Although the ceasefire in the Donbas appears to be holding for now and although the world’s attention has shifted from Ukraine to Syria and the EU refugee crisis, Moscow continues to openly prepare mercenaries for the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics” in camps around the country.
But as disturbing as this reality is for Ukraine, it may be a threat to Russia itself because among the instructors in these camps are not only veterans of the war in Ukraine but also Russian neo-Nazis and other national extremists, according to illustrated stories the organizers have posted online.
And lest anyone think that these camps are simply a holdover from the period of the most intense Russian aggression against Ukraine, it should be pointed out that the last intake of recruits to one of them near Moscow occurred not months ago but on September 26-27, 2015, and involved some 300 young men, according to their organizers.
In his report for Vlada.io, Denis Kazansky reproduces pictures offered by the organizers of these camps as well as summarizing what they say on their websites. Both the pictures and the declarations of the militants are frightening not only for Ukrainians but also for Russians concerned about their future.
“In Russia,” Kazansky writes, “camps for the preparation of mercenaries of the DNR and LNR openly operate and in which the terrorists train themselves and also instruct in the art of war youths of school age,” with courses on using weapons and killing Ukrainians. Some of these camps are situated “not far from the Russian capital.”
These training centers clearly enjoy the support of at least some in the Moscow Patriarchate – priests are shown blessing the once and future combatants – and they could not be functioning without the knowledge and almost certainly the approval of at least some elements of the Russian government.
What is especially disturbing is the participation as instructors of fighters who display openly racist and neo-Nazi views, views that threaten Ukrainians whom the inductees are trained to hate as well as Russians who may not share their views and against whom such militants might be used in the future.
The existence of these camps and the fact that they operate entirely openly suggests that Moscow wants to have a reliable source of cadres in the event it renews its military aggression in Ukraine and that some in Moscow want to make sure that they have the ability to push Russia in the direction they want, by force if necessary.