Cologne Ring of Russian Agents

How pro-Russian agents in Germany are working to turn Berlin against Ukraine. Russian Military Intelligence (GRU), Russian Orthodox Church, «DPR» proxy extremists and German right-wing politics still work in Germany to split the EU. NATO, raise money for Russian troops, recruit EU citizens in paramilitary forces and organize coup d’etat.

About 2,000 protestors gathered in a square in Cologne in September to urge the German administration to sever ties with the Western coalition supporting Ukraine and establish diplomatic relations with Russia. Right-wing German lawmaker Markus Beisicht remarked, “We must stop being vassals of the Americans,” while speaking from an improvised platform on the back of a truck. The crowd cheered while flapping the Russian and German flags.

The thin man was a former officer in the Russian Air Force. After relocating to Germany ten years ago, he changed his name from Rostislav Teslyuk to Max Schlund. He visited the region of eastern Ukraine occupied by Russia. He recently received funding from a Russian government organization to travel to Moscow for a conference where Russian President Vladimir Putin served as the main speaker. 

The EU sanctions are in place on the Rossotrudnichestvo agency for running a system of “agents of influence” who spread Kremlin propaganda. His employer referred to the July sanctions as “insane.”

Andrey Kharkovsky, Schlund’s bulky stage neighbor, vows allegiance to the Cossack paramilitary group, which backs Moscow’s war against Ukraine. For this story, Schlund and Kharkovsky did not answer specific inquiries. Schlund wrote “Glory to Russia!” in a WhatsApp conversation.

The German government declined to comment in detail on this piece. Still, the Interior Ministry stated that it takes any attempts to sway German policy “extremely seriously,” particularly “in the context of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.” 

When contacted for comment, the Kremlin declined to respond. A politician named Beisicht revealed he had collaborated closely with the protest organizers during his speech at the Cologne demonstration. He avoided discussing the conclusions about their connections.

Raising money in Germany for the war against Ukraine

Olena Kolbasnikova, Sсhlund’s Ukrainian-born partner who now resides in Germany, served as the protest’s public face in Cologne. With a faint German accent, she led the audience in chanting “Peace. Freedom. Self-determination!” 

Ms. Kolbasnikova and Mr. Schlund planned a protest and several other pro-Russian rallies using flyers and social media. Kolbasnikova rose to fame in some anti-establishment groups in Germany last year after claiming that “Russophobia” caused her to lose her work as a nurse, a claim that has not been objectively substantiated. 

She does not encourage the Russian invasion in her pitch to supporters; instead, she emphasizes how the war would affect Germans, who are worried about rising energy costs.

Schlund and Kolbasnikova invited “like-minded folks” to a day of music, food, and sports in Düsseldorf in June through a Telegram message in the summer. The location, a banquet hall, was decorated with the flags of Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya and Putin’s supporter, whose fighters participate in Russia’s war against Ukraine. 

Akhmed Dudayev, a minister in Kadyrov’s administration, shared images of the occasion on Telegram and referred to Kolbasnikova and Schlund as “ambassadors of benevolence” who are “on the side of truth.” The event’s organization was unrelated to the Chechen Ministry of Information, which Dudayev runs.

In July, Schlund, Kolbasnikova, and their followers established their association with the right-wing extremist Markus Beisicht’s law business. They refer to themselves as the “Bridge for Understanding between Germany and Russia,” and Max Schlund serves as the chairman. 

When the association was created, Beisicht’s party, “Aufbruch Leverkusen,” pledged to assist its efforts. In Telegram groups, Kolbasnikova and Schlund frequently solicit funds. Their published cash reports reveal that they often get donations from fans, ranging in value from 30 euros to $300.

Recruitment to the Wagner’s military group

Kolbasnikova manages German- and Russian-speaking chat groups. Groups are no longer public. At least once, there has been a call for recruitment into the Wagner private military company, a Russian mercenary group considered particularly brutal and accused of serious war crimes. 

The mercenary commander, an admirer of the Third Reich, named the group after Hitler’s favorite composer, Richard Wagner.

Wagner’s troops, recruited after the start of the war in 2014 in Donbas in Germany, says an expert Heinemann-Gruder. “No wonder people are trying to do it again.” In 2014, the company “would take almost everyone who volunteered. Today, they are more selective. Anyone who fights for Wagner and is identified today no longer has a return ticket but is likely to be considered a terrorist by law enforcement.” 

With the Russian army’s setbacks in Ukraine, “Wagner’s unrestrained and more violent fighters gained considerable influence,” according to Heinemann-Gruder.

“They are pushing for an even tougher war and putting pressure on Putin from the far right” The Cologne Telegram group circulated a recruitment drive and videos and articles about Wagner’s group.

Links to Russian Military Intelligence (GRU)

A panel discussion titled “Peace with Russia” was a part of the German Communist Party’s “peace and solidarity” festival in Berlin last August. Oleg Yeremenko, a Russian-German businessman who participated on the board, asserted that young people in Ukraine are being trained to despise Russia. Eremenko has long been involved in German-Russian society. The website lists the Russian Orthodox Church of Berlin as a client. The church claimed to have no information about its contractors.

Yeromenko is pictured with Igor Girkin in the 2016 photograph. Girkin is a former Russian intelligence officer recently found guilty of taking part in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine by a Dutch court in absentia. 

The image was posted on Girkin’s group’s VKontakte account. Girkin, also known as Igor Strelkov, disputes responsibility for the plane’s downing. Girkin responded to this news by saying, “I do not give interviews to unfriendly media.”

Yeromenko acknowledged his employment with the GRU, the Russian military intelligence service. He claimed to have served in Russia but would not go into any details in an interview with Reuters. All he said was, “Served. “Right now, let’s suppose I have civilian status in Germany.”

So, the links of these individuals and radical groups in Germany to the Russian government and Russian military intelligence are apparent. There is no doubt that they threaten security in Europe, and a strong reaction from German authorities is needed.

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