Denis Nikitin, a notorious extremist who heads the Russian Volunteer Corps, told the Financial Times that his Ukraine-based fighters had proved they could breach some of Russia’s most heavily guarded border areas. The incident, which lasted just a few hours on Thursday before the group retreated, prompted Putin to cancel a planned trip and convene his security council.
Many details of the brazen stunt, mounted by extremists who claim to have the tacit support of Ukraine, remain unclear and unverified. Ukraine has denied directly supporting the group, while Russia has used the incident to bolster its claim that Nato is running a proxy war through far-right “terrorists”.
Nikitin, 38, a polyglot who also goes by the name Denis Kapustin and the nom de guerre Rex after his white nationalist clothing brand, White Rex, is a former mixed martial arts fighter with ties to neo-Nazis and white nationalists across the western world.
Russian authorities claimed that the raid left two civilians dead and a child injured. Nikitin, in his first interview since the incursion, said that a shootout occurred in one of the two villages his men had raided but was unaware of the casualties.
“The main thing was to remind Russians that you don’t have to live in shackles, put up with and participate in someone else’s war carrying out someone else’s will,” Nikitin said on Friday. “You can and must take up arms. We will support everyone who wants to remove these Kremlin usurpers from power.”