Publico (Portugal): the Ukraine – a military training base for the far right from all over the world

Modern Ukraine is one of the main poles of attraction for the far right around the world. Almost four thousands of aliens from 35 countries have already been trained and fought in militias in the civil war in Ukraine. One of these units — regiment “Azov” — became a large movement, has created a state within the state, spread its tentacles throughout Europe and wants to create a Ukrainian Foreign Legion.

“I see Ukraine as a place where the extreme right can get training to military and ideological support. In many ways for the ultra-Ukraine is the same than was Syria for LIH*” (a terrorist organization banned in Russia — approx. ed.) — said R2 Jason Blazakis, assistant investigator Soufan Center and Director of the Center for combating terrorism and extremism in California, USA. — “Ukraine is a back door to the EU, which is ultra-noticed, and the threat is undeniable. The militants are trained on the battlefields of Ukraine, and then return to their home country.”

This situation report Soufan Center “White Supremacy Extremism: The Transnational Rise of the Violent White Supremacist Movement”, published in September 2019, calls alarming. “How jihadists used the conflicts in Afghanistan, Chechnya, the Balkans, Iraq, and Syria to improve tactics and techniques and to strengthen international relations and right-wing extremists use Ukraine”, — the document says.

The terrorist responsible for the tragedy in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019, were thoroughly linked with the far right around the world. The armor that was on him during the assassination attempt, had the sign of the black sun, first popularized the regiment “Azov”. In the Manifesto of the “Great replacement” (banned in New Zealand — approx.ed.) written to justify mass murder, suicide reports that have been in Ukraine. Immediately there were suspicions that he joined the “Azov” shortly after its formation in 2014, despite the fact that the regiment denies any connection with this man.

A few months after the mass murder of fifty Muslims, the Manifesto was translated into Ukrainian neo-Nazi organization Wotanjugend associated with the “Azov”, reports the website Bellingcat. He printed thousands of copies, but the militants, whose affiliation is not established, posed for a photo with instances of the manifest.

Mass murder in Christchurch drew attention to the threat that carry the extreme right of Ukraine to Europe and the USA. It is expressed in the possibility of committing attacks in small groups or “lone wolves,” and the probability of formation or enhancing existing neo-Nazi organizations in the home countries of the terrorists. Such enterprises as The Base and Attonwaffen Division* (terrorist organisation — approx.ed.) have already established relations with the “Azov” is supposed to be for training. In the West, terrorists from the far-right more common than the jihadists.

The reality is even more alarming if we take into consideration given in the same report, the number of foreign volunteers already fought in the Ukrainian war against Pro-Russian citizens, it is about 17241 man. 3879 of them foreigners, among whom, with a turn 879 from 36 different countries — Sweden, USA, Israel, Italy, Denmark, Germany, France and even Portugal fought on the Ukrainian side. A lot of foreigners (3000) comes from Russia. Russian neo-Nazis were divided into those who support the so-called Russian imperialism or oppose it.

As for Portugal, at least one Portuguese was one of the battalions of the Ukrainian volunteer corps of the far-right organization “Right sector”** (a terrorist organization banned in Russia — approx.ed.). “Two years ago [2018] I learned about the citizen of Portugal, who for two or three months took part in the battles in the ranks of the Ukrainian volunteer corps” — said the P2 investigator, collecting information for that report, but he did not disclose any more details about the identity of the action.

However, most of the European neo-Nazis joined the Pro-Russian separatists in their war against the Ukrainian militia (13372 man, of whom 1372 — Russian).

Counting fighters who have already gone through the Ukrainian troops, was made on the basis of data from open sources, that is, on the basis of photographs and commentary on forums and in social networks, therefore, should not exclude the possibility that the real figures are much higher, concludes the report. However, as this situation?

“Azov” is born with the war

Ukrainian far-right openly appeared on the political stage during the Euromaidan protests against President Viktor Yanukovych in 2013 and have taken to the streets of Kiev. Yanukovych, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was deposed and a little later, in March 2014, Moscow annexed the Crimea and began supporting separatists of Donetsk and Lugansk, beginning a war that continues to this day and has already claimed the lives of 13 thousand people, including many civilians.

Ukrainian army was not able to fight with the separatists, and therefore the newly elected President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, turned to the help of volunteers, who took up arms to fight against Russian aggression. In the end, for this purpose it was formed 30 to 40 volunteer battalions.

One of those who stood behind these events, is the oligarch Igor Kolomoisky — one of the two richest people of Ukraine and the shadow government both Poroshenko and Zelensky. In 2014, he has destroyed the image and spoke out in defense of Ukraine, giving interviews and financing of various battalions, including “Azov”, “Dnepr-2”, “Shahtersk” and “Poltava”. In April of the same year, he promised a reward in the amount of ten thousand dollars (nine thousand euros) to the one who killed a Russian mercenary.

With the development of the war Kolomoisky began to use a company-funded volunteer battalions as a personal army to obtain political gain and thus came into conflict with the President of Ukraine. “Bureaucrats need these battalions as a physical support, since they are easier to manage. The ultra-right formations are part of the bureaucratic market”, — said the P2 Vyacheslav Likhachev, a Ukrainian political analyst, specialist on the far right of this country.

One of those who responded to the call Poroshenko and received the money of the oligarch Kolomoisky, was Andriy Biletsky is the leader of the former neo-Nazi party, patriot of Ukraine** (part of Right sector, banned in Russia — approx.ed.) formed 5 may 204 the battalion “Azov”, which later became a regiment and is now moving to becoming a division, although he still lacks the number (10 thousand). Biletsky was so popular that it even became a Deputy in the years 2014-2019, first as an independent, and then with the support of the political party “Azov” — the national corpus**.

After a short training the fighters went to the front, where soon after meeting with a well-trained and Moscow-backed separatists, the regiment suffered considerable loss. Poroshenko eventually joined this paramilitary organization Ukrainian National Guard November 12, 2014, which was interpreted as an attempt to control her and as a way to provide it with first-class weapons provided by the United States (in 2018, the Congress approved a law under which it is forbidden to supply weapons to the “Azov”, but its application in practice is unknown), the European Union (equipment, for example a bulletproof vest) and Canada. Even Israel was allowed to make its primary weapon, the Tavor 21, on Ukrainian factories, so in the end, it is in the hands of neo-Nazis. On the site “Azov” in the “Support” section there is a logo of Israeli company with a patent for the production of assault rifles.

Now “Azov” has artillery, armored infantry and even training camps. The main is located in Mariupol in southern Ukraine on the coast of the Azov sea. There are training foreign fighters who answered the call to join the ranks of the regiment, made shortly after its formation. In 2015, the aliens chose responsible — Gaston Besson, a French mercenary who fought in Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Suriname, and Croatia. It was reported that he received hundreds of contacts every day.

The regiment has gone from a mere paramilitary enterprises to full motion, occupying a niche and gaining the respect of society, as his men were heroes, fighting against the Russian expansion. “Azov” is a large — scale far-right organisation calling itself the “Movement “Azov” and subject only to the Andrey Biletsky. The movement consists of various organizations: the regiment “Azov”, the party “national housing”, “Veterans brotherhood”, etc. in addition, it have influence on other neo-Nazi associations, for example, Wotanjugend.

Paramilitary enterprises are widely represented in social networks, Newspapers, radio. Whenever you killed someone from the chiefs organised a ceremony with a military parade and volleys.

The penetration of the state apparatus

The movement of the “Azov” entered in the Ukrainian state apparatus is now inseparable from it. It receives political and military support, as well as millions of euros of funding for your Patriotic youth programs (nine-year-old children undergoing military training). This penetration is recognized by the Secretary of the International Department of the “National body” by Elena Semenyaka. “In just four years, the movement of the “Azov” has become a state within a state”, — she wrote in Facebook on 29 October 2018.

The Minister of Internal Affairs in the newly-fallen snow and the current President of Ukraine is responsible for the growing influence of neo-Nazis in the state apparatus Ukraine. Arsen Avakov is using paramilitary Association in their own interests. He has positioned himself as the only one who can control him, and recently teamed up with billionaire Kolomoisky in conflict with Zelensky. Avakov always acts in defense of the rebels, when they are accused of neo-Nazism. Zelensky also protects them, but not so openly, and even not so long ago decided to reward the fighters of “Azov” for your valor in battle.

“Azov” is now so powerful that it can refuse to award the head of state, which is seen by some analysts as a threat to the Ukrainian state. In late October the Supreme commander of the armed forces ordered to retreat from Gold and the other two cities, to increase the distance between the troops and to avoid the constant clashes during the ceasefire. However, the leader of the “Azov” disobeyed and threatened to send the Gold ten thousand volunteers to “blood to protect occupied positions”.

Zelensky went to the front line to communicate with the militia, but in the end accused them that they consider it a “fool,” and that they “give him an ultimatum.” The militia was persistent and eventually was disarmed Ukrainian military and removed from the front lines. The Ukrainian press is feared that the tense situation will lead to bloodshed.

Avakov has played a major role in settling the crisis in the government and once again proved to be indispensable for internal order. His power is based on the fact that the Ukrainian press calls a “double game”. It supports, on the one hand, military and other militias.

Avakov called for training camp “Azov” in Mariupol on 28 October 2019 to show them support and a few days before, stated that “the detachment of special purpose “Azov” — it is a legal Union in the framework of the “National guard”, his military have shown themselves worthy in the defense of the Motherland”. “Information company reporting alleged Nazi ideology circulated among the volunteers, is an attempt to undermine the confidence of foreign partners to Ukraine and to provoke a crisis in relations with our allies,” continued the Minister. The regiment “Azov” in recent years, is especially concerned not to be associated with the prejudices of a political nature.

Azov pulls the tentacles to Europe

The annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in Eastern Ukraine have divided the far-right of Europe in their attitude to Russia. A large part examines the military actions of Putin, dictated by including one of his main advisors and far-right ideologist Alexander Dugin, as a response to the strengthening of the West to which is referred the United States, NATO and the EU. French “National Union” and the Italian “League” continue to support Russia. For its part, the Portuguese party Chega spoke in Parliament in defence of Ukraine and condemn Russian aggression for what “Movement “Azov” considers it his ally.

Due to the fact that military action rejected by the international community, the Ukrainian far-right have become isolated on the international political stage. “Azov” immediately tried to turn this situation in their favor, and they got it. In 2013, three Ukrainian military has created a Misanthropic Division (MD)*** (banned in Russia — approx.ed.) international neo-Nazi network with the aim to create a national state on the territory of Eastern Europe. However, in 2015 due to the war with Russia, the network took up the Ukrainian question became a recruit to the ranks of “Azov”. Misanthropic Division is still in effect, mainly on the territory of Ukraine.

On the other hand, political division “Azov” — “national building” (formerly “Civil case”) — created the company to inform about the Russian threat, but also an international network under the leadership of Elena Semyon, follower of Dugin until the annexation of the Crimea, attending various European conferences. In 2018, she came to Portugal at the invitation Escudo Identitário — Portuguese neo-fascist organization.

Propaganda actions Semenyaka began with Central and Eastern Europe and later spread to more distant European countries — Italy, Portugal, Norway, Sweden and the UK.

At the same time was organized by the political events in the Ukrainian capital — PanEuropa conference in 2017 and 2018 in Kiev, a political project Intermarium Support Group — a support group created in 2006 Biletsky, with the basis of the geopolitical concept of the alternative to Atlanticism and whose roots go back to the teaching of Polish philosopher Jozef Pilsudski. The concept offered by the ultra-right is in the security strategy, focusing on “ethnofuturism” to unite countries from the Baltic to the Black sea in a regional Alliance. This is the reaction of the “Azov”, for a lack of interest in the West to cooperation with Ukraine.

“Azov” invites to these events right-wing theorists, including American Greg Johnson (sent from Norway in November 2019 due to the fact that he supported the terrorist Anders Breivik, and who missed the flight to Portugal, where I was to participate in the conference right-wing on the issue of migrants) and various political leaders based on the countries participating in the alleged Intermarium.

These international contacts, among other things, are aimed at the creation of a Ukrainian foreign Legion. “Foreign volunteers are beginning to join the battalion “Azov” in 2014-2015. Thus, at the time of the creation of “National body” our common dream — the formation of a Ukrainian Foreign Legion — was included in the program of the party,” says one of the publications of Intermarium Support Group on Facebook. There it is reported that the fourth conference of the organization in Zagreb, Croatia, “promises to raise the cooperation to a new level.”

The regiment “Azov” has become an honorary member of the veterans Francopan, collaborating with the French Foreign Legion. “For this organization [Azov] synergistic cooperation with foreign armed forces unprecedented,” says the same publication of June 23, 2019.

Martial arts for recruiting

Cruelty has always been a characteristic feature of the far right. With the popularization of mixed martial arts superiors of paramilitary organizations found a new area for recruitment. They establish international relations with the tournaments where the participating fighters from the United States and Europe.

“Azov” seen the opportunity and used it to recruit Denis Kapustin (known as Denis Nikitin) one of the most influential fighters of the European far right, has dual citizenship in Russia and Germany and have a contract with a sports organization White Rex. Nikitin has been training members of the British neo-Nazi movement “National action” prohibited by the authorities, and that he is responsible for the Reconquista Club — a place where “Azov” organizes tournaments in Kiev.

“If we kill one immigrant a day, 365 kill immigrants for the year, but still tens of thousands of immigrants will get to us in any way. I understand that we are fighting the consequence, not the cause. now we struggle with it in the minds, not on the streets and in social networks,” said Nikitin The Guardian in April 2018.

Nikitin, responsible for the involvement of fighters from the United States and Europe for the tournaments that are organized through a network of clubs across Europe. In France, he organizes Pride France in Paris in 2013, as well as Day of Glory in Lyon, in collaboration with Blood and Honor, the organization recognized a terrorist Europol. In 2015 he organized the German Kampf der Nibelungen festival, banned by the German authorities and the Greek — Pro Patria, in collaboration with former and current members of the neo-Nazi organization “Golden dawn”. In 2018 was organized Shield and Sword — the festival of neo-Nazis tournaments MMA.

Nikitin has connections across the continent, including in Russia, for example, with the organization of Fathers Frost Mode (FFM), which is a tournament in MMA Hammer of the Will. Nikitin and the leader of the FFM Max Savelyev familiar, last visited in Portugal to 2018. It is believed that Ukraine became a base for fighters of the far right. In early may close to the “Azov” Bogdan Khodakovsky, the leader of the Ukrainian neo-Nazi group “Tradition and order,” appeared live in Instagram, where Nikitin acted as interpreter, and said that “the European Union must be destroyed”.

“We gather forces in Europe. We are ready to create a base there, a safe place, and to make a crusade in Brussels, liberals and immigrants,” — said Khodakovsky, stressing that “they are well enshrined in Ukraine and may perform any type of exercises”. Many users asked: “How can I join you in Ukraine for training?”, and received a recommendation to go to private messages.

The two leaders of the ultra-right declared in the same live that “Tradition and order” will open a branch in Germany in order to unite “the Slavs and the Germans” and “to exchange theoretical and practical knowledge”. Communication in MMA serve to build bridges and to organize, in cooperation with the ultra-right Ukrainian organizations, who are engaged in military training. Starting with enterprises in Ukraine, “Movement “Azov” and his allies turned the country into a beacon to the part of the right-wing.