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This program was recorded in one, 60-minute segment .
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:
- 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. . . .”
- 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.
- 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. . . .”
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. . . .”
- 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. . . . .”
- Is networking with members of a group called RAM , some of whom were arrested by the FBI upon their return from Europe. violence.
- 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. . . . .”
- 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.’ . . . ”
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. . . .”
In this program, we note the operations and positioning of the Azov milieu both in Ukraine and globally.
Azov is among the fascist elements opposing  Ukrainian president Volodomyr Zelensky’s efforts at brokering a piece with separatists in the ethnically Russian Eastern provinces of Ukraine. Amidst angry street demonstrations against the peace plan with the separatists, Zelensky met with some of the fascist groups, who have threatened to overthrow Zelensky if he goes forward with the peace plan. The fascists enjoy the support of former president Petro Poroshenko.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Honcharuk and Minister of Veterans Affairs Oksana Koliaga attended an event  organized by elements associated with C14 (the street militia of Svoboda) and Azov. Featuring Sokyra Pekurna–a Nazi metal band–the rally represented a further mainstreaming of the OUN/B successor organizations in Ukraine. The OUN/B successor organizations wield considerable influence within the Ukrainian veterans’ milieu.
Further complicating the issue is the fact that the Azov Battalion has taken up positions  in the town of Zolotoe, at the front of the ongoing war. They have said that they will not withdraw, a threat which, if borne out, will torpedo the peace process.
Concluding the broadcast, we “dolly [the camera] out” and begin an in-depth examination of the Azov international milieu. Embracing “lone wolf” fascists around the world, as well as networking with fascist organizations and combatants who have joined the war in Ukraine’s Eastern provinces, Azov is recapitulating the “Intermarium”  concept, minted by Polish head of state Josef Pilsudski in the period between the World Wars.  Working with Croatians aligned with the “Neo-Ustachi’ milieu we have covered in many past programs, Azov is seeking to develop a nascent Eastern and Central European alliance of fascist and reactionary elements.
Of particular interest is the significance of the Ukrainian and Croatian fascist alliance, which will be explored at greater length in future programs.
1a. Attempts by the new president of Ukraine to effect a peace agreement with the ethnic Russian provinces that have engaged in civil war in an attempt to secede from Ukraine have been met by protests from the nation’s fascist milieu, who enjoy the support of former president Poroshenko.
They have threatened to overthrow Zelensky’s government if the breakaway provinces are given semi-autonomous status.
Thousands of people have joined a march through Kyiv led by far right groups and nationalist parties to protest against changes to a peace plan for east Ukraine that they have called a “capitulation” to Russia.
Police deployed around Ukraine’s capital closed off several major avenues for the demonstrations, as the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy , urged participants to avoid violence. He also warned that images from the protests could be used by Russian state media to discredit Ukraine.
The protests are part of a backlash against Zelenskiy’s policies on the war against Russian-backed separatists in east Ukraine. This month, the president approved a plan that would allow elections in separatist-held Ukraine and then grant special status to the region on the condition the vote was seen as free and fair.
Zelenskiy maintains a 70% approval rating but recent polling showed a majority of Ukrainians opposed giving special status to the regions held by separatists. During a 14-hour press conference  last week, Zelenskiy said ending the war was the most important mission of his presidency and that he would have to meet with Vladimir Putin to achieve that goal.
But his statements have sparked anger among former fighters and have been criticised by members of the opposition. One veteran on Monday called it a “betrayal”. Yevhen Pylypenko, one of several men wearing fatigues on their way to a protest near a statue of the 19th-century Ukrainian writer Taras Shevchenko, said the plan was a step towards “forgiving the people who fought against us. I think that’s unforgivable.”
“We will never agree to that,” Poroshenko, now the leader of the European Solidarity party, said last week. “We feel solidarity with the present actions and calls heard from among veterans and we will not allow the ruin of the Ukrainian state.”
Zelenskiy has sought a compromise with nationalist groups, and reportedly met last week with the leaders of veterans’ organisations, as well as prominent far-right leaders.
Many are controversial. On Sunday night, the Ukrainian prime minister, Oleksiy Honcharuk, spoke at a rally in support of veterans reportedly organised by Andriy Medvedko, a prominent member of the radical nationalist organisation S14. Sokyra Peruna, a white-nationalist metal band whose supporters have made Nazi salutes at their concerts, also played at the bar where the event was held.
Honcharuk on Monday confirmed he spoke at the event to support veterans but said he was not familiar with the band, saying he did not endorse any “hate-filled ideology – neither Nazism, nor fascism, nor communism”.
1b. Ukrainian Prime Minister Honcharuk and Minister of Veterans Affairs Oksana Koliaga attended an event  organized by elements associated with C14 (the street militia of Svoboda) and Azov. Featuring Sokyra Pekurna–a Nazi metal band–the rally represented a further mainstreaming of the OUN/B successor organizations in Ukraine. The OUN/B successor organizations wield considerable influence within the Ukrainian veterans’ milieu.
On October 13, photographs started circulating across social media showing a man resembling Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk on stage at the “Veterans Strong” concert event in Kyiv. This was, however, no ordinary concert — it was organized by a far-right figure accused of murder, and headlined by a neo-Nazi band.
As later posts throughout the evening would show, including the prime minister’s own post on Facebook the next day, the politician did indeed attend and take the stage at an event organized by Ukrainian far-right groups. The Prime Minister wasn’t the only cabinet member from Ukraine’s new government to be there — the Minister of Veteran Affairs, Oksana Koliada , joined Prime Minister Honcharuk at the concert, and even promoted the event in a Facebook post  (archive ) the day before it took place.
In the week following the event, Honcharuk has defended his appearance at the “Veterans Strong” concert, and has not issued an apology or expressed regret. In his Facebook post , Honcharuk complained about “some media outlets putting forth ambiguous theses” and that “politicization” of the event was “absolutely inappropriate.” He added that he didn’t support any “hateful ideologies, whether Nazism, fascism or communism.” In further comments  at a cabinet briefing, Honcharuk added that “many people” are trying to “split [our] society.” “They can make any of you into a Nazi fascist,” he said.
The episode is a further example of how Ukraine’s far-right continues to be normalized by top leaders in the country. Not only are Ukraine’s top ministers attending events organized by far-right figures, they have also had a literal seat at the table with Zelenskyy discussing his plans  for de-escalating the war in eastern Ukraine. Simultaneously, far-right organizations across Ukraine have taken the lead in organizing “No capitulation!” protests against Zelenskyy’s soon-to-be-launched talks with Russia, thus wielding an out sized level of influence in Ukrainian society despite the fact that Ukrainian far-right organizations lack any popular or electoral support.
Who Were The Organizers?
The driving force behind the “Veterans Strong” party  was Andriy Medvedko, a leading member of the neo-Nazi  C14 organization . Medvedko leads the “Union of Veterans of the War With Russia” (Спілка ветеранів війни з Росією), a group affiliated with C14.
Medvedko is one of two men charged  with the murder of pro-Russian reporter Oles Buzyna in 2015. The trial started almost two years ago and legal proceedings continue to be under pressure and scrutiny from far-right groups,
As we revealed in our previous investigation  in July 2019, Medvedko has been linked to an informal C14-linked vigilante group, “Knights of the City” (Лицарі Міста), reportedly involved with incidents of violence aimed at those it deems to be “addicts or alcoholics.”
As discussed in our investigation  of C14 , the organization hosted a football tournament in 2011 “for white children only” that included the white supremacist “14 words” slogan at the bottom of the post, which is also an element of the name of the organization itself. According to Vyacheslav Likhachev , a researcher of the far-right, this post was written by Medvedko himself.
Medvedko’s role in organizing the October 13 event was acknowledged  by multiple individuals on social media. C14 leader Yevhen Karas acknowledged Medvedko’s role in a Telegram post , while also noting that Prime Minister Honcharuk was in attendance. C14 seemed pleasantly surprised to have Honcharuk there: “The Prime Minister has come to the veterans party,” C14’s Serhiy Bondar posted  on Facebook with the ‘scream’ emoji.
In a now-deleted reply to a Facebook post , Medvedko made his appreciation of the headliners, Sokyra Peruna (“Perun’s Axe”), clear. In a response to a video of the band’s performance, Medvedko posted “88”, neo-Nazi code for “Heil Hitler.” This comment was made after Medvedko posted a photo of Ukraine’s Prime Minister in attendance.
Who Was Playing At The Event?
The headlining band at the event was Sokyra Peruna, led by Arseniy Bilodub (born Klimachev), a man with a long history with Ukraine’s neo-Nazi scene. While two other bands played at the event — Komu Vnyz, a band that has played alongside Sokyra Peruna in the past, and FRAM, a mainstream band — it was clear well beforehand that Sokyra Peruna was the main event, as even the event’s Facebook page  features Bilodub.
Bilodub has been a fixture of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi scene since the 1990s. Along with fronting Sokyra Peruna, Bilodub runs the neo-Nazi fashion label Svastone, whose clothes are a common sight at any far-right gathering in Ukraine. The clothing sold by Svastone does not pretend to be anything other than white supremacist, as seen in the “White Baby — The Future of Our Race” shirt below (with a dual brass knuckles – pacifier graphic), selling for $9.
Earlier this year, Bilodub organized the “Fortress Europe” concert  in Kyiv, a concert that featured multiple neo-Nazi bands including American band Blue Eyed Devils, whose former guitar player murdered  six people in a 2012 hate crime.
In his Facebook post the day after the event, PM Honcharuk said he had never heard of Sokyra Peruna and didn’t know who would be playing at the event. Moreover, he added that it wasn’t in his position as prime minister “to dictate to our veterans what songs they should sing.”
Looking at what Sokyra Peruna has released over the years, there’s no shortage of songs from the band’s back catalogue that Honcharuk would probably prefer them not to sing. One of the songs is “Six Million Words of Lies,” a song that exhorts listeners to deny the Holocaust and adds that “the time of reckoning, a holy war is coming.” Another song is called “ZOGland” — a reference to the “Zionist Occupation Government”, an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory — in which Bilodub laments that people have forgotten the “14 Words,” a notorious neo-Nazi slogan that, as mentioned above, concert organizer Andriy Medvedko is familiar with as well.
“Who is guilty, who sold Ukraine? / Jews are walking in the streets / writing laws / ruling the state,” Bilodub sings in “ZOGland.” This line becomes particularly offensive line when considering how Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is Jewish.
Other lines sung by Sokyra Peruna’s Bilodub are no less objectionable: “Forest and fields where Aryans lived / now are Jewish, we can’t that forgive (sic)” and “you act like a n*, you dress like a monkey / you’ll eat bananas and climb palm trees / are you a white person? it’s a disgrace / the race war will begin with you.”
It should therefore come as little surprise that Nazi salutes  are a common sight at Sokyra Peruna concerts.
And Sokyra Peruna’s set? More Nazi salutes, all a short walk from Maidan on a Saturday night. pic.twitter.com/tugOAuf9my 
— Michael Colborne (@ColborneMichael) September 14, 2019 
At a September concert in central Kyiv, Sokyra Peruna fans give Nazi salutes to Sokyra Peruna front-man Arseniy Bilodub on stage (Instagram)
All Part Of A Trend
The appearances by Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk and fellow cabinet minister Oksana Koliada at an event organized and headlined by known far-right figures are not isolated incidents. As Ukraine’s war with Russian and Russian-led forces enters its sixth year, Ukraine’s far-right continues to hijack the understandably emotionally-charged issue of veterans fighting in eastern Ukraine to spread their own intolerant rhetoric.
Another example of this trend was on display in early October at a meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, when members of the far-right (including C14 leader Yevhen Karas) were invited to offer their perspective on the war in eastern Ukraine. Azov was also present, being the largest far-right group in Ukraine that also has a regiment in Ukraine’s National Guard.
“Yesterday I met with veterans,” Zelenskyy said  in early October, “National Corps [the Azov movement’s political party], Azov, everyone else.” A photo from the meeting shows multiple far-right figures in attendance, including C14’s Yevhen Karas and Dmytro Shatrovskyi, head of the Azov-linked “Veterans Brotherhood.”
Meeting with veterans of the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine is, of course, not only legitimate, but necessary for President Zelenskyy. This is especially true when considering the controversy  over the so-called “Steinmeier formula .” However, why does Zelenskyy meet with multiple representatives of far-right groups — and, moreover, speak of them simply as “veterans,” discounting the vast majority of Ukraine’s veterans who have no involvement in extremist organizations? Why are there multiple members of far-right groups, including people who are openly neo-Nazi, on Ukraine’s Ministry of Veterans Affairs public oversight council ? Despite the fact that these far-right organizations have negligible popular support and virtually nonexistent electoral power, they are over-represented among veterans’ rights groups, including in meetings directly with Ukraine’s President. As the veterans’ concert shows, these issues are symptoms of a much larger problem relating to the far-right’s exploitation of veterans’ issues as they continue to have success mainstreaming themselves in Ukrainian politics and society.
1c. Further complicating the issue is the fact that the Azov Battalion has taken up positions  in the town of Zolotoe, at the front of the ongoing war. They have said that they will not withdraw, a threat which, if borne out, will torpedo the peace process.
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.
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.
2. Concluding the broadcast, we “dolly [the camera] out” and begin an in-depth examination of the Azov international milieu. Embracing “lone wolf” fascists around the world, as well as networking with fascist organizations and combatants who have joined the war in Ukraine’s Eastern provinces, Azov is recapitulating the “Intermarium”  concept, minted by Polish head of state Josef Pilsudski in the period between the World Wars.  Working with Croatians aligned with the “Neo-Ustachi’ milieu we have covered in many past programs, Azov is seeking to develop a nascent Eastern and Central European alliance of fascist and reactionary elements.
Of particular interest is the significance of the Ukrainian and Croatian fascist alliance, which will be explored at greater length in future programs.
A thought: will the Azov foreign legion might be integrated into a future all-EU armed forces?
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.
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”.
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 .