The Vostok Battalion was formed in early May 2014. It is commanded by Alexander Khodakovsky, a defector from the Security Service of Ukraine. Vostok reportedly includes former members of the original Vostok Battalion, a special forces unit of the Russian intelligence directorate (GRU) that participated in the Second Chechen and Russo-Georgian Wars.
The newly formed Vostok Battalion remained stationed in Chechnya. It answered directly to the Russian Defense Ministry's main intelligence directorate, the GRU, and was tasked with rooting out Arab jihadists fighting alongside local insurgents. In 2008, the unit was dispatched to help pro-Russian separatists from South Ossetia in the Russian-Georgian war. It was officially disbanded shortly after the war in what experts believe was a political move to end the scorching rivalry between "Vostochniki". Dozens of heavily armed men identifying themselves as members of the Vostok Battalion stormed the separatists' headquarters in central Donetsk, evicting the motley band of pro-Russian rebels that had occupied the building since March. The brazen raid, conducted in broad daylight, has plunged the region into new uncertainty. The emergence of such a widely recognizable Russian military structure in eastern Ukraine has also raised questions about Moscow's role in the conflict.