Russian Volunteer Corps

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Russian Volunteer Corps
Русский добровольческий корпус
LeadersDenis "White Rex" Kapustin
Dates of operation22 August 2022 – present
Allegiance Ukraine
Political positionFar-right
Notable attacks2023 Bryansk Oblast raid
Allies Ukraine
Opponents Russian Federation
Battles and wars

The Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC; Russian: Русский добровольческий корпус, РДК, romanizedRusskiy dobrovolcheskiy korpus, RDK) is a far-right paramilitary unit of Russian citizens, based in Ukraine. It was formed in August 2022, during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, to fight against the government of Vladimir Putin.[2][3][4] The group reportedly consists of Russian emigrants who are primarily united by their opposition to Putin.[2] According to Ukrainian military officials, the group is not a part of the Ukrainian armed forces.[2] Assessments of the ideology of this group vary from far-right and white nationalist[2][4][5][6][7] to neo-Nazi.[8][9] The group positions themselves as right-wing conservative.[1][10] Its leader is reportedly Denis Kapustin, a neo-Nazi who in 2019 was banned from the Schengen Area.[11]

The group claimed responsibility for a March 2023 raid into the Bryansk region of Russia. Since May 2023, it has been launching larger cross-border raids into the Belgorod region of Russia, alongside the Freedom of Russia Legion.

Origin and aims

The Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC) was founded in August 2022[12] The founder and leader of the group is Denis Nikitin, who has been described as a neo-Nazi.[11][13][14][15] According to the Ukrainian news agency Glavcom, the RVC was formed by Russian volunteers who had started fighting for Ukraine in the Azov Regiment and other units in 2014.[16] According to Polish news agency Vot Tak, unlike the Freedom of Russia Legion, the leadership of the RVC does not rely on Russian POWs-turned-defectors, but on Russian right-wing emigrants living in Ukraine.[6]

The RVC says it is made up of ethnic Russians fighting to defend Ukraine against Russia's invasion and to overthrow the government of Vladimir Putin.[2] It asserts Russia's government should abandon its imperial ambitions and instead focus on improving the well-being of ethnic Russians. The RVC say they believe in self-determination for Russia's various ethnic minorities and "want to see a smaller, ethnic Russian state".[5][17]

RVC uses the symbols of the anti-Bolshevik Russian Liberation Army, largely composed of Soviet prisoners of war in German captivity who collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II, but also helped Czech partisans in the Prague uprising against the German occupation.[5][6][18]


According to official RVC statement, their flag is ideological fusion of Victor Larionovs organizations - a person "from whose ideas, principles and beliefs we build off of, drawing parallels of historical and political continuity".[8] Victor Larionov was a member of the anti-communist White movement during the Russian Civil War who, while being exiled in 1930s created a "White Idea" - an organization that in December 1937 would join Russian Fascist party.[19] After Socialist coalition came to power in France in 1938, Larionov, among others was deported to Germany, where he became an employee of "Novoe Slovo" a pro-Nazi newspaper published by Russian émigrés in Berlin between 1933 and 1944. During the war he worked for Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories, was a member of ROA.[19]

In May 2023 RVC posted their official manifesto called "Homo ethnicus". In this manifesto RVC rejects both Liberalism and Communism while presenting a third way - an "Ethnic worldview" encompassing unity by blood and by nation.[8][20][9] Yulia Latynina compared the organization's manifesto to Mein Kampf.[21] In May 2023, Denis Kapustin described himself as a "patriot", a "traditionalist", a "right-winger", but rejected the label "neo-Nazi", saying "you’ll never find me waving a flag with a swastika, you’ll never find me raising my hand in a Hitler salute. So why would you call me that?".[22]

One of the members told DW that their goal is a "true nation-state of Russians in the original Russian territories — taking into account the territorial integrity of Ukraine and Belarus, as well as neighboring countries. We want to establish a state for Russians that lives in peace with all the nations that surround it."[1]


The group gathers its forces through recruiting anti-Putin activists with civilian backgrounds and then coordinates with various political factions that move individuals across borders. Those associated with the RVC come from differing ideological backgrounds. They frequently share nothing other than a mutual opposition to the invasion of Ukraine coupled with the aim of ending the current Russian government.[5]

Reuters has recounted assertions that "RVC fighters [have] received regular salaries from the Ukrainian defence ministry" as well as that the overall "unit [has] numbered up to 200 fighters". However, the news agency has cautioned that these statements have not been independently verified.[5]

Flag of the RVC's Cossack unit

The RVC maintains a "Free Cossack Squad" consisting of Cossack volunteers primarily from the Kuban region of southern Russia with the unit reportedly taking part in the fighting in Avdiivka and Svatove.[23]


According to Ilya Ponomarev, the RVC took part in a press conference on 31 August 2022 with the Freedom of Russia Legion and the National Republican Army when they signed a joint declaration. He claimed that the RVC also agreed to join the agreement.[24][25]

In October 2022, the RVC published its manifesto, identifying itself as "part of Ukraine's Armed Forces", although Ukrainian officials did not immediately comment.[26][27] In March 2023, Ukrainian military officials said the RVC was an independent group.[2] Ilya Ponomarev, political representative of the Freedom of Russia Legion, said the RVC has contacts with the Ukrainian military but operates in a "gray area".[2]


Members of the group include former FSB agent Ilya Bogdanov [ru; uk][28] and former actor Kirill Kanakhin.[29]

Claimed attacks

Bryansk Oblast raid

On 2 March 2023, the Russian authorities claimed that an armed Ukrainian group crossed the border and carried out a "terrorist attack" in the villages of Lyubechane and Sushany, in Bryansk Oblast. Russia said the attackers fired on a car, killing two civilians, before the Federal Security Service forced them back into Ukraine.[30] On 9 March, Russia launched a barrage of missile strikes at Ukrainian civilian infrastructure in what it called "retaliation" for the attack.[31] The Russian Volunteer Corps claimed responsibility for the alleged cross-border raid, and posted videos of armed men in Lyubechane with their insignia, urging Russians to "rise up and fight" against the government.[26]

Ukrainian officials denied involvement, saying it was either a Russian false flag attack or a case of Russians rebelling against their government.[3]

On 6 April 2023, the Russian Volunteer Corps again claimed to have crossed the border into Bryansk Oblast, entering the village of Sluchovsk.[32] While Russian authorities claimed that an attempted incursion was prevented, the Russian Volunteer Corps released video showing them inside the village. During the incursion, combat operations were allegedly carried out.[33]

Belgorod Oblast raids

Members of the Russian Volunteer Corps on 24 May 2023. Denis 'White Rex' is in the middle foreground.

On 22 May 2023, the RVC and the Freedom of Russia Legion launched a larger raid into Russia, this time in Grayvoronsky District, Belgorod Oblast; videos that circulated online showed armed men who said they belonged to the RVC saying they had crossed the border to fight "the bloody Putinite and Kremlin regime".[34] The governor of Belgorod Oblast said that a Ukrainian "sabotage group" had entered the region and that a "counterterrorism regime" was introduced.[35] The paramilitaries reportedly captured several border villages. On 24 May, the RVC held a press conference on the Ukrainian side of the border. Denis 'White Rex' [clarification needed] said they were satisfied with the raid, saying they had seized weapons, an armoured personnel carrier, and taken prisoners before leaving Russian territory after 24 hours. He said that two RVC fighters were wounded and that Ukraine provided support only with medical supplies, fuel and food. Separately, the Freedom of Russia Legion said two of its fighters had been killed and 10 wounded.[36]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Who are the Russian volunteers fighting for Ukraine?". Deutsche Welle. 24 May 2024.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Kremlin accuses Ukraine of violent attack in western Russia". The Washington Post. 2 March 2023.
  3. ^ a b "Kremlin accuses Ukrainian saboteurs of attack inside Russia". Associated Press. 2 March 2023. Archived from the original on 10 March 2023. Retrieved 10 March 2023.
  4. ^ a b "The Interview - Pro-Kyiv Russian group says it 'didn't lose a single soldier' in cross-border raids on Belgorod". France 24. 2023-05-24. Retrieved 2023-05-24.
  5. ^ a b c d e Pikulicka-Wilczewska, Agnieszka; Pikulicka-Wilczewska, Agnieszka (11 May 2023). "How Russians end up in a far-right militia fighting in Ukraine". Reuters.
  6. ^ a b c Попков, Роман (2022-08-24). ""Русский добровольческий корпус", "Легион" и ССО "Азов". Как россияне воюют против Кремля на стороне Украины" ["Russian Volunteer Corps", "Legion" and MTR "Azov". How the Russians are fighting against the Kremlin on the side of Ukraine]. (in Russian). Retrieved 2022-09-01. В отличие от «Легиона "Свобода России"» руководство корпуса делает ставку не на бывших российских военнослужащих, оказавшихся в «Легионе» после сдачи в плен, а на русских правых эмигрантов, живущих в Украине.
  7. ^ "Inside the controversial group of Russian dissidents fighting with Ukraine against Putin". PBS NewsHour. 2023-08-25. Retrieved 2024-03-13.
  8. ^ a b c "«Мы — русские, и мы — не россияне»". DOXA. 2023-06-21. Retrieved 2024-03-13.
  9. ^ a b "«Русский добровольческий корпус» выпустил манифест под названием «Человек этнический»". Meduza (in Russian). Retrieved 2024-03-13.
  10. ^ "Who's behind the attack on a Russian region bordering Ukraine?". AP News. 24 May 2024.
  11. ^ a b Kilner, James (4 March 2023). "The Russian neo-Nazi hooligan who led an anti-Putin militia across the border". The Telegraph.
  12. ^ "Russian Volunteer Corps fighters claim to have again infiltrated Russian territory – video". The New Voice of Ukraine. 22 May 2023 – via Yahoo News.
  13. ^ "Denis Kapustin". Anti-Defamation League. 6 June 2023.
  14. ^ "Der Neonazi-Krieger" (in German). Der Spiegel. 14 February 2019. Retrieved 25 May 2023. The neo-Nazi is officially registered on the ground floor of a grey apartment building. Nikitin, who was born in Moscow, spent his youth here.
  15. ^ "Leader of Russian Volunteer Corps Placed on Interior Ministry Wanted List". The Moscow Times. 27 March 2023.
  16. ^ "Российская оппозиция начинает вооруженное сопротивление Путину: подписано декларацию" [Russian Opposition Starts Armed Resistance to Putin: Declaration Signed]. Главком | Glavcom (in Russian). 2022-08-31. Retrieved 2022-09-01.
  17. ^ "Explainer: Which Russian Far-Right Groups are Fighting in Ukraine?". The Moscow Times. 24 March 2023.
  18. ^ Julicher, Peter (2015). "Enemies of the People" Under the Soviets: A History of Repression and Its Consequences. McFarland. p. 171. ISBN 9780786496716.
  19. ^ a b Викторович, Суржик Дмитрий (2020). "ГАЛЛИПОЛИЕЦ-ТЕРРОРИСТ-ЮГЕНДФЮРЕР: ВИКТОР АЛЕКСАНДРОВИЧ ЛАРИОНОВ". Исторический формат (3 (23)): 53–59.
  20. ^ Weise, Peter (29 May 2023). "Homo ethnicus / Человек этнический". Retrieved 2024-03-13.
  21. ^ "«Код доступа» с Юлией Латыниной: Как я ошиблась". ЭХО (in Russian). Retrieved 2024-03-13.
  22. ^ "Leader of anti-Putin force says expect more Russian border raids". Al Jazeera. 25 May 2023.
  23. ^ Бондаренко, Диана. "Приехали с Кубани и вступили в РДК: российские казаки воюют на стороне ВСУ под Авдеевкой". Focus. Retrieved 18 March 2024.
  24. ^ ""Русский добровольческий корпус", легион "Свобода России" и "Национальная республиканская армия" РФ подписали декларацию о сотрудничестве" ["Russian Volunteer Corps", Legion "Freedom of Russia" and "National Republican Army" of the Russian Federation signed a declaration of cooperation "]. (in Russian). 31 August 2022. Retrieved 2022-09-01.
  25. ^ "Илья Пономарев опубликовал "Ирпенскую декларацию" российской оппозиции: "Вооруженное сопротивление путинскому фашизму"" [Ponomarev published the "Irpen Declaration" of the Russian opposition: "Armed resistance to Putin's fascism"]. (in Russian). 2022-08-31. Retrieved 2022-09-01.
  26. ^ a b "'Fear your partisans' A volunteer unit led by a Russian neo-Nazi raided a small town and crossed back into Ukraine. Meduza explains the bizarre incursion and what it could mean for the war". Meduza. Retrieved 3 March 2023.
  27. ^ Kilner, James (4 March 2023). "The Russian neo-Nazi hooligan who led an anti-Putin militia across the border". The Telegraph. Retrieved 6 March 2023. It is based in Ukraine, although it is not clear if it has the official backing of the Ukrainian army or government.
  28. ^ Roth, Andrew (24 May 2023). "'We are Russians just like you': anti-Putin militias enter the spotlight". The Guardian.
  29. ^ "В нападении на Брянскую область участвовал актер Кирилл Канахин — Mash" [Actor Kirill Kanakhin took part in the attack on the Bryansk region - Mash]. EADaily (in Russian). 3 March 2023.
  30. ^ "Russia accuses Ukraine of cross-border attack in Bryansk". Retrieved 13 March 2023.
  31. ^ "Updates: Russia pounds Ukraine in 'retaliation' for border attack". Retrieved 13 March 2023.
  32. ^ "Moscow Says Foiled Bid By Ukraine 'Saboteurs' to Enter Russia". Moscow Times. AFP. April 6, 2023.
  33. ^ "Russian Volunteer Corps attacks Bryansk Oblast again". 6 April 2023. Archived from the original on 6 April 2023. Retrieved 6 April 2023.
  34. ^ "Russian regional governor says Ukrainian 'sabotage group' crossed border". Reuters. 22 May 2023. Retrieved 22 May 2023.
  35. ^ "Russian Border Region Says Ukrainian 'Sabotage' Unit Carried Out Incursion". The Moscow Times. 22 May 2023.
  36. ^ "Belgorod: Russian paramilitary group vows more incursions". BBC News. 24 May 2023.

External links