On January 27, the Imperial Legion society on the Russian social network VKontakte made a post about the death in Libya of a Russian by the name of Vladimir. The Imperial Legion is a division of the Russian Imperial Movement which, as the organization’s coordinator Stanislav Vorobyev admits, sent “about 100 militiamen” to fight in eastern Ukraine during the war in the Donbas. The post about Vladimir’s death states that he is the second Russian who has been killed in Libya: “Libya is continuing to take our comrades. In two months, a second legionnaire has already died in Libya. We must honor Vladimir in the meeting on February 8”. According to a post from Alexey Antonov, a member of the Imperial Legion, the first to be killed was “Paratrooper Maxim”, although Radio Liberty could not establish his identity with certainty.
On January 28, Vadim Vasilyev, one of the leaders of the Russian Imperial Movement and a member of the Association of Donbas Volunteers, made a post about the death of a “Volodya” with the alias “Marine”. In a comment on the post, Vasilyev said that he had known “Volodya Marine” since the end of 2014:
“I’ve known Volodya the Marine since the first day he came to us to reinforce the Imperial Legion on New Year’s Eve 2015. He defended Kumshatske with the Legion, and then there were the battles for Kruhlyk, Mius, the assault on Debaltseve, wounds. He was a remarkable fighter and person! Such tragic news! We will always remember our comrade!”
On the morning of January 29, a post on the death of Skopinov appeared on the the Memorial of DPR and LPR Heroes society’s page on VKontakte. The text states “Skopinov Vladimir ‘Marine’. Fought in the Donbas, killed in Libya in January 2020”.
Soon reports began to appear on Twitter stating that the man in question was the St. Petersburg resident Vladimir Alexandrovich Skopinov. A comparison of photographs from Skopinov’s deleted account on VKontakte stored online with pictures in posts by the Imperial Legion and Vadim Vasilyev confirm that they were referring to the same Vladimir Skopinov.
Vadim Vasilyev’s account contains several photographs of him with Skopinov that were taken during the fighting in eastern Ukraine in 2015-2016.
At the time of publication, Vasilyev had not responded to a request from Radio Liberty to clarify how he learned that Skopinov had been killed specifically in Libya. The administrators of the Imperial Legion also chose not to respond to such inquiries. Several friends of Skopinov, who according to unconfirmed information worked as a police officer in St. Petersburg before 2015, told Radio Liberty that they knew nothing about his death.
According to photographs from Skopinov’s deleted account, before becoming a mercenary, he served in the 61st Kirkenes Krasnoznamensk Marine Brigade. Volunteers from the Ukrainian intelligence community InformNapalm discovered previously using open source information that soldiers from this brigade had fought in Syria, defending Palmyra and escorting Solntsepek multi-barrel rocket launch systems to the port of Tartus after Russia had completed the active phase of its military operation against Islamic State and the Syrian armed opposition.