Russia plans to send violent football fans known as “hooligans” or “ultras” to Ukraine to bolster its military numbers as the conflict enters its 11th month.
Rebekah Koffler, president of Doctrine & Strategy Consulting and former DIA intelligence officer, told Fox News Digital: “He keeps fighter jets flowing into Ukraine using hooligans, prisoners and all sorts of thugs to prevent Ukraine from becoming part of NATO.
“[Russian President Vladimir] Putin and his administration see the outcome of this war as existential for Russia and for themselves,” she added.
Last month, news broke that Putin was trying to recruit radical Russian football fans to fight in Ukraine as part of the 106th Airborne Division and Vostok Battalion.
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The unit, known as ‘Espanola’, includes recruits from club supporter groups such as CSKA Moscow, Zenit St. Petersburg, Spartak Moscow and Lokomotiv Moscow, according to the Daily Mirror.
Stanislav “The Spaniard” Orlov, commander of the hooligans, said that the death of one of their members during the battle prompted the others to “stay and fight”, saying, “Our comrades are here. and now this is where we are.”
“The combat part of the detachment is people who have military experience or have served in the army,” Orlov explained to the Russian news agency Vechernyaya Moskva. “After a short training course, they fight directly in the zone of special operations. Russian fans either form small infantry reconnaissance and assault groups or send them to sappers and engineering works.”
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“On the basis of the Vostok detachment, newcomers will be trained to shoot automatic and large-caliber weapons, trained in sapper operations, conducted reconnaissance, combat drone flights, and honed tactical training from morning till night.” He added, emphasizing that there are “no jokes” among the group and that “hundreds” want to participate in the operation.
At the outset of the war, Putin had the support of Chechen mercenaries, but then the war dragged on for months longer than the Russian military expected, and attempts to recruit Syrian mercenaries and prisoners of war to reinforce the army failed. did.
A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department told Fox News Digital that while the State Department “is not in a position to confirm these reports,” it is “another sign that Putin is raking in additional personnel to put into this fight. For an unnecessary, brutal and failed war of aggression. Putin has repeatedly chosen to escalate rather than withdraw his troops to stop this needless loss of life. Did.
In 2018, as the world watched Russia stage the 2018 World Cup, Putin said he would ban his country’s hooligans from attending the games. Now he seems to have returned the fans to the enclosure to help increase the numbers of his army.
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Russian fans famously attacked English supporters during a European Cup match in 2016, and two men were killed after hooligans allegedly “launched a paramilitary-like urban guerrilla attack”. The BBC reported that he was imprisoned.
Koffler explained that hooligans started leaving Russia for Ukraine when the government first started cracking down on violence in stadiums, but when Putin announced partial mobilization in September, those fans gathered in Russia.
“When Russia announced partial mobilization, Andrei Malosorov, founder of the All-Russian Fan Association, said in an interview with radio station Moscow Speaks that 500 football ultras would volunteer to fight in Donbass. We announced that we had formed a subdivision,” Koffler explained.
“Putin initially considered banning the movement when it caused chaos at a sporting event, but after months of grueling fighting, the serious attrition of Russian soldiers began to set in,” he said. I found that he could use them.
“The authorities have instructed these fighters to set aside differences and varying loyalties and fight as a united team for Mother Russia. This unit I call comes from different clubs…has never been in combat,” Koffler continued.
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“The common denominator is that these are vicious characters and they have no respect for human life. Fighting is what they do. We are tasked with applying the brutal means of tactics in combat.”