But the fighters made clear that they were consulting with the Ukrainians.
“Everything we do within the state borders of Ukraine we obviously coordinate with the Ukrainian military,” White Rex said. “Everything we do, every decision we make, beyond the state border, is our decision.”
The fighters were buoyant. Commanders and soldiers, some with camouflage buffs pulled over their faces, stood toting machine guns before an armored personnel carrier they said they had captured and driven out of Russia.
They mocked the Russian response to the raid.
“The reaction was slow, panicked, disorganized, and didn’t begin for hours,” said a commander who asked to be identified by his nickname, Cesar.
The Kremlin, eager to discredit the renegade Russians, dismissed them as neo-fascists. White Rex described himself as “right wing” but denied any fascist leanings. His goal, he said, is to help Ukraine win the war, then continue inside Russia with an armed revolution against the Putin government.
“Should we care how our enemy insults us?” he said.
The news conference in the forest was intended as a victory lap of sorts, but the fighters kept a strict time limit on the gathering, lest it be targeted by a Russian missile. After about 40 minutes, the soldiers drove away in pickup trucks and, with a rumble of a diesel engine, what they said was the captured Russian personnel carrier.
Evelina Riabenko and Milana Mazaeva contributed reporting.