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A brutal Russian paramilitary group active in Ukraine called for border intelligence on nearby NATO states: report

Business Insider logo Business Insider 12/12/2022 (Mia Jankowicz)
Latvian guards patrol the border with Russia in Lavosnieki, Latvia, in an image taken on January 29, 2017. Ints Kalnins/Reuters © Ints Kalnins/Reuters Latvian guards patrol the border with Russia in Lavosnieki, Latvia, in an image taken on January 29, 2017. Ints Kalnins/Reuters
  • A Russian paramilitary group asked for intel on Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, The Guardian reported.
  • The call raised concerns about "rogue actions" in NATO states, a source told the paper. 
  • It also suggests that the Kremlin is losing control over loyalist paramilitaries, the paper said. 

A neo-Nazi group fighting on behalf of Russia in Ukraine has called for data on military movements in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, raising concerns over a potential rogue attack on a NATO member state, The Guardian reported.

Task Force Rusich, which has close ties to the Wagner Group paramilitary group and has been highly active in Ukraine, posted the appeal on its official Telegram channel on December 7, the paper reported. 

Viewed by more than 60,000 members, the post asked for information regarding border posts, military movements and units in the three former Soviet states, the outlet said. The post asked for specifics on communication towers, security systems, and fuel depots in border areas, per The Guardian.

All three countries share a land border with Russia.

President Vladimir Putin has leaned heavily on the Wagner Group in Ukraine and in other military exploits, but the Guardian reported that it is unclear whether Rusisch is receiving direct orders from Wagner or, indeed, the Kremlin. 

A source who spoke anonymously to the British newspaper said it was unlikely the Kremlin was at the root of the request, but suggested that its control over sympathetic paramilitaries such as Rusich may be unraveling.

"Does it indicate fragmentation within the Russian system?" the source said. "What happens if the Russians lose control of [the paramilitary groups] and they start committing rogue actions that could accidentally escalate the situation? The real question is: how much control does the Kremlin really have?"

Evgeny Prighozin, the Wagner Group's founder, has previously denied an October report in The Washington Post that he had personally confronted President Vadimir Putin over the progress of the war. 

All three countries mentioned by Rusich's post are NATO member states, raising concerns over moves that could escalate the war.

Last month a missile landed on Polish territory, killing two people. After initial suggestions that it was Russian, the missile was ultimately assessed to have been an unintended byproduct of Ukraine's air defense system responding to a Russian attack.

But the incident raised questions about how NATO would follow through on its doctrine of defending any member state from attack.

According to the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), Rusich has fought alongside Russia-backed proxies in the Donbas since 2015, where it was filmed committing atrocities against Ukrainian prisoners. Rusich forces have also been seen fighting in Kherson, The Guardian reported. 

The group, known for its brutality, openly advocated torture of prisoners in September, The Guardian reported at the time. They have been deployed in the current conflict since at least April, and have participated in fighting in Kharkiv, per reporting in The Times of London and The Telegraph

Correction: December 12, 2022 — An earlier version of this story stated that Lithuania does not border Russia. In fact it does, via the Russian region of Kaliningrad.


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