Russian football hooligans form separate battalion to fight in Ukraine

Russian paramilitary group dubbed ‘Espanola’ is made of football hooligans led by CSKA supporter Stanislav ‘Spaniard’ Orlov, 41 (Picture: East2West)

Russia is stepping up recruitment of football hooligans to fight in Ukraine.

A battalion named Española comprising thugs from the terraces has now been given special status among armed forces backing Vladimir Putin.

The news comes as Moscow launches a desperate recruitment drive to replace the fighters it has lost in Ukraine.

Previously, the Wagner mercenary group had been recruiting convicts from Russian prisons to fight on the frontlines, but after their numbers were decimated during the ongoing siege of Bakhmut the Kremlin has been forced to seek ‘alternative sources’ of manpower.

Russian paramilitary group dubbed Espanola is made of football 'hooligans' led by CSKA supporter Stanislav 'Spaniard' Orlov, 41 (pictured)

The Espanola batallion is comprised of ‘Ultras’ from various Russian football clubs (Picture: East2West)

Reports emerged this week of female prisoners being transported to the frontlines to ‘compensate for losses in personnel’.

Meanwhile, Wagner has been reportedly recruiting high school students from schools around Moscow, giving ‘career talks’ and distributing questionnaires, titled ‘Application of a Young Warrior,’ in order to collect their contact information.  

Hooligans had previously been targeted for recruitment too, but now their Española battalion is being re-classed as a separate private military company, with the go-ahead to expand recruitment.

The hooligans are urged: ‘Get into the coolest adventures of your life with a real chance to come back alive from these scrapes,’ and are promised a ‘decent reward’ for turning their violent instincts on Ukraine.

Española commander Stanislav Orlov, call sign ‘Spaniard’, said: ‘We were volunteers, then part of the DPR [Donetsk People’s Republic] forces.

‘Recently we managed to get separate status.

‘So now we do not belong to any battalions or divisions.

Russian paramilitary group dubbed Espanola is made of football 'hooligans' led by CSKA supporter Stanislav 'Spaniard' Orlov, 41. Man holding flag of Shinnik Yaroslavl FC

Once shunned by the Kremlin as they sought to crack down on hooliganism ahead of the 2018 World Cup, the Ultras are now being embraced as national heroes (Picture: East2West)

‘We have been given approval to create a separate battalion, Española.’

The hooligans’ battalion is initially 550 strong, including 100 operators of kamikaze drones used to attack Ukraine, he said.

The hooligan fighters say they are being equipped by football supporters from across Russia.

‘There are a huge number of them,’ he said.

‘All over Russia, in fact – in different cities there are different football teams…

‘We tell them what we need [and they provide it]’.

Five years ago, Putin’s regime desperately sought to crackdown on Russian hooligans and ultras – using an FSB crackdown to stop them ruining the FIFA World Cup which Putin hosted.

Russian international footballer Andrey Solomatin, 47, a recruit to Putin's hooligan battalion named Espa??ola.

Former CSKA Moscow and Russian international footballer Andrey Solomatin, 47, is one of the batallion’s members (Picture: East2West)

In 2016, Russian hooligans were in pitch battles with English fans at the UEFA Euro tournament in France.

Now they are formalised as an armed force, and seen as heroes.

Española is currently recruiting ‘stormtroopers’, scout-saboteurs, snipers, drone operators, electronic warfare and air defence operators, portable ground reconnaissance station operators, anti-tank guided missile operators, anti aircraft specialists, communications specialists, mechanic-drivers, and medics.

Would-be fighters are told they will ‘take a quick but deep course of study in all directions with a real opportunity – or rather the need – to become a “universal soldier”.’

They will ‘become a real military man and benefit the Motherland without delay’.

And the stadium fighters will ‘get access and learn how to work with the most modern weapons, equipment and technologies’.

Sniper detachments ‘are provided with all the most advanced technologies — this applies to transport, equipment, and of course [guns].’

Footage shows combat training of Russian 'football hooligans', reportedly from Tula.

Moscow is desperately trying to replenish its fighting forces after suffering devastating losses in Ukraine (Picture: East2West)

Recruits are told they ‘may not be hooligans, but they should be close to us in spirit and comply with the main principles of Española in life’.

Former Russian international footballer Andrey Solomatin, 47, is one such recruit.

He played for Moscow clubs CSKA and Lokomotiv.

Recruitment sessions have been held recently in Moscow and St Petersburg, as well as other cities.

They boast recruits from the hooligan armies of clubs like CSKA, Zenit, Spartak, Torpedo and Lokomotiv and the notorious Orel Butchers.

Several are known to have died so far in the war.

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