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Occupied Crimea head creates private armies ahead of Ukraine’s offensive

Crimea offensive 2023 private armies
Anticipating Ukraine’s counteroffensive, the Russian-appointed head of occupied Crimea is creating private armies. Photo: social media, via Ukrainska Pravda
Occupied Crimea head creates private armies ahead of Ukraine’s offensive
As the number of explosions in occupied Crimea rise ahead of Ukraine’s 2023 offensive, the illegitimate head Aksyonov creates private armies and fortifications.

Sergey Aksyonov, the self-proclaimed head of the Russian-annexed Republic of Crimea since February 2014 has created two private armies in Crimea to protect the occupation administrations and local businesses, as well as creating fortifications throughout the occupied peninsula, Ukrainska Pravda reports.

The Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine is convinced that the main reason for this is the fear of the Ukrainian Army’s 2023 offensive, which will likely include Crimea.

“They clearly understand that there will be hostilities on the territory of Crimea, and they are now building fortifications and defense lines not only in Crimea but also in the south of Kherson Oblast,” Andrii Cherniak, a representative of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of Ukraine, told Ukrainska Pravda.

“These private armies were created to protect the occupation administrations because of the uncertainty that the armed forces of the Russian Federation will be able to protect them. And secondly, they are not confident in the integrity of the Russian Federation. If Russia starts to ‘fall,’ then they have the PMCs, which will protect their possessions, families.”

To date, Aksyonov has created two volunteer battalions on the peninsula: “Tavrida” and “Livadia,” according to Ukrainska Pravda.

Both are concentrated on directions important for the Russian occupiers — Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, the gateways to annexed Crimea. These formations mainly comprise the paramilitary movement of the Russian Cossacks and former anti-Maidan activists who participated in the peninsula’s annexation in 2014. Currently, they are fighting alongside the Russian Army in southern Ukraine, near Enerhodar.

An umbrella organization for the network of Cossack groups in Crimea was created in 2020, as part of the “All-Russian Cossack community,” headed by Nikolai Doluda.

Head of the Russian umbrella “All-Russian Cossack community” Nikolai Doluda / Photo: social media, via Ukrainska Pravda

Receiving money from the Russian federal budget for promoting “Cossack culture,” the paramilitary movement serves as an instrument of Russian soft power and militarizes children by operating youth organizations.

Altogether, at least 10 Cossack formations are engaged in Russia’s war against Ukraine, comprising roughly 16,000 people:

  • “Consolidated Cossack Brigade” (“Don,” “Yermak,” “Kuban,” “Taurida,” “Yenisei”)
  • Battalions “Terek,” “Skif,” “Siberia”
  • Battalions “Tigr,” “Step,” “Forstadt”
  • 1st volunteer Cossack detachment named after Zakhariy Chapega.

The Cossack paramilitary movement is also supported by the Russian Orthodox Church, in whose dioceses relevant liaison units were created for interacting with the “Cossackdom.”

More about the Cossacks and the Russian Orthodox Church’s support for them here:

Anatomy of treason: how the Ukrainian Orthodox Church sold its soul to the “Russian world”

On the airwaves of Russian TV channels, people related to the Russian-appointed chief of occupied Crimea Aksyonov say that now they are financed and equipped personally by him.However, according to Ukrainian intelligence, the sources of funding go beyond Aksyonov and include the Russian Ministry of Defense and Crimean businessmen.

“We know that Aksyonov gathered Crimean businessmen and forced them to raise funds to finance this private military company,” says Andriy Cherniak. “On one hand, they are forced to do so, but on the other hand, they also want to protect themselves and their possessions.”

According to Ukraine’s intelligence, the Crimean authorities fill the ranks of these PMCs in several ways: vi: amnesty for prisoners, recruitment, and mobilization. Aksyonov’s fighters are offered a salary of 200,000-250,000 rubles ($2,500-3,100). They are also well-equipped and provided with weapons, artillery and light armored vehicles.

“They are primarily trying to attract the population of Crimea, but in addition, they are taking measures throughout the territory of Russia,” says Andrii Cherniak.

In addition to combat units, territorial defense forces are also being formed in Crimea. According to Aksyonov’s assistant Anton Syrotkin, currently, about 5,000 residents of the Crimean Peninsula have already received appropriate training.

These units are mainly patrolling and will protect local administrations and businesses.

Apart from creating private armies and fortified districts, internal work with the pro-Ukrainian population is also carried out in Crimea.

“They are conducting filtering measures to identify and pressure people who cheer for the fact that ‘Crimea is Ukraine’,” Cherniak says.


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