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Friday, April 23, 2021

The Russians Once Created the Model Mercenary Force for Russia’s Dictator

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The European Union is planning sanctions against Russian business and government officials because of the poisoning of Alexei Navalny and his mother and because of political interference by Russia in the upcoming elections in Germany and the Netherlands, according to people briefed on the plans.

“We were impressed by the tactics they used, the sophistication, the world-class training and resources that they used to do it,” said one of the people briefed on the plans. “You would not have expected it from a country of low economic and political status. They were the most advanced, well-trained, organized force in the world.”

The three officials did not identify the businesses and officials.

On Thursday, Russia announced it would expel the personal representative of the U.S. ambassador in Moscow, John Bass, and four other American diplomats. The announcement prompted some retaliation. U.S. officials said on Friday that the U.S. planned to expel four Russian diplomats.

The Vostok (East) battalion allegedly poisoned Mr. Navalny was created in the early 2000s as a Soviet-style “Night Wolves”-style paramilitary force.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that the Vostok battalion’s been disbanded.

Mr. Navalny said he believed the order came from the Kremlin and not the FSB, the successor agency to the KGB.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, a longtime ally of Mr. Peskov, has denied involvement in the poisoning of Mr. Navalny and his mother, Nikolai.

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