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For The Record  

FTR #1073 Azov on Our Mind: Ukrainian Fascism Extends Its Tentacles (Return of the Prodigal “Black Sun”)

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

Nazi Black Sun sym­bol.

Emblem of the Ukrain­ian Azov Bat­tal­ion

Intro­duc­tion: We have cov­ered the ori­gin, activ­i­ties and expan­sion of the Ukrain­ian Nazi Azov Bat­tal­ion in numer­ous pro­grams. Part of the Ukrainain armed forces, this Nazi unit:

  1. Has spawned a civ­il mili­tia which achieved police pow­ers in many Ukrain­ian cities. . . . . 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. . . .”
  2. Has as its spokesman Roman Zvarych. In the 1980’s, Zvarych was 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.
  3. Wields influ­ence with in the Min­istry of the Inte­ri­or through Vadim Troy­an, the for­mer deputy com­man­der of Azov who is now deputy min­is­ter of the inte­ri­or. ” . . . . The deputy min­is­ter of the Interior—which con­trols the Nation­al Police—is Vadim Troy­an, a vet­er­an of Azov and Patri­ot of Ukraine. . . .  Today, he’s deputy of the depart­ment run­ning US-trained law enforce­ment in the entire nation. Ear­li­er this month, RFE report­ed on Nation­al Police lead­er­ship admir­ing Stepan Bandera—a Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor and Fas­cist whose troops par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Holocaust—on social media. The fact that Ukraine’s police is pep­pered with far-right sup­port­ers explains why neo-Nazis oper­ate with impuni­ty on the streets. . . .”
  4. Com­bat hel­mets of the Azov Bat­tal­ion.

    Gets arms and train­ing from the U.S., despite offi­cial restric­tions on such activ­i­ty. ” . . . . The research group Belling­cat proved that Azov had already received access to Amer­i­can grenade launch­ers, while a Dai­ly Beast inves­ti­ga­tion showed that US train­ers are unable to pre­vent aid from reach­ing white suprema­cists. And Azov itself had proud­ly post­ed a video of the unit wel­com­ing NATO rep­re­sen­ta­tives. . . .”

  5. Is ful­fill­ing their strat­e­gy of net­work­ing with Nazi and fas­cist ele­ments abroad, includ­ing the U.S. ” . . . . FBI Spe­cial Agent Scott Bier­wirth, in the crim­i­nal com­plaint unsealed Wednes­day, not­ed that Right Brand Clothing’s Insta­gram page con­tained a pho­to of RAM mem­bers meet­ing with Ole­na Semenya­ka, a lead­ing fig­ure with­in the fas­cist, neo-Nazi scene in East­ern Europe. In Ukraine, Semenya­ka is an impor­tant voice with­in the Mil­i­tant Zone and Nation­al Corps orga­ni­za­tions and the Pan-Euro­pean Recon­quista move­ment, all of which have ties to the noto­ri­ous Azov Bat­tal­ion. Bier­wirth said Azov Bat­tal­ion, now a piece of the Ukrain­ian Nation­al Guard, is known for neo-Nazi sym­bol­ism and ide­ol­o­gy and has par­tic­i­pat­ed in train­ing and rad­i­cal­iz­ing U.S.-based white suprema­cist orga­ni­za­tions. . . . .”
  6. Is net­work­ing with mem­bers of a group called RAM, some of whom were arrest­ed by the FBI upon their return from Europe. vio­lence.
  7. Is uti­liz­ing Ukraine’s visa-free sta­tus with the EU to net­work with oth­er Euro­pean fas­cist groups. ” . . . . ‘Their Eng­lish has got­ten bet­ter,’ Hryt­senko said, refer­ring to Azov mem­bers behind the group’s West­ern out­reach. . . . . Anoth­er thing that has helped, Hryt­senko not­ed, is that Ukraine’s break from Rus­sia and move toward the Euro­pean Union has allowed Ukraini­ans visa-free trav­el, mak­ing Azov’s out­reach eas­i­er logis­ti­cal­ly. . . . .”
  8. Is look­ing to con­nect with more “respectable” Euro­pean right-wing groups than they have in the past, this as a pos­si­ble vehi­cle for Ukraine’s entry into the EU. ” . . . . Skillt, the Swedish nation­al who fought as a sniper in the Azov Bat­tal­ion, is one of them [crit­ics]. ‘I don’t mind [Azov] reach­ing out, but the ones they reach out to… Jesus,’ he told RFE/RL, in an allu­sion to RAM. He added that he had recent­ly dis­tanced him­self from Azov because of that asso­ci­a­tion and oth­ers with far-right groups in Europe. Skillt, who runs a pri­vate intel­li­gence agency in Kyiv and said his clients ‘real­ly don’t enjoy bad com­pa­ny,’ argued that the group has made a mis­take by not reach­ing out more to right-wing con­ser­v­a­tives who could help with ‘influ­en­tial con­tacts in Europe [so] you don’t get brand­ed a neo-Nazi.’ But Semenya­ka described praise of Azov from for­eign ultra­na­tion­al­ist groups who are increas­ing­ly wel­com­ing it as evi­dence that the orga­ni­za­tion is tak­ing the right path. And she said it isn’t about to let up. Next, she said, Azov hopes to win over larg­er, more main­stream far-right and pop­ulist West­ern polit­i­cal forces who ‘can be our poten­tial sym­pa­thiz­ers.’ ‘If crises like Brex­it and the refugee prob­lem con­tin­ue, in this case, part­ner­ships with nation­al­ist groups in Europe can be a kind of plat­form for our entry into the Euro­pean Union.’ . . . ”
  9. Azov Bat­tal­ion Spin Off Nation­al Mili­tia, served as elec­tion mon­i­tors in Ukraine.

    Was award­ed the job of elec­tion mon­i­tor­ing by the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment in their recent elec­tions. ” . . . . They are the ultra­na­tion­al­ist Nation­al Mili­tia, street vig­i­lantes with roots in the bat­tle-test­ed Azov Bat­tal­ion that emerged to defend Ukraine against Rus­sia-backed sep­a­ratists but was also accused of pos­si­ble war crimes and neo-Nazi sym­pa­thies. Yet despite the con­tro­ver­sy sur­round­ing it, the Nation­al Mili­tia was grant­ed per­mis­sion by the Cen­tral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion to offi­cial­ly mon­i­tor Ukraine’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion on March 31. . . .”

Sup­ple­ment­ing dis­cus­sion about the Azov milieu net­work­ing with for­eign fas­cists, we note that alleged Christchurch, New Zealand, shoot­er Brent Tar­rant had appar­ent­ly net­worked with Azov dur­ing a vis­it to Ukraine:

  1. Brent Tar­rant, allege Christchurch, New Zealand, Mosque shoot­er, had appar­ent­ly vis­it­ed Ukraine. ” . . . . His man­i­festo alludes to vis­its to Poland, Ukraine, Ice­land and Argenti­na as well. . . .”
  2. Tar­rant may have been a ben­e­fi­cia­ry of the afore­men­tioned visa-free trav­el that EU asso­ci­a­tion has for Ukraine. “. . . . Three quar­ters of them say the coun­try is head­ed in the wrong direc­tion, despite the fact that Ukraine has moved clos­er to Europe (it now has visa-free trav­el to the EU, for instance). . . .”
  3.  Even The New York Times not­ed the pos­si­ble con­tact between Azov and Tar­rant. . . . . The Ukrain­ian far right also appears to have ties in oth­er coun­tries. Aus­tralian Bren­ton Tar­rant, accused of slaugh­ter­ing 50 peo­ple at two mosques in the city of Christchurch in New Zealand, men­tioned a vis­it to Ukraine in his man­i­festo, and some reports alleged that he had con­tacts with the ultra-right. The Soufan Cen­ter, a research group spe­cial­iz­ing on secu­ri­ty, has recent­ly alleged pos­si­ble links between Tar­rant and the Azov Bat­tal­ion. . . .”
  4. A pri­vate intel­li­gence group–the Soufan Cen­ter–has linked Tar­rant to the Azov Bat­tal­ion. ” . . . . .In the wake of the New Zealand mosque attacks, links have emerged between the shoot­er, Brent Tar­rant, and a Ukrain­ian ultra-nation­al­ist, white suprema­cist para­mil­i­tary orga­ni­za­tion called the Azov Bat­tal­ion. Tarrant’s man­i­festo alleges that he vis­it­ed the coun­try dur­ing his many trav­els abroad, and the flak jack­et that Tar­rant wore dur­ing the assault fea­tured a sym­bol com­mon­ly used by the Azov Bat­tal­ion. . . .”

Con­clud­ing with a piece of grotesque, unin­ten­tion­al com­e­dy, The New York Times cit­ed the fact that Mr. Zelen­sky, the new Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent, is a non-prac­tic­ing Jew as proof that Russ­ian state­ments about Ukraine being dom­i­nat­ed by Nazis and anti-Semi­tes is noth­ing but pro­pa­gan­da. The fact that the Azov’s Nationa Corps mili­tia served as elec­tion mon­i­tors was not men­tioned. ” . . . . the near total silence on his Jew­ish back­ground has demol­ished a favorite trope of Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da — that Ukraine is awash with neo-Nazis intent on cre­at­ing a Slav­ic ver­sion of the Third Reich. . . .”

1a. The elec­tion of a non-prac­tic­ing Jew as pres­i­dent of Ukraine is being hailed as proof that the obvi­ous return of fas­cism to Ukrain­ian pow­er struc­ture is just “Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da.”

“Ukraine Elec­tion: Come­di­an Dis­missed by Pres­i­dent Is Poised to Get the Last Laugh” by Andrew Hig­gins; The New York Times; 4/20/2019.

. . . . A few far-right nation­al­ists have tried, in vain, to make an issue of the fact that Mr. Zelen­sky is Jew­ish. But the near total silence on his Jew­ish back­ground has demol­ished a favorite trope of Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da — that Ukraine is awash with neo-Nazis intent on cre­at­ing a Slav­ic ver­sion of the Third Reich. . . .

2. The milieu of the Azov Bat­tal­ion is net­work­ing with fas­cists and Nazis from oth­er coun­tries, includ­ing the U.S. Four mem­bers of a group called RAM (Rise Above Move­ment) were arrest­ed by the FBI fol­low­ing their trip to Europe, dur­ing which they net­worked with ele­ments from the Azov Bat­tal­ion and asso­ci­at­ed orga­ni­za­tions.

Mem­bers of RAM have been charged in con­nec­tion with the 2017 vio­lence in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia.

Note than Ole­na Semyana­ka, who met with the RAM con­tin­gent, is promi­nent in the “Azov Move­ment.”

“Three mem­bers of Rise Above Move­ment arrest­ed in Cal­i­for­nia, fourth sought as fugi­tive turns him­self in” by Brett Bar­rou­quere; South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter; 10/29/2018.

A vio­lent white suprema­cist gang known as the Rise Above Move­ment and two oth­ers trav­eled to Europe to cel­e­brate Adolf Hitler’s birth­day and lat­er met with a para­mil­i­tary chief there, fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors say.

Robert Run­do, a 28-year-old Hunt­ing­ton Beach, Cal­i­for­nia, res­i­dent, 29-year-old Michael Paul Mis­elis, of Lawn­dale, Cal­i­for­nia, and 25-year-old Ben­jamin Drake Daley of Redon­do Beachwent to Ger­many, Italy and Ukraine in spring 2018 not only to cel­e­brate, but also to meet with Euro­pean white suprema­cist groups, pros­e­cu­tors said in a crim­i­nal com­plaint against Run­do unsealed this week.

FBI agents arrest­ed Run­do on Sun­day at Los Ange­les Inter­na­tion­al Air­port, said Kather­ine Gulot­ta, a spokesman for the agency in Los Ange­les. He had been arrest­ed in Cen­tral Amer­i­ca before being returned to the U.S.

Two oth­ers, 25-year-old Robert Boman of Tor­rance, Cal­i­for­nia, and 22-year-old Tyler Laube of Redon­do Beach, Cal­i­for­nia, were arrest­ed Wednes­day.

A fourth RAM mem­ber, 38-year-old Aaron Eason of Anza, Cal­i­for­nia, sur­ren­dered to the FBI over the week­end.

The four are charged with a series of vio­lent attacks dur­ing events in Hunt­ing­ton Beach, Berke­ley and San Bernardi­no, Cal­i­for­nia, in 2017.

Pros­e­cu­tors said the four men used the inter­net to coor­di­nate “com­bat train­ing,” recruit mem­bers and orga­nize riots.

“Every Amer­i­can has the right to peace­ful­ly orga­nize, march and protest in sup­port of their beliefs — but no one has the right to vio­lent­ly assault their polit­i­cal oppo­nents,” U.S. Attor­ney Nick Han­na said in a state­ment.

The arrests and charges are the sec­ond batch filed this month against mem­bers of RAM, a vio­lent white suprema­cist group that prac­tices mixed mar­tial arts and has been accused of show­ing up for ral­lies pre­pared to attack peo­ple.

Pros­e­cu­tors in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, charged four oth­er Cal­i­for­nia men with trav­el­ing to that city on Aug. 11–12, 2017, to take part in and attack peo­ple at the “Unite the Right” ral­ly.

Michael Paul Mis­elis, a 29-year-old Lawn­dale, Cal­i­for­nia, res­i­dent, 34-year-old Thomas Wal­ter Gillen of Redon­do Beach, Cal­i­for­nia, 24-year-old Cole Evan White of Clay­ton, Cal­i­for­nia, and Daley are await­ing a court hear­ing in Vir­ginia. They are also charged with riot­ing and con­spir­a­cy to riot.

Run­do is the own­er of Right Brand Cloth­ing, which pro­motes white suprema­cist themes and logos. The FBI believes he ran RAM’s now-sus­pend­ed Twit­ter account.

RAM has been mak­ing entreaties over­seas, includ­ing in Italy, Ger­many and East­ern Europe. The FBI said Run­do, Mis­elis and Daley met with Euro­pean white suprema­cy extrem­ist groups, “includ­ing a group known as White Rex.”

FBI Spe­cial Agent Scott Bier­wirth, in the crim­i­nal com­plaint unsealed Wednes­day, not­ed that Right Brand Clothing’s Insta­gram page con­tained a pho­to of RAM mem­bers meet­ing with Ole­na Semenya­ka, a lead­ing fig­ure with­in the fas­cist, neo-Nazi scene in East­ern Europe. In Ukraine, Semenya­ka is an impor­tant voice with­in the Mil­i­tant Zone and Nation­al Corps orga­ni­za­tions and the Pan-Euro­pean Recon­quista move­ment, all of which have ties to the noto­ri­ous Azov Bat­tal­ion.

Bier­wirth said Azov Bat­tal­ion, now a piece of the Ukrain­ian Nation­al Guard, is known for neo-Nazi sym­bol­ism and ide­ol­o­gy and has par­tic­i­pat­ed in train­ing and rad­i­cal­iz­ing U.S.-based white suprema­cist orga­ni­za­tions.

Run­do was filmed recit­ing the “14 Words” pledge pop­u­lar in white suprema­cist cir­cles.

“I’m a big sup­port­er of the four­teen, I’ll say that,” Run­do told fel­low RAM mem­bers on the video.

The riot­ing and con­spir­a­cy charges stem from a “Make Amer­i­ca Great Again” ral­ly on March 25, 2017, in Hunt­ing­ton Beach. The FBI said RAM mem­bers split from the main ral­ly and attacked counter-pro­test­ers, and Run­do, Boman and Laube hit a num­ber of peo­ple, includ­ing two jour­nal­ists.

Daley, who is not charged in Cal­i­for­nia, was also at the Hunt­ing­ton Beach ral­ly, Bier­wirth not­ed.

The vio­lence was lat­er cel­e­brat­ed by RAM mem­bers online, not­ed on neo-Nazi web­site the Dai­ly Stormer, and used in solic­i­ta­tion for oth­ers to attend the Berke­ley ral­ly and com­bat train­ing to be held in a park in San Clemente.

“Front page of the stormer we did it fam,” Daley texted anoth­er RAM mem­ber on March 25, 2017.

At the Berke­ley ral­ly, on April 17, 2017, Run­do, Boman and Eason attacked mul­ti­ple peo­ple, Bier­wirth wrote. Run­do was lat­er arrest­ed after punch­ing a “defense­less per­son” and a Berke­ley police offi­cer.

Again, Bier­wirth not­ed, the attacks were cel­e­brat­ed online, with Boman post­ing pho­tos of him­self attack­ing peo­ple and RAM mem­bers tak­ing part in com­bat train­ing.

Bier­wirth also wrote that Run­do and oth­er RAM mem­bers par­tic­i­pat­ed in an “Anti-Islam­ic Law” ral­ly in San Bernardi­no on June 10, 2017. The ral­ly was part of a nation­wide demon­stra­tion put on by anti-Mus­lim hate group ACT for Amer­i­ca. Accord­ing to Bier­wirth, RAM mem­bers took part in vio­lent attacks at the ACT event. . . .

3a. Accord­ing to the fol­low­ing RFE/RL report, Azov has ambi­tions that go far beyond train­ing Amer­i­can neo-Nazis. The group wants to cre­ate a coali­tion of Euro­pean neo-Nazi groups, with Azov at its core.

As Ole­na Semenya­ka, the inter­na­tion­al sec­re­tary for Azov’s polit­i­cal wing, the Nation­al Corps, told RFE/RL, “We think glob­al­ly.” Expand­ing the “Azov move­ment” abroad is one of the group’s goals.

The train­ing Azov is pro­vid­ing these for­eign neo-Nazi groups goes beyond mil­i­tary train­ing. It also includ­ed train­ing in the pro­pa­gan­da tech­niques used to main­stream Azov, includ­ing set­ting up youth camps. When Amer­i­can neo-Nazi Greg John­son recent­ly gave a speech at an Azov gath­er­ing he declared that, “this is not a speak­ing tour, it’s a lis­ten­ing tour. I real­ly want to learn how maybe we can do things bet­ter in the Unit­ed States and West­ern Europe.” Semenya­ka also assert­ed that when the RAM mem­bers recent­ly vis­it­ed, “they came to learn our ways” and “showed inter­est in learn­ing how to cre­ate youth forces in the ways Azov has.” Semenya­ka denies any mil­i­tary train­ing was pro­vid­ed.

The arti­cle also points out how Azov has been con­scious­ly attempt­ing to down­play its over neo-Nazism with­out com­pro­mis­ing its core neo-Nazi ideals for the pur­pose of expand­ing its pop­u­lar appeal and bring­ing the move­ment into the main­stream.

Inter­est­ing­ly, Michael Skillt, the Swedish white nation­al­ist sniper who was one of the first for­eign fight­ers to join Azov, appears to have soured some­what on the group, argu­ing that it should have avoid­ed the overt neo-Nazi image and attempt­ed to find com­mon cause with more main­stream right-wing Euro­pean move­ments.

Skillt is cur­rent­ly run­ning a pri­vate intel­li­gence agency in Kyiv.

Omi­nous­ly, Semenya­ka asserts that Azov cozy­ing up to Europe’s main­stream con­ser­v­a­tive par­ties is next on Azov’s agen­da, with the plan of turn­ing these main­stream Euro­pean con­ser­v­a­tives into poten­tial sym­pa­thiz­ers for the pur­pose of get­ting Ukraine allowed into the Euro­pean Union. As Semenya­ka puts it, “If crises like Brex­it and the refugee prob­lem con­tin­ue, in this case, part­ner­ships with nation­al­ist groups in Europe can be a kind of plat­form for our entry into the Euro­pean Union.”

So Azov clear­ly has big ambi­tions for the main­stream­ing of its move­ment across the West:

“Azov, Ukraine’s Most Promi­nent Ultra­na­tion­al­ist Group, Sets Its Sights On U.S., Europe” By Christo­pher Miller; Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty; 11/14/2018.

Robert Run­do, the mus­cly leader of a Cal­i­for­nia-based white-suprema­cist group that refers to itself as the “pre­mier MMA (mixed mar­tial arts) club of the Alt-Right,” unleashed a bar­rage of punch­es against his oppo­nent.

But Run­do, a 28-year-old Hunt­ing­ton Beach res­i­dent who would be charged and arrest­ed in Octo­ber over a series of vio­lent attacks in his home­town, Berke­ley, and San Bernardi­no in 2017, wasn’t fight­ing on Amer­i­can streets.

It was April 27 and Run­do, whose Rise Above Move­ment (RAM) has been described by ProP­ub­li­ca as “explic­it­ly vio­lent,” was swing­ing gloved fists at a Ukrain­ian con­tender in the caged ring of a fight club asso­ci­at­ed with the far-right ultra­na­tion­al­ist Azov group in Kyiv.

A video of Rundo’s fight, which was streamed live on Face­book (below), shows that the Amer­i­can lost the bout. But for Run­do, who thanked his hosts with a shout of “Sla­va Ukrayi­ni!” (Glo­ry to Ukraine), it was a vic­to­ry of anoth­er sort: RAM’s out­reach tour, which includ­ed stops in Italy and Ger­many to cel­e­brate Adolf Hitler’s birth­day and spread its alt-right agen­da, brought the two rad­i­cal groups clos­er togeth­er.

For the Ukraini­ans, too, the ben­e­fits extend­ed out­side the ring. It marked a step toward legit­imiz­ing Azov among its coun­ter­parts in the West and set in motion what appears to be its next project: the expan­sion of its move­ment abroad.

“We think glob­al­ly,” Ole­na Semenya­ka, the inter­na­tion­al sec­re­tary for Azov’s polit­i­cal wing, the Nation­al Corps, told RFE/RL in an inter­view at one of the group’s Kyiv offices last week.

The Run­do fight has received fresh scruti­ny fol­low­ing an FBI crim­i­nal com­plaint against him unsealed last month that pre­ced­ed his arrest. In it, Spe­cial Agent Scott Bier­wirth wrote that Azov’s mil­i­tary wing is “believed to have par­tic­i­pat­ed in train­ing and rad­i­cal­iz­ing Unit­ed States-based white suprema­cy orga­ni­za­tions.”

Wash­ing­ton has armed Ukraine with Javelin anti­tank mis­sile sys­tems and trained its armed forces as they fight Rus­sia-backed sep­a­ratists in the east.

But it has banned arms from going to Azov mem­bers and for­bid­den them from par­tic­i­pat­ing in U.S.-led mil­i­tary train­ing because of their far-right ide­ol­o­gy.

It was Azov’s Semenya­ka who host­ed Run­do along with fel­low Amer­i­cans Michael Mis­elis and Ben­jamin Daley, RAM mem­bers who par­tic­i­pat­ed in last year’s “Unite The Right” ral­ly in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, that was the back­drop for the death of 32-year-old coun­ter­pro­test­er Heather Hey­er.

This month, in Kyiv, she host­ed and trans­lat­ed for Amer­i­can Greg John­son, a white nation­al­ist who edits the web­site Counter-Cur­rents, which the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter describes as “an epi­cen­ter of ‘aca­d­e­m­ic’ white nation­al­ism.”

Over the past year, she’s made sev­er­al out­reach trips to West­ern Europe to meet with far-right groups and spread Azov’s ultra­na­tion­al­ist mes­sage.

And when she’s not doing it her­self, Semenya­ka said, that task is some­times giv­en to Denis Nikitin, a promi­nent Russ­ian soc­cer hooli­gan and MMA fight­er who found­ed the white nation­al­ist cloth­ing label White Rex and has a gar­nered a large fol­low­ing across Europe and the Unit­ed States. In Novem­ber 2017, the two trav­eled togeth­er to War­saw and par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Europe Of The Future 2 con­fer­ence orga­nized by Pol­ish white suprema­cist group and “ally” Sztur­mow­cy (Stormtroop­ers), where they were meant to speak along­side Amer­i­can Richard Spencer, Semenya­ka said. But Pol­ish author­i­ties barred Spencer from enter­ing the coun­try and he was unable to attend.

Often in Kyiv when he’s not trav­el­ing through Europe or vis­it­ing fam­i­ly in Ger­many, Nikitin oper­ates as a sort of unof­fi­cial Azov ambas­sador-at-large and orga­nizes MMA bouts at the Recon­quista Club, the ultra­na­tion­al­ist haunt where Run­do fought. A com­bi­na­tion restau­rant, sports cen­ter, and fight club, Semenya­ka said Run­do and Nikitin met there and “exchanged ideas.”

In the cur­rent cli­mate, with an appar­ent shift toward nation­al­ism in parts of Europe, “it’s pos­si­ble for far-right lead­ers to come to pow­er now and — we hope — form a coali­tion,” Semenya­ka told RFE/RL. And Azov, she added, “wants a posi­tion at the front of this move­ment.”

From Bat­tle­field To Polit­i­cal Are­na

The Azov Bat­tal­ion was formed in May 2014 in response to the Rus­sia-backed sep­a­ratist advance sweep­ing across east­ern Ukraine. Com­prised of vol­un­teers, it has roots in a group of hard-core, far-right soc­cer fans, includ­ing many vio­lent hooli­gans, com­mon­ly known in East­ern Europe as “ultras.”

With Ukraine’s weak mil­i­tary at the time caught flat-foot­ed, Azov and oth­er such bat­tal­ions did much of the heavy fight­ing in the ear­ly days of the war, which has killed more than 10,300 peo­ple.

But it was Azov that attract­ed those of far-right per­sua­sion, includ­ing at least three Amer­i­cans and many oth­ers from West­ern nations. One such fight­er was Mikael Skillt, a Swede who trained as a sniper in the Swedish Army and pre­vi­ous­ly described him­self as an “eth­nic nation­al­ist.”

The Azov Bat­tal­ion flaunts a sym­bol sim­i­lar to that of the for­mer Nazi Wolf­san­gel. (The group claims it is an amal­gam of the let­ters N and I for “nation­al idea.”) It has been accused by inter­na­tion­al human rights groups, such as the Office of the Unit­ed Nations High Com­mis­sion­er for Human Rights (OHCHR), of com­mit­ting and allow­ing seri­ous human rights abus­es, includ­ing tor­ture.

Fol­low­ing a 2015 deal known as the Min­sk Accords that was meant to be a road map to end the fight­ing but did lit­tle more than turn down the inten­si­ty, the Azov Bat­tal­ion was offi­cial­ly incor­po­rat­ed into Ukraine’s Nation­al Guard and its lead­er­ship shift­ed focus from the bat­tle­field to the polit­i­cal are­na.

The Azov Nation­al Corps entered the polit­i­cal fray in Octo­ber 2016, appoint­ing bat­tal­ion com­man­der Andriy Bilet­sky to lead it. Bilet­sky was pre­vi­ous­ly tied to oth­er far-right groups and, in 2010, report­ed­ly said that the nation’s mis­sion was to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade…against Semi­te-led Unter­men­schen [sub­hu­mans].”

The par­ty incor­po­rat­ed two oth­er far-right orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing Patri­ot of Ukraine, which accord­ing to 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.”

As RFE/RL report­ed at the time, the Nation­al Corps’ inau­gur­al cer­e­mo­ny arguably had pomp more rem­i­nis­cent of 1930s Ger­many than of post­war democ­ra­cy. It includ­ed nation­al­ist chants, raised fists, and a torch­lit march through cen­tral Kyiv.

In Jan­u­ary, in anoth­er flashy cer­e­mo­ny, Azov intro­duced a new para­mil­i­tary force that it calls the Nation­al Mili­tia. On a snowy evening, some 600 of most­ly young men in match­ing fatigues marched from Kyiv’s cen­tral Inde­pen­dence Square to a light­ed fortress on a hill­side in the Ukrain­ian cap­i­tal, where they swore an oath to clean the streets of ille­gal alco­hol, drug traf­fick­ers, and ille­gal gam­bling estab­lish­ments.

While not offi­cial­ly part of the Ukrain­ian Inte­ri­or Min­istry or any oth­er gov­ern­ment body legal­ly autho­rized to enforce the law, the Nation­al Mili­tia has more often than not been allowed to estab­lish what it con­sid­ers “Ukrain­ian order” on the streets of cities across the coun­try. In many cas­es, that has meant attack­ing LGBT events and Romany camps, actions for which mem­bers of the group have not been pros­e­cut­ed.

Com­bined, these groups are known as the “Azov move­ment,” which includes more than 10,000 active mem­bers, accord­ing to Semenya­ka.

‘State With­in The State’

But Azov’s suc­cess in grow­ing the move­ment so far has not trans­lat­ed into much polit­i­cal suc­cess at home.

While the par­ty has not yet been test­ed in par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, less than 1 per­cent of eli­gi­ble vot­ers said they would vote for Nation­al Corps or its fel­low far-right group Right Sec­tor, accord­ing to June polling by Kyiv-based Razumkov Cen­ter.

Those groups didn’t fare much bet­ter in July, when GFK Ukraine asked whether vot­ers would sup­port an alliance of Nation­al Corps, Right Sec­tor, and a third far-right par­ty, Svo­bo­da, and only 2 per­cent respond­ed pos­i­tive­ly.

At the same time, how­ev­er, Azov believes its influ­ence has grown. In an Octo­ber 29 post on Face­book, Semenya­ka went so far as to say that “just with­in 4 years, the Azov Move­ment has become a small state in the state.”

Much of the suc­cess has come from recruit­ing new, most­ly young, mem­bers, who it hopes will come to the polls in next year’s par­lia­men­tary elec­tions.

Azov has done so with youth camps, includ­ing some that teach chil­dren as young as 9 years old mil­i­tary tac­tics and far-right ide­ol­o­gy, recre­ation cen­ters, lec­ture halls, and far-right edu­ca­tion pro­grams.

It has also uti­lized the reach of social media, par­tic­u­lar­ly Face­book and Telegram, where the group recruits and pro­motes patri­o­tism, nation­al­ism, and a sport-focused lifestyle. Much of that effort caters to Ukraini­ans com­ing of age in a time of war and as illib­er­al gov­ern­ments rise on the country’s periph­ery, said Ukrain­ian soci­ol­o­gist Anya Hryt­senko, who research­es far-right groups.

“Azov has made far-right nation­al­ism fash­ion­able, and they have been strate­gic in how they por­tray them­selves, shed­ding the typ­i­cal neo-Nazi trap­pings,” Hryt­senko told RFE/RL. “This has helped them to move from a sub­cul­ture to the main­stream.”

Explain­ing that strat­e­gy, Semenya­ka, who has been pho­tographed hold­ing a flag with a swasti­ka and mak­ing a Nazi salute, said that “more rad­i­cal” lan­guage was used pre­vi­ous­ly, such as dur­ing the height of the war in 2014, when the Azov Bat­tal­ion need­ed fight­ers, “because it was required by the sit­u­a­tion.”

Now, she said, the strat­e­gy is to “mod­er­ate” in order to appeal to a broad­er base in Ukraine and abroad. But only to an extent.

“We are try­ing to become main­stream with­out com­pro­mis­ing some of our core ideas,” she con­tin­ued, adding that “rad­i­cal statements…scare away more of soci­ety.”

And in its recal­i­bra­tion, Azov is not only think­ing of Ukraini­ans but of like-mind­ed groups abroad. Hence the addi­tion of mem­bers like Semenya­ka and col­lab­o­ra­tion with Nikitin, who lit­er­al­ly speak the lan­guage of their coun­ter­parts abroad.

“Their Eng­lish has got­ten bet­ter,” Hryt­senko said, refer­ring to Azov mem­bers behind the group’s West­ern out­reach.

Nikitin, who could not be reached for an inter­view, is a Russ­ian and Ger­man speak­er.

Anoth­er thing that has helped, Hryt­senko not­ed, is that Ukraine’s break from Rus­sia and move toward the Euro­pean Union has allowed Ukraini­ans visa-free trav­el, mak­ing Azov’s out­reach eas­i­er logis­ti­cal­ly.

Mak­ing Friends In The West

In recent months, Semenya­ka and oth­er Azov mem­bers have tak­en advan­tage of that, mak­ing sev­er­al vis­its to EU coun­tries to meet numer­ous Euro­pean coun­ter­parts, accord­ing to inves­ti­ga­tions by RFE/RL and the open-source inves­tiga­tive group Belling­cat.

Semenya­ka par­tic­i­pat­ed in and blogged about the Young Europe Forum in Dres­den in August along­side far-right sym­pa­thiz­ers from groups in Ger­many, Italy, and Aus­tria. Specif­i­cal­ly, she said she has met with those from groups that Azov con­sid­ers close allies — for instance, Greece’s Gold­en Dawn, Italy’s Cas­a­Pound, Poland’s Sztur­mow­cy, and Germany’s Nation­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty and Alter­na­tive For Ger­many.

Oth­er Azov mem­bers have trav­eled to meet coun­ter­parts in Baltic states and Croa­t­ia, she added.

Asked about the FBI alle­ga­tions in the crim­i­nal com­plaint first report­ed by The New York Times — that Azov was “train­ing and rad­i­cal­iz­ing” Amer­i­can far-right groups — she said it was not and dared U.S. author­i­ties to “pro­vide real evi­dence of this.”

In the case of Run­do, Mis­elis, and Daley, Semenya­ka said, “they came to learn our ways” and “showed inter­est in learn­ing how to cre­ate youth forces in the ways Azov has.”

On the vis­it, the three Amer­i­cans also attend­ed a con­cert by the white-nation­al­ist met­al band Sokyra Peruna, where con­cert­go­ers made Nazi salutes and waved Nazi flags. They also posed for pho­tographs to pro­mote Rundo’s The Right Brand cloth­ing line at Kyiv’s Inde­pen­dence Square, joined Azov mem­bers at Kyiv’s famous out­door gym, Kachal­ka, for a weight-train­ing ses­sion, and fought at the Recon­quista Club. Run­do even got White Rex’s Viking war­rior logo tat­tooed on his left calf.

“But there was no mil­i­tary train­ing,” Semenya­ka insist­ed.

Counter-Cur­rents’ John­son was per­haps the most recent Amer­i­can to ask for Azov’s help. In a rare pub­lic appear­ance, the alt-right ide­o­logue vis­it­ed Kyiv at the invi­ta­tion of Semenya­ka to lec­ture on Octo­ber 16 about his Man­i­festo Of White Nation­al­ism. Semenya­ka trans­lat­ed for John­son, who spoke to a small but crowd­ed room at Azov’s Plomin (Flame) cul­tur­al cen­ter.

In a video of the event pub­lished on Azov’s Plomin YouTube chan­nel, John­son, whom the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter (SPLC) describes as “one of the lead­ing voic­es of the far-right” and “an inter­na­tion­al fig­ure for white nation­al­ism,” doesn’t hide his motive for the trip: to learn from Ukraine’s ultra­na­tion­al­ists and their suc­cess­es.

“This is not a speak­ing tour, it’s a lis­ten­ing tour. I real­ly want to learn how maybe we can do things bet­ter in the Unit­ed States and West­ern Europe,” John­son said, lament­ing the state of the alt-right in the Unit­ed States.

“It was a very, very influ­en­tial and pow­er­ful move­ment for a very short time,” he said of America’s alt-right move­ment, with­out pro­vid­ing a pre­cise time frame.

“And at the peak of it, we had a net­work that extend­ed all the way to the office of the pres­i­dent,” he con­tin­ued, in what appeared to be a ref­er­ence to Steve Ban­non, the for­mer White House chief strate­gist and alt-right fig­ure.

“There were very few degrees of sep­a­ra­tion between peo­ple who were mak­ing ideas…and peo­ple who were in a posi­tion to make polit­i­cal pol­i­cy, and that was total­ly destroyed,” John­son added.

He praised Ukraine’s far-right groups, who he said were capa­ble of “real street activism.”

Asso­ci­a­tions Too Much For Some In Azov

While Azov’s coop­er­a­tion with groups like RAM has been large­ly wel­comed by the group’s mem­bers, some have found it uncom­fort­able.

Skillt, the Swedish nation­al who fought as a sniper in the Azov Bat­tal­ion, is one of them.

“I don’t mind [Azov] reach­ing out, but the ones they reach out to… Jesus,” he told RFE/RL, in an allu­sion to RAM. He added that he had recent­ly dis­tanced him­self from Azov because of that asso­ci­a­tion and oth­ers with far-right groups in Europe.

Skillt, who runs a pri­vate intel­li­gence agency in Kyiv and said his clients “real­ly don’t enjoy bad com­pa­ny,” argued that the group has made a mis­take by not reach­ing out more to right-wing con­ser­v­a­tives who could help with “influ­en­tial con­tacts in Europe [so] you don’t get brand­ed a neo-Nazi.”

But Semenya­ka described praise of Azov from for­eign ultra­na­tion­al­ist groups who are increas­ing­ly wel­com­ing it as evi­dence that the orga­ni­za­tion is tak­ing the right path. And she said it isn’t about to let up.

Next, she said, Azov hopes to win over larg­er, more main­stream far-right and pop­ulist West­ern polit­i­cal forces who “can be our poten­tial sym­pa­thiz­ers.”

“If crises like Brex­it and the refugee prob­lem con­tin­ue, in this case, part­ner­ships with nation­al­ist groups in Europe can be a kind of plat­form for our entry into the Euro­pean Union.”

3. Check out Ukraine’s new col­lec­tion of poll-watch­ers for the upcom­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tion on March 31st: Azov Bat­tal­ion. Or, rather, Azov’s street vig­i­lante off­shoot, the Nation­al Mili­tia. They’ve seri­ous­ly been grant­ed per­mis­sion by the Cen­tral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion to offi­cial­ly mon­i­tor the elec­tions.

But the elec­tion com­mis­sion is appar­ent­ly rethink­ing that deci­sion fol­low­ing Nation­al Militia’s the threats of vio­lence. Accord­ing to Nation­al Militia’s spokesman, Ihor Vdovin, the group will fol­low the instruc­tions of its com­man­der, Ihor Mikhailenko, “if law enforcers turn a blind eye to out­right vio­la­tions and don’t want to doc­u­ment them.” So what were Mikahilenko’s instruc­tions? “If we need to punch some­one in the face in the name of jus­tice, we will do this with­out hes­i­ta­tion.” Yep, the com­man­der of the Nation­al Mili­tia is already open­ly declar­ing that the group’s mem­bers will punch peo­ple if they see elec­tion vio­la­tions. Which is obvi­ous­ly attempt­ed open intim­i­da­tion of the elec­torate. Mem­bers of the Roma or LGBT com­mu­ni­ty are going to be a lot less like­ly to vote if they see one of the peo­ple who pre­vi­ous­ly vio­lent­ly attacked them stand­ing there as a poll mon­i­tor. And that’s all why the elec­tion com­mis­sion is rethink­ing the grant­i­ng of Nation­al Mili­tia this observers sta­tus. Rethink­ing, but not actu­al­ly rescind­ing.

It’s all a pret­ty big exam­ple of why the rel­a­tive lack of elec­toral suc­cess­es for the Ukrain­ian far right aren’t an accu­rate reflec­tion of the grow­ing pow­er of these groups. For starters, part of the rea­son for the lack of elec­toral suc­cess of the far right par­ties is the suc­cess­ful co-opt­ing of their agen­da by the rest of the more main­stream par­ties. And that main­stream co-opt­ing of the far right includes moves like dep­u­tiz­ing Nation­al Mili­tia and giv­ing them elec­tion observ­er pow­ers. In addi­tion, as the arti­cle notes, while Azov’s polit­i­cal wing, Nation­al Corps, isn’t win­ning over the sup­port of the broad­er elec­torate (polls put Nation­al Corps sup­port at around 1 per­cent), but its slick­ly pro­duced videos are win­ning over grow­ing num­bers of young men to the far right cause. Recall how Nation­al Corps advo­cates that Ukraine rearm itself with nuclear weapons.

So Azov’s Nation­al Corps may not be win­ning elec­tions, but win­ning elec­tions isn’t real­ly their path to pow­er. Grow­ing in num­bers and rely­ing on a mix of naked shows of force and threats of vio­lence is Azov’s path to pow­er. And that strat­e­gy is clear­ly work­ing, as evi­denced by the fact that they’re cur­rent­ly empow­ered to mon­i­tor elec­tions despite their inabil­i­ty to win them:

“Dep­u­tized As Elec­tion Mon­i­tors, Ukrain­ian Ultra­na­tion­al­ists ‘Ready To Punch’ Vio­la­tors” by Christo­pher Miller; Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty; 03/07/2019.

They patrol the streets of the Ukrain­ian cap­i­tal in match­ing urban cam­ou­flage and march in lock­step through Kyiv with torch­es.

They attack minor­i­ty groups, includ­ing Roma and LGBT peo­ple. And some of them have trained with vis­it­ing Amer­i­can white suprema­cists.

They are the ultra­na­tion­al­ist Nation­al Mili­tia, street vig­i­lantes with roots in the bat­tle-test­ed Azov Bat­tal­ion that emerged to defend Ukraine against Rus­sia-backed sep­a­ratists but was also accused of pos­si­ble war crimes and neo-Nazi sym­pa­thies.

Yet despite the con­tro­ver­sy sur­round­ing it, the Nation­al Mili­tia was grant­ed per­mis­sion by the Cen­tral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion to offi­cial­ly mon­i­tor Ukraine’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion on March 31. . . .

4a. Brent Tar­rant, allege Christchurch, New Zealand, Mosque shoot­er, had appar­ent­ly vis­it­ed Ukraine.

 “Sus­pect Trav­eled World, But Lived on the Inter­net” by David D. Kirk­patrick; The New York Times [West­ern Edi­tion]; 3/16/2019; p. A15.

. . . . His man­i­festo alludes to vis­its to Poland, Ukraine, Ice­land and Argenti­na as well. . . .

4b.  Tar­rant may have been a ben­e­fi­cia­ry of the afore­men­tioned visa-free trav­el that EU asso­ci­a­tion has for Ukraine.

“Tragi­com­e­dy;” The Econ­o­mist; 3/16/2019; pp. 44–45.

. . . . Three quar­ters of them say the coun­try is head­ed in the wrong direc­tion, despite the fact that Ukraine has moved clos­er to Europe (it now has visa-free trav­el to the EU, for instance). . . .

4c. Even The New York Times not­ed the pos­si­ble con­tact between Azov and Tar­rant.

   “Ukraine’s Ultra-Right Increas­ing­ly Vis­i­ble as Elec­tion Nears” [AP]; The New York Times; 3/27/2019.

. . . . The Ukrain­ian far right also appears to have ties in oth­er coun­tries. Aus­tralian Bren­ton Tar­rant, accused of slaugh­ter­ing 50 peo­ple at two mosques in the city of Christchurch in New Zealand, men­tioned a vis­it to Ukraine in his man­i­festo, and some reports alleged that he had con­tacts with the ultra-right. The Soufan Cen­ter, a research group spe­cial­iz­ing on secu­ri­ty, has recent­ly alleged pos­si­ble links between Tar­rant and the Azov Bat­tal­ion. . . .

4e. A pri­vate intel­li­gence group–the Soufan Center–has linked Tar­rant to the Azov Bat­tal­ion.

“Intel­brief: The Transna­tion­al Net­work That No One Is Talk­ing About;” The Soufan Net­work; 2/22/2019.

In the wake of the New Zealand mosque attacks, links have emerged between the shoot­er, Brent Tar­rant, and a Ukrain­ian ultra-nation­al­ist, white suprema­cist para­mil­i­tary orga­ni­za­tion called the Azov Bat­tal­ion. Tarrant’s man­i­festo alleges that he vis­it­ed the coun­try dur­ing his many trav­els abroad, and the flak jack­et that Tar­rant wore dur­ing the assault fea­tured a sym­bol com­mon­ly used by the Azov Bat­tal­ion. . . .

Discussion

7 comments for “FTR #1073 Azov on Our Mind: Ukrainian Fascism Extends Its Tentacles (Return of the Prodigal “Black Sun”)”

  1. It’s that time again. Time to note that a neo-Nazi went on anoth­er mur­der spree. This time it’s two sep­a­rate mur­der sprees involv­ing three appar­ent neo-Nazis:

    First, there was the mass shoot­ing event at the Gilroy Gar­lic Fes­ti­val in Cal­i­for­nia yes­ter­day. The 19 year old shoot­er, San­ti­no William Legan, did­n’t give a clear rea­son for why he attacked the fes­ti­val, but when some­one asked him why he was doing it dur­ing the shoot­ing, Legan report­ed­ly replied, “Because I’m real­ly angry.”

    But it’s pret­ty unam­bigu­ous­ly that Legan was moti­vat­ed by a far right ide­ol­o­gy. Short­ly before the shoot­ing start­ed, Legan post­ed a pic­ture on Insta­gram with a cap­tion that told peo­ple to read Might Is Right, a 19th-cen­tu­ry pro­to-fas­cist book con­sid­ered a key text in the white suprema­cy move­ment. In addi­tion, on his last social media post, he com­plained of paved-over nature and towns “overcrowd[ed]” with “hoards of mes­ti­zos and Sil­i­con Val­ley white twats.”

    It’s not known if Legan had ties to any groups but there were also reports of a of a sec­ond sus­pect that author­i­ties are still inves­ti­gat­ing. So this may or may not have been a lone wolf neo-Nazi attack, but it was def­i­nite­ly an attack by some­one who want­ed to pro­mote far right ideas:

    The Dai­ly Beast

    Gilroy Gar­lic Fes­ti­val Shoot­ing Sus­pect Post­ed About Far-Right Book Moments Before Shoot­ing

    San­ti­no Legan alleged­ly told an eye­wit­ness he was “real­ly angry” and rant­ed in white suprema­cist fash­ion on Insta­gram from the event.

    Kel­ly Weill
    Reporter

    Audrey McNa­ma­ra
    Reporter
    Updat­ed 07.29.19 1:51PM ET / Pub­lished 07.29.19 12:57PM ET

    The gun­man who mur­dered three peo­ple at a food fes­ti­val in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia on Sun­day post­ed about a far-right book on Insta­gram moments before the attack.

    Law enforce­ment on Mon­day iden­ti­fied San­ti­no William Legan, 19, as the shoot­er who opened fire at the Gilroy Gar­lic Fes­ti­val. Police said Legan dodged secu­ri­ty at the festival’s entrance by cut­ting through a fence to gain entry. Once inside, wit­ness­es said he sprayed gun­fire on the crowd with an “assault-style rifle” before police killed him.

    Author­i­ties said Mon­day they were still inves­ti­gat­ing reports of a sec­ond sus­pect and whether Legan had ties to any group.

    Short­ly before the shoot­ing around 6 p.m., Legan post­ed a pic­ture from the fes­ti­val on his now-delet­ed Insta­gram account reviewed by The Dai­ly Beast. “Ayyy gar­lic fes­ti­val time,” he wrote. “Come get wast­ed on over­priced shit.”

    Soon after, he post­ed a pic­ture with a cap­tion that told fol­low­ers to read a 19th-cen­tu­ry, pro­to-fas­cist book. The book, which is repeat­ed­ly rec­om­mend­ed along­side works by Hitler and oth­er fasic­sts on forums like 8chan, is full of anti-Semit­ic, sex­ist and white suprema­cist ide­ol­o­gy. The book glo­ri­fies “Aryan” men, con­demns inter-mar­riage between races and defends vio­lence based on bogus eugeni­cist tropes.

    Ide­o­log­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed killers will some­times ref­er­ence man­i­festos before car­ry­ing out attacks, in a bid to draw atten­tion to those works.

    In his last post, Legan also com­plained of paved-over nature and towns “overcrowd[ed]” with “hoards of mes­ti­zos and Sil­i­con Val­ley white twats.” Some fas­cists, par­tic­u­lar­ly those who fol­low the hyper-ego­ist school of thought laid out in Legan’s rec­om­mend­ed book, crit­i­cize indus­tri­al­iza­tion and Sil­i­con Val­ley lifestyles as “degen­er­ate.”

    The pop­u­lar annu­al fes­ti­val was wind­ing down its third and final day when the first pops of gun­fire were heard. Jack van Breen, a singer in the rock band Tin­Man, was just begin­ning an encore as the hor­rif­ic scene broke out around 6 p.m. local time.

    Van Breen told the Asso­ci­at­ed Press some­one in the audi­ence shout­ed: “Why are you doing this?” and the gun­man replied, “Because I’m real­ly angry.”

    Wit­ness­es say the gun­man was wear­ing a green shirt, a hand­ker­chief tied around his neck, and fatigues. Police said Legan legal­ly pur­chased his assault-style rifle in Neva­da this month.

    The shoot­ing killed three peo­ple and injured more than a dozen oth­ers. One of the vic­tims was a 6‑year-old boy named Stephen Romero. “My son had his whole life to live and he was only six,” his father, Alber­to Romero, told KNTV. “That’s all I can say.”

    ...

    ———

    “Gilroy Gar­lic Fes­ti­val Shoot­ing Sus­pect Post­ed About Far-Right Book Moments Before Shoot­ing” by Kel­ly Weill and Audrey McNa­ma­ra, The Dai­ly Beast, 07/29/2019

    “Van Breen told the Asso­ci­at­ed Press some­one in the audi­ence shout­ed: “Why are you doing this?” and the gun­man replied, “Because I’m real­ly angry.”

    So the shoot­er, who is now dead, was “real­ly angry” about some­thing. What was he angry about? We don’t know at this point, but the fact that he was pro­mot­ing a far right book short­ly before the shoot­ing gives us an idea:

    ...
    Short­ly before the shoot­ing around 6 p.m., Legan post­ed a pic­ture from the fes­ti­val on his now-delet­ed Insta­gram account reviewed by The Dai­ly Beast. “Ayyy gar­lic fes­ti­val time,” he wrote. “Come get wast­ed on over­priced shit.”

    Soon after, he post­ed a pic­ture with a cap­tion that told fol­low­ers to read a 19th-cen­tu­ry, pro­to-fas­cist book. The book, which is repeat­ed­ly rec­om­mend­ed along­side works by Hitler and oth­er fas­cists on forums like 8chan, is full of anti-Semit­ic, sex­ist and white suprema­cist ide­ol­o­gy. The book glo­ri­fies “Aryan” men, con­demns inter-mar­riage between races and defends vio­lence based on bogus eugeni­cist tropes.

    Ide­o­log­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed killers will some­times ref­er­ence man­i­festos before car­ry­ing out attacks, in a bid to draw atten­tion to those works.

    In his last post, Legan also com­plained of paved-over nature and towns “overcrowd[ed]” with “hoards of mes­ti­zos and Sil­i­con Val­ley white twats.” Some fas­cists, par­tic­u­lar­ly those who fol­low the hyper-ego­ist school of thought laid out in Legan’s rec­om­mend­ed book, crit­i­cize indus­tri­al­iza­tion and Sil­i­con Val­ley lifestyles as “degen­er­ate.”
    ...

    Giv­en the bewil­der­ing nature of the attack, at this point the mes­sage the shoot­er appeared to be try­ing to send was just a gener­ic pro­mo­tion of the far right ide­ol­o­gy he was clear­ly tak­en up with. And the guy was clear­ly sui­ci­dal. But he may not have been oper­at­ing alone:

    ...
    Author­i­ties said Mon­day they were still inves­ti­gat­ing reports of a sec­ond sus­pect and whether Legan had ties to any group.
    ...

    But whether or not he was work­ing alone or as part of a group, Legan was def­i­nite­ly try­ing to pro­mote an ide­ol­o­gy through the pro­mo­tion of the book “Might Makes Right”. A book that is wild­ly pop­u­lar with neo-Nazis:

    The Rolling Stone

    The Gilroy Gar­lic Fest Shoot­er Plugged a White Pow­er Man­i­festo on Insta­gram

    ‘Might Is Right’ book dates from the late 1890s, but it’s become a sta­ple in the white suprema­cist canon

    By EJ Dick­son
    July 29, 2019 12:40PM ET

    On Sun­day after­noon, a gun­man opened fire at the Gilroy Gar­lic Fes­ti­val, an annu­al sum­mer fes­ti­val in the qui­et city of Gilroy, Cal­i­for­nia, locat­ed about 30 miles south of San Jose. The gun­man killed three peo­ple, includ­ing a six-year-old boy, and injured at least 12 oth­ers. Police said the gun­man had been shot and killed and that author­i­ties sus­pect­ed he may have had an accom­plice, who was still at large.

    Although author­i­ties ini­tial­ly did not reveal the iden­ti­ty of the shoot­er, local news sta­tion KPIX 5 report­ed he was a 19-year-old man named San­ti­no Legan. Police recov­ered a back­pack filled with ammu­ni­tion at the scene, and they lat­er searched his home and a sec­ond loca­tion.

    Lit­tle is cur­rent­ly known about Legan: Though wit­ness­es claim to have heard him say he was “real­ly angry” while he was open­ing fire on the crowd, there’s not much indi­ca­tion as to his poten­tial motive for the shoot­ing. While his social media plat­forms appear to have been delet­ed as of Mon­day morn­ing, one post on his alleged Insta­gram read: “Ayyy gar­lic fes­ti­val time. Come get wast­ed on over­priced shit.” Anoth­er post on the now-delet­ed Insta­gram includ­ed a pic­ture of a Smokey the Bear sign advo­cat­ing for for­est fire pre­ven­tion, with Legan writ­ing in the cap­tion: “Why over­crowd towns and pave more open space to cater to make room for hordes of mes­ti­zos and Sil­i­con Val­ley white twats?” then plug­ging the text Might Is Right by Rag­nar Red­beard.

    A 19th-cen­tu­ry text of unknown author­ship (its ori­gins have been attrib­uted to every­one from British author Arthur Desmond to Call of the Wild nov­el­ist Jack Lon­don), Might Is Right has long been con­sid­ered a key text in the white suprema­cist move­ment, says Kee­gan Han­kes, a senior ana­lyst for the South­ern Pover­ty Law Center’s intel­li­gence project. “It’s wide­ly pop­u­lar and present among eth­no­cen­tric white nation­al­ists of all lev­els, from suit-and-tie white suprema­cists to neo-Nazis,” Han­kes tells Rolling Stone.

    The text, which has been banned in mul­ti­ple coun­tries, essen­tial­ly advo­cates for social Dar­win­ism, or the idea that mem­bers of cer­tain races or eth­nic­i­ties are inher­ent­ly bet­ter equipped for sur­vival than oth­ers. The author argues that true egal­i­tar­i­an­ism does not and can­not exist, and that the “white race” is inher­ent­ly bio­log­i­cal­ly supe­ri­or to oth­er races.

    Although the social Dar­win­ist argu­ments in the text were not con­sid­ered all that rad­i­cal in the 19th cen­tu­ry, when the eugen­ics move­ment was at its height, it has since been embraced by every­one from not­ed satanist Anton LaVey to Kat­ja Lane, the wife of white-nation­al­ist-orga­ni­za­tion The Order founder David Lane, who wrote the pref­ace for its 1999 reprint­ing. It is also avail­able on the white suprema­cist web­site Counter-Cur­rents, and the PDF ver­sion has become a sta­ple of white suprema­cist dig­i­tal libraries and forums.

    “The most impor­tant thing [about the text] is this belief in eth­no­cen­tric­i­ty and bio­log­i­cal deter­min­ism that is get­ting pulled from the late 19th cen­tu­ry to this cur­rent day,” says Han­kes. “The ideas are ubiq­ui­tous today in white suprema­cist cir­cles.”

    ...

    ———-

    ” The Gilroy Gar­lic Fest Shoot­er Plugged a White Pow­er Man­i­festo on Insta­gram” by EJ Dick­son, The Rolling Stone, 07/29/2019

    “A 19th-cen­tu­ry text of unknown author­ship (its ori­gins have been attrib­uted to every­one from British author Arthur Desmond to Call of the Wild nov­el­ist Jack Lon­don), Might Is Right has long been con­sid­ered a key text in the white suprema­cist move­ment, says Kee­gan Han­kes, a senior ana­lyst for the South­ern Pover­ty Law Center’s intel­li­gence project. “It’s wide­ly pop­u­lar and present among eth­no­cen­tric white nation­al­ists of all lev­els, from suit-and-tie white suprema­cists to neo-Nazis,” Han­kes tells Rolling Stone.”

    So that’s what we know about one of the recent neo-Nazi shoot­ings. It’s also worth recall­ing how the Azov Bat­tal­ion was coor­di­nat­ing with the Cal­i­for­nia-based RAM neo-Nazi group. It’s a recent exam­ple of Azov net­work­ing with peo­ple in North Amer­i­ca. Giv­en that this shoot­ing hap­pened in Cal­i­for­nia it would be inter­est­ing to know if the shoot­er was at all in con­tact with RAM...or Azov.

    It’s the next sto­ry about a neo-Nazi mur­der spree that makes the ques­tion of whether or not Legan was in con­tact with RAM (or Azov) such an inter­est­ing ques­tion.

    Here’s what we know about the two neo-Nazi teens still on the run from author­i­ties in Cana­da after they killed three peo­ple last week dur­ing a road trip. Inter­est­ing­ly, it appears that at least one of the two may have been inspired by the Azov Bat­tal­ion.

    The teens, Kam McLeod, 19, and Bry­er Schmegel­sky, 18, were orig­i­nal­ly report­ed miss­ing after their burned out camper trust was found. It turns out the teens left a trail of far right chat­ter on the online forums for Steam, the video game plat­form. One Steam user

    The two have Face­book pages that are asso­ci­at­ed with an “Illu­sive Game­ing” account. The ban­ner image on that accoun­t’s pro­file fea­tures a mod­i­fied Sovi­et flag, but the pro­file pic­ture is the heraldic eagle of Nazi Ger­many. So there’s a strange Soviet/Nazi blend­ing going with these two.

    As we’re going to see, it turns out that Bry­er Schmegel­sky’s grand­par­ents fled from Ukraine dur­ing WWII and, accord­ing to his father, the fam­i­ly always thought of them­selves as eth­ni­cal­ly Russ­ian the the Nazis were the ene­my. The father is express­ing dis­be­lief that his son could have been a neo-Nazi based on that fam­i­ly his­to­ry, although he does acknowl­edge that his son thought Nazi para­pher­na­lia was “cool”.

    In addi­tion, one of the online Steam accounts asso­ci­at­ed with the two teen’s Steam accounts uses the logo of the Azov Bat­tal­ion. There’s an online Steam account asso­ci­at­ed with the two teens that claims to be locat­ed in Rus­sia, near Moscow, and belongs to sev­er­al groups for fans of sex­u­al­ized Japan­ese ani­ma­tion. That account also used the heraldic eagle of the Nazis. So these two teens were poten­tial­ly chat­ting online with peo­ple asso­ci­at­ed with the Azov Bat­tal­ion and Russ­ian neo-Nazis:

    The Globe and Mail

    RCMP con­tin­ue search for sus­pects in three B.C. slay­ings

    Ian Bai­ley , Mike Hager and Justin Ling
    Sur­rey, B.C., and Port Alberni, B.C.
    Pub­lished July 23, 2019
    Updat­ed

    Two teens miss­ing after the road­side slay­ings of three peo­ple in North­ern British Colum­bia over the past week have now been named sus­pects and are believed to be on the run through West­ern Cana­da.

    RCMP say the pair have been spot­ted in North­ern Saskatchewan and Man­i­to­ba, and inves­ti­ga­tors are cau­tion­ing the pub­lic that the fugi­tives are armed and should not be approached.

    A flood of tips since Mon­day has pro­pelled the inves­ti­ga­tion into the road­side killings of a trav­el­ling cou­ple and, more than 500 kilo­me­tres away, the body of a man police have not iden­ti­fied. The teens, Kam McLeod, 19, and Bry­er Schmegel­sky, 18, were orig­i­nal­ly report­ed miss­ing after their burned-out camper truck was found on Fri­day, but police have changed that assess­ment.

    Mr. Schmegelsky’s Insta­gram page shows the two pos­ing for a pho­to, with Mr. Schmegelsky’s arm slung over Mr. McLeod.

    The teens have Face­book pages under their own names and both are linked to an account called “Illu­sive Game­ing.” That user­name, com­plete with the mis­spelling, also shows up on YouTube, as well as video-game net­works Twitch and Steam. The accounts share sim­i­lar imagery and themes, includ­ing the Com­mu­nist icon, far-right pol­i­tics, sex­u­al­ized Japan­ese ani­me and the sur­vival­ist video game Rust.

    The ban­ner image for the Illu­sive Game­ing YouTube account fea­tures a mod­i­fied Sovi­et flag, but its pro­file pic­ture is the heraldic eagle of Hitler’s Ger­many. The page was active as of six months ago.

    Steam accounts linked to Mr. Schmegel­sky and Mr. McLeod were last active a week before their pick­up truck was found on fire on B.C.‘s High­way 37.

    A Steam user con­firmed to The Globe and Mail that he talked to Mr. Schmegel­sky reg­u­lar­ly online. He recalled Mr. McLeod join­ing their chats as well.

    The user, whom The Globe is not iden­ti­fy­ing, pro­vid­ed pho­tos sent by an account believed to be owned by Mr. Schmegel­sky, show­ing him in mil­i­tary fatigues, bran­dish­ing what appears to be an air­soft rifle – which fires plas­tic pel­lets. Anoth­er pho­to shows a swasti­ka arm­band, and yet anoth­er fea­tures Mr. Schmegel­sky in a gas mask. The pho­tos were report­ed­ly sent in the fall of 2018, but the user said he stopped play­ing online games with Mr. Schmegel­sky ear­li­er this year after he con­tin­ued to praise Hitler’s Ger­many.

    One account con­nect­ed to the teens uses the logo of the Azov Bat­tal­ion, a far-right Ukrain­ian mili­tia that has been accused of har­bour­ing sym­pa­thies to neo-Nazis. Anoth­er account claims to be locat­ed in Rus­sia, near Moscow, and belongs to sev­er­al groups for fans of sex­u­al­ized Japan­ese ani­ma­tion. That account also used the heraldic eagle of the Nazis.

    RCMP said Tues­day the teens from Van­cou­ver Island were seen in Mead­ow Lake, Sask., on Sun­day – police have pho­tos of them tak­en by a store cam­era. They were also recent­ly spot­ted in Gillam, Man., which is near Hudson’s Bay.

    Wal­ter Spence, chief of the Fox Lake Cree Nation in Gillam, said in a state­ment that a vehi­cle was found burned and dis­card­ed near the nation’s reserve, but that he could not con­firm it was the vehi­cle being dri­ven by the teens.

    He said he had been in touch with the RCMP and the com­mu­ni­ty was being patrolled as a cau­tion, with the Moun­ties con­duct­ing their work with a large pres­ence.

    Sophie Lock­hart, a coun­cilor with the First Nation, said area res­i­dents are alarmed. “Every­body is scared. I am real­ly afraid for the peo­ple at home,” said Ms. Lock­hart, who was vis­it­ing Win­nipeg, but mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion back in the com­mu­ni­ty. ”Most kids are inside. They nev­er went out after sup­per.”

    The RCMP would not say whether the burned car in Gillam matched the one believed to be dri­ven by the sus­pects.

    Instead, RCMP in Man­i­to­ba respond­ed with a state­ment that said inves­ti­ga­tors have rea­son to believe the sus­pects were recent­ly in the Gillam area and the inves­ti­ga­tion is ongo­ing.

    “We do not have any fur­ther infor­ma­tion at this time,” said Cor­po­ral Julie Cour­chaine.

    Dwayne For­man, the may­or of the rur­al Man­i­to­ba com­mu­ni­ty of Gillam, said there’s a police pres­ence in town giv­en reports that the sus­pects have been seen in the area, and that res­i­dents are on edge.

    “It’s def­i­nite­ly qui­eter around town. Peo­ple are hol­ing up in their hous­es and not going out, which is under­stand­able,” he said in a tele­phone inter­view.

    Amer­i­can Chyn­na Deese, 24, and her 23-year-old Aus­tralian boyfriend Lucas Fowler were found dead the morn­ing of July 15 on the side of the high­way con­nect­ing North­ern B.C. with Yukon and Alas­ka. The teens are also being named as sus­pects in the death of the uniden­ti­fied heavy-set man in his 50s with grey hair and a beard, whose body was found on Fri­day a short dis­tance away from the burned camper.

    In the Van­cou­ver Island city of Port Alberni, there was no response at the door of Mr. Schmegelsky’s grandmother’s bun­ga­low, where the teen lived until he depart­ed this month. A neigh­bour said the woman was dis­traught at the media atten­tion after her grand­son went from the sub­ject of a miss­ing-per­sons probe to a man­hunt that now spans West­ern Cana­da.

    Clau­dia Bunce, own­er of the Cas­siar Moun­tain Jade Store in Jade City, B.C., said the teens stopped in on Thurs­day, the day before their burned-out truck and the body of the uniden­ti­fied man was found near­by just off the high­way about 115 kilo­me­tres from Dease Lake.

    The staff mem­ber who saw the young men was too shak­en to speak to a reporter, but Ms. Bunce said they arrived in the truck and vis­it­ed the store for free cof­fee. She said they were on their own and she doesn’t believe they had a con­ver­sa­tion with the employ­ee.

    “I don’t think they stood out any more than any oth­er teenage boys who were just on the road,” she said. “We’re a very busy store.”

    Ms. Bunce said. “It’s very rur­al – beyond rur­al. We’re on a high­way with no cell ser­vice. Most of us don’t have pow­er. So it’s unnerv­ing.”

    RCMP were at the store on Tues­day gath­er­ing hours of sur­veil­lance footage and inter­view­ing staff mem­bers.

    At an RCMP news con­fer­ence in Sur­rey, B.C., on Tues­day, offi­cers declined to dis­cuss why a pair of Van­cou­ver Island teens thought to be look­ing for work in the Yukon might be involved in three killings. Sergeant Janelle Shoi­het con­firmed that police have been in touch with the fam­i­lies of the teens, but did not elab­o­rate.

    ...

    ———-

    “RCMP con­tin­ue search for sus­pects in three B.C. slay­ings” by Ian Bai­ley, Mike Hager and Justin Ling, The Globe and Mail, 07/23/2019

    The teens have Face­book pages under their own names and both are linked to an account called “Illu­sive Game­ing.” That user­name, com­plete with the mis­spelling, also shows up on YouTube, as well as video-game net­works Twitch and Steam. The accounts share sim­i­lar imagery and themes, includ­ing the Com­mu­nist icon, far-right pol­i­tics, sex­u­al­ized Japan­ese ani­me and the sur­vival­ist video game Rust.”

    So the “Illu­sive Game­ing” user­name appears to be their shared online gam­ing group, with accounts being cre­at­ed on var­i­ous social media plat­forms. And it’s on that “Illu­sive Game­ing” Face­book that we find the heraldic eagle of Nazi Ger­many as the pro­file pic. We find that same image on the Steam account of a group that claims to be locat­ed near Moscow. That Steam account was con­nect­ed to the two teens, along with anoth­er Steam account that uses the logo of the Azov Bat­tal­ion. And one Steam users claims Schmegel­sky would repeat­ed­ly praise Hitler:

    ...
    The ban­ner image for the Illu­sive Game­ing YouTube account fea­tures a mod­i­fied Sovi­et flag, but its pro­file pic­ture is the heraldic eagle of Hitler’s Ger­many. The page was active as of six months ago.

    Steam accounts linked to Mr. Schmegel­sky and Mr. McLeod were last active a week before their pick­up truck was found on fire on B.C.‘s High­way 37.

    A Steam user con­firmed to The Globe and Mail that he talked to Mr. Schmegel­sky reg­u­lar­ly online. He recalled Mr. McLeod join­ing their chats as well.

    The user, whom The Globe is not iden­ti­fy­ing, pro­vid­ed pho­tos sent by an account believed to be owned by Mr. Schmegel­sky, show­ing him in mil­i­tary fatigues, bran­dish­ing what appears to be an air­soft rifle – which fires plas­tic pel­lets. Anoth­er pho­to shows a swasti­ka arm­band, and yet anoth­er fea­tures Mr. Schmegel­sky in a gas mask. The pho­tos were report­ed­ly sent in the fall of 2018, but the user said he stopped play­ing online games with Mr. Schmegel­sky ear­li­er this year after he con­tin­ued to praise Hitler’s Ger­many.

    One account con­nect­ed to the teens uses the logo of the Azov Bat­tal­ion, a far-right Ukrain­ian mili­tia that has been accused of har­bour­ing sym­pa­thies to neo-Nazis. Anoth­er account claims to be locat­ed in Rus­sia, near Moscow, and belongs to sev­er­al groups for fans of sex­u­al­ized Japan­ese ani­ma­tion. That account also used the heraldic eagle of the Nazis.
    ...

    So it’s clear the two were active­ly engaged in far right activ­i­ty on Steam and oth­er social media mak­ing it high­ly like­ly they were in con­tact with oth­er neo-Nazis. Was that Steam account using the Azov Bat­tal­ion logo direct­ly asso­ci­at­ed with the Azov Bat­tal­ion’s neo-Nazis or was it some oth­er ran­dom fan of Azov? That seems like a cru­cial ques­tion to answer at this point.

    Now, here’s a piece where Bry­er Schmegel­sky’s dad express­es dis­be­lief that his son could have been a neo-Nazi because his fam­i­ly fled from Ukraine dur­ing WWII and always thought of them­selves as eth­ni­cal­ly Russ­ian:

    CBC News

    B.C. homi­cide sus­pect Bry­er Schmegel­sky not a neo-Nazi, dad says
    But the want­ed 18-year-old thought Nazi mem­o­ra­bil­ia was ‘cool’

    Karin Larsen
    Post­ed: Jul 27, 2019 7:00 AM PT | Last Updat­ed: July 27

    A homi­cide sus­pect who alleged­ly sent pho­tographs of a swasti­ka arm­band and a Hitler Youth knife to an online friend was not a Nazi sym­pa­thiz­er, but he did think the mem­o­ra­bil­ia was “cool,” says his father.

    The pho­tographs also show Bry­er Schmegel­sky, 18, in mil­i­tary fatigues, hold­ing an Air­soft repli­ca rifle and wear­ing a gas mask.

    The man is a sus­pect along with Kam McLeod, 19, in two homi­cides in North­ern British Colum­bia.

    Alan Schmegel­sky said that his son took him to an Army Sur­plus store eight months ago in his home­town of Port Alberni, B.C., and that Bry­er was excit­ed about the Nazi items there.

    “I was dis­gust­ed and dragged him out,” Schmegel­sky said. “My grand­par­ents fled the Ukraine with three small chil­dren dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.”

    The teens are charged with sec­ond-degree mur­der in the death of Uni­ver­si­ty of British Colum­bia botany lec­tur­er Leonard Dyck and are sus­pects in the fatal shoot­ings of Chyn­na Deese and Lucas Fowler, all in North­ern B.C.

    The search for the two men is focused on the thick and bog­gy forests of north­east­ern Man­i­to­ba.

    Despite his son’s fas­ci­na­tion with the items, Schmegel­sky said he did­n’t believe Bry­er iden­ti­fied as a neo-Nazi.

    “He thought he was Russ­ian. Ger­mans are their ene­mies,” he said.

    But Evan Bal­go­rd, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Cana­di­an Anti-Hate Net­work, won­ders why some­one who relates to Rus­sia and com­mu­nism — as has been report­ed else­where — would cov­et Nazi items.

    ‘Swasti­ka rep­re­sents one thing’

    “That real­ly does­n’t hold water when he’s full-on wear­ing a swasti­ka arm band and has swasti­ka-embla­zoned weapon­ry,” said Bal­go­rd. “There is clear­ly some neo-Nazism thing going on here.”

    “The swasti­ka real­ly only rep­re­sents the one thing today and that is white suprema­cy. It’s hatred tar­get­ing pri­mar­i­ly Jews, but all sorts of oth­er peo­ple. The Nazis did not only tar­get Jews in their geno­cide.”
    ...

    ———-
    “B.C. homi­cide sus­pect Bry­er Schmegel­sky not a neo-Nazi, dad says” by Karin Larsen, CBC News, 07/27/2019

    “Alan Schmegel­sky said that his son took him to an Army Sur­plus store eight months ago in his home­town of Port Alberni, B.C., and that Bry­er was excit­ed about the Nazi items there.”

    The father was dis­turbed by his son’s excite­ment about the Nazi items, but he still could­n’t believe his son was actu­al­ly becom­ing a believ­er in Nazi ide­ol­o­gy:

    ...

    “I was dis­gust­ed and dragged him out,” Schmegel­sky said. “My grand­par­ents fled the Ukraine with three small chil­dren dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.”

    The teens are charged with sec­ond-degree mur­der in the death of Uni­ver­si­ty of British Colum­bia botany lec­tur­er Leonard Dyck and are sus­pects in the fatal shoot­ings of Chyn­na Deese and Lucas Fowler, all in North­ern B.C.

    The search for the two men is focused on the thick and bog­gy forests of north­east­ern Man­i­to­ba.

    Despite his son’s fas­ci­na­tion with the items, Schmegel­sky said he did­n’t believe Bry­er iden­ti­fied as a neo-Nazi.

    “He thought he was Russ­ian. Ger­mans are their ene­mies,” he said.

    But Evan Bal­go­rd, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Cana­di­an Anti-Hate Net­work, won­ders why some­one who relates to Rus­sia and com­mu­nism — as has been report­ed else­where — would cov­et Nazi items.
    ...

    And that all makes fam­i­ly back­ground of Bry­er Schmegel­sky an intrigu­ing part of this sto­ry, because if Schmegel­sky real­ly did grow up in a fam­i­ly that saw itself as eth­nic Russ­ian Ukraini­ans who taught the kids that the Nazis were the ene­my it’s a demon­stra­tion of the pow­er of online pro­pa­gan­da that a kid from that fam­i­ly could end up going on a neo-Nazi-inspired mur­der spree. But that’s what evi­dence is point­ing towards at this point.

    So that’s the update on the two recent sprees involv­ing young neo-Nazis. In both cas­es, there’s no read­i­ly dis­cernible motive for the killings. Oth­er than the fact that neo-Nazis appear to feel that mass killings are a great adver­tise­ment for their cause.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 29, 2019, 3:01 pm
  2. @Pterrafractyl–

    Yes, indeed, and “Might Is Right” also has links to: Anton LaVey, Katia Lane (wife of David Lane of the Order and 14 Words fame) and Michael Moyni­han.

    This is part of the vile Fer­al House milieu.

    http://spitfirelist.com/for-the-record/ftr-437-counter-culture-fascism/

    Excerpt:

    ” . . .Among the fel­low trav­ellers of LaVey are peo­ple who espouse Odin­ist reli­gion. With­in that milieu, in turn, are peo­ple of a tru­ly mur­der­ous bent. Note the pres­ence in this Satanist/Nazi milieu of the wife of con­vict­ed Order mur­der­er David Lane. (For more about The Order, see—among oth­er programs—FTR#’s 89, 386, 399, and the var­i­ous pro­grams dis­cussing the top­ics of OJ Simp­son case, the Okla­homa City bomb­ing, and Serpent’s Walk. Impor­tant back­ground infor­ma­tion on The Order can be obtained from RFA’s 10–13—available from Spit­fire.)

    . . . LaVey, who is often only seen as a lib­er­tar­i­an mav­er­ick, called for a new kind of fas­cism in a 1994 inter­view with Michael Moyni­han in Sec­onds. Moynihan’s essay, ‘The Faus­t­ian Spir­it of Fas­cism,’ was also pub­lished in the Church of Satan’s mag­a­zine, The Black Flame. LaVey even con­tributed an intro­duc­tion to a new edi­tion of ‘Rag­nar Redbeard’s Might is Right, a Niet­zschean and Social Dar­win­ist tract first pub­lished in 1896 which LaVey had lib­er­al­ly pla­gia­rized in his own book, The Satan­ic Bible. The edi­tor of the new edi­tion of Might is Right is list­ed as Katia Lane. She is the wife of David Lane, an Odin­ist leader of the high-pro­file far right para­mil­i­tary group called the Order, who is now serv­ing a life sen­tence for con­spir­ing to mur­der a Den­ver radio per­son­al­i­ty named Alan Berg

    (Idem.)

    17. The after­word of Might is Right (edit­ed by the wife of con­vict­ed Order killer David Lane) was penned by George Hawthorne, head of the Ra Ho Wa racist musi­cal group. After­word author George Hawthorne is also the founder of Resis­tance Records, now owned by the Nation­al Alliance. (For more about Resis­tance Records and the Nation­al Alliance, see FTR#211.) Before being appro­pri­at­ed by the Nation­al Alliance, Resis­tance Records was dis­trib­uted by the fas­cist Lib­er­ty Lob­by. In charge of this dis­tri­b­u­tion was Todd Blod­gett, a for­mer Rea­gan White House staff mem­ber. (For more about the Nazi under­pin­nings of the Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion, see—among oth­er programs—FTR#’s 180, 332, 421.)

    The author of Might is Right‘s after­word is, arguably, even more; ‘dev­il­ish’ than LaVey. He is none oth­er than George Hawthorne, head of the white racist musi­cal group Ra Ho Wa (Racial Holy War) and founder of Resis­tance Records, whom Michael Moyni­han inter­viewed for Sec­onds and The Black Flame, Moyni­han is also thanked in the new edi­tion of Might is Right for help­ing make the book pos­si­ble.

    (Idem.)

    18. Pro­mot­ing and extolling Charles Man­son, the Abraxas milieu came into con­tact with James Mason, among oth­er mem­bers of the Amer­i­can Nazi Par­ty.) “In the mid-1980’s, Adam Par­frey formed Amok Press, the pre­cur­sor to Fer­al House, with Ken Swezey of the Amok cat­a­log. Amok’s first book, Michael, was an Eng­lish trans­la­tion of Nazi Prpa­gan­da Min­is­ter Joseph Goebbels’ sole nov­el. Parfrey’s next book, Apoc­a­lypse Cul­ture was fol­lowed in 1988 by The Man­son File, which was edit­ed by Niko­las Schreck (the boyfriend of LaVey’s daugh­ter Zeena) in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Boyd Rice and oth­ers. Rice reg­u­lar­ly vis­it­ed Man­son, and even cam­paigned to get him released from jail through an Abraxas spin-off called the Friends of Jus­tice.” (Idem.) . . .”

    Great stuff.

    Keep up the great work!

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | July 29, 2019, 5:41 pm
  3. Oh look at that: The FBI just arrest­ed a mem­ber of the US army for plan­ning domes­tic ter­ror attacks. The army pri­vate, Jar­rett Wil­iam Smith, was charged with one count of dis­trib­ut­ing infor­ma­tion relat­ed to explo­sives and weapons of mass destruc­tion. Using the encrypt­ed mes­sag­ing app Telegram, Smith dis­cussed with an under­cov­er FBI agent his plans for a car bomb attack against an unnamed major cable news net­work’s head­quar­ters and dis­trib­uted bomb-mak­ing mate­ri­als. He also talked about attacks against mem­bers of antifa and inter­est­ed in find­ing like-mind­ed indi­vid­u­als to help him.

    And, sur­prise!, it turns out Smith has been in con­tact with the Azov Bat­tal­ion. Yep. As ear­ly as 2016, Smith talked about trav­el­ing to Ukraine to join Azov. He joined the US mil­i­tary instead in June of 2017. After join­ing the mil­i­tary, Smith used Face­book to con­nect with anoth­er Amer­i­can who had trav­eled to Ukraine in 2017 to 2019 to fight with group sim­i­lar to Azov (so pre­sum­ably anoth­er neo-Nazi mili­tia). This unnamed Amer­i­ca report­ed­ly act­ed as Smith’s men­tor. So we’ve hit the point where the for­eign extrem­ists who have trav­eled to Ukraine are already act­ing as men­tors for a next wave of for­eign extrem­ists. In this case, for­eign extrem­ists who hap­pen to be Amer­i­cans includ­ing an aspir­ing domes­tic ter­ror­ist:

    Vice News

    The FBI Just Arrest­ed a U.S. Army Sol­dier on Charges of Plot­ting to Bomb a Major News Net­work
    “This is a Mid­dle East style bomb,” he alleged­ly wrote to an under­cov­er agent.

    by Tess Owen
    Sep 23 2019, 12:58pm

    The FBI arrest­ed a mem­ber of the U.S. Army who alleged­ly plot­ted to bomb a major news net­work and shared bomb-mak­ing infor­ma­tion online.

    Jar­rett William Smith, a 24-year-old sol­dier sta­tioned at Fort Riley, Kansas, was charged with one count of dis­trib­ut­ing infor­ma­tion relat­ed to explo­sives and weapons of mass destruc­tion. As ear­ly as 2016, he also dis­cussed join­ing the thou­sands of men trav­el­ing to Ukraine to fight along­side the far-right para­mil­i­tary group Azov Bat­tal­ion, accord­ing to the FBI.

    “This is a Mid­dle East–style bomb that, if big enough or con­nect­ed to the right explo­sive, can dam­age or destroy U.S. mil­i­tary vehi­cles,” Smith told an under­cov­er FBI agent of car bombs, accord­ing to court doc­u­ments. “Most of the time, it can oblit­er­ate civil­ian vehi­cles and peo­ple near­by.”

    Smith had risen to the lev­el of pri­vate first class infantry sol­dier since join­ing the Army in June 2017. If con­vict­ed on the cur­rent charges, he could get up to 20 years in fed­er­al prison and a max­i­mum fine of $250,000.

    After join­ing the mil­i­tary, Smith con­nect­ed with an Amer­i­can man on Face­book who had already trav­eled to Ukraine between 2017 and 2019 to fight with a group sim­i­lar to Azov, accord­ing to the FBI. The man posi­tioned him­self as Smith’s men­tor and was help­ing him pre­pare to trav­el to Ukraine.

    Court doc­u­ments include excerpts of a Face­book con­ver­sa­tion between Smith, the Amer­i­can man, and oth­ers, from Octo­ber 2018 — after Smith had enlist­ed in the Army. In the con­ver­sa­tion, Smith brags about his abil­i­ty to trans­form cell phones into explo­sive devices “in the style of Afghans.” He then pro­vides them instruc­tions about how to do it.

    On August 19, Smith unwit­ting­ly spoke with an under­cov­er FBI agent online and told him that he was hop­ing to meet like-mind­ed “rad­i­cals” and aspired to kill mem­bers of antifa. He was also con­sid­er­ing tar­get­ing cell tow­ers or a local news sta­tion, accord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

    Days lat­er, he’d set­tled on his cho­sen tar­get: He want­ed to attack the head­quar­ters of a major Amer­i­can news net­work using a car bomb. The court doc­u­ments don’t reveal which net­work he want­ed to tar­get. Then, last Fri­day, he talked to an under­cov­er agent on Telegram and dis­cussed specifics on how to build a car bomb.

    Smith was arrest­ed over the week­end and admit­ted to FBI agents that he knows how to make explo­sive devices and rou­tine­ly pro­vides instruc­tion on how to build those devices online.

    “He admit­ted that he pro­vides this infor­ma­tion even to indi­vid­u­als who tell him they intend to use the infor­ma­tion to cause harm to oth­ers,” one FBI agent wrote. “Smith stat­ed that he did this to cauase ‘chaos.’ He told me that if chaos results in the death of peo­ple, even through infor­ma­tion he pro­vid­ed, it does­n’t affect him.”

    Smith’s arrest came only days after DHS for­mal­ly rec­og­nized white nation­al­ism as a seri­ous nation­al secu­ri­ty threat and unveiled a new coun­tert­er­ror­ism strat­e­gy to com­bat it. Since April, Con­gress has held sev­en hear­ings about the now-glob­al threat. Ear­li­er this month, for­mer FBI agent Ali Soufan, who runs the glob­al secu­ri­ty firm the Soufan Cen­ter, tes­ti­fied that 17,000 for­eign­ers, includ­ing from the U.S. have trav­eled to Ukraine in recent years to gain para­mil­i­tary skills there. They fought along­side far-right groups like Azov and were return­ing home with those new skills.

    Smith’s case is yet anoth­er exam­ple of how cur­rent and for­mer U.S. ser­vice mem­bers have alleged­ly been recruit­ed or rad­i­cal­ized by far-right extrem­ists. Sev­en mem­bers of the U.S. mil­i­tary were out­ed ear­li­er this year as mem­bers of Iden­ti­ty Evropa, a white nation­al­ist group that cul­ti­vates a prep­py aes­thet­ic in an effort to go main­stream. In anoth­er case, a Coast Guard lieu­tenant and for­mer marine was alleged­ly plot­ting a large-scale attack against Demo­c­ra­t­ic law­mak­ers and jour­nal­ists. He was arrest­ed ear­li­er this year on gun and drug charges. And, active duty ser­vice mem­bers were found to be involved with Atom­waf­fen, a vio­lent neo-Nazi group.

    ...

    ———-

    “The FBI Just Arrest­ed a U.S. Army Sol­dier on Charges of Plot­ting to Bomb a Major News Net­work” by Tess Owen; Vice News; 09/23/2019

    “Jar­rett William Smith, a 24-year-old sol­dier sta­tioned at Fort Riley, Kansas, was charged with one count of dis­trib­ut­ing infor­ma­tion relat­ed to explo­sives and weapons of mass destruc­tion. As ear­ly as 2016, he also dis­cussed join­ing the thou­sands of men trav­el­ing to Ukraine to fight along­side the far-right para­mil­i­tary group Azov Bat­tal­ion, accord­ing to the FBI.

    So the guy has an inter­est in join­ing a neo-Nazi group in Ukraine, but instead he joins the US army and net­works online with an Amer­i­can who trav­eled to Ukraine to join a dif­fer­ent extrem­ist group. It’s an exam­ple of how the influ­ence of the far right groups oper­at­ing in Ukraine does­n’t rely on peo­ple actu­al­ly trav­el­ing to Ukraine with the inter­net and encrypt­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tion apps. And Smith does­n’t need to trav­el to Ukraine to share his bomb-mak­ing knowl­edge. He was read­i­ly shar­ing that infor­ma­tion online...in this case with an under­cov­er FBI agent which is what led to his arrest. But it’s clear he’s been com­mu­ni­ca­tion with a num­ber of oth­er peo­ple online so who knows how many peo­ple he’s been shar­ing this knowl­edge with:

    ...
    “This is a Mid­dle East–style bomb that, if big enough or con­nect­ed to the right explo­sive, can dam­age or destroy U.S. mil­i­tary vehi­cles,” Smith told an under­cov­er FBI agent of car bombs, accord­ing to court doc­u­ments. “Most of the time, it can oblit­er­ate civil­ian vehi­cles and peo­ple near­by.”

    Smith had risen to the lev­el of pri­vate first class infantry sol­dier since join­ing the Army in June 2017. If con­vict­ed on the cur­rent charges, he could get up to 20 years in fed­er­al prison and a max­i­mum fine of $250,000.

    After join­ing the mil­i­tary, Smith con­nect­ed with an Amer­i­can man on Face­book who had already trav­eled to Ukraine between 2017 and 2019 to fight with a group sim­i­lar to Azov, accord­ing to the FBI. The man posi­tioned him­self as Smith’s men­tor and was help­ing him pre­pare to trav­el to Ukraine.

    Court doc­u­ments include excerpts of a Face­book con­ver­sa­tion between Smith, the Amer­i­can man, and oth­ers, from Octo­ber 2018 — after Smith had enlist­ed in the Army. In the con­ver­sa­tion, Smith brags about his abil­i­ty to trans­form cell phones into explo­sive devices “in the style of Afghans.” He then pro­vides them instruc­tions about how to do it.

    On August 19, Smith unwit­ting­ly spoke with an under­cov­er FBI agent online and told him that he was hop­ing to meet like-mind­ed “rad­i­cals” and aspired to kill mem­bers of antifa. He was also con­sid­er­ing tar­get­ing cell tow­ers or a local news sta­tion, accord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

    Days lat­er, he’d set­tled on his cho­sen tar­get: He want­ed to attack the head­quar­ters of a major Amer­i­can news net­work using a car bomb. The court doc­u­ments don’t reveal which net­work he want­ed to tar­get. Then, last Fri­day, he talked to an under­cov­er agent on Telegram and dis­cussed specifics on how to build a car bomb.

    ...

    And keep in mind that that arrest is giv­ing us a pre­view of the kind of dam­age that just one per­son with mil­i­tary train­ing could cre­ate. As for­mer FBI agent Ali Soufan recent­ly tes­ti­fied before Con­gress, there’s an esti­mat­ed 17,000 for­eign fights who have trav­eled to Ukraine to gain para­mil­i­tary expe­ri­ence:

    ...
    Smith’s arrest came only days after DHS for­mal­ly rec­og­nized white nation­al­ism as a seri­ous nation­al secu­ri­ty threat and unveiled a new coun­tert­er­ror­ism strat­e­gy to com­bat it. Since April, Con­gress has held sev­en hear­ings about the now-glob­al threat. Ear­li­er this month, for­mer FBI agent Ali Soufan, who runs the glob­al secu­ri­ty firm the Soufan Cen­ter, tes­ti­fied that 17,000 for­eign­ers, includ­ing from the U.S. have trav­eled to Ukraine in recent years to gain para­mil­i­tary skills there. They fought along­side far-right groups like Azov and were return­ing home with those new skills.
    ...

    So with that chill­ing num­ber of 17,000 for­eign fight­ers — gain­ing para­mil­i­tary expe­ri­ence while they cre­ate a glob­al net­work of far right extrem­ists — in mind, here’s a Vice piece from back in July that reminds us that Ukraine real­ly is becom­ing a kind of nexus for the inter­na­tion­al far right. Which is pre­cise­ly what the Azov Bat­tal­ion has been overt­ly work­ing on doing all along:

    Vice News

    Far-Right Extrem­ists Have Been Using Ukraine’s War as a Train­ing Ground. They’re Return­ing Home.
    “I believe Europe is in great dan­ger”

    by Tim Hume
    Jul 31 2019, 11:46am

    Five years on, Mikael Skillt still does­n’t know exact­ly what made him leave his con­struc­tion job and his girl­friend to fight in the war in Ukraine.

    “I’ve done tons of soul-search­ing, and the more I think about it, the less I know why I came,” the 43-year-old told VICE News.

    But an unde­ni­able part of the draw was that Ukrain­ian ultra­na­tion­al­ists, many with bare­ly dis­guised neo-Nazi or white suprema­cist views, had been a dri­ving force in the rev­o­lu­tion. Skillt, at the time a noto­ri­ous Swedish neo-Nazi with a 20-year his­to­ry in the extreme-right scene, felt com­pelled to join their fight.

    “All guys who seek adven­ture dream about this, to cre­ate his­to­ry,” he said.

    Skillt missed the rev­o­lu­tion, arriv­ing in Kyiv a few days after the ouster of Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych. Instead, he got a war. A Krem­lin-backed sep­a­ratist move­ment soon swept across the Don­bas, Ukraine’s south­east­ern region bor­der­ing Rus­sia. Skillt, who had served for five years in Sweden’s Nation­al Home Guard, signed up to fight with the Azov Bat­tal­ion, a new­ly formed far-right mili­tia with deep neo-Nazi ties, and head­ed for the front lines.

    Through­out 2014 and 2015 he served as a com­bat sniper for Azov, fight­ing in major bat­tles in Mar­i­upol, Marin­ka, Ilo­vaisk and Shy­rokyne. “I man­aged to get most of the big ones,” he told VICE News.

    Though he’s since dis­avowed his far-right beliefs, he says he still gets chills when he thinks of his time at the front.

    “This broth­er­hood which comes when you share life and death, it’s a poi­son. I’ve nev­er been a drug user, but I can imag­ine the feel­ing is pret­ty much the same.”

    Skillt is just one of many far-right extrem­ists, esti­mat­ed to num­ber between the hun­dreds and the low thou­sands, who have flocked to east­ern Ukraine to take up arms since fight­ing erupt­ed in 2014. Hail­ing from across Europe, North and South Amer­i­ca, and as far away as Aus­tralia, they’re drawn by the oppor­tu­ni­ty to fight along­side oth­er right-wing rad­i­cals on either side of the con­flict. Many see the bat­tle as a cru­cial train­ing ground for the defense of white Europe, where they can forge deep inter­na­tion­al links and gain com­bat expe­ri­ence they believe will be crit­i­cal at home.

    When they return home, they’re bat­tle-hard­ened and more rad­i­cal­ized than ever, researchers say, and often fly below the radar of secu­ri­ty ser­vices more focused on the return­ing jiha­di threat.

    “I believe Europe is in great dan­ger,” Alber­to Tes­ta, an expert on far-right rad­i­cal­iza­tion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of West Lon­don, told VICE News. He said east­ern Ukraine had become a crit­i­cal stag­ing ground for the inter­na­tion­al “white jihad strug­gle” of the far right, where extrem­ists could “train for what some would call racial holy war.”

    Researchers warn that Ukraine is rad­i­cal­iz­ing far-right for­eign fight­ers in the same way Syr­ia has with jihadis — albeit on a small­er scale — cre­at­ing a glob­al net­work of com­bat-test­ed extrem­ists who pose a secu­ri­ty threat that is now begin­ning to man­i­fest itself.

    “We’re very con­cerned,” said Mol­lie Salt­skog, an intel­li­gence ana­lyst at strate­gic con­sul­tan­cy firm The Soufan Group, who has tracked the mobi­liza­tion of far-right for­eign fight­ers. “You have indi­vid­u­als who are bat­tle-hard­ened, prob­a­bly more rad­i­cal­ized than before they left. You have a glob­al net­work of vio­lent white suprema­cists now who can eas­i­ly keep in touch on dif­fer­ent plat­forms and go back home, spread that pro­pa­gan­da, con­duct train­ing — or move on to the next fight.”

    An over­looked threat

    West­ern secu­ri­ty ser­vices haven’t tak­en the far-right for­eign fight­er threat seri­ous­ly enough, said Daniel Koehler, direc­tor of the Ger­man Insti­tute for Rad­i­cal­iza­tion and Derad­i­cal­iza­tion Stud­ies, large­ly because they’ve over­whelm­ing­ly focused on jihadist for­eign fight­ers return­ing from Syr­ia and Iraq in recent years.

    “It seems that intel­li­gence agen­cies have not regard­ed them as even remote­ly as much of a risk as the jihadist fight­ers,” Koehler told VICE News.

    But that’s slow­ly start­ed to change, as fight­ers return­ing from Ukraine make their pres­ence felt at home.

    Ear­li­er this month, Ital­ian police inves­ti­gat­ing a net­work of far-right rad­i­cals who had fought in Ukraine uncov­ered a mas­sive trove of mil­i­tary-grade weapon­ry, includ­ing an 11-foot air-to-air mis­sile and rock­et launch­ers. Since Jan­u­ary, return­ing for­eign fight­ers dis­play­ing sep­a­ratist flags from the con­flict have sur­faced in France’s vio­lent “yel­low vests” protests.

    In May 2018, Ukraine con­vict­ed a French far-right extrem­ist for plot­ting a string of ter­ror attacks against tar­gets, includ­ing a mosque and a syn­a­gogue, in France. Author­i­ties said the 27-year-old had been caught attempt­ing to smug­gle a huge cache of weapons back to France that he had report­ed­ly acquired through mil­i­tants in the country’s bat­tle-scarred east.

    And in 2017, Swedish neo-Nazis car­ried out a bomb attack on refugee hous­ing in Gothen­burg. Accord­ing to reports, the attack­ers had received para­mil­i­tary train­ing from an ultra­na­tion­al­ist Russ­ian group that recruit­ed and trained vol­un­teers to fight for the sep­a­ratists.

    Train­ing for race war

    The extrem­ists have been drawn into the con­flict through a savvy recruit­ing net­work that appeals to like-mind­ed rad­i­cals on social media and in real-world meet-ups, estab­lish­ing the con­flict as a major ral­ly­ing cause for far-right net­works around the globe.

    Azov, in par­tic­u­lar, has pro­duced ISIS-like pro­pa­gan­da videos, dis­trib­uted pam­phlets at neo-Nazi con­certs in West­ern Europe, and sent speak­ers to far-right con­fer­ences in Scan­di­navia. Though the group denies it is neo-Nazi, and pub­licly stat­ed in 2014 that “only 10 to 20 per­cent” of its forces iden­ti­fied as neo-Nazis, its first com­man­der and now leader of its polit­i­cal wing has a his­to­ry in neo-Nazi groups. Their recruit­ment efforts have tar­get­ed far-right net­works, includ­ing explic­it pitch­es of the war as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to gain bat­tle­field expe­ri­ence that can be passed on mil­i­tants at home.

    “There’s a world­wide con­cern across the far right about Euro­pean coun­tries los­ing their white majori­ties through immi­gra­tion,” Mar­i­lyn Mayo, senior research fel­low at the Anti-Defama­tion League’s Cen­ter on Extrem­ism, told VICE News. “There’s a sense that there’s a bat­tle brew­ing to pre­serve white Euro­pean cul­ture, and that’s where the desire for learn­ing com­bat skills comes in.”

    Joachim Furholm, a Nor­we­gian neo-Nazi and recruiter for Azov, used an inter­view with a U.S. white nation­al­ist out­let last year to encour­age U.S. extrem­ists to join him.

    “I came to lead a small group of vol­un­teers from all over the West, gain some mil­i­tary expe­ri­ence, and hope­ful­ly be able to send some of these guys back home to pass on their skills and their knowl­edge,” he told Radio Wehrwolf.

    In the inter­view, uncov­ered by the inves­tiga­tive web­site Belling­cat, Furholm said their efforts would also help white nation­al­ist forces in the one coun­try where he believed they had the best shot of com­ing to pow­er.

    “It’s like a Petri dish for fas­cism… and they do have seri­ous inten­tions of help­ing the rest of Europe in retak­ing our right­ful lands,” he said.

    Experts esti­mate hun­dreds, if not thou­sands, of far-right for­eign fight­ers have par­tic­i­pat­ed in Ukraine’s war, fight­ing on both Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist and pro-Russ­ian sep­a­ratist sides of a con­flict that has seethed since Krem­lin-backed sep­a­ratists rose up in 2014.

    Kacper Rekawek, head of defense and secu­ri­ty pro­grams at Slovakia’s Glob­sec think tank, said some recruits had seemed indif­fer­ent about which side they actu­al­ly fought on.

    “Some­times it’s a mat­ter of acci­dent whether a fight­er ends up on side A or side B,” said Rekawek, who has exten­sive­ly inter­viewed for­eign fight­ers. “They just want to take them­selves to war, get this rush of adren­a­line.”

    The fight­ers apply a dizzy­ing array of ide­o­log­i­cal lens­es to the con­flict to jus­ti­fy their involve­ment on either side.

    Those who joined the Ukrain­ian far-right mili­tia typ­i­cal­ly saw them­selves as sup­port­ing fel­low Euro­pean ultra­na­tion­al­ists against Russ­ian aggres­sion. Rekawek said the Swedish neo-Nazis who joined on the Ukrain­ian side saw it as essen­tial­ly “the con­tin­u­a­tion of the Sec­ond World War on the east­ern front. You are white Europe and you’re fight­ing Asia, in the form of Rus­sia.” In some tru­ly baf­fling instances, extreme-right Rus­sians fought along­side Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists against sep­a­ratist forces backed by the Krem­lin, he said.

    Mean­while, far-right for­eign fight­ers who joined pro-Russ­ian sep­a­ratists saw the bat­tle as defend­ing the sep­a­ratists’ right to self-deter­mi­na­tion against West­ern impe­ri­al­ism. Many were also drawn by a sense of alle­giance to Vladimir Putin, lion­ized by many on the far right as one of the last defend­ers of a white tra­di­tion­al­ist Chris­t­ian Europe.

    “On the pro-Russ­ian side, there didn’t seem to be such a coher­ent ide­o­log­i­cal agen­da,” said Sara Meger, a lec­tur­er in inter­na­tion­al rela­tions at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mel­bourne. While most of the for­eign fight­ers on the Ukrain­ian side were on a spec­trum from right to extreme right, those back­ing the sep­a­ratist side found them­selves fight­ing along­side a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of far-left for­eign vol­un­teers, who shared their view of the con­flict as “a strug­gle against U.S. hege­mo­ny.”

    Rekawek said the divid­ed loy­al­ties of the far right when it came to the Ukraine con­flict meant that col­leagues from the far-right scene in Europe often wound up on oppos­ing sides of the front lines. “These guys all know each oth­er from before,” he said.

    Car­o­lus Löfroos, a 30-year-old Finnish-Swedish dual nation­al who also fought for Azov in 2015 and 2017, told VICE News he had a cor­dial rela­tion­ship with a cou­ple of acquain­tances who fought for the oppos­ing side.

    “Sure, I think they’re fuc king dumb,” he said. “But at least they’re act­ing on what they believe is right, even if they’re exposed to dan­ger in doing so, which is some­thing I can respect.”

    Löfroos said while his opin­ions had “always been on the right side of the spec­trum,” he con­sid­ers him­self apo­lit­i­cal, and reject­ed the sug­ges­tion that Azov had neo-Nazi pol­i­tics. “I dont care if peo­ple call me far-right, Nazi or what­ev­er. I want­ed to fight... and Azov was at the time the sound­est choice of unit to aim at for doing so.”

    ...

    The net­work

    For many far-right for­eign fight­ers drawn to Ukraine, the out­come of the war is almost a sec­ondary con­sid­er­a­tion to oth­er, more com­pelling, pull fac­tors.

    Rekawek said Ukraine ful­filled the need, expressed by many ide­o­logues on the extreme right, for a “safe space” for Nazis out­side the West, where they could net­work and orga­nize beyond the pry­ing eyes of domes­tic secu­ri­ty ser­vices.

    Some, like Löfroos, sim­ply want­ed to fight. Speak­ing of his return to the bat­tle­field out­side Donet­sk in 2017, the for­mer sol­dier described it in terms that made it sound like a gap year or work­ing hol­i­day.

    “I returned… to see some old friends, see how the war pro­gressed, and do some fight­ing for strict­ly recre­ation­al pur­pos­es,” he told VICE News. “War is like a phi­los­o­phy and sci­ence that is pleas­ant to study.”

    Through the influ­ence of Azov, in par­tic­u­lar, Ukraine has increas­ing­ly played just such a role, emerg­ing as a key hub in a transna­tion­al extreme-right net­work. Since first form­ing in 2014 as a vol­un­teer mili­tia com­mand­ed by the for­mer leader of a neo-Nazi par­ty, with mem­bers drawn from the hooli­gan scene, Azov has devel­oped into an increas­ing­ly pow­er­ful three-head­ed beast. Ole­na Semenya­ka, Azov’s inter­na­tion­al sec­re­tary, boast­ed last year that the move­ment had “become a small state [with]in the state.”

    Along­side the bat­tal­ion, which has been for­mal­ly incor­po­rat­ed into Ukraine’s nation­al mil­i­tary, it also boasts a polit­i­cal wing and a vig­i­lante street move­ment, which has been linked to attacks on pride events and Romany camps. (The U.S., which pro­vides mil­i­tary sup­port to Ukraine, has offi­cial­ly banned Azov from receiv­ing any mil­i­tary aid due to its white suprema­cist ide­ol­o­gy.)

    Azov, which did not respond to VICE News’ requests for com­ment, has also cul­ti­vat­ed strong links with far-right polit­i­cal groups across Europe. Researchers say the move­ment now plays a key role in a dan­ger­ous extrem­ist net­work draw­ing new recruits from neo-Nazi mixed mar­tial arts and hooli­gan scenes.

    Its influ­ence has extend­ed as far as the Unit­ed States. In 2018, three mem­bers of the vio­lent, Cal­i­for­nia-based white nation­al­ist group Rise Above Move­ment trav­eled to meet with Azov rep­re­sen­ta­tives dur­ing a con­tact-build­ing tiki-tour across the Euro­pean far right, even par­tic­i­pat­ing in a cage fight at an Azov-affil­i­at­ed fight club.

    Skillt, who today lives in Kyiv, has since pub­licly renounced his far-right alle­giances. But he says the war’s impact on for­eign fight­ers should not be under­es­ti­mat­ed.

    “Just hav­ing that expe­ri­ence makes you more dan­ger­ous,” he said. “If you’ve been under fire and you have enough train­ing, then you’ll react on basic instinct.”

    ———-

    “Far-Right Extrem­ists Have Been Using Ukraine’s War as a Train­ing Ground. They’re Return­ing Home.” by Tim Hume; Vice News; 07/31/2019

    “Researchers warn that Ukraine is rad­i­cal­iz­ing far-right for­eign fight­ers in the same way Syr­ia has with jihadis — albeit on a small­er scale — cre­at­ing a glob­al net­work of com­bat-test­ed extrem­ists who pose a secu­ri­ty threat that is now begin­ning to man­i­fest itself.”

    A glob­al net­work of com­bat-test­ed far right extrem­ists is now a thing and Ukraine is its hub. Azov has become the ISIS of white suprema­cy. Which hap­pens to be exact­ly what Azov set out to do: make Ukraine the hub of an inter­na­tion­al net­work of com­bat-test­ed extrem­ists who can get com­bat expe­ri­ence on the bat­tle­fields of Ukraine and take that expe­ri­ence back to their home coun­tries:

    ...
    Train­ing for race war

    The extrem­ists have been drawn into the con­flict through a savvy recruit­ing net­work that appeals to like-mind­ed rad­i­cals on social media and in real-world meet-ups, estab­lish­ing the con­flict as a major ral­ly­ing cause for far-right net­works around the globe.

    Azov, in par­tic­u­lar, has pro­duced ISIS-like pro­pa­gan­da videos, dis­trib­uted pam­phlets at neo-Nazi con­certs in West­ern Europe, and sent speak­ers to far-right con­fer­ences in Scan­di­navia. Though the group denies it is neo-Nazi, and pub­licly stat­ed in 2014 that “only 10 to 20 per­cent” of its forces iden­ti­fied as neo-Nazis, its first com­man­der and now leader of its polit­i­cal wing has a his­to­ry in neo-Nazi groups. Their recruit­ment efforts have tar­get­ed far-right net­works, includ­ing explic­it pitch­es of the war as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to gain bat­tle­field expe­ri­ence that can be passed on mil­i­tants at home.

    “There’s a world­wide con­cern across the far right about Euro­pean coun­tries los­ing their white majori­ties through immi­gra­tion,” Mar­i­lyn Mayo, senior research fel­low at the Anti-Defama­tion League’s Cen­ter on Extrem­ism, told VICE News. “There’s a sense that there’s a bat­tle brew­ing to pre­serve white Euro­pean cul­ture, and that’s where the desire for learn­ing com­bat skills comes in.”

    Joachim Furholm, a Nor­we­gian neo-Nazi and recruiter for Azov, used an inter­view with a U.S. white nation­al­ist out­let last year to encour­age U.S. extrem­ists to join him.

    “I came to lead a small group of vol­un­teers from all over the West, gain some mil­i­tary expe­ri­ence, and hope­ful­ly be able to send some of these guys back home to pass on their skills and their knowl­edge,” he told Radio Wehrwolf.

    In the inter­view, uncov­ered by the inves­tiga­tive web­site Belling­cat, Furholm said their efforts would also help white nation­al­ist forces in the one coun­try where he believed they had the best shot of com­ing to pow­er.

    “It’s like a Petri dish for fas­cism… and they do have seri­ous inten­tions of help­ing the rest of Europe in retak­ing our right­ful lands,” he said.

    ...

    The net­work

    For many far-right for­eign fight­ers drawn to Ukraine, the out­come of the war is almost a sec­ondary con­sid­er­a­tion to oth­er, more com­pelling, pull fac­tors.

    Rekawek said Ukraine ful­filled the need, expressed by many ide­o­logues on the extreme right, for a “safe space” for Nazis out­side the West, where they could net­work and orga­nize beyond the pry­ing eyes of domes­tic secu­ri­ty ser­vices.

    ...

    Through the influ­ence of Azov, in par­tic­u­lar, Ukraine has increas­ing­ly played just such a role, emerg­ing as a key hub in a transna­tion­al extreme-right net­work. Since first form­ing in 2014 as a vol­un­teer mili­tia com­mand­ed by the for­mer leader of a neo-Nazi par­ty, with mem­bers drawn from the hooli­gan scene, Azov has devel­oped into an increas­ing­ly pow­er­ful three-head­ed beast. Ole­na Semenya­ka, Azov’s inter­na­tion­al sec­re­tary, boast­ed last year that the move­ment had “become a small state [with]in the state.”
    ...

    “Ole­na Semenya­ka, Azov’s inter­na­tion­al sec­re­tary, boast­ed last year that the move­ment had “become a small state [with]in the state.””

    A “small state with­in the state.” That’s how Azov’s inter­na­tion­al sec­re­tary and spokesper­son Ole­na Semenya­ka described Azov last year. A state with­in a state where Nazis and far right fel­low trav­el­ers around the world can come and safe­ly gath­er, net­work, train, and coor­di­nate with­out fear of sur­veil­lance or harass­ment by Ukraine’s state secu­ri­ty ser­vices.

    So as the sto­ry of Jar­rett William Smith’s domes­tic ter­ror plot unfolds, keep in mind that Smith is exact­ly the kind of ‘lone wolf’ ter­ror­ist this glob­al Nazi net­work based out of Ukraine has set out to mass pro­duce.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 23, 2019, 11:25 am
  4. Here’s an update on the sto­ry of the for­mer US Army Sol­dier, Jar­ret William Smith, who was arrest­ed after dis­sem­i­nat­ing bomb-mak­ing instruc­tions and express­ing a desire to attack a major cable news head­quar­ters and kill mem­bers of antifa. Recall how, before join­ing the Army in 2017, Smith expressed a desire to trav­el to Ukraine and join the neo-Nazi Azov Bat­tal­ion. He lat­er got in con­tact with an Amer­i­can who had already trav­eled to Ukraine and joined a dif­fer­ent far right mili­tia and report­ed­ly act­ed as a kind of men­tor for Smith. We now know the iden­ti­ty of that Amer­i­can Smith was in con­tact with and which Ukrain­ian mili­tia he was involved with: Craig Lang, a 29 year old who joined Right Sec­tor.

    But there’s much more to Lang’s sto­ry. It turns out Lang is one of two Army vets impli­cat­ed in the 2018 mur­der of cou­ple in Flori­da. Lang, along with Alex Zwiefel­hofer, are accused of rob­bing and then killing the cou­ple in an effort to get mon­ey to trav­el to Venezuela to “par­tic­i­pate in an armed con­flict against the Boli­var­i­an Repub­lic of Venezuela.” Zwiefel­hofer also fought with Right Sec­tor, which he told the FBI and US Cus­toms agents in Sep­tem­ber of 2016 after he returned to the US. Lang and Zwiefel­hofer lat­er trav­eled to Kenya in an attempt to get into Sudan for the osten­si­ble pur­pose of fight­ing Al-Shabab but they were detained at the South Sudan bor­der and returned to the US.

    But Lang was­n’t exclu­sive­ly in Right Sec­tor. After leav­ing Right Sec­tor he joined the Geor­gian Nation­al Legion which is also fight­ing in Ukraine.

    Zwiefel­hofer is cur­rent­ly being held in Wis­con­sin where­as Lang is being held in Ukraine and await­ing a court hear­ing in the city of Vin­nit­sya. Lang was appar­ent­ly picked up by Ukrain­ian bor­der guards after he was return­ing from Moldo­va. It’s unclear why he was in Moldo­va but we are told Lang was detained by the Ukrain­ian offi­cials due to an inter­na­tion­al war­rant.

    We’re also told in the arti­cle below that Lang and Smith were in con­tact in 2016, which is a year before Smith joined the US Army. The pre­vi­ous Vice arti­cle stat­ed that the FBI said Smith only got into con­tact with Lang after he joined the US Army in June of 2017, but the arti­cle below indi­cates Lang was in con­tact with Smith long before that. Accord­ing to a June 23, 2016, con­ver­sa­tion between Smith and Lang, Smith wrote, “No for­mer mil­i­tary expe­ri­ence, but if I can­not find a slot in Ukraine by Octo­ber I’ll be going into the Army ... To fight is what I want to do. I’m will­ing to lis­ten, learn, and train. But to work on firearms is fine by me too.” Lang respond­ed, “Alright, I’ll for­ward you over to the guy that screens peo­ple he’ll most like­ly add you soon[ ... ] Also as a pre-warn­ing if you come to this unit and the gov­ern­ment comes to shut down the unit you will be asked to fight. You may also be asked to kill cer­tain peo­ple who become on the bad graces of cer­tain groups.” So Lang basi­cal­ly warned Smith that he joins Right Sec­tor, he might be asked to fight the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment if the gov­ern­ment decides to shut Right Sec­tor down. Lang also warns Smith that he might be asked by the group to kill peo­ple. This is a year before Smith joins the US Army in June of 2017.

    Keep in mind that Smith was arrest­ed for shar­ing bomb-mak­ing tech­ni­cal skills which he pre­sum­ably learned in the US Army and plan­ning on wag­ing a domes­tic ter­ror cam­paign in the US. So giv­en every­thing we know about this case at this point, it looks like Right Sec­tor was basi­cal­ly send­ing a poten­tial recruit into the US Army to learn the kinds of skills that would be use­ful for neo-Nazi ter­ror cam­paigns and that recruit was arrest­ed for dis­sem­i­nat­ing those skills and plan­ning exact­ly that kind of ter­ror cam­paign:

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty

    For­mer U.S. Sol­dier Who Fought With Ukrain­ian Far-Right Mili­tia Want­ed For U.S. Mur­der

    By Mike Eck­el and Christo­pher Miller
    Sep­tem­ber 26, 2019 14:31 GMT Updat­ed Sep­tem­ber 26, 2019 16:22 GMT

    A for­mer U.S. Army sol­dier who fought for a far-right Ukrain­ian para­mil­i­tary group and who has been linked to a bomb plot in the Unit­ed States has been detained in Ukraine on charges relat­ed to a dou­ble mur­der last year.

    Craig Lang, 29, is one of two Army vet­er­ans impli­cat­ed in the 2018 mur­der of a cou­ple, accord­ing to a crim­i­nal com­plaint filed in U.S. Dis­trict Court in Flori­da, where the killing occurred.

    The case is one of a grow­ing num­ber involv­ing for­mer U.S. vet­er­ans and U.S.-based extrem­ists and white suprema­cist groups who have cul­ti­vat­ed ties with Ukrain­ian right-wing groups in recent years.

    Lang, who was being held in a jail in cen­tral Ukraine as of Sep­tem­ber 26, has also been linked to anoth­er U.S. sol­dier who was arrest­ed on Sep­tem­ber 21 in Kansas, and who had asked Lang for help with trav­el­ing to Ukraine to fight for anoth­er right-wing para­mil­i­tary group.

    That sol­dier, Jar­rett William Smith, is expect­ed to make an ini­tial court appear­ance in a Kansas fed­er­al court on Sep­tem­ber 26.

    Accord­ing to the Flori­da crim­i­nal com­plaint, Lang and anoth­er for­mer U.S. Army sol­dier, Alex Zwiefel­hofer, were accused of rob­bing the Flori­da cou­ple in 2018 and then killing them in an effort to get mon­ey to trav­el to Venezuela to “par­tic­i­pate in an armed con­flict against the Boli­var­i­an Repub­lic of Venezuela.”

    The com­plaint said in Sep­tem­ber 2016, as Zwiefel­hofer was return­ing to the Unit­ed States, that he told agents from the FBI and U.S. Cus­toms that he and Lang had fought in Ukraine with a group called Right Sec­tor.

    Orig­i­nal­ly an alliance of ultra­na­tion­al­ist groups that formed dur­ing the Euro­maid­an protests in Novem­ber 2013, Right Sec­tor trans­formed into a vol­un­teer fight­ing bat­tal­ion after Rus­sia foment­ed a sep­a­ratist war in east­ern Ukraine in April 2014.

    The unit quick­ly earned a rep­u­ta­tion for being unruly as they fought along­side Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment forces. The unit even­tu­al­ly split in two, with one half brought under con­trol of the Defense Min­istry, and the oth­er remain­ing an unof­fi­cial, vol­un­teer group.

    Zwiefel­hofer and Lang lat­er trav­eled to Kenya, where they sought to fight an Al-Qae­da-linked ter­ror­ist group Al-Shabab, but they were detained there and deport­ed back to the Unit­ed States.

    The for­mer sol­diers were already on the radar of U.S. inves­ti­ga­tors after they were detained by Kenyan author­i­ties try­ing to enter South Sudan in 2017, accord­ing to the com­plaint.

    The Flori­da com­plaint said Lang and Zwiefel­hofer faced charges includ­ing con­spir­a­cy to com­mit vio­lence, but not actu­al mur­der charges in the 2018 slay­ing of the cou­ple in Flori­da.

    The com­plaint, which was unsealed ear­li­er this month in a Flori­da fed­er­al court, said Zwiefel­hofer was being held in a Wis­con­sin deten­tion cen­ter while Lang was in Ukraine.

    ‘Very Good Spe­cial­ist’

    Ihor Skrit­sky, the uncle of Lang’s Ukrain­ian girl­friend in Kyiv, who is aid­ing the Amer­i­can, told RFE/RL that, as of Sep­tem­ber 26, Lang was in a jail and await­ing a court hear­ing in the cen­tral Ukrain­ian city of Vin­nit­sya.

    Skrit­sky said that Lang has spo­ken to him about the mur­der case in Flori­da “but he denies any involve­ment.”

    Mamu­ka Mamu­lashvili, who com­mand­ed a group of pro-Kyiv for­eign fight­ers in the Geor­gian Nation­al Legion and is in touch with Skrit­sky and Lang’s part­ner, said that Ukrain­ian bor­der guards detained the Amer­i­can as he was return­ing from Moldo­va some­time in the past sev­er­al weeks.

    He told RFE/RL that bor­der guards had held Lang due to an inter­na­tion­al war­rant.

    Mamu­lashvili said that, after leav­ing Right Sec­tor, Lang joined his legion of for­eign fight­ers. He called Lang “a very good spe­cial­ist.”

    “He was not with us for long, but as a sol­dier I can’t say any­thing bad about him,” he said.

    Mamu­lashvili said that he was unaware of Lang’s trou­ble with Ukrain­ian and U.S. law enforce­ment. He said that, before fight­ing with him in east­ern Ukraine, the Ukrain­ian Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice per­formed a back­ground check on him.

    “They didn’t see any­thing wrong with the guy,” Mamu­lashvili said of the ser­vice, known as the SBU. “He was on a [Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary] con­tract.”

    ...

    Lang’s name also appeared in the crim­i­nal com­plaint filed in Kansas ear­li­er this week against Smith.

    Accord­ing to those charg­ing doc­u­ments, Smith, a 24-year old who had been sta­tioned at a near­by army base, dis­cussed on Face­book in 2016 and lat­er dates that he was inter­est­ed in trav­el­ing to Ukraine to fight with the Azov Bat­tal­ion, anoth­er para­mil­i­tary unit that has fought against Rus­sia-backed sep­a­ratists and also espous­es an ultra­na­tion­al­ist ide­ol­o­gy.

    Human rights groups have accused the Azov Bat­tal­ion of com­mit­ting war crimes.

    That com­plaint said Smith cor­re­spond­ed with Lang, as Smith sought help in trav­el­ing to Ukraine.

    In one con­ver­sa­tion dat­ed June 23, 2016, Smith wrote: “No for­mer mil­i­tary expe­ri­ence, but if I can­not find a slot in Ukraine by Octo­ber I’ll be going into the Army ... To fight is what I want to do. I’m will­ing to lis­ten, learn, and train. But to work on firearms is fine by me too.”

    Accord­ing to the com­plaint, Lang respond­ed, “Alright, I’ll for­ward you over to the guy that screens peo­ple he’ll most like­ly add you soon[ ... ] Also as a pre-warn­ing if you come to this unit and the gov­ern­ment comes to shut down the unit you will be asked to fight. You may also be asked to kill cer­tain peo­ple who become on the bad graces of cer­tain groups.

    Pros­e­cu­tors also said Smith dis­cussed a plan to kill so-called “antifa” activists, mil­i­tant left-wing activists who often engage in vio­lent oppo­si­tion to right-wing groups.

    Smith also alleged­ly described how to build a bomb that could be trig­gered using a cell phone. He also alleged­ly sug­gest­ed build­ing a car bomb and tar­get­ing an unnamed U.S. news net­work.

    The issue of U.S. white-suprema­cist orga­ni­za­tions being drawn to Ukrain­ian groups is a con­cern that was raised by U.S. law enforce­ment as recent­ly as 2017.

    That year, the FBI warned that Azov’s mil­i­tary wing is “believed to have par­tic­i­pat­ed in train­ing and rad­i­cal­iz­ing Unit­ed States-based white suprema­cy orga­ni­za­tions.” The state­ment came as part of a case against a Cal­i­for­nia man who trav­eled to the Ukrain­ian cap­i­tal, Kyiv, to par­tic­i­pate in a fight club with Ukrain­ian ultra­na­tion­al­ists.

    Host­ing fight clubs is part of Azov’s out­reach to like­mind­ed orga­ni­za­tions in the West, as RFE/RL report­ed in 2018.

    The polit­i­cal wing, called Nation­al Corps, was found­ed by the for­mer com­man­der of the Azov Bat­tal­ion, Andriy Bilet­sky. It has been labeled by the U.S. State Depart­ment as a “nation­al­ist hate group.”

    ———-

    “For­mer U.S. Sol­dier Who Fought With Ukrain­ian Far-Right Mili­tia Want­ed For U.S. Mur­der” by Mike Eck­el and Christo­pher Miller; Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty; 09/26/2019

    “The case is one of a grow­ing num­ber involv­ing for­mer U.S. vet­er­ans and U.S.-based extrem­ists and white suprema­cist groups who have cul­ti­vat­ed ties with Ukrain­ian right-wing groups in recent years.”

    Yep, the case Craig Lang and Alex Zwiefel­hofer mur­der­ing a Flori­da cou­ple is just one of grow­ing num­ber of cas­es involv­ing US extrem­ists net­work­ing with Ukrain­ian far right groups:

    ...
    Accord­ing to the Flori­da crim­i­nal com­plaint, Lang and anoth­er for­mer U.S. Army sol­dier, Alex Zwiefel­hofer, were accused of rob­bing the Flori­da cou­ple in 2018 and then killing them in an effort to get mon­ey to trav­el to Venezuela to “par­tic­i­pate in an armed con­flict against the Boli­var­i­an Repub­lic of Venezuela.”

    The com­plaint said in Sep­tem­ber 2016, as Zwiefel­hofer was return­ing to the Unit­ed States, that he told agents from the FBI and U.S. Cus­toms that he and Lang had fought in Ukraine with a group called Right Sec­tor.

    ...

    Zwiefel­hofer and Lang lat­er trav­eled to Kenya, where they sought to fight an Al-Qae­da-linked ter­ror­ist group Al-Shabab, but they were detained there and deport­ed back to the Unit­ed States.

    The for­mer sol­diers were already on the radar of U.S. inves­ti­ga­tors after they were detained by Kenyan author­i­ties try­ing to enter South Sudan in 2017, accord­ing to the com­plaint.

    The Flori­da com­plaint said Lang and Zwiefel­hofer faced charges includ­ing con­spir­a­cy to com­mit vio­lence, but not actu­al mur­der charges in the 2018 slay­ing of the cou­ple in Flori­da.

    The com­plaint, which was unsealed ear­li­er this month in a Flori­da fed­er­al court, said Zwiefel­hofer was being held in a Wis­con­sin deten­tion cen­ter while Lang was in Ukraine.
    ...

    But Lang isn’t just a for­mer mem­ber of Right Sec­tor. He also appar­ent­ly briefly joined the Geor­gian Nation­al Legion which is also oper­at­ing in Ukraine:

    ...
    Ihor Skrit­sky, the uncle of Lang’s Ukrain­ian girl­friend in Kyiv, who is aid­ing the Amer­i­can, told RFE/RL that, as of Sep­tem­ber 26, Lang was in a jail and await­ing a court hear­ing in the cen­tral Ukrain­ian city of Vin­nit­sya.

    Skrit­sky said that Lang has spo­ken to him about the mur­der case in Flori­da “but he denies any involve­ment.”

    Mamu­ka Mamu­lashvili, who com­mand­ed a group of pro-Kyiv for­eign fight­ers in the Geor­gian Nation­al Legion and is in touch with Skrit­sky and Lang’s part­ner, said that Ukrain­ian bor­der guards detained the Amer­i­can as he was return­ing from Moldo­va some­time in the past sev­er­al weeks.

    He told RFE/RL that bor­der guards had held Lang due to an inter­na­tion­al war­rant.

    Mamu­lashvili said that, after leav­ing Right Sec­tor, Lang joined his legion of for­eign fight­ers. He called Lang “a very good spe­cial­ist.”

    “He was not with us for long, but as a sol­dier I can’t say any­thing bad about him,” he said.
    ...

    This is a good time to recall the tes­ti­monies by five Geor­gians who were at the Maid­an in 2014 about how they received weapons and instruc­tions from Geor­gian politi­cians and far right fig­ures (includ­ing an ex-US Army sniper) to fire on both the police and pro­tes­tors and that they wit­nessed Right Sec­tor-linked snipers shoot­ing from Maid­an pro­test­er-con­trolled build­ings.

    Final­ly, we’re learn­ing that Lang was in con­tact with Smith as ear­ly as June of 2016, a year before Smith joined the Army in June of 2017, which rais­es the ques­tion of whether Lang asked Smith to join the Army specif­i­cal­ly to learn the bomb-mak­ing skills Smith was even­tu­al­ly arrest­ed for dis­sem­i­nat­ing:

    ...
    Lang’s name also appeared in the crim­i­nal com­plaint filed in Kansas ear­li­er this week against Smith.

    Accord­ing to those charg­ing doc­u­ments, Smith, a 24-year old who had been sta­tioned at a near­by army base, dis­cussed on Face­book in 2016 and lat­er dates that he was inter­est­ed in trav­el­ing to Ukraine to fight with the Azov Bat­tal­ion, anoth­er para­mil­i­tary unit that has fought against Rus­sia-backed sep­a­ratists and also espous­es an ultra­na­tion­al­ist ide­ol­o­gy.

    ...

    That com­plaint said Smith cor­re­spond­ed with Lang, as Smith sought help in trav­el­ing to Ukraine.

    In one con­ver­sa­tion dat­ed June 23, 2016, Smith wrote: “No for­mer mil­i­tary expe­ri­ence, but if I can­not find a slot in Ukraine by Octo­ber I’ll be going into the Army ... To fight is what I want to do. I’m will­ing to lis­ten, learn, and train. But to work on firearms is fine by me too.”

    Accord­ing to the com­plaint, Lang respond­ed, “Alright, I’ll for­ward you over to the guy that screens peo­ple he’ll most like­ly add you soon[ ... ] Also as a pre-warn­ing if you come to this unit and the gov­ern­ment comes to shut down the unit you will be asked to fight. You may also be asked to kill cer­tain peo­ple who become on the bad graces of cer­tain groups.

    Pros­e­cu­tors also said Smith dis­cussed a plan to kill so-called “antifa” activists, mil­i­tant left-wing activists who often engage in vio­lent oppo­si­tion to right-wing groups.

    Smith also alleged­ly described how to build a bomb that could be trig­gered using a cell phone. He also alleged­ly sug­gest­ed build­ing a car bomb and tar­get­ing an unnamed U.S. news net­work.
    ...

    Keep in mind that when Smith was arrest­ed in part for dis­sem­i­nat­ed bomb-mak­ing instruc­tions, which cre­ates an inter­est­ing con­text for Smith­s’s 2016 con­ver­sa­tion with Lang where Smith says, “I’m will­ing to lis­ten, learn, and train. But to work on firearms is fine by me too.” It’s the kind of state­ment that almost sug­gests that work­ing on firearms isn’t what Smith was pri­mar­i­ly inter­est­ed in which rais­es the ques­tion of whether or not Smith and Lang had been already talk­ing about Smith learn­ing skills in explo­sives. Was Smith explic­it­ly direct­ed in to the US Army for the pur­pose of gain­ing explo­sives knowl­edge? That’s unclear at this point, but it’s not like there isn’t a long his­to­ry of extrem­ists join­ing the mil­i­tary specif­i­cal­ly to gain skills.

    It’s all a chill­ing reminder that Ukraine’s far right Nazi mili­tias aren’t exclu­sive­ly Ukrain­ian far right Nazi mili­tias and are increas­ing­ly becom­ing a glob­al prob­lem.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 27, 2019, 12:28 pm
  5. Here’s a sto­ry from back in July about the increas­ing­ly inter­na­tion­al ambi­tions of the Azov move­ment: There’s going to be a new Azov For­eign Legion set and Croa­t­i­a’s far right is going to be play a big role in it. In fact, Azov had a con­fer­ence planned for Zagreb in Sep­tem­ber where they were going to announce the cre­ation of the new For­eign Legion. This was announced back in June in a Face­book post. Bruno Zor­i­ca, a retired Croa­t­ian army offi­cer and for­mer mem­ber of the French For­eign Legion, has been repeat­ed­ly men­tioned as a key fig­ure in the unit’s cre­ation. There does­n’t appear to be any more up to date reports on this con­fer­ence and whether or not the For­eign Legion was offi­cial­ly formed, so that will be some­thing to watch. As Azov’s “inter­na­tion­al sec­re­tary”, Ole­na Semenya­ka, described in a March 2018 inter­view with a mem­ber of neo-Nazi Nordic Resis­tance Move­ment, the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment was hin­der­ing Azov efforts to bring in for­eign recruits for the war in Ukraine, “But in the future we hope to cre­ate a for­eign legion. There we could announce loud and clear when we seek vol­un­teers.” So this For­eign Legion idea appears to be, in part, an effort to import even more inter­na­tion­al Nazis into Ukraine, although it’s unclear what gov­ern­ment inter­fer­ence she’s refer­ring to since there are already thou­sands of for­eign fight­ers in Ukraine fight­ing under these far right mili­tias like Azov.

    The Sep­tem­ber con­fer­ence in Zagreb is the first time the Azov’s “Inter­mar­i­um con­fer­ence” will be held out­side of Ukraine. The con­fer­ence focus­es on far right net­work­ing in cen­tral and east­ern Euro­pean coun­tries. As the arti­cle notes, the “Inter­mar­i­um” idea is a central/eastern Euro­pean region­al secu­ri­ty con­cept first advanced by Poland’s post-WWI leader Jozef Pil­sud­s­ki in the ear­ly 1930s. Andriy Bilet­sky has made the Inter­mar­i­um a core part of the ‘offi­cial geopo­lit­i­cal doc­trine’ of Azov’s Nation­al Corps polit­i­cal wing. Azov is report­ed­ly view­ing Inter­mar­i­um as a “spring­board” to build an east Euro­pean con­fed­er­a­tion of right-wing nation­al­ist eth­no-states. Recall how the Inter­mar­i­um idea is also a com­ple­ment to Pil­sud­ski’s “Prome­thi­an­ism” project that envi­sioned the breakup of Rus­sia (and lat­er, the Sovi­et Union). So the Azov appears to be new­ly cham­pi­oning these old con­cepts as part of its efforts to lead an inter­na­tion­al net­work of Europe’s far right. Azov has a sep­a­rate “Paneu­ropa” annu­al con­fer­ence for west­ern Euro­pean nations.

    The group in Croa­t­ia that Azov appears to be work­ing the clos­est with is the Croa­t­ian Sov­er­eign­tists, an alliance of far right par­ties. The Sov­er­eign­tists came in a sur­prise third place in the EU par­lia­ment elec­tions in May with 8.5 per­cent of the vote, which is the kind of sur­prise that should­n’t real­ly be sur­pris­ing at this point. So Azov appears to be form­ing a new For­eign Legion in coor­di­na­tion with Croa­t­i­a’s far right that is cur­rent­ly ris­ing in pop­u­lar­i­ty as part of its push to turn Europe into a con­fed­er­a­tion of eth­no-states:

    Balkan Insight

    Croa­t­ia Key to Ukrain­ian Far-Right’s Inter­na­tion­al Ambi­tions

    A far-right mil­i­tant move­ment in Ukraine is forg­ing ties with like-mind­ed politi­cians and war vet­er­ans in Euro­pean Union mem­ber Croa­t­ia, a BIRN inves­ti­ga­tion reveals.

    Michael Col­borne
    BIRN
    July 18, 2019

    Chain-smok­ing in a Zagreb cafe, 43-year-old Denis Sel­er would hard­ly stand out were it not for the word AZOV embla­zoned in Cyril­lic on the front of his grey sweater.

    Sel­er is a native of the Croa­t­ian cap­i­tal and a vet­er­an of the 1991–95 Croa­t­ian war. But his sweater spoke to a more recent fight, and to Seler’s endur­ing alle­giance to a far-right mil­i­tant move­ment with Europe-wide ambi­tions.

    In 2014 and 2015, Sel­er was among 20–30 Croa­t­ians who fought as part of the Azov vol­un­teer bat­tal­ion against Russ­ian-backed rebels in east­ern Ukraine, in a war that has killed some 13,000 and rum­bles on today despite an offi­cial cease­fire.

    From the Balka­ns, Serb fight­ers sided with the rebels out of feal­ty to Serbia’s fel­low Ortho­dox ally Rus­sia, while Croa­t­ian nation­al­ists like Sel­er found com­mon cause with the far-right ele­ments of Ukraine’s resis­tance against Moscow.

    But while the war in Ukraine’s steel and coal belt bor­der­ing Rus­sia may have set­tled into a tense stale­mate, Azov is build­ing in momen­tum, forg­ing ties with far-right extrem­ists beyond Ukraine’s bor­ders.

    And Croa­t­ia, the newest mem­ber of the Euro­pean Union and a coun­try where con­ser­v­a­tive cur­rents are strong, is emerg­ing as a key stag­ing ground, accord­ing to the find­ings of a BIRN inves­ti­ga­tion.

    Azov’s polit­i­cal wing is forg­ing ties with a right-wing Croa­t­ian polit­i­cal bloc that made a strong show­ing in Euro­pean elec­tions in May, and the Ukrain­ian move­ment will hold a con­fer­ence in Zagreb in Sep­tem­ber at which it may unveil plans for a ‘For­eign Legion’ of far-right sym­pa­this­ers, built with the help of a Croa­t­ian war vet­er­an.

    “The Azov move­ment is grow­ing. And they’re grow­ing up fast,” said Sel­er.

    Back in 2014, Sel­er described the war in Ukraine as part of a “strug­gle for the white Euro­pean race, its cul­ture and his­to­ry.”

    Five years on, Azov’s ambi­tions have found fer­tile soil in Croa­t­ia, where Sel­er said the move­ment would fur­ther its dream of build­ing “a Europe of the nations”.

    WWII revi­sion­ism

    In 2014, after pop­u­lar protests brought down Ukraine’s then pro-Russ­ian pres­i­dent, the country’s army found itself help­less against a Russ­ian move to annex Crimea and foment war in the east­ern Don­bass region.

    Vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions rushed to the country’s defence, among them Azov. The unit soon earned a rep­u­ta­tion as one of the most bat­tle-com­mit­ted, but also for its open-door pol­i­cy to unabashed neo-Nazis.

    Far-right groups in Ukraine grew in promi­nence with their role in the over­throw of Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych, arm­ing bar­ri­cades in the caul­dron of Kyiv’s Maid­an Neza­lezh­nos­ti, Inde­pen­dence Square, dur­ing months of freez­ing cold and final­ly fatal con­fronta­tion with police.

    Five years on, the bat­tal­ion is now for­mal­ly known as the Azov Reg­i­ment and is part of Ukraine’s Nation­al Guard, a gen­darmerie-type force that reports to the inte­ri­or min­istry. It also has a polit­i­cal wing, the Nation­al Corps, a para­mil­i­tary unit called the Nation­al Mili­tia, a Youth Corps, sports bar, gym­na­si­ums and a ‘social cen­tre’ known as Cos­sack House just off the Maid­an. The polit­i­cal wing is polling below the thresh­old to enter par­lia­ment in par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in July.

    In Ukraine, the far-right takes much of its inspi­ra­tion from Stepan Ban­dera, com­man­der of the under­ground Organ­i­sa­tion of Ukrain­ian Nation­al­ists, OUN, dur­ing World War Two. Many Ukraini­ans see the OUN as heroes who defend­ed Ukrain­ian inde­pen­dence, down­play­ing what a num­ber of lead­ing his­to­ri­ans of the Holo­caust argue was the group’s fas­cist ten­den­cies and the role of some OUN mem­bers in aid­ing the Nazi killing of Jews.

    Like­wise, Croa­t­ia is grap­pling with WWII revi­sion­ism that has moved from the polit­i­cal fringes to the main­stream, ques­tion­ing the crimes com­mit­ted under fas­cist lead­ers of a short-lived inde­pen­dent Croa­t­ian state that was a pup­pet of Nazi Ger­many.

    Nation­al­ists from both Croa­t­ia and Ukraine see much in com­mon in their coun­tries’ recent his­to­ries. For them, Croatia’s fight for inde­pen­dence in the ear­ly 1990s against Serb rebels backed by its larg­er neigh­bour Ser­bia has echoes in the ongo­ing fight against Russ­ian-backed forces in east­ern Ukraine.

    “On a more sen­ti­men­tal, sub­con­scious lev­el for Croats, Ukraine is a friend,” said Tomis­lav Sunic, a Croa­t­ian-Amer­i­can writer described as the ‘intel­lec­tu­al guru’ of the Croa­t­ian far-right.

    ‘Between the seas’

    Under Ole­na Semenya­ka, ‘inter­na­tion­al sec­re­tary’ of the Nation­al Corps, Azov has staged a num­ber of gath­er­ings and con­fer­ences and devel­oped rela­tion­ships and con­nec­tions with far-right groups across Europe, includ­ing the neo-Nazi Nation­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, NDP, in Ger­many and the neo-fas­cist Cas­a­Pound move­ment in Italy.

    In March this year, the Soufan Group, a New York-based organ­i­sa­tion that con­ducts secu­ri­ty analy­sis, described Azov as “a crit­i­cal node in the transna­tion­al right-wing vio­lent extrem­ist (RWE) net­work.”

    Azov hosts an annu­al ‘Paneu­ropa’ con­fer­ence for allies from west­ern Europe as well as an annu­al ‘Inter­mar­i­um’ con­fer­ence aimed at cen­tral and east­ern Europe, main­ly those coun­tries that were once behind the Iron Cur­tain or part of social­ist Yugoslavia.

    In Sep­tem­ber, Azov is tak­ing the Inter­mar­i­um con­fer­ence on the road for the first time, to Seler’s Zagreb.

    Inter­mar­i­um, or ‘between the seas’, is a region­al secu­ri­ty con­cept first tout­ed by Poland’s post-World War One leader Jozef Pil­sud­s­ki in the ear­ly 1930s.

    Kyiv-based researcher Alexan­dra Wishart said Azov had giv­en the idea new life, pro­mot­ing it as a “spring­board” to build an east Euro­pean con­fed­er­a­tion of right-wing nation­al­ist “eth­no-states” free from what Azov per­ceives as the ‘cul­tur­al Marx­ism’ of the EU and the ‘neo-Bol­she­vism’ of Rus­sia.

    Wishart, a grad­u­ate stu­dent at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Glas­gow and Nation­al Uni­ver­si­ty of Kyiv-Mohy­la Acad­e­my, said Croa­t­ia was cen­tral to Azov’s plans.

    “Croa­t­ia is a key play­er with­in the Balka­ns and cen­tral enough to help neu­tral­ize Russ­ian or EU influ­ence there,” said Wishart, who attend­ed the Octo­ber 2018 Inter­mar­i­um con­fer­ence in Kyiv as an observ­er.

    Sel­er con­firmed Zagreb would host the con­fer­ence, bring­ing togeth­er del­e­gates from Ukraine, Poland, the Baltic states, Nor­way, Den­mark and Swe­den, he said.

    It will be a chance to cement devel­op­ing ties between Azov and the Croa­t­ian Sov­er­eign­tists, an alliance of far-right par­ties which came a sur­prise third in Croa­t­ia in Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions in May with 8.5 per cent of the vote. The alliance has one MP in the Croa­t­ian par­lia­ment but is polling at almost six per cent with par­lia­men­tary elec­tions due next year.

    The alliance’s sole MEP is Ruza Toma­sic, a for­mer police offi­cer who left social­ist Yugoslavia for Cana­da aged 15 and recent­ly made head­lines in Croa­t­ia when pho­tographs were pub­lished show­ing her in fas­cist uni­form while liv­ing in Cana­da and appar­ent­ly glo­ri­fy­ing Croa­t­ian WWII fas­cist leader Ante Pavel­ic. Toma­sic told a Croa­t­ian jour­nal­ist that she was “not ashamed” of this, but that she “[did] not stand by some of those things today.”

    In a Jan­u­ary social media post, an account run by Semenya­ka said that “the coali­tion of Croa­t­ian nation­al­ist par­ties is tak­ing shape side by side with the progress in the prepa­ra­tion for the next Inter­mar­i­um con­fer­ence by Croa­t­ian and Ukrain­ian enthu­si­asts.”

    Sel­er said the guest of hon­our would be Andriy Bilet­sky, leader of Azov’s polit­i­cal wing, Nation­al Corps, and an MP in the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment, which he entered in 2014 as an inde­pen­dent. Semenya­ka did not con­firm the vis­it.

    Azov allies in Croa­t­ian ‘Sov­er­eign­tists’

    Bilet­sky pre­vi­ous­ly head­ed the open­ly neo-Nazi Patri­ot of Ukraine organ­i­sa­tion and spent 28 months in prison on attempt­ed mur­der charges. Nev­er tried, he was released and the charges were dropped under a par­lia­ment decree on ‘polit­i­cal pris­on­ers’ in 2014 fol­low­ing the rev­o­lu­tion on the Maid­an.

    Bilet­sky has made the Inter­mar­i­um con­cept part of the ‘offi­cial geopo­lit­i­cal doc­trine’ of the Nation­al Corps.

    Sel­er said the pur­pose of Biletsky’s vis­it was to meet rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Croatia’s right-wing, par­tic­u­lar­ly mem­bers of the Sov­er­eign­tists.

    Toma­sic ini­tial­ly said she was unaware of any planned vis­it from Bilet­sky but then appeared to con­tra­dict her­self and told BIRN that a Croa­t­ian man, whose name she did not recall, had approached her regard­ing a planned vis­it to Zagreb by Bilet­sky that would include a meet­ing with Toma­sic and oth­er Sov­er­eign­tist politi­cians.

    “I said fine, I’m will­ing to talk to any­body,” Toma­sic said, but denied hav­ing any­thing to do with organ­is­ing the trip or the Inter­mar­i­um con­fer­ence.

    Some Sov­er­eign­tists, how­ev­er, are less coy about their rela­tion­ship with Azov.

    Sunic, a far-right author and trans­la­tor who ran unsuc­cess­ful­ly for the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment on behalf of the Sov­er­eign­tists, told BIRN he plans to attend the Inter­mar­i­um con­fer­ence and that he is in reg­u­lar com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Semenya­ka.

    Denis Bevan­da, sec­re­tary gen­er­al of the Croa­t­ian Con­ser­v­a­tive Par­ty, one of the main par­ties with­in the Sov­er­eign­tists, shared a pho­to on Insta­gram ear­li­er this year of him­self along­side Sel­er.

    The post referred to the Azov Bat­tal­ion in Eng­lish and Ukrain­ian and declared ‘Sla­va Ukrayi­ni!’ or ‘Long live Ukraine!’ – the bat­tle cry of the OUN dur­ing WWII and of pro­test­ers dur­ing the 2014 rev­o­lu­tion, and now an offi­cial greet­ing of the Ukrain­ian army.

    Croa­t­ian-French nation­al­ist author Jure Vujic, sev­enth on the Sov­er­eign­tists’ par­ty list for the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, par­tic­i­pat­ed in a con­fer­ence in Zagreb in Decem­ber 2017 co-host­ed by Semenya­ka and Leo Mar­ic of Croa­t­ian iden­ti­tar­i­an group Gen­eraci­ja Obnove (“Gen­er­a­tion Renew­al”)

    ...

    Croatia’s ‘Zulu’ pledges help

    The head­line announce­ment of the Sep­tem­ber con­fer­ence, how­ev­er, will like­ly be the cre­ation of what Azov calls its For­eign Legion. While details remain vague, Azov, in its social media posts, has sug­gest­ed such a force would facil­i­tate for­eign­ers wish­ing to join its fight in east­ern Ukraine.

    BIRN has dis­cov­ered that in Feb­ru­ary last year, a user of the voice and text app Dis­cord, which has invite-only chat rooms and became pop­u­lar with white suprema­cists and neo-Nazis before the app was hit by a series of leaks, wrote that Azov “will have the for­eign legion set up with­in the next 18 months or so.”

    BIRN scoured hun­dreds of thou­sands of leaked Dis­cord mes­sages and found no short­age of Azov devo­tees. One user on the white suprema­cist site Storm­front mused that “the Nation­al Social­ist rev­o­lu­tion” may begin in Ukraine.

    The fol­low­ing month, March 2018, in an inter­view with a mem­ber of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resis­tance Move­ment, Semenya­ka said the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment was hin­der­ing Azov efforts to bring in for­eign recruits for the war against the Russ­ian-backed rebels. “But in the future we hope to cre­ate a for­eign legion. There we could announce loud and clear when we seek vol­un­teers.”

    Semenya­ka, after ini­tial­ly reply­ing to a request for com­ment, did not reply to fur­ther com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

    Almost exact­ly 18 months on, the unit may be about to take shape – in Zagreb.

    Bruno Zor­i­ca, a retired Croa­t­ian army offi­cer and for­mer mem­ber of the French For­eign Legion, has been repeat­ed­ly men­tioned in Azov social media posts as a key fig­ure in the unit’s cre­ation.

    Known by his nom de guerre Zulu, Zor­i­ca com­mand­ed the Frankopan Bat­tal­ion, a spe­cial forces unit of the Croa­t­ian army, dur­ing the country’s war against Bel­grade-backed Serb rebels as the social­ist Yugoslav fed­er­a­tion dis­in­te­grat­ed in the ear­ly 1990s.

    With oth­er vet­er­ans of the French For­eign Legion, Zor­i­ca trained Croa­t­ian army recruits dur­ing the war, telling the Wash­ing­ton Post in 1991: “We teach these recruits war is not Ram­bo movies… My peo­ple have a much low­er casu­al­ty rate in fight­ing than the oth­ers. They know when to fight and when to dig in.”

    In 2001, Zor­i­ca was arrest­ed in a police oper­a­tion against a sus­pect­ed arms smug­gling ring. While there is no record of Zor­i­ca ever being charged or con­vict­ed of any crime, media reports at the time said the for­mer Legion­naire was sus­pect­ed of head­ing up an arms smug­gling ring that alleged­ly trans­port­ed the equiv­a­lent of more than one mil­lion euros of arms from Croa­t­ia into the Euro­pean Union, espe­cial­ly France.

    Azov social media accounts have said Zor­i­ca has “promised to assist the devel­op­ment of the Ukrain­ian For­eign Legion” and that “coop­er­a­tion is promised to reach [a] new lev­el.”

    After ini­tial­ly agree­ing to speak to BIRN, Zor­i­ca post­poned a planned inter­view then failed to show up and even­tu­al­ly stopped com­mu­ni­cat­ing.

    In Octo­ber 2018, Zor­i­ca spoke at the last Inter­mar­i­um con­fer­ence in Kyiv, say­ing he was in “close com­mu­ni­ca­tion” with the head of Azov’s mil­i­tary school. “We are ready to share our expe­ri­ence and knowl­edge with the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary,” he said.

    ———-

    “Croa­t­ia Key to Ukrain­ian Far-Right’s Inter­na­tion­al Ambi­tions” by Michael Col­borne; Balkan Insight; 07/18/2019

    “Azov’s polit­i­cal wing is forg­ing ties with a right-wing Croa­t­ian polit­i­cal bloc that made a strong show­ing in Euro­pean elec­tions in May, and the Ukrain­ian move­ment will hold a con­fer­ence in Zagreb in Sep­tem­ber at which it may unveil plans for a ‘For­eign Legion’ of far-right sym­pa­this­ers, built with the help of a Croa­t­ian war vet­er­an.

    Azov’s inter­na­tion­al net­work­ing con­tin­ues to grow and now includes hold­ing con­fer­ences in Euro­pean cities. But it’s not just a con­fer­ence that Azov held Zagreb last month. It’s an attempt by Azov to build­ing upon the “Inter­mar­i­um” con­cept as a spring­board for its vision of a con­fed­er­a­tion of Euro­pean white suprema­cists “eth­no-states” and part of Azov’s offi­cial geopo­lit­i­cal doc­trine:

    ...
    ‘Between the seas’

    Under Ole­na Semenya­ka, ‘inter­na­tion­al sec­re­tary’ of the Nation­al Corps, Azov has staged a num­ber of gath­er­ings and con­fer­ences and devel­oped rela­tion­ships and con­nec­tions with far-right groups across Europe, includ­ing the neo-Nazi Nation­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, NDP, in Ger­many and the neo-fas­cist Cas­a­Pound move­ment in Italy.

    In March this year, the Soufan Group, a New York-based organ­i­sa­tion that con­ducts secu­ri­ty analy­sis, described Azov as “a crit­i­cal node in the transna­tion­al right-wing vio­lent extrem­ist (RWE) net­work.”

    Azov hosts an annu­al ‘Paneu­ropa’ con­fer­ence for allies from west­ern Europe as well as an annu­al ‘Inter­mar­i­um’ con­fer­ence aimed at cen­tral and east­ern Europe, main­ly those coun­tries that were once behind the Iron Cur­tain or part of social­ist Yugoslavia.

    In Sep­tem­ber, Azov is tak­ing the Inter­mar­i­um con­fer­ence on the road for the first time, to Seler’s Zagreb.

    Inter­mar­i­um, or ‘between the seas’, is a region­al secu­ri­ty con­cept first tout­ed by Poland’s post-World War One leader Jozef Pil­sud­s­ki in the ear­ly 1930s.

    Kyiv-based researcher Alexan­dra Wishart said Azov had giv­en the idea new life, pro­mot­ing it as a “spring­board” to build an east Euro­pean con­fed­er­a­tion of right-wing nation­al­ist “eth­no-states” free from what Azov per­ceives as the ‘cul­tur­al Marx­ism’ of the EU and the ‘neo-Bol­she­vism’ of Rus­sia.

    Wishart, a grad­u­ate stu­dent at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Glas­gow and Nation­al Uni­ver­si­ty of Kyiv-Mohy­la Acad­e­my, said Croa­t­ia was cen­tral to Azov’s plans.

    “Croa­t­ia is a key play­er with­in the Balka­ns and cen­tral enough to help neu­tral­ize Russ­ian or EU influ­ence there,” said Wishart, who attend­ed the Octo­ber 2018 Inter­mar­i­um con­fer­ence in Kyiv as an observ­er.

    Sel­er con­firmed Zagreb would host the con­fer­ence, bring­ing togeth­er del­e­gates from Ukraine, Poland, the Baltic states, Nor­way, Den­mark and Swe­den, he said.

    ...

    Bilet­sky has made the Inter­mar­i­um con­cept part of the ‘offi­cial geopo­lit­i­cal doc­trine’ of the Nation­al Corps.
    ...

    It’s at this Zagreb con­fer­ence that the new For­eign Legion was sched­uled to be announced. It’s a devel­op­ment that Ole­na Semenya­ka pre­dict­ed would make it even eas­i­er to bring for­eign fight­ers into Ukraine’s civ­il war and a retired Croa­t­ian army offi­cer has already pledged to lead it:

    ...
    Croatia’s ‘Zulu’ pledges help

    The head­line announce­ment of the Sep­tem­ber con­fer­ence, how­ev­er, will like­ly be the cre­ation of what Azov calls its For­eign Legion. While details remain vague, Azov, in its social media posts, has sug­gest­ed such a force would facil­i­tate for­eign­ers wish­ing to join its fight in east­ern Ukraine.

    BIRN has dis­cov­ered that in Feb­ru­ary last year, a user of the voice and text app Dis­cord, which has invite-only chat rooms and became pop­u­lar with white suprema­cists and neo-Nazis before the app was hit by a series of leaks, wrote that Azov “will have the for­eign legion set up with­in the next 18 months or so.”

    BIRN scoured hun­dreds of thou­sands of leaked Dis­cord mes­sages and found no short­age of Azov devo­tees. One user on the white suprema­cist site Storm­front mused that “the Nation­al Social­ist rev­o­lu­tion” may begin in Ukraine.

    The fol­low­ing month, March 2018, in an inter­view with a mem­ber of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resis­tance Move­ment, Semenya­ka said the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment was hin­der­ing Azov efforts to bring in for­eign recruits for the war against the Russ­ian-backed rebels. “But in the future we hope to cre­ate a for­eign legion. There we could announce loud and clear when we seek vol­un­teers.”

    Semenya­ka, after ini­tial­ly reply­ing to a request for com­ment, did not reply to fur­ther com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

    Almost exact­ly 18 months on, the unit may be about to take shape – in Zagreb.

    Bruno Zor­i­ca, a retired Croa­t­ian army offi­cer and for­mer mem­ber of the French For­eign Legion, has been repeat­ed­ly men­tioned in Azov social media posts as a key fig­ure in the unit’s cre­ation.

    ...

    Azov social media accounts have said Zor­i­ca has “promised to assist the devel­op­ment of the Ukrain­ian For­eign Legion” and that “coop­er­a­tion is promised to reach [a] new lev­el.”
    ...

    So it’s going to be inter­est­ing to see whether or not Azov’s For­eign Legion actu­al­ly takes off and becomes anoth­er com­po­nent of Azov’s inter­na­tion­al reach. On one lev­el, it’s not clear what the cre­ation of a For­eign Legion would change because Azov already acts as a kind of for­eign legion. But if the cre­ation of such a unit some­how attracts even more for­eign­ers to fight for Azov that will indeed be a sig­nif­i­cant devel­op­ment. A sig­nif­i­cant neg­a­tive devel­op­ment. And like so many sig­nif­i­cant neg­a­tive devel­op­ments involv­ing Azov’s inter­na­tion­al ambi­tions, it won’t just be sig­nif­i­cant­ly neg­a­tive for Ukraine.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 2, 2019, 3:04 pm
  6. Should the Azov Bat­tal­ion be offi­cial­ly labeled a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion? The obvi­ous answer for any sane per­son is, “yes, of course.” And that’s what a group of House Democ­rats are call­ing for. New York Rep. Max Rose, who chairs the coun­tert­er­ror­ism sub­com­mit­tee, sub­mit­ted a let­ter to the State Depart­ment, co-signed by 39 fel­low Democ­rats, call­ing on the State Depart­ment to des­ig­nate three for­eign neo-Nazi groups as ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions: the Azov Bat­tal­ion, along with the UK-based Nation­al Action and the Scan­davia-based Nordic Resis­tance Move­ment.

    Part of what makes this move to des­ig­nate these white suprema­cist groups as ter­ror­ist groups is that, as the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, there is cur­rent­ly no domes­tic ter­ror statute in the US. In order to charge a per­son with ter­ror­ism, pros­e­cu­tors have to prove that they’re affil­i­at­ed with one of the 67 groups labeled as a for­eign ter­ror orga­ni­za­tion (FTO) by the US State Depart­ment. And as we’ve seen, groups like Azov have had exten­sive con­tacts with US-based neo-Nazis. So if Azov and oth­er inter­na­tion­al white suprema­cist groups affil­i­at­ed with US far right out­fits are des­ig­nat­ed for­eign ter­ror orga­ni­za­tions by the State Depart­ment, it seems like that could pro­vide a means of legal­ly treat­ing domes­tic Nazi groups as ter­ror affil­i­ates too, at least for those Amer­i­cans who trav­el to Ukraine and join the Azov Bat­tal­ion. As the arti­cle notes, Amer­i­cans who go and fight for Azov are mere­ly treat­ed by the State Depart­ment as peo­ple who went on an extend­ed vaca­tion. That would pre­sum­ably change if Azov was des­ig­nat­ed a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion. It’s an exam­ple of how des­ig­nat­ing Azov, which most assured­ly deserves to be labeled a ter­ror­ist group, could both high­light the inter­na­tion­al nature of white suprema­cy while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly giv­ing legal tools for address­ing white suprema­cist domes­tic ter­ror. Which per­haps explains why the Democ­rats’ call received zero Repub­li­can sup­port for this:

    Vice

    House Democ­rats Just Demand­ed These Neo-Nazi Groups Be Pros­e­cut­ed as Inter­na­tion­al Ter­ror­ists
    The Christchurch shoot­ing laid bare the grow­ing glob­al threat of white nation­al­ist ter­ror.

    by Tess Owen
    Oct 16 2019, 11:02am

    In response to the grow­ing glob­al threat of white nation­al­ist ter­ror, House Democ­rats are call­ing on the U.S. State Depart­ment to add three inter­na­tion­al far-right groups to its list of “For­eign Ter­ror Orga­ni­za­tions.”

    This is sig­nif­i­cant: Since 9/11 the State Department’s ter­ror des­ig­na­tion sys­tem has been over­whelm­ing­ly focused on the threat posed by jiha­di extrem­ism, like al-Qae­da and ISIS. Adding inter­na­tion­al far-right groups to their list could give fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors more tools to go after rad­i­cals sus­pect­ed of con­spir­ing with those orga­ni­za­tions before an attack hap­pens.

    On Wednes­day, New York Rep. Max Rose, who chairs the coun­tert­er­ror­ism sub­com­mit­tee, sub­mit­ted a let­ter to the State Depart­ment, co-signed by 39 mem­bers of Con­gress. It urged the depart­ment to des­ig­nate Azov Bat­tal­ion (a far-right para­mil­i­tary reg­i­ment in Ukraine), Nation­al Action (a neo-Nazi group based in the U.K.), and Nordic Resis­tance Move­ment (a neo-Nazi net­work from Scan­di­navia) as ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions.

    “It’s clear that the threat we face today is of a self-rad­i­cal­ized gun­man,” Rose, a Demo­c­rat, told VICE News. “Some­body who has been rad­i­cal­ized online, whether it’s in accor­dance with jiha­di ide­ol­o­gy or a glob­al white nation­al­ist, neo-Nazi group.”

    There is cur­rent­ly no domes­tic ter­ror statute in the U.S. To charge a per­son with ter­ror­ism, pros­e­cu­tors have to prove that they’re affil­i­at­ed with one of the 67 groups labeled as a for­eign ter­ror orga­ni­za­tion (FTO) by the State Depart­ment.

    The attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March was a major turn­ing point for the way extrem­ism experts approached white nation­al­ist ter­ror. The shoot­er, a white nation­al­ist from Aus­tralia, shared a man­i­festo online that was replete with memes and ideas traf­ficked by far-right extrem­ists around the globe. The man­i­festo itself was titled “The Great Replace­ment,” which is a white nation­al­ist con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry drawn from a book by a French author, and the inspi­ra­tion behind the chants of “You will not replace us” heard at the vio­lent ral­ly in Char­lottesville two years ago.

    Since the Christchurch mosque mas­sacres, there have been sim­i­lar attacks at a syn­a­gogue in Poway, Cal­i­for­nia, a Wal­mart in El Paso, Texas, and most recent­ly, near a syn­a­gogue in Halle, Ger­many.

    In all cas­es, the shoot­ers shared their own man­i­festos online that spoke to an inter­na­tion­al audi­ence of white nation­al­ist extrem­ists who share a com­mon goal of desta­bi­liz­ing soci­ety through vio­lence to estab­lish a “white home­land.”

    In the sev­en months since Christchurch, there have been at least six con­gres­sion­al hear­ings on the issue of white nation­al­ist ter­ror. In those hear­ings, mem­bers of Con­gress have heard from intel­li­gence offi­cials and experts who have repeat­ed­ly stressed the seri­ous­ness of the threat posed by glob­al far-right ter­ror. Between 2009 and 2018, right-wing extrem­ists, like white nation­al­ists, account­ed for 73% of extrem­ist mur­ders in the U.S., com­pared to 23% by jihadis, accord­ing to the ADL. And last month, DHS unveiled a new coun­tert­er­ror­ism strat­e­gy that, for the first time, placed a major empha­sis on fight­ing white nation­al­ist ter­ror.

    Which is why Rose was sur­prised that not a sin­gle House Repub­li­can was will­ing to back the let­ter he sub­mit­ted to the State Depart­ment.

    “I’m baf­fled as to why my Repub­li­can col­leagues have refused to sign on to this,” said Rose. “Not only are Azov Bat­tal­ion, Nation­al Action, and Nordic Resis­tance Move­ment direct­ly con­nect­ed to inspir­ing attacks in the home­land, they’re direct pur­vey­ors of anti-Semit­ic ide­olo­gies that inspire attacks against Jews. It’s curi­ous to me that the Repub­li­can Par­ty, for the bet­ter half of this year, are claim­ing they’re against anti-Semi­tism. Here they have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to label it, but they’re not will­ing to stand against it.”

    For­mer FBI agent Ali Soufan, who heads glob­al secu­ri­ty research orga­ni­za­tion the Soufan Cen­ter, recent­ly tes­ti­fied before Con­gress about the threat, say­ing that the way white nation­al­ists were orga­niz­ing inter­na­tion­al­ly looked a lot like al-Qae­da in the 1990s.

    Accord­ing to a recent report by the Soufan Cen­ter, some 17,000 for­eign­ers from 50 coun­tries — includ­ing the U.S. — have trav­eled to Ukraine to fight in the war there since 2014. Many of those fight­ers joined the Azov Bat­tal­ion, which embraces neo-Nazi sym­bols, and then returned to their home coun­tries with new para­mil­i­tary skills.

    The U.S. State Depart­ment effec­tive­ly treats those return­ing fight­ers as noth­ing more than Amer­i­cans com­ing back from an extend­ed trip abroad.

    But Azov has been impli­cat­ed in a num­ber of vio­lent inci­dents out­side of Ukraine. The Soufan Cen­ter has iden­ti­fied ties between the Christchurch shoot­er and Azov: The gun­man had trav­eled to Ukraine in the years pri­or to the attack, and he’d embell­ished his firearm with sym­bols asso­ci­at­ed with the reg­i­ment (Azov has refut­ed Soufan’s report­ing and stat­ed that the group had no rela­tion to the New Zealand shoot­er).

    The Rise Above Move­ment, a U.S.-based street-fight­ing gang, sent some of its mem­bers to train with Azov in 2018, accord­ing to the FBI. And an Amer­i­can sol­dier was recent­ly arrest­ed for shar­ing bomb-mak­ing man­u­als online. Accord­ing to the fed­er­al com­plaint, he’d dis­cussed join­ing Azov. And as Rose’s let­ter points out, the gov­ern­ment is well aware of Azov’s extrem­ist lean­ings: In March 2018, Con­gress added a pro­vi­sion to its spend­ing bill that barred the U.S. from arm­ing Azov in the fight against Russ­ian-backed sep­a­ratists in Ukraine because of its ties to neo-Nazis.

    The U.K.’s Home Office des­ig­nat­ed Nation­al Action as a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion in 2016 — the first time the British gov­ern­ment had flagged a far-right group as such since World War II. Researchers in the U.K. have iden­ti­fied rela­tion­ships between Nation­al Action and groups like Amer­i­can Van­guard, which the neo-Nazi who drove his car into a crowd of pro­test­ers dur­ing Char­lottesville report­ed­ly belonged to.

    Here’s the State Department’s cri­te­ria for FTO des­ig­na­tion: A group has to be for­eign; have the capac­i­ty and intent to engage in ter­ror­ism; and threat­en the secu­ri­ty of U.S. nation­als, the secu­ri­ty of for­eign allies, or eco­nom­ic inter­ests in the U.S.

    “There are numer­ous exam­ples of for­eign white nation­al­ist groups that fit these con­di­tions,” Rose wrote in his let­ter. “The Amer­i­can peo­ple deserve an expla­na­tion as to why these groups are not includ­ed on the FTO list.”

    Rose and his 39 co-sign­ers asked the State Depart­ment to respond to their let­ter by Nov. 4.

    ...

    ———–

    “House Democ­rats Just Demand­ed These Neo-Nazi Groups Be Pros­e­cut­ed as Inter­na­tion­al Ter­ror­ists” by Tess Owen; Vice; 10/16/2019

    “On Wednes­day, New York Rep. Max Rose, who chairs the coun­tert­er­ror­ism sub­com­mit­tee, sub­mit­ted a let­ter to the State Depart­ment, co-signed by 39 mem­bers of Con­gress. It urged the depart­ment to des­ig­nate Azov Bat­tal­ion (a far-right para­mil­i­tary reg­i­ment in Ukraine), Nation­al Action (a neo-Nazi group based in the U.K.), and Nordic Resis­tance Move­ment (a neo-Nazi net­work from Scan­di­navia) as ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions.”

    The chair of the House coun­tert­er­ror­ism sub­com­mit­tee is who made this request. With 39 Demo­c­ra­t­ic co-spon­sors. And zero Repub­li­can co-cospon­sors. This is also fol­low­ing DHS unveil­ing a new coun­tert­er­ror­ism strat­e­gy last month that, for the first time, placed a major empha­sis on fight­ing white nation­al­ist ter­ror­ism. But still no Repub­li­can sup­port:

    ...
    There is cur­rent­ly no domes­tic ter­ror statute in the U.S. To charge a per­son with ter­ror­ism, pros­e­cu­tors have to prove that they’re affil­i­at­ed with one of the 67 groups labeled as a for­eign ter­ror orga­ni­za­tion (FTO) by the State Depart­ment.

    ...

    In the sev­en months since Christchurch, there have been at least six con­gres­sion­al hear­ings on the issue of white nation­al­ist ter­ror. In those hear­ings, mem­bers of Con­gress have heard from intel­li­gence offi­cials and experts who have repeat­ed­ly stressed the seri­ous­ness of the threat posed by glob­al far-right ter­ror. Between 2009 and 2018, right-wing extrem­ists, like white nation­al­ists, account­ed for 73% of extrem­ist mur­ders in the U.S., com­pared to 23% by jihadis, accord­ing to the ADL. And last month, DHS unveiled a new coun­tert­er­ror­ism strat­e­gy that, for the first time, placed a major empha­sis on fight­ing white nation­al­ist ter­ror.

    Which is why Rose was sur­prised that not a sin­gle House Repub­li­can was will­ing to back the let­ter he sub­mit­ted to the State Depart­ment.

    “I’m baf­fled as to why my Repub­li­can col­leagues have refused to sign on to this,” said Rose. “Not only are Azov Bat­tal­ion, Nation­al Action, and Nordic Resis­tance Move­ment direct­ly con­nect­ed to inspir­ing attacks in the home­land, they’re direct pur­vey­ors of anti-Semit­ic ide­olo­gies that inspire attacks against Jews. It’s curi­ous to me that the Repub­li­can Par­ty, for the bet­ter half of this year, are claim­ing they’re against anti-Semi­tism. Here they have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to label it, but they’re not will­ing to stand against it.”

    ...

    The U.S. State Depart­ment effec­tive­ly treats those return­ing fight­ers as noth­ing more than Amer­i­cans com­ing back from an extend­ed trip abroad.

    ...

    Here’s the State Department’s cri­te­ria for FTO des­ig­na­tion: A group has to be for­eign; have the capac­i­ty and intent to engage in ter­ror­ism; and threat­en the secu­ri­ty of U.S. nation­als, the secu­ri­ty of for­eign allies, or eco­nom­ic inter­ests in the U.S.

    “There are numer­ous exam­ples of for­eign white nation­al­ist groups that fit these con­di­tions,” Rose wrote in his let­ter. “The Amer­i­can peo­ple deserve an expla­na­tion as to why these groups are not includ­ed on the FTO list.”

    Rose and his 39 co-sign­ers asked the State Depart­ment to respond to their let­ter by Nov. 4.
    ...

    As we can see, there was 100 per­cent Repub­li­can support...for the Azov Batal­lion. So the next time an Amer­i­can neo-Nazi is caught either before or after a mass ter­ror attack and we learn they’ve been net­work­ing with Azov, keep in mind that Con­gress chose to keep train­ing and fight­ing with Azov in the “extend­ed trip abroad” cat­e­go­ry of non-ter­ror­is­tic activ­i­ties.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 21, 2019, 1:33 pm
  7. Here’s a set of arti­cles that give us an idea of how the attempts at cre­at­ing a sus­tain­able peace process in Ukraine are going to be thwart­ed by Ukraine’s far right and how those far right efforts will be por­trayed by the West as a reflec­tion of ‘pop­u­lar will’, despite the fact that Ukraine’s new pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skiy cam­paigned on a peace plat­form and won over­whelm­ing:

    First, here’s a short piece by Strat­for World­view, that briefly men­tions the obsta­cles fac­ing Zelen­skiy’s peace plan. As the arti­cle notes, Zelen­skiy’s planned ini­tial steps in the peace process — hold­ing elec­tions in the break­away regions fol­low­ing the pull­out of troops on both sides from the front lines and grant­i­ng spe­cial sta­tus for the Don­bas region — ran into a prob­lem. The Azov Bat­tal­ion is refus­ing to leave the vil­lage of Zolo­toe on the front lines. So Azov is sin­gle-hand­ed­ly pre­vent­ing these ini­tial tepid steps in the peace deal from hap­pen­ing.

    But that’s only one exam­ple of how Ukraine’s far right is try­ing to derail the peace process. As the Strat­for peace also men­tions, there were about 10,000 Ukraini­ans who marched through Kyiv on Octo­ber 6th in oppo­si­tion to Zelen­skiy’s peace plan. This is por­trayed as a sign of ‘pop­u­lar resis­tance’ against the peace plan. But as we’re going to see, it appears to have large­ly been a far right ral­ly but this fact has been large­ly obscured from the cov­er­age of the ral­ly. Most of the West­ern cov­er­age made no ref­er­ence to who was actu­al­ly orga­niz­ing the Octo­ber 6th ral­ly. The AFP at least men­tions that “Mem­bers of sev­er­al nation­al­ist and ultra-nation­al­ist groups were among the demon­stra­tors,” along with for­mer pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko (Yep, Poroshenko is offi­cial­ly protest­ing the peace process). Pak­istani news ser­vice, Urdu Point, has an arti­cle that includes a call by far right Svo­bo­da leader Oleh Tyah­ny­bok for a larg­er ral­ly on Octo­ber 14th, but that’s pret­ty much it in terms of acknowl­edg­ing the far right pres­ence at that ini­tial protest.

    In the sec­ond arti­cle excerpt below we’ll see an Asso­ci­at­ed Press piece about that Octo­ber 14th ral­ly. It’s very explic­it that it was pri­mar­i­ly a ral­ly of the far right, with black-clad men hold­ing up red flares like torch­es lead­ing the protest march and chant­i­ng “Glo­ry to Ukraine!” But that arti­cle, which is cur­rent­ly avail­able via the LA Times, does­n’t appear to be avail­able any more on the Asso­ci­at­ed Press’s apnew.com web­site. Instead, as we’ll see in the third arti­cle below, the AP issued a ‘cor­rec­tion’ arti­cle that makes a vague ref­er­ence to the orig­i­nal arti­cle and empha­sizes that it was­n’t just far right peo­ple march­ing dur­ing those protests but some mod­er­ates too. So when the press does final­ly acknowl­edge that the oppo­si­tion to this peace plan is pri­mar­i­ly far right oppo­si­tion, the arti­cle basi­cal­ly gets pulled and a ‘cor­rec­tion’ is issued. And that’s why it’s look­ing like allow­ing the Ukrain­ian far right to derail any peace plan and por­tray­ing this to West­ern audi­ences as wide­spread pop­u­lar oppo­si­tion to peace is the plan.

    Ok, here’s that Stat­for piece describ­ing how the Azov Bat­tal­ion is active­ly dis­rupt­ing the peace plan by refus­ing to leave the front lines:

    Strat­for World­view

    Ukraine: Zelen­skiy’s Peace Effort Encoun­ters Resis­tance

    Oct 8, 2019 | 21:16 GMT

    The Big Pic­ture

    Ukraine has been try­ing to resume nego­ti­a­tions to resolve the con­flict in east­ern Ukraine and imple­ment a pro­posed polit­i­cal set­tle­ment. The with­draw­al of forces from the con­tact line is one of the first steps on the road map to peace, but this step has proven a dif­fi­cult one to take.

    Devel­op­ments con­tin­ue to mud­dy progress toward resum­ing the so-called Nor­mandy For­mat to try to set­tle the con­flict in Ukraine. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the sep­a­ratist Luhan­sk Peo­ple’s Repub­lic informed observers with the Orga­ni­za­tion for Secu­ri­ty and Co-oper­a­tion in Europe that the group would be ready to begin with­draw­ing its forces on Oct. 9. The date was delayed two days when Ukraine post­poned the pull­out of some of its own forces because of artillery fire between both sides in the con­flict in east­ern Ukraine. At the same time, the Azov Bat­tal­ion — a right-wing, pro-Ukrain­ian para­mil­i­tary group — announced on Oct. 7 that it was tak­ing up posi­tions in Zolo­toe, a vil­lage on the line of con­tact. Ukrain­ian forces would like­ly have to leave Zolo­toe as part of a with­draw­al, but the Azov Bat­tal­ion’s leader has said his forces will not aban­don the vil­lage.

    Why It Mat­ters

    Despite Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skiy’s desire to work with Rus­sia to resolve the con­flict in east­ern Ukraine, there are many obsta­cles on the path to peace. The hin­drances include not only the full imple­men­ta­tion of a polit­i­cal set­tle­ment under the 2015 Min­sk agree­ment and relat­ed Stein­meier for­mu­la, but also the ini­tial tac­ti­cal step of paci­fy­ing the front lines in east­ern Ukraine. Attempts to sab­o­tage Zelen­skiy’s efforts by para­mil­i­tary groups that oppose his approach could pre­vent sep­a­ratist forces from rec­i­p­ro­cat­ing a with­draw­al by Ukrain­ian armed forces, should Ukrain­ian forces indeed ini­ti­ate a pull­out.

    Back­ground

    The bat­tle­field isn’t the only place where Zelen­skiy is fac­ing resis­tance to his agen­da. About 10,000 Ukraini­ans ral­lied in Kyiv on Oct. 6 against the pres­i­den­t’s appar­ent sup­port for the so-called Stein­meier for­mu­la, which would grant spe­cial sta­tus to the sep­a­ratist region of Don­bas and stip­u­late the with­draw­al of Ukrain­ian forces from the con­tact line in Don­bas. Pop­u­lar resis­tance will lim­it Zelen­skiy’s efforts to resolve the Ukrain­ian con­flict and may force him to stand firm on the with­draw­al of Russ­ian forces from east­ern Ukraine, the return of the Ukrain­ian-Russ­ian bor­der to Ukrain­ian con­trol and oth­er demands that could doom nego­ti­a­tions to fail­ure.

    ———-

    “Ukraine: Zelen­skiy’s Peace Effort Encoun­ters Resis­tance” by Strat­for World­view, Strat­for World­view, 10/08/2019

    “Devel­op­ments con­tin­ue to mud­dy progress toward resum­ing the so-called Nor­mandy For­mat to try to set­tle the con­flict in Ukraine. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the sep­a­ratist Luhan­sk Peo­ple’s Repub­lic informed observers with the Orga­ni­za­tion for Secu­ri­ty and Co-oper­a­tion in Europe that the group would be ready to begin with­draw­ing its forces on Oct. 9. The date was delayed two days when Ukraine post­poned the pull­out of some of its own forces because of artillery fire between both sides in the con­flict in east­ern Ukraine. At the same time, the Azov Bat­tal­ion — a right-wing, pro-Ukrain­ian para­mil­i­tary group — announced on Oct. 7 that it was tak­ing up posi­tions in Zolo­toe, a vil­lage on the line of con­tact. Ukrain­ian forces would like­ly have to leave Zolo­toe as part of a with­draw­al, but the Azov Bat­tal­ion’s leader has said his forces will not aban­don the vil­lage.

    It’s a sign of the out­sized pow­er these Nazi mili­tias have in Ukraine: they are dis­obey­ing an order to with­draw and the gen­er­al reac­tion is, ‘oh well’ and not, ‘this group needs to be forced to com­ply’.

    The piece then goes on to men­tion the ~10,000 per­son protest that took place days ear­li­er in Kiev against the peace plan, giv­ing no indi­ca­tion of the far right ele­ment of the protest:

    ...
    The bat­tle­field isn’t the only place where Zelen­skiy is fac­ing resis­tance to his agen­da. About 10,000 Ukraini­ans ral­lied in Kyiv on Oct. 6 against the pres­i­den­t’s appar­ent sup­port for the so-called Stein­meier for­mu­la, which would grant spe­cial sta­tus to the sep­a­ratist region of Don­bas and stip­u­late the with­draw­al of Ukrain­ian forces from the con­tact line in Don­bas. Pop­u­lar resis­tance will lim­it Zelen­skiy’s efforts to resolve the Ukrain­ian con­flict and may force him to stand firm on the with­draw­al of Russ­ian forces from east­ern Ukraine, the return of the Ukrain­ian-Russ­ian bor­der to Ukrain­ian con­trol and oth­er demands that could doom nego­ti­a­tions to fail­ure.
    ...

    Now, here’s an Asso­ci­at­ed Press piece about the Octo­ber 14th protest, via the LA Times (because the arti­cle does­n’t appear to be avail­able on apnews.com at this point). As the arti­cle makes very clear, that protest, which had sim­i­lar num­bers to the Octo­ber 6th protest, was pri­mar­i­ly a far right event:

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    Far-right groups protest Ukrain­ian president’s peace plan

    By Oct. 14, 2019 10:41 AM

    by Asso­ci­at­ed Press
    KYIV, Ukraine —

    Shoot­ing off flares and shout­ing “glo­ry to Ukraine,” thou­sands of far-right and nation­al­ist activists marched Mon­day through Kyiv, protest­ing Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelensky’s lead­er­ship and his long-await­ed peace plan for east­ern Ukraine.

    Zelen­sky sought to improve his patri­ot­ic cre­den­tials by vis­it­ing Ukrain­ian troops on the front line of the five-year con­flict with Moscow-backed sep­a­ratists. At least 13,000 peo­ple have died in the fight­ing. Ear­li­er Mon­day, he held a moment of silence at a mon­u­ment to its Ukrain­ian vic­tims.

    Police deployed around key sites in the Ukrain­ian cap­i­tal of Kyiv as around 10,000 peo­ple marched under a blan­ket of yel­low-and-blue Ukrain­ian flags in one of sev­er­al nation­al­ist gath­er­ings Mon­day to mark Defense of the Home­land Day. Zelen­sky urged par­tic­i­pants to avoid vio­lence and warned of poten­tial “provo­ca­tions” from those who want to stoke chaos.

    Black-clad men hold­ing up red flares like torch­es led the pro­ces­sion, some in white masks to con­ceal their iden­ti­ty.

    “Glo­ry to Ukraine!” they chant­ed. “No capit­u­la­tion!”

    The crowd includ­ed vet­er­ans of the con­flict who are urg­ing Zelen­sky not to allow a troop with­draw­al, local elec­tions or amnesty for sep­a­ratists. All are ele­ments of a long-stalled peace plan that the Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent is try­ing to revive.

    “What price is Zelen­skiy ready to pay? He’s ready to sell all of us out to make peace with Rus­sia. And will not be silent,” said 46-year-old vet­er­an Taras Volochko.

    “With­draw­ing troops is a cat­a­stro­phe for the coun­try. Rus­sia is using the sit­u­a­tion to seize the ter­ri­to­ries we with­draw from,” Andriy Bilet­sky, head of the far-right group Nation­al Corps, told the Asso­ci­at­ed Press.

    Zelen­sky, a come­di­an who rose to the pres­i­den­cy this year on promis­es to end the con­flict, thanked Ukrain­ian troops for defend­ing the coun­try from out­side influ­ence — and urged them to “come back alive.”

    “Ukraine is an inde­pen­dent, sov­er­eign, uni­fied and demo­c­ra­t­ic state,” he told them, con­clud­ing his speech with his own “Glo­ry to Ukraine!”

    Ukraine, Rus­sia and the sep­a­ratists signed an accord ear­li­er this month to pull back heavy weapon­ry and to hold an elec­tion in the area at a lat­er date. The pull­back has not occurred because of shelling from both sides and threats from Ukrain­ian hard-lin­ers to ham­per the dis­en­gage­ment.

    Zelen­sky is stick­ing to the accord, insist­ing that it’s the only way for his coun­try to move for­ward.

    He still enjoys the sup­port of most Ukraini­ans, who argue he needs to be giv­en time to ful­fil his promis­es to revive the econ­o­my. Ukraini­ans have also shrugged off his embar­rass­ing phone call with U.S. Pres­i­dent Trump that unleashed an impeach­ment inquiry in the Unit­ed States.

    “I love my coun­try but I’m not like those nation­al­ists, I don’t have time for protests. And what good does that bring?” asked Nadiya Kuz­menko, 68, a for­mer arms fac­to­ry work­er who cleans hous­es to sup­ple­ment her $125 month­ly pen­sion.

    Ear­li­er Mon­day, a crowd gath­ered in front of the president’s admin­is­tra­tion, accus­ing the pres­i­dent of being a “ser­vant of the Krem­lin” who is try­ing to “strike a deal with the dev­il.”

    Crit­ics call the accord a “capit­u­la­tion” to Rus­sia and fear it will lead to Rus­sia hav­ing the upper hand in decid­ing the future of the con­flict-torn region. “Peace after Vic­to­ry” read one huge ban­ner.

    The head of one of the protest­ing groups, Vet­er­ans’ Broth­er­hood, said Zelen­sky held a closed-door meet­ing with nation­al­ist groups last week to try to explain his posi­tion and calm ten­sions, but claimed the pres­i­dent said he has “no plan.”

    ...

    ———–

    “Far-right groups protest Ukrain­ian president’s peace plan” by Asso­ci­at­ed Press, Asso­ci­at­ed Press, 10/14/2019

    “Black-clad men hold­ing up red flares like torch­es led the pro­ces­sion, some in white masks to con­ceal their iden­ti­ty.”

    Guys in masks with flares led the pro­ces­sion. That’s a pret­ty strong indi­ca­tion this was pri­mar­i­ly a far right protest. Even Andriy Bilet­sky, the head of Azov’s polit­i­cal wing, the Nation­al Corps, was talk­ing to the press at the protest:

    ...
    “Glo­ry to Ukraine!” they chant­ed. “No capit­u­la­tion!”

    The crowd includ­ed vet­er­ans of the con­flict who are urg­ing Zelen­sky not to allow a troop with­draw­al, local elec­tions or amnesty for sep­a­ratists. All are ele­ments of a long-stalled peace plan that the Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent is try­ing to revive.

    “What price is Zelen­skiy ready to pay? He’s ready to sell all of us out to make peace with Rus­sia. And will not be silent,” said 46-year-old vet­er­an Taras Volochko.

    “With­draw­ing troops is a cat­a­stro­phe for the coun­try. Rus­sia is using the sit­u­a­tion to seize the ter­ri­to­ries we with­draw from,” Andriy Bilet­sky, head of the far-right group Nation­al Corps, told the Asso­ci­at­ed Press.

    ...

    Crit­ics call the accord a “capit­u­la­tion” to Rus­sia and fear it will lead to Rus­sia hav­ing the upper hand in decid­ing the future of the con­flict-torn region. “Peace after Vic­to­ry” read one huge ban­ner.

    The head of one of the protest­ing groups, Vet­er­ans’ Broth­er­hood, said Zelen­sky held a closed-door meet­ing with nation­al­ist groups last week to try to explain his posi­tion and calm ten­sions, but claimed the pres­i­dent said he has “no plan.”
    ...

    Note that Vet­er­ans’ Broth­er­hood is also an Azov affil­i­at­ed gropu and the close-door meet­ing with the ‘nation­al­ists’ that Zelen­sky held the pre­vi­ous week was a meet­ing with the lead­ers of Azov and oth­er neo-Nazi groups like C14. Which, again, under­scores the fact that the pri­ma­ry oppo­nents to the peace plan is the far right.

    And as the arti­cle notes, Zelen­skiy still has the sup­port of a major­i­ty of Ukraini­ans:

    ...
    Zelen­sky is stick­ing to the accord, insist­ing that it’s the only way for his coun­try to move for­ward.

    He still enjoys the sup­port of most Ukraini­ans, who argue he needs to be giv­en time to ful­fil his promis­es to revive the econ­o­my. Ukraini­ans have also shrugged off his embar­rass­ing phone call with U.S. Pres­i­dent Trump that unleashed an impeach­ment inquiry in the Unit­ed States.
    ...

    It’s one of the key facts in this sit­u­a­tion: the ‘pop­u­lar will’ that’s stop­ping the peace plan isn’t actu­al­ly very pop­u­lar. But it is demon­stra­bly quite pow­er­ful.

    So the above arti­cle does­n’t appear to be avail­able on the Asso­ci­at­ed Press’s web­site, apnew.com. Instead, we find this vague cor­rec­tion that appears to be an attempt to white­wash the far right nature of those anti-peace protests:

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press
    Clar­i­fi­ca­tion: Ukraine-Protests sto­ry

    by Asso­ci­at­ed Press
    Octo­ber 16, 2019

    KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — In a sto­ry Oct. 14, The Asso­ci­at­ed Press report­ed that thou­sands of far-right and nation­al­ist activists marched through Kyiv, protest­ing Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s lead­er­ship and his peace plan for east­ern Ukraine.

    The sto­ry should have made it clear that there were mul­ti­ple march­es on Oct. 14 in Kyiv mark­ing Defense of the Home­land Day, involv­ing a vari­ety of peo­ple and groups. Among the events was a march against the peace plan, which includ­ed mod­er­ate crit­ics of Zelen­skiy as well as nation­al­ist and far-right activists. Nation­al­ist groups also held sep­a­rate protests.

    ———–

    “Clar­i­fi­ca­tion: Ukraine-Protests sto­ry” by Asso­ci­at­ed Press, Asso­ci­at­ed Press, 10/16/2019

    These weren’t exclu­sive­ly far right anti-peace protests. There were mod­er­ates there too! That’s the cor­rec­tion the AP appar­ent­ly felt com­pelled to issue...at the same time it seems to have removed the sto­ry from its archives.

    And that’s all why we should prob­a­bly expect Ukraine’s neo-Nazis to suc­cess­ful­ly kill the peace process over the will of the major­i­ty and have it por­trayed as ‘pop­u­lar resis­tance’ in the West­ern press.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 24, 2019, 2:23 pm

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