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Friday, March 31, 2023

What Is the Russian Volunteer Corps? Hostages Reportedly Taken in Russia

The Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK)—a grouping of Russians fighting for Ukraine against Moscow’s ongoing invasion of the country—on Thursday claimed to have undertaken a cross-border operation in which they attacked Russian military units.

Russian media claimed Thursday that a group of Ukrainian “saboteurs” had crossed the border into Bryansk Oblast, which borders Ukraine and Belarus, engaging in firefights, taking several people hostage, and inflicting civilian casualties.

Ukrainian officials quickly dismissed the reports as a Russian false flag. But the RDK then announced on its official Telegram channel that a group of its fighters had indeed crossed into Russia, though denied targeting any civilians or taking any hostages.

The Telegram post, which included a video of two armed men holding up an RDK flag in front of a Russian post box, declared that reports of hostage-taking or civilian casualties were “a lie of the Kremlin propagandists.”

“The Russian Volunteer Corps came to the Bryansk region to show their compatriots that there is hope, that free Russian people with weapons in their hands can fight the regime,” the post read, promising to upload further video footage of the operation.

Russian investigative news site iStories reported it had spoken to one of the RDK fighters who took part. The anonymous interviewee told the website a group of 45 fighters “went in, filmed, ambushed two BMPs [Russian-made fighting vehicles].”

“I didn’t see any children,” the fighter said. “But there was one injured border guard.”

He said they hadn’t take any hostages.

latestpagenews has contacted the Russian Defense Ministry to request comment.

The RDK was formed in summer 2022 to help Kyiv fight against Russia’s ongoing invasion. It does not release information about its fighting strength, and is believed to be largely made up of émigrés living in Ukraine hostile to the Kremlin.

This partially differentiates the RDK from other pro-Ukrainian Russian units like the Freedom of Russia Legion, which recruits Russian prisoners of war.

One RDK commander—named only as Denis—told Russia’s Vot Tak TV in August 2022 that its soldiers are selected based on their political outlook, with the unit subscribing to right-wing ideology. Vot Tak said fighters have been known to use symbols of the World War II-era Russian Liberation Army, which collaborated with Nazi Germany and fought against the Soviet Union.

Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly summoned his Security Council after news of the cross-border operation broke and condemned the incident on television as a “terrorist attack.”

Mark Voyger, a former special adviser for Russian and Eurasian affairs to then-commander of US Army Europe, General Ben Hodges, told latestpagenews he expected the Kremlin to leverage the situation to expand its war, regardless of whether the operation proved legitimate or a false flag.

“I would be shocked if they don’t use this one way or another to again tighten the screws,” Voyger—now a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for European Analysis and a professor at the American University of Kyiv—said.

“If it is actually a real attack by such a unit, obviously it comes from Ukraine. And so now, the Kremlin actually doesn’t have to invent anything,” Voyger added, referring to false flags.

“Actually, it becomes more of an existential threat to the regime, because it will be a genuine attack by a real anti-Kremlin force originating from Ukraine,” he said.

With the attack having occurred so close to the border of Belarus, Voyger added, Putin may use the incident to further pressure Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to join the war.

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