Certain groups in Germany have repeatedly demanded that Berlin reconsider its support for Ukraine. Behind the demands are some pro-Putin activists with special connections.

Even if the majority of the German population is behind the support of Ukraine against the Russian war of aggression, there have also been calls for a change of course since the beginning of the war. At rallies, online and on the streets, groups are demanding that Berlin should reconsider its support for Ukraine.

Very special pro-Putin activists are said to be behind these demands. Research by the Reuters news agency shows that the key figures in some campaigns are said to have clear connections to the Russian state or to the extreme right.

Through interviews and reviewing social media posts, Reuters has identified the identities of key figures in some campaigns that have been spreading pro-Putin sentiment in Germany since the start of the war in Germany.

One of them is Rostislav Teslyuk, who has changed his name to Max Schlund, according to Reuters. Reuters was able to track down the former Russian air force officer at a pro-Russian rally in Cologne in September. Schlund is said to have previously served as a first lieutenant in the Russian Air Force. The native Russian has been living in Germany since 2012.

Schlund maintains ties to the Russian government: According to Reuters, a Russian government agency called “Rossotrudnichestvo” is said to have paid for his plane ticket to Moscow to attend a Putin conference. Particularly explosive: The Russian government agency has been sanctioned by the EU because it maintains a network of agents who spread depictions of the Kremlin.

And his partner Elena Kolbasnikova is no stranger either: she was the public face of the Cologne protest, according to Reuters. With the words “Peace. Freedom. Self-determination.” she goaded the crowd. She is said to have organized the demonstration and a number of other pro-Russian events together with Schlund – Kolbasnikova is from Ukraine.

Via Telegram, Schlund and Kolbasnikova are said to have prepared an event in Düsseldorf in June, with the venue decorated with flags of Chechen President and Putin confidant Ramzan Kadyrov, according to Reuters. Chechen leader Kadyrov is involved in the Russian offensive in Ukraine. One of Kadyrov’s ministers, Akhmed Dudayev, reportedly posted pictures of the Düsseldorf event with the words “goodwill ambassador,” according to Reuters.

And Reuters was able to find another pro-Putin supporter next to the stage at the rally in Cologne – Andei Kharkovkiy. This is said to be committed to a Cossack association that supports Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine. In Imperial Russia, the so-called Cossacks swore allegiance to the Russian Tsars – today, these organizations are loyal to Putin and fight alongside Russian forces in Ukraine.

Kharkoswkij is said to live southeast of Cologne and run a small trucking company, according to Reuters. On his social media pages, he shares pictures of himself at Cossack gatherings. He often wears a Cossack military uniform, according to Reuters. And one more detail catches the eye: a symbol is tattooed on his arm, which was adopted by the extreme right in Russia and other countries.

In addition, two other rally participants are said to take part in Cossack meetings:  Vladimir Felk and Sergei Schneider. A bouncer named Grigory Kramer is also repeatedly photographed with them: Kramer is a representative of the Union of Cossack Warriors in Russia and abroad.

And Viktor Vodolatsky, long-standing former chairman of the association, appears with them again and again. Vodoloatsky is said to be under EU and US sanctions for supporting Russian actions in Ukraine, Reuters said.

According to Reuters, Oleg Eremenko was also present at a panel discussion in Berlin entitled “Peace with Russia”. As a Russian-German businessman, Eremenko takes the view that Ukrainian youth are being brought up to hate Russia. Eremenko confirmed to Reuters that he worked for the Russian military intelligence agency GRU.

Eremenko did not previously have a bad reputation in Germany: He attended events commemorating the Soviet war dead buried in Germany alongside German politicians and has already received an award from the Russian Embassy in Germany for his services to Russia.

There should also be a photo with him and Manuela Schwesig, Prime Minister of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Schwesig (SPD) did not respond to a Reuters request.

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AfD supporters can also be found among the pro-Putin activists, reports Reuters. Vyacheslav Seewald and other people are said to be behind the German-language Telegram channel “Putin-Fanclub”. The channel regularly sends pro-Putin speeches to its 36,000 followers, calling on Putin’s warnings of a nuclear conflict to be taken seriously.

In addition, he is said to have repeatedly written about his sympathy for the AfD. In 2017, Seewald is said to have even posted a photo with Björn Höcke (AfD) and a co-leader of the far-right AFD group “Der Flügel”. Björn Höcke told Reuters that he did not know Seewald and that it was impossible to verify the views of everyone he was photographed with.