Kyiv, Ukraine – Standing subsequent to the casket was the physique of Daniel Muzanik, a lot of his bedraggled, battle-tested brothers weeping of their arms.
“He was a courageous warrior, a religious Christian, a dependable comrade,” Denis Capiston, Meznik’s commanding officer, mentioned tearfully throughout a farewell ceremony at Kiev’s historic Bykovo cemetery final week.
Muznik, a bearded and burly 29-year-old, was killed throughout one of Probably the most daring and daring navy operation of the continued Russia-Ukraine battle.
On June 1, he was a part of 4 small navy models that entered the western Russian area of Belgord to assault the city of Shebekino of 40,000 and seize the village of Novaya Tavlzanka.
They clashed with border guards and troopers and have been supported by Ukrainian drone strikes and heavy, indiscriminate artillery fireplace that included banned cluster munitions, Russian officers claimed.
As they superior, 1000’s of civilians fled Belgorod in panic, and Novaya Tavolzhanka briefly grew to become the primary and solely area of Russia not managed by Moscow.
Muzanik led the seizure of a border checkpoint, hijacked an armored car and held up a serviceman earlier than killing him with gunfire on June 3, Kapsten mentioned.
The farewell ceremony can be held inside a cavernous funeral parlor, like 1000’s of comparable ceremonies held throughout Ukraine previously 16 months.
However some issues appeared unusually completely different.
Some stern, gloomy males in uniform rigorously organized masks, hats and glasses to keep away from recognition.
None agreed to be interviewed by Al Jazeera, saying they’d been “instructed” to not converse to the media.
And no Ukrainian officers have been proven paying tribute or laying flowers on the casket.
As a result of Muznik, whose nickname was Sheba (puck), was a Russian nationwide and part of it Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC)a small navy unit based by fugitive ultranationalists.
They mentioned they have been backed by the Freedom of Russia Legion, made up of Russian prisoners of battle who had switched sides, and teams of volunteers from neighboring Poland and Belarus.
In February 2022, the Kremlin deliberate a victorious blitzkrieg to topple the federal government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Within the Kremlin’s phrases, Russia’s “particular navy operation” was aimed toward “liberating” Ukraine from Zelensky’s “neo-Nazi junta.”
After that, the concept that the RVC and its allies would deliver the battle residence to Russia throughout three assaults – in March, late Could and early June – would have appeared unattainable.
That manner, Kiev may use the assaults to tease Trump about how feeble and weak Moscow’s battle effort is, and the way Russian officers have failed to guard border areas regardless of an enormous protection funds.
However it did not occur.
As a substitute, Kyiv considers the RVC to be an impartial political pressure that ought to negotiate immediately with the Kremlin.
“We’re observing the interval of hostilities and as soon as once more name on the Moscow authorities to determine a ceasefire within the Belgorod area, instantly begin talks with the RVC and cease the mindless bloodshed,” mentioned Zelensky aide Mykhailo. Podolic tweeted on June 5.
“It is a battle of Russian Goliath towards Russian David,” he wrote, “Ukraine doesn’t take part within the battle.”
Analysts say that Ukrainian intelligence prefers to maintain the RVC’s backing with artillery fireplace and drone strikes a secret — even an open one.
“Kiev is distancing itself from RVC assaults in Russia as a result of formally, Ukraine doesn’t conduct any navy operations on Russian soil,” David Gendelman, an impartial navy analyst, advised Al Jazeera.
“Though everybody understands that nobody will permit them to hold out such actions on their territory throughout the battle, and actually they’re cooperating with the Ukrainian intelligence,” he mentioned.
For him, the controversial previous of the founders of the RVC isn’t the rationale why Ukraine is so reluctant to acknowledge the backing of the unit.
“Keef will distance himself from them equally even when their previous isn’t fairly proper however one thing else – crimson, white or striped,” he mentioned.
One of many causes is Ukraine’s heavy reliance on Western help; Western nations have repeatedly warned that the trendy weapons they supply can solely be used on the territory of Ukraine.
However the RVC had at the least 4 tactical automobiles that might carry explosives and have been provided by america and Poland, in addition to rifles made in Belgium and the Czech Republic, in keeping with the Washington Submit. reported On June 3.
Two days later, Belgium mentioned it objected to their use on Russian territory.
“Belgium and different European arms have very strict guidelines,” Prime Minister Alexandre de Croix advised Le Sueur newspaper. “We requested Ukraine to clarify the state of affairs.”
Far proper views
The slain RVC fighter Meznik spent years within the Russian military — and he used his expertise to “flip a small band of masked Russians right into a full-fledged navy unit,” Kapstein mentioned in his eulogy.
“Sheba gave six years of her life to the Russian navy, understanding each injustice and corruption contained in the machine and passionately combating towards it earlier than us,” Kapustin mentioned.
Russian media claimed that Meznik had been convicted of fraud in Moscow and had fled to Ukraine, forsaking his spouse and baby.
His commander, Kapustin, a 39-year-old with ripped muscle tissues and plenty of tattoos who prefers to be known as White Rex, is most blatant.
Kapsten was born in Russia however spent his early years in Germany, the place he mentioned he was a “road boy, a thin, cracked face”.
He participated in and arranged bare-knuckle boxing fights, and German police recognized him as one of many “most influential” far-right activists in Europe.
He returned to Russia after which fled to Ukraine in 2017. Germany reportedly canceled his residence allow.
In Kyiv, he opened the White Rex clothes retailer that sells clothes with “Slavic photo voltaic symbols” much like the swastika and different symbols utilized in Nazi Germany.
Lately, Kapustin is needed in Russia for allegedly orchestrating a failed assassination try on pro-Kremlin tycoon Konstantin Malofeev, whose Tsargrad tv channel is among the most pro-war media shops.
Russian authorities blacklisted the RVC as a “terrorist group” and arrested many individuals who tried to affix it.
Earlier this month, Moscow police searched three dozen alleged supporters of the RVC, the SOTA information web site reported.
Kapstein fanned the flames by saying the RVC wished to topple the federal government of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The collapse of Russia will permit us to return residence,” he advised a information convention in October. “We’ll facilitate a whole and complete collapse of Russia’s political order.”
His phrases and actions can turn into excellent fodder for vocal supporters of Russia.
“I believe that might be a sin.” [in Russia] To not use the utterly right-wing, radical background of the RVC’s creators,” Vyacheslav Lakachev, a Kiev-based skilled on far-right and ultranationalist teams, advised Al Jazeera.
Nevertheless, pro-war Russian observers selected to not play this card – as a result of the success of the RVC and its allies solely confirmed how ill-prepared Moscow’s armed forces and regional authorities have been to counter their assault. within the.
“For essentially the most half, it’s associated to Russian propaganda’s consideration to the disagreeable undeniable fact that teams of Russian residents don’t simply combat. [the Kremlin] As a part of the armed forces of Ukraine, however the Russians are very profitable in conducting impartial operations on the territory,” Likhachev mentioned.
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