IN THE MEDIA

The Far-Right foreign fighter threat that wasn’t

Jun 16, 2022 | Oved Lobel

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Originally published by the European Eye on Radicalization – 14 June 2022

 

Since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine in 2014, and especially since it launched a full-blown invasion in 2022, a new brand of alarmist commentary has started to seep into terrorism analysis concerning a non-existent danger: far-Right[1] foreign fighters.

For instance, University of Chicago Assistant Professor Kathleen Belew told ABC News: “Americans have gone to fight as mercenary soldiers in far-Right and paramilitary units in Ukraine. They do pose a threat to the homeland.”[2]

Rita Katz, executive director of the SITE Intelligence Group, penned an article for the Washington Post in March, comparing the situation in Ukraine to Syria and the Islamic State:

I haven’t noticed this level of movement-wide recruitment activity since the Islamic State declared its so-called caliphate in 2014 and sought sympathizers globally to join its fold. … In many ways, the Ukraine situation reminds me of Syria in the early and middle years of the last decade. Just as the Syrian conflict served as a perfect breeding ground for groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, similar conditions may be brewing in Ukraine for the far-Right. Syria became a plotting and training ground for terrorists to mount attacks in the West. … The extremists who successfully make it to Ukraine could return home with new weapons and combat experience under their belts.[3]

Ali Soufan, the famous former FBI special agent and founder of The Soufan Group, compared the situation in Ukraine to Afghanistan while speaking to TIME: “Pretty soon the extremists took over. The Taliban was in charge. And we did not wake up until 9/11. This is the parallel now with Ukraine.”[4] A 2019 Soufan Center report on the issue of transnational White Supremacy Extremism links alarmingly wrote:

Just as jihadists have used conflicts in Afghanistan, Chechnya, the Balkans, Iraq, and Syria to swap tactics, techniques, and procedures and to solidify transnational networks, so too are WSEs [white supremacist extremists] using Ukraine as a battlefield laboratory. As noted above, an estimated 17,000 people from over 50 countries have traveled to participate in the ongoing conflict.[5]

Steven Stalinsky, the executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), also drew an Afghanistan parallel:

Ukraine could become their version of what Afghanistan was for the jihadi movement in the 1980s. Being on the ground in a real-world fighting situation will allow them to gain valuable experience, as they further hone their skills in weapons, planning attacks, using technology in war including communications and encryption, and using cryptocurrency for clandestine funding of their activity.[6]

The reality is that there are no such parallels at any level of analysis, not least because there are no parallels between the modern state of Ukraine and either Afghanistan or Syria. Moreover, this commentary not only misunderstands and misrepresents the reality of foreign fighters in Ukraine, but also takes as given an entirely unfounded connection between “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist (REMVE)” terrorist attacks and organized REMVE groups. In fact, over the past eight years, there is no evidence that a single foreign fighter from Ukraine has posed a security threat.

Western Foreign Fighters in Ukraine

The eye-grabbing “17,000 people from over 50 countries” claim in the Soufan report is less than meets the eye. Of these, approximately 15,000 are Russians, almost all of whom are fighting for Russia and thus not foreign fighters at all. In terms of Western foreign fighters, there have been fewer than 1,000 on the Ukrainian side over the last eight years, including from Latin America, never all at the same time. Furthermore, only a fraction of these could be considered far-Right.[7]

Foreign fighter expert Kacper Rekawek calculated in 2015, at the height of the war, that approximately 100-300 foreign fighters were involved on each side, once again only a fraction of them from Western states and most not far-Right. One Spanish far-Right foreign fighter on Russia’s side even said of his unit “half of them are Communists and the other half are Nazis”. Furthermore, the motivations of these foreign fighters were complex and occasionally contradictory, sometimes having no relation to their far-Right beliefs.[8]

One typical example is that of Australian Ethan Tilling, a former soldier and one-time neo-Nazi, who went to fight for Ukraine. A very short-term member of Right Wing Resistance, he left the group when he “realised they were absolutely useless human beings. … I decided I wanted nothing to do with those people. It wasn’t even any part of why I went to the Ukraine.”[9]

Instead, Tilling was a war junkie, initially wanting to fight for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Syria, also known as the People’s Protection Units or YPG, against the Islamic State, which is illegal under Australian law. “It was actually a lot harder to join a foreign army than people might think. I jumped on the internet and for weeks and weeks, I tried to find articles and reviews about foreign legions taking foreign nationals voluntarily into their forces and then fighting from there.”[10] It is, incidentally, striking how many foreign fighters and instructors either planned to or did train with and fight alongside the YPG.[11]

After less than two months fighting in Ukraine with the Georgia National Legion, Tilling left, describing the horrendous conditions and scarce supplies, and explaining why he and others like him want to fight abroad. “It’s part of them just being a man in a modern world, that they want to go out and do something brave, or do something incredible. They just want to believe in something.”[12]

Another important example is Mikael Skillt, a Swedish sniper and senior neo-Nazi figure that reportedly wanted to go fight for the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad against “international Zionism” in 2011. Echoing Tilling, in 2015 Skillt said he had grown disillusioned with the neo-Nazis, saying: “I realized I was not a national socialist. Many of the people in the nationalistic movements were idiots, and did not behave properly. We attracted a lot of idiots.” He had also deradicalized in Ukraine:

I’m not a Nazi, and I don’t believe in National Socialism. When I got to Ukraine 17 months ago, I was a real bastard. I had stereotypes against Jews, blacks, Arabs. But I’ve fought with them, and now they are like brothers. … Russia calls me a Nazi bastard, and my old [neo-Nazi] friends in Sweden call me a Jew-lackey.[13]

Nor had his initial white supremacist beliefs been the reason he went to Ukraine. Rather, he was appalled at the killing of civilians by snipers during protests at Maidan in 2014, after which he went to fight Russia in the East. Again echoing Tilling, Skillt said, “Ukraine gave me purpose, and I think a man needs a purpose.” His Swedish friend and fellow neo-Nazi who had travelled with him to Ukraine, army sergeant Jonas Nilsson, has also deradicalized while in the country.[14]

Other well-known examples of foreign fighters, such as American Craig Lang, a US army veteran in Ukraine wanted for murder, exhibit similar characteristics: military experience and an obsession with foreign combat, having tried to put together an operation against the Venezuelan regime. He also travelled to Kenya to try and fight against Al-Qaeda’s Al-Shabab.[15]

A recent Washington Post report on individuals affiliated with the far-Right in Germany travelling or wishing to travel to Ukraine demonstrates just how marginal this alleged foreign fighter phenomenon remains:

In Germany, the number of far-Right extremists crossing into Ukraine is still minimal, according to Germany’s Interior Ministry. So far, just 27 either have traveled to Ukraine or made plans to do so, authorities said this week, among 33,300 far-Right extremists estimated to be in the country, with 13,000 assessed to be inclined to violence. Authorities said there was no evidence any had seen combat.[16]

By the end of 2015, once the war had been frozen by the abortive Minsk Accords, which themselves mandated the withdrawal of foreign fighters—a clause the Ukrainians seem to have taken seriously—almost all of the far-Right Western foreign fighters, of which there had been very few in the first place, had left.

The Azov Regiment and the Role of Foreign Fighters

Presumably, the theoretical basis for worrying about foreign fighters in relation to Ukraine would be that they would learn skills and gain experience, after which they might return home to conduct attacks.

In reality, the relationship is precisely the inverse: almost all foreign recruits in Ukraine, regardless of ideology, already had military experience and were specifically recruited to train Ukrainians, not vice versa. Most importantly, neither Azov nor any other group in Ukraine is a transnational terrorist group intending to conduct attacks abroad, and they are therefore in no way comparable to the Islamic State or any other jihadist group, however noxious their ideas.

While a full historical overview of the far-Right in Ukraine, particularly the evolution of Azov as a movement and its domestic and international links and power, is beyond the scope of this discussion, the simple fact is that the Azov Regiment of 2022, far from simply being the military wing of a neo-Nazi movement as often portrayed, is in fact a separate, special purpose unit of the National Guard of Ukraine, fully professionalised and vetted.[17]

Even in 2014-2015, only a fraction of Azov’s fighters were neo-Nazis, something attested to by Skillt, among others.[18] A spokesman for the group estimated in 2015 that 10-20% of the fighters were neo-Nazis, and commenting on one particular neo-Nazi trainer, said: “I know Alex is a Nazi, but it’s his personal ideology. … He’s a good drill sergeant and a good instructor for tactics and weapons skills.” A Jewish instructor that helped train Azov members commented, “I didn’t see any fascists or antisemites. And I tell you this as a Jewish guy.”[19] Since then, vetting procedures have been tightened and extremists mostly purged from Azov’s ranks.[20]

The irrational international focus on Azov in this regard is especially absurd when one considers that Germany had to partially disband and overhaul its most elite special forces unit over neo-Nazi infiltration,[21] and the US had to comprehensively review and purge its entire military due to extremism in the ranks.[22] As will be discussed later, it is actually Russia that systematically recruits neo-Nazis into fighting formations; instrumentalises and exports its massive far-Right milieu; and trains and protects transnational neo-Nazi groups as official government policy.

Aditionally, at no stage did the Azov Regiment have a large contingent of foreign fighters. Michael Colborne, a journalist at Bellingcat who has studied Azov for years, estimates there may have been up to 100 foreign fighters in the Regiment between 2014 and 2015—although not all at the same time—and the vast majority of them were Russians.[23] Of the perhaps dozens of Westerners that joined the group, nearly all were instructors with previous military experience. Significant legal and financial constraints in Ukraine as well as very selective recruiting ensured there was never a significant foreign contingent, despite chatter and interest among the international far-Right.[24] Furthermore, far-Right foreign fighters heading for Ukraine have mostly been halted by Western countries before departing,[25] while whoever arrives to the front is thoroughly vetted by Ukraine upon arrival.

Any threat any of these individuals might pose would therefore have nothing to do with serving as a foreign fighter in Ukraine—they were passing on their own skills, not picking them up, and no Ukrainian paramilitary group, regardless of their beliefs, systematically promotes terrorism abroad.

Russia’s Instrumentalization of the Far right in Ukraine

Unlike Ukraine, Russia has long had a state policy of using and exporting its own extremists, forming relationships with far-Right political parties and groups across the world, and even making itself the headquarters of transnational neo-Nazi groups like The Base.[26] The Kremlin has been co-opting its most extreme far-Right elements to conduct its war in Ukraine, most famously the Wagner group, the “implausibly deniable” neo-Nazi arm of the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Within Wagner, the openly neo-Nazi Task Force Rusich forms the link to the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM), which unlike Azov actually does specifically train neo-Nazis and other far-Right extremists from around the world in its camps. This happens with at least the connivance of the Kremlin,[27] and has been obliquely linked to attacks by its trainees in Sweden. RIM was designated by the US as a terrorist group in 2020, and has contributed funds and fighters to Russia’s war in Ukraine.[28]

RIM is far from the only far-Right organisation upon whose domestic and regional infrastructure the Kremlin has piggybacked to try and destroy Ukraine: Russian National Unity (RNE), the “Other Russia”, and the Eurasian Youth Union, inter alia—all infamous Russia far-Right organisations essentially sanctioned by the Kremlin—have been deeply involved in undermining Ukrainian sovereignty since long before 2014, and have since then contributed thousands of fighters.[29] One such case, that of Alexander Valov, discussed by Vyacheslav Likhachev, an expert on the regional far-Right, is emblematic:

Before the crisis, Valov was a far-Right activist in Murmansk. … In 2013, he was charged with beating up an Uzbek man as well as establishing an extremist group. In the summer of 2014, Valov was invited into the FSB’s investigative department and presented with a choice: either he agreed to set up and lead a provincial branch of the RNU [Russian National Unity] and send volunteers to the Donbass or he would face additional charges for “inciting international hatred” and “publicly calling for extremist activity”. If he agreed, the FSB promised that the existing charges would be dropped and he would receive financial aid and political backing. Valov refused, fled to Ukraine and later participated in the anti-terror operation as part of the Azov battalion. Others, however, apparently accepted the secret services’ generous offer when placed in similar circumstances.

It is known that many Russian far-Right activists ended up in Ukraine despite a warrant having been issued for their arrest in Russia or after being released early [from prison]. Others, for reasons that remain obscure to outsiders, were never punished for crimes that they had committed. These figures began to appear among the pro-Russian activists as early as the end of February-beginning of March 2014.[30]

These are, of course, only a small number of the many examples of the far-Right being systematically exported into Ukraine to recruit, undermine, and fight, both as part of the regular army, as well as auxiliaries. Most recently, Vladimir Zhoga, who headed Russia’s neo-Nazi “Sparta Battalion” in Donetsk, was killed,[31] while the leader of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic”, Denis Pushilin, was photographed giving an award to a soldier wearing multiple neo-Nazi symbols on his uniform.[32] Indeed, such badges and symbols are openly and proudly displayed by the Russian military.[33]

Like Valov, some Russian neo-Nazis went to fight for the Ukrainian side, particularly Azov, after refusing to take similar deals, but it is unclear how many were actually fleeing Russia and how many ostensibly joined Ukraine’s cause while maintaining a relationship with Russia’s intelligence services. Russian figures like Sergei Korotkikh, Alexey Levkin, and Mikhael Shalankevich are among the most infamous neo-Nazis associated with Azov, and whether under direction from Russia or not, have helped the Kremlin push its narrative about Nazis in Ukraine.[34]

Levkin, for example, was involved with RNE and allegedly assaulted minorities and political opponents, vandalized Jewish and Muslim graves in Russia, murdered four people, and was arrested in 2006 for a double murder, yet somehow made his way to Ukraine to establish Azov’s most extreme satellite, Wotanjugend. Wotanjugend translated, published, and promoted the manifestos of mass murderers like the Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant and praised their attacks; organized ‘Fuhrernacht’, a night of full-blown Hitler worship; and put on the neo-Nazi heavy metal concert called Asgardsrei.[35]

Korotkikh has a more-than-circumstantial relationship to both Belarussian and Russian security services, having attended a KGB college in Belarus in the 1990s and been involved in multiple deadly attacks as part of groups linked to the FSB in both Russia and Belarus, including bombings and stabbings. Yet he, too, magically found his way to Ukraine and into the leadership of Azov. It has been alleged that Korotkikh was the man seen in a 2007 video beheading two men in front of a Nazi flag alongside other infamous neo-Nazis. Shalankevich, meanwhile, was a well-known neo-Nazi in Russia who recently made his way to Ukraine, despite multiple criminal charges, and helped establish a street gang, Alternativa, that is affiliated with Azov and films itself assaulting people.[36]

During the Cold War, Moscow described its enemies as “Nazis” and “fascists”, then took steps to try to make this narrative more plausible. Since the 1960s, Russian intelligence services have infiltrated neo-Nazi groups in the West and nudged them into extremist activity in order to promote false narratives about the rise of the far-Right in the West. For example, as Anton Shekhovstov, an expert on Russia and the far-Right, writes:

The KGB and its counterparts in the countries of the Warsaw Pact kept on infiltrating neo-Nazi organisations in West Germany and some other Western countries, but then with a different aim, namely to goad them into extremist activities, only to accuse Western countries of the alleged resurgence of Nazism afterwards.[37]

There is no reason to think this policy has changed.

The Irrelevance of the Contemporary Organized Far Right

The fear that Ukraine could serve as a hub for transnational far-Right attacks in the same way as Syria or Afghanistan stems from a conflation of two distinct issues: organized far-Right groups and lone actor mass-casualty attackers. There is little evidence to date that there is any overlap between these two phenomena, or that the transnational connections of the former have any relation to genuine, serious security threats.

Organised far-Right groups in the West are little more than extremist fraternities, and while they may give Nazi salutes and promote noxious ideas, they have rarely, if ever, conducted real-world attacks meant to kill people in a systematic fashion, nor is there any evidence they have the capability to do so. These groups are small, very fissiparous, and even when they do act in the real world, it is by and large limited to intimidating or hateful messages online and off, and occasional vandalism and arson.

The intra- and inter-group internecine conflict of the organized Western far-Right since at least the 1970s, which has—in combination with their general lack of capability—virtually paralyzed their activities, is partly born of paranoia about state infiltration.[38] This fear is well-founded: all of these groups are heavily infiltrated by Western security services, not only by physical agents and informants, but in their online spaces, as well.[39]

Whatever their online plans and chatter, these groups have not managed to translate them into action anywhere. For example, the National Socialist Network in Australia was described by security sources as “disorganized, amateurish outfit, riven with internal conflicts” and filled with “blowhards”.[40] As the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) Mike Burgess testified last year, “These groups promote hateful ideologies but that does not automatically put them in the same threat category as [Islamic State] or al-Qa’ida. ASIO has the difficult but critical job of distinguishing between talk and action, aspiration and capability.”[41]

Misleading reporting can give the impression that a security threat from the organized far-Right exists. For instance, Atomwaffen Division, also known as National Socialist Order, is said to be linked to five deaths. Look beneath the headline, however, and only one of these killings—the murder of Blaze Bernstein, who was Jewish and gay, by former schoolmate and Atomwaffen Division member Samuel Woodward—could be considered a hate crime.[42] The others involved a dispute between a member and his girlfriend’s parents over his beliefs, in which he shot them and then attempted to kill himself,[43] and a member that reportedly converted to Islam, supported Islamic State, and shot two other Atomwaffen Division members who were his roommates.[44]

Furthermore, while there are transnational links among several of these groups, such links are not new, and in several decades have never led to any demonstrable increased security threat. The sole potential exception is that of several attacks and attempted attacks conducted in Sweden against infrastructure associated with the far-Left and asylum seekers by former members of the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) that had previously attended a short RIM training course.[45] However, there is no evidence linking RIM to the attacks, and they were not conducted by the NRM as a group; indeed, the former members were allegedly disillusioned with NRM for its non-violence.[46] In November 2021, Swedish police arrested another disaffected former NRM member, who had reportedly disassociated from the group in 2017,[47] and had been stockpiling supplies that could potentially have been used in a mass casualty attack that would’ve included guns and explosives.[48]

These incidents only serve to underline the point that the organized far-Right in the West is not currently a major security concern, and claims to the contrary rest on an illusory empirical basis. The figures on actual far-Right violence are so misleading as to be analytically useless.[49]

The Australian Federal Police, among others, understand this issue, and have “concentrated investigative efforts on individuals or small networks of three to four individuals who are not aligned to members of a specific nationalist or racist group.”[50]

The Online Extremist Ecosystem and the Great Replacement

Then there is another phenomenon, one that seems entirely unrelated to organized far-Right groups, that does lead to mass casualty attacks. This involves unaffiliated individuals who have self-radicalised as part of an ecosystem that exists and expands across the cesspools of certain social media sites and other digital platforms. Because of the lack of affiliation, these attacks are all but impossible to disrupt consistently as long as these ecosystems are allowed to exist, particularly as only one or two of the thousands of individuals on these platforms will translate the rhetoric into action.

These networks, however, will cheer the attacks on and spread these attackers’ manifestos to encourage future attackers to one-up previous attackers in terms of casualties, what one analyst has called the “gamification of terror”.[51] This online ecosystem, not the identifiable “nationalist and racist violent extremist (NRVE)” groups, is where the threat originates. The attackers all cite some version of the “Great Replacement/White Genocide” conspiracy theory, believing the “white race” or “white culture” to be under existential threat from immigration and minority groups, though they differ in which minority groups they target. While many NRVE groups claim to champion “leaderless resistance”,[52] there is no evidence to date any of these groups have been linked to any of these attacks.

Since Brenton Tarrant live-streamed his terrorist massacre of Muslims in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019, there have been a spate of similar attacks against Jews, Muslims, and other minority groups, mostly in the US due to ease of access to guns, although similar attacks have been conducted in Germany and Norway. The most recent was the May 14 massacre targeting the black community in Buffalo, New York; unfortunately, it is unlikely to be the last.[53]

Conclusion

The focus on transnational links between organized far-Right groups and a potential foreign fighter problem begs the question; after all, there is little if any evidence of such a phenomenon being new or being a security threat.

As it relates to Ukraine, it is important to keep in mind the following:

  • The number of Western foreign fighters that have gone to Ukraine is minuscule, with an even smaller fraction holding far-Right views, and this is over nearly a decade. Over the past eight years, there is no evidence any of these individuals have posed a domestic security threat in Western countries.
  • The contemporary Azov Regiment is not a neo-Nazi militia, but a professional part of the Ukrainian military. Almost all, if not all, Westerners that have been involved came as instructors with previous military experience and were passing on their own skills to Ukrainians, rather than gaining experience in the field themselves.
  • Insofar as there may be a theoretical threat from the far-Right as a result of the Ukraine conflict, it stems from Russia’s instrumentalisation of both its own extremists as well as its relationship with transnational far-Right groups—both phenomena that long predate the invasion of Ukraine.

While the situation needs to be monitored, it is deeply irresponsible to suggest that the war in Ukraine is in any way comparable to Afghanistan and Syria in terms of creating a transnational terrorist threat. This not only misrepresents the scope and nature of this alleged phenomenon in Ukraine and the situation in Ukraine more broadly, but also distracts from the actual far-Right threat of murderous meme terrorism by self-radicalized, unaffiliated actors emerging from toxic digital ecosystems. Finally, such baseless analysis only helps Russia push its false narratives as part of its war on Ukraine, both by associating Ukraine with a non-existent threat, as well as drawing attention away from Russia’s open, long-standing, and potentially dangerous relationship with far-Right actors.

Oved Lobel, a policy analyst at Australia Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC)

European Eye on Radicalization aims to publish a diversity of perspectives and as such does not endorse the opinions expressed by contributors. The views expressed in this article represent the author alone.

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References

[1] Although the term “far-Right” is used throughout this article, it has long been an analytically questionable category, encompassing far too broad a spectrum of groups, individuals, and beliefs, many of which are diametrically opposed or at least unrelated. Security agencies have done away with such terminology in favour of “racially and ethnically motivated violent extremism (REMVE)” or the broader “ideologically motivated violent extremism (IMVE)”. Unfortunately, “far-Right” remains in use among both pundits and laymen, so I have used it, but it only refers to REMVE, specifically White Supremacy.

[2] Kofsky, J., Linehan, P., Scott, D., Hosenball, A., & Simon, E. (2022, March 1). Army vet charged in Florida double murder may remain at large in Ukraine. ABChttps://abcnews.go.com/International/us-army-vet-charged-florida-double-murder-remains/story?id=83066233.

[3] Katz, R. (2022, March 14). Neo-Nazis are exploiting Russia’s war in Ukraine for their own purposes. Washington posthttps://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2022/03/14/neo-nazi-ukraine-war/.

[4] Shuster, S., & Perrigo, B. (2021, January 7). Like, Share, Recruit: How a White-Supremacist Militia Uses Facebook to Radicalize and Train New Members. TIMEhttps://time.com/5926750/azov-far-Right-movement-facebook/.

[5] The Soufan Group (2019). WHITE SUPREMACY EXTREMISM: The Transnational Rise of the Violent White Supremacist Movement, p. 31.

[6] Stanley-Becker, I., & Mekhennet, S. (2022, March 27). Russia’s war in Ukraine galvanizes extremists globally. Washington Posthttps://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/03/25/germany-far-Right-ukraine-russia/.

[7] Olmstead, M. (2022, March 10). Who Are the Americans Who Went to Fight in Ukraine? Slate. https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2022/03/americans-fighting-ukraine-russia.html.

[8] Rekawek, K. (2015). Neither “NATO’s Foreign Legion” Nor the “Donbass International Brigades:” (Where Are All the) Foreign Fighters in Ukraine, No. 6 (108), Polish Institute For International Affairs, pp. 3-11.

[9] Rubinsztein-Dunlop, S., Dredge, S., & Workman, M. (2018, May 1). From Neo-Nazi to militant: The foreign fighters in Ukraine who Australia’s laws won’t stop. ABC (Australia). https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-05-01/foreign-fighters-return-to-australia-with-military-training/9696784.

[10] ibid.

[11] Probably the most high-profile instance of a former YPG volunteer who has gone to fight for Ukraine is Aiden Aslin, a British citizen, who was captured by the Russians in Mariupol in April 2022 and paraded on state television. Other examples of YPG foreign fighters who have ended up in Ukraine include Stefan Bertram-Lee (UK) and Damien Rodriguez (US). See: Vardy, E. (2022, April 13). Ukraine: British man fighting in Mariupol ‘forced to surrender’. BBC Newshttps://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-60894476; Halliday, J. (2022, April 17). Second British soldier captured in Mariupol is paraded on Russian TV. The Guardianhttps://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/17/second-british-soldier-captured-ukraine-mariupol-paraded-shaun-pinner-russian-tv; Jayakumar, S. (2019, December 1). America’s Anti-Islamic State Volunteers. Lawfarehttps://www.lawfareblog.com/americas-anti-islamic-state-volunteers; Shamsian, J. (2022, March 15). Going to fight in another country’s war requires an ‘absolutely pathological drive’ to succeed, says a former international volunteer. Business Insiderhttps://www.businessinsider.com/international-fighter-volunteer-says-commitment-needed-ukraine-war-2022-3.

[12] Rubinsztein-Dunlop, Dredge, & Workman.

[13] Peterson, N. (2015, August 15). Putin’s War: A Swedish Sniper in Ukraine. Newsweekhttps://www.newsweek.com/putins-war-swedish-sniper-ukraine-362883.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Eckel, M. (2019, September 26). Former U.S. Soldier Who Fought With Ukrainian Far right Militia Wanted For U.S. Murder. Radio Free Europe/Radio Libertyhttps://www.rferl.org/a/former-u-s-soldier-who-fought-with-ukrainian-far-Right-militia-wanted-for-u-s-murder/30185448.html.

[16] Stanley-Becker & Mekhennet.

[17] Likhachev, V. (2022, April 3). Euromaidan SOS: honest answers to the most common questions about AZOV in the West. Center for Civil Libertieshttps://ccl.org.ua/en/claims/euromaidan-sos-honest-answers-to-the-most-common-questions-about-azov-in-the-west/; Schipani, A., & Olearchyk, R. (2022, March 30). ‘Don’t confuse patriotism and Nazism’: Ukraine’s Azov forces face scrutiny. Financial Timeshttps://www.ft.com/content/7191ec30-9677-423d-873c-e72b64725c2d.

[18] Newman, D. (2014, July 16). Ukraine conflict: ‘White power’ warrior from Sweden. BBC. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-28329329.

[19] Dorell, O. (2015, March 10). Volunteer Ukrainian unit includes Nazis. USA Todayhttps://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2015/03/10/ukraine-azov-brigade-nazis-abuses-separatists/24664937/.

[20] Shuster & Perrigo; Raghavan, S., Morris, L., Parker, C., & Stern, D.L. (2022, April 6). Right-wing Azov Battalion emerges as a controversial defender of Ukraine. Washington Posthttps://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/04/06/ukraine-military-right-wing-militias/.

[21] Bennhold, K. (2020, July 1). Germany Disbands Special Forces Group Tainted by Far right Extremists. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/01/world/europe/german-special-forces-far-Right.html.

[22] Ismay, J., & Cooper, H. (2021, April 13). After Capitol Riot, Pentagon Announces New Efforts to Weed Out Extremism Among Troops. New York Timeshttps://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/09/us/politics/military-race-capitol-riots-extremism.html.

[23] Colborne, M. (2022). From the Fires of War: Ukraine’s Azov Movement and the Global Far Right. ibidem-Verlag. pp. 122-125.

[24] Ibid, p. 125; Käihkö, I. (2018). A nation-in-the-making, in arms: control of force, strategy and the Ukrainian Volunteer Battalions. Defence Studies, 18(2), 147-166, p. 11; See also Andriy Biletskiy claim in second source of note 20.

[25] Graham-Harrison, E. (2022, February 17). Checks at UK airport over fears far-Right extremists may travel to Ukraine. Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/16/checks-at-uk-airport-over-fears-far-Right-extremists-may-travel-to-ukraine; Greene, A. (2020, February 24). Neo-Nazis among Australia’s most challenging security threats, ASIO boss Mike Burgess warns. ABC (Australia). https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-02-24/asio-director-general-mike-burgess-neo-nazi-threat-rising/11994178.

[26] Lobel, O. (2022, March 2). Russia sends its pet neo-Nazis to kill Zelensky—while claiming to want to “denazify” Ukraine. AIJAChttps://aijac.org.au/fresh-air/russia-sends-its-pet-neo-nazis-to-kill-zelensky-while-claiming-to-want-to-denazify-ukraine/.

[27] The Soufan Center (2022). Foreign Fighters, Volunteers, and Mercenaries: Non-State Actors and Narratives in Ukraine, p. 19.

[28] The Soufan Center (2020). Inside The Russian Imperial Movement: Practical Implications of U.S. Sanctions. pp. 20-21.

[29] Likachev, V. (2016). The Far Right in the Conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Russie.Nei.Visions (No. 95). IFRI pp. 18-26.

[30] Ibid, p. 21.

[31] Tanatarova, E. (2022, March 7). Russian separatist warlord who led Neo-Nazi ‘Sparta’ mob is shot dead during battle in eastern Ukraine town in fresh blow to Putin’s floundering invasion. Daily Mail. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10583341/Russian-warlord-led-Neo-Nazi-Sparta-mob-shot-dead-battle-eastern-Ukraine.html.

[32] Jimmy [@JimmySecUK]. (2022, April 5). “The head of the DNR, Denis Pushilin, awarding a medal to Lieutenant Colonel Timur Kurilkin for ‘destroying 250 Nazis’—which is ironic, considering Kurilkin has two neo-Nazi patches clearly visible on his uniform.” [Image]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/JimmySecUK/status/1511001899184627712.

[33] Jimmy [@JimmySecUK]. (2022, April 22). “More Russian soldiers with neo-Nazi patches on their uniforms; the top patch is a modified ‘Totenkopf’—used by the S.S., which also features the unit insignia of the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler.” [Images]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/JimmySecUK/status/1517235393984348161.

[34] Colborne, pp. 94-99.

[35] Ibid; p. 74.

[36] Ibid; p. 75.

[37] Shekhovtsov, A. (2018). Russia and the Western far-Right: Tango Noir. Routledge. pp. 14-15.

[38] Khazan, O. (2021, January 25). The Far Right’s Fear of ‘Glowies’. Atlantichttps://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/01/what-glowies-mean-online-spies/617717/.

[39] CNN. (2003, March 18). Bid to ban German far-Right fails. http://edition.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/europe/03/18/germany.far.right.reut/; Smith, M. (2022, April 8). Two Men Acquitted of Plotting to Kidnap Michigan Governor in High-Profile Trial. The New York Timeshttps://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/08/us/verdict-whitmer-kidnapping-case.html.

[40] McKenzie, N. (2022, February 12). Neo-Nazi unmasked as former Young Liberal. The Agehttps://www.theage.com.au/national/neo-nazi-unmasked-as-former-young-liberal-20220211-p59vpo.html.

[41] ASIO (2021, March 17). Director-General’s Annual Threat Assessmenthttps://www.asio.gov.au/publications/speeches-and-statements/director-generals-annual-threat-assessment-2021.html.

[42] Emery, S. (2018, August 22). Blaze Bernstein murder case: Attorney for Samuel Woodward denies hate-crime allegation, says his client has a ‘serious mental disorder’. OC Registerhttps://www.ocregister.com/2018/08/22/blaze-bernstein-murder-case-attorney-for-samuel-woodward-denies-hate-crime-allegation-says-his-client-has-a-serious-mental-disorder/.

[43] Schulberg, J., & O’Brien, L. (2018, January 4). We Found The Neo-Nazi Twitter Account Tied To A Virginia Double Homicide. Huffington Posthttps://www.huffpost.com/entry/nicholas-giampa-neo-nazi-teenager-murder-girlfriends-parents-virginia_n_5a4d0797e4b0b0e5a7aa4780.

[44] Thompson, A.C. (2018, November 20). An Atomwaffen Member Sketched a Map to Take the Neo-Nazis Down. What Path Officials Took Is a Mystery. ProPublicahttps://www.propublica.org/article/an-atomwaffen-member-sketched-a-map-to-take-the-neo-nazis-down-what-path-officials-took-is-a-mystery.

[45] See note 23.

[46] Olsen, J.M. (2017, July 7). Swedish right-wing extremists guilty of bomb attacks on migrants. USA Todayhttps://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/07/07/swedish-right-wing-extremists-guilty/458311001/.

[47] Jamshidi, J., & Westling, F. (2021, November 5). Man begärd häktad för misstänkta dådplaner. Aftonbladet. https://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/krim/a/Jx7PL7/man-begard-haktad-for-misstankta-dadplaner.

[48] Hällsten, A. (2022, May 25). Polisens bilder inifrån bomblabbet—misstänks ha förberett sprängdåd. Aftonbladethttps://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/a/WjPb4a/misstanks-ha-forberett-sprangdad-pa-garden-i-falkoping.

[49] McArdle, M. (2022, May 23). Beware the data on American right-wing violence. Washington Posthttps://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/05/23/beware-data-right-wing-violence-buffalo-shooting-racism/.

[50] Commonwealth of Australia. (2021, October 25). Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Senate, p.5. https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/committees/estimate/25201/toc_pdf/Legal%20and%20Constitutional%20Affairs%20Legislation%20Committee_2021_10_25_Official.pdf.

[51] Evans, R. (2019, August 4). The El Paso Shooting and the Gamification of Terror. Bellingcat. https://www.bellingcat.com/news/americas/2019/08/04/the-el-paso-shooting-and-the-gamification-of-terror/.

[52] Commonwealth of Australia Listed Terrorist Organizations. (2021, December 10). The Basehttps://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/what-australia-is-doing/terrorist-organisations/listed-terrorist-organisations/the-base.

[53] Gartenstein-Ross, D., Urban, M., & Chauvin, M. (2022, May 24). White Supremacists Sacralize Mass Attackers to Encourage More Violence. National Interesthttps://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/white-supremacists-sacralize-mass-attackers-encourage-more-violence-202596.

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