Reports about two Russian fighters captured in Syria suggest that the same proxy forces that fight the Kremlin’s wars abroad in places such as Syria and Ukraine may also harass members of the Russian political opposition at home.

According to interviews by Russian media with relatives of the men and photographs taken from social media, one of the captured Russians belongs to a hyper-patriotic veterans group and fought in a shadowy private military company whose commanders have received awards at the Kremlin. The other belonged to a pro-Kremlin Cossack paramilitary group whose members have also fought in eastern Ukraine. According to a report by Russian-based OSINT researchers, he was photographed during a “blockade” of supporters of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny in April.

 

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