin, the illegitimate neo fascist dictator pursues his goal of creating
    another NORTH KOREA ON A MASSIVE SCALE, the entire post-decadent and now
    degenerate West, scurries to appease the criminal russian dictator, but offers
    NO HELP WHATSOEVER to Ukraine.

    The left and the neo nazis of Europe and America have revealed their true
    fundamentally identical twin nature. They have revealed their pervert
    incestuous love affair, and entered into a three-way love affair with putin.

    SHELL UKRAINIAN. CIVILIANS after every russian “humanitarian” convoy
    brings thousands of tons of rockets mortars and artillery shells the russian
    FASCIST BANDITS start up again shooting them at UKRAINIAN PEOPLE