Imperial Legion

Imperial Legion is the military wing of the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM). In 2008, the Russian Imperial Movement formed its paramilitary organisation (military-patriotic club) Imperial Legion, headed by Denis Gariev. The group has two training centres in St Petersburg. The Imperial Legion trains volunteers and send them to the Donbas. The Imperial Legion defines itself in this way: it is a fighting unit of orthodox warriors, defending their faith and their people with arms in their hands. From July 2014 to September 2015, the unit fought in Novorossiya (Donbass). Eleven Imperial Legion fighters were killed in two years. In early 2015, the Imperial Legion retreated from Donbass, as Novaya Gazeta [wrote]( due to LNR and DNR dissatisfaction with the presence of “Russian ultranationalists”. At the same time, the organisation as a combat unit was disbanded. After that, according to Gariyev, “the flow of volunteers wishing to attend the courses subsided.

The Imperial Legion currently operates in several cities in Russia and the Russian Diaspora.

Some members of the Imperial Legion have also worked as mercenaries in the Middle East and North Africa. On January 30, 2020, it was reported that Vladimir Skopinov, who had also previously fought in Donbas and Syria, died in Libya. He was the second member of the Legion to die in Libya.

**Partizan military course**

The Imperial Legion is based on a military sports club Partizan, with classes in several areas: basic martial arts, combat survival, tactical and firearms training, hand-to-hand combat, knife fight,mixed-fight (hand-to-hand combat, mixed style), assault fight, strikeball.

Alexey Milchakov and Yan Petrovsky set up one of the most notorious Nazi units taking part in the war in Ukraine under the name Rusich in the summer of 2014 after completing a combat training programme at the St Petersburg-based Partizan centre run by the Imperial Legion.

The course website states the following. “In today’s world not being a warrior is a criminal weakness for a man. The Guerrilla Tactical and Firearms Training Centre trains civilians to survive local armed conflicts, social instability and emergencies. No century has gone by without global wars, and the ring of “hot spots” around Russia is getting tighter and tighter. We see our task as raising the level of national security by educating conscientious citizens on military training courses”. The course has been available since 2012. In that time 4,000 people have been trained.

“On 7 April 2020, the US State Department added the Russian Imperial Movement, whose fighting wing is the Imperial Legion, to its register of global terrorist organisations, an honour previously reserved mainly for Islamist organisations. Commenting on the decision, Nathan Sales, the State Department’s counter-terrorism coordinator, said the movement was engaged in “paramilitary training of neo-Nazis”, which posed a danger. He said it was the first time America had included people “pursuing white supremacy” on a global terrorist register.

**Ukraine war**

just one day after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, Imperial Legion leader Denis Gariev wrote in his Telegram channel: “Without a doubt, we stand for the elimination of the separatist entity Ukraine. German intelligence has revealed that the Imperial Legion began fighting in Ukraine around March 2022. The fighters were recruited “mainly persons with military experience” and graduates of the already mentioned Partizan combat training centre in St. Petersburg. The militants have already suffered casualties. Denis Gariyev was wounded and his long-time deputy was killed near Izyum in mid-May. At least two other right-wing extremists have been seriously wounded.