All roads lead to Ukraine
A little over a year ago, far-right terrorists from France killed the former Argentinian international rugby player Federico Martin Aramburu. One of the suspects, Loik Le Priol, was caught on the border between Hungary and Ukraine. According to official reports, the terrorist and former marine commando wanted to surrender to the Ukrainian authorities after committing the murder.
In November 2022, the Italian police announced the arrest of five members of local neo-Nazi group “Order of Hagal”. They had illegally stored weaponry, ammunition, tactical equipment, and a grenade launcher and further engaged in regular paramilitary training to prepare a terrorist attack in Naples.
Later, it became apparent that the group also maintained close ties with Ukraine’s Right Sector, Centuria, and Azov neo-Nazi units. One of its members was a fighter from the Azov. His accomplice, having
“dangerously close ties with far-right Ukrainian nationalist groups,” planned to attack a police station in Naples, while the former Azov fighter himself was preparing a terrorist attack in a shopping mall.
The Italian police first became aware of the neo-Nazis back in 2019. In an intercepted conversation from January 2021, one of the militants, Giampiero Testa, threatened that he would
“make a massacre like in New Zealand,” obviously referring to the terrorist attack in Christchurch that resulted in the deaths of 51 people in 2019. Incidentally, in his manifesto, the New Zealand terrorist stated that he had trained in the Azov battalion in Ukraine, and wore neo-Nazi symbols.
These ties between the neo-Nazis are mutual. According to a 2020 investigation by the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at West Point, the New Zealand shooter’s manifesto became popular among Ukrainian paramilitary units. It was even translated into the Ukrainian language and sold as a book by a 22-year-old Kiev resident, becoming a kind of artifact. The center added that Ukraine “holds a particular attraction for white supremacists, activists and adventurers” largely due to the establishment and development of the Azov regiment and other state-supported paramilitary formations.
Over the years, Azov has encountered no impediment to growth and has become a powerful and extensive organization. The more it grew, the more support it received from the Ukrainian state. Azov’s ideological influence on Ukrainian society has helped to shape the country’s modern agenda. In the 2010s, the organization actively organized youth camps that taught basic military training and ideology. As noted in the Combating Terrorism Center report, the public declarations of Ukrainian far-right extremists attracted ultra-rightists from Europe, the United States, and other countries.
Far-right extremist puppet theater
In the same CTC report, Ukraine is dubbed the first country where the
“overtly far-right white nationalist militia [is] publicly celebrated, openly organizing, and with friends in high places.”
As a result, Ukraine has become a meeting point for far-right extremists from all over the world. The foundation for this was laid long before the start of hostilities in February 2022.
Joachim Furholm was a foreign mercenary in Ukraine and later a recruiter of Western extremists. Furholm is a Norwegian fascist activist who was briefly imprisoned after an attempted bank robbery. He also became well-known for sympathizing with the terrorist Anders Breivik. In 2018, he joined the Foreign Legion in Ukraine and began recruiting American neo-Nazis to the Azov unit.
“It’s like a petri dish for fascism. It’s the perfect conditions,” Furholm said about Ukraine in an interview. Referring to the Azov unit, he said that “they do have serious intentions of helping the rest of Europe in retaking our rightful lands.” Later on the “Azov” podcast, Furholm urged listeners to get in touch with him on Instagram. When a young man from New Mexico reached out, the Norwegian urged him to join the fighting in Ukraine saying, “Come over here, boy. A rifle and beer are waiting for you.”
Surprisingly, after making an appearance on the far-right podcast, Furholm wasn’t ostracized by the media. After speaking at an Azov rally in 2018, he went on to give an interview to the US government-controlled RFE/RL.
The case of the American mercenary and former US Army veteran Craig Lang is even more striking. Lang made headlines when he attempted to blow up his pregnant wife with anti-personnel landmines. In 2015, after serving a prison sentence, he joined the Right Sector ultranationalist organization along with another army veteran, Alex Zwiefelhofere. BuzzFeed reported that Craig recruited dozens of Western militants to Ukrainian paramilitary units.
In 2016, Lang joined the Georgian National Legion, which fought on the side of Ukraine in eastern Donbass. Leaked documents revealed that he beat, tortured, and killed local civilians. According to the publishers of the leak, one of the videos shows Lang beating and drowning a girl after a fellow fighter injected her with adrenaline so that she would not lose consciousness while drowning. Lang and other militants committed these atrocities as members of the Right Sector unit.
Despite the fact that Lang has been charged in a double murder case in the United States, his lawyer Dmytro Morhun told Politico that he had returned to the battlefield. In the summer of 2022, he was seen on social media
“in a Ukrainian military uniform and brandishing an anti-tank weapon.”
Paul Gray is another prominent example of the petri-dish effect. The Iraq war veteran and Purple Heart recipient was a well-known fascist activist in the United States before joining the pro-Ukrainian militants. Despite this, Gray made numerous media appearances, including on Fox News, where he was portrayed as a heroic soldier, his neo-Nazi views never surfacing.
According to media reports, a document compiled by the US Customs and Border Protection Service, intelligence, and other domestic security services, shows that many American militants have traveled to Ukraine. The evidence in these cases being recorded interviews with the extremists themselves, conducted by the law enforcement agencies.
Interestingly, one of the questions listed in the document was,
“What kind of training are foreign fighters receiving in Ukraine that they could possibly proliferate in US based militia and white nationalist groups?” ***
In July 2022, Europol warned that
“the proliferation of firearms and explosives in Ukraine could lead to an increase in firearms and munitions trafficked into the EU via established smuggling routes or online platforms” and “this threat might even be higher once the conflict has ended.”
This means that Ukraine isn’t just turning into a mecca for neo-Nazis, but also poses a threat for the West. A report by the UK’s Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament shows that British citizens who have traveled overseas for
“Right-Wing Terrorism-related purposes” have been “further radicalized” and “developed connections” with others who share their violent ideology. At the same time, the report indicates that there is currently “no process” in place to monitor these people following their arrival home. By George Trenin, а Russian journalist and political scientist
paradox. All rights reserved.