Rotenberg brothers set up private army consisting of Russian football fans

The head of the security department of Russian Railways, Viktor Shendrik, who is close to the Rotenberg brothers, high-profile Russian oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin, sponsors a detachment of Russian football fans, entitled Espanyola, that is now fighting in Ukraine as part of the Kremlin’s invasion force.

This was reported by Vazhnye istorii with reference to three sources close to Shendrik.

Espanyola was originally founded by football fans, mainly those of Spartak Moscow, before the Rotenbergs came up with the idea of taking control of the private military company (in February 2023, Espanyola started referring to itself as PMC – ed.). Now many large companies are creating their own private armies, and the two brothers seek to create their own private army based on Espanyola,” the source said.

According to the source, Shendrik was authorized to supervise the effort as he had long been working for the Rottenberg as their senior security official and, on the other hand, served in the FSB’s special operations unit, Vympel. Since 2016, he has been leading Russian Railways’ security service.

Read also: Ukraine at UN: Russian PMCs dangerous to entire world

The outlet claims that the Rotenbergs, whose companies are among the key contractors for the Russian Railways, contributed to Shendrik’s appointment with the railways operator. The official’s income for 2021 amounted to over RUB 2 billion ($22 million).

The Espanyola battalion is part of the Redut PMC, controlled by the Russian Ministry of Defense. Previously, the terrorist unit Espanyola operated within the Vostok battalion as a volunteer unit consisting of football fans.

Espanyola has its own reconnaissance, assault, e-warfare, UAV operations, and sniper units. At one point, Espanyola was recruiting female fighters for its assault units to take part in the war against Ukraine.

Read also: Russia recruits ‘volunteers’ through PMCs to avoid unpopular mobilisations – UK intel

As Ukrinform reported earlier, Espanyola was mentioned in the Ukrainian defense intelligence report where the emphasis was put on the fact that the active recruiting campaign run by Espanyola was funded by the ruling United Russia party.

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