Clashes between football fans at Euro 2016 ahead of England and Russia game
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Vladimir Putin is recruiting football hooligans to fight in Ukraine – and has even designated them as a separate military company with their own “commander”. The so-called Espanola battalion, comprising thugs from the football terraces, has even recruited a former Russian international footballer, 47-year-old Andrey Solomatin into their ranks, and has bragged of being supplied with military equipment from the fans of clubs across the country.
The news comes hard on the heels of reports that Moscow was sending women prisoners to the war zone for the first time.
Putin has already deployed convicted murderers and rapists via the Wagner Group mercenary army, founded by Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Stanislav Orlov, call sign ‘Spaniard’, Espanola’s nominal commander, has been widely quoted as saying: “We were volunteers, then part of the DPR [Donetsk People’s Republic] forces.
“Recently we managed to get separate status. So now we do not belong to any battalions or divisions.
“We have been given approval to create a separate battalion, Espanola.”
Initially 550 strong, Espanaol reputedly includes 100 operators of kamikaze drones used to attack Ukraine, he said.
The hooligans say they are being equipped by football supporters from across Russia.
Orlov explained: “There are a huge number of them. All over Russia, in fact – in different cities there are different football teams…
“We tell them what we need [and they provide it]”.
Five years ago, Putin’s regime desperately sought to crackdown on Russian hooligans and ultras – using an FSB crackdown to stop them ruining the FIFA World Cup which Putin hosted.
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In 2016, Russian hooligans were involved in shocking pitched battles with English fans at the UEFA Euro tournament in France, which many recording attacks on Go Pro headsets.
Espanola is even attempted to recruit online, which a statement declaring: “Get into the coolest adventures of your life with a real chance to come back alive from these scrapes.”
The battalion is currently seeking to attract “stormtroopers”, scout-saboteurs, snipers, drone operators, electronic warfare and air defence operators, portable ground reconnaissance station operators, anti-tank guided missile operators, anti aircraft specialists, communications specialists, mechanic-drivers, and medics.
Potential participants are told they can expect a “decent reward” for taking part in attacks on Ukraine and told they will “take a quick but deep course of study in all directions with a real opportunity – or rather the need – to become a ‘universal soldier’.”
They will “become a real military man and benefit the Motherland without delay”.
Thugs are promised the chance to “get access and learn how to work with the most modern weapons, equipment and technologies”.
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Sniper detachments “are provided with all the most advanced technologies – this applies to transport, equipment, and of course guns.”
Recruits are told they “may not be hooligans, but they should be close to us in spirit and comply with the main principles of Espanola in life”.
Solomatin, 47, who as well as earning 13 caps for his country, enjoyed stints at clubs including CSKA Moscow and Lokomotiv Moscow, is one such recruit.
Sessions have apparently been held recently in Moscow and St Petersburg, as well as other cities.
They boast recruits from the hooligan armies of clubs like CSKA, Zenit, Spartak, Torpedo and Lokomotiv and the notorious Orel Butchers.
Several are known to have died so far in the war, such as 44-year-old CSKA Moscow supporter Maxim Shmanin.
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