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FTR #1004 Update on Ukrainian Fascism and a Possible Third World War

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This broadcast was recorded in one, 60-minute segment.

Introduction: Supplementing previous coverage of the Ukrainian crisis, this broadcast further explores the role of Nazi formations and individuals in the security services of that benighted country. In addition, the broadcast highlights developments in Ukraine’s military industry and burgeoning international security alliances.

Ukrainian Nazis honor David Lane’s passing. Lane was a member of The Order and minted the 14 words, from which  C14 takes its name.

The Kiev city government recently gave C14 –Svoboda’s paramilitary cadre literally named after the white supremacist ’14 words’ slogan – the right to establish a “municipal guard” to patrol the streets there. ” . . . . But connections between law enforcement agencies and extremists give Ukraine’s Western allies ample reason for concern. C14 and Kiev’s city government recently signed an agreement allowing C14 to establish a ‘municipal guard’ to patrol the streets; three such militia-run guard forces are already registered in Kiev, and at least 21 operate in other cities. . . .”

The C14 police formations cracking down on political activists, including LGBT and anti-war proponents.

It is not surprising that C14 militia members have used their office to attack and harass Roma, one of the “out” groups that have been the focus of social oppression/genocide from the Third Reich’s above-ground manifestation through the present resurgence of fascism in Europe.

C14 and the municipal patrol duties they have been granted in Kiev have provided a platform to attack the Roma, with the full support of local authorities ( including the police and the media.)   ” . . . . the police appear to see no need to take action and merely state that they have received no complaints. It is also alarming how many Ukrainian media (such as TSNChannel 5) have simply reported this ‘raid’ effectively in Mazur’s words, without considering what threats must have been used to ‘persuade’ around 15 families to leave their makeshift homes in such haste. If Mazur is telling the truth, then the measures to remove the Roma families who had reportedly come to Kyiv from Transcarpathia in search of work were the result of collaboration between C14 members of the so-called ‘Municipal Guard’ and the Holosiyiv District Administration. . . .”

In addition, the C14 cadre are:

  1. Apparently functioning as something of a “freikorps,” serving as punitive muscle for important donors from the private sector. ” . . . . On 26 February 2018, C14 posted an advertisement on their Facebook page which quite openly offered their services as thugs to regular donors. This said that ‘C14 works for you. Help us keep afloat, and we will help you. For regular donors, we are opening a box for wishes. Which of your enemies would you like to make life difficult for? We’ll try to do that.’ . . .”
  2. Working in conjunction with Nazis from the large Nazi milieux in Russia and Belarus. ” . . . . On 19 January 2018, C14 activists prevented the traditional remembrance gathering for Sevastopol journalist Anastasia Baburova and Russian lawyer Stanislav Markelov, murdered in Moscow in 2009 by neo-Nazi Russian nationalists. The claim that those honouring the two slain anti-fascists were ‘separatists’ was preposterous, and Volodymyr Chemerys, one of the organizers of the remembrance event, asserts that they were confronted not only by C14 thugs, but by Russian and Belarusian neo-Nazis. . . .”
  3. Receiving tactical, logistical assistance from uniformed police authorities. ” . . . . They instead detained eight people who had come to honour Baburova and Markelov. The police involved later tried to claim that there had been no detention, and that the activists had been ‘invited’ to the police station. There was no suggestion that the ‘invitation’ could have been turned down. The detained activists reported later that they had been ‘hunted down’ by the far-right thugs after leaving the police station. A member of the Human Rights Information Centre who spoke with them believes that the thugs could have only discovered which station the activists were being held in from the police themselves. . . .

Combat helmets of the Azov Battalion.

The Nazi Azov Battalion is also spawning civil police formations as well.

Ukrainian fascist organizations have powerful political protection, because of the close relationship between Interior Minister Arsen Avakov (an important backer of the Azov Battalion) and figures like Azov leader Andriy Biletsky and Sergei Korotkykh, an Azov veteran who is now a high-ranking police official.

Avakov’s Peoples’ Party is the main partner in the parliamentary coalition led by Poroshenko’s Bloc. Should Petro Poroshenko decided to challenge Avakov and, as a result, the growing role of these neo-Nazi militias, his governing coalition might collapse.

” . . . . In an ideal world, President Petro Poroshenko would purge the police and the interior ministry of far-right sympathizers, including Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, who has close ties to Azov leader Andriy Biletsky, as well as Sergei Korotkykh, an Azov veteran who is now a high-ranking police official. But Poroshenko would risk major repercussions if he did so; Avakov is his chief political rival, and the ministry he runs controls the police, the National Guard and several former militias. . . .”

” . . . . Avakov’s Peoples’ Party status as the main partner in Ukraine’s parliamentary coalition increases Avakov’s leverage over Poroshenko’s Bloc. An attempt to fire Avakov could imperil Poroshenko’s slim legislative majority, and lead to early parliamentary elections. Given Poroshenko’s current unpopularity, this is a scenario he will likely try to avoid. . . .”

Stephan Bandera, head of the OUN/B

Former Azov Battalion commander Vadim Troyan was a point element in the assumption of police duties by Azov Battalion and C14. He became acting head of the National Police after the resignation of Khatia Dekonoidze. ” . . . . Vadim Troyan, who takes over as Acting Head, is not politically independent and therefore unsuited to the post.  Doubts about the former Azov Battalion commander’s suitability for high police posts were first expressed after his appointment as head of the Kyiv regional police and they remain of concern. . . .”

Troyan is now Arsen Avakov’s Deputy Interior Minister. ” . . . . The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine has appointed the first Deputy Head of the National Police Vadym Troyan as Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine. . . . “

The milieu of  the Azov Battalion has influential proponents in the U.S.

The same smear machine that targeted former Rep. John Conyer’s over his opposition to arming the neo-Nazi Azov battalion is turning its focus on Rep. Ro Khanna (Democrat from California) after Khanna ensured that the ban on funds going to arming or training the Azov Battalion remained in place in the congressional spending bill that passed a couple weeks ago. In a particularly disgusting op-ed in The Hill, Kristofer Harrison – a foreign policy adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign and who also happens to a co-founder of a company that specializes in Russian “information warfare,” with offices in Washington and Kyiv – declared that Khanna’s characterization of the Azov Battalion as neo-Nazi in nature is ridiculous and part of a big lie pushed by Putin.

OUN/B World War II Ukrainian prime minister Jaroslav Stetzko and then Vice-President George H.W. Bush

Roman Zvarych, Jaroslav Stetzko’s secretary and Minister of Justice under Viktor Yuschenko

We note again that Harrison–whom we have noted attacked John Conyers as “Putin’s Man in Congress”–relies on Roman Zvarych for his exoneration of the Azov Battalion. In addition to being the spokesman for Azov, Zvarych was:

  1. Minister of Justice under Viktor Yuschenko.
  2. Minister of Justice under both Tymoshenko governments.
  3. An adviser to Petro Poroshenko.
  4. In the 1980’s, the personal secretary to Jaroslav Stetzko, the wartime head of the Nazi collaborationist government in Ukraine. Stetzko implemented Nazi ethnic cleansing in Ukraine during World War II.

Next, we revisit the issue of the sniper attacks during the Maidan demonstrations, covered at length in FTR #’s 982 and 993. In what appears to be a faction fight in the Ukrainian fascist milieu, former Ukrainian far-right folk hero Nadia Savchenko has echoed the charge that Svoboda Party’s parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy was involved with the sniper attacks during the Maidan coup. Pushed on her charge, she equivocated that it was a different member of the Rada (Ukrainian parliament.)

In a development that could light a match to the Ukrainian/Russian tinderbox, Ukraine is angling toward NATO membership.This is to be evaluated against the background that Ukraine has now tested a new cruise missile and is employing Tony Tether, the former head of DARPA to augment its weapons development programs. DARPA is also directly aiding Ukraine.

Among the nations most hospitable to the post-World War II OUN/B diaspora is Canada, a NATO member.

In FTR #948, we noted that Canada’s Foreign Minister Christia Freeland’s grandfather, Michael Chomiak was a Ukrainian Nazi collaborator. (“Foreign Minister” is the Canadian equivalent of Secretary of State. Freeland describes her grandfather as a major influence on her.) Now, four Russian diplomats have been expelled from Canada for telling the truth about Chomiak and Freeland.)

In conclusion, we note that the “PropOrNot” group attacked Robert Parry after his death. (Mr. Emory interviewed Robert Parry a number of times. Parry was one of the few journalists in the U.S. willing to tell the truth about the OUN/B successor organizations and their profound presence in Ukraine.) In FTR #943, we noted the presence of PropOrNot in the OUN/B milieu.

1a. The Kiev city government recently gave C14 –Svoboda’s paramilitary cadre literally named after the white supremacist ’14 words’ slogan – the right to establish a “municipal guard” to patrol the streets there. ” . . . . But connections between law enforcement agencies and extremists give Ukraine’s Western allies ample reason for concern. C14 and Kiev’s city government recently signed an agreement allowing C14 to establish a ‘municipal guard’ to patrol the streets; three such militia-run guard forces are already registered in Kiev, and at least 21 operate in other cities. . . .”

They’re also cracking down on political activists, including LGBT and anti-war proponents.

As the article below also notes, Ukrainian fascist organizations have powerful political protection, because of the close relationship between Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and figures like Azov leader Andriy Biletsky and Sergei Korotkykh, an Azov veteran who is now a high-ranking police official.

Avakov’s Peoples’ Party is the main partner in the parliamentary coalition led by Poroshenko’s Bloc. Should Petro Poroshenko decided to challenge Avakov and, as a result, the growing role of these neo-Nazi militias, his governing coalition might collapse.

” . . . . In an ideal world, President Petro Poroshenko would purge the police and the interior ministry of far-right sympathizers, including Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, who has close ties to Azov leader Andriy Biletsky, as well as Sergei Korotkykh, an Azov veteran who is now a high-ranking police official. But Poroshenko would risk major repercussions if he did so; Avakov is his chief political rival, and the ministry he runs controls the police, the National Guard and several former militias. . . .”

” . . . . Avakov’s Peoples’ Party status as the main partner in Ukraine’s parliamentary coalition increases Avakov’s leverage over Poroshenko’s Bloc. An attempt to fire Avakov could imperil Poroshenko’s slim legislative majority, and lead to early parliamentary elections. Given Poroshenko’s current unpopularity, this is a scenario he will likely try to avoid. . . .”

“Commentary: Ukraine’s neo-Nazi problem” by Josh Cohen; Reuters; 03/19/2018

As Ukraine’s struggle against Russia and its proxies continues, Kiev must also contend with a growing problem behind the front lines: far-right vigilantes who are willing to use intimidation and even violence to advance their agendas, and who often do so with the tacit approval of law enforcement agencies.

A January 28 demonstration, in Kiev, by 600 members of the so-called “National Militia,” a newly-formed ultranationalist group that vows “to use force to establish order,” illustrates this threat. While the group’s Kiev launch was peaceful, National Militia members in balaclavas stormed a city council meeting in the central Ukrainian town of Cherkasy the following day, skirmishing with deputies and forcing them to pass a new budget.

Many of the National Militia’s members come from the Azov movement, one of the 30-odd privately-funded “volunteer battalions” that, in the early days of the war, helped the regular army to defend Ukrainian territory against Russia’s separatist proxies. Although Azov usesNazi-era symbolism and recruitsneo-Nazis intoits ranks, a recent article in Foreign Affairs downplayed any risks the group might pose, pointing out that, like other volunteer militias, Azov has been “reined in” through its integration into Ukraine’s armed forces. While it’s true that private militias no longer rule the battlefront, it’s the home front that Kiev needs to worry about now.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Crimea four years ago first exposed the decrepit condition of Ukraine’s armed forces, right-wing militias such as Azov and Right Sector stepped into the breach, fendingoff the Russian-backed separatists while Ukraine’s regular military regrouped. Though, as a result, many Ukrainians continue to regard the militias with gratitude and admiration, the more extreme among these groups promote an intolerant and illiberal ideology that will endanger Ukraine in the long term. Since the Crimean crisis, the militias have been formally integrated into Ukraine’s armed forces, but some have resisted full integration: Azov, for example, runs its own children’s training camp, and the careers section instructs recruits who wish to transfer to Azov from a regular military unit.

According to Freedom House’s Ukraine project director Matthew Schaaf, “numerous organized radical right-wing groups exist in Ukraine, and while the volunteer battalions may have been officially integrated into state structures, some of them have since spun off political and non-profit structures to implement their vision.”Schaaf noted that “an increase in patriotic discourse supporting Ukraine in its conflict with Russia has coincided with an apparent increase in both public hate speech, sometimes by public officials and magnified by the media, as well as violence towards vulnerable groups such as the LGBT community,” an observation that is supported by a recent Council of Europe study.

In recent months, Ukraine has experienced a wave of unchecked vigilantism. Institute Respublica, a local pro-democracy NGO, reported that activists are frequently harassed by vigilantes when holding legal meetings or rallies related to politically-controversial positions, such as the promotion of LGBT rights or opposition to the war. Azov and other militias have attacked anti-fascist demonstrations, city council meetings, media outletsart exhibitionsforeign students and Roma. Progressive activists describe a new climate of fear that they say has been intensifying ever since last year’s near-fatal stabbing of anti-war activist Stas Serhiyenko, which is believed to have been perpetrated by an extremist group named C14 (the name refers to a 14-word slogan popular among white supremacists). Brutal attacks this month on International Women’s Day marches in several Ukrainian cities prompted an unusually forceful statement from Amnesty International, which warned that “the Ukrainian state is rapidly losing its monopoly on violence.”

Ukraine is not the only country that must contend with a resurgent far right. But Kiev’s recent efforts to incorporate independent armed groups into its regular armed forces, as well as a continuing national sense of indebtedness to the militias for their defense of the homeland, make addressing the ultranationalist threat considerably more complicated than it is elsewhere. According to Schaaf and the Institute Respublica, Ukrainian extremists are rarely punished for acts of violence. In some cases — such as C14’s January attack on a remembrance gatheringfor two murdered journalists — police actually detain peaceful demonstrators instead.

To be clear, the Kremlin’s claims that Ukraine is a hornets’ nest of fascists are false: far-right parties performed poorly in Ukraine’s last parliamentary elections, and Ukrainians reactedwith alarm to the National Militia’s demonstration in Kiev. But connections between law enforcement agencies and extremists give Ukraine’s Western allies ample reason for concern. C14 and Kiev’s city government recently signed an agreement allowing C14 to establish a “municipal guard” to patrol the streets; three such militia-run guard forces are already registered in Kiev, and at least 21 operate in other cities.

Combat helmets of the Azov Battalion.

In an ideal world, President Petro Poroshenko would purge the police and the interior ministry of far-right sympathizers, including Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, who has close ties to Azov leader Andriy Biletsky, as well as Sergei Korotkykh, an Azov veteran who is now a high-ranking police official. But Poroshenko would risk major repercussions if he did so; Avakov is his chief political rival, and the ministry he runs controls the police, the National Guard and several former militias.

As one Ukrainian analyst noted in December, control of these forces make Avakov extremely powerful and Poroshenko’s presidency might not be strong enough to withstand the kind of direct confrontation with Avakov that an attempt to oust him or to strike at his power base could well produce. Poroshenko has endured frequent verbal threats, including calls for revolution, from ultranationalist groups, so he may believe that he needs Avakov to keep them in check.

Avakov’s Peoples’ Party status as the main partner in Ukraine’s parliamentary coalition increases Avakov’s leverage over Poroshenko’s Bloc. An attempt to fire Avakov could imperil Poroshenko’s slim legislative majority, and lead to early parliamentary elections. Given Poroshenko’s current unpopularity, this is a scenario he will likely try to avoid.

Despite his weak position, Poroshenko still has some options for reducing the threat from the far right. Though Avakov controls the Ukraine’s police and National Guard, Poroshenko still commands Ukraine’s security and intelligence services, the SBU, and could instruct the agency to cut its ties with C14 and other extremist groups. Poroshenko should also express public support for marginalized groups like the Roma and LGBT communities, and affirm his commitment to protecting their rights.

Western diplomats and human rights organizations must urge Ukraine’s government to uphold the rule of law and to stop allowing the far right to act with impunity. International donors can help by funding more initiatives like the United States Agency for International Development’s projects

supporting training for Ukrainian lawyers and human rights defenders, and improving equitable access to the judicial system for marginalized communities. . . .

1b. C14 and the municipal patrol duties they have been granted in Kiev have provided a platform to attack Roma, with the full support of local authorities ( including the police and the media.)   ” . . . . the police appear to see no need to take action and merely state that they have received no complaints. It is also alarming how many Ukrainian media (such as TSNChannel 5) have simply reported this ‘raid’ effectively in Mazur’s words, without considering what threats must have been used to ‘persuade’ around 15 families to leave their makeshift homes in such haste. If Mazur is telling the truth, then the measures to remove the Roma families who had reportedly come to Kyiv from Transcarpathia in search of work were the result of collaboration between C14 members of the so-called ‘Municipal Guard’ and the Holosiyiv District Administration. . . .”

In addition, the C14 cadre are:

  1. Apparently functioning as something of a “freikorps,” serving as punitive muscle for important donors from the private sector. ” . . . . On 26 February 2018, C14 posted an advertisement on their Facebook page which quite openly offered their services as thugs to regular donors. This said that ‘C14 works for you. Help us keep afloat, and we will help you. For regular donors, we are opening a box for wishes. Which of your enemies would you like to make life difficult for? We’ll try to do that.’ . . .”
  2. Working in conjunction with Nazis from the large Nazi milieux in Russia and Belarus. ” . . . . On 19 January 2018, C14 activists prevented the traditional remembrance gathering for Sevastopol journalist Anastasia Baburova and Russian lawyer Stanislav Markelov, murdered in Moscow in 2009 by neo-Nazi Russian nationalists. The claim that those honouring the two slain anti-fascists were ‘separatists’ was preposterous, and Volodymyr Chemerys, one of the organizers of the remembrance event, asserts that they were confronted not only by C14 thugs, but by Russian and Belarusian neo-Nazis. . . .”
  3. Receiving tactical, logistical assistance from uniformed police authorities. ” . . . . They instead detained eight people who had come to honour Baburova and Markelov. The police involved later tried to claim that there had been no detention, and that the activists had been ‘invited’ to the police station. There was no suggestion that the ‘invitation’ could have been turned down. The detained activists reported later that they had been ‘hunted down’ by the far-right thugs after leaving the police station. A member of the Human Rights Information Centre who spoke with them believes that the thugs could have only discovered which station the activists were being held in from the police themselves. . . .

“Ukrainian neo-Nazi C14 vigilantes drive out Roma families, burn their camp” by Halya Coynash; Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group; 04/23/2018

A prominent activist from the far-right C14 organization has boasted on his Facebook page about an operation which resulted in Roma families fleeing their camp on Lysa Hora in Kyiv. Despite the fairly unveiled hints in Serhiy Mazur’s two Facebook posts, as well as clear signs that the Roma fled without taking children’s clothing, etc., the police appear to see no need to take action and merely state that they have received no complaints. It is also alarming how many Ukrainian media (such as TSNChannel 5) have simply reported this ‘raid’ effectively in Mazur’s words, without considering what threats must have been used to ‘persuade’ around 15 families to leave their makeshift homes in such haste.

If Mazur is telling the truth, then the measures to remove the Roma families who had reportedly come to Kyiv from Transcarpathia in search of work were the result of collaboration between C14 members of the so-called ‘Municipal Guard’ [«???????????? ?????»] and the Holosiyiv District Administration. As reported, this ‘Municipal Guard’, which is headed by Serhiy Bondar from C14, signed a memorandum of cooperation with both the Holosiyiv District Administration and the Holosiyiv National Police back in December 2017.

In his report on 19 April and elsewhere, Mazur omits two letters in order to use a term now generally felt to be offensive when referring to Roma.

He says that the Roma have “occupied Lysa Hora” and that there are more of them this time “and of their rubbish”.

Together with representatives of the Holosiyiv administration, he says, they “presented an ultimatum to leave the prohibited territory of the park by TOMORROW.

If they don’t carry out this demand, they will be asked in a different way to go. Within the framework of the law”.

Mention of the law here seems on a par with semi-avoidance of offensive labels, and lacks any credibility. If the local administration is entitled to issue an ultimatum, it should then approach law enforcement officials if the ultimatum is ignored.

Any ‘other’ methods hinted at in Mazur’s post are either not the business of C14 activists or are a code term for means of duress which are assuredly not lawful.

The rest of the post is simply offensive. If, which can be disputed, it falls within the boundaries of free speech, such effective incitement to enmity and prejudice against any ethnic or other group is certainly unacceptable from top representatives of an organization which is working with a public authority.

On 21 April, Mazur stated in a post that there were no longer any Roma (not the term he uses) on Lysa Hora.

“Yesterday they did not carry out the demand, and only some left the camp in the park. However after convincing lawful arguments, the others also decided to leave the prohibited territory. “ The C14 activists then “cleaned up almost all the rubbish” and burned the tents.

If the so-called “convincing arguments” had been lawful, it seems unlikely that the Roma families would have left children’s clothes and food items behind.

Journalist Yevhen Savateyev told Hromadske Radio that “it looks as through the people who were living in this camp were forced to flee and didn’t even take most-needed items”.

He says that there were around 15 makeshift shacks, each ‘housing’ one family.

According to Zola Kondurfrom the Chirikli Roma Foundation, there has been an issue over this camp for the last four years.She says that the people living there wanted to integrate and to cooperate with the authorities, however other residents of the district demanded that the Roma not be allowed onto minibus public transport and in shops. The pretext giving was that the residents feared being infected with tuberculosis, although Kondur points out that a medical examination did not find any tuberculosis or AIDs among the inhabitants of the camp.

She accuses the Holosiyiv District Administration of not being willing to involve the social services and does not accept that the camp, positioned deep inside the nature reserve at Lysa Hora and hard to find, was disturbing anybody.

This was not C14’s first such ‘raid’. Mazur reported on 18 April that the previous day “good people carried out a raid of the Railway Station which had been almost totally occupied by Gy..ies”. There are the usual offensive claims about “the negative demonstrations of behaviour from the Roma” that their “walk” had supposedly curtailed. Mazur also reports that they “checked for documents and tickets. A day or two and there won’t be any of them here”, and asks why such ‘patrols’ are not carried out by the police. . . .

. . . . Mazur ends his post by claiming again that they are not fighting “Gy..ies”, only “the negative demonstrations of behaviour of their representatives”, and invites others to join them. He has promised other such ‘raids’ as those against the Roma on Lysa Gora.

There are compelling grounds for demanding an investigation by the law enforcement bodies into all of these ‘raids’ by C14 vigilantes. If the methods used to disperse the camp on Lysa Hora was indeed carried out together with the Holosiyiv District Administration, an investigation would seem appropriate, as well as some serious consideration as to whether such ‘cooperation’ can be legitimately continued.

Questionable ‘partnership’

C14 calls itself a ‘nationalist’ organization and denies that it is neo-Nazi.Vyacheslav Likhachev, who has been monitoring far-right movements in Ukraine for well over a decade, is unconvinced. He points out that the C14 activists who occupied the Kyiv City Administration building during Euromaidan covered it with neo-Nazi banners and graffiti.

C14 activists try to present themselves as fighting ‘separatists’, ‘titushki’ or paid thugs (who worked closely with the police under the regime of Viktor Yanukovych), as well as corrupt courts, etc.

Their rationale for determining who are ‘separatists’, or more generally who to fight, gives considerable grounds for concern.

On 19 January 2018, C14 activists prevented the traditional remembrance gathering for Sevastopol journalist Anastasia Baburova and Russian lawyer Stanislav Markelov, murdered in Moscow in 2009 by neo-Nazi Russian nationalists. The claim that those honouring the two slain anti-fascists were ‘separatists’ was preposterous, and Volodymyr Chemerys, one of the organizers of the remembrance event, asserts that they were confronted not only by C14 thugs, but by Russian and Belarusian neo-Nazis.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the events that day was the total failure of the Kyiv police to react adequately to the aggressive behaviour of those opposing the remembrance gathering.

They instead detained eight people who had come to honour Baburova and Markelov. The police involved later tried to claim that there had been no detention, and that the activists had been ‘invited’ to the police station. There was no suggestion that the ‘invitation’ could have been turned down.

The detained activists reported later that they had been ‘hunted down’ by the far-right thugs after leaving the police station. A member of the Human Rights Information Centre who spoke with them believes that the thugs could have only discovered which station the activists were being held in from the police themselves.

C14 has been involved in attacks on activists taking part in the annual Equality March (Kyiv Pride), rights activists, on an art exhibition and even protesters with strictly socio-economic demands. Their members may have been among the 50 young far-right louts who on 26 March 2018, descended on events linked to the Kyiv Docudays Film Festival, demolishing posters promoting tolerance and diversity abd trying to stop a panel discussion on far-right movements.

There are other reasons for concern over any cooperation by other local authorities or the police with C14. Back in December 2012 under the Viktor Yanukovych regime, Yevhen Karas and his C14 mates organized an attack on rights activists and others protesting against a repressive legislative bill which proposed the same ban on so-called ‘propaganda of homosexuality’ as was passed in neighbouring Russia. It was mainly the protesters who were detained by police.

C14 has been involved in various acts of violence, and there are indeed reports that they attacked members of another local group on 13 December 2017, with two people from that group ending up hospitalized with gun wounds. It seems likely that the conflict was about establishing their power over a particular area.

On 26 February 2018, C14 posted an advertisement on their Facebook page which quite openly offered their services as thugs to regular donors. This said that “C14 works for you. Help us keep afloat, and we will help you. For regular donors, we are opening a box for wishes. Which of your enemies would you like to make life difficult for? We’ll try to do that.” The organization has presumably understood that such openness rather undermines their attempts to pitch themselves as principled defenders of Ukraine, and the post is now unavailable. It can, however, be seen here, and was on the sight for several weeks. The invitation to join in C14’s ‘raids’ on Roma people at the station or in places where they are living says nothing about motives required for taking part in raids of highly-questionable legality coated in claims that incite hatred and xenophobia.

1c. In addition to C14, the Azov Battalion’s National Militia have assumed police duties in Ukraine.

Azov Civil Corps

“In Ukraine, Ultra-Nationalist Militia Strikes Fear in Some Quarters” by Christopher Miller; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; 1/30/2018.

. . . . But Ukraine observers and rights groups are sounding the alarm, because this was not a typical commencement, and the men are not police officers. They are far-right ultranationalists from the Azov movement, a controversial group with a military wing that has openly accepted self-avowed neo-Nazis, and a civil and political faction that has demonstrated intolerance toward minority groups.

“We will not hesitate to use force to establish order that will bring prosperity to every Ukrainian family!” reads a message alongside the video, published on the Facebook page of the newly formed group, called the National Militia. In the clip, they vow also to protect the nation “when government organs can’t or won’t help Ukrainian society.”

That approach could concern Western backers in Kyiv’s campaign against armed Russia-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country, where a conflict that has lasted nearly four years has killed at least 10,300 people.

Combat helmets of the Azov Battalion.

“Ukraine would be violating its international obligations under human rights law if authorities either tolerate abusive militia who undermine [the] population’s liberty, security, freedoms or provide an abusive militia with the color of law but [do] not impose on them exacting standards on use of force,” Tanya Cooper, Human Rights Watch (HRW)’s Ukraine researcher in Kyiv, told RFE/RL in e-mailed comments as media buzzed over the appearance of the National Militia.

Matthew Schaff, Ukraine director of the U.S.-based NGO Freedom House, told RFE/RL by phone that simply their creation “does damage to democracy in Ukraine.”

Nationalistic Agenda

Founded in 2014 as a volunteer battalion to help an overmatched Ukrainian military fight off the threat in its east, the Azov movement uses fascist symbols and has been accused by international humanitarian organizations of human rights abuses in the conflict zone.

The National Militia is an independent group that is merely the latest component of Azov’s civilian and political wing, known as the National Corpus. It is led by lawmaker and former Azov Battalion commander Andriy Biletsky, once the head of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi Social-National Party, who attended the ceremony.

Azov officially founded the National Corpus in October 2016, incorporating two other nationalist groups, including Patriot Of Ukraine, which according to Halya Coynash of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group “espoused xenophobic and neo-Nazi ideas and was engaged in violent attacks against migrants, foreign students in Kharkiv, and those opposing its views.”

That inaugural ceremony arguably had pomp more reminiscent of 1930s Germany than of postwar democracy. It included nationalist chants, raised fists, and a torchlight march through central Kyiv.

Emblem of the Ukrainian Azov Battalion

National Corpus’s political aims at the time of its creation included the restoration of Ukraine’s nuclear-power status, which was abandoned in a major boost to nonproliferation soon after the breakup of the Soviet Union; the nationalization of companies that were owned by the government when Ukraine gained independence in 1991; and the legalization of firearms for personal protection.

Its foreign policy sought to cut cultural, diplomatic, and trade ties with Russia, and urged a public discussion about restoring the death penalty in Ukraine for crimes such as treason and embezzlement of government funds.

While the National Corpus appears to draw limited support from Ukraine’s electorate — polls show it under the 5 percent threshold to enter parliament — its public presence has grown, worrying international observers and making it a favorite target for Russian propaganda. Russian state news agencies and politicians suggest the government in Kyiv’s perceived tolerance for the far-right movement makes it fascist. The Ukrainian government’s failure to aggressively challenge the group has done little to calm its critics.

Police, Or Not Police

So it came as something of a surprise on January 30 when Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, who has enjoyed a close relationship with the Azov movement in the past, appeared to distance himself from the group, saying in a statement posted to the ministry’s website that “in Ukraine, there is only one monopoly on the use of force — the state: the National Guard, the National Police, and the Armed Forces.”

He added, “All other paramilitary entities that try to position themselves on the streets of cities are not legal.”

Ivan Varchenko, an Avakov adviser, told Hromadske Radio that Ukrainian law provides for registration of civic organizations that assist law enforcement agencies.

Roman Chernyshov of the National Corps also tried to calm concerns, telling Hromadske Radio that its members do not bear arms.

Armed or not, as news of the National Militia spread across Ukrainian media, critics raised serious concerns about the type of order the unit may enforce on the streets of Kyiv.

“It’s the police responsibility to enforce the law on the street and hold people accountable for crimes they’ve committed,” Freedom House’s Schaaf said. “When there are groups that are roaming the streets in units like this, with slogans like this, it definitely raises concerns about what are their intentions, how they will they be implementing their visions, what rules they are trying to enforce.”

HRW’s Cooper said one of her primary concerns was who would be targeted by the group. “Members of this political party espouse intolerance towards ethnic minorities and LGBT people, so it seems completely absurd that these people would be able [and willing] to protect everyone,” she said of the Azovs.

She added, “The bottom line is that if these units are going to be carrying out any kind of policing duty, they have to be held to the exact same human rights standards as regular police: on use of force, powers of detention, nondiscrimination, etc., and they have to be trained and held accountable just like regular police are.”

Perhaps in an attempt to alleviate public concerns, Avakov insisted, “I, as a minister, will not allow for parallel structures that try to behave as alternative military formations on the streets.”

2a. Former Azov Battalion commander Vadim Troyan was a point element in the assumption of police duties by Azov Battalion and C14. He became acting head of the National Police after the resignation of Khatia Dekonoidze. ” . . . . Vadim Troyan, who takes over as Acting Head, is not politically independent and therefore unsuited to the post.  Doubts about the former Azov Battalion commander’s suitability for high police posts were first expressed after his appointment as head of the Kyiv regional police and they remain of concern. . . .”

“Accusations Flying as Police Head Resigns, Leaving Contentious Deputy in Charge” by Halya Coynash; Human Rights in Ukraine; 11/15/2016.

Khatia Dekonoidze has resigned from her post as Head of National Police just one year after her appointment, seemingly in frustration at the limited powers she had to carry out real reform and political interference.  She also said that Vadim Troyan, who takes over as Acting Head, is not politically independent and therefore unsuited to the post.  Doubts about the former Azov Battalion commander’s suitability for high police posts were first expressed after his appointment as head of the Kyiv regional police and they remain of concern. . . .

2b. Former Azov commander Troyan is now Avakov’s Deputy Interior Minister. ” . . . . The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine has appointed the first Deputy Head of the National Police Vadym Troyan as Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine. . . . “

Vadim Troyan, who took over as acting head of the National Police (right)

“Cabinet Appoints Troyan as Deputy Interior Minister” [Interfax Ukraine]; Kyiv Post; 2/8/2017.

The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine has appointed the first Deputy Head of the National Police Vadym Troyan as Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine.

“We have appointed Troyan as the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs,” Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine Oleksandr Sayenko told reporters after a cabinet meeting on Feb. 8. . . .

2c. The same smear machine that targeted former Rep. John Conyer’s over his opposition to arming the neo-Nazi Azov battalion is turning its focus on Rep. Ro Khanna (Democrat from California) after Khanna ensured that the ban on funds going to arming or training the Azov Battalion remained in place in the congressional spending bill that passed a couple weeks ago. In a particularly disgusting op-ed in The Hill, Kristofer Harrison – a foreign policy adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign and who also happens to a co-founder of a company that specializes in Russian “information warfare,” with offices in Washington and Kyiv – declared that Khanna’s characterization of the Azov Battalion as neo-Nazi in nature is ridiculous and part of a big lie pushed by Putin.

We note again that Harrison–whom we have noted attacked John Conyers as “Putin’s Man in Congress”–relies on Roman Zvarych for his exoneration of the Azov Battalion. In addition to being the spokesman for Azov, Zvarych was:

  1. Minister of Justice under Viktor Yuschenko.
  2. Minister of Justice under both Tymoshenko governments.
  3. An adviser to Petro Poroshenko.
  4. In the 1980’s, the personal secretary to Jaroslav Stetzko, the wartime head of the Nazi collaborationist government in Ukraine. Stetzko implemented Nazi ethnic cleansing in Ukraine during World War II.

“Did California’s Ro Khanna get duped by Russia’s propaganda?” by Kristofer Harrison; The Hill; 04/02/2018

Congratulations, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), it appears you were just duped by Russia (and bragged about it). As a result, you promoted Russian propaganda about Ukraine’s Azov Battalion being Nazis with text in the behemoth $1.3 trillion spending bill. The question is, who put you up to it?

Ukraine is not your jam. Your focus is on visiting coal mine towns, antitrust issues and, as one of Silicon Valley’s representatives, technology — all legitimate issues. Yet, even though experts on Ukraine are typically unfamiliar with the Azov Battalion, you weighed in on the issue. Of course, it is always possible that you have a secret obsession with Ukraine, but it’s more likely that some K Street swamp creature asked for a favor.

Just know, the favor was for Vladimir Putin.

It is ridiculous nonsense that Ukraine is beset with a bunch of Nazis. The Russians have been pushing this foolishness for a while. In Russia, if you want to discredit someone, call them a Nazi. Putin is using it to justify his war to his subjects. Russians are not particularly keen on attacking Ukraine. But if it is to free them from the yoke of Nazis, well, that’s different.

The reason why the Kremlin is using information war against the Azov Battalion, specifically, is partially because they sometimes make themselves easy PR targets. These are guys with guns fighting a Russian invasion, not a PR agency with media training. But the bigger reason is that the Azov Battalion is one of the most effective defensive units.

Russia can’t beat them on the battlefield, so they use K Street lobbyist sellouts to help cripple them. Who wants to provide guns to fascists? Nobody. That is the ruse you fell for.

You are filling illustrious shoes. In 2015, an unidentified lobbyist snookered Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) to do exactly what you have done. Conyers singled out the Azov Battalion to prevent it from getting assistance in the defense appropriations bill. The Defense Department objected, and the process of correcting the mistake in Conference created yet another opening for Russian propaganda. Only, this time, the bill has been signed into law. So whatever fix you choose has to make it to the president’s desk.

The technique Russia used was a classic KGB tactic — that’s the sure tell that what duped you was a Kremlin operation. In the 1980s, the KGB used this technique to spread the falsehood that the CIA created AIDS. Somehow, they convinced an Indian medical journal to print an article “proving” the case. They then referenced that article in publications all over the world.

In this instance, the Russian active measure began with an article in a publication that should know better: Foreign Policy. John Conyers read the piece on the Congressional Record. It then spread like wildfire among lazy journalists and Russia’s network of fools, knaves and propagandists.

Naturally, correcting the mistake should be your first order of business. And Khanna, should forswear writing laws, about which you have no expertise, at the instigation of lobbyists. That is just good governance. There is also a lesson here about how massive, 2,000-plus page spending bills lend themselves to corruption.

But this need not be a black mark on your record as the process of correcting it presents an opportunity for you to help your country. Help the country smoke out the K Street sellout. Identify who played you for a fool and left you holding Putin’s dirty laundry.

Russia is attacking the U.S., and quisling K Street lobbyists are helping them. Help us identify them.

Kristofer Harrison worked for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and was a foreign policy adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign. He is a co-founder and principal of ITJ Strategies, a grassroots PR consultancy, and of AMS, a company that specializes in Russian information warfare, with offices in Washington and Kyiv. The company does not do any work on behalf of the Azov Battalion or related interests.

3. In what appears to be a faction fight in the Ukrainian fascist milieu, former Ukrainian far-right folk hero Nadia Savchenko has echoed the charge that Svoboda Party’s parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy was involved with the sniper attacks during the Maidan coup. Pushed on her charge, she equivocated that it was a different member of the Rada (Ukrainian parliament.)

” ‘War Hero’ Savchenko Accused of Terror Plot, Levels Own Accusations in Ukraine” [Reuters]; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; 3/15/2018. 

Lawmaker and former Russian captive Nadia Savchenko has traded incendiary accusations with senior Ukrainian authorities and faces possible arrest over what Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko alleged was a detailed plan for a devastating “terrorist” attack on parliament.

Savchenko, a former military aviator who spent 22 months in Russian prisons after being detained by separatists in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine, claimed on March 15 that lawmaker Serhiy Pashinskyy played a prominent role in a deadly crackdown on pro-European demonstrators during antigovernment Maidan protests that toppled Russia-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.

Speaking to journalists in front of the Security Service (SBU) headquarters in Kyiv, before she was questioned as a witness in a case against a man arrested last week on suspicion of plotting to kill President Petro Poroshenko and other officials in a series of armed attacks, Savchenko also asserted that Lutsenko covered up what she alleged was current parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy’s involvement in sniper shootings that authorities say killed dozens of people during the crackdown on the Maidan protests.

However, Savchenko said later that she meant to accuse not Parubiy but Pashinskyy, and publicly apologized to the parliament speaker for “a slip of the tongue.”

Lawmakers in the Verkhovna Rada swiftly responded by kicking Savchenko out of the single-chamber parliament’s national security and defense committee. Lutsenko, meanwhile, told parliament that Savchenko had planned an attack using grenades, mortars and automatic weapons.

Investigators have “irrefutable proof that Nadia Savchenko…personally planned, personally recruited, and personally gave instructions about how to commit a terrorist act here, in this chamber,” Lutsenko said. He asked the Rada to strip her of her parliamentary immunity so that she could be arrested.

Lutsenko claimed that Savchenko’s plan included destroying the Rada’s roof cupola and killing surviving lawmakers with assault-rifle fire. . . .

. . . . More than 100 protesters were killed in the 2013-14 demonstrations, centered on Kyiv’s Maidan Nezalezhnost (Independence Square) that preceded Yanukovych’s flight to Russia. Forty-eight of them were allegedly gunned down in February 2014 by snipers who Ukrainian authorities claim received direct orders from the Moscow-friendly Yanukovych.

In her remarks on March 15, Savchenko said that she saw Parubiy, who was on the antigovernment side at the time, “leading snipers into the Hotel Ukraine,” which looms over the Maidan. “I saw a blue minibus and armed people coming out of it, I have said earlier [to investigators] who those people were. Those people are now lawmakers.”

She said the deaths on the Maidan will never be thoroughly investigated, asserting that the government that came to power after Yanukovych’s downfall does not want it to happen. . . . 

4. Ukraine has tested a new cruise missile.

“Ukraine Tests New Cruise Missile (VIDEO)” by Illia Ponomarenko; The Kyiv Post; 1/30/2018.

A new Ukrainian ground-based cruise missile underwent a successful test launch on Jan. 30, Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksandr Turchynov announced.

According to the Turchynov, the missile, a solely Ukrainian project designed by the Kyiv-based Luch defense development bureau, can deliver precise strikes on ground and seaborne targets.

“During the successful tests, the missile’s flight efficiency and systems operations were checked,” Turchynov said. . . .

5. Ukraine has employed Tony Tether, the former head of DARPA to upgrade its military capabilities. He may very well be the architect of Ukraine’s new cruise missile.

“What is DARPA Doing in Ukraine?” by Aaron Mehta; Defense News; 3/1/2018.

DARPA, the Pentagon’s high-tech office, is working with the government of Ukraine to develop capabilities to help Kiev in its hybrid warfare challenge.

DARPA director Steven Walker, who recently took over that job after five years as the agency’s deputy, told reporters that he had personally visited the country in 2016 for talks with Ukrainian military, intel and industry leaders.

“We did have a good visit to the Ukraine,” Walker said Thursday at a breakfast hosted by the Defense Writer’s Group. “Yes, we have followed up with them, and through the U.S. European Command, we have started several projects with the Ukraine, mostly in the information space.”

“Not providing them weapons or anything like that, but looking at how to help them with information,” Walker added, before declining to go into further detail.

Ukraine has become a testing ground for hybrid warfare techniques from Russia and Russian-backed militant groups ever Russia’s invasion of Ukrainian territory in 2014, including disinformation campaigns. While that has allowed Moscow to test out new capabilities and techniques, it also provides an opportunity to develop counter techniques — which may benefit the U.S. and its allies in the long term.

“I think we’ve got to get better, as a country, in information warfare and how we approach info warfare,” Walker said. “I think there are capabilities there that we need to improve upon, and DAPRA is working in some of those areas.”

This is not the first tie between DARPA and Kiev. The Ukrainian government has hired Tony Tether, who led DARPA for the entirety of the George. W. Bush administration, to help lead a reorganization of their science and technology efforts, something Tether in a LinkedIn post said was necessary in part because so much of Ukraine’s S&T facilities were in the territory seized by Russia.

The former DARPA head has also consulted for the Ukroboronprom group, Ukraine’s largest defense contractor, and just a few weeks ago was added to the group’s supervisory board in a move that Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko called a “symbol of effective cooperation between Ukrainian and American partners.” . . . .

7. In a development that could light a match to the Ukrainian/Russian tinderbox, Ukraine is angling toward NATO membership.

“Ukraine’s NATO Bid Risks Even Worse U.S.-Russia Ties’ ” by Will Porter; Consortium News; 4/18/2018.

. . . . But a more recent development has implications that are rarely explored in American media, despite what it could mean for broader U.S. international relations. Ukraine is vying to take its place as NATO’s newest member state, a move that could seriously escalate tensions between Washington and Moscow beyond their current high point.

“It’s safe to say that Russia would be, and has been, opposed to NATO membership for Ukraine,” James Carden, former advisor to the State Department’s U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission, said in an email exchange.

Neighboring states such as Ukraine and Georgia, Carden added, “are red lines for Russia and we should take them at their word.”

In a March Facebook post, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Ukraine’s “next ambition” on its path to membership was to seek a Membership Action Plan (MAP). Countries seeking to join NATO must go through a multi-step process that ensures the prospective member meets the alliance’s various obligations in areas ranging from military spending to law.

“This is what my letter to [NATO Secretary General] Jens Stoltenberg in February 2018 was about, where, with reference to Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty, I officially [put forward] Ukraine’s aspirations to become a member of the Alliance,” Poroshenko wrote on Facebook.

The renewed effort to join the alliance, if successful, could further ratchet up tensions between Russia and the United States, who–in case anyone could forget–preside over the world’s two largest hydrogen bomb arsenals. . . .

. . . . Founded in 1949 as a bulwark against alleged Soviet expansionism in post-war Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization functions as a mutual defense pact between its 29 member states. Until the early 1990s, NATO existed ostensibly to counter the Soviet Union’s analogous alliance, the Warsaw Pact.
In December of last year, the National Security Archive at George Washington University published a series of declassified documents which reveal that strong assurances were given to the crumbling USSR that NATO, in the words of then-Secretary of State James Baker, would not advance “one inch eastward” in the post-Soviet era.

Yet between the time those promises were made, beginning in early 1990, and the present, NATO has expanded to encompass thirteen additional states, all of them in Eastern Europe. In 1999, the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary joined; in 2004 the alliance expanded to include Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, while Albania and Croatia followed in 2009. . . . .

8. Among the nations most hospitable to the post-World War II OUN/B diaspora is Canada, a NATO member. In FTR #948, we noted that Canada’s Foreign Minister Christia Freeland’s grandfather, Michael Chomiak was a Ukrainian Nazi collaborator. (“Foreign Minister” is the Canadian equivalent of Secretary of State. Freeland describes her grandfather as a major influence on her.) Now, four Russian diplomats have been expelled from Canada for telling the truth about Chomiak and Freeland.)

“Why did Canada expel four Russian diplomats? Because they told the truth” by Thomas Walkom; The Star; 04/05/2018

We now know how the Russians have been subverting Canadian democracy. They have been propagating truthful news.

That information comes courtesy of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who on Wednesday finally explained the motive behind his government’s decision last week to expel four Russian diplomats and refuse entry to three more.

At the time, Ottawa said it was making the move in support of Britain, which blames Russia for using a deadly nerve agent to poison a double agent living in England.

But in a written statement, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland also said the Russians had been using their diplomatic status “to interfere in our democracy.”

How exactly the Russians had been interfering was not explained. Efforts to get more information from Freeland’s office were unsuccessful. In an interview on CBC, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said that he had to stay mum for reasons of national security. Nobody else would talk.

Then, on Wednesday,Trudeau spilled the beans. The Russians are being punished for saying that Freeland’s grandfather was a Nazi collaborator during the Second World War.

Trudeau called this an effort “by Russian propagandists” to smear Freeland, which perhaps it was.

The only trouble with all of this is that the Russians were telling the truth. Freeland’s maternal grandfather, Michael Chomiak, was a Nazi collaborator during the Second World War.

A Ukrainian nationalist, he fled Stalin’s advancing armies in 1939 and sought refuge in what was then German-occupied Poland.

There, under the aegis of the Nazis he edited a Ukrainian-language, anti-Semitic newspaper.

I first learned of this from a front-page story in that well-known vehicle of Russian propaganda, the Globe and Mail.

The Globe got its information by interviewing Freeland’s uncle, a historian who in 1996 wrote – with some assistance from his niece – a scholarly article detailing Chomiak’s wartime activities.

Was the Russian government happy to see this being made public? I expect it was. Freeland is a vocal critic of Moscow’s heavy-handed approach to Ukraine and is currently persona non grata in Russia.

The Russian government also finds it convenient to paint all of its critics in Ukraine as unreconstructed fascists. And while Freeland is certainly no fascist, she has publicly praised her grandparents for their influence on her and for their commitment to Ukrainian independence.

Given all of that, the Chomiak story was a gift to the Russians. Soon after Freeland’s appointment as foreign affairs minister last year, pro-Moscow websites began to pick it up.

To use Trudeau’s words, Moscow was probably trying to push a “pro-Russia narrative.”

But is it illegitimate for countries to use verifiable facts to make a case?

Certainly, the West doesn’t think so when it comes to the nerve agent story. Its decision to blame Moscow for the attack is based on one fact – that the poison used was first developed in the old Soviet Union.

The possibility that some other entity might have copied it is never entertained.

Instead, the world is presented with a complicated explanation that goes something like this: After years of ignoring retired double agent Sergei Skripal, Russian President Vladimir Putin finally decides to kill him.

In order to show who is responsible, Putin has his minions use a signature Russian nerve agent. But in order to hide who is responsible, he has another set of minions vigorously deny Russian culpability.

The attack isn’t particularly successful, since Skripal is still alive.

All of this is done for no apparent reason other than pure evil. . . .

9. In FTR #943, we highlighted the Ukrainian fascist “PropOrNot” group as a contributor to the “Russia-Gate” hysteria. Now, the group has launched a posthumous attack on Robert Parry.

 

 

 

Discussion

12 comments for “FTR #1004 Update on Ukrainian Fascism and a Possible Third World War”

  1. This is rather remarkable: over 50 members of the the US congress signed a letter put forth by Ro Khanna condemning the laws in Ukraine and Poland that either glorify the perpetrators of the Holocaust or downplay the role local citizens may have played. And it’s bipartisan too. You can see the letter here. It’s quite scathing, appropriately so.

    So while it’s pretty clear that Rep. Khanna was going to end up on the enemies list of the various lobbying groups seeking to minimize any criticism of Ukraine’s embrace of the far right after Khanna managed to get a provision added to the 2018 congressional budget banning military aid to the neo-Nazi Azov battalion, that list of ‘problem’ congress persons who aren’t towing the line on Ukraine presumably just got a lot longer:

    Jewish Telegraphic Agency

    Congress members call out Ukraine government for glorifying Nazis

    April 25, 2018 3:25pm

    (JTA) — More than 50 U.S. Congress members condemned Ukrainian legislation that they said “glorifies Nazi collaborators” and therefore goes further than Poland’s laws on rhetoric about the Holocaust.

    The condemnation came in an open bipartisan letter to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan that was initiated by Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna of California and David Cicilline of Rhode Island.

    While noting that Poland passing a law in February that criminalizes blaming the Polish nation for Nazi crimes was “cause for concern,” the letter uses much harsher and likely precedent-setting language about developments in Ukraine that thus far have received relatively little attention in the West, observers of these processes said.

    “Ukraine’s luck of flying beneath the radar has finally run out,” Dovid Katz, the founder of the Defending History website about Holocaust distortion in Eastern Europe, wrote on Twitter about the letter. “Never imagined we’d see this day.”

    The language on Ukraine “is brutal — and richly deserved,” he added.

    The letter states that “It’s particularly troubling that much of the Nazi glorification in Ukraine is government-supported.” It noted ceremonies, gestures and legislation venerating leaders of the UPA and OUN militias, who fought alongside Nazi Germany during World War II and whose troops participated in atrocities against Jews and other victims.

    Khanna’s office in a statement also noted how city authorities in Lviv allowed the celebration of the anniversary of the 14th Galician division of the Waffen SS at events this month featuring men parading in Nazi SS uniforms on the street. The statements also cited JTA’s coverage of a teacher and local politician who allegedly celebrated Adolf Hitler’s birthday on Facebook and took pictures of her students at the public school where she taught history performing the Nazi salute with her. She has since been fired.

    “The State Department must use all available diplomatic channels to work with the Ukrainian and Polish government to combat the rise of this hateful ideology which has historically threatened peace and security in the region,” the Congress members wrote to Sullivan.

    In Ukraine, a revolution in 2013 that ended the rule of a key Kremlin ally ushered in a wave of nationalism that coincided with what Israeli researchers of anti-Semitism in January called a massive increase in anti-Semitic incidents amid government inaction.

    The glorification of fighters who allied with the Nazis against Russian domination increased considerably in volume after 2013. In 2015, the Ukrainian parliament passed a law that criminalizes denying the “heroism” of some of these allies of Nazi Germany, which oversaw the near annihilation of the region’s Jews.

    The letter also calls on the State Department to appoint a special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, a position that has remained vacant for more than a year though it was mandated by law.

    “The longer this position, which has worldwide reach, sits unfilled, the more it sends the message that the U.S. will tolerate anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial,” the letter says.

    ———-

    “Congress members call out Ukraine government for glorifying Nazis”; Jewish Telegraphic Agency; 04/25/2018

    ““Ukraine’s luck of flying beneath the radar has finally run out,” Dovid Katz, the founder of the Defending History website about Holocaust distortion in Eastern Europe, wrote on Twitter about the letter. “Never imagined we’d see this day.””

    Yeah, it is kind of hard to believe this happened, but it it happened.

    And while it mentions Poland’s new laws, the text is far far harsher on Ukraine’s laws, and appropriately so given how much further the Ukrainian government has gone towards actually glorifying the local groups that actually carried out the Holocaust:


    While noting that Poland passing a law in February that criminalizes blaming the Polish nation for Nazi crimes was “cause for concern,” the letter uses much harsher and likely precedent-setting language about developments in Ukraine that thus far have received relatively little attention in the West, observers of these processes said.

    The language on Ukraine “is brutal — and richly deserved,” he added.

    The letter states that “It’s particularly troubling that much of the Nazi glorification in Ukraine is government-supported.” It noted ceremonies, gestures and legislation venerating leaders of the UPA and OUN militias, who fought alongside Nazi Germany during World War II and whose troops participated in atrocities against Jews and other victims.

    Khanna’s office in a statement also noted how city authorities in Lviv allowed the celebration of the anniversary of the 14th Galician division of the Waffen SS at events this month featuring men parading in Nazi SS uniforms on the street. The statements also cited JTA’s coverage of a teacher and local politician who allegedly celebrated Adolf Hitler’s birthday on Facebook and took pictures of her students at the public school where she taught history performing the Nazi salute with her. She has since been fired.

    So it will be interesting to see how the Ukrainian government (and affiliated lobbyists in the US) respond to this.

    But there’s already a response from Poland’s government. As we should expect, they aren’t pleased and refute the accusation:

    Associated Press

    Poland criticizes US claim that Polish law glorifies Nazism

    By VANESSA GERA
    04/26/2018

    WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish officials on Thursday criticized the claim of a U.S. congressman that a new Polish law glorifies Nazi collaborators and denies the Holocaust.

    The charge was made by Ro Khanna, a Democrat from California, one of two congressmen leading a bipartisan effort urging the U.S. State Department to pressure Poland and Ukraine to combat state-sponsored anti-Semitism.

    “Our government should be concerned with the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Ukraine and Poland. Both countries recently passed laws glorifying Nazi collaborators and denying the Holocaust,” Khanna wrote Wednesday.

    In the Polish case, Khanna referred to a new law that makes it a crime to blame Poland for the Holocaust crimes of Nazi Germany. The law has sparked criticism in the U.S. and particularly in Israel, where some fear its aim is to quash discussions about Polish anti-Semitic violence during the German occupation in World War II. However, even critics to date have not tried to argue that the law glorifies Nazism.

    Andrzej Pawluszek, an adviser to Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, told The Associated Press on Thursday that Khanna’s words were “irresponsible and shocking.”

    Polish deputy foreign minister Bartosz Cichocki retorted Wednesday on Twitter: “Sir, I would appreciate if you indicated a single law passed in my homeland Poland (recently or not), which glorifies Nazi collaborators and/or denies Holocaust.”

    In a separate post, he added: “Equally, I would love to learn what exactly your government did to combat (the) Holocaust after being requested to do so by the Polish government-in-exile.”

    During Germany’s occupation of Poland during the war, the Polish government-in-exile struggled to warn the world of the mass killing of Jews — a message that was largely ignored.

    The Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum also weighed in, saying “there is no law in Poland that would glorify collaborators of the German Nazis or that would deny the Holocaust.”

    ———-

    “Poland criticizes US claim that Polish law glorifies Nazism” by VANESSA GERA; Associated Press; 04/26/2018

    “Polish deputy foreign minister Bartosz Cichocki retorted Wednesday on Twitter: “Sir, I would appreciate if you indicated a single law passed in my homeland Poland (recently or not), which glorifies Nazi collaborators and/or denies Holocaust.””

    And that’s probably going to be how Poland officially deals with these charges going forward: by refuting charges that weren’t actually made.

    Because as we’ve seen, the problem with Poland’s now law isn’t that it denies the Holocaust or glorifies the collaborators. The problem is that it basically makes it illegal to point out that many locals took part in the Holocaust, and if you point this out in Poland you’re committing a crime.

    So if someone in Poland was to actually point out to Poland’s deputy foreign minister how Poland’s law denies aspects of the Holocaust, specifically the significant role played by the local populace, they would potentially be facing a prison sentence. Hence the condemnation.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 26, 2018, 1:47 pm
  2. Superb and thorough update about the past & current machinations in Ukraine. Thanks to both you Dave & Pterrafractyl for your astute research. This horrific story must be kept alive, especially now that few know of the worsening escalations by the Ukraine Junta military against the Donbas, but now being directed under NATO advisors.

    Posted by Susan Shpak | April 27, 2018, 1:47 am
  3. Well, this was inevitable: The mayor of the West Ukrainian town of Skole, Vlodimyr Moskal, just went on a tirade during a lecture before the city councilmen that was basically a rehash of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He called Ukaine’s Jewish prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman, a “Muscovite Jews”, and quoted Henry Ford about Jewish schemes for world domination. World domination that uses cosmopolitanism and liberalism as a tool to destroy all nations. So, as is often the case for rants of this nature, while it was primarily anti-Semitic in nature it was also using anti-Semitism as a means of attacking anyone who isn’t a far right zealot.

    The following article also notes another disturbing recent incident, when an employee of Ukraine’s consulate in Hamburg, Germany, blamed Jews for World War II on Facebook, saying “death to the anti-fascists” on his private Facebook page. And bunch of other recent anti-Semitic incidents. It’s a reflection of the rate at which incidents of this nature are taking place in Ukraine: when there’s an article about some new anti-Semitic act all the other recent acts need to be included just to provide context.

    And as we’ll see in the second article below, it appears Moskal gave this rant at a conference of the Dontsov Scientific and Ideological Center, which is name after Dmytro Dontsov, the chief theorist behind the development of Ukrainian Integral Nationalism which formed a theoretical basis for OUN-UPA. So Moskal, along with a bunch of city councilmen, were apparently attending an event at this center, pointing towards problems with the local government of Skole that go beyond Moskal.

    And when questioned about his tirade, Moskal responds by citing the work of Vladimir Vyatrovich and Ukaine’s Institute for National Memory, saying:

    “From historical information and now Vladimir Vyatrovich revealing historically truthful documents [we know]: When the Bolsheviks came to power from 70% to 95% were Jews who destroyed the nation and its peoples.”

    And that’s what was inevitable about this: If your country creates an official revisionist history institution dedicating to whitewashing the history of Nazi-allied movements, at some point all that whitewashing is going to create a body of ‘evidence’ that Ukrainian politicians like Moskal can cite to justify what amounts to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion:

    Jewish Telegraphic Agency

    Ukrainian mayor and diplomat caught engaging in anti-Semitic rhetoric

    May 15, 2018 5:01am

    (JTA) — Amid international pressure on Ukraine over its perceived tolerance of anti-Semitism, a local mayor and a diplomat were documented engaging hate speech against Jews.

    The mayor of the village of Skole, located 60 miles southwest of Lviv, inveighed against Jews during a recent lecture before city councilmen. Eduard Dolinsky, director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, posted a video on Facebook of Mayor Vlodimyr Moskal’s address on Monday.

    Quoting Henry Ford’s anti-Semitic writings about Jewish schemes for world domination, Moskal said: “A lot of that work is devoted to the death of the goyim,” Hebrew for non-Jews. “Christians, Arabs, Buddhists, they are not people to them after their reaching world domination, which they are clearly trying to do through cosmopolitanism and liberalism in order to destroy all nations, to leave the political nation, to mix everyone into one lump, migrants, blacks,” the mayor said. He also called the government, whose prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman, is Jewish, “Muscovite Jews”– an insult in a country where anti-Russian sentiment is rife.

    Separately, screenshots shared online show that Vasyl Marushchynets, who works at Ukraine’s consulate in Hamburg, Germany, blamed on Facebook Jews for World War II and saying “death to the anti-fascists” on his private Facebook page, Reuters reported Monday. Marushchynets and the Hamburg consulate did not immediately respond to requests for comment but Ukraine’s foreign ministry confirmed his suspension.

    “Anti-semitism[sic] and those who stir up inter-ethnic discord can have no place either in civilized society or in the foreign ministry,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said on Twitter.

    Ukraine has seen a spate of anti-Semitic incidents in recent weeks, including vandalism at two monuments for Holocaust victims. One of the monuments was firebombed; unidentified parties wrote neo-Nazi slogans, on the other.

    Last month, hundreds of people in Lviv attended a nationalist march featuring Nazi symbols. The march commemorated a World War II Waffen SS unit that had included many local volunteers.

    On May 4, President Petro Poroshenko condemned “any manifestations of intolerance and anti-Semitism” in his country.

    These incidents and the march coincided with a letter signed by 57 U.S. congressmen condemning what they called Ukrainian legislation that “glorifies Nazi collaborators.” The letter, which Ukrainian media reported on, is the harshest public rebuke in years of Ukraine’s anti-Semitism by American elected officials. The letter decried a worldwide “rise of this hateful ideology.”

    A revolution in 2013 that ended the rule of a key Kremlin ally in Ukraine ushered in a wave of nationalism. This coincided with what Israeli researchers of anti-Semitism have called a massive increase in anti-Semitic incidents amid government inaction.

    The glorification of fighters who allied with the Nazis against Russian domination increased considerably in volume after 2013. In 2015, the Ukrainian Parliament passed a law that criminalizes denying the “heroism” of some of these allies of Nazi Germany, which oversaw the near annihilation of the region’s Jews.

    ———-

    “Ukrainian mayor and diplomat caught engaging in anti-Semitic rhetoric”; Jewish Telegraphic Agency; 05/15/2018

    “The mayor of the village of Skole, located 60 miles southwest of Lviv, inveighed against Jews during a recent lecture before city councilmen. Eduard Dolinsky, director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, posted a video on Facebook of Mayor Vlodimyr Moskal’s address on Monday.”

    That was the audience of the mayor’s tirade: the city councilmen.

    And it was tirade that explicitly said Jews are plotting to kill off all non-Jews using liberalism and cosmopolitanism:


    Quoting Henry Ford’s anti-Semitic writings about Jewish schemes for world domination, Moskal said: “A lot of that work is devoted to the death of the goyim,” Hebrew for non-Jews. “Christians, Arabs, Buddhists, they are not people to them after their reaching world domination, which they are clearly trying to do through cosmopolitanism and liberalism in order to destroy all nations, to leave the political nation, to mix everyone into one lump, migrants, blacks,” the mayor said. He also called the government, whose prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman, is Jewish, “Muscovite Jews”– an insult in a country where anti-Russian sentiment is rife.

    Adding context to the presences of fascist sympathizers in Ukraine’s government, the article also mentions a recent incident where a Ukrainian consulate employee in Hamburg, Germany, blamed Jews for WWII and declared “death to the anti-fascists” on Facebook:


    Separately, screenshots shared online show that Vasyl Marushchynets, who works at Ukraine’s consulate in Hamburg, Germany, blamed on Facebook Jews for World War II and saying “death to the anti-fascists” on his private Facebook page, Reuters reported Monday. Marushchynets and the Hamburg consulate did not immediately respond to requests for comment but Ukraine’s foreign ministry confirmed his suspension.

    Then, to add more context, the article points out a number of other recent anti-Semitic incidents, including the hundreds of people in Lviv who attended a commemoration for WWII Waffen SS unit and featuring Nazi symbols. Keep in mind that Skole is nearby Lviv:


    Ukraine has seen a spate of anti-Semitic incidents in recent weeks, including vandalism at two monuments for Holocaust victims. One of the monuments was firebombed; unidentified parties wrote neo-Nazi slogans, on the other.

    Last month, hundreds of people in Lviv attended a nationalist march featuring Nazi symbols. The march commemorated a World War II Waffen SS unit that had included many local volunteers.

    And these recent incidents are merely the latest in a wave of neo-Nazi acts following a Maidan revolution that swept in a government that not only largely tolerates such acts but went on to glorification Ukraine’s WWII Nazi collaborators and make it illegal to deny their “heroism”:


    A revolution in 2013 that ended the rule of a key Kremlin ally in Ukraine ushered in a wave of nationalism. This coincided with what Israeli researchers of anti-Semitism have called a massive increase in anti-Semitic incidents amid government inaction.

    The glorification of fighters who allied with the Nazis against Russian domination increased considerably in volume after 2013. In 2015, the Ukrainian Parliament passed a law that criminalizes denying the “heroism” of some of these allies of Nazi Germany, which oversaw the near annihilation of the region’s Jews.

    So in that context it should come as no surprise that Moskal appears to have given this speech at the Dontsov Scientific and Ideological Center and ended up citing Ukraine’s Institute for National Memory as evidence of the truth of his claims:

    Defending History

    Example from Ukraine: East European Holocaust Revisionism Feeds Directly Into Blatant Antisemitism

    17 May 2018

    KIEV—Evidence continues to mount that the noxious far-right, state-supported memory politics of Volodymyr Viatrovych’s “Ukrainian Institute of National Memory” are directly leading to growing antisemitism in Ukraine.

    The mayor of a town in Western Ukraine says the current government is a “Muscovite-Yid.” What’s striking is how he cites how Vyatrovych’s Institute to embolden and legitimize his views:

    “From historical information and now Vladimir Vyatrovich revealing historically truthful documents [we know]: When the Bolsheviks came to power from 70% to 95% were Jews who destroyed the nation and its peoples.”

    The full video has added to the picture provided by various recent quotes from the mayor in public venues:

    “The performance of the Moscow-Jewish authorities is dragging on for four years.” “For four years, the performance is not Ukrainian government, but, say it correctly, the Moscow-Jewish authorities.”

    The mayor also asserts that he analyzed the “extract from the Kabbalah and the Torah” in the book of Pavel Stepanov Mafia and Ukraine and came to the conclusion that Jewish children are taught from childhood to recognize the enemy and how to destroy him: “By the way, a lot of that work is devoted to the death of the goyim: they consider anyone except the Jews to be goyim, all of them — Christians, Arabs, Buddhists, they are not people, they are not people for them. After their coming to world domination, because they are clearly heading for this, they form the policy of cosmopolitanism and liberalism, to destroy all nations, to leave the political nation, mixed up in a heap, with migrations, with Blacks,” the mayor said.

    He added that “World Jewry” provided Joseph Stalin with a victory in World War II, and admiringly noted that the American industrialist Henry Ford once called for “isolating the 50 richest Jews” so that there would be no more wars.

    Commenting on the ethics of his statements, the mayor said: “Who did I offend? I just told the truth.” Moskal has been the mayor of Skole since 2010.

    Judging by the poster behind the mayor’s back, he uttered his monologue at a conference of the Dontsov Scientific and Ideological Center. For those familiar with the 1930s in this part of the world, Dmytro Dontsov was the chief theorist behind the development of Ukrainian Integral Nationalism (kind of a fancy way of saying: fascism), which formed a theoretical basis for OUN-UPA, a World War Two-era ultranationalist organization which engaged in mass murder of hundreds of thousands of Jewish and Polish civilians in its quest to build an ethnically pure Ukrainian state.

    ———-

    “Example from Ukraine: East European Holocaust Revisionism Feeds Directly Into Blatant Antisemitism”; Defending History; 05/17/2018

    “Evidence continues to mount that the noxious far-right, state-supported memory politics of Volodymyr Viatrovych’s “Ukrainian Institute of National Memory” are directly leading to growing antisemitism in Ukraine.”

    Yep, it turns out creating a state-run historical revisionism institute dedicating to whitewashing and glorifying Nazi collaborators might normalize Nazi ideologies. Imagine that:


    The mayor of a town in Western Ukraine says the current government is a “Muscovite-Yid.” What’s striking is how he cites how Vyatrovych’s Institute to embolden and legitimize his views:

    “From historical information and now Vladimir Vyatrovich revealing historically truthful documents [we know]: When the Bolsheviks came to power from 70% to 95% were Jews who destroyed the nation and its peoples.”

    Commenting on the ethics of his statements, the mayor said: “Who did I offend? I just told the truth.” Moskal has been the mayor of Skole since 2010.

    And not surprisingly, the venue for his speech appeared to be the Dontsov Scientific and Ideological Center, named after the ideological godfather of the OUN-UPA:

    Judging by the poster behind the mayor’s back, he uttered his monologue at a conference of the Dontsov Scientific and Ideological Center. For those familiar with the 1930s in this part of the world, Dmytro Dontsov was the chief theorist behind the development of Ukrainian Integral Nationalism (kind of a fancy way of saying: fascism), which formed a theoretical basis for OUN-UPA, a World War Two-era ultranationalist organization which engaged in mass murder of hundreds of thousands of Jewish and Polish civilians in its quest to build an ethnically pure Ukrainian state.

    And notice how he didn’t limit his “Muscovite Jews” slur to Volodymyr Groysman. He basically called the Ukrainian government as a whole the “Moscow-Jewish authorities”:


    “The performance of the Moscow-Jewish authorities is dragging on for four years.” “For four years, the performance is not Ukrainian government, but, say it correctly, the Moscow-Jewish authorities.”

    He cites the state-run historical revisionist institute as providing evidence of a Jewish plot to destroy society while simultaneously declaring the current government to be run by Muscovite Jews. It’s a snapshot of Ukraine’s zeitgeist.

    So what’s the next act of open Nazi loving going to be from Ukraine’s politicians? We’ll see, but if the far right ends up following through with is long-standing pledge to “march on Kiev” and overthrow the government it’s pretty clear the mayor of Skole will be marching with them.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 18, 2018, 1:37 pm
  4. https://www.timesofisrael.com/ukrainian-teacher-allegedly-praises-hitler-performs-nazi-salute-with-students/

    Ukrainian teacher allegedly praises Hitler, performs Nazi salute with students

    Jewish community leader says ‘government inaction’ leading to increase in anti-Semitic incidents

    By JTA
    24 April 2018, 3:54 am 0
    NOTE PRINTED IN: The Times of Israel

    A public school teacher in Ukraine allegedly posted birthday greetings to Adolf Hitler on Facebook and taught her students the Nazi salute.

    Marjana Batjuk, who teaches at a school in Lviv and also is a councilwoman, posted her greeting on April 20, the Nazi leader’s birthday, Eduard Dolinsky, director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, told JTA. He called the incident a “scandal.”

    Batjuk also took some of her students to meet far-right activists who over the weekend marched on the city’s streets while wearing the uniform of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, an elite Nazi unite with many ethnic Ukrainians also known as the 1st Galician.
    FREE SIGN UP
    Displaying Nazi imagery is illegal in Ukraine, but Dolinsky said law enforcement authorities allowed the activists to parade on main streets.

    Batjuk had the activists explain about their replica weapons, which they paraded ahead of a larger event in honor of the 1st Galician unit planned for next week in Lviv.

    The events honoring the 1st Galician SS unit in Lviv are not organized by municipal authorities.

    Batjuk, 28, a member of the far-right Svoboda party, called Hitler “a great man” and quoted from his book “Mein Kampf” in her Facebook post, Dolinsky said. She later claimed that her Facebook account was hacked and deleted the post, but the Strana news site found that she had a history of posting Nazi imagery on social networks.
    She also posted pictures of children she said were her students performing the Nazi salute with her.

    Dolinsky called the veneration of SS soldiers whom some historians say participated in atrocities against Jews and Poles “an outrageous desecration of the memory of the victims.”

    Ukrainian Education Ministry officials have started a disciplinary review of her conduct, the local KP news site reported.

    Separately, in the town of Poltava, in eastern Ukraine, Dolinsky said a swastika and the words “heil Hitler” were spray-painted Friday on a monument for Holocaust victims of the Holocaust. The vandals, who have not been identified, also wrote “Death to the kikes.”

    In Odessa, a large graffiti reading “Jews into the sea” was written on the beachfront wall of a hotel.

    “The common factor between all of these incidents is government inaction, which ensures they will continue happening,” Dolinsky said.

    Posted by Mary Benton | May 23, 2018, 4:58 pm
  5. Here’s a pair of article that highlight an asymmetry in how Western societies perceive the potential risks associated with people traveling to join, say, ISIS, and later returning home vs the risk of someone going off to join a Ukrainian neo-Nazi unit. It also highlights how the Ukrainian government’s formal acceptance of its neo-Nazi units facilitates this:

    First, here’s an article that talks about a quirk in Australia’s laws on citizens joining foreign conflicts. Under Australian law, anyone who participates in acts merely with the intention of engaging in hostile activities faces life in jail. That makes it illegal to join ISIS or even the Kurds in Syria. But joining a Ukrainian neo-Nazi volunteer unit is completely legal under Australian law. Why? Because taking arms alongside an army on their soil is legal. And don’t forget, all those neo-Nazi Ukrainian ‘volunteer units’ are basically part of the Ukrainian army at this point. Even Right Sector. And Ukraine even passed a law in 2015 to let foreigners formally serve in the armed forces on a contractual basis. So the framework is in place for foreigners to travel to Ukraine and join a neo-Nazi battalion with the official blessing of the Ukrainian government, which means Australia and any countries with similar laws intended to prevent people from joining up with extremist militant groups that promote violent totalitarian ideologies probably need to update their laws when it comes to Ukraine:

    ABC.net.au

    From Neo-Nazi to militant: The foreign fighters in Ukraine who Australia’s laws won’t stop

    By Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop, Suzanne Dredge, and Michael Workman, ABC Investigations
    May 01, 2018
    Updated Sun, May 6, 2018 at 11:45pm

    When Australian former Neo-Nazi and registered gun owner Ethan Tilling flew into Brisbane this year, he was returning under the radar of Australian authorities with newfound combat experience from a brutal and forgotten war.

    Mr Tilling, who was until recently a member of the Nazi group Right Wing Resistance, had spent the Australian spring in the bitter cold of Eastern Ukraine firing Kalashnikovs, rocket launchers and grenades at Russian-backed separatists.

    The 23-year-old former soldier from Brisbane is one of two Australian ex-Defence Force personnel identified by the ABC who have joined thousands of ultranationalists flocking from across the world to take up arms in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbass.

    Mr Tilling and former Royal Australian Air Force airman Jared Bennet joined a patchwork of pro-Ukrainian militia groups taking on the Russian-backed separatists in a chaotic and stuttering conflict, which has become to right-wing extremists what the war in Syria is to jihadists.

    Unlike Australians who break strict foreign fighter laws by joining Islamic State or the Kurds who oppose them, neither Mr Tilling nor Mr Bennet, from Melbourne, have broken any Australian law by taking up arms in Ukraine.

    The ABC does not suggest Mr Tilling or Mr Bennet pose any threat, but Australian and international security experts say the cases highlight an inconsistency in the law which leaves Australia vulnerable to the brand of violent right-wing extremism that is spreading across the US and Europe.

    From the Australian Army to Nazism

    Like many young men attracted to the global ultranationalist movement, Mr Tilling reveres the Norse gods of war and grew up desperate to become a warrior himself.

    “I think it’s a rite of passage for every man,” he said.

    “Some men feel they should defend something or go to war. It’s part of the things they have to do in their life.”

    Mr Tilling’s body is plastered in tattoos which he says merely honour his Scandinavian ancestors, but among them are emblems worn by white supremacists.

    By Mr Tilling’s account, he was a violent teenager.

    At the age of 18, he joined the Australian Army but he did not serve out his contract and was discharged after serving 18 months with the 8th/12th artillery regiment in Darwin.

    Two months after his discharge in late 2015, when anti-Islamic sentiment was boiling over in Australia, Mr Tilling wore a Southern Cross flag to a Reclaim Australia anti-Islam protest in Brisbane.

    He said it was there that he met a New Zealand-based Neo-Nazi group called Right Wing Resistance, which describes itself on its website as “an active army of white nationalists” committed to white supremacy.

    “I just became increasingly worried about the immigration into Australia and who was coming in, and whether or not we could guarantee those people wouldn’t harm us.”

    Mr Tilling joined Right Wing Resistance’s tiny Brisbane chapter but said he quickly became frustrated with the commitment shown by its three other local members.

    “They had no agenda for political and economic reform,” he said.

    “They were there because they had no-one else.

    “It wasn’t even any part of why I went to the Ukraine.”

    ‘It’s hard to join a foreign army’

    Mr Tilling abandoned the group after just six months and three meetings, but said he remained a Nazi skinhead for about another half a year.

    Still “an Australian nationalist, a patriot … very much anti-immigration” and “definitely anti-Muslim”, Mr Tilling turned his mind to fighting a war.

    He was initially drawn to fighting against Islamic State in Syria, but Australians who joined the Kurdish forces were being threatened with charges under foreign fighter laws.

    Under Australian law, anyone who participates in acts merely with the intention of engaging in hostile activities faces life in jail, but taking up arms alongside an army on their soil is perfectly legal.

    Mr Tilling set about trying to find a foreign army that would take him.

    “It was actually a lot harder to join a foreign army than people might think,” he said.

    “I jumped on the internet and for weeks and weeks, I tried to find articles and reviews about foreign legions taking foreign nationals voluntarily into their forces and then fighting from there.”

    It was a YouTube video that drove him to sign up with the Georgian National Legion, an international unit of foreign fighters in Ukraine including Americans, Brits and Europeans.

    The video featured Craig Lang, a former US soldier who had fled America after allegedly stealing military equipment and threatening to kill his ex-wife.

    Tilling arrives on the frontline

    After contacting the Georgian National Legion and assuring the unit he was not breaking any laws, Ethan Tilling landed on the frontline of Lugansk, the site of the most intense battles of the war in eastern Ukraine.

    The Georgian National Legion was among a mishmash of militant groups which had gained strength and popularity in Ukraine when the ill-prepared and under-resourced Ukrainian army struggled to beat back Russian-backed separatists after war broke out in 2014.

    Groups on both sides of the conflict were a magnet for thousands of ultranationalist amateur militants who were on an ideological “pilgrimage”, according to Dr Kacper Rekawek, from the GLOBSEC Policy Institute in Slovakia.

    “There’s been a dream of these guys of having a war right next door to Europe … to prepare themselves for a war back at home,” he said.

    Dr Rekawek estimated at least 17,000 people had travelled to fight in Ukraine from more than 50 countries, with most of them coming from Russia to join the separatists.

    Mr Tilling said his ideology had nothing to do with his decision to fight in Ukraine.

    He said the war was not what he expected.

    “When you’re in combat, it smells like smoke, it smells like gunpowder. Everyone’s letting off about 50,000 rounds in 60 seconds. It’s almost like out of a film.”

    The legion fought alongside the Ukrainian army, under constant artillery fire from Russian-backed separatists, who seized a large swathe of eastern Ukraine in 2014.

    Fighters were equipped with Soviet-era machine guns, small rocket launchers, semi-automatic grenade launchers and sniper rifles, Mr Tilling said.

    Mr Tilling told the ABC he witnessed atrocities but never engaged in any war crimes.

    “There were certainly things going on there that would be considered war crimes,” he said.

    “We found one of our guys with his fingers, toes, his testicles and his penis cut off in a field with his throat slashed.”

    The ABC was unable to independently verify Mr Tilling’s account, but the commander of the Georgian National Legion, Mamuka Mamulashvili, and an independent observer confirmed there had been instances of bodies of fighters being mutilated.

    ‘We do not tolerate nationalism’

    Within days Mr Tilling found himself dismayed by the chaos surrounding him and again disillusioned by the incompetence of his peers.

    Fighters were often drunk and sometimes high.

    “That was combined with things like walking around at night-time with lights on, singing at night, pointing loaded guns at your own team,” he said.

    Mr Tilling walked off the battlefield in anger after less than two months in Ukraine.

    Commander Mamulashvili said Mr Tilling left after raising concerns about a severe lack of food and water.

    He described Mr Tilling as a “motivated” and “good soldier”, but expressed concern at learning he was a former Nazi.

    “We have Muslims, we have Jewish guys, we have Americans, we have British guys, we are a big family,” he said.

    “We do not tolerate nationalism here.”

    A former RAAF airman joins the war

    A year before Mr Tilling flew to Ukraine, another former Australian Defence Force serviceman traded his suburban life in Melbourne’s north for the battlefields of Donetsk.

    After ending a five-year stint with the Royal Australian Air Force, Jared Bennet, 30, had spent his days going to the gym and his nights driving trucks.

    Like Mr Tilling, Mr Bennet was inspired by social media to take up arms in Ukraine.

    Mr Bennet told the ABC the catalyst to join the war was the Facebook posts from the frontline of a former US military friend he had met on a training exercise in Australia while in the air force.

    Mr Bennet said he travelled to Ukraine in 2016 to fight for the country’s radical ultranationalist Right Sector.

    A spokeswoman for the Right Sector-aligned Volvika Tactical Group told the ABC that Mr Bennet returned to Ukraine to fight with the unit again last year, but Mr Bennet refused to respond to the claim.

    Mr Bennet served alongside Craig Lang, the same American ex-soldier who had fled the US for Ukraine after allegedly threatening to kill his ex-wife and who later joined Mr Tilling’s unit.

    The Right Sector Volvika Tactical Group was not the only ultranationalist cause Mr Bennet was drawn to on social media.

    On Facebook, he likes the pages of the Australia First Party and self-styled ultranationalist leader Blair Cottrell, as well as right-wing army veterans groups and bikie clubs including the Rebels.

    The ABC does not suggest Mr Bennet is an extremist.

    Uneven approach a ‘danger’ to Australia

    Australia’s former watchdog on national security laws, Bret Walker SC, called for changes to Australia’s foreign fighter laws in response to the ABC’s revelations that Australians had fought with militant groups in Ukraine.

    Mr Walker said Australia was vulnerable to any returned ultranationalist fighters who go on to become violent.

    “Those are people whose skills, experiences and lack of sensitivity are very likely to constitute dangers in this country,” he said.

    “There is a domestic concern, not just a concern about Australia’s obligations in relation to prohibiting war, but also domestic concern in terms of terrorist dangers in Australia.”

    Mr Walker said the inconsistency in the current legislation was highlighted by the fact Australians could legally fight with the forces of foreign government dictators like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

    As the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor in 2014, Mr Walker SC made a recommendation to Federal Parliament for the law to be changed so that all foreign fighting would be illegal unless officially approved by the Australian Government.

    His recommendations were ignored.

    “There’s very little sign that there was — let alone at parliamentary level — any consideration of them,” Mr Walker said.

    “They have been utterly silent in relation to the basic principle that Australians should not fight abroad except for Australia or with Australia’s approval.”

    ‘I’m not a Neo-Nazi anymore’

    In February this year, Mr Tilling was visited by two officers from the Queensland Police Counter-Terrorism Command who interviewed him about his time in Ukraine.

    Police also contacted him after neighbours complained he was firing rifles and shotguns, which he is registered to own.

    Queensland Police refused to shed any light on the visits, saying it was unable to comment on specific individuals.

    But the ABC understands counter-terrorism authorities had doubted whether Mr Tilling had even fought in Ukraine, despite being featured in a Ukrainian TV news story from the Donbass frontline, in Ukrainian army propaganda on YouTube and in pictures shared by some Australians on Facebook.

    Mr Tilling said the visits from police were unnecessary because neither he nor any ultranationalists posed any threat to Australia.

    “We’ve committed no crimes here, we’ve never committed a terrorist attack in this country,” he said.

    “I’m no longer associated with those groups and I certainly didn’t go to the Ukraine with that as my motivation.

    “I would have gone to Syria to help the Kurds and of course the Kurds are Arabs — or sorry they’re Middle Eastern people — so you can see that I’m not that way inclined anymore.”

    Mr Tilling defended the right of Australians to fight in distant wars, saying it was a male rite of passage.

    “I certainly meet a lot of men in my circles who feel a lot of discontent with the current system,” he said.

    “It’s part of them just being a man in a modern world, that they want to go out and do something brave, or do something incredible. They just want to believe in something.”

    ———-

    “From Neo-Nazi to militant: The foreign fighters in Ukraine who Australia’s laws won’t stop” By Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop, Suzanne Dredge, and Michael Workman, ABC Investigations; 05/01/2018

    “When Australian former Neo-Nazi and registered gun owner Ethan Tilling flew into Brisbane this year, he was returning under the radar of Australian authorities with newfound combat experience from a brutal and forgotten war.”

    Yep, those neo-Nazis and extremists going off to fight in the Ukrainian conflict don’t necessarily stay in Ukraine. And if they return they’re going to return with an abundance of new combat experience. It’s one of the reasons the conflict in Ukraine has become to right-wing extremists what the war in Syria was for jihadists:


    Mr Tilling, who was until recently a member of the Nazi group Right Wing Resistance, had spent the Australian spring in the bitter cold of Eastern Ukraine firing Kalashnikovs, rocket launchers and grenades at Russian-backed separatists.

    The 23-year-old former soldier from Brisbane is one of two Australian ex-Defence Force personnel identified by the ABC who have joined thousands of ultranationalists flocking from across the world to take up arms in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbass.

    Mr Tilling and former Royal Australian Air Force airman Jared Bennet joined a patchwork of pro-Ukrainian militia groups taking on the Russian-backed separatists in a chaotic and stuttering conflict, which has become to right-wing extremists what the war in Syria is to jihadists.

    Unlike Australians who break strict foreign fighter laws by joining Islamic State or the Kurds who oppose them, neither Mr Tilling nor Mr Bennet, from Melbourne, have broken any Australian law by taking up arms in Ukraine.

    The ABC does not suggest Mr Tilling or Mr Bennet pose any threat, but Australian and international security experts say the cases highlight an inconsistency in the law which leaves Australia vulnerable to the brand of violent right-wing extremism that is spreading across the US and Europe.

    In Australia’s case, this loophole available to neo-Nazis and other far right extremists is largely created by two factors: it’s legal to join an army on their soil and Ukraine is more than happy to accept foreign fighters at this point:


    Under Australian law, anyone who participates in acts merely with the intention of engaging in hostile activities faces life in jail, but taking up arms alongside an army on their soil is perfectly legal.

    Mr Tilling set about trying to find a foreign army that would take him.

    “It was actually a lot harder to join a foreign army than people might think,” he said.

    “I jumped on the internet and for weeks and weeks, I tried to find articles and reviews about foreign legions taking foreign nationals voluntarily into their forces and then fighting from there.”

    It was a YouTube video that drove him to sign up with the Georgian National Legion, an international unit of foreign fighters in Ukraine including Americans, Brits and Europeans.

    The video featured Craig Lang, a former US soldier who had fled America after allegedly stealing military equipment and threatening to kill his ex-wife.

    So Ethan Tilling go searching for an army to join, finds a YouTube video from the Georgian National Legion, an international unit of foreign fighters in Ukraine, and ends up on the front lines. As one expert describes it, this basically living ‘the dream’ for extremists. A dream of having a war right next door to Europe … to prepare themselves for a war back at home:


    Tilling arrives on the frontline

    After contacting the Georgian National Legion and assuring the unit he was not breaking any laws, Ethan Tilling landed on the frontline of Lugansk, the site of the most intense battles of the war in eastern Ukraine.

    The Georgian National Legion was among a mishmash of militant groups which had gained strength and popularity in Ukraine when the ill-prepared and under-resourced Ukrainian army struggled to beat back Russian-backed separatists after war broke out in 2014.

    Groups on both sides of the conflict were a magnet for thousands of ultranationalist amateur militants who were on an ideological “pilgrimage”, according to Dr Kacper Rekawek, from the GLOBSEC Policy Institute in Slovakia.

    “There’s been a dream of these guys of having a war right next door to Europe … to prepare themselves for a war back at home,” he said.

    Dr Rekawek estimated at least 17,000 people had travelled to fight in Ukraine from more than 50 countries, with most of them coming from Russia to join the separatists.

    And then there’s Jared Benneit, a former member of the Royal Australian Air Force who ended up traveling to Ukraine to fight for the overtly neo-Nazi outfit Right Sector:


    A former RAAF airman joins the war

    A year before Mr Tilling flew to Ukraine, another former Australian Defence Force serviceman traded his suburban life in Melbourne’s north for the battlefields of Donetsk.

    After ending a five-year stint with the Royal Australian Air Force, Jared Bennet, 30, had spent his days going to the gym and his nights driving trucks.

    Like Mr Tilling, Mr Bennet was inspired by social media to take up arms in Ukraine.

    Mr Bennet told the ABC the catalyst to join the war was the Facebook posts from the frontline of a former US military friend he had met on a training exercise in Australia while in the air force.

    Mr Bennet said he travelled to Ukraine in 2016 to fight for the country’s radical ultranationalist Right Sector.

    A spokeswoman for the Right Sector-aligned Volvika Tactical Group told the ABC that Mr Bennet returned to Ukraine to fight with the unit again last year, but Mr Bennet refused to respond to the claim.

    Mr Bennet served alongside Craig Lang, the same American ex-soldier who had fled the US for Ukraine after allegedly threatening to kill his ex-wife and who later joined Mr Tilling’s unit.

    The Right Sector Volvika Tactical Group was not the only ultranationalist cause Mr Bennet was drawn to on social media.

    On Facebook, he likes the pages of the Australia First Party and self-styled ultranationalist leader Blair Cottrell, as well as right-wing army veterans groups and bikie clubs including the Rebels.

    The ABC does not suggest Mr Bennet is an extremist.

    “The ABC does not suggest Mr Bennet is an extremist.” LOL!

    And this is why people are sounding the alarm on this massive neo-Nazi loophole in Australia’s laws: There really are neo-Nazis getting very real training and for Australians it’s completely legal thanks to Ukraine’s ready embrace of such figures:


    Uneven approach a ‘danger’ to Australia

    Australia’s former watchdog on national security laws, Bret Walker SC, called for changes to Australia’s foreign fighter laws in response to the ABC’s revelations that Australians had fought with militant groups in Ukraine.

    Mr Walker said Australia was vulnerable to any returned ultranationalist fighters who go on to become violent.

    “Those are people whose skills, experiences and lack of sensitivity are very likely to constitute dangers in this country,” he said.

    “There is a domestic concern, not just a concern about Australia’s obligations in relation to prohibiting war, but also domestic concern in terms of terrorist dangers in Australia.”

    Mr Walker said the inconsistency in the current legislation was highlighted by the fact Australians could legally fight with the forces of foreign government dictators like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

    As the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor in 2014, Mr Walker SC made a recommendation to Federal Parliament for the law to be changed so that all foreign fighting would be illegal unless officially approved by the Australian Government.

    His recommendations were ignored.

    “There’s very little sign that there was — let alone at parliamentary level — any consideration of them,” Mr Walker said.

    “They have been utterly silent in relation to the basic principle that Australians should not fight abroad except for Australia or with Australia’s approval.”

    And with that story from Australia in mind, here’s a chilling reminder of just how potentially dangerous these extremist training grounds could end up being for a society: So you know that story about the Atomwaffen member, Devon Arthurs, who ended up shooting his neo-Nazi roommates, Andrew Oneschuk and Jeremy Himmelman, and claimed they were plotting terror attacks including using mortars to attack a nuclear plant and trigger a nuclear meltdown in Florida for the purpose of creating a Fourth Reich? Well, guess which foreign conflict one of those murdered neo-Nazi roommates, Andrew Oneschuk, was about to join while in high school before his parents intervened and stopped him: Ukraine’s neo-Nazi Azov Battalion:

    Rolling Stone

    All-American Nazis

    How a senseless double murder in Florida exposed the rise of an organized fascist youth movement in the United States

    By Janet Reitman
    May 2, 2018

    Andrew Oneschuk and Jeremy Himmelman had been living in Tampa, Florida, for two weeks when, on Friday, May 19th, 2017, their roommate Devon Arthurs picked up an AK-47 rifle and shot them at close range. Oneschuk had just turned 18. Himmelman was 22. They’d been staying in a lush gated community near the University of South Florida, in a two-bedroom, terra-cotta condo rented by their fourth roommate, 21-year-old Brandon Russell, a rich kid from the Bahamas who worked at a gun shop and served in the Florida National Guard. Oneschuk, a prep-school dropout, was hoping to become a Navy SEAL. Himmelman also considered the military, though he was more of a drifter. Eighteen-year-old Arthurs, a pale, freckled kid who sometimes called himself “Khalid,” was unemployed and spent most of his time playing video games. All four had met one another online, in forums and chat rooms popular with the more extreme segment of the so-called alt-right.

    It was about 5:20 p.m. when Arthurs, dressed in jeans and a green polo shirt, casually strolled into the community’s leasing office and announced he’d just committed murder. “He was extremely calm,” one witness recalled, and he gave “a little speech” about U.S. war crimes in the Middle East. Then he wandered across the street and into a strip-mall smoke shop, where, brandishing a Glock semiautomatic pistol, he took three people hostage. The cops arrived within minutes. “I was never going to shoot anyone,” Arthurs said as he surrendered. They drove back to the condo, arriving just as Russell, in his military fatigues, ran out the door “hysterical and screaming,” as one cop put it. Arthurs seemed unmoved. “He doesn’t know what’s going on,” he said about his roommate, “and he just found them like you guys just did.”

    The bodies lay in a small bedroom at the top of a carpeted staircase: Himmelman, a beefy kid in black basketball shorts and a black T-shirt, was slumped on a futon, with the back of his skull blown off. Oneschuk, lying supine on the floor in a white tank top and khakis, had also been shot in the head. In a second bedroom, the police discovered a 12-gauge shotgun and two large metal ammunition boxes full of live rounds. Also found in the condo: several copies of Mein Kampf, a gas mask, a trove of neo-Nazi and white-supremacist propaganda, and a framed photo of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

    The local bomb squad was called to examine the contents of the garage: a “mini lab” of chemicals, as federal prosecutors later put it. In one corner, a small cooler marked with the name “Brandon” was filled with HMTD, a white cakelike substance often used in making homemade explosives. Russell, a onetime physics major, later told police he’d used the HMTD to boost DIY rockets with his college engineering club. “It’s not illegal,” he said. “You can go on eBay and buy it.”

    Arthurs told a different story. “It’s all there specifically to kill people,” he said. Sitting in a small interrogation room in his sweat socks, he explained to the cops that his roommates were “national socialists” and members of a neo-fascist group called Atomwaffen Division, German for “nuclear weapons.” Russell had founded the group, which Arthurs – who’d recently converted to Islam – claimed had about 60 or 70 members nationwide. “Atomwaffen is a terrorist organization,” he said. He’d taken part in online chats where Russell and the others discussed plans to bomb power lines, synagogues, even Miami’s Turkey Point nuclear plant. “Brandon is literally somebody that has the knowledge to build a nuclear bomb,” he said. “I’m not meme-ing about that,” he added, Internet-speak for “fuc king around.”

    The detective, striking a dubious tone, asked him why his friends would make bombs. Arthurs looked at him, dumbfounded. “Because,” he said, “they want to build a Fourth Reich.”

    1. The Red Pill

    “We knew that Andrew had some bigoted right-wing views, and of course we hated that,” Walt Oneschuk tells me. Months after the murders, Andrew’s parents, Walt and Chris, still struggle to make sense of what happened to their youngest child and only son. “I’ve seen long Facebook threads of comments from people saying things like, ‘Good, I’m glad he’s dead,’?” says Walt, a pained-looking man with a dark mustache. “He was barely 18.”

    The Oneschuks live on a wooded cul-de-sac in Wakefield, Massachusetts, an upper-middle-class suburb just north of Boston. When I arrive at their house one winter evening, Chris, a determinedly cheerful woman in jeans and a fleece pullover, gives me a prayer card from Andrew’s funeral. On it is a photo of a handsome teenager with light-brown facial hair, wearing a gray snowflake sweater. The picture was taken on a hiking trip in the White Mountains, one of Andrew’s favorite spots. Growing up, Chris tells me, he liked to don his headlamp and head into the woods behind his family’s large tan colonial to spend the night amid the trees. His parents show me photos: Andrew hiking Mount Washington; in a scuba mask during a family trip to Hawaii. “He enjoyed a lot of outdoor things,” says Walt.

    Nonetheless, Andrew often seemed miserable – anger was “his default emotion,” his older sister, Emily, later tells me. He attended two different private schools, each of which he hated. Team sports didn’t interest him. Neither did most of his peers. “The antithesis of what Andrew wanted to be was a white suburban prep-school kid,” says Emily, who now serves as a junior officer in the Navy. “I think we were both looking for adventure, something bigger and more interesting.”

    Like Emily and his father, a former Navy pilot, Andrew wanted a military career. In grade school, he pored over stories of the French Foreign Legion. At 12, he started collecting pins belonging to the Spetsnaz, the Russian Special Forces. The next year, he became obsessed with the German Wehrmacht, whose weapons and uniforms he painstakingly memorized. One day he went online and ordered a replica SS jacket – he liked the “aesthetic,” he said.

    Emily believes that some of her brother’s problems stem from their father’s absence – in 2010, when Andrew was entering middle school, Walt, an engineer who served in the Navy Reserve, deployed to Iraq for a year, followed by a lengthy stint shuttling back and forth to Afghanistan as a contractor. “That’s when Andrew began to warp,” she says. Crushed by his father’s absence, he lashed out at Chris. “It was a rough situation without Walter there,” says Chris’ close friend Anita Roman.

    Andrew began throwing around the word “nig ger,” his sister says, though she repeatedly scolded him. At school, he complained the other boys were “faggots,” a favorite term he used so often that his family, finding him increasingly hard to discipline, tuned it out. Walt worried about alienating his teenage son, whose inchoate anger had become more pronounced. “You’re a cuck,” he told Walt at one point.

    Increasingly, Andrew obsessed over issues like climate change and the Syrian refugee crisis. He’d also embraced an apocalyptic and conspiratorial worldview in which Western civilization was doomed, and he, a white male, was a victim. He was amazed at his parents’ complacency. Didn’t they realize blacks were responsible for 80 percent of the crime in America? he’d falsely claim, using statistics that seemed drawn from nowhere. “America is shit,” he said. “My generation is failing.”

    By freshman year, Andrew was spending most of his time secluded on the third floor of the house, chatting online. He seemed to be active on various forums for Airsoft, a paramilitary game that attracts mostly white men from the U.S. and Europe, some of them soldiers, others who would like to be. Russia, in particular, has a thriving Airsoft community, which largely promotes itself through YouTube. “Andrew watched tons of YouTube videos,” Emily says.

    Before long, he had an account on the Russian social-networking site VK, a central platform for Ukrainian separatists looking for idealistic recruits. Andrew, who was one-eighth Ukrainian, took to the cause, chatting with fighters and their allies. He began formulating a plan to join the Azov Battalion, a notoriously brutal band of international fighters helping in the resistance against the Russians. In January 2015, Andrew bought a fake passport and a one-way ticket to Kiev. The day before he was set to leave, having packed his camping gear and arranged for a limousine to Logan Airport, he casually told his mother on the way home from school, “I think I’m going to go to Ukraine.”

    “We went into crisis mode,” Chris tells me. Two days after they canceled his trip to Kiev, the Oneschuks brought Andrew to a psychiatrist at Boston Children’s Hospital. He had been to see several counselors by this point. “They always said he was fine, just being a kid,” she says. Chris suspected he manipulated the counselors. For the next few months, he attended regular therapy sessions but “accomplished zero,” she says. Meanwhile, Andrew completed his sophomore year in almost total isolation. “His politics were just too weird,” says his sister. “He alienated people.”

    Emily had been concerned when Andrew went through his German-army phase, though some of her friends told her that they’d also thought the SS was cool when they were younger. “I don’t think they understood they were actually bad guys,” says Emily. “It’s more like the bad guys in Indiana Jones with the cool car.” But Andrew took it further, eventually adopting the online handle “Borovikov,” after a famous Russian neo-Nazi gang leader. That spring, he hung an SS flag in his bedroom as well as a giant swastika. Emily was aghast. “I pleaded with my father to make Andrew take them down,” she says. “I really don’t think my parents got how appalling it was.”

    She walked into Andrew’s room and ripped the flags off the wall. “You’re a Nazi,” she said.

    “I’m not a Nazi,” he replied. “I’m a national socialist.”


    ———-

    “All-American Nazis” by Janet Reitman; Rolling Stone; 05/02/2018

    Andrew Oneschuk and Jeremy Himmelman had been living in Tampa, Florida, for two weeks when, on Friday, May 19th, 2017, their roommate Devon Arthurs picked up an AK-47 rifle and shot them at close range. Oneschuk had just turned 18. Himmelman was 22. They’d been staying in a lush gated community near the University of South Florida, in a two-bedroom, terra-cotta condo rented by their fourth roommate, 21-year-old Brandon Russell, a rich kid from the Bahamas who worked at a gun shop and served in the Florida National Guard. Oneschuk, a prep-school dropout, was hoping to become a Navy SEAL. Himmelman also considered the military, though he was more of a drifter. Eighteen-year-old Arthurs, a pale, freckled kid who sometimes called himself “Khalid,” was unemployed and spent most of his time playing video games. All four had met one another online, in forums and chat rooms popular with the more extreme segment of the so-called alt-right.”

    So Andrew Oneschuks, one of the murdered neo-Nazi roommates, was hoping to becoming a Navy SEAL. But as we saw, he was also one-eighth Ukrainian and began chatting with the Ukrainian fighters and their allies in 2014 while still a freshman in high school. And by January 2015, Oneschuks had a plan for joining the Azov Battalion. He bought a fake passport and a one-way ticket to Kiev. It was only a day before the flight that his parents found out and prevented it:


    By freshman year, Andrew was spending most of his time secluded on the third floor of the house, chatting online. He seemed to be active on various forums for Airsoft, a paramilitary game that attracts mostly white men from the U.S. and Europe, some of them soldiers, others who would like to be. Russia, in particular, has a thriving Airsoft community, which largely promotes itself through YouTube. “Andrew watched tons of YouTube videos,” Emily says.

    Before long, he had an account on the Russian social-networking site VK, a central platform for Ukrainian separatists looking for idealistic recruits. Andrew, who was one-eighth Ukrainian, took to the cause, chatting with fighters and their allies. He began formulating a plan to join the Azov Battalion, a notoriously brutal band of international fighters helping in the resistance against the Russians. In January 2015, Andrew bought a fake passport and a one-way ticket to Kiev. The day before he was set to leave, having packed his camping gear and arranged for a limousine to Logan Airport, he casually told his mother on the way home from school, “I think I’m going to go to Ukraine.”

    “We went into crisis mode,” Chris tells me. Two days after they canceled his trip to Kiev, the Oneschuks brought Andrew to a psychiatrist at Boston Children’s Hospital. He had been to see several counselors by this point. “They always said he was fine, just being a kid,” she says. Chris suspected he manipulated the counselors. For the next few months, he attended regular therapy sessions but “accomplished zero,” she says. Meanwhile, Andrew completed his sophomore year in almost total isolation. “His politics were just too weird,” says his sister. “He alienated people.”

    Keep in mind that Oneschuks had barely turned 18 when he was killed, so he was clearly under 18 when his parents stopped him from traveling to Kiev. If he had been over 18, on the other hand, it’s hard to see what would have stopped him.

    So that almost happened: the American neo-Nazi who was apparently plotting terror attacks in Florida before he was killed by his roommate almost managed to join the Azov Battalion. And sure, there’s a decent chance that Oneschuks would have been killed in Ukraine and unable to bring is combat skills back to Florida. But there’s probably a better chance that he would have survived.

    It’s all a reminder that, for all the understandable concern about people joining jihadist groups like ISIS and returning home to carry out a violent extremist goals, those understandable concerns are far less understandable if they’re limited to jihadists.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 30, 2018, 3:26 pm
  6. Well, this is turning out to be a typically bizarre story coming out of Ukraine: It turns out a successful assassination on dissident Russian journalist residing in Ukraine, Arkady Babchenko, was all a hoax. A hoax perpetrated by the SBU in cooperation with Babchenko. The whole thing was revealed a day after reports about Babchenko’s demise.

    So why did the SBU arrange for the fake assassination of a journalist? According to the SBU, this was all done in order to expose the culprits behind a vast Russian plot. The alleged Russian plot was apparently going to involve the assassination of Babchenko and 29 other people in Ukraine, along with some sort of additional terror attacks. Two people were arrested as part of this plot. A middleman allegedly in contact with Russian security services who was tasked with finding a hitman. The putative hitman was also arrested.

    The middleman was reportedly also supposed to purchase a large quantity of weapons and explosives, including 300 AK-47 rifles and “hundreds of kilos of explosives.” So this sounds like more than just an assassination plot.

    And who is this middleman and hitman? This, of course, is where things get weird. While we don’t know very much about these two individuals there are some details available. Vasyl Hrytsak, the head of Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU), described the middleman as a former separatist fighter in eastern Ukraine according to one of the articles below. On the surface, that sounds like a description of someone who had been previously fighting for pro-Russian separatists. But the hitman allegedly hired by this middleman is described as a former “volunteer Ukrainian soldier”, and that terminology is typically used to describe a member of a militia unit like the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion.

    So did the SBU catch wind of a Moscow plot to arrange for a former separatist fighter to find some contract killers for a mass assassination campaign and did this former separatist fighter end up hiring a former far right soldier to do the actual killing? Well, it gets weirder. Aric Toler, a researcher at Bellingcat, has been looking over the Facebook page of the alleged middleman and it’s apparently filled with Nazi iconography and pictures of the guy giving Nazi salutes. And it’s notable that the individual Toler has identified does indeed have a strong resemblance to one of the suspect sketches released by Ukraine’s interior ministry (see sketch here).

    That same figure appears to have been identified as Hierodeacon Arystrakh, aka Alexei Zymbalyuk, who is a member of Right Sector, although there appears to be some confusion over whether or not he was the hitman or the middleman.

    And as we’ll see below, there’s also a report that the hitman himself actually went to the SBU and revealed the whole thing two months ago after the middleman hired him. Arkady Babchenko himself says he was informed of this assassination plot two months ago and told about this hoax plan a month ago.

    So, to summarize what we know about this:

    1. The killing of Babchenko was a complete hoax but treated as completely real until the next day.

    2. The alleged Kremlin plot involved the Russian security services contacting a Ukrainian to act as a middleman who would hire a hitman to kill Babchenko. And this was to be just the first killing in a list of 30 people on hit list.

    3. The middleman may be a former separatist fighter in eastern Ukraine according to one report.

    4. But according to Bellingcat researcher Aric Toler, the middleman appears to have a Facebook page filled with Nazi symbols and pictures of himself in Nazi poses.

    5. At the same time, another person appears to have identified this same person as Hierodeacon Arystrakh, aka Alexei Zymbalyuk, who is a member of Right Sector and referred to him as the alleged hitman.

    6. According to one report, the hitman himself approached the SBU two months ago after the middleman tried to contact him.

    7. Ukraine’s authorities say the fake assassination needed to take place in order to identify all the people involved.

    8. This was all a prelude to a much larger terror plot requiring 300 AK-47s and large quantities of explosives.

    And that all raises the obvious question: Does any of this make sense?

    Ok, so start this off, let’s take a look at Babchenko’s remarks on the operation during the stunning news conference revealing the hoax:

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

    Transcript: Arkady Babchenko’s Remarks After SBU Sting Operation

    May 30, 2018 15:40 GMT

    A partial transcript of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko’s remarks at SBU headquarters in Kyiv on May 30. Ukrainian security officials said they had faked the death of the dissident Russian journalist in an effort to catch people it says were involved in a Russian plot to kill him:

    “Good afternoon. I’ll be speaking Russian. Apologies for that.

    “First, I’d like to apologize for everything you’ve had to go through. I’ve been at the funeral of many friends and colleagues, and I know this nauseous feeling. Sorry for imposing this upon you, but there was no other way.

    “I’d also like to thank the Ukrainian Security Service for saving my life. … This operation has been prepared for two months. I was told about this a month ago.

    “Over this month, I’ve seen the guys work hard like bulls. We’ve been in constant contact and planned our actions. The result was this special operation that ended up in arresting the guy. He is in custody. Or has been detained. I don’t know the details.

    “The crime is a proven fact. All the evidence is there and, most importantly, apart from saving my life, for which I’m very thankful, bigger and more serious terrorist attacks have been prevented. These terrorist attacks were prepared thoroughly.

    “A week or two ago, Russia announced that [Islamic State] were preparing terrorist attacks before the Champions League [final in Kyiv]. I think it was going to be my [assassination].

    “What else to say?

    “As I said, two months ago I was approached and told that my assassination has been commissioned and money allocated. Forty-thousand dollars. It turns out I’m quite valuable!

    “I was shown my passport details and photo that exists only in my passport. I had this photo taken when I was 25. It exists only in my passport and [Russian] registry office. So it was clear that this information comes from Russian governmental services. Only special forces can obtain that kind of information.

    “I was offered to take part in this operation. There were no other options: Either we do it or we do it anyway. I agreed and we prepared this operation for a month. The guys worked hard like bulls.

    “There was pressure from [those who ordered the killing]. They only gave three weeks to do it.”

    Translation by Petr Serebryani
    ———-

    “Transcript: Arkady Babchenko’s Remarks After SBU Sting Operation”; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; 05/30/2018

    “”I’d also like to thank the Ukrainian Security Service for saving my life. … This operation has been prepared for two months. I was told about this a month ago.”

    So Babchenko initially states at the press conference that the operation has been prepared for two months and he was informed about this a month ago. Later he states that he was told about this assassination plot two months ago:


    “As I said, two months ago I was approached and told that my assassination has been commissioned and money allocated. Forty-thousand dollars. It turns out I’m quite valuable!

    And regarding the question of whether or not the hitman or middleman was working with the SBU, note how Babchenko refers to authorities arresting “the guy”. Not “the guys”:


    “Over this month, I’ve seen the guys work hard like bulls. We’ve been in constant contact and planned our actions. The result was this special operation that ended up in arresting the guy. He is in custody. Or has been detained. I don’t know the details.

    And note how Babchenko claims that the evidence collected by this operation includes evidence of a much larger terror plot:


    “The crime is a proven fact. All the evidence is there and, most importantly, apart from saving my life, for which I’m very thankful, bigger and more serious terrorist attacks have been prevented. These terrorist attacks were prepared thoroughly.

    “A week or two ago, Russia announced that [Islamic State] were preparing terrorist attacks before the Champions League [final in Kyiv]. I think it was going to be my [assassination].

    Ok, now lets look at an RFE/RL article with comments from Vasyl Hrytsak, the head of Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU). Hrytsak refers to “a suspected organizer” being detained. He doesn’t refer a second detained person. And note how the article says Hrytsak described the detained individual as “a former separatist fighter in eastern Ukraine”. So was fighting separatists or a member of the separatists? It’s unclear at this point:

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

    ‘I’m Alive’: Russian Journalist Babchenko Reappears After Kyiv Sting

    Last Updated: May 30, 2018 16:50 GMT

    KYIV — Ukrainian security officials said they faked the death of a dissident Russian journalist in an effort to catch people it says were involved in a Russian plot to kill him.

    Vasyl Hrytsak, the head of Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU), shocked reporters at the SBU headquarters in Kyiv on May 30 when he announced that journalist and Kremlin critic Arkady Babchenko was still alive, a day after Ukrainian authorities announced he had been killed by a gunman outside of his Kyiv apartment.

    Hrytsak told reporters that Ukrainian intelligence sources learned that Russia’s security services had ordered the killing of Babchenko several months earlier.

    Hrytsak also said a suspected organizer of an attempted murder plot against Babchenko, identified as a Ukrainian national, was detained as a result of a “special operation” by the SBU.

    “We have prevented an attempted murder of Babchenko by carrying out a special operation,” Hrytsak said on May 30. “Thanks to this operation, we were able to foil a cynical plot and document how the Russian security service was planning for this crime.”

    Babchenko made a dramatic appearance at the live May 30 television briefing after Hrytsak’s announcement, saying the fictitious reports of his death were part of an SBU operation that had been prepared for two months.

    “As far as I know, this operation was prepared for two months. A result of that was this special operation,” Babchenko told the briefing. “They saved my life. I want to say thanks. Larger terrorist attacks were prevented.”

    Babchenko did not specify what those other planned attacks were. But Hrytsak said the SBU had received information about a plot to kill 30 people in Ukraine, including Babchenko. The security service declined to say who the other 29 people were.

    Hrytsak said the detained Ukrainian citizen in the case — a former separatist fighter in eastern Ukraine — had been recruited by Russia to find someone to kill Babchenko. The SBU said the Ukrainian suspect was given $40,000 to organize the killing of Babchenko — $30,000 for the killer and $10,000 for being an intermediary.

    “It is known that once the killing was done, [the suspect] was planning to leave Ukraine…He was planning to travel to Russia via a third country,” Hrytsak said.

    “We managed not only to break this cynical provocation but also to document the preparation of this shameful crime by Russian special services,” he added.

    Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko, who appeared alongside Babchenko at the May 30 press briefing, said it was necessary to fake the journalist’s death so that the organizers of the plot to kill him would believe they had succeeded.

    Babchenko said he had no choice but to take part in the operation.

    “I did my job. I’m still alive,” Babchenko said.

    “I would like to apologize for what you have all had to go through,” said Babchenko, who broke into tears at times. “I’m sorry, but there was no other way of doing it. Separately, I want to apologize to my wife for the hell that she has been through.”

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said his government would provide round-the-clock protection to Babchenko and his family and called the security services’ effort a “brilliant operation.”

    “Ukrainian law enforcement agencies are becoming stronger every day in countering Russian aggression,” Poroshenko said on Twitter. “It is unlikely that Moscow will calm down — I’ve given an order to provide Arkady and his family with protection.”

    Meanwhile, the Reporters Without Borders media watchdog criticized Ukrainian authorities for staging Babchenko’s death, saying it “would not help the cause of press freedom.”

    “It is pathetic and regrettable that the Ukrainian police have played with the truth, whatever their motive…for the stunt,” Christophe Deloire, the head of the group, said.

    “All it takes is one case like this to cast doubt on all the other political assassinations,” he said, referring to the deaths and attempted assassinations of several Kremlin critics outside of Russia in recent years.

    Kyiv police and officials from Ukraine’s Interior Ministry had announced on May 29 that Babchenko had died in an ambulance on the way to a hospital after being shot in the back at his Kyiv apartment, where he has lived in exile since August 2017.

    Reports of the 41-year-old’s supposed death had stunned colleagues and added to tension between Moscow and Kyiv, whose ties have been badly damaged by Russia’s seizure of Crimea and backing for separatist militants in a devastating war in eastern Ukraine.

    In a post to Facebook just hours after news of Babchenko’s death emerged, Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman said, “I am convinced that the Russian totalitarian machine could not forgive his honesty and principled position.”

    Babchenko is well-known for his criticism of the Kremlin.

    His reporting about Moscow’s support for pro-Russia separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine brought him severe criticism by Russian state media and from Russian officials.

    Babchenko told RFE/RL in December 2016 that “all of the elements” of Russia’s state “propaganda machine” were engaged against him after he posted comments to Facebook about the crash of a Russian military plane in the Black Sea.

    All 92 people on board were killed, including members of the Russian Army’s renowned choir, the Aleksandrov Ensemble, who were traveling to give a performance for Russian troops in Syria.

    Babchenko said the reaction by state officials and state media to his remarks was intended to send a signal to Russian society that “we must be in one line; we must express sadness; we must appear sad — and anyone who doesn’t must be destroyed.”

    ‘Forced To Flee’

    Babchenko told RFE/RL in late 2016 that State Duma Deputy Vitaly Milonov, Federation Council member Frants Klintsevich, and Russian media like Channel One and Life News were “stitching together some fake news” about him.

    Babchenko said: “A major effort is being organized. They aren’t investigating why the plane crashed but instead are persecuting me.”

    In February 2017, writing for Britain’s The Guardian newspaper, Babchenko said: “I can tell you what political harassment feels like in [President Vladimir] Putin’s Russia. Like many dissidents I am used to abuse, but a recent campaign against me was so personal, so scary, that I was forced to flee.”

    Babchenko served in the Russian Army during the first separatist war in Chechnya in the 1990s before he became a journalist.

    He worked as a military correspondent and wrote for several Russian media organizations, including the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily newspaper and Novaya Gazeta, as well as TV Tsentr, and Channel One TV.

    He had been scathingly critical of the Kremlin in recent years. He moved to Kyiv in the autumn of 2017, where he worked as a host for the Crimean Tatar TV station, ATR.

    ———-

    “‘I’m Alive’: Russian Journalist Babchenko Reappears After Kyiv Sting”; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; 05/30/2018

    “Vasyl Hrytsak, the head of Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU), shocked reporters at the SBU headquarters in Kyiv on May 30 when he announced that journalist and Kremlin critic Arkady Babchenko was still alive, a day after Ukrainian authorities announced he had been killed by a gunman outside of his Kyiv apartment.”

    So did Vasyl Hrytsak, the head of the SBU, tell the world about this hoax operation. For starters, that Ukrainian intelligence sources learned about the plot several months ago (so it’s up to a 3 month timeframe at this point)


    Hrytsak told reporters that Ukrainian intelligence sources learned that Russia’s security services had ordered the killing of Babchenko several months earlier.

    Also note how Hrytsak appeared focused on the middleman, further indicating the hitman was working with the SBU (although the article below has some comments from Hrytsak about the hitman). And this middleman is described as “a former separatist fighter in eastern Ukraine”:


    Hrytsak also said a suspected organizer of an attempted murder plot against Babchenko, identified as a Ukrainian national, was detained as a result of a “special operation” by the SBU.

    “We have prevented an attempted murder of Babchenko by carrying out a special operation,” Hrytsak said on May 30. “Thanks to this operation, we were able to foil a cynical plot and document how the Russian security service was planning for this crime.”

    Babchenko did not specify what those other planned attacks were. But Hrytsak said the SBU had received information about a plot to kill 30 people in Ukraine, including Babchenko. The security service declined to say who the other 29 people were.

    Hrytsak said the detained Ukrainian citizen in the case — a former separatist fighter in eastern Ukraine — had been recruited by Russia to find someone to kill Babchenko. The SBU said the Ukrainian suspect was given $40,000 to organize the killing of Babchenko — $30,000 for the killer and $10,000 for being an intermediary.

    “It is known that once the killing was done, [the suspect] was planning to leave Ukraine…He was planning to travel to Russia via a third country,” Hrytsak said.

    “We managed not only to break this cynical provocation but also to document the preparation of this shameful crime by Russian special services,” he added.

    Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko, who appeared alongside Babchenko at the May 30 press briefing, said it was necessary to fake the journalist’s death so that the organizers of the plot to kill him would believe they had succeeded.

    Ok, now let’s take a quick look at a Daily Beast story that contains a bit of information on the alleged hitman. According to the article, the hitman is “a former Ukrainian volunteer soldier”, which is the kind of language typically used to describe someone in a group like Azov Battalion or Right Sector:

    The Daily Beast
    THE STING

    Another Putin Critic Murdered in Ukraine? Nope. His ‘Death’ Was a Sting That Caught Alleged Assassin
    The famous war reporter received many death threats from Russian officials and Russian-backed rebels. Finally he and police acted to catch a killer – but first fooled the world.

    Anna Nemtsova
    05.30.18 2:21 AM ET

    Editor‘s Note: Arkady Babchenko, one of the bravest and most famous of Russia’s war reporters, is not dead, although Tuesday he wanted the world to believe he was, including those who are his friends. And now we find out it was all part of a sting to capture those who really did want him dead.

    On Wednesday Babchenko appeared alive and well at a press conference, saying that he had to fake his death as a part of a Ukrainian Security Service operation. A suspect reportedly is in custody.

    This is not the first time secret services have pulled off such an operation to embarrass their enemies and capture conspirators. In 1984, the Egyptians faked the murder of a leading opponent of Libyan strongman Muammar Kaddafi.. But in today’s news environment, such a spectacular example of “fake news” risks discrediting those who pull it off as well as those who would commit the crime in the first place.

    – World News Editor Christopher Dickey

    Anna Nemtsova, who wrote the original story reporting Babchenko‘s death, filed this update from Moscow:

    No fake news ever shocked reporters working in Russia and Ukraine more than this story.

    On Tuesday Ukrainian authorities convinced the world that the famous Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko was killed in Kiev. A photograph of Babchenko in a puddle of blood with three gunshot wounds on his back was released to the public. Ukrainian parliament member Anton Geraschenko told a detailed story about the murder on his Facebook page, giving details of the assassination. The Ukrainian police released a composite sketch of the supposed killer.

    Thousands of Babchenko’s fans and friends wept for hours. Respectful publications wrote tributes. Russian politicians blamed Kiev and Ukrainians blamed Moscow for ordering Babchenko’s murder; the United Nations demanded an investigation.

    But at the Wednesday press conference the Ukrainian Security Service, the SBU, broke a happy news: Babchenko was alive. According to Ukrainian officials, the sting was a top secret special operation conducted to find the real would-be “killer.”

    “When a live Babchenko appeared on TV screens on Wednesday afternoon, all of his colleagues at ATR, a Tatar TV channel in Kiev, began to scream in shock in the newsroom, they had no idea,” Pavel Kanygin, Babchenko’s friend, told The Daily Beast.

    Kanygin, as well as several other friends flew to Kiev on Wednesday morning to help Babchenko’s wife organize the funeral. There were too many real assassinations of Russian journalists and politicians criticising President Vladimir Putin to doubt Babchenko’s murder story.

    During the press briefing on Wednesday Babchenko appeared before his colleagues and said: “The SBU operation, conducted in order to prevent large scale terrorist attacks, was prepared for two months.”

    Apparently a former Ukrainian volunteer soldier had received $15,000 to kill Babchenko. The head of SBU Vasily Gritsak told reporters that the detention of the assassin helped to prevent dozens of other contract killings in Ukraine, that the list of potential victims included at least 30 names.

    In Russia, Babchenko’s friends were crying and laughing, happy to hear the news. “We have the entire newsroom at Echo of Moscow screaming too, some curse badly,” Tanya Felgenhauer, deputy chief editor of Echo of Moscow told her friends.

    ———-

    “Another Putin Critic Murdered in Ukraine? Nope. His ‘Death’ Was a Sting That Caught Alleged Assassin” by Anna Nemtsova; The Daily Beast; 05/30/2018

    Apparently a former Ukrainian volunteer soldier had received $15,000 to kill Babchenko. The head of SBU Vasily Gritsak told reporters that the detention of the assassin helped to prevent dozens of other contract killings in Ukraine, that the list of potential victims included at least 30 names.”

    A “former Ukrainian volunteer soldier”. That’s the initial description we got of the hitman. And he was indeed detained, which Hrytsak (Gritsak) characterizes as helping to prevent dozens of other contract killings in Ukraine. So during this initial press conference both the middleman and hitman are characterized as being ‘caught’ by the SBU. And, in fact, the whole point of the hoax assassination was to find the real would-be “killer”


    But at the Wednesday press conference the Ukrainian Security Service, the SBU, broke a happy news: Babchenko was alive. According to Ukrainian officials, the sting was a top secret special operation conducted to find the real would-be “killer.”

    So, according to this story, the SBU arranged for a fake assassination of Babchenko to…expose the real would-be assassin?! That, uh, doesn’t make a huge amount of sense. Unless, of course, the hitman was in fact working for the SBU the whole time. And sure enough, that’s what’s getting reported by a journalist who is described as a close friend of the “hitman”:

    Unian.info

    Babchenko’s ‘hitman’ turns to SBU on his own – journalist

    18:57, 31 May 2018

    Journalist Shovkoshytnyi advises Babchenko to change his place of residence and to be more careful.

    An assassination attempt on Russian journalist and Kremlin vocal critic Arkady Babchenko has been solved thanks to the fact that the “hitman” turned to the SBU Security Service of Ukraine on his own.

    “The ‘hitman’ has indeed participated in the Anti-Terrorist Operation [ATO] for a long time. The organizer ordered the killing of Arkady Babchenko, trying to manipulate his patriotic sentiments. Having received the [journalist’s] profile, the man immediately turned to the SBU. It happened about two months ago. The SBU opened a criminal case, and the ‘assassin’ went to get the advance payment, having recording devices on him,” journalist Rodion Shovkoshytnyi, a close friend of the “hitman,” told Espresso TV on May 31.

    The staging of Babchenko’s murder was necessary to record the receipt of money for the “execution” of the contract hit from the man suspected of ordering the killing on behalf of the Russian secret service.

    “I would advise Arkady to change his place of residence and to be more careful. Perhaps, he has not fully realized that he is alive by coincidence. Russians who live here – be careful, as [the Kremlin’s] list is long,” Shovkoshytnyi said. At the beginning, only the SBU’s chiefs knew about this special operation.

    ———-

    “Babchenko’s ‘hitman’ turns to SBU on his own – journalist”; Unian.info; 05/31/2018

    “”The ‘hitman’ has indeed participated in the Anti-Terrorist Operation [ATO] for a long time. The organizer ordered the killing of Arkady Babchenko, trying to manipulate his patriotic sentiments. Having received the [journalist’s] profile, the man immediately turned to the SBU. It happened about two months ago. The SBU opened a criminal case, and the ‘assassin’ went to get the advance payment, having recording devices on him,” journalist Rodion Shovkoshytnyi, a close friend of the “hitman,” told Espresso TV on May 31.

    So according journalist Rodion Shovkoshytnyi, described as a “close friend” of the alleged hitman, the hitman immediately turned to the SBU about two months ago after the middleman tried to order the assassination. Now, granted, this journalist is the hitman’s “close friend”, so we have to take his word with a big grain of salt. But at the same time, how on earth could a fake assassination make any sense at all UNLESS THE HITMAN WAS IN ON IT?! So of course the hitman was in on it. This whole story makes absolutely no sense unless that’s the case.

    But even if the hitman was in on it, there’s still quite a bit that doesn’t make sense. Especially since it looks like either the hitman or middleman was a neo-Nazi member of Right Sector. But in either case, this plot doesn’t make sense.

    And then there’s the much larger terror plot that was apparently part of all of this: the alleged planned purchase of 300 AK-47s and large quantities of explosives:

    The Guardian

    Arkady Babchenko reveals he faked his death to thwart Moscow plot

    Russian journalist fools world’s media by staging his murder in elaborate scheme with Ukraine

    Luke Harding and Andrew Roth

    Wed 30 May 2018 13.58 EDT
    Last modified on Thu 31 May 2018 06.59 EDT

    Arkady Babchenko, the Russian journalist whose murder was dramatically announced by Ukraine on Tuesday, emerged very much alive on Wednesday and said he had faked his own death in order to thwart a plot by Moscow to kill him.

    Details of the precise threat to Babchenko’s life were murky. Vasyl Hrytsak, the head of the SBU, said Russia’s spy agencies had contacted a middleman, identified only as G, and paid him $40,000 to arrange the murder. The middleman in turn approached a former Ukrainian volunteer soldier to carry out the hit, together with additional “terrorist acts”, he said.

    The middleman was now in custody, Hrytsak said, showing video of a middle-aged, white-haired man being bundled by officers into a van. Hrytsak added that phone intercepts had revealed his contacts in Moscow. Dozens of contract killings had been averted, he suggested, claiming that the list of potential victims in Ukraine stretched to 30 names.

    The Ukrainian suspect was supposed to buy a large quantity of weapons and explosive, including 300 AK-47 rifles and “hundreds of kilos of explosives”, Hrytsak alleged.

    The general prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, appeared alongside Babchenko, who was dressed at Wednesday’s press conference in a black hoodie. Lutsenko said it was necessary to fake the journalist’s death so the organisers of the plot to kill him would believe they had succeeded.

    ———-

    “Arkady Babchenko reveals he faked his death to thwart Moscow plot” by Luke Harding and Andrew Roth; The Guardian; 05/30/2018

    “Details of the precise threat to Babchenko’s life were murky. Vasyl Hrytsak, the head of the SBU, said Russia’s spy agencies had contacted a middleman, identified only as G, and paid him $40,000 to arrange the murder. The middleman in turn approached a former Ukrainian volunteer soldier to carry out the hit, together with additional “terrorist acts”, he said.

    Assassination in additional “terrorist acts”. That’s allegedly what the Russian secret services hired this unnamed middleman to do. And those terrorist acts apparently involved a large number of people because 300 AK-47s were part of the plan, along with hundreds lf kilos of explosives:


    The Ukrainian suspect was supposed to buy a large quantity of weapons and explosive, including 300 AK-47 rifles and “hundreds of kilos of explosives”, Hrytsak alleged.

    Hmmm…does it make sense that the Russian secret services hired a east Ukrainian separatist to carry all this out, and that guy, in turn, hired a Right Sector – a group that almost defines itself in its hatred of Russia – to be the hitman to carry out what was to be merely the first killing in what was to be a mass terror campaign? Because that seems like a remarkably far-fetched story on many levels.

    So what’s going on here? That’s extremely ambiguous at this point and we’re probably just going to have to wait and see what additional information comes out. But there is one very notable other story that might provide part of the explanation: Recall how, back in March, it was learned that far right Ukrainian war hero, Nadia Savchenko, was alleged by Ukrainian authorities a plotting a devastating terror plot on Ukraine’s parliament? Well, that was 2-3 months, right around the time the SBU allegedly got its intelligence about about this new alleged Moscow-directed assassination/terror plot. So is it possible that we’re looking a Ukrainian operation that’s effectively trying to address the Savchenko terror plot but do it under the guise of busting a Russian terror plot so as not to overly piss off Ukraine’s far right? It seems like a stretch, but probably not nearly as much of a stretch as the explanation Ukraine’s security services just gave the world for its hoax assassination.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 31, 2018, 4:09 pm
  7. And the plot thickens. Specifically, the plot around the bizarre hoax killing of dissident Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko:

    So it turns out that the ‘hitman’ and ‘middleman’ in BOTH claim to have been working for the Ukrainian intelligence services. We also have confirmation on their identities.

    The ‘hitman’ was indeed Alexei Zymbalyuk/Oleksiy Tsimbalyuk, a former monk and a deacon in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. He actually changed his religious affiliation from the Russian Orthodox Church. And, yes, he’s a member of Right Sector, or at least has photos of himself on his Facebook page in green combat fatigues with a Right Sector patch. There’s also a 10 minute documentary about him that appeared online in January 2017 where he called killing separatists an act of mercy. Ukrainian intelligence services initially denied his claims that he had been working with them all along but later acknowledged this was true.

    The ‘middleman’, Boris L. Herman, is perhaps even more interesting. Herman claims in court that he has also been working for Ukraine all along, although it sounds like Ukrainian officials currently deny this (just as they did for the ‘hitman’ before later confirming his claims). But Herman is also claiming that there really was a Moscow-based assassination scheme. According to Herman, “I got a call from a longtime acquaintance who lives in Moscow, and in the process of communicating with him it turned out that he works for a Putin foundation precisely to orchestrate destabilization in Ukraine.” This was apparently six months ago.

    Herman does actually give a somewhat coherent explanation for why a fake killing had to take place: it was only after the ‘killing’ of Babchenko that his Russian contact gave him the list of 30 more names.

    Intriguingly, according to Herman’s lawyer, Herman is the executive director of Schmeisser, a Ukrainian-German joint venture that specializes in making sights for sniper rifles. Schmeisser is also the only arms manufacturer in Ukraine NOT owned by the government according to Herman’s lawyer, although that doesn’t appear to actually be the case (the League of Private Defense Industries of Ukraine was formed in late 2016, for example).

    So, if we are to believe this story, a Putin-connected foundation decided to contact Herman, the executive of a Ukrainian-German arms manufacturer in Ukraine, to orchestrate an elaborate assassination/terror plot six months ago. Herman then contact Ukraine’s intelligence services. Then they apparently waited like 4 months before concocting this fake assassination plot. Then Herman recruited a member of Right Sector who also contacted Ukraine’s intelligence services right away. All in all, it’s definitely one of those stories where ‘less is more’ because the more we’re learning the less sense this all makes:

    The New York Times

    After the Faked Journalist Killing in Ukraine, the Murk Deepens

    By Neil MacFarquhar
    June 1, 2018

    MOSCOW — The strange cast of characters emerging in the faked assassination of a prominent Putin critic — including a Russia-hating right-wing priest and the director of a Ukrainian arms manufacturer — set the already bizarre case on a path to a murky, up-is-down mess of the sort that Ukraine seems to specialize in.

    Both the priest and the executive claimed to be working for Ukraine’s intelligence services. Ukrainian officials at first denied that but, in the case of the priest, subsequently reversed themselves and admitted he had played a role. They would not say what.

    Senior Ukrainian officials have been on the defensive since Wednesday, when the head of the security services and the chief prosecutor announced that they had staged the shooting death of a dissident Russian war correspondent in order to trace his would-be killers back to Russian intelligence.

    However, in the absence of solid facts and real evidence about any plot to kill the dissident, Arkady Babchenko, somewhat implausible figures have emerged from the shadows, perhaps the most unlikely being the priest, who claimed he was hired to carry out the hit.

    Oleksiy Tsimbalyuk, once a monk and a deacon in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church who used the clerical name Aristarkh, wrote on his Facebook page that he was the man who went to the authorities after being hired to kill Mr. Babchenko.

    The cleric has never made a secret of his longstanding antipathy toward Russia, fighting Russian-backed militias in eastern Ukraine and switching his religious affiliation from the Russian Orthodox Church to a breakaway branch of the Orthodox Church that has declared its independence from Moscow.

    Pictures on his Facebook page show him in green combat fatigues including a patch from the Right Sector, a Ukrainian ultranationalist organization that some, particularly the Kremlin, portray as a neo-Nazi group. In a 10-minute documentary about him that appeared online in January 2017, he called killing members of the Russian-backed militias in eastern Ukraine “an act of mercy.”

    Given such strong and publicly avowed enmity toward Russia, it is odd to say the least that Mr. Tsimbalyuk would be selected to carry out the contract killing of a prominent Kremlin critic.

    When he first posted the information on Facebook, a spokeswoman for the Security Service of Ukraine, known by its initials, S.B.U., denied that he was involved. But she later acknowledged that he had been.

    Then there is the accused organizer, who Ukrainian officials said was just warming up with the killing of Mr. Babchenko and had a list of some 30 others Moscow supposedly wanted to eliminate.

    That man, Boris L. Herman, was arraigned in a Kiev court on Thursday night and ordered to be held in custody for two months. Prosecutors said he had given the supposed assassin a down payment of $15,000, half what he was promised for carrying out the hit.

    In court, Mr. Herman tried both to link the plot to President Vladimir V. Putin and to claim that he, too, had been working for Ukraine all along. He was first contacted six months ago, he said.

    “I got a call from a longtime acquaintance who lives in Moscow, and in the process of communicating with him it turned out that he works for a Putin foundation precisely to orchestrate destabilization in Ukraine,” Mr. Herman was quoted as saying by Interfax Ukraine, a news agency.

    Claiming that he was working for Ukrainian counterintelligence, he said he had known perfectly well that there would be no killing. A monk was hired because he would not kill an unarmed man, he said in court, and once Mr. Babchenko’s “assassination” had taken place, he said, his Russian contact had given him the list of 30 more names, which he says he passed to Ukrainian counterintelligence.

    Mr. Herman’s lawyer, Eugene Solodko, wrote on Facebook that his client was the executive director of Schmeisser, a Ukrainian-German joint venture and the only arms manufacturer in Ukraine not owned by the government. It specializes in manufacturing sights for sniper rifles, he wrote.

    The prosecutor’s office denied that Mr. Herman worked for Ukrainian counterintelligence.

    Ukraine faced continued criticism from international organizations, foreign political leaders and journalists for faking the assassination, which they said had validated the Kremlin’s all-purpose claim that it is falsely blamed for every evil in the world by a “Russophobic” West.

    Aside from hinting that catching the organizer hinged on completing the killing, Ukraine has not made it clear why such a deception was necessary. Nor has it provided any evidence about accomplices or a coherent time line. Officials said the ruse was two months in the planning stages.

    The level of international criticism was such that the Ukrainian Embassy in London felt compelled to issue a statement justifying what it called a “special operation.” “The hybrid war waged by the Russian Federation against Ukraine demands unorthodox approaches,” it said.

    For his part, Mr. Babchenko said he was not privy to all the details of the investigation, but went along with the ruse because he believed his life was at risk. Numerous other critics of the Kremlin who have gone into exile in Ukraine have been murdered on the streets of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, previously.

    “They probably had their reasons,” he said of the security services at a news conference on Thursday. “Maybe they wanted to collect proof that was 100 percent solid.”

    A famous war reporter, Mr. Babchenko, 41, fled Russia in early 2017 after a campaign of intimidation against him following his criticism of Russian involvement in the wars in Ukraine and Syria. He said that Ukrainian agents approached him a month ago to tell him that the Russian security services had put out a contract on him.

    “I said: ‘Great. Why have you been waiting a month?’ ” said Mr. Babchenko, who is now living under protection from the security services.

    He also provided a few details about the staging of the crime last Tuesday night. Security officers took one of his sweatshirts and fired shots through it, then smeared it with pig’s blood after he put it back on.

    Taken to a hospital after his wife, who was in on the plot, summoned an ambulance, he was first wheeled into an intensive care unit and pronounced dead, then taken to the morgue. It was only then that he stopped playing dead and began watching the tributes to him pour in on television.

    ———-

    “After the Faked Journalist Killing in Ukraine, the Murk Deepens” by Neil MacFarquhar; The New York Times; 06/01/2018

    Both the priest and the executive claimed to be working for Ukraine’s intelligence services. Ukrainian officials at first denied that but, in the case of the priest, subsequently reversed themselves and admitted he had played a role. They would not say what.”

    Both the ‘perps’ claim to be working for Ukraine’s intelligence services. Ukrainian officials deny this, but later acknowledge that the ‘hitman’ was actually working for them all along. It’s quite a story.

    And it’s not surprising that Ukrainian authorities later admitted that the ‘hitman’ was indeed working for them because he would have be one of the most implausible Russian assassins you can imagine when you look at who this ‘hitman’ actually is: A member of Right Sector:


    However, in the absence of solid facts and real evidence about any plot to kill the dissident, Arkady Babchenko, somewhat implausible figures have emerged from the shadows, perhaps the most unlikely being the priest, who claimed he was hired to carry out the hit.

    Oleksiy Tsimbalyuk, once a monk and a deacon in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church who used the clerical name Aristarkh, wrote on his Facebook page that he was the man who went to the authorities after being hired to kill Mr. Babchenko.

    The cleric has never made a secret of his longstanding antipathy toward Russia, fighting Russian-backed militias in eastern Ukraine and switching his religious affiliation from the Russian Orthodox Church to a breakaway branch of the Orthodox Church that has declared its independence from Moscow.

    Pictures on his Facebook page show him in green combat fatigues including a patch from the Right Sector, a Ukrainian ultranationalist organization that some, particularly the Kremlin, portray as a neo-Nazi group. In a 10-minute documentary about him that appeared online in January 2017, he called killing members of the Russian-backed militias in eastern Ukraine “an act of mercy.”

    Given such strong and publicly avowed enmity toward Russia, it is odd to say the least that Mr. Tsimbalyuk would be selected to carry out the contract killing of a prominent Kremlin critic.

    And note how it was Tsimbalyuk himself who basically outed himself on Facebook and it was only after that that Ukrainian authorities admitted he was working for them (after an initial denial). So it’s entirely possible that the authorities never actually intended for the world to learn that the ‘hitman’ were their man:


    When he first posted the information on Facebook, a spokeswoman for the Security Service of Ukraine, known by its initials, S.B.U., denied that he was involved. But she later acknowledged that he had been.

    But when it comes to the middleman, Boris L. Herman, the authorities continue to maintain he wasn’t working for them. Herman simultaneously asserts that he really was contacted six months ago by an acquaintance in Moscow who was working specifically on the destabilization of Ukraine for a Putin-affiliated foundation. So, for the purpose of maintaining the narrative that there really was an elaborate Moscow plot afoot, denying that Herman was working with Ukrainian authorities will go a long way to upholding that narrative:


    Then there is the accused organizer, who Ukrainian officials said was just warming up with the killing of Mr. Babchenko and had a list of some 30 others Moscow supposedly wanted to eliminate.

    That man, Boris L. Herman, was arraigned in a Kiev court on Thursday night and ordered to be held in custody for two months. Prosecutors said he had given the supposed assassin a down payment of $15,000, half what he was promised for carrying out the hit.

    In court, Mr. Herman tried both to link the plot to President Vladimir V. Putin and to claim that he, too, had been working for Ukraine all along. He was first contacted six months ago, he said.

    “I got a call from a longtime acquaintance who lives in Moscow, and in the process of communicating with him it turned out that he works for a Putin foundation precisely to orchestrate destabilization in Ukraine,” Mr. Herman was quoted as saying by Interfax Ukraine, a news agency.

    Claiming that he was working for Ukrainian counterintelligence, he said he had known perfectly well that there would be no killing. A monk was hired because he would not kill an unarmed man, he said in court, and once Mr. Babchenko’s “assassination” had taken place, he said, his Russian contact had given him the list of 30 more names, which he says he passed to Ukrainian counterintelligence.

    Mr. Herman’s lawyer, Eugene Solodko, wrote on Facebook that his client was the executive director of Schmeisser, a Ukrainian-German joint venture and the only arms manufacturer in Ukraine not owned by the government. It specializes in manufacturing sights for sniper rifles, he wrote.

    The prosecutor’s office denied that Mr. Herman worked for Ukrainian counterintelligence.

    ““I got a call from a longtime acquaintance who lives in Moscow, and in the process of communicating with him it turned out that he works for a Putin foundation precisely to orchestrate destabilization in Ukraine,” Mr. Herman was quoted as saying by Interfax Ukraine, a news agency.”

    Note how Herman’s explanation for why the fake assassination had to take place – so his Moscow contact could give him the list of 30 more targets – actually makes a lot more sense than the explanation the authorities gave, which is that they needed to fake the hit in order to catch Herman, the organizer of all this:


    Ukraine faced continued criticism from international organizations, foreign political leaders and journalists for faking the assassination, which they said had validated the Kremlin’s all-purpose claim that it is falsely blamed for every evil in the world by a “Russophobic” West.

    Aside from hinting that catching the organizer hinged on completing the killing, Ukraine has not made it clear why such a deception was necessary. Nor has it provided any evidence about accomplices or a coherent time line. Officials said the ruse was two months in the planning stages.

    So, at this point, Herman’s story is sounding a lot more plausible than the Ukrainian authorities’ story. Especially since, as the article notes, they haven’t actually provided a coherent time line for any of this. And yet Herman’s story about his Moscow contact still doesn’t sound very plausible unless we suddenly learn something about Herman’s background that would explain why the executive of a Ukrainian defense contractor would want to orchestrate a Russian-backed assassination/terror campaign.

    One of the interesting thing to note in all this is Tsimbalyuk’s explanation for why he outed himself on Facebook: He claims he did it because the video Ukrainian authorities released of Tsimbalyuk and Herman discussing the plot in vehicle didn’t hide his voice. So he determined at that there was no point in hiding his identity. But he also says he won’t do any more interviews in the near future due to a non-disclosure agreement, suggesting that he was initially planning on remaining an anonymous ‘hitman’, but only changed his mind after the authorities accidentally outed him:

    UNIAN.info

    Babchenko’s ‘hitman’ reveals identity: Orthodox monk, Right Sector member, Donbas war veteran

    01:59, 01 June 2018
    He is a member of the Right Sector Organization, which is outlawed in Russia.

    “Hitman” who was hired to assassinate Russian journalist and Kremlin critic Arkady Babchenko in Ukraine has revealed his identity: Oleksiy Tsymbaliuk is a former Orthodox church monk, a Right Sector member, a volunteer and a Donbas war veteran.

    Tsymbaliuk explained his decision by the fact that after tapes with his voice, which was not disguised, were made public, he saw no point in “holing up.”

    “It’s wonderful that young and talented agents are working for the [SBU Security] Service who you can securely share information about a contract with. You work with them without being afraid that you’ll be given up to the same customer for dollars,” he wrote on Facebook on May 31.

    “Honestly, I know nothing about my future, I’m a bit all nerves. But I know for sure that a detective who was in charge of the investigation, an investigator in the case are people of honor,” Tsymbaliuk wrote.

    He said he would not give any interviews in the near future as long as the investigation is under way. Besides, he signed a non-disclosure agreement.

    ———-

    “Babchenko’s ‘hitman’ reveals identity: Orthodox monk, Right Sector member, Donbas war veteran”; UNIAN.info; 06/01/2018

    “Tsymbaliuk explained his decision by the fact that after tapes with his voice, which was not disguised, were made public, he saw no point in “holing up.” ”

    That sure sounds like an “oops! That wasn’t supposed to happen!” kind of scenario. But don’t plan on Tsimbalyuk giving any more information about this operation. He signed a non-disclosure agreement:


    He said he would not give any interviews in the near future as long as the investigation is under way. Besides, he signed a non-disclosure agreement.

    Yeah, it seems like that probably wasn’t the only non-disclosure agreement involved in all this. We’ll presumably have to wait for Ukrainian authorities to screw up some more before we learn about the rest of them.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 1, 2018, 2:33 pm
  8. Here’s an interesting fun fact related to the increasingly bizarre hoax assassination of Arkady Babchenko by Ukraine’s SBU: The photograph of Babchenko lying face down in a pool of blood with apparent bullet wounds in his back first appeared on the Facebook page of a former Ukrainian journalist Yevhen Lauer. Lauer claims he received it from a law enforcement source.

    And as the following report by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty notes, Lauer has more recently been working with Trident Group LLC, a DC-based corporate intelligence firm that specializes in consulting services for Western corporations doing business in the former Soviet republics. Trident Group is founded and staffed by for Soviet intelligence officers and appears to be a consulting firm of choice for a number of prominent US corporations doing business in that region. Its client list is largely kept a secret, although known clients include the prominent law firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld (recall how one of Akin Gump’s clients was Tyumen oil, co-owned by the Alfa Group) .

    So the photo of Babchenko’s ‘dead’ body first showed up on the Facebook page of a guy known to be recently working with a high-end, expensive and discrete elite corporate intelligence firm catering to Western firms operating in the former Soviet republics. It’s not exactly the kind of fun fact that’s going to reduce suspicions over this intelligence operation:

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

    The Photo That Fueled The Hoax: Behind The Gruesome Image Of Babchenko’s ‘Death’

    Mike Eckel
    May 30, 2018 19:16 GMT

    The killing of Arkady Babchenko did not happen.

    But you’d certainly be forgiven if, in the hours after the first reports emerged late on May 29, you had glimpsed a photograph of his body lying face down in a pool of blood and concluded that this was proof that another Russian reporter had been murdered.

    The photograph was fake, seemingly part of the elaborate hoax that Ukrainian security officials said was concocted to thwart a murder plot against Babchenko.

    Who actually took and staged the shot is not known. It’s not even certain that it’s Babchenko in the photo. But how it came to light and circulated in the hours after the fake killing was reported is a key element of a law enforcement sting that enlisted a former journalist, a Ukrainian lawmaker, and possibly many others.

    The photo was first published on Facebook page of a former Ukrainian reporter who says he now works for a shadowy consultancy organization based in the Washington, D.C., area.

    It quickly circulated among Ukrainian and Russian reporters — though few, if any, media outlets chose to publish it, mainly due to its gory content.

    Yevhen Lauer, the reporter who published the photo along with a caption reading “Damn It, Bitches,” told RFE/RL late on May 29 that he received it from a law enforcement source, whom he declined to identify.

    Lauer, who has worked for various Ukrainian media outlets in the past, has more recently been affiliated with Trident Group LLC. Based in the Washington suburb of Arlington, the company says it specializes “in law enforcement, investigations, intelligence gathering and analysis, conflict prevention and conflict resolution, international risk control, executive protection and special operations.”

    The company’s president, Yuri Koshkin, confirmed to RFE/RL that Lauer had done work for Trident but said he knew nothing of Lauer’s involvement with the SBU sting operation to nab Babchenko’s would-be killers.

    RFE/RL also declined to publish the photograph when it first appeared, not only for the bloody content but also because of concerns about its sourcing.

    Additional questions were raised about its timing since Ukrainian officials, including a lawmaker, had said that Babchenko had died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital, suggesting he was still alive when the photo was taken.

    In a posting to Facebook, the lawmaker, Anton Herashchenko, defended the secrecy, and the deception, of the SBU, which he said “was done to avoid even the slightest possibility of information leaking.”

    “It was for this reason that a photo of the alleged victim Arkady Babchenko was made,” he wrote.

    On May 30, after Babchenko appeared at a news conference and Ukraine’s main security agency, the SBU, revealed a sting operation to arrest the alleged plotter, Lauer declined to answer further questions about his involvement, responding only with a text message of smiley face emojis.

    He did not respond to further messages sent via Facebook.

    While Ukrainian officials insisted that the operation succeeded in both preventing Babchenko’s killing and uncovering the involvement of Russian intelligence agencies, the hoax more broadly was condemned by many press advocates, who worried about undermining the credibility of both law enforcement agencies and media organizations.

    “All it takes is one case like this to cast doubt on all the other political assassinations,” Christophe Deloire of the organization Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.

    And the faked photograph was already being used by at least one pro-Russia Twitter user on May 30, who made the argument that other photographs could now not be trusted – for example, the so-called White Helmet rescuers who aid civilians in war-torn Syria.

    “Ukraine just owned the whole journalism, from now on never trust emotional articles and photos,” the user, identified as Antikaratel, wrote.

    Next time you show me photos from Syria by ''White Helmets'' I will show photo of ''dead Arkady Babchenko killed by Putin''.Ukraine just owned the whole journalism, from now on never trust emotional articles and photos. pic.twitter.com/77ch0XLesP— ???????????? (@Antikaratel) May 30, 2018

    And in a posting to Twitter later, Babchenko made clear his opinion of the Russian government.

    “I’ve promised to die when I’m 96, having danced on Putin’s grave and taking a selfie while standing on an Abrams [tank] on Tverskoi Boulevard” in Moscow, he wrote. “I will try to do this.”

    ———-

    “The Photo That Fueled The Hoax: Behind The Gruesome Image Of Babchenko’s ‘Death'” by Mike Eckel; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; 05/30/2018

    ” Who actually took and staged the shot is not known. It’s not even certain that it’s Babchenko in the photo. But how it came to light and circulated in the hours after the fake killing was reported is a key element of a law enforcement sting that enlisted a former journalist, a Ukrainian lawmaker, and possibly many others.

    Yep, we can’t ignore how the now notorious fake photo actually went public when examining this mystery. And sure enough, the source of the photo only adds to the mystery: Yevhen Lauer, who told RFE/RL that he received it from a law enforcement source:


    The photo was first published on Facebook page of a former Ukrainian reporter who says he now works for a shadowy consultancy organization based in the Washington, D.C., area.

    It quickly circulated among Ukrainian and Russian reporters — though few, if any, media outlets chose to publish it, mainly due to its gory content.

    Yevhen Lauer, the reporter who published the photo along with a caption reading “Damn It, Bitches,” told RFE/RL late on May 29 that he received it from a law enforcement source, whom he declined to identify.

    And Lauer just happens to be recently affiliated with Trident Group LLC, a prominent DC-based corporate intelligence firm specializing in helping Western corporations navigate the former Soviet Republics. The president of Trident confirms that Lauer did indeed work for his firm, although he claims to know nothing about the Babchenko operation:


    Lauer, who has worked for various Ukrainian media outlets in the past, has more recently been affiliated with Trident Group LLC. Based in the Washington suburb of Arlington, the company says it specializes “in law enforcement, investigations, intelligence gathering and analysis, conflict prevention and conflict resolution, international risk control, executive protection and special operations.”

    The company’s president, Yuri Koshkin, confirmed to RFE/RL that Lauer had done work for Trident but said he knew nothing of Lauer’s involvement with the SBU sting operation to nab Babchenko’s would-be killers.

    So that’s pretty interesting. Now here’s a 2012 WSJ profile of Trident Group (via archive.org) that makes it clear that this firm really is an elite corporate intelligence firm with a number of significant Western clients. It also hints at Trident Group not being afraid to get ‘dirty’ when fulfilling its clients needs.

    This is a good time recall closely this general description fits the profile of Black Cube, the Israeli private intelligence firm used by Cambridge Analytica for services like hacking and other dirty services for corporate clients. A corporate private intelligence firm willing that’s willing to get a little ‘dirty’ for its clients.

    In other words, while Trident Group is founded and staffed by former Soviet intelligence agents, they have clearly demonstrated over the years that they can be trusted by their Western clients and part of that trust has been built on a willingness to occasionally get ‘dirty’:

    The Wall Street Journal

    Ex-Soviet Agent Thrives as Corruption Investigator

    By C.M. Matthews
    September 13, 2012, 8:06 AM

    For companies investigating corruption in Russia, a former Soviet intelligence officer is the “go-to guy.”

    So, when Deutsche Post had suspicions about potentially corrupt customs agents in Russia, it turned to Yuri Koshkin and his Arlington, Va.-based consulting shop Trident Group LLC.

    “Let’s just say they were very effective,” James Min, an in-house lawyer at DHL, said at a conference earlier this year.

    Koshkin spent the first half of his career in Soviet military intelligence studying his counterparts in the U.S. These days, Western companies pay him and Trident to look into their business partners and competitors in Russia and a host of former Soviet states.

    Former intelligence officers plying their skills in private practice aren’t unusual in today’s high-stakes business world. What sets Trident apart is that it is founded and staffed predominantly by former Soviet agents. The firm has more than a dozen full-time employees in the U.S., Russia, and the Ukraine, the majority of who have an intelligence background.

    Increasingly, Koshkin says, the firm is being asked to investigate corruption-related matters like whether a company’s third-party broker is bribing officials in Ukraine or whether a joint venture partner is actually owned by the subsidiary of a corrupt foreign official.

    Enforcement of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practice Act and the U.K. Bribery Act has created a gold rush for lawyers, accountants and corporate investigators. Not surprisingly, Koshkin’s company has shifted from a focus on litigation support and competitive intelligence five years ago to one that now counts anti-corruption work as half its business.

    Koshkin says Trident counts “iconic” U.S. companies and well-known law firms as its clients, but wouldn’t divulge many of their names because of privacy agreements. Koshkin also wouldn’t discuss his rates, saying they vary dramatically case-to-case, but conceded that even basic due diligence could cost tens of thousands of dollars.

    Richard Dean, a well-known FCPA lawyer at Baker McKenzie, said Koshkin is his “go-to guy” in Russia.

    “What I like about Yuri is that you get the heart of the matter,” Dean said. “He has former law enforcement, intelligence type guys from the whole range of agencies – FSB [Federal Security Service, the KGB’s successor], military- and they all have good access.”

    The work sounds sexy enough, but most of it’s done from a desk, according to Koshkin. Work includes looking into whether the address a company has listed on its website is actually its place of business and whether the phone number on a business card actually belongs to the person listed on the card.

    “Much of this is artificially glorified,” Koshkin says. “What people don’t realize is that, in business intelligence, the bulk of the work comes from public sources and the challenge is to sift through the mass of information that’s out there, analyze it, and make the right conclusions.”

    That’s not to say that Koshkin is above getting some dirt beneath his fingernails. When it’s called for, Koshkin and his team can avoid detection or tap confidential sources.

    “If you’re investigating a company or a situation and you want make sure there’s no corruption… in my view, you have to do what you have to do short of breaking the law or committing an unethical act.”

    Koshkin honed these investigative skills in the Soviet army. After studying languages and military geography at the Military Institute of the Soviet Ministry of Defense, a famed breeding ground for KGB officers, Koshkin graduated in 1980 and began working in Africa as a military intelligence officer.

    Koshkin is reluctant to speak about his intelligence work except to say that he wasn’t really a spy. But, he does recall being intercepted by F-14s and F4s while flying over neutral waters to Angola in a Tupolev Tu-95, snapping pictures of military installations. “It was all very friendly,” he said. “We waved to each other.”

    He came to the U.S. in the late 80s as part of a joint U.S.-Soviet military working group. By that point Koshkin had grown cynical about the Soviet Union, he said, and imagined a life in the West, but was only willing to leave the military “cleanly and honorably.”

    That opportunity came in 1989 when the USSR began reducing its armed forces levels and gave Koshkin leave. By 1991, he was living in San Francisco and working for a public relations company, the PBN Company, focused on the newly opened Russian market.

    After two years at PBN, Koshkin began advising U.S. companies on doing business in the “wild, wild East,” and in 1996, Koshkin and attorney Yevgeny N. Pshenichny, also a graduate of the Soviet Military Institute, founded the Trident Group.

    Much of the firm’s early work focused on litigation support. Trident figured prominently in American investor Kenneth Dart’s fight with Russian oil giant Yukos. Koshkin helped Dart, a minority shareholder in Yukos, in litigation that accused former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, then Russia’s richest man, of using share dilutions to try to force Dart out of Yukos. The two parties entered into a confidential settlement in 1999.

    By the mid-2000s, Koshkin says he began noticing a tangible uptick in corruption-related work. Not coincidentally, this came at the same time as the Justice Department’s new-found vigor enforcing the FCPA, which prohibits bribes to foreign officials to win business. Western companies needed to know if they were in bed with corrupt Russian officials, and Koshkin knew how to find that out.

    Koshkin said that the FCPA moved corruption work to the front burner, but that it had long been present in Russian society. It’s taken some new forms in the past decade, Koshkin said, as a plethora of new government positions were created and “an army of apparatchiks” looked to cash in on a temporary sinecure.

    Randy Bregman, a partner at the Salans law firm, has been using Koshkin and his team for six years. Bregman says he frequently advises private equity firms investing overseas, and turns to Koshkin when he needs to know if an acquisition target is tied to corrupt government officials, or organized crime.

    ———-

    “Ex-Soviet Agent Thrives as Corruption Investigator” by C.M. Matthews; The Wall Street Journal; 09/13/2012

    “For companies investigating corruption in Russia, a former Soviet intelligence officer is the “go-to guy.””

    The co-founder of Trident Group was the “go-to guy” for Western companies investigating corruption in Russia. That was the general characterization in this 2012 WSJ profile. And while most of the firm’s clients remain anonymous, those that do admit hiring Trident Group give it rave reviews:


    So, when Deutsche Post had suspicions about potentially corrupt customs agents in Russia, it turned to Yuri Koshkin and his Arlington, Va.-based consulting shop Trident Group LLC.

    “Let’s just say they were very effective,” James Min, an in-house lawyer at DHL, said at a conference earlier this year.

    Koshkin says Trident counts “iconic” U.S. companies and well-known law firms as its clients, but wouldn’t divulge many of their names because of privacy agreements. Koshkin also wouldn’t discuss his rates, saying they vary dramatically case-to-case, but conceded that even basic due diligence could cost tens of thousands of dollars.

    Richard Dean, a well-known FCPA lawyer at Baker McKenzie, said Koshkin is his “go-to guy” in Russia.

    “What I like about Yuri is that you get the heart of the matter,” Dean said. “He has former law enforcement, intelligence type guys from the whole range of agencies – FSB [Federal Security Service, the KGB’s successor], military- and they all have good access.”

    And none of these firms appear to be concerned that they’re hiring a bunch of ex-Soviet intelligence officer with this potentially highly sensitive work. It’s something to keep in mind regarding Paul Manafort’s long-time partner Konstantin Kilimnik and the assumption that he’s a Kremlin stooge due to his Soviet-era intelligence background. The truism of ‘once a KGB agent, always a KGB’ agent isn’t actually true:


    Koshkin spent the first half of his career in Soviet military intelligence studying his counterparts in the U.S. These days, Western companies pay him and Trident to look into their business partners and competitors in Russia and a host of former Soviet states.

    Former intelligence officers plying their skills in private practice aren’t unusual in today’s high-stakes business world. What sets Trident apart is that it is founded and staffed predominantly by former Soviet agents. The firm has more than a dozen full-time employees in the U.S., Russia, and the Ukraine, the majority of who have an intelligence background.

    Not surprisingly given the nature of ‘corporate intelligence’ work, Koshkin acknowledges that he isn’t above ‘getting some dirt beneath his fingernails’:


    The work sounds sexy enough, but most of it’s done from a desk, according to Koshkin. Work includes looking into whether the address a company has listed on its website is actually its place of business and whether the phone number on a business card actually belongs to the person listed on the card.

    “Much of this is artificially glorified,” Koshkin says. “What people don’t realize is that, in business intelligence, the bulk of the work comes from public sources and the challenge is to sift through the mass of information that’s out there, analyze it, and make the right conclusions.”

    That’s not to say that Koshkin is above getting some dirt beneath his fingernails. When it’s called for, Koshkin and his team can avoid detection or tap confidential sources.

    “If you’re investigating a company or a situation and you want make sure there’s no corruption… in my view, you have to do what you have to do short of breaking the law or committing an unethical act.”

    ““If you’re investigating a company or a situation and you want make sure there’s no corruption… in my view, you have to do what you have to do short of breaking the law or committing an unethical act.””

    You have to do what you have to do. Now that’s a truism it’s hard to argue with. But also a truism that, in this context, appears to be an admission of a willingness to essentially engage in espionage. Which is the kind of service that Koshkin’s firm is more than able to provide given the number of former spies it employs:


    Koshkin honed these investigative skills in the Soviet army. After studying languages and military geography at the Military Institute of the Soviet Ministry of Defense, a famed breeding ground for KGB officers, Koshkin graduated in 1980 and began working in Africa as a military intelligence officer.

    Koshkin is reluctant to speak about his intelligence work except to say that he wasn’t really a spy. But, he does recall being intercepted by F-14s and F4s while flying over neutral waters to Angola in a Tupolev Tu-95, snapping pictures of military installations. “It was all very friendly,” he said. “We waved to each other.”

    He came to the U.S. in the late 80s as part of a joint U.S.-Soviet military working group. By that point Koshkin had grown cynical about the Soviet Union, he said, and imagined a life in the West, but was only willing to leave the military “cleanly and honorably.”

    That opportunity came in 1989 when the USSR began reducing its armed forces levels and gave Koshkin leave. By 1991, he was living in San Francisco and working for a public relations company, the PBN Company, focused on the newly opened Russian market.

    After two years at PBN, Koshkin began advising U.S. companies on doing business in the “wild, wild East,” and in 1996, Koshkin and attorney Yevgeny N. Pshenichny, also a graduate of the Soviet Military Institute, founded the Trident Group.

    “Koshkin honed these investigative skills in the Soviet army. After studying languages and military geography at the Military Institute of the Soviet Ministry of Defense, a famed breeding ground for KGB officers, Koshkin graduated in 1980 and began working in Africa as a military intelligence officer.”

    Again, note how Kohskin’s Soviet intelligence background is basically the same as Konstantin Kilimnik’s in that they both studied languages at the Soviet Ministry of Defense. In Kilimnik’s case this is cited as proof-positive he’s a Russian agent (despite being Ukrainian and years of work for the International Republican Institute), but in Koshkin’s case those years of Soviet intelligence training are seen as an invaluable asset for his Western clients.

    So that’s all something to keep in mind as this bizarre Babchenko story unfolds. And while Trident Group denies any ties to this operation, and there’s no shortage of reasons they would have for denying involvement if there was any, it’s also worth noting that one of the services Trident Group offers to clients is identifying corruption in Ukraine. So if it is the case that Trident Group is working with the Ukrainian intelligence services, that might make those the services Trident Group is offering to clients about identifying corruption associated with Ukrainian companies seem a little, well, corrupt.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 2, 2018, 3:53 pm
  9. Here’s a quick update on the mystery of the hoax assassination of Arkady Babchenko and the claims that this was necessarily to uncover a Moscow-directed assassination/terror plot: The ‘middleman’ in the case, Boris L. Herman/German, has given the name of the old associate person he claims contacted him about setting up the assassinations. Recall that Herman/German already claimed that, “I got a call from a longtime acquaintance who lives in Moscow, and in the process of communicating with him it turned out that he works for a Putin foundation precisely to orchestrate destabilization in Ukraine.” Well, that associate is apparently someone named Vyacheslav Pivovarnik. And The Bell, a Russian-language publication, has tracked down an individual by that name who does indeed appear to have ties to Herman/German. Here’s a quick overview from Meduza.io on what The Bell found:

    Meduza

    Journalists find business ties between the primary suspect in the Babchenko attempted murder case and the Russian man who allegedly ordered the hit

    Meduza
    08:44, 1 june 2018

    Late on May 31, a Kiev district court placed the businessman Boris German under arrest for allegedly organizing the attempted murder of the journalist Arkady Babchenko. German says he started cooperating with Ukrainian counterintelligence after he was approached by an “old acquaintance” living in Moscow who “works at a Putin foundation, organizing unrest in Ukraine.” He identified the man as Vyacheslav Pivovarnik.

    Using the “SPARK” business-analytics system, the newsletter The Bell dug up information about a man named Vyacheslav Pivovarnik, finding that he manages or owns shares in five Ukrainian legal entities. One of these companies is Public Security Service of Ukraine LLC, which Pivovarnik cofounded with Sergey Eremeyevich Deyev, who’s mentioned in news reports as an expert at a Russian organization called the National and International Security Foundation. This entity was headed by the Soviet general Leonid Shershnev, until he died in 2014. Shershnev founded the nationalist foundation “Russians” and the Center for Assistance to Compatriots From Novorossiya and Ukraine.

    The Bell also managed to find a link between Pivovarnik and German: the former was the general director of “Ruscon-Ukraine,” which was owned by a foreign company called “Energy Trade Services LTD.” This was presumably the British company “NRV TRADE SERVICES LTD,” whose director is Boris German. Pivovarnik and German are also friends on the social network Odnoklassniki.

    Ruscon-Ukraine is a joint venture with the Russian container operator Ruscon, which is owned by former State Duma deputy Sergey Shishkarev. The Russian news media has tied Shishkarev to former Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who now heads the Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities.

    ———-

    “Journalists find business ties between the primary suspect in the Babchenko attempted murder case and the Russian man who allegedly ordered the hit”; Meduza; 06/01/2018

    “Using the “SPARK” business-analytics system, the newsletter The Bell dug up information about a man named Vyacheslav Pivovarnik, finding that he manages or owns shares in five Ukrainian legal entities. One of these companies is Public Security Service of Ukraine LLC, which Pivovarnik cofounded with Sergey Eremeyevich Deyev, who’s mentioned in news reports as an expert at a Russian organization called the National and International Security Foundation. This entity was headed by the Soviet general Leonid Shershnev, until he died in 2014. Shershnev founded the nationalist foundation “Russians” and the Center for Assistance to Compatriots From Novorossiya and Ukraine.”

    So based on The Bell’s findings, Vyacheslav Pivovarnik manages or owns shared in five legal Ukrainian entities. But the closest connection they could find to Russian foundation is that one of the companies, Public Security Service of Ukraine LLC, was cofounded with Sergey Eremeyevich Deyev, who is reportedly an expert at a Russian organization called the National and International Security Foundation. And this organization was, until 2014, headed by Soviet general Leonid Shershnev who founded the Center for Assistance to Compatriots From Novorossiya and Ukraine. So Herman/German’s contact does have tangential ties to a pair of Russian foundations, but unless there’s some revelation about either the National and International Security Foundation or the Center for Assistance to Compatriots From Novorossiya and Ukraine being Kremlin front groups focused on destabilizing Ukraine it’s hard to see this as a confirmation of Herman’s claims.

    And The Bell also found some direct links between Pivovarnik and Herman:


    The Bell also managed to find a link between Pivovarnik and German: the former was the general director of “Ruscon-Ukraine,” which was owned by a foreign company called “Energy Trade Services LTD.” This was presumably the British company “NRV TRADE SERVICES LTD,” whose director is Boris German. Pivovarnik and German are also friends on the social network Odnoklassniki.

    So at this point it looks like we can conclude that Herman knows Pivovarnik, they were business partners, and Herman is willing to publicly accuse Pivovarnik of orchestrating an assassination/terror campaign.

    What can we conclude about any ties to a “Putin foundation precisely to orchestrate destabilization in Ukraine?” Well, we can also conclude that Pivovarnik co-founded a company with a guy who is an expert at a foundation that was headed, until 2014, by a former Soviet general who founded the Assistance to Compatriots From Novorossiya and Ukraine foundation. That’s pretty much it at this point.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 4, 2018, 4:36 pm
  10. Here’s the latest twists on the Babchenko fake murder mystery: It turns out Boris German/Herman has some mob ties. Specifically, his father, Lev Herman, was known to have deep roots to Semion Mogilevich, the top Russian mob boss (who was born in Ukraine). And according to John Herbst, the former US Ambassador to Ukraine and current director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, Boris himself is also connected to Mogilevich like his father.

    Interestingly, the fact that Lev Herman has these ties to Mogilevich is characterized as just a known thing in the article below and not a secret. So being the son of a known Mogilevich associate and an associate yourself apparently doesn’t hurt your chances of being the executive as a Ukrainian defense contractor these days.

    And the fact that Mogilevich was born in Ukraine raises an interesting regarding his organization and the Ukrainian/Russian conflict: so whose side is Mogilevich on? Has he picked a side? Is he trying to play all sides? It’s an example of a generic question that rarely gets asked with the outbreak of the Ukrainian conflict: did the mafia have to pick sides, or is playing all sides an option?

    This family connection to Mogilevich is seen as possibly explaining why an executive at a Ukrainian defense contractor would be allegedly approached to organized a Russian assassination/terror operation. So it’s worth keeping in mind another figure whose father was a know Mogilevich associate: Felix Sater! And as Sater’s bio and extensive work helping the FBI and CIA reminds us, just because you’re the son of a known Mogilevich associate with mob ties yourself doesn’t mean you can’t work for other governments, which is a key fun fact to keep in mind with a case like this:

    The Daily Beast

    How That Faked Murder of a Journalist Exposed Russia’s Gangsters and Spies
    There are still questions about whether the sting operation that “killed” Arkady Babchenko really helped catch criminals. But it attracted attention to a dangerous mob connection.

    Anna Nemtsova
    Christopher Dickey
    06.05.18 12:33 PM ET

    It’s been a week now since the wife of exiled Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko reportedly heard shots and found him face down on the floor of their apartment in Kiev. Three bullet holes were plainly visible in his sweater, showing he’d been shot in the back. Beneath him was a puddle of blood. Some of it oozed out of his mouth.

    Then, the next day, Babchenko showed up alive and well at a press conference the brass of the Ukraine Security Service, the SBU, to announce the whole thing was a ruse—a sting, as they say in America—to flush out the conspirators in a Kremlin plot to murder critics who sought safety in Ukraine.

    Since then, Babchenko has spoken at some length with a small group of his colleagues, and meanwhile the main suspect in the conspiracy has appeared in court.

    The details suggest some very dark operations, what Russian spies used to call mokroye delo, wet work, meaning contract murders or, in more antiseptic American parlance, targeted killings. There are also suggestions the plotters may have called on the services of organized crime, which is not unusual in the overlapping underworlds of intelligence and the mob.

    One glaring question left unanswered, and often unasked, is why the Babchenko performance was necessary at all in order to arrest the one conspirator who actually appeared in the dock. By every indication, the case against him already was made. One is left with the impression that the purpose of the sting was primarily to publicize the investigation, which it certainly did. But if new information came to light because of it, that has not been revealed.

    ——Double Agents?——

    The alleged organizer of the attempted assassination, Borys Herman, appeared in a Ukraine court on Thursday, reportedly having been detained the day before, prior to Babchenko’s televised resurrection.

    Borys Herman (also written Boris German) is a pudgy, round-faced 50-year-old independent arms manufacturer who appeared before the judges in a white short-sleeved shirt. He was isolated in a glass box, and often grabbed his head, or shook it as if suffering flashes of physical pain when he heard the accusations he was involved with Russian-backed terrorism.

    His lawyer argued that Herman’s arms company, Schmeisser, had worked closely with Ukraine’s defense ministry, selling to the country’s military weapons that were used in the fight against Russian-backed separatists.

    More significantly, Herman declared that he was a double agent working simultaneously for Ukrainian counterintelligence and a Putin-linked fund or foundation represented by an “old acquaintance” of his in Moscow named Vyacheslav Pivovarnik.

    Herman said this mysterious fund “organizes unrest in Ukraine” and has been plotting “terrorist attacks” meant to impact next year’s Ukrainian presidential elections. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says no such fund exists.

    In Herman’s chronology of events, he was contacted about six months ago by Pivovarnik and quickly informed what he called “Ukrainian counterintelligence.” Herman claimed that these Ukrainian officials first asked him to help investigate the Kremlin’s plans for contract killings but then he was detained and accused of cooperating with Moscow’s terrorist program.

    Technically, at least, counterintelligence is part of the SBU, as the prosecutor pointed out. Herman’s response: “Our counterintelligence is in conflict with the SBU. Everybody pulls the blanket in his direction, instead of defending the state together.”

    Such is the infighting in Ukraine that even the state prosecutor in this case, former internal affairs minister Yuriy Lutsenko, has been investigated in the past for alleged corruption.

    ——Mob Bosses——

    Herman’s family background might have made him seem a likely choice to organize contract killings. His father, Lev Herman is known in Ukraine for his deep-rooted connections to a famous Ukrainian-born Russian crime boss, Semion Mogilevich, who has many alleged links to top Russian officials.

    On Friday, in an interview with The Daily Beast, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst, who is now director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, confirmed it is his “understanding” that Boris Herman, like his father, “is connected to Mogilevich.”

    And that is very interesting indeed in the current context.

    Mogilevich has been a target of FBI investigations into massive scams and frauds dating back at least to the 1990s. (In those days, as it happened, one of his top lieutenants lived in Trump Tower.)

    In 2008 Russian police finally detained Mogilevich, accusing him of a $2 million tax evasion case, but the following year the mob boss walked free because he supposedly was considered “not a danger to the public.”

    That’s not the way the FBI saw it. The feds put him on their 10 Most Wanted list in 2009, noting that the fraud case for which he’d been indicted was just one relatively small element of a vast “international criminal enterprise.”

    The FBI press release about this “global con artist and ruthless criminal’ included these remarks by one of the agents who’d been tracking Mogilevich:

    “The FBI doesn’t have the jurisdiction to charge him with other crimes taking place solely in other countries,” said Special Agent Peter Kowenhoven, “but open-source reporting shows him to be involved in weapons trafficking, contract murders, extortion, drug trafficking, and prostitution on an international scale.” …

    “Victims don’t mean anything to him,” [Kowenhoven] said. “And what makes him so dangerous is that he operates without borders. Here’s a guy who managed to defraud investors out of $150 million without ever stepping foot in the Philadelphia area.”

    Mogilevich, who is in his early 60s, is about 5-feet-6-inches tall and weighs nearly 300 pounds. He has pockmarks on his face, may have a moustache, and is a heavy smoker. He is living in Moscow, where Russian law prohibits his extradition to the U.S.

    Through his extensive international criminal network, Mogilevich controls extensive natural gas pipelines in Eastern Europe, and he uses this wealth and power to not only further his criminal enterprises but to influence governments and their economies, Kowenhoven said.

    “With him, it’s all about money—money and influence. And the really chilling thing is that he seems willing to work with any criminals, regardless of their ideology.”

    Mogilevich’s money laundering network involved 27 nations around the world.

    — FBI “Most Wanted” Notice for Semion Mogilevich, 2009

    ——The Monk Who Got the Contract——

    Ukrainian prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko says that the Russian secret services were behind the alleged plot to murder Babchenko, and they gave Herman the job of pulling it all together. Herman then hired Oleksiy Tsymbalyuk, a former monk and a veteran of the war in eastern Ukraine.

    Herman said he gave the assignment to Tsymbalyuk, along with a down payment of $20,000 on a $40,000 contract, precisely because he knew such a religious warrior would not kill an unarmed man.

    A long-time friend of Tsymbalyuk also attested to his character. Timur Nishnianidze, a former Georgian diplomat based in Ukraine, told The Daily Beast in a phone interview, “The so-called ‘hitman’ is a Ukrainian nationalist, a devoted patriot of Ukraine and my friend, he is a pal, very kind and fun, and wellregarded in Ukrainian security services and in the military.”

    Nishnianidze told The Daily Beast, “At a recent private meeting Tsymbalyuk told us that some men came to him and offered thousands of dollars to kill the Russian journalist Babchenko; Tsymbalyuk immediately reported to SBU—that was his moral duty,” Nishnianidze added.

    Nobody disputes that Tsymbalyuk cooperated with the SBU, even recording the exchange of money at a meeting in a car.

    But if Tsymbalyuk was working with the police and there already was evidence against Herman—who may have been working with another branch of the same security service—what was the purpose of the sting? Did it fill some hole in the case against Borys Herman? Did it further implicate his alleged accomplice at the mysterious Putin fund? Did spies withing the SBU give themselves away by their reactions? Babchenko’s fake death might have accomplished any number of things, but nothing presented so far shows what those were. The only certainty is that it created a lot of noise.

    In the meantime, what the information actually released about the case so far has done is intimidate a large group of people in Ukraine, many of them journalists, who might be on an alleged Kremlin hit list—and that is all the more ominous because the public has not been told what the names are.

    ——Gimme Shelter——

    On Friday Prosecutor General Lutsenko stated that the number of people on the list for assassinations allegedly prepared by the Russian secret service and passed to Herman was much higher than the original list of 30 names mentioned at the SBU’s Babchenko resurrection press conference last week. Now the prosecutor is talking about 47 names.

    A source who has been briefed by security services told The Daily Beast that the alleged assassins were going to choose one or two victims from this roster of almost four dozen people. The idea would be to target someone whose death would create as a big a scandal as possible but who would be clueless and an easy target. Ukrainian investigators say they have correspondence among the alleged organizers of the hit discussing the price on the head of a Ukrainian politician.

    Some journalists in Ukraine are very suspicious of the case presented thus far by the government. They fear that what’s being called “The Story of 47” is meant to put more pressure on an already embattled press corps. By publicizing a list like this—and then leaking the names of the journalists and bloggers—the SBU is essentially warning them the way to stay safe is to work with the security service. That was why Babchenko says he decided to play along. He felt he had no choice.

    If the SBU had a better reputation among reporters, cooperation might be more acceptable, but Ukrainian reporters note they have yet to see a proper investigation into the real assassination of their friend the Ukrainskaya Pravda reporter Pavel Sheremet. He was blown up in his car in July 2016. Both Pavel and his girlfriend Olena Prytula, also a journalist from Ukrainskaya Pravda, had received multiple death threats for criticizing Ukraine’s own authorities, and had complained that somebody was tailing them.

    Such is the record of political assassinations in Ukraine that all threats have to be taken seriously. As Amb. Herbst noted, when all is said and done, “The important thing is that there have been a number of murders in Ukraine of Russian opposition figures and of effective Ukrainian fighters in Donbas [eastern Ukraine].”

    If Babchenko’s sting helped prevent more such killings then, messy as that ruse proved to be, it has to be counted in the plus column.

    ———-

    “How That Faked Murder of a Journalist Exposed Russia’s Gangsters and Spies” by Anna Nemtsova and Christopher Dickey; The Daily Beast; 06/05/2018

    “The details suggest some very dark operations, what Russian spies used to call mokroye delo, wet work, meaning contract murders or, in more antiseptic American parlance, targeted killings. There are also suggestions the plotters may have called on the services of organized crime, which is not unusual in the overlapping underworlds of intelligence and the mob.

    So it sounding like the allegations by the Ukrainian government are morphing somewhat from ‘the Russian government was behind this assassination/terror plot’ to ‘the Russian government and mafia behind this assassination/terror plot’ following the observation that Boris Herman/German’s father, Lev Herman, is known in Ukraine for deep roots to Semion Mogilevich. And we have the former US Amassador to Ukraine and current director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, John Herbst, saying that is it his “understanding” that Boris is also connected to Mogilevich like his father:


    ——Mob Bosses——

    Herman’s family background might have made him seem a likely choice to organize contract killings. His father, Lev Herman is known in Ukraine for his deep-rooted connections to a famous Ukrainian-born Russian crime boss, Semion Mogilevich, who has many alleged links to top Russian officials.

    On Friday, in an interview with The Daily Beast, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst, who is now director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, confirmed it is his “understanding” that Boris Herman, like his father, “is connected to Mogilevich.”

    And that is very interesting indeed in the current context.

    Mogilevich has been a target of FBI investigations into massive scams and frauds dating back at least to the 1990s. (In those days, as it happened, one of his top lieutenants lived in Trump Tower.)

    In 2008 Russian police finally detained Mogilevich, accusing him of a $2 million tax evasion case, but the following year the mob boss walked free because he supposedly was considered “not a danger to the public.”

    That’s not the way the FBI saw it. The feds put him on their 10 Most Wanted list in 2009, noting that the fraud case for which he’d been indicted was just one relatively small element of a vast “international criminal enterprise.”

    So we’ll see what sort of additional mafia ties end up getting revealed by German/Herman as this thing plays out.

    And note how the initial list of 30 targeted people is now up to 47. But some Ukrainian journalists who remain suspicious of the government’s story so far are concerned that this whole “Story of 47” is being used to put even more pressure on journalists. By leaking the names of the journalists and bloggers on the list the SBU is simultaneously sending the message that the way to stay safe is to work with the security services:


    On Friday Prosecutor General Lutsenko stated that the number of people on the list for assassinations allegedly prepared by the Russian secret service and passed to Herman was much higher than the original list of 30 names mentioned at the SBU’s Babchenko resurrection press conference last week. Now the prosecutor is talking about 47 names.

    A source who has been briefed by security services told The Daily Beast that the alleged assassins were going to choose one or two victims from this roster of almost four dozen people. The idea would be to target someone whose death would create as a big a scandal as possible but who would be clueless and an easy target. Ukrainian investigators say they have correspondence among the alleged organizers of the hit discussing the price on the head of a Ukrainian politician.

    Some journalists in Ukraine are very suspicious of the case presented thus far by the government. They fear that what’s being called “The Story of 47” is meant to put more pressure on an already embattled press corps. By publicizing a list like this—and then leaking the names of the journalists and bloggers—the SBU is essentially warning them the way to stay safe is to work with the security service. That was why Babchenko says he decided to play along. He felt he had no choice.

    If the SBU had a better reputation among reporters, cooperation might be more acceptable, but Ukrainian reporters note they have yet to see a proper investigation into the real assassination of their friend the Ukrainskaya Pravda reporter Pavel Sheremet. He was blown up in his car in July 2016. Both Pavel and his girlfriend Olena Prytula, also a journalist from Ukrainskaya Pravda, had received multiple death threats for criticizing Ukraine’s own authorities, and had complained that somebody was tailing them.

    and that’s another feature of the Babchenko murder hoax: a whole lot of Ukrainian journalists are going to stay in the SBU’s good side in case their name was on the list.

    So along those lines, its worth noting that the list of 47 names was somehow unofficially leaked yesterday. The SBU won’t confirm the published list is real but they are opening an investigation into how it leaked so that’s basically a confirmation. And yet a number of Ukrainian journalists, including those on the list, question its credibility. They note the list is filled with the names of people critical of the Ukrainian authorities. Also, some of the journalists on the list say they were shown the real list by the SBU and this published list appears to be different from what they saw:

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

    In Ukraine, Prominent Journalists Targeted By ‘Russian Hit List’ Question Its Authenticity

    Last Updated: June 06, 2018 08:36 GMT

    Christopher Miller

    KYIV — The leak of an alleged “Russian hit list” has stirred anxieties and raised more questions about the bizarre Ukrainian staging of journalist Arkady Babchenko’s death after journalists on the list said they doubted its authenticity.

    Instead of details in the bizarre case becoming clearer, they have grown murkier by the day, with authorities fingering the director of a Ukrainian arms manufacturer that provides sights to snipers of its armed forces as the organizer who hired a right-wing, anti-Russian, former monk-turned-volunteer soldier to be the shooter.

    Both have claimed to have been in league with Ukraine’s intelligence services, something Ukrainian officials first denied, then partly corrected, saying the would-be shooter, Oleksiy Tsimbalyuk, had indeed been working with them. The manufacturer, Borys Herman, was remanded in custody by a Kyiv court on May 31.

    The whole affair took a strange new turn on June 5 when a purported “hit list” of 47 people — mainly journalists and political activists — that the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) claims to have discovered during the Babchenko operation was leaked to Strana.ua, an opposition news site, and published online..

    SBU spokeswoman Olena Hitlyanska told Interfax-Ukraine on June 5 that she was not familiar with the Strana.ua list and could not comment on its authenticity.

    “The list is a secret of the investigation,” she said.

    But the SBU has confirmed the existence of a 47-person list of people it claims are potential Russian assassination targets. They first claimed to have discovered a list 30 names long. Yuriy Lutsenko, Ukraine’s prosecutor-general, said last week that all 47 people had been informed and arrangements were being made to ensure their safety.

    Then later, on June 5, the SBU announced it had launched a criminal investigation into the unauthorized leak of “a list of persons whose details are contained” in materials related to a pretrial investigation, seemingly lending credence to Strana.ua’s report.

    The Kremlin had not commented on the list at the time of publication. But it denied any involvement after Ukraine accused it of ordering the assassination of Babchenko before he showed up alive at a press conference the following day.

    List ‘Multiplies Before Our Eyes’

    The “hit list” caused worry and confusion for many journalists as they openly doubted the authenticity of a document that had been so variously described in such a short period of time.

    Dmytro Gnap, a journalist for independent Hromadske TV’s Slidstvo.info investigative unit, who is not among those on the list, seemed to doubt its veracity in a post on Facebook, asking sarcastically how the number of people on the list seemed to “multiply before my eyes.”

    Others also doubted its provenance, saying they found the makeup of it odd, since so many people on it were critics of the Ukrainian authorities. Oleksiy Bratushchak, a journalist for the independent Ukrayinskaya Pravda news site, wondered whether this signaled an attempt by Ukraine’s intelligence services to control “all [the] movements, all [the] meetings” of its critics ahead of elections.

    Reached by RFE/RL on June 4, three journalists on the list who spoke on the condition that their names be withheld due to the potential threat to their lives (and because the SBU had them sign a nondisclosure agreement) said they doubted the authenticity of the list for a number of reasons.

    They confirmed the list published by Strana.ua was similar to the one they had been shown by the SBU but said it had some slight differences, including variations in the order of the names and some spellings. All of them noted that Babchenko’s name was not on the list.

    The three said they had been offered state security but declined it, saying they did not trust the Ukrainian authorities to protect them or not to spy on them.

    One of the journalists brought in said the SBU had also questioned them. Among the questions they were asked: What is your opinion of Russian aggression in Ukraine?

    No Criticism Allowed?

    Journalists in Ukraine have long faced harassment, intimidation, doxing, and physical attacks — some of which has come from authorities.

    On May 30, Larysa Sarhan, spokeswoman for Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko, published on her Facebook page a list of journalists that included Myroslava Gongadze, head of Voice of America’s Ukrainian service and the widow of murdered Ukrainian journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, and National Union of Journalists of Ukraine Chairman Serhiy Tomilenko.

    Sarhan took them to task for criticizing the authorities’ handling of the Babchenko operation, which was also lambasted by international groups.

    Harlem Desir, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) representative on freedom of the media, condemned Sarhan’s words.

    “The publishing of a list including names of journalists, accusing them of being traitors, is unacceptable and dangerous. This can have serious repercussions for the safety of journalists,” Desir wrote in a letter to the authorities. “I strongly encourage the authorities to intervene and suspend such practices, especially those undertaken by government officials, given the sensitive and difficult environment in Ukraine at the moment.”

    ‘I Got Used To Watching My Back’

    Yevgeny Kiselyov, a veteran Russian journalist and TV news presenter at Ukraine’s Pryamiy TV, a network that is supportive of President Petro Poroshenko, was among the few who spoke on the record about being on the list. He told RFE/RL he believed the list was real and that he was unsurprised his name turned up on it but that it did not rattle him.

    Kiselyov, who moved to Ukraine in 2008 after he was pushed out of Russia’s media scene, and his Pryamiy colleague Matvey Ganapolsky, also a Russian who relocated here following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and was given Ukrainian citizenship, were the first two journalists on the alleged list to come forward after authorities upped the count from 30 to 47 on June 1 to say they had been informed and offered state security.

    “I got used to watching my back,” Kiselyov said. “I always assumed that I can be on some kind of a hit list.”

    ———-

    “In Ukraine, Prominent Journalists Targeted By ‘Russian Hit List’ Question Its Authenticity” by Christopher Miller; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; 06/06/2018

    “The whole affair took a strange new turn on June 5 when a purported “hit list” of 47 people — mainly journalists and political activists — that the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) claims to have discovered during the Babchenko operation was leaked to Strana.ua, an opposition news site, and published online..”

    The ‘hit list’ shows up on an opposition website. That’s a rather big ‘oops’ for an investigation of this nature. And while the SBU won’t confirm its authenticity, they basically did that by launching a criminal investigation into the unauthorized leak of “a list of persons whose details are contained” in materials related to a pretrial investigation:


    SBU spokeswoman Olena Hitlyanska told Interfax-Ukraine on June 5 that she was not familiar with the Strana.ua list and could not comment on its authenticity.

    “The list is a secret of the investigation,” she said.

    But the SBU has confirmed the existence of a 47-person list of people it claims are potential Russian assassination targets. They first claimed to have discovered a list 30 names long. Yuriy Lutsenko, Ukraine’s prosecutor-general, said last week that all 47 people had been informed and arrangements were being made to ensure their safety.

    Then later, on June 5, the SBU announced it had launched a criminal investigation into the unauthorized leak of “a list of persons whose details are contained” in materials related to a pretrial investigation, seemingly lending credence to Strana.ua’s report.

    And yet a number of the journalists on the list still have their doubts. Some of those doubts are due to the large number of critics of the Ukrainian authorities on the list. And three journalists who claim to have been shown the real like by the SBU spotted slight differences in the published list:


    List ‘Multiplies Before Our Eyes’

    The “hit list” caused worry and confusion for many journalists as they openly doubted the authenticity of a document that had been so variously described in such a short period of time.

    Dmytro Gnap, a journalist for independent Hromadske TV’s Slidstvo.info investigative unit, who is not among those on the list, seemed to doubt its veracity in a post on Facebook, asking sarcastically how the number of people on the list seemed to “multiply before my eyes.”

    Others also doubted its provenance, saying they found the makeup of it odd, since so many people on it were critics of the Ukrainian authorities. Oleksiy Bratushchak, a journalist for the independent Ukrayinskaya Pravda news site, wondered whether this signaled an attempt by Ukraine’s intelligence services to control “all [the] movements, all [the] meetings” of its critics ahead of elections.

    Reached by RFE/RL on June 4, three journalists on the list who spoke on the condition that their names be withheld due to the potential threat to their lives (and because the SBU had them sign a nondisclosure agreement) said they doubted the authenticity of the list for a number of reasons.

    They confirmed the list published by Strana.ua was similar to the one they had been shown by the SBU but said it had some slight differences, including variations in the order of the names and some spellings. All of them noted that Babchenko’s name was not on the list.

    The three said they had been offered state security but declined it, saying they did not trust the Ukrainian authorities to protect them or not to spy on them.

    One of the journalists brought in said the SBU had also questioned them. Among the questions they were asked: What is your opinion of Russian aggression in Ukraine?

    So, at this point, it sounds like Ukraine’s journalism community is probably legitimately concerned about this ‘hit list’ even if they just aren’t necessarily concerned that Mogilevich’s associates are going to be the ones doing the ‘hitting’.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 6, 2018, 4:33 pm
  11. And the embrace of neo-Nazi vigilantism continues: The fourth attack on a Roma camp in six weeks just took place. Live on Facebook. This time by members of the new formed Azov National Druzhyna militia, an offshoot of the Azov Battalion formed in January to patrol the streets. And, of course, Ukrainian police were just standing around approvingly watching it happen:

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

    With Axes And Hammers, Far-Right Vigilantes Destroy Another Romany Camp In Kyiv

    Christopher Miller
    June 08, 2018 12:12 GMT

    KYIV — Swinging axes and sledgehammers as a camera rolled, members of the far-right Azov National Druzhyna militia destroyed a Romany camp in Kyiv’s Holosiyivskiy Park on June 7.

    The attack marks the second such incident by far-right vigilantes in Kyiv and the fourth in Ukraine in the past six weeks.

    The National Druzhyna, a militia formed in January by veterans of the far-right Azov Battalion, had visited the camp earlier in the day and spoken threateningly with a woman who lived there, an encounter that was filmed by the group and published on its Facebook page.

    The militia also issued an ultimatum in the Facebook post for the Roma to clear out within 24 hours or be forced out by a “mob.”

    “When the police don’t act, the National Druzhyna takes control of the situation,” the militia wrote.

    But the militia didn’t wait. Hours later, what appeared to be around two dozen nationalists returned to destroy the camp and harass the few Romany women still there.

    The attack was broadcast live on the militia’s Facebook page.

    That video, which has since been removed, shows the National Druzhyna members in T-shirts adorned with the group’s insignia hacking at the camp’s makeshift homes with axes and hammers.

    A more complete, 12-minute clip of the nationalists’ raid was eventually uploaded to YouTube by EuroMaydan, a political group born from the 2013-14 uprising of the same name.

    At one point, the militia members mock a woman and child fleeing with their belongings, asking if they planned to eat a nearby dog. “I heard you eat dogs,” one of the men says. Later, another belittles a woman trying to collect belongings from the debris by suggesting her actions might be acceptable “in India, but not here.”

    Near the end of the video, uniformed Ukrainian police officers appear and casually make conversation as the nationalists wind up their raid.

    With police looking on, more than a dozen of the vigilantes pose together to a cry of “Glory to the nation! Death to enemies!”

    Kyiv police spokeswoman Oksana Blyshchik told Hromadske TV the Romany group had already fled the camp when militia members arrived, which the video clearly contradicts. She added that no one had been injured and nobody had been detained.

    Late on June 7, Ukraine’s National Police said in a statement that it had begun criminal proceedings in what it labeled a case of “hooliganism.”

    “All active participants in this event will be identified and brought to justice,” the National Police said.

    Right-Wing Immunity?

    The Holosiyivskiy camp attack follows three others within the past month and a half.

    In May, right-wing thugs attacked a Romany camp in western Ternopil. That followed the burning of one in the nearby village of Rudne in the Lviv region.

    In April, members of the right-wing extremist group C14 chased a group of Roma from their camp at Lysa Hora nature reserve in Kyiv. Masked attackers hurled stones and sprayed gas as they chased terrified Romany men, women, and children from the makeshift settlement.

    Police did nothing until a video of the attack went viral online, forcing them to open an investigation, the results of which remain unclear.

    In its May Nations In Transit report, Freedom House warned of the threat to Ukrainian democracy posed by far-right extremism. “They are a real physical threat to left-wing, feminist, liberal, and LGBT activists, human rights defenders, as well as ethnic and religious minorities,” the report said.

    Critics accuse Ukraine’s current leadership of ignoring the radical and sometimes violent actions of members of nationalist groups with far-right views because of how it might look cracking down on them after many fought to protect the country from Russia-backed forces in the war-torn eastern regions.

    Perhaps hinting at a new tack, the National Police statement about the June 7 attack used markedly different language from statements about previous attacks.

    “The police will rigorously respond to a violation of the law regardless of which organizations’ members are violators,” it said. “No one has the right to engage in illegal activities, pseudo ultimatums, or for the sake of PR to conduct demonstrative pogroms against other citizens. In particular, with regard to representatives of ethnic minorities.”

    ———-

    “With Axes And Hammers, Far-Right Vigilantes Destroy Another Romany Camp In Kyiv” by Christopher Miller; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; 06/08/2018

    “The attack marks the second such incident by far-right vigilantes in Kyiv and the fourth in Ukraine in the past six weeks.”

    The fourth vigilante neo-Nazi attack in six weeks. And note how they show up at the camp, give a 24 hour warning, and then show up a couple hours later to destroy it and post it all on Facebook. The attack was literally broadcast live on their Facebook page:


    The National Druzhyna, a militia formed in January by veterans of the far-right Azov Battalion, had visited the camp earlier in the day and spoken threateningly with a woman who lived there, an encounter that was filmed by the group and published on its Facebook page.

    The militia also issued an ultimatum in the Facebook post for the Roma to clear out within 24 hours or be forced out by a “mob.”

    “When the police don’t act, the National Druzhyna takes control of the situation,” the militia wrote.

    But the militia didn’t wait. Hours later, what appeared to be around two dozen nationalists returned to destroy the camp and harass the few Romany women still there.

    The attack was broadcast live on the militia’s Facebook page.

    That video, which has since been removed, shows the National Druzhyna members in T-shirts adorned with the group’s insignia hacking at the camp’s makeshift homes with axes and hammers.

    And you can watch a full 12 minute clip of it here, which was uploaded to Youtube by a group called “EuroMaydan”:


    A more complete, 12-minute clip of the nationalists’ raid was eventually uploaded to YouTube by EuroMaydan, a political group born from the 2013-14 uprising of the same name.

    Note that on the YouTube posting there’s no comment by EuroMaydan condemning or supporting the action. It’s posted without comment. And the title of the video translates (via Google translate) to “National squads routed the Roma camp in Goloseevsky Park.” So if this EuroMaydan group disapproves of these attacks they aren’t making that clear.

    But, as with all of these attacks, the most disturbing part is that this is clearly being done with the support of the authorities. They literally show up in the video (starting at ~10:30) casually standing around:


    At one point, the militia members mock a woman and child fleeing with their belongings, asking if they planned to eat a nearby dog. “I heard you eat dogs,” one of the men says. Later, another belittles a woman trying to collect belongings from the debris by suggesting her actions might be acceptable “in India, but not here.”

    Near the end of the video, uniformed Ukrainian police officers appear and casually make conversation as the nationalists wind up their raid.

    With police looking on, more than a dozen of the vigilantes pose together to a cry of “Glory to the nation! Death to enemies!”

    Kyiv police spokeswoman Oksana Blyshchik told Hromadske TV the Romany group had already fled the camp when militia members arrived, which the video clearly contradicts. She added that no one had been injured and nobody had been detained.

    And this all once again highlights how Ukraine’s authorities have basically given a green light for neo-Nazi vigilantes. Although when videos of previous attacks went viral there were at least some investigations opened. Investigations that don’t appear to have gone anywhere:


    Right-Wing Immunity?

    The Holosiyivskiy camp attack follows three others within the past month and a half.

    In May, right-wing thugs attacked a Romany camp in western Ternopil. That followed the burning of one in the nearby village of Rudne in the Lviv region.

    In April, members of the right-wing extremist group C14 chased a group of Roma from their camp at Lysa Hora nature reserve in Kyiv. Masked attackers hurled stones and sprayed gas as they chased terrified Romany men, women, and children from the makeshift settlement.

    Police did nothing until a video of the attack went viral online, forcing them to open an investigation, the results of which remain unclear.

    In its May Nations In Transit report, Freedom House warned of the threat to Ukrainian democracy posed by far-right extremism. “They are a real physical threat to left-wing, feminist, liberal, and LGBT activists, human rights defenders, as well as ethnic and religious minorities,” the report said.

    Critics accuse Ukraine’s current leadership of ignoring the radical and sometimes violent actions of members of nationalist groups with far-right views because of how it might look cracking down on them after many fought to protect the country from Russia-backed forces in the war-torn eastern regions.

    “Police did nothing until a video of the attack went viral online, forcing them to open an investigation, the results of which remain unclear.”

    That was the response by Ukrainian authorities back in April after a similar attack by C14 – which received approval by the Kiev city government to establish “municipal guard” to patrol the streets – and it was only after video of the attack went viral that they announced an investigation. So, not surprisingly, we’re hearing similar proclamations from the police this time:


    Late on June 7, Ukraine’s National Police said in a statement that it had begun criminal proceedings in what it labeled a case of “hooliganism.”

    “All active participants in this event will be identified and brought to justice,” the National Police said.

    Perhaps hinting at a new tack, the National Police statement about the June 7 attack used markedly different language from statements about previous attacks.

    “The police will rigorously respond to a violation of the law regardless of which organizations’ members are violators,” it said. “No one has the right to engage in illegal activities, pseudo ultimatums, or for the sake of PR to conduct demonstrative pogroms against other citizens. In particular, with regard to representatives of ethnic minorities.”

    “No one has the right to engage in illegal activities, pseudo ultimatums, or for the sake of PR to conduct demonstrative pogroms against other citizens.”

    That was the statement from the police. A statement that no one should expect them to back up with action. It’s the status quo in today’s Ukraine. Talk about how no one has a right to conduct demonstrative pogroms against other citizens is just that. Talk.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 8, 2018, 1:10 pm
  12. Here’s a story with chilling parallels to the youth camp the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion runs: Ukraine’s Youth and Sports Ministry published a video last week showing its officials unanimously voting to fund variously organizations for “national-patriotic education projects”. Guess which groups received some of those funds: Svoboda and C14. More specifically, the money went to three far right organizations founded by members of C14 and Svoboda. The Educational Assembly, founded by C14 head Yevhen Karas; C14 Sich, founded by Volodymyr Karas, who shares the same patronymic, surname, and address as the C14 head; and Holosiyiv Hideout, whose founders include several members of Svoboda.

    The Svoboda group will by about $29,200 for four festival. That alone is profoundly disturbing. But even more disturbing is what the two C14 groups got their funds for: The C14 ‘Educational Assembly’ and C14 Sich’s children’s summer camp will received about $16,900 for three children’s events. That’s right, an organization that is literally named after a white supremacist slogan has a children’s summer camp and just got state funds for three chilrden’s events:

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

    Ukrainian Militia Behind Brutal Romany Attacks Getting State Funds

    Christopher Miller
    June 14, 2018 16:21 GMT

    KYIV — Amid a recent wave of far-right attacks against minority groups, human rights activists have questioned how Ukrainian police could stand and watch the violence and destruction unfold.

    But it seems they may now have an explanation: some of the groups involved receive financial support from the Ukrainian government.

    C14, a group whose members have openly expressed neo-Nazi views and been involved in the recent violent attacks on Romany camps in Kyiv, and the far-right affiliated Svoboda political party, are the recipients of Youth and Sports Ministry grants for “national-patriotic education projects,” according to a June 13 report by Hromadske Radio.

    The report’s information comes directly from a video that the Youth and Sports Ministry published itself on YouTube on June 8 that shows its officials voting unanimously to fund the organizations.

    That these far-right extremist groups have been awarded grants from the Ukrainian government is likely to be of great concern to Kyiv’s Western backers and leading international human rights organizations, four of which published an open letter to authorities on June 14 decrying what they called a sharp spike in political violence from these groups, who they say pose a great danger to Ukrainian democracy.

    In a statement published on its website, the Youth and Sports Ministry said it does not directly finance any public groups, including far-right ones, but does finance the projects of those groups.

    “Through project contests, budget funds are allocated solely to support the implementation of projects of public organizations,” it said.

    The ministry said that, in its consideration of projects, “the commission analyzes projects for xenophobia and discrimination, but not the activities of a specific organization that is submitting this project.”

    It added: “By the way, several projects that have won are aimed specifically at overcoming xenophobia.”

    Money For ‘Patriotic Education’

    Three far-right groups won a Youth and Sports Ministry competition for “national-patriotic education projects” funded with taxpayer money: the Educational Assembly, founded by C14 head Yevhen Karas; C14 Sich, founded by Volodymyr Karas, who shares the same patronymic, surname, and address as the C14 head; and Holosiyiv Hideout, whose founders include several members of the Svoboda political party.

    C14’s Educational Assembly and a C14 Sich children’s summer camp will receive 440,000 hryvnia (about $16,900) from the ministry for three children’s events. Holosiyiv Hideout will get 760,000 hryvnia (about $29,200) for four festivals.

    C14 takes its name from a 14-word phrase used by white supremacists and it has openly offered to provide members for hire to work as thugs.

    Reached on Facebook Messenger, Mykola Lyakhovych, the head of the Youth and Sports Ministry’s Department for National-Patriotic Education who chaired the commission that approved the grants, declined to answer questions about them unless they were approved by the ministry and submitted in Ukrainian, despite him responding quickly in clear English to RFE/RL’s initial message.

    The ministry did not immediately provide answers to questions submitted in Ukrainian to its press service.

    On Twitter, Matthew Schaff, the director of Freedom House’s Ukraine office, criticized the ministry’s grant-selection process.

    “[It] shouldn’t be too difficult to add another criteria to grant selection: not implicated in or publicly approving of violence. This is indeed an issue, also for Kyiv City Council funds which go to such groups.”

    Wave Of Attacks

    News of the groups receiving state funding comes amid a wave of attacks, including at least four in the past six weeks.

    On June 7, members of the far-right Azov National Druzhyna militia destroyed a Romany camp in Kyiv’s Holosiyivskiy Park.

    It followed a similar action in April, when masked C14 attackers hurled stones and sprayed gas as they chased terrified Roma — including children — from their makeshift settlement at Kyiv’s Lysa Hora nature reserve.

    In both cases, police officers stood by. Only after a public outcry did authorities say they had opened criminal proceedings into the attacks. But thus far no arrests or charges have been brought against the attackers.

    Right Groups Demand Action

    “Brutal attacks on [Romany] people, LGBT people, and rights activists have been on the rise in recent months in Ukraine,” Tanya Cooper, Ukraine researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement published alongside an open letter, which the organization signed with Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International on June 14.

    “The government has taken little action in response, which cannot but embolden and encourage the attackers.”

    The organizations’ joint letter, addressed to Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko, demanded that authorities “urgently take steps to strongly condemn and effectively address attacks and intimidation by radical groups that are promoting hatred and discrimination.”

    The human rights groups said they had collectively documented at least two dozen violent attacks, threats, or instances of intimidation in Kyiv, Vinnytsia, Uzhgorod, Lviv, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk and other Ukrainian cities by members of radical groups such as C14, Right Sector, Traditions and Order, and Karpatska Sich in 2018.

    ———-

    “Ukrainian Militia Behind Brutal Romany Attacks Getting State Funds” by Christopher Miller; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; 06/14/2018

    C14, a group whose members have openly expressed neo-Nazi views and been involved in the recent violent attacks on Romany camps in Kyiv, and the far-right affiliated Svoboda political party, are the recipients of Youth and Sports Ministry grants for “national-patriotic education projects,” according to a June 13 report by Hromadske Radio.”

    Neo-nazis running “national-patriotic education projects” with state financing. That’s a thing now in Ukraine.

    And, yes, it was a unanimous vote by the Youth and Sports Ministry. They apparently weren’t afraid to publicize this because they published the video of the vote on YouTube:


    The report’s information comes directly from a video that the Youth and Sports Ministry published itself on YouTube on June 8 that shows its officials voting unanimously to fund the organizations.

    And it was a unanimous vote to fund four Svoboda-run festivals and three C14 children’s events:


    Money For ‘Patriotic Education’

    Three far-right groups won a Youth and Sports Ministry competition for “national-patriotic education projects” funded with taxpayer money: the Educational Assembly, founded by C14 head Yevhen Karas; C14 Sich, founded by Volodymyr Karas, who shares the same patronymic, surname, and address as the C14 head; and Holosiyiv Hideout, whose founders include several members of the Svoboda political party.

    C14’s Educational Assembly and a C14 Sich children’s summer camp will receive 440,000 hryvnia (about $16,900) from the ministry for three children’s events. Holosiyiv Hideout will get 760,000 hryvnia (about $29,200) for four festivals.

    C14 takes its name from a 14-word phrase used by white supremacists and it has openly offered to provide members for hire to work as thugs.

    And let’s not forget that on June 7, just a day before this unanimous vote, we had members of an Azov Battalion ‘civil patrol’ militia destroying a Roma camp live on Facebook with Ukrainian police standing around. And that attack was just the latest instance when a state-backed neo-Nazi militia destroyed a Roma camp with Ukrainian police standing by. There was also the April attack on a Roma camp by C14 with police standing around. That’s all part of the backdrop of this unanimous vote:


    Wave Of Attacks

    News of the groups receiving state funding comes amid a wave of attacks, including at least four in the past six weeks.

    On June 7, members of the far-right Azov National Druzhyna militia destroyed a Romany camp in Kyiv’s Holosiyivskiy Park.

    It followed a similar action in April, when masked C14 attackers hurled stones and sprayed gas as they chased terrified Roma — including children — from their makeshift settlement at Kyiv’s Lysa Hora nature reserve.

    In both cases, police officers stood by. Only after a public outcry did authorities say they had opened criminal proceedings into the attacks. But thus far no arrests or charges have been brought against the attackers.

    And note the epic trolling by the Youth and Sports Ministry when asked about this: they noted that several project that won state financing were “aimed specifically at overcoming xenophobia”. That was seriously part of their response to questions about financing neo-Nazi children’s events:


    In a statement published on its website, the Youth and Sports Ministry said it does not directly finance any public groups, including far-right ones, but does finance the projects of those groups.

    “Through project contests, budget funds are allocated solely to support the implementation of projects of public organizations,” it said.

    The ministry said that, in its consideration of projects, “the commission analyzes projects for xenophobia and discrimination, but not the activities of a specific organization that is submitting this project.”

    It added: “By the way, several projects that have won are aimed specifically at overcoming xenophobia.”

    “By the way, several projects that have won are aimed specifically at overcoming xenophobia.”

    Well, at least there’s some projects about overcoming xenophobia. That will presumably come in handy after all those kids getting radicalized by these state-backed neo-Nazi youth groups grow up.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 15, 2018, 1:31 pm

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