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Russian Volunteer Corps: Who are these Russian neo-Nazis?

After a recent attack on the Bryansk region in southern Russia by a group of gunmen, public attention is focused on Russian nationalists. The “Russian Volunteer Corps” that carried out this intervention is headed by 38-year-old Denis Nikitin.

Who is it? The Financial Times calls Nikitin (his real name Kapustin) a well-known extremist and neo-Nazi. He was born and raised in Russia, and in 2001 he moved to Cologne, Germany. There, Nikitin became interested in mixed martial arts (MMA) and befriended local football hooligans involved in stadium fights. By 2007, Nikitin returned to Russia and became a member of the FC CSKA ultra fans. As he himself admitted at the time, he did not like football, did not know a single player of the club, but loved scuffles and adrenaline.

Nikitin is famous for his nationalist clothing brand White Rex. It was created on August 14, 2008 – this date hints at the well-known Nazi code 14/88. The brand logo designed is based on the “Black Sun”, another popular neo-Nazi symbol.

Nikitin also organized a mixed martial arts tournament “Spirit of the Warrior”, which became popular with far-right nationalists. The well-known neo-Nazi and ultra-right blogger Maxim Martsinkevich, known as Tesak, helped promote these tournaments. According to the Moscow Times, these tournaments started in Moscow, and afterwards also expanded to Italy, Hungary and Greece.


“Nikitin became a key figure among right-wing extremists in Europe,” Robert Klaus, a researcher of far-right movements, once wrote about him. Nikitin is a neo-Nazi and a businessman. He acts very professionally, promoting his events with dramatic videos and modern design.”

Far-right activities led to the fact that in 2019 Nikitin was banned from entering the European Union for 10 years. Schengen zone for 10 years. Nevertheless, according to Bellingcat, he continued to actively participate in the activities of the far right in Germany, France, Bulgaria and other countries without entering them.

The far-right Russian nationalists have patrons abroad as well. For example, this is former State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomarev, who has been living in exile since 2014. According to Ponomarev, who personally knows members of the Russian Volunteer Corps, they originate from the Russian Right, a radical political wing known for its nationalist views. He describes them as a highly motivated group with unique perspectives, all of which he personally agrees with.

Among them is the former co-owner of the bankrupt Russian bank, Ilya Yurov, who now lives in the UK. The Wall Street Journal previously described him this way in a 2018 story: “Mr Yurov didn’t look like your typical retail banker. Sporting a shaved head and a neatly trimmed beard, Mr Yurov wore suits that hid a collection of tattoos”. Such a description of the WSJ was accompanied by the image of Ilya Yurov’s tattoos. They include a solar symbol (kolovrat), which is a sign of neo-Nazism, and a Celtic cross, symbolizing the superiority of the white race.

Judging by his Twitter account, Yurov not only actively supports the Russian Volunteer Corps, but makes no secret of his own nationalist views. This is evidenced by his nickname yuroff88 and the phrase used in his profile – Deus Vult (“That’s the will of God”), which became the motto of nationalist groups in Europe in the 2000s. In his social networks, Yurov has also used the abbreviation ACAS (“All cops are bastards”), which is widespread in the culture of skinheads and extremists, and posted his photo with Miguel Krasnov, an associate of the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.


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