Vladimir Putin enlists football fan thugs to fight bloody Ukraine war

Putin’s hooligan army: Football ultras go to war in Ukraine and brandish lion cub they ‘found’ in Mariupol as their ‘mascot’

  • Vladimir Putin has enlisted a group of football fan thugs to fight his bloody war 
  • Many will see the decision as a further sign of weakness within his armed forces 
  • He condemned the very same group in 2018 and vowed to disband them
  • ‘The Football Hooligans’ say they are willing to die on the front lines for Russia 

Vladimir Putin has enlisted a group of football fan thugs to fight his bloody war in Ukraine – in what many will see as a further sign of weakness within his armed forces. 

Just four years ago during the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals, the Russian leader publicly condemned the actions of ‘The Football Hooligans’ and vowed to banish the notorious group.

And yet, now the men are fighting for Putin as part of the paramilitary forces of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic which the Kremlin has illegally annexed.

The fighters entirely comprise ultra fans once famed for battles on the terraces of Russian and European stadiums.

Their main mascot is a lion cub they ‘found’ during fighting in Mariupol, but they have an adopted dog too. 

They have put aside their football allegiances and claim they operate as a cohesive unit, willing to die on the front lines for Russia.

Orlov, 41, who joined separatists in 2014 when he was the head of ‘Skull & Bones’ reconnaissance company, is the unit’s commanding officer

Vladimir Putin has enlisted a group of football fan thugs to fight his bloody war in Ukraine – in what many will see as a further sign of weakness within his armed forces

Stanislav ‘Spaniard’ Orlov, 41, leader of the group, with their primary mascot, a lion cub which they ‘found’ in Mariupol 

Just four years ago during the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals, the Russian leader publicly condemned the actions of ‘The Football Hooligans’ and vowed to banish the notorious group

Many will see his recruitment of ‘thugs’ as a sign of the weakness of his armed forces, not strength. 

Stanislav ‘Spaniard’ Orlov, 41, who joined separatists in 2014 when he was the head of ‘Skull & Bones’ reconnaissance company, is the unit’s commanding officer.

The hooligan unit – known as Espanola and part of the Vostok battalion – includes recruits from the supporters of clubs like CSKA, Zenit, Spartak, Torpedo and Lokomotiv are among those fighting against the Ukrainians, as are notorious Orel Butchers.

One member reportedly told local media: ‘Hooligans used to be hooligans… And now we have agreed that we are not rocking the boat inside Russia, and we have transferred all the hooliganism to the front line.

‘You can blow up a tank in the interests of Russia… If you are loyal to your club, you will be loyal to your country. It’s not scary to die for your idea, it’s scary to live a useless life.

‘This is not the worst option of death. And if this happens, then to die with a weapon in your hands is a reward.’

Many will see his recruitment of ‘thugs’ as a sign of the weakness of his armed forces, not strength

The hooligan unit – known as Espanola and part of the Vostok battalion – includes recruits from the supporters of clubs like CSKA, Zenit, Spartak, Torpedo and Lokomotiv are among those fighting against the Ukrainians, as are notorious Orel Butchers

They have put aside their football allegiances and claim they operate as a cohesive unit, willing to die on the front lines for Russia

The fighters entirely comprise ultra fans once famed for battles on the terraces of Russian and European stadiums. They have put aside their football allegiances and claim they operate as a cohesive unit

‘Disputes among fans of different clubs are prohibited,’ Orlov told local media. ‘All this must be left somewhere out there, far away, just like alcohol.’

The hooligans have lost one fighter in the war so far, he said.

CSKA Moscow fan Maxim Shmanin, 44, was given a hero’s send off at his funeral last month.

‘The motivation to stay and fight has only intensified,’ Orlov said. ‘The combat part of the detachment are people who have military experience or have served in the army.

‘After a short training course, they directly fight in the zone of the special operation.’

Orlov claimed the group is supposed by a large ‘rear end’ operation, providing supplies to frontline fighters.

The group have come together despite previously being known as hooligans who disrupted football games

‘We are on top with equipment, football supporters from different cities bring us everything we ask for,’ Orlov said

The group claim they have enough weapons and ammunition due to a growing rear end team at home

According to other reports, the hooligans have been separately mobilised into the 106th guard division of airborne forces for deployment in a reconnaissance and sabotage squad

He said: ‘On the basis of the Vostok detachment, newcomers train to shoot automatic and large-caliber weapons, train in sapper work, conduct reconnaissance and combat drone flights, and hone tactical training from morning to evening.’

There are ‘no jokes… it is a tough, if not violent, subculture with high discipline and a kind of combat training. My goal is to pull all the hooligans into one structure.’

He claims to have ‘hundreds’ wanting to join his group.

‘We would be able to create a huge unit, but we simply have no space for everyone,’ he said. ‘We also train snipers, and in drones and air defence.

‘We are on top with equipment, football supporters from different cities bring us everything we ask for.’

According to other reports, the hooligans have been separately mobilised into the 106th guard division of airborne forces for deployment in a reconnaissance and sabotage squad.

Footage allegedly shows combat training of Russian ‘football hooligans’

The group is comprised of ‘hooligans’ Putin previously condemned

Sticker on the left has symbols of various Russian football clubs and a writing ‘We are not enemies, we are Russians’. The sticker on the right shows a popular movie character and a writing ‘Strength is in truth’

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