The leader of an anti-Putin militia has disturbing links to an extreme-right wing movement banned in Britain, Declassified has found.
Denis Kapustin, who also uses the names Denis Nikitin and ‘White Rex’, was an instructor at a far-right camp in Wales in 2014.
His presence was noted by a Sunday Mirror investigation that year.
More recently, the White Rex has been in the news for leading the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK).
They are a group of armed dissidents launching raids into Russia from their base in Ukraine since March.
At least two civilians and a child have been killed in their attacks so far, with another 13 wounded.
While the RDK’s far-right ideology was belatedly noted in media reports, the fact its leader spent time teaching neo-Nazis in Britain has so far been forgotten.
Camp organiser Craig Fraser wanted to recreate Hitler’s SS by drilling his men into shape – and even planned to show footage from ISIS training in Syria at the next session.
The Sunday Mirror said a “key trainer at the event…was Denis Nitikin [sic], the owner and organiser of White Rex, a Russian martial arts and cage fighting club.”
Yesterday immigration minister Robert Jenrick refused to tell parliament what information the Home Office holds on Kapustin’s visit to the UK in 2014 or whether he had since been banned from entering the country, claiming not to comment on individual cases.
‘Go kick some immigrants’
In Wales, Kapustin taught over 30 participants how to deal with “attackers armed with knives” in “gruelling full contact practice fighting from which participants often emerged bruised but undaunted”.
When not fighting, organisers “spoke at length about the virtues of…our Pagan spiritual heritage”.
Anti-fascist research group Hope Not Hate found the Sigurd camp was a front for National Action, a neo-Nazi group later banned in the UK under the Terrorism Act for praising the murder of MP Jo Cox.
Two National Action figures who attended the training camp, Christopher Lythgoe and Matthew Hankinson, were later jailed for a total of 14 years for their involvement with the group.
German authorities reportedly banned Kapustin from entering Europe in 2019. He once had a framed photo of Joseph Goebbels in his bedroom and has been heavily engaged in football hooliganism across the continent.
When living in Moscow, he enjoyed hosting forest fights between hooligans after which they would “go kick some immigrants”.
The enemy of my enemy…
Despite Kapustin’s links to a banned British neo-Nazi group and violent racism, he has obtained Western arms in Ukraine for his rebellion against Russia – and appears to receive support from Ukrainian military intelligence (the GUR).
A GUR spokesman called RDK members “one of those forces that will be shaping the future configuration of post-Putin Russia.”
Yet in one Telegram message from May, Kapustin called for Russians to support him by praising the: “Glory of the Great Russian Empire!”
Journalist Leonid Ragozin has said that after the RDK attacked Bryansk region of Russia in March, Kapustin mocked a Muslim boy wounded in the attack over his mixed Tajik/Tartar heritage.
He placed swastikas over photos of his family and wrote: “Russia will be Aryan or lifeless”.
Mark Galeotti, author of the book Putin’s Wars, told Declassified: “I imagine Ukraine will use any weapon at its disposal against Russia, and if this means arming and supporting a neo-Nazi well, so long as he proves a capable leader and can attract like-minded fighters to the cause of challenging the Putin regime, so be it.
“Churchill’s famous quote that ‘If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons’ springs to mind.
“This is, after all, only a very small element of the overall war effort and Ukrainian military intelligence, GUR – which seems largely behind these pro-Kyiv Russian forces – is trying to distract and torment the Kremlin, and neo-Nazis certainly fit that bill.”
Maxim Solopov, a journalist who has investigated Russian neo-Nazis, said on his Telegram channel that a White Rex social media account had almost 45,000 subscribers by 2020.
He estimated that even if only 1% of them remained active, it would give Kapustin around 500 supporters – some of who could be in Moscow, where pro-RDK graffiti has recently appeared.
Photos from Kapustin’s recent raid in the Belgorod region of Russia show US-made armoured vehicles in his group’s convoy.
Earlier footage posted on the RDK’s Telegram channel indicates they have operated US-made rocket launchers – known as High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) – which cost around $5m each.
For small arms, Kapustin’s men do not all have to rely on rusty kalashnikovs, with some wielding sophisticated Belgian-made FN SCAR assault rifles. This has triggered concern from Belgium’s prime minister, Alexander de Croo, as to how weapons meant for Ukraine have ended up in the group’s hands.
Swedish Pansarskott rocket launchers are also in Kapustin’s arsenal. And some of his men can be seen wearing camouflage smocks embroidered with union jacks, suggesting their uniforms might come from British army stocks.
Some of Kapustin’s men wear camouflage smocks embroidered with union jacks
The RDK’s activities have not been limited to cross-border raids. They were responsible in December for guarding Snake Island, Ukraine’s famous outpost in the Black Sea. When a CNN reporter met them there, he omitted to mention the group’s neo-Nazi associations.
Their maritime capabilities often feature in Telegram posts, with members showing off amphibious landings from inflatable boats.
They even claim to have landed in Zaporizhzhia, where Russian troops are occupying Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
Kapustin moved to Ukraine in 2017 following an invitation from Sergei Korotkikh, who founded Russia’s National Socialist Society and is accused of beheading a migrant beneath a swastika flag.
Declassified has previously revealed how Korotkikh obtained five rocket launchers Britain supplied to Ukraine, on whose side he now fights.
Prominent Russian neo-Nazis flocking to join the RDK include Aleksey Levkin, from the band Hitler’s Hammer. He organised the annual National-Socialist Black Metal festival in Kyiv.
He is heavily involved with the Wotanjugend Telegram channel, which promoted the manifesto of Brenton Tarrant, who murdered 51 Muslims at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
A few weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, Levkin posted a photo of a British-made NLAW rocket launcher with the caption “mastering NLAW”, suggesting he was learning to use the UK-supplied anti-tank weapon.
Freedom of Russia Legion
Another anti-Putin militia fighting alongside White Rex is the Freedom of Russia Legion, which also has far-right figures involved in its Ukraine-based leadership.
The Legion’s commander, Maximillian ‘Caesar’ Andronnikov, is a former member of the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM), which was designated as a global terrorist group by the US State Department in 2020.
The then Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said RIM “has provided paramilitary-style training to white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Europe”, linking their alumni to the bombing of refugee shelters in Sweden.
Vladimir Putin says his illegal invasion of Ukraine is needed to “de-nazify” the country, a claim which has been widely derided, partly owing to President Zelensky’s Jewish heritage.
Increasing evidence of the role played by neo-Nazis in attacking Russian soil from Ukraine will only fuel the Kremlin’s narrative.
This week the New York Times said some journalists asked Ukrainian soldiers to remove Nazi emblems on their uniforms before photographing them.
They expressed concern that the use of such patches “risks fueling Russian propaganda and spreading imagery that the West has spent a half-century trying to eliminate.”