A neo-Nazi paramilitary group linked to the Kremlin, last week requested intelligence on border and military activity in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, leading to sources expressing their growing concerns to British newspaper The Guardian on Sunday, Dec. 11.
Closely aligned to the infamous Wagner Group, a private military company run by a Putin ally, the move by the extreme right-wing paramilitary group Task Force Rusich, has been branded "extraordinary" and a potential indicator of growing frustrations over President Putin’s failures in his invasion of Ukraine.
The post in question, so far viewed by more than 60,000 Telegram users, called for information on member data and occupations, patrol movements, border post locations, and the private details of military personnel and their relatives.
"Does it indicate fragmentation within the Russian system?" One source, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Guardian. "What happens if the Russian lose control of them and they start committing rogue actions that could accidentally escalate the situation? The real question is: how much control does the Kremlin really have?"
The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced in September that it was imposing sanctions against Rusich, after the group was spotted by open-source intelligence operating in Donbas and the Kherson and Kharkiv Regions of Ukraine.
The concerns arose after what Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba described as a "well-planned" campaign of intimidation was carried out on embassies in countries allied with Ukraine earlier this month.
The incidents involved packages being sent to embassies in Poland, Italy, Croatia, and the Netherlands, and consulates in Naples and the Czech Republic.
Other targets have so far included a letter bomb arriving at the office of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, the arms manufacturer Instalaza in Zaragoza, and a satellite center at an airbase in Madrid.
Received throughout last week, five of the letters were detected by security personnel before they reached their targets, Spanish TV station La Sexta reported on Thursday, Dec. 8.
However, one of the letter bombs, sent to the U.S. embassy in Madrid, went undetected and was opened by an employee on Nov. 30. The individual was taken to hospital with minor injuries.
A further letter, sent to the U.S. Embassy in Madrid was intercepted on Dec, 1, with Spain’s Interior Ministry saying the package displayed "similar characteristics to the previous ones. "
The letter bombs, all sent in brown parcels, consisted of homemade devices containing a tripwire and flammable powder, Spanish Deputy Interior Minister Rafael Perez told Reuters.
Other packages were found to contain bloody animal parts, with Yevhenia Voloshchenko, a Ukrainian official in Rome, saying her embassy had received a small parcel containing a fish eye.
In the Czech Republic, police officials confirmed that an envelope delivered to the Ukrainian embassy in the city of Brno was found to contain "animal tissue." A similar package was also sent to the Ukrainian Embassy in Prague, while Andriy Yurash, the Ukrainian ambassador to the Holy See told reporters that the entrance to his apartment had been smeared with a "dirty substance."
"It was like a warning. Everybody needs to be prepared for a repeat of the same terrible gesture," Yurash said in a phone interview with CNN on Dec. 1. "Surely it’s a way from the Russian side to threaten Ukrainian diplomats."
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