Saturday, April 20

the neo-Nazi problem of Ukraine and Russia

“Denazify and demilitarize Ukraine”. This is how, on February 24, the Russian president Vladimir Putin justified the military assault of the Russian army against its neighbor. This argument, tirelessly repeated by the kremlinexaggerates the real presence of militias neo-Nazis who fight alongside kyiv, but also tries to hide that the ultra problem also extends to Russia.

This problem surfaced in 2014 in the heart of the Ukrainian revolt of the euromaidan. It was then that hooligans from ultra-nationalist and neo-Nazi football clubs forged the Azov Battalion with the aim of combating the pro-Russian government Viktor Yanukovych and the separatists who had self-proclaimed the independence of the regions of Donetsk Y Lugansk, east of Ukraine. Its first commander, Andriy BiletskyHe went so far as to say that his country’s mission was “to lead the white race in the last crusade against the Semitic subhumans.”

His important military role in the donbas They managed to recapture the city of Mariupol—and the lack of troops in the regular army led to the government of Petro Poroshenko to incorporate the Ukrainian National Guard into the regiment, under the control and financing of kyiv. The decision ended up legitimizing this armed group and, since then, has received military training from western countries like Canada. The UN has accused Azov of raping and torturing prisoners in Donbas and persecuting the Roma and LGBTQ communities.

Ukraine is a multi-ethnic nation where the government has been democratically elected, antisemitism has been banned and its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, he is Jewish. “The government and society have tolerated these groups as an instrumental element because they fear the threat from Russia, but they do not share their ideas,” he says. Abel Riu, president of the think tank Catalonia Global Institute. In the 2019 elections, in which Zelenski prevailed, the extreme right obtained only 2.15% of the votes. However, Riu points out, the ultra legitimation is allowing a historical revisionism that is normalizing the exaltation of figures such as Stepan BanderaUkrainian independence leader who fought the Soviets and collaborated with the Nazis in their pogroms against the Jews.

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Ukraine, mecca of ultra pilgrimage

Since 2014, Donbas has become an enclave of ultra pilgrimage where neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other right-wing extremists from around the world come to learn military tactics. “The instability in Ukraine offers extremists the same training opportunities that the instability in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria has offered jihadist militants for years,” researcher ali soufanformer FBI agent who for years followed the trail of Bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

Comfortably installed in Ukraine, neo-Nazi militias like Azov or Misanthropic Division they have used digital propaganda to weave an international network of guerrillas. It is estimated that the first group has gone from having 300 soldiers to up to 2,500. Many of them are supporters of Ukrainian neo-fascist parties like Pravy Sector either Svoboda, minority but very noisy, but they also come from outside. The war has accelerated this activity and ultras from the United States, Spain, Germany or Sweden have shown interest in joining those ranks, according to the SITE intelligence group. “I have not noticed this much recruiting activity in the entire movement since the Islamic State declared its caliphate in 2014 and attracted supporters worldwide,” he has said. explained its director, Rita Katzto the ‘Washington Post’.

This is the case of Miguel, a 23-year-old resident of Segur de Calafell, who traveled to Krakow on March 5 and from there entered Ukrainian territory to join the ranks of the neo-Nazi paramilitaries in defense “of the Ukrainian people and of the West. ”, explained to CNN. A few years earlier, he was arrested in Hungary during his graduation trip for giving the Hitler salute in a synagogue while wearing Hungarian neo-Nazi insignia, the ARA newspaper reported. Although the journalist Michael Ramos has detected how Spanish Falangists put their members in contact with the Ukrainian militias, Civil Guard sources greatly limit this phenomenon, reports Juanjo Fernández. “The capacity for extremist mobilization among their friendly groups in Spain is minimal,” says a source from the police force.

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Global security hazard

Internet It is an essential part of the ultra recruitment strategy, since it is in digital spaces such as Facebook, Telegram, 4chan and even TikTok where they organize and seek to seduce new followers to the cause. “The most obscene meme communities have been recreating themselves with the Ukrainian war for years, there are large pockets of ultra-nationalist groups that support both Ukraine and Russia,” he says. Iago Moreno, sociologist by the University of Cambridge. “These platforms are being filled with war pornography shared by the accounts of neo-Nazi battalions, with explicit images of the dead and with such brutal propaganda that I had never seen before.”

Experts warn that Ukraine has become a laboratory where ultras learn guerrilla tactics that they can later use to carry out terrorist acts in their home countries. In 2019, the G7 called on Ukraine to curb the proliferation of violent far-right groups on its territory, but the advent of an all-out war against Russia has relegated this concern as weapons sent by the West to support kyiv end up in the hands of these militias.

Russia also goes to ultras

Russian propaganda has equated Ukraine with a Nazi regime to completely discredit its army. Despite having caught on, this strategy is not without irony. And it is that part of the radicals who have made a pilgrimage to Donbas to take up arms have done so together to the pro-Russian separatists. It is the case of the followers of the Russian Imperial Movementa violent ethnonationalist organization that preaches a return to the tsarist regime and that trains neo-Nazis from all over the world in camps near Saint Petersburg.

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Related news

The extreme right The global economy has multiple sensitivities and interests, and many supremacists have for years been attracted to a Putinist Russia that promotes a white, Christian, and conservative society. The country has welcomed as residents Rinaldo Nazaroformer leader of the neo-Nazi paramilitary group The Base who has been seen wearing t-shirts with Putin’s face and who has asked his followers not to fight in Ukraine.

Between the alleged denazifiers of UkraineRussia has come to Wagner Group, a militia of mercenaries in the pay of the Kremlin who have waged Moscow’s dirty wars for years, from Syria to Donbas. This group is headed by Dmitry Utkin, self-confessed neo-Nazi, former director of Russian military intelligence (GRU) and veteran of the wars with which Putin devastated Chechnya. In 2016 he was decorated by the Kremlin, which denies that it uses his services.

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