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“The right to arms, just like freedom, must be earned.” Russian activists helping Russian volunteers go fight for Ukraine

Early in November, the Civil Council, which brings together social activists from nine Russian regions, announced the creation of a mobilization center for Russians who want to help Ukrainians fight for their country. The organizers informed us they were already raising funds for 200 volunteers. Denis Sokolov, a Council representative, shared with The Insider how volunteers will be prepared and how the screening on the Ukrainian side will work. A source in Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence (HUR) has confirmed to The Insider that the process is underway.

It took us several months to secure the AFU’s approval on the recruitment rules for Russian nationals, and I admire the resilience of our Ukrainian partners, who were not intimidated by failures and immense responsibility. Isa Akayev, the commander of the Krym (Crimea) Battalion, which has since 2014 exceeded a regiment in size, was instrumental in this initiative. Apart from Crimean Tatars, this military unit has traditionally included many natives of the North Caucasus and Povolzhye, who helped us build a bridge of trust.

The establishment of the Russian Volunteer Corps within the AFU was also a massive help. Its fighters have been defending Ukraine since 2014 and earned the right to their own flag with blood. Now they are willing to welcome our volunteers to their ranks. Naturally, they expect well-trained and highly motivated recruits, not the likes of Russia's own anemic “mobiks”.

Volunteers from ethnic-minority regions will be able to join existing or new military units of the same legal status.

Our partners in the Ukrainian military command have always understood that Ukraine's post-war safety largely depends on what will become of Russia. Therefore, Russians willing to take up arms against Putin are not only today's allies but also tomorrow's political partners. This understanding was crucial.

Furthermore, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) agreed to provide an efficient system of pre-enlistment volunteer screening.

After the recruit submits their application in a way that they see safe, our team member contacts the candidate, verifying their appurtenance with the mobilization center and the Civil Council and verifying the candidate's details for us. This is followed by a four-stage screening, quick but labor-intensive. At the moment, even I don't have access to volunteer lists. Those who pass the screening are further verified by the SBU.

Another important filtering test checks the candidate's motivation. Apart from spies, we have to secure ourselves against recruits who may try to benefit from the scheme to escape from Russia or neighboring countries. This won’t work.

Visa support and logistics are among the main responsibilities of the Mobilization Center. There are issues, but they have been manageable so far. We will make sure to keep it that way.

The right to arms, just like freedom, must be earned. Luckily for us, Russian nationals fighting in the Russian Volunteer Corps – Chechens, Ingushes, and Dagestanis from the Sheikh Mansur Battalion, the Dzhokhar Dudaev Battalion, the Krym Regiment, and other units – have blazed the trail. It is up to us to use this credit of trust wisely.

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