Multiple Russia-backed private armies operated in the Ukrainian Donbas region back in 2014 and 2015. Some of them were small armed groups mostly consisting of local criminals, others were detachments consisting of the members on Russia-based “patriotic organizations” such as various Don Cossack societies and far-right organizations, trained in Russia and in occupied Crimea. Finally, with the Russian security service FSB controlling law enforcement in the area, the Russian Army’s mercenaries and regulars conducted military operations against Ukrainian forces, controlled the above-mentioned militias, and were arresting or assassinating the chieftains and militants who defied Moscow orders. In 2015-2016, most of the Russian paramilitary groups operating in the Donbas were either united by the Russian military in two Army Corps in the occupied regional capital cities of Luhansk and Donetsk, or unarmed and disbanded.
A Russian far-right “patriotic” organization turned into the private military company E.N.O.T. Corp is a perfect example of how Russia used its far-right organizations in the Ukrainian territory.
Here is the translated article by RFE/RL Ukraine that shows the involvement of the Russian military intelligence GRU in the activities of the PMC in Ukraine. Further editorial comments by Euromaidan Press give more details on what exactly the E.N.O.T. did in Ukraine.[/editorial]
Charged by Russian law enforcers with theft, robbery, extortion, and banditry, members of the so-called Regional NGO United People’s Civil Societies also known as the private military company E.N.O.T. testified in a Russian court against their leaders, according to Russian newspaper “Kommersant.”
They state that Russian active-duty servicemen performed PMC’s most crucial tasks. Among them was GRU officer Denis Karaban. Karaban, defendants said, conducted training in unarmed combat, and served “somewhere near Nizhny Novgorod.” He helped the E.N.O.T members when they went on the so-called “humanitarian mission trips” to the Donbas. The outlet stresses that his lawyers did not point out Karaban’s connections to the Ministry of Defense of Russia.
The commander of the PMC E.N.O.T. was Roman Telenkevich. He approved all important decisions, tasked others and gave them orders. The person responsible for “ideology” was Eugeny Morozov who also kept financial accounts.
Technical support of the PMC was conducted by Vasily Minchik. His lawyers stated that their client was a military and was decorated with state and departmental awards for participation in humanitarian operations.
One of the defendants also told that in late 2016 [already in Russia], the operatives of the Russian security service FSB and Investigative Committee asked the PMC to participate in a search, the PMC members were dressed in camouflage clothing and operated under the guise of the operatives of special forces. Then those who were searched notified the disappearance of nine million rubles to law enforcers.
For this operation, one of the PMC members received a “gratitude sign” for helping the FSB – 2,000 rubles ($32) and a mobile phone, according to “Kommersant.”
The Investigative Committee of Russia declared the PMC E.N.O.T. a criminal organization whose members “under the guise of patriotic propaganda, were committing crimes as members of a criminal group,” allegedly organized by the FSB.
Most participants of the PMC headed by Telenkevich have been under arrest. Suspected in the organization of the criminal gang were two operatives of the FSB Directorate for the city and region of Moscow, majors Alexander Mryshchuk and Anton Baryakshev. They were detained but later released from custody.[editorial]
In the interview with Novaya Gazeta, Vladimir Khomyakov, one of E.N.O.T. leaders, disclosed details of their activities in Ukraine. According to him, E.N.O.T. members were in Kyiv amid the Euromaidan protests, “participated in clashes” alongside Cossacks and Berkut (police special force loyal to then pro-Russian president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych) at Crimean Isthmus. Later another high-profile member of the PMC, Igor Druz, joined the armed group of Igor Girkin in Sloviansk, where the group de-facto triggered the Donbas war, turning the turmoil into military actions. Later E.N.O.T. Corp secured transporting 14 Russian “humanitarian cargos” to the occupied Donbas. Khomyakov says that members of the PMC fought against Ukraine in Chornukyne amid the Debaltseve Battle (late 2014 – early 2015), and brags,
“[The E.N.O.T. members] had time to wipe out Isa Munaev, the Chechen who fought for Ukraine and in whose honor the [Ukrainian parliament] Rada held a moment of silence. Belka [call sign of GRU operative Denis Karaban] destroyed him.”
Later the PMC trained mercenaries for the Donbas in Russia. As Khoyakov specifies,
“Those who came were Bulgarians, Serbs, Montenegrins, Belarusians. From LNR [“Luhansk people’s republic”] a whole cohort of students from a military school came. Everything was legal, the events were agreed at the top level, Russia’s FSB and MVD [Interior Ministry] new everything.”
Finally, when the PMC leaders fell out of graces of its Kremlin handlers, most of the group members were arrested in Russia in 2018. Now they are being tried in court in Russia as criminals and their testimonies shed light on their activities in Ukraine.[/editorial]
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