His nom de guerre is "White Rex" and he is the founder and current leader of the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK), one of two battalions of Russian citizens fighting in Ukraine against Putin and his invasion. He is also the person who planned the first attack on Russian soil, an operation they carried out last March in Bryansk, which made them internationally known.
Kapustin emigrated to Germany at a very young age with his family, but he never dissociated himself from the Russian Federation. He says that on his trips to his home country he saw how Moscow was gradually turning into a modern megalopolis, but the rest of the country was becoming poorer; and he blames uncontrolled migration for this deterioration.
He is 39 years old, has a Russian passport and political convictions that he expresses without complexes. He denies half of the information that appears on the internet about him - "journalists should not read Wikipedia", he says. He denies being a Kremlin agent who sells drugs and arms, and also denies being financed by the Ukrainian government.
He arrives at the interview escorted by two men dressed in black, with a pistol at their waists, who sit at the next table. He answers all the questions in no uncertain terms, does not hide his ideas or his intentions, and knows he is part of the history of this war for being the first to achieve a military deployment on Russian soil. "There will be more," he warns.
In almost all publications that can be read about you on the Internet, you are directly defined as a neo-Nazi. How do you define yourself, what ideology do you profess?
I am a right-wing conservative and I do not like or support multiculturalism or uncontrolled immigration, the consequences of which have impoverished entire countries, such as Russia. I do not consider myself a national socialist, even though I have been given that label; I do not believe in socialism.
Don't you think that the Kremlin can exploit your image, and that of other right-wing nationalist fighters, to justify the invasion of Ukraine?
They met us in March 2023, when we stormed Bryansk. How can they justify the massacre and torture they have carried out in Ukraine over the past year if they didn't know us? If we were not here, the war would have started just the same. And if they wanted to fight fascism, they should have started with themselves, with Russia.
Why are you fighting in Ukraine, alongside the Ukrainian army?
This war is personal for me for several reasons, first, because they are killing my nationalist friends in Russian prisons; all the old nationalists have always been against Putin's regime, and this is an extension of that war.
Second, because they are attacking my home and it is normal for me to defend it. I settled in Ukraine in 2017 because the atmosphere in Russia started to be bad enough in political terms to be a nationalist, but I also had friends here who I was close to through sport, so I decided that this was my home.
When did you decide to join the Ukrainian army?
When the war started I started helping Azov veterans in Donetsk and Zaporiyia, but without fighting. I did not wear a uniform until I founded the Russian Volunteer Corps in August 2022, until then I only helped. But I saw Azov as an example to follow because of its high level of motivation and preparedness.
But he decided to found his own battalion almost a year ago, the Russian Volunteer Corps, so why didn't he simply enlist with Azov?
It's better to have your own people by your side at a critical time like a war. When you are fighting, you want to have people close to you who have the same convictions, the same way of thinking. That's why battalions of Georgians, Poles, Englishmen were also created at the time. Normally they are grouped by nationality, so it was logical to create a corps of Russian fighters as well. In the Russian Volunteer Corps practically all the fighters are Russians, there are only a few Ukrainians, but they are of Russian descent even if they are naturalised Ukrainians.
Is your salary paid by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence?
No, we are volunteer fighters and we are self-financed. We receive funding from other people inside Ukraine, but mostly from outside: from Russia and other countries. We are funded by many Russians who support the cause, who are unhappy with the situation but can't be here fighting with us, so their way of supporting us is with money. They are also part of the Russian Volunteer Corps.
At the beginning I put my own money to finance this, to buy equipment and a car. But now we get financial support from many countries.
Why did you decide to carry out a cross-border attack, on Russian soil, and what was the planning phase?
Because there are many legal aspects that prevent Ukrainians from entering Russian territory, but we can, we have Russian passports. And we realised that we could transfer the war to Russian territory. When we understood this, we started to plan it.
The first thing we did was to find out which areas of the border we could cross. Then we started to think about in which border towns we could not only deploy a military operation, but also spread our own propaganda. And then we had to prepare all the logistics.
The Ukrainian army helped us with intelligence and some of the logistics. We were also helped by people from Russia itself, because the Russian Volunteer Corps is not only in Ukraine, it's also in Russia and elsewhere. It took us a month to prepare everything. It was a success. There were practically no casualties, and it was a big surprise for the Kremlin, because they didn't expect it.
So the Ukrainian government knew that this attack was going to take place?
Of course, we could not cross the border from Ukraine quietly equipped with weapons and then return as if it were nothing, this is a time of war. They were the first to be informed.
Two months after the Bryansk operation, in May, you also took part in the assault on Belgorod, an offensive led by the Legion of Free Russians. What were the differences between the two raids on Russian soil?
The scale was completely different. In Belgorod we went in with everything, with artillery with drones. We occupied a population of 6,000 for a week, but there were quite a few casualties. In fact one of my closest friends fell there, while leading one of the assault columns [he shows the decoration that the Ukrainian government posthumously awarded to his friend, Shaiba, as he answers the question].
What is the point of these attacks on Russian soil, where it is virtually impossible to maintain a long-term occupation?
They have a political and propaganda objective. Military too, in the sense of seeing how far we can go, but above all propaganda. Right now we cannot compete with the machinery of the Russian Ministry of Defence, but it is a way of showing the Russians themselves that their government does not think about them and their security, and that if necessary it cannot defend them.
We seek to generate a real opposition within Russia, which realises that it can take control of its own country. And we also want more people in the world to know about us, and to join the Russian Volunteer Corps to fight with us, or to support us financially.
Do you consider yourselves partisans?
I don't like the term "partisan", it's a Soviet term, and I don't think it defines us: we don't work undercover on Russian territory, we don't live there. We work on Ukrainian territory, together with the Ukrainian army, and we take part in battles in Ukraine. It's another thing if we deploy on Russian soil and have help from local people there.
If they have help from Russian citizens, on Russian soil, it is because they are unhappy with Putin's regime. What do you think have been Vladimir Putin's big mistakes in governing Russia?
He started by picking fights with the enlightened world; he continued to promote the slogan "everyone is against Russia", which is not true, and he also repressed political, social and all kinds of freedoms. Nor was it right to turn the Chechens into a privileged class, along with the clan of those closest to Putin himself.
But Putin's big mistake was to turn Russia into a kind of America, while at the same time criticising how bad life was there. And in the end Russia has become the same: a mixture of territories where Russians have lost their identity, and where most of the problems and crime come from ethnic cases. And the paradox is that Putin's government criticises how bad life is in the US, France or Spain, where multicultural problems are generating conflicts in the streets, when the same thing is happening in Russia.
On my trips to Russia, I saw how Moscow was becoming a great modern megalopolis, but I also saw how it was becoming impoverished as a result of uncontrolled immigration; I saw the problems they generated and I saw more and more Muslim cultural centres everywhere.
Was invading Ukraine another of Putin's mistakes?
Putin's administration has spent so much time and resources on propaganda that the Russians themselves believed it: they thought it was going to be another Crimea. And that was a mistake.
The planning was also wrong: they thought they were going to easily take over the main airports in the country, while going in overland with tanks as if it was a walkover, but they had no back-up or support prepared for those tank columns. And that's what happened. They also thought that there would be many pro-Russians supporting their invasion inside Ukraine, and that only the Azovians would stand up to them. It is clear that they were wrong.
The Russian propaganda institute works better than its army. They made part of the world believe that Putin was a strong, wise, Christian leader fighting against fascism and the degenerations of the West, but they forgot to mention that in Russia people live in absolute poverty.
How do you assess the rebellion of Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner group, what do you think is going to happen now with these mercenaries?
I myself don't understand what happened, I thought they were going to take Moscow and start a revolution. And I supported it, not Prigozhin, but the revolution and the destabilisation of the Kremlin. I think she has succeeded in creating a pre-revolutionary atmosphere in some parts of Russia.
Now I think Wagner will cease to exist as we know it: the Russian Ministry of Defence will take some of the fighters away, and Prigozhin will be taken out of the way when the issue is no longer in the news and people forget about him. Not now because it could trigger a backlash from Wagner's supporters, and that would create more instability for the Kremlin. But I suppose he will have a car accident later on.
If Putin finally falls, what will be the goal of your struggle?
That the post-Putin world is the world of internal changes for the better in Russia, and that no one worse than him enters the government. When Stalin died, the Soviet Union continued, it did not disintegrate at that time. And I don't want the same thing to happen when Putin dies.
Will there be more incursions by your Volunteer Corps on Russian soil?
Yes, of course, absolutely. Soon.