The Instagram account of a Russian special forces operative reveals that members of the elite Alpha Group took part in military operations in Ukraine. Ilya Gorelyh, who has been highly decorated for his service in special operations, has suggested that he and his colleagues took part in the fighting against Ukrainian forces.On the 21st of July, Gorelyh posted a photograph of his car driving through the border crossing at Nehoteevka with the comment “we are already close, fucking Banderas”. The reference is to Stepan Bandera, who led a nationalist movement in Ukraine during the Stalinist era and who remains notorious in Russia for his collaboration with the Nazis.
When one of his followers asks “holidays or work”, Gorelyh replies with “work, of course! Its to do with our profession” followed by gun emoji.Two days later he posted a photograph of himself and another man brandishing a knife and a standard issue Russian Makarov pistol in their car. He commented: “#polite#people#spetsnaz#GRU#16OBrSpN#370ooSpN… we are coming”.
Some of the names preceded by hashtags are of the elite units that Gorelyh has served in, including the Alpha group which is Russia’s equivalent of the Navy SEALs or the British SAS. “Polite People” are the Russian equivalent of the “little green men”, the well-equipped forces who occupied the Crimea back in March.The Apha Group, a small unit of Russia’s Special Forces, has been used in rescue operations in the Moscow theater and Beslan school hostage crises, and to carry out special operations including assassinations.
Gorelyh has been highly decorated for his years of service, and appears to be currently active with the special forces in Kaliningrad; an enclave between Poland and Lithuania that belongs to the Russian Federation.He later writes “I went to bed early yesterday… Didn’t sleep for two days, while we were riding around “free Ukraine, and the training was very good we let them know about us”. Gorelyh seems cautious about discussing the details of his work, instead he jokes that he is going to Ukraine to “visit his grandmother”. Despite his caution, he has the DNR, the Russian acronym for the “Donetsk People’s Republic” set as his location. Moreover, when one of his followers urges him to “tear them [the Ukrainians] all apart” he replies with “we’re already tearing them”.
On the 29th of July, Gorelyh announced that he is was crossing the border at Goptovka. An anonymous user who seems to side with the Ukrainian forces posted “this time you’ll return from “grandmother” in zinc”. This is a reference to zinc coffins are used to return the bodies of dead soldiers from overseas. Gorelykh replied with “fucking Banderovite offspring, I have been there a hundred times, and will go again just as many times”.This evidence of Russian military involvement comes at the same time as the revelation that around 40 Russian troops been killed in Ukraine, and the news that Angela Merkel has demanded an explanation from Putin regarding the presence of his troops in the conflict. As the evidence suggests that members of the Alpha Group have also been employed, it could mean that the Russian government has used force in a number of covert and illegal operations in Ukraine.