There a has been growing concern in Europe regarding the Kremlin’s new methods of formulating the aggressive fifth column whose members are recruited under the guise of combat sports clubs. According to, experts Lithuania – is no exception to this.
Numerous, interviewed experts by “Lietuvos Žinios“ are convinced that similar activities are being carried out in our country, under the guise of various organizations. Although, there is an almost unanimous consensus among experts that the threat is very real, experts warn against beginning a perpetual witch hunt and instead institute preventative measures for anti-state activities where its actually carried out.
Furthermore, the incident this week regarding, the apprehension of an airsoft hobbyist group by police forces has received both voices of approval stating that “there is no need to play green men”, as well as vocalizations of anger and disapproval, stating that the police has become violent against orderly citizens engaging in a popular form of recreational pastime.
In any case, the incident served as a reminder that a good portion of paramilitary nature sport and leisure clubs could be utilized as a guise for Russian secret service centres and serve as make shift shelters for pro-Kremlin minded individual gathering places, operating not only in Lithuania but also other countries, this has become a topic of debate for a number of years.
The 2015 report by the State Security Department (VSD) indicated and stressed the fact that there is a clear Russian interest in inciting instability in both Central and Eastern European countries. This was clearly confirmed by the Ukraine example.
“The military conflict in Ukraine, has demonstrated that Russia is both provoking and escalating separatism in neighbouring countries, with the utilization of pro-Russian organisations and paramilitary groups such as bikers, gatherings of historical Reconstructionist, Cossack and Orthodox paramilitary groups, as well sport simulators – airsoft clubs, extremist political groups in societies” – the VSD report states.
The same report, further notes that pro-Russian minded individuals and organizations of similar orientation can be utilized in order to simulate public discontent: “Several protests have been organized in 2015 by people with extremist political views against Lithuania’s membership in NATO, as well as the states foreign policy towards Russia.” The truth of the matter is that they had received the right response from citizens – alternative gatherings.
According to, to the publication “EUobserver” in preparation for the upcoming election this year, the media in Germany has publicized a number of investigations on the topic of how Russian military intelligence GRU establishes and utilizes Eastern duelling clubs in order to recruit gunman. Clubs of similar nature have sprung up as mushrooms after the rain not only in Germany but also in other countries of the European Union (EU), spanning from Portugal to Estonia.
The work of these organizations has been investigated by the ZDF television channel, as well as the reporter Boris Reitschuster, Dmitry Chmelnick a dissident and an expert on the topic of the Russian secret service currently residing in Germany and others. The authors and experts claim that there is no doubt regarding the preparations of hundreds of potential rioters and an army of shock troops underway by the Russian intelligence agencies operating in Germany. The only remaining question is whether Moscow would dare to give them a clear order to insinuate violence if the opportunity would present itself.
Moreover, many of Lithuanian experts interviewed by “Lietuvos Žinios” also acknowledge that the utilization of such group gatherings inclined with the interest of the Kremlin is a legitimate and realistic threat, and that aggressive and violent action is not the indefeasible Rubicon.
There is a need to combat the threat without crossing the line
With the vocalized anxiousness in Germany, the question regarding whether there could be a different situation in Lithuania arises. As stated by Arvydas Anušauskas, the member of the Parliamentary National Security and Defence Committee (NSDK) to “Lietuvos Žinios”, Russian aggression in East Ukraine has shown that secret services utilize a wide variety of structures – from sport and Eastern duelling clubs, to other organizations and communities. Thus, creating not only ideologically prepared but also technically equipped pro-Russian groups. Furthermore, Russian intelligence agencies also have access to criminal organizations at their disposal.
Furthermore, Arvydas Anušauskas recalled the of the infamous riot near the Parliament in 2009, when 30 rally participants, as well as several police officers were injured during which at least one criminal organized crime group was also participating.
The allegations, regarding the utilization of organized crime structures by Russian secret service for their own interests, according to the member of the NSDK are by the fact of the increased severity of this type of threat in the recent years in other EU countries as well. “In this instance we (we, Lithuania – auth. Note) are not the exception”, - stated the member of the Parliament.
However, the existence of these problems, as well as the threat itself does not warrant the spread of global panic or the prohibition of certain forms of recreational pastimes activities.
According to, the interlocutors interviewed by “Lietuvos Žinios”, agencies responsible for law enforcement and national security need to be responsible not only for monitoring certain activities but also investigating specific individuals and organizations participating in anti-state behaviour, as well as unlawful activities.
Moreover, prof. Dr. Valdas Rakutis, a war historian stated to “Lietuvos Žinios” that not only due the conditions necessary in order to established pro-Russian paramilitary groups exists but that the threat requires careful monitoring by Lithuanian security services. Furthermore, the creation and training of combat groups, as well as preparations for the use of violent provocations is not a new phenomenon in modern history – as in the beginning of the 20th century both far right-and far left-wing forces engaged in similar activities.
Thus, similar groups can be utilized for similar purpose, today such as the simulation of the enraged far-right wing striking forces.
According, to the historian while the raid carried out against an airsoft group that appeared to be of suspicious nature – was a positive example of police vigilance.
Moreover, V. Rakutis warned that there is a need “to shoot accurately” which means that attacks on one or another combat sport should not be carried out, rather specific anti-state acts need to be investigated and clarified. “There, is no need to overdo it and take up catching for example basketball players because they would also appear to be upgrading certain tactics” – commented ironically the war historian.
Weapons attract radicals
Although, this week the attention appears to be concentrated as it would seem on a singular activity – airsoft, experts note that the martial arts, fighting entertainment community is both wide and diverse. Particular attention is given to the practical shooting community whose participants spend their leisure not with “toy” but actual combat weapons.
According to, Audrius Bačiulis a warfare expert and commentator, there is little doubt that a fifth column is being former in Lithuania. “In particular, the so-called airsoft clubs were also mentioned in the VSD report. What else is need for us to realize that the threat exists?” – the expert asked rhetorically. A. Bačiulis further, notes that the community itself three years ago (before the beginning of the aggression in Ukraine) in their online forums warned enthusiasts interested in this form of leisure activity that Lithuanian airsoft clubs would not tolerate pro-Russian propaganda and that its pedlars would be blocked. “If some of them did not realize that these rules apply to them – they have themselves to blame” – stated A. Bačiulis.
On the question, whether a similar medium to the one in Germany, in which the Russian secret service could recruit and organize provocateurs that could instil unrest, exist in Lithuania A. Bačiulis suggested to take a closer look into the activities of combat type leisure organization such as practical shooting clubs.
According to, the commentator he himself has had interactions with the following sport lovers, who have repeatedly pointed out that the weapons utilized by several amateur shooters do not meet (at least superficially evaluated) their financial situation.
Moreover, Olegas Sitnikovas the head for the Security staff association stated to “Lietuvos Žinios” that all organizations utilizing imitations of weapons, or in particular organizations utilizing actual weapons (as due practical shooting clubs) have to comply with specific rule and regulations. “This is not a game. We are educating people to behave properly with weapons” – stated Olegas Sitnikovas. In his opinion, the statement that these kind of clubs are attractive to troubled minded individuals only interested in their combat appearance, is correct. However, the head of the Security staff association notes that while the nationality of the club members should not be emphasized.
Since clubs are established based on the individual incentive, membership in them can be sought by any likeminded individuals who are already monitored by obligatory background checks in Lithuania regarding whether these persons in general can be issued a gun permit.
Furthermore, if among the members in these clubs persons that spread anti-state rhetoric emerge, they should be of immediate interest for VSD and other institutions. According to, Olegas Sitnikovas just because of the fact that an organization “deals with combat weapons” does not mean that its members are engaged in propaganda or political activities. “The Security staff association unites responsibly working professionals. We are too busy with question pertaining directly with our work, to “play” these kind of games” – he stated.
They would not hesitate to cross Rubicon
Although, security experts in Germany have doubts regarding the actually willingness of Russian intelligence to take aggressive actions, for example to cause riots or formulate racist attacks during the election. During an interview to “Lietuvos Žinios”, a former VSD official stated that the Russian secret service pays no mind to ethical or high risk related requirements. The most important thing – is to achieve their goals, whether they may be achieved through the help shock troops disguised as sport groups, or members organizing children’s events does not matter. Although, the former VSD officer did not want his identity to be published (his identity is known to the editor), he argued that that there is little doubt that the Russian secret service is utilizing combat sport organizations in order to carry out similar activities both in Germany and Lithuania.
According, to the former intelligence officer, the Kremlin utilizes not only sport and paramilitary communities in order to spread its influence but also other innocent looking organizations, for example during the Second World War clubs looking for the graves of soldiers were also utilized. The members of such clubs were actively involved in propaganda activities in Lithuania – from the distribution of the “koloradinių” strips on the 9th of May to the organization of events for students.
The former VSD officer noted that the activities in combat clubs are a costly leisure activity and thus, doubts about the financial abilities such club members to finance their own activities such as their abilities to purchase expensive equipment, as well as develop their overall activities arise ad are warranted. The former officer, also drew attention to their chose in eloquent accoutrements, which although are faux – are chosen specifically as Russian uniforms and weapons, as well as their imitations.
In the opinion, of the former VSD officer Germany, as well as other EU countries that still have doubts about whether or not Russia would dare to actively utilize combat clubs and similar organizations to recruit people, are doubtful for no reason. Aggressive violent provocations are not an uncross-able line. People are ideologically prepared especially for the younger generation that did not witness the Soviet times, their heads are filled with myths about the “wonderful” life in the USSR when supposedly everyone was equal and everything was cheap. “This is how the new fifth column may be created” – he stated.
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