An alleged member of an extreme right-wing military sub-unit of the Wagner mercenary force has been arrested in Finland on charges of participation in a “terrorist group”, following a request from Ukraine, according to reports.
A detention hearing was scheduled to take place on Friday in a district court near Helsinki, according to Finnish public broadcaster Yle. Finnish police are requesting that the 36-year-old Russian national, identified as Yan Petrovsky, be detained in preparation for his extradition.
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According to court documents, Petrovsky was allegedly involved in atrocities during fighting in 2014 and 2015 in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, Germany’s DPA news agency reported.
Russian state-run news agencies RIA and TASS reported on Friday that the Russian embassy in Helsinki was aware of the detention of a Russian citizen in Finland on Ukraine’s request and was taking steps to offer consular assistance.
Social media channels linked to Russia’s Wagner mercenaries said on Friday that the suspect was a key fighter with the Sabotage Assault Reconnaissance Group – “Rusich” – which is affiliated with Wagner.
According to reports cited by the Reuters news agency, Petrovsky is a founding member and leader of the Rusich unit and has been under European Union and United States sanctions since last year. He reportedly helped to found Rusich as an explicitly neo-Nazi unit during the opening stages of the conflict in the Donbas in 2014.
He was initially arrested in Finland on July 20 for a visa violation and could now be extradited to Ukraine, according to the reports. It is unclear how Petrovsky was able to enter Finland while under EU sanctions.
A district court in Vantaa near Helsinki was expected to extend Petrovsky’s detention in custody at the request of the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation on Friday afternoon, a court official told the Reuters news agency.
The bureau sought the detention of Petrovsky, who also uses the name Voislav Torden, on suspicion of participating in a terrorist group’s activities as well as supporting terrorism, the official said.
Ukraine’s prosecutor general did not immediately reply to a request for comment.