The death of member of Wagner in Moscow allowed the DFRLab to conduct an investigation on the mercenary’s neo-Nazi affiliation.
DFRLab – October 7th 2021
The death of Voskanyan was followed by several indications that he was a member of Rusich. First, the mercenary batallion member Evgeniy Eduardovich Rasskazov, known as « Topaz », was the one to create an account for donations to Voskanyan’s family. Then, RSOTM’s Telegram cannal also posted a picture tying Voskanyan to Rusich.
An investigation by Norwegian public broadcaster NRK revealed that one of the most frequent people appearing in photos of Rusich members in Syria is Yan Petrovsky, a St. Petersburg neo-Nazi .
In two pictures taken in Syria, Voksanyan and Petrovsky appear together. They attempt to pass themselves off as Nordic volunteer fighters. Many of Rusich’s Instagram posts are in Icelandic, a langage closely related to Old Norse. This is a common practive in neo-Nazi groups trying to recreate a modern Viking fantasy.
The DFRLab investigated “Vosk” Voskanyan social media accounts. Some were featuring far-right and nationalists symbols. The owner was careful never to show his face, but cross checking pictures allowed the identification of the mercenary.
What about Rusich
Rusich is an infamous war band known for its atrocities in Ukraine. Their leader Alexey Milchakov became famous after the release of video showing him holding the ear of a mutilader Ukrainian volunteer in 2014.
In 2016, a top figure of Rusich was arrested in Norway, but that didn’t stop the group from remaining active. It notably participated in a youth camp in relation with ENOT Corp, a Russian paramilitary nationalist organization.
It has since been known that many former members, including Milchakov and Voskanyan, joined Wagner Group. Their tracks can be traced in Syria from Palmyra to Al Kawm around 2016 and 2017.
This story highlights the hypocrisy of Russian authorities. While the Kremlin likes recalling the role of the USSR in fighting Nazi Germany, it resolutly turns a blind eye on the neo-Nazi doing its dirty work abroad.