DShRG Rusich: Sabotage Assault Reconnaissance Group

The Sabotage Assault Reconnaissance Group (DShRG), also known as “Rusich” or “DShRG Rusich” is a Russian far-right, neo nazi paramilitary group which has been fighting in the Russian war in Ukraine as a part of Wagner Group. DShRG Rusich actively employs a range of neo-Nazi symbols, demonstrating a well-equipped, ideologically motivated, and highly trained force. Its leaders stand unquestionably accused of perpetrating crimes against humanity and torturing captives. Operating across multiple theatres including the Donbas War, the Russian Invasion of Ukraine, and Syria, it has markedly garnered allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

1 Symbolism, Flag, Patches and History

1.1 Symbolism of DShRG Rusich

DShRG uses a wide variety of symbols. These range from the group’s logo and flag (explained below) and additionally to the use of Nordic symbols. These symbols significantly find common usage among neo-Nazi and pagan groups that actively embrace neo-Nazi ideology. Commonly seen symbols are of Viking ships and Nordic runes on patches and flags but can also include neo nazi symbols on helmets and patches. [Source]

DShRG leader Alexey Milchakov shouldering an RPG
DShRG Rusich leader Alexey Milchakov shouldering an RPG (note the helmet) – [Image source]

1.2 Flag of DShRG Rusich

The DShRG’s symbolism is heavily influenced by its neo-Nazi ideology, evident in the design of the group’s flags.

Flag of the DShRG Rusich group
Flag of the DShRG Rusich group – [Image source]

This flag particularly displays an inverted rendition of the Russian Imperial flag, originally introduced by Tsar Alexander II in 1858. It served as Russia’s official flag until 1896 when Tsar Nicholas II reinstated the traditional white, blue, and red tricolour design. [Source, source]

Also present on the flag is the name of the group, Rusich/Русич in Cyrillic. The group’s name is simultaneously accompanied by the Kolovrat, a four-beamed swastika variant. This symbol has been adopted by both neopagan Slavic Native Faith (Rodnovery) practitioners and Russian Orthodox Christians. [Source, source]

1.2.1 Valknut flag

DShRG fighters with a valknut flag
DShRG fighters with a valknut flag – [Image source]

This flag features an inverse trefoil valknut additionally flanked by a laurel of leaves. The valknut, an ancient Norse symbol representing the afterlife, is significantly associated with the Norse god Odin. However, it has been extensively appropriated and misused by white supremacists and neo-Nazis. [Source]

1.3 DShRG Rusich Patches

DShRG unit members also wear a variety of patches which commonly feature the unit’s name as well as the Kolovrat. There are also unit patches which belong to foreign fighters (discussed below) which donate the wearer’s nationality and allegiance.

1.4 History of DShRG Rusich

DShRG was established in 2009 and commenced operations in 2014 when it aligned itself with the pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas war. Playing a significant role in many battles since 2014 it has also seen action in Syria.

1.4.1 Early History of DShRG Rusich

The group’s founder, Alexey Milchakov, established a military training base in 2009, significantly marking the organisation’s beginning. Milchakov, a neo-Nazi based in Saint Petersburg, operated under the alias “Fritz” before being deployed to the Donbas to participate in the conflict. Milchakov markedly participated in the Novorossiya Aid Coordination Centre (KTsPN) Partizan paramilitary training programme. The Russian Imperial Legion, the paramilitary wing of the Russian Imperial Movement, is a militant movement that espouses Russian ultranationalism, neo-Nazi ideology, and additionally white supremacist views and it administered this programme. [Source, source, source]

Both Milchakov and Dmitry Utkin, former commander of the Russian PMC Wagner group, actively served in the 76th Guards Air Assault Division of the Airborne Forces. Investigations revealed that DShRG was staffed by members of the GROM special unit, a division of the Federal Drug Control Service of Russia. [Source, source, source]

1.4.2 DShRG Rusich Involvement in the Donbas War 

Since June 2014, the DShRG unit has actively engaged in combat, siding with the pro-Russian separatists. Conducting recon and sabotage operations in the territory it significantly played a key role in several key battles and engagements throughout the conflict.

1.5 2014 Donbas involvement by Rusich

During the summer of 2014, DShRG Rusich fought alongside Russian separatist commander Lieutenant Colonel Alexander “Batman” Bednov. Particularly they participated in the battles for Luhansk Airport, Shchastia, Stanytsia Luhanska and in the assault on the village of Khryashchuvate. They also participated in the occupation of the villages of Heorhiivka, Velyka Verhunka and Lutuhyne. [Source, source]

Alexey Milchakov near Luhansk, Eastern Ukraine
Alexey Milchakov near Luhansk, Eastern Ukraine – [Image source]

1.5.1 Aidar Battalion Ambush

On 5 September, near the villages of Metalist and Tsvitni Pisky in the Luhansk Oblast DShRG Rusich fighters ambushed a column of Ukranian fighters from the Aidar Battalion. Despite the supposed truce intended to facilitate the retreat of Ukrainian forces, Rusich fighters seized positions at an abandoned Ukrainian roadblock. They hoisted a Ukrainian flag left behind at the roadblock and soon, upon the approach of the Aidar Battalion column, initiated gunfire. Reports also indicated the involvement of Russian Special Forces in the ambush. Straightaway, information surfaced which indicated that between 20 to 29 Aidar Battalion fighters lost their lives in the ensuing conflict. [Source, source, source, source, source]

1.5.2 Torture of Ivan Issyk by DShRG Rusich

Following the ambush, Ivan Issyk, a member of the Aidar Battalion who had been captured, was filmed with a kolovrat symbol carved into his cheek. Several days later, footage emerged showing him being interviewed by British pro-Russian propagandist journalist Graham Phillips in a hospital. Significantly, Ivan Issyk was visibly covered in burns, with approximately 70% of his body affected. 

Several days after the interview, Ivan Issyk was abducted and murdered. An autopsy revealed that his internal organs had been cut out and stuffed back inside his body, with fragments of his brain also found inside his stomach. [Source]

1.6 2015 Donbas Involvement

On January 1, 2015, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander “Batman” Bednov was killed during an attempted arrest warrant operation. The Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) prosecutor’s office claimed that he was attacked while the warrant, dating back to December 20, 2014, was being served, resulting in his death. [Source]

Later that January, Milchakov announced that his unit was no longer underneath the leadership of the LPR and called the Head of the LPR, IGOR Plotnitsky and the government of the wider LPR “Whore children” and said that his unit would fight “both against them and against the Ukrainians”. [Source]

1.6.1 Sanctions and Transfer

In February 2015, Milchakov was included in the sanction list of the European Union (EU). Later in 2015 Milchakov and Yan Petrovsky (another commander within DShRG) received a certificate of membership of the Union of Donbas Volunteers. Upon their return to Ukraine, DShRG was transferred to the Prizrak Brigade. [Source]

At the end of 2015, facing persecution from the Ministry of State Security of the LPR, DShRG was reassigned to the Viking Battalion by the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). The unit then engaged in battles around Volnovakha. Later, by mid-2015, DShRG had been fully withdrawn from the Donbas. [Source]

1.7 DShRG between 2015 and 2017

Shortly upon return from the Donbas, Milhakov began training members in camps in conjunction with E.N.O.T Corp (a Russian private military company/PMC). In 2016, Milchakov was presented with an award by the head of the Republic of Crimea Sergey Aksyonov. [Source]

Jan Petrovsky, a commander and Milchakov’s deputy in DShRG Rusich, was deported from Norway after the government markedly recognized him as a national security threat. Petrovsky was linked to far-right groups such as Soldiers of Odin and the Nordic Resistance Movement in Norway. [Source, source]

In 2017, the Ukrainian military prosecutor’s office accused DShRG Rusich and Milchakov of involvement in the murder of 40 Ukrainian soldiers. [Source]

Alexey Milchakov purchased a house in the Vitebsk Region of Belarus in 2016 and also began training youths from Belarus. Stating that 

“Belarusian youth are actively interested in my training, and this is both a good commercial resource and an opportunity to conduct military-patriotic education,”

He conducted training of youths in Belarus and it involved small groups of people. He trained them in several areas including:

  • Tactical training
  • Topography
  • Explosive defusal 
  • CQB training
  • Survival techniques

[Source]

1.8 DShRG Rusich in Syria

In 2017, members of the DShRG unit were deployed to Syria with the overall mission of guarding oil and gas infrastructure owned by Russian companies. The Rusich members in Syria posted photos from Palmyra (central Syria) where they posed in front of the ruins, simultaneously raising their hands in Nazi salutes. They faced accusations of involvement in the torture and murder of Hamdi Bouta, a Syrian man who reportedly endured brutal torture with a sledgehammer before being set on fire. [Source]

DShRG unit member in Palmyra, Syria
DShRG unit member in Palmyra, Syria – [Image source]

1.9 DShRG in Africa

DShRG carried out a “business trip” to Sierra Leone, markedly including a meeting with Sierra Leone’s president in 2022. There were also reports that DShRG Rusich fighters were present in Libya as a part of the Wagner Group PMC during their operations in North Africa. [Source, source]

1.10 DShRG Involvement in the Invasion of Ukraine

During the Russian invasion of Ukraine, DShRG Rusich was relocated to the Kharkiv Oblast. Both Alexey Milchakov and Yan Petrovsky found themselves added to the US sanctions list due to their alleged “special cruelty” exhibited during battles in the Kharkiv Oblast. [Source, source]

In April 2023, DShRG fighters posted a video to their telegram channel which showed a captured Ukrainian soldier being beheaded with a knife stating 

“Break his spine. Haven’t you cut heads off before? Finish the job,”

[Source]

2 Organisation of DShRG Rusich

DShRG Rusich has undergone several transfers from the LPR to the DPR and then finally became subordinate to the Wagner Group. [Source]

2.1 Key Figures

DShRG Rusich has three notable key figures, presently all of whom are commanders in the unit.

2.1.1 Alexey Milchakov

Alexey Milchakov is a Russian neo-Nazi, suspected war criminal and additionally co-leader and co-founder of the DShRG Rusich unit. As of 2023, he has been sanctioned particularly by the US, UK, EU, Canada and several other nations. Linked to atrocities in both Ukraine and Syria he has been described as 

“the symbol of Russian neo-Nazis fighting in the Donbas”

[Source, source, source

Alexey Milchakov (foreground) with several unit members
Alexey Milchakov (foreground) with several DShRG Rusich unit members – [Image source]

An investigation by Bellingcat in 2024 analysed a photograph from 2017 taken in Palmyra, Syria. Significantly, this photograph showed a man in a military uniform holding a severed head. By analyzing and comparing the camouflage patterns, Bellingcat concluded that Milchakov likely wore the uniform. [Source]

In a video from 2020, he described himself by stating

“I’m not going to go deep and say, I’m a nationalist, a patriot, an imperialist, and so forth. I’ll say it outright: I’m a Nazi.”

[Source]

2.1.2 Yan Petrovsky

Yan Petrovsky, also known as Slavyan and Voislav Torden is a Russian neo-nazi and is one of the co-founders and co-leaders of DShRG Rusich alongside Alexey Milchakov. Petrovsky and Milchakov both met at the paramilitary training program of the Russian Imperial Movement. [Source]

In 2016, Petrovsky was denied a residence permit in Norway and subsequently deported after being deemed a “threat to the security” of the country. Arrested at the home of a leading Nordic Resistance Movement member Ronny Bårdsen he also built a close relationship with the Finnish far right. [Source, source]

Yan Petrovsky (right) co-leader and co-founder
Yan Petrovsky (right) co-leader and co-founder of DShRG Rusich group – [Image source]

2.1.3 Yevgeniy Rasskazov

Yevgeniy Rasskazov (born in Donetsk) is a militant who joined the police forces of the DPR in 2014. After the DPR referendum in 2014, he joined the “Somalia” assault battalion and took part in the battles for Sloviansk, Ilovaisk and additionally the battle for Donetsk airport. With his call sign “Topaz” he gave an interview in October 2022 in which he stated he was a part of the Wagner PMC group. [Source, source]

“Topaz” - Yevgeniy Rasskazov pictured on the right
“Topaz” – Yevgeniy Rasskazov pictured on the right – [Image source]

2.2 Recruitment

DShRG Rusich seems to recruit people who almost exclusively subscribe to neo-nazi ideology. However, there are multiple images and photographs on their social media pages which show that the group seems to recruit non-Russian nationalists and nazis. 

2.2.1 Polish fighters of DShRG Rusich

On DShRG Rusichs VK page there are multiple images of Polish fighters who are a part of the unit. 

There are also images of Rusich fighters who also don patches which belong to the Zadrużny Krąg – Dywizja Słowiańska (ZKDS). This organization is a Polish right-wing paramilitary group that has been specifically described as “neo-Nazi.” [Source, source]

Polish DShRG unit member with Rusich and ZKDS patches
Polish DShRG unit member with Rusich and ZKDS patches – [Image source]

2.2.2 Other Foreign fighter of DShRG Rusich

There are also contingents of fighters in Rusich from other countries such as Norway, Italy and other countries. [Source, source, source]

Italian fighter speaking to Alexey Milchakov
Italian DShRG Rusich fighter speaking to Alexey Milchakov – [Image source]

2.3 Connections to Wagner 

DShRG Rusich now operates as a contingent of the Wagner Group PMC and has done so since the invasion of Ukraine. Linked to Wagner abuses in Syria the group has not only acted alongside but has supported Wagner operations in Ukraine and beyond. [Source, source]

3 Equipment

DShRG Rusich uses a wide variety of weapons and equipment which has either been sourced from Russia or has been captured from defeated Ukrainian forces.

3.1 Weapons

DShRG Rusich has access to a wide array of weaponry, some of which has been captured (marked as likely captured below) specifically from Ukrainian forces. The weapons they have been pictured or known to use are listed below but are not limited to:

  • Assault Rifles (AR)
    • AK-74
    • AK-74M
    • AKM
    • AKS-74
  • Shotguns
    • Vepr-12 semi-auto shotgun
  • Machine Guns (MG)
    • PKM
    • RPK-74M
    • NSV Heavy machine gun
  • Pistols
    • Stechkin APS automatic pistol
  • Sniper and Designated Marksman Rifles (DMR)
    • SV-98
    • SVD ‘Dragunov’
    • Steyr SSG 04
    • ORSIS T-5000 
    • 9x39mm VSSM Vintorez-M (6P29M)
  • Rocket Launchers
    • RPO-A ‘Shmel’ thermobaric rocket launcher
    • RPO PDM-A ‘Shmel-M’ thermobaric rocket launcher/flamethrower
    • 84mm Pansarskott m/86 anti-tank launcher (likely captured)
    • Panzerfaust 3-improved Tandem (PzF 3-IT) anti-tank launcher (likely captured)
    • NLAW anti-tank guided missile launcher (likely captured)
    • RPG-7 Launcher
  • Explosives and grenades
    • 120mm mortar bombs
    • 30mm Vog-17 pattern grenades
    • Soviet F-1 grenades
    • Soviet RGD-5 grenades
    • Soviet RGO grenades 
    • Truck-mounted ATGM launchers
    • DM72A1 cartridges (PzF 3-IT)
    • PG-7VL rockets (RPG-7)

[Source source]

3.2 Vehicles

  • BTR-80
  • BTR-70
  • Toyota Hilux
  • UAZ Pickup
  • Electric bikes
  • Quadbikes

3.3 Optics and Attachments

Several optic platforms and attachments can be identified such as but not limited to:

  • Saim thermal scope
  • Holosun magnifier & sight
  • TFA Patriot
  • FAB Defense GL-CORE CP buttstock
  • AR-style buttstock
  • Magpul MOE AK grip
  • FAB Defense AG-47 grip
  • FAB Defense PDC top cover
  • FAB Defense Quad Rail Polymer handguard
  • Magpul ZHUKOV handguard
  • 5-round RPK-74 magazine

[Source, source]

3.4 Drones

DShRG Rusich has been known to use drones in combat. In May 2024 they posted on their telegram channel that they had used drones to specifically drop the banned poison gas chloropicrin on Ukrainian soldiers. [Source]

Drones which they have been known to use are:

  • COTS quadcopter UAV
  • DJI UAV

4 Tactical-Operational Information

DShRG Rusich operates as a paramilitary unit chiefly focused on sabotage and reconnaissance operations behind Ukrainian lines. However, it has also actively participated in several notable frontline battles since the onset of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine. [Source, source

4.1 Operations

DShRG Rusich has been involved in several notable operations and battles such as:

  • Luhansk Airport – Rusich fought alongside Lieutenant Colonel Alexander “Batman” Bednov in the battle for Luhansk airport (near Novosvitlivka) after Ukrainian forces cut the highway and placed Luhansk under blockade. [Source]
  • Aidar Battalion ambush – Rusich fighters ambushed the Ukrainian Aidar Battalion after it began retreating after a ceasefire agreement. Rusich fighters manned an abandoned roadblock and opened fire on the Aidar Battalion after it approached killing 20-29 of its members. [Source]
  • Syria – Rusich fighters were assigned the duty of guarding critical gas and oil terminals owned by Russian companies in Syria. They additionally faced accusations of torturing and murdering Syrian man Hamdi Bouta in Palmyra. [Source, source]
  • Russian invasion of Ukraine – DShRG Rusich has been extensively engaged in combat since the onset of the invasion. They have been photographed in the Kharkiv Oblast near the village of Pletenivka. [Source, source]

4.2 Training

DShRG fighters have previously received training from the Novorossiya Aid Coordination Centre (KTsPN) Partizan paramilitary training programme run by the Russian Imperial Legion. [Source]

However, DShRG Rusich runs its own training camps and trains its fighters. Training which the fighters have been shown to receive is:

  • Navigation training
  • Marksmanship training
  • Cold weather training 
  • First aid
  • Operations training
  • Physical fitness
  • Drone operator training

4.3 Personnel size

Personnel numbers of DShRG Rusich are hard to obtain due to the low-profile nature of the unit and its operations. The director of the SOVA Information and Analytical Centre stated that in 2014 there may have previously been several hundred at most. However, its leader Aleksey Milchakov stated that at the end of 2020, the unit had at most several dozen people. [Source, source]

5 Conclusion

DShRG Rusich emerges as a well-equipped neo-Nazi paramilitary entity that has operated within Ukraine since the onset of the Russian invasion. Comprising fighters deeply committed to combating what they perceive as the Nazi threat in Ukraine (a paradoxical stance), they have altogether proven effective in military engagements. However, their association with multiple instances of war crimes in Syria and Ukraine has led to widespread condemnation, branding them as a faction of outlawed neo-Nazi war criminals. The group’s leaders—Alexey Milchakov, Yan Petrovsky, and Yevgeniy Rasskazov—have faced allegations linking them specifically to the torture of prisoners. As a result, they have been subjected to sanctions by various governments for their actions during the conflict in Ukraine.

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