The BARS battalions are notorious for terrorizing civilians in Ukraine, and their commanders are criminals with a long record.

In the third year of full-scale war, Russian propaganda still claims that its army is fought mostly by volunteers. Although it is no secret that the russian armed forces are only able to make up for significant losses at the front through covert mobilization.

However, a small number of volunteers do exist there, although they are strikingly different from the “selfless heroes of our time” that the KremlinTV paints them as. We are talking about “BARS” detachments and battalions (the country’s combat army reserve).

The project came into existence in 2021. According to the idea, it is an army reserve, which consists of men who have combat experience and are ready to use it again, “when the motherland calls”.

In fact, these units were mainly composed of those whom the regular army, for one reason or another, did not want to take into their ranks. And also those who saw in war a good opportunity for quick profit and satisfaction of their sadistic tendencies.

How it is organized, why “volunteers” turned out to be cannon fodder and how the concepts of honor and valor in the Russian army easily defeated the thirst for profit “” tells on the example of the commander of the battalion “BARS-8” Denis Sidorenko (full dossier and data here).

“Maestro of bread making.”

November 2023. Propagandists of the official publication of the Russian Armed Forces “Krasnaya Zvezda” (Red Star) they’re filming another story about the “hero of your life.” In the frame is the commander of the battalion “BARS-8” with the call sign “Maestro”. He talks a lot about his love for his homeland and care for his fighters, as well as his motives for going to war again – purely patriotic.

More than a decade ago, the Maestro was also the hero of news stories, but of a different nature. At that time he was known as Denis Sidorenko – commander of the 63rd Special Purpose Regiment (v/h 3695, Angarsk). This unit took part in the Chechen campaign and other interventions in the North Caucasus.


Sidorenko has served with the unit since 1994, rising to colonel and the position of unit commander. In 2011, it appeared that instead of training his fighters for war, he was rented them out to local businesses for years.

The commander of the Angarsk special forces was convicted under a corruption article, but he managed to pay off his prison sentence. Despite the severity of the charges – he was only banned from command positions in the military service for two years.

At that time, Sidorenko moved to the Siberian branch of the Departmental Security Directorate of the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation. Occupied the position of department head of the facilities security organization.


But this place turned out to be not particularly “fishy” and did not satisfy Sidorenko’s craving for a beautiful life. Therefore, the retired colonel left his wife and two children and went to the Krasnodar region, or rather in the resort Yeisk. There he became head of the culture and tourism department of the local administration.

It would seem: an honorable exile for a thieving legend of Angarsk special forces. But it didn’t. Sidorenko started a lot of activity on his new position: he began to redistribute Dolzhansky beach. Entrepreneurs who agreed to pay a bribe to the new boss were allocated plots, while the rest were left out.

The locals remembered him for basically banning free vacations by the sea. It is noteworthy that all the money earned through this “innovation” was deposited in Sidorenko’s own company called “Yeiskie resorts”.

It’s worth noting that he drew conclusions from his past corruption scandal and realized that he needed to share with his superiors. Therefore, he was soon reassigned to an even more “bread-and-butter” by local standards – the head of the Department of Economics of the administration of Shcherbinovsky district.

When Sidorenko was able to provide himself and his young mistress Viktoria a trouble-free life, he embarked on a political career. He flooded the local media with customized materials – “black stuff”, against the governor and the incumbent mayor of Yeisk, hoping to take his position. But he was defeated in the election and then lost his position.

The return of the “hero”

After the start of the full-scale invasion, Sidorenko made a lot of statements on social networks about how to fight, but he did not rush to the front himself. Despite his experience in combat operations as a member of special forces, he preferred to stay behind the scenes and criticize the russian military and political leadership.

However, already in 2023, Sidorenko received a tempting offer – to lead the volunteer battalion “Bars-8”. Unlike regular units of the Russian Armed Forces, such battalions are controlled only conditionally. Although they are called “volunteers” they are in fact legalized mercenaries.

In addition to being funded by the Russian Ministry of Defense, the Bars are almost openly “self-supporting”. That is, robbery and plunder in their allotted plots near the front line. They also often have a “police” function, i.e. they help gauleiters and collaborators to organize repression against the civilian population.

Denis Sidorenko and his subordinates from Bars-8 have been involved in a number of such incidents in the temporarily occupied part of Zaporizhzhya region, in Polohovsky district, since at least the late summer of 2023. According to local testimonies, they were involved in kidnappings, extortion, and the murders of several farmers and businessmen.


At a certain stage, what was happening outraged even their “colleagues” from related departments. They demanded that Bars-8 be removed from their area of responsibility. The scandal was then hushed up with the personal intervention of the commander of the 58th Army and the terror of civilians stopped for a while.

It is noteworthy that there is actually no evidence of Sidorenko’s (call sign “Maestro”) direct involvement in the current hostilities. He loves to star in Russian propaganda videos and talk about how he takes care of his troops. However, his subordinates tell a different story.

“The command, individuals, just came to make money. They were not interested in the special operation, they don’t give a damn about the personnel, they are there doing their own things. Even now the command is sitting in a warm place, they are clean and warm,” – claims Sidorenko’s subordinate in this interview.

Equally interesting fact. In winter, Bars-8 was brought directly to the first line. The unit began to suffer heavy losses due to poor training and provisioning. But the commander wasn’t with them. He went on a protracted vacation to Krasnodar, where searching the local chat room for someone to spend the night with, while his subordinates were dying on Zaporozhye.


There was another purpose to this visit. After the above-mentioned scandal Sidorenko’s financial flows began to dry up, he began to look for another scheme and found it – fees. It turned out that relatives and acquaintances of his fighters regularly transfer money to them for the purchase of ammunition and equipment, and all this passes by the “treasury” of the combatant.

This “omission” he successfully liquidated with the help of his brother Sergey Sidorenko. Together they set up a charity called Bars East, ostensibly to benefit the unit. Since then, all donations have gone through him. Much of the money, as the fighters’ relatives complain, simply disappears, but they are unable to get accountability from the combatant and his brother.

Sins of the father

At the beginning of our story, we mentioned for a reason that after the corruption scandal, “Maestro” fled Siberia, leaving his wife and two children behind. How the fate of his children turned out – also an important touch in the portrait of this “hero”.

Denis Sidorenko was married to Julia Ivanishchenko. From the first marriage has two children: Daria and Maxim. Now he lives with a new passja named Victoria, from her has a young son Ivan. Despite significant income due to his corrupt connections, Sidorenko systematically evades paying alimony under the pretext of participation in combat operations.

Daria Sidorenko was born on July 31, 2008. She lives with her mother in Novosibirsk and studies at local school No. 65. She practiced gymnastics professionally but had to stop performing. Because of her mother’s low income and lack of alimony, she had to earn money herself from an early age; she works part-time as a coach and sometimes receives handouts – remittances from her father’s new wife.

Maxim Sidorenko was born on April 23, 2006. Studied at the Cossack Cadet Corps named after O. Kuyanov (Berdsk). Although he was brought up in the spirit of “love for the Russian world,” he realized the falsity of Russian propaganda at a young age, not least because of the life of his father, with whom he was in contact until 2020.

Since then, Maxim began to support the local opposition, speaking in support of Alexei Navalny. After the beginning of the full-scale invasion, he sharply condemned the actions of the Russian armed forces, donated to the AFU, tried to join the ranks of the Legion “Freedom of Russia”. In July 2023 was detained in Moscow while preparing to sabotage gas distribution network facilities. Listed on the terrorist and extremist list.

Colonel Denis Sidorenko became the subject of an official investigation because of this story. But was able to brush off the consequences again by abandoning his own children. Just as he then did with “adopted children” – his own soldiers, throwing them on Zaporozhye under shells and bullets without training and equipment. While they were dying – he was having fun in nightclubs in Krasnodar, for donations for the needs of “BARS-8”.