Jan 30 (Reuters) – A gaggle of pro-Russian activists in Germany donated funds to a Russian military division combating in Ukraine, and the cash was used to buy walkie-talkie radios, headphones and telephones, based on an officer within the division and messages from the group’s organisers seen by Reuters.
The couple on the centre of the group, Elena Kolbasnikova and Max Schlund, handed the sum of 500 euros ($540) to the officer in particular person late final 12 months. Their messages present they knew the cash paid for telecommunications tools – regardless of European Union sanctions which limit the availability of such gear to Russia’s army.
A Jan. 3 Reuters Particular Report revealed that Kolbasnikova and Schlund have been amongst numerous people in Germany who promote a pro-Moscow stance whereas sustaining undisclosed ties to the Russian state, sanctioned Russian entities or the far-right.
That report confirmed Kolbasnikova and Schlund acquired tickets from the Berlin arm of a Russian state cultural promotion company, Rossotrudnichestvo, to journey to Moscow for a convention addressed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Berlin prosecutors have since stated they’re investigating the company’s Berlin workplace.
The brand new proof gathered by Reuters signifies the couple are extra actively concerned within the Kremlin’s army marketing campaign in Ukraine than beforehand thought.
In a message despatched in October to supporters in a non-public WhatsApp group, seen by Reuters, Kolbasnikova wrote: “We transferred 500 euros for the forty second Motorised Rifle Division of the Russian Federation to purchase radios, headphones and radio telephones.”
“We spoke with them in Donetsk. They’re deployed to the frontline. My husband served with one among these guys,” She posted the message in capital letters beneath a dozen purple exclamation marks.
An EU regulation from Feb. 25, 2022 bans supplying or financing the acquisition of sure items for the Russian army. The listing of products lined contains “radio tools (e.g., transmitters, receivers and transceivers).”
Beneath German legislation, the legal penalty for anybody discovered to have violated sanctions is as much as 5 years in jail.
Kolbasnikova and Schlund gave the cash, which they stated they raised from supporters, to Russian officer Dmitry Tkachev in Rostov-on-Don, a metropolis within the south of Russia, on their approach again from a visit to Ukraine’s Donbas, Tkachev instructed Reuters. The Donbas area is basically managed by Russia.
On the request of his commander, Tkachev used the cash to purchase the communication tools and despatched it to the division, which is deployed on the frontline in jap Ukraine, he stated. Tkachev stated he serves within the forty second division and is chargeable for alerts and communications.
Requested to remark, Kolbasnikova stated: “Our lawyer will provide you with a solution. And in addition, you’ll reply on your lies and provocations.” She didn’t determine the lawyer.
In response to Reuters questions Schlund messaged a reporter: “Fuck you, fool,” and added a laughing emoji.
The Russian Defence Ministry didn’t reply to a request for remark. Oleg Silkin, the performing communications chief of the forty second division, confirmed that Tkachev is answerable for buying tools however stated that the everlasting communications chief, Nikolai Sitnikov, is on the frontline in Ukraine and solely reachable via particular army channels. Reuters was unable to contact him. Requested about particulars of the acquisition, Silkin referred Reuters again to Tkachev. Germany’s inside ministry, customs, justice ministry and financial system ministry all declined to touch upon the actions of the group led by Kolbasnikova and Schlund. The German authorities’s press service didn’t reply.
The Workplace for the Safety of the Structure in North Rhine Westphalia, the area the place Schlund and Kolbasnikova reside, stated the couple’s group tries to advertise Moscow’s official narrative relating to its aggression in opposition to Ukraine, however no private details about them might be shared as a result of German information safety legal guidelines. The workplace didn’t reply to a query about Schlund and Kolbasnikova serving to purchase gear for the Russian army.
Schlund, who studied in a Russian army academy, moved to Germany in 2012. He later started a relationship with Kolbasnikova, who’s initially from Ukraine and has labored in Germany as a nurse.
Since Moscow’s Feb. 24, 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the couple have organised protests within the metropolis of Cologne, urging the German authorities to cease arming Ukraine and to make peace with Moscow.
As a part of their actions, they’ve beforehand publicized how they gathered donations in Germany and used the cash to convey humanitarian support, together with medicines, to individuals within the Donbas area throughout their go to final 12 months.
The assistance for the forty second division was disclosed to a circle of supporters within the WhatsApp group, to which Schlund and Kolbasnikova solely admit individuals they’ve vetted, based on an individual acquainted with the group.
In her publish concerning the radios and different gear, Kolbasnikova stated she was sharing the knowledge to point out to supporters how their contributions had been spent. She and Schlund shared images, voice notes and receipts referring to the transaction.
In a single photograph she posted, two unidentified males in camouflage gear are pictured subsequent to open bins of apparatus laid out on the trunk of a Soviet-designed Lada automotive with a Donetsk licence plate. A phone receiver, a Baofeng-branded radio, and a field of headphones might be seen. Baofeng is a Chinese language agency.
Schlund posted within the WhatsApp group screenshots of receipts for the products. The receipts are for purchases of 5 walkie-talkie radios, value a complete of 9,000 roubles ($125), and 5 Yealink SIP-T30P IP telephones. The gadgets, purchased for round 3,000 roubles every, permit customers to make cellphone calls by way of the Web. Yealink too is China-based firm.
The purchases have been made on Oct. 3 and Oct. 4 in Rostov-on-Don, based on the receipts.
Kolbasnikova posted voice notes which she stated have been from one of many individuals serving within the forty second division. In among the voice notes, an unidentified man talks about preparations for receiving the tools his unit wants.
Within the remaining voice notice, the identical man might be heard saying: “Hello brother, the order you gave cash for was simply handed over… We purchased Baofeng radios, headphones for radio stations…not the built-in ones however the ones that come individually, IP telephones with modems, they’re in bins. It is a very helpful factor, categorised communications undergo them, too. Large thanks from the forty second division, from the communications chief. You may say you equipped us with comms.”
((Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova in New York and Mari Saito in Berlin; enhancing by Christian Lowe and Janet McBride))
Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Belief Rules.