Abstract: Neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups in the United States and Europe have become more active and dangerous in the last decade and have developed a much deeper online presence. This has helped them establish closer transnational contacts. One common preoccupation for both individuals and groups has been the conflict in Ukraine, where a well-established far-right extremist movement and its associated militia have consistently engaged with and welcomed far-right ideologues and fighters from other parts of Europe and North America.

Neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups are a growing preoccupation for security services and intelligence agencies in the United States and Europe. Fragmented and loosely organized, they are difficult to track. But their members frequently interact across borders and continents, thanks to encrypted messaging tools and online forums. Hundreds also travel between North America and Europe, with Ukraine emerging as a favored destination for a significant number of American far-right extremists.a

In recent years, some Americans and Europeans drawn to various brands of far-right nationalism have looked to Ukraine as their field of dreams: a country with a well-established, trained, and equipped far-right militia—the Azov Regiment—that has been actively engaged in the conflict against Russian-backed separatists in Donbas. Most of these ‘foreign fighters’ appear to travel as individuals and at their own expense, according to the author’s review of many cases, but there is a broader relationship between the Ukrainian far-right, and especially its political flagship the National Corps,1 and a variety of far-right groups and individuals in the United States and Europe.

Far-right groups remain strong in Ukraine, with the ability to marshal thousands of supporters for protests and rallies, some of whom carry Nazi and white supremacist insignia. The author witnessed one such rally in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in October 2019. These groups have bitterly opposed any suggestion of compromise with Russia over Donbas through the Normandy negotiating process and were prominent at another rally witnessed by the author in Kyiv in the fall of 2019 to oppose concessions floated by President Volodymyr Zelensky. However, the mobilization of far-right groups in Ukraine does not extend to political success; in the 2019 parliamentary elections, they received little over two percent of the vote.2

Analysis of social media communications, court documents, travel histories, and other connections shows that a number of prominent individuals among far-right extremist groups in the United States and Europe have actively sought out relationships with representatives of the far-right in Ukraine, specifically the National Corps and its associated militia, the Azov Regiment. In some instances, as this article will show, U.S.-based individuals have spoken or written about how the training available in Ukraine might assist them and others in their paramilitary-style activities at home.

Before examining the nexus between far-right extremists in the United States and Ukraine, it is useful to define terms and outline recent trends. There are many differences among the groups and individuals who come under the generic umbrella of ‘far-right’ extremism. Some specifically regard themselves as neo-Nazis. Such groups “collectively develop a shared culture of radical opposition to mainstream society, idealizing a revolution in the name of the Aryan race,” according to Paul Jackson, a scholar who tracks contemporary neo-Nazism.3 Even within these groups, Jackson points out, not all by any means are committed to violence.

Other far-right extremist perspectives avoid any association with National Socialism (or Nazism) but are nevertheless driven by hatred of Jews and/or Muslims, migrants, and progressive culture. Many embrace historic conspiracy theories. The Global Terrorism Index for 2019 identified the “far-right” as “a political ideology that is centred on one or more of the following elements: strident nationalism (usually racial or exclusivist in some fashion), fascism, racism, anti-Semitism, anti-immigration, chauvinism, nativism, and xenophobia.”4

Similarly, a Combating Terrorism Center study from 2012 described white nationalist groups as “interested in preserving or restoring what they perceive as the appropriate and natural racial and cultural hierarchy, by enforcing social and political control over non-Aryans/non-whites such as African Americans, Jews, and various immigrant communities. Therefore, their ideological foundations are based mainly on ideas of racism, segregation, xenophobia, and nativism (rejection of foreign norms and practices).”5

Elements of the far-right extremism movement are, to quote one scholar, “atomized, amorphous, predominantly online, and mostly anonymous,” at once making it more difficult to analyze and possibly more dangerous.6 They include “online troll cultures, misogynists in the manosphere, neofascists, ultranationalists, identitarians, and white supremacists.”7

In both the United States and Europe, members and followers of these groups have been responsible for a rising number of violent attacks in recent years, according to the available statistics and government surveys. The Institute for Economics and Peace reported in its latest Global Terrorism Index that globally the number of far-right “terrorist incidents” rose 320 percent in the five years to 2018. “There were 56 attacks recorded in 2017, the highest number of far-right terrorist incidents in the past fifty years,” the Institute reported.8

According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, far-right attacks in Europe jumped 43 percent between 2016 and 2017.9

In the United States, right-wing extremists were linked to at least 50 murders in 2018, a 35-percent increase over 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League.10 The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, concluded that the number of white nationalist groups in the United States rose by nearly 50 percent in 2018, growing from 100 chapters in 2017 to 148.11

FBI data shows that hate crimes overall were down slightly in 2018 following three years of increases. However, analysis of the 7,036 single-bias incidents reported in 2018 revealed that 57.5 percent were motivated by a race/ethnicity/ancestry bias.12 Of the 6,266 known hate crime offenders, 53.6 percent were white.13

Part One of this article looks at the far-right extremist environment in the United States and the growing attention it is receiving from federal agencies. It assesses the role of social media and the international connections of American far-right extremists. Drawing on nearly a dozen reporting trips the author made to Ukraine between 2014 and 2019, Part Two looks at the far-right environment in Ukraine and its evolving international links. It traces the evolution of the far-right movement in Ukraine, both politically and on the battlefield, since the Ukrainian revolution in 2014. It then considers the attraction of Ukraine for far-right activists around the world, including those from the United States, and the ways in which far-right extremists in Ukraine and around the world interact, both ideologically and in terms of foreign volunteers seeking to fight in Ukraine. It also explores one venue—the mixed martial arts scene—that far-right extremists have leveraged to facilitate interaction.

Part One: The Far-Right Extremist Environment in the United States

The Rise of U.S. Far Right and White Supremacist Groups
In early 2020, the FBI elevated its assessment of the danger posed by racially motivated extremists in the United States to a “national threat priority.” FBI director Christopher Wray said in congressional testimony in February 2020 that the Bureau was putting the risk of violence from such groups “on the same footing” as threats posed by foreign terrorist organizations (FTO).14

That decision followed the creation in the spring of 2019 of the Bureau’s Domestic Terrorism-Hate Crimes Fusion Cell to improve sharing of intelligence between FBI criminal investigation and terrorism divisions.

Wray testified that “the underlying drivers for domestic violent extremism—such as perceptions of government or law enforcement overreach, socio-political conditions, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and reactions to legislative actions—remain constant.”15

He added: “The top threat we face from domestic violent extremists stems from those we now identify as racially/ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVEs). RMVEs were the primary source of ideologically-motivated lethal incidents and violence in 2018 and 2019.”16

Research by The Soufan Center suggests that the threat long predates the last two years. In a recent report, it said analysis of the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database (GTD) between September 2001 and the end of 2017 showed that in the United States, “white supremacy extremism groups carried out 123 attacks, compared to 46 Islamist-motivated extremists and 83 by left-wing radicals.”17

The ‘militia’ movement, of course, predates 2001. In a detailed study of violent action attributed to far-right extremists between 1990 and 2011, Arie Perliger found that “fourteen of the 21 years covered in this analysis witnessed more attacks than the previous year.”18

Wray said supporters of both RMVE (racially motivated violent extremism) and jihadi groups posed a grave threat because the perpetrators were often “lone actors” who look to attack “soft targets” such as public gatherings, restaurants, or places of worship.19 This is an important point. The far-right extremist groups discussed here rarely make explicit and specific calls for violence, but sometimes their sympathizers devise serious plots and carry out attacks, inspired by online forums, the ‘manifestos’ of others, and previous attacks.

As the scholar Paul Jackson writes, “Typically, the most extreme aggression comes from those on the fringes of the group, not their leaders.”20 He adds: “Such groups are not developing centrally directed terrorist attacks. Rather their role in violent radicalization is to help intensify and deepen wider vulnerabilities among some of their members.”

The ‘cycle’ of inspiration can be traced in recent attacks in the United States.

  • Patrick Crusius, a 21-year-old from a suburb of Dallas who had been radicalized as a white supremacist online and who saw immigrants as a threat to the future of ‘white’ America, has been charged with killing 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, on August 3, 2019.21 Like several others accused of such attacks in the United States, Crusius praised in his ‘manifesto’ the Australian Brenton Tarrant, who shot dead 51 people in gun attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019 and pleaded guilty to the murders a year later.22 Crusius also embraced white nationalist themes about “ethnic displacement” and condemned what he described as the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”23
  • John Timothy is charged with killing a 60-year-old woman and wounding a rabbi and two others in an attack with a gun in Poway, California, in April 2019.24 Timothy referred to a “meticulously planned genocide of the European race” in an open letter posted to the 8chan forum hours before the shooting.25 He also praised Tarrant and Robert Bowers,26 who is charged with killing 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018. Bowers had posted anti-Semitic messages online leading up to the attack,27 and he was later praised by Tarrant.28
  • Dylann Roof, a white supremacist, shot and killed nine African-Americans in 2015 at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof is frequently referred to as St. Roof on far-right chat forums and was also praised by Tarrant.29

Prominent among white supremacist groups in the United States are Atomwaffen Division, The Base, the Patriot Front, and the Rise Above Movement. All these groups, in their online activities, seek the establishment of a racially pure ‘white’ state. For example, The Base is described in a federal affidavit as a “neo-Nazi group that aims to unify militant white supremacists around the globe and provide them with paramilitary training in preparation for a ‘race war.’”30

Atomwaffen’s website, now taken down, described the group as “a Revolutionary National Socialist organization centered around political activism and the practice of an autonomous Fascist lifestyle. As an ideological band of comrades, we perform both activism and militant training.”31 b Its members have been photographed with neo-Nazi ideologue James Mason, whose writing has been described as providing the group with its “ideological foundation.”32

The Patriot Front, which attracted some former Atomwaffen members,c describes itself as “a white supremacist group whose members maintain that their ancestors conquered America and bequeathed it to them alone.”33

These groups plan and carry out a variety of acts, such as disrupting and attacking left-wing and LGBT events, threatening journalists, swatting,d or carrying out acts of vandalism. Targeting university campuses with ‘stickering’ campaigns in the hope of attracting new recruits has become an especially popular tactic.e

None of these groups appear to have grown beyond a few hundred followers. However, constant internal fissures and defections, as well as their inherent lack of structure and formal membership, complicate any accurate estimation of their strength.f As The Soufan Center observed in 2019, “White nationalist activity on Twitter demonstrated a far more factionalized movement, which included numerous competing movements within it, especially when compared with jihadist activity online.”34

While there is no archetypal profile of followers of these groups in the United States, they tend to be young and often middle-class white males. Many are still teenagers living at home. Others have served briefly in the military.g The author’s review of many of the cases that have come to trial show that many tend to have few social interactions and be avid video-gamers.35

The notorious Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 galvanized the followers of such groups, but also led to a growing focus by federal authorities on their activities and subsequently to a variety of criminal cases in several states.

Federal authorities have frequently used drug and weapons laws to charge far-right extremist activists. For example, Brian Baynes and Andrew Thomasberg—both members of Atomwaffen Division—pleaded guilty in separate cases to possession of a firearm by a controlled substance abuser.h In February 2020, federal prosecutors charged five men connected to Atomwaffen, including John Cameron Denton, with trying to intimidate and harass journalists and others. Notably, the Department of Justice statement announcing Denton’s arrest said that two ringleaders in the campaign were foreign nationals living outside the United States but offered no further details.36

Several members of the Rise Above Movement have been charged and convicted with conspiracy to riot;37 and in January 2020, seven members of The Base were detained in various U.S. jurisdictions and charged with a variety of offenses.38 The criminal complaint against three of them in Maryland said that “since 2018 The Base has been building a coalition of white supremacist members within the United States and abroad.”39

As discussed later, there is pressure in Congress to designate some of these U.S.-based groups as foreign terrorist organizations because of their established and growing links with overseas affiliates, including in Ukraine. Thus far, the Trump administration has not made any designations for Ukrainian groups. However, in April 2020, the State Department notably designated the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM) and its leaders as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, the first time it has designated a white supremacist terrorist group.i

Nathan Sales, the State Department counterterrorism coordinator, said the RIM “plays a prominent role in trying to rally like-minded Europeans and Americans into a common front against their perceived enemies.”40

Activists of the Ukrainian far-right party National Corps are seen attending their march called “March of National Squads” at the Independence Square in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 2, 2019. (Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/Sipa USA/via AP Images)

Social Media
Social media activity among far-right extremists has dramatically increased in recent years. George Washington University’s Program on Extremism calculated that major American white nationalist groups on Twitter added about 22,000 followers between 2012 and 2016—a 600 percent increase.41 “The most popular theme among white nationalists on Twitter was the concept of ‘white genocide,’ the notion that the ‘white race’ is directly endangered by the increasing diversity of society,” the report said.42

The SITE Intelligence Group found that almost 80 percent of a sample of 374 far-right Telegram channels and groups were created between the massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, 2019, and October 30, 2019. SITE reported that a sample of far-right channels created in May 2019 collectively more than doubled their reach—from 65,523 to 142,486—by the end of October 2019. Some groups accrued over 4,000 followers in under a year.43

The advocacy group Hope Not Hate has also studied the use of Telegram by far-right extremists. In a report released in March 2020, it said that “most channels are in English or Ukrainian, although German and Spanish channels also exist; many of those in English appear to be U.S.-oriented, although a handful are known to be U.K.-based.”44

The groups often repost content from each other’s channels, including supremacist propaganda, videos of shootings and survival training, as well as tactical guidance for carrying out acts of violence. Indeed, the far-right extremist movement has a broad and deep online infrastructure: white nationalists favor chat rooms and forums such as 4chan and 8chan (now 8Kun)45 as well as more explicitly far-right extremist venues such as Ironmarch (discussed below), and the websites Stormfront and the Daily Stormer. In its report on white supremacy extremism, The Soufan Center concurred that “the rapid expanse of social media facilitates radicalization and recruitment within the white supremacy extremist domain.”46

These websites have not gone unchallenged. Domain hosting company GoDaddy ordered the Daily Stormer to remove its website after a scornful article about the woman killed in the Charlottesville, Virginia, protest.47 The Daily Stormer tried, unsuccessfully, to move to Google.48 Its subsequent efforts to establish a Russian domain were also unsuccessful.49 Atomwaffen members also used Discord, an online chat service for video-gamers, for secure conversations. After ProPublica published more than 250,000 Atomwaffen messages posted on the platform, Discord shut down the group’s server.50

But as one channel of communication closes, another opens. In its report on 2019, the Southern Poverty Law Center also noted that white supremacists “are increasingly congregating online, often not formally joining hate groups but networking, raising funds, recruiting and spreading propaganda that radicalizes young people and stokes violence against nonwhite immigrants, Jews, Muslims, Black people and others who belong to minority groups.”51

Transnational Connections
In his February 2020 testimony, FBI Director Wray noted that hate-crimes “are not limited to the United States and, with the aid of Internet like-minded hate groups, can reach across borders.”52 Those groups are especially prominent in Germany, Italy, Croatia, Ukraine, and Russia but also present in most European countries. Some have direct and recurring links with groups in the United States.

A week after Wray’s testimony, the House Committee on Homeland Security unanimously advanced Congressman Max Rose’s Transnational White Supremacist Extremism Review Act (H.R. 5736), which would direct the Department of Homeland Security to provide a threat assessment of foreign violent white supremacist groups.53 Rose, who chairs the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism, said that “the threat posed by foreign white supremacist extremist groups and their nexus to domestic activity is one of the major challenges we face in terms of homeland security.”54

There is certainly growing evidence of that nexus. At the end of 2018, it emerged that members of a small neo-Nazi group in the United Kingdom, Sonnenkreig Division, communicated with members of Atomwaffen Division through online chat forums. Reportedly led by Andrew Dymock, a student, the British group’s members had called for Prince Harry to be shot as a “race traitor.”55

In December that year, Atomwaffen member Kaleb James Cole, an American, returned home from Europe. U.S. investigators allegedly found photos on his mobile phone in which he posed with another neo-Nazi in front of the Auschwitz concentration camp memorial, both wearing masks typical of Atomwaffen and holding an Atomwaffen flag.56 In September 2019, Washington state police confiscated Cole’s firearms. Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said the seizure may have prevented a massacre. “This is a hate-filled human being, but unfortunately one who possesses really alarming numbers of weapons,” Holmes said.57 Cole was subsequently charged with a gross misdemeanor.58 Five months later, Cole and three others were charged in federal court with conspiracy “to threaten journalists and activists, particularly Jews and other minorities,”59 part of a concerted campaign by federal authorities to dismantle white supremacist groups in the United States.

As a result, James Mason recorded an audio message in March 2020 announcing that Atomwaffen Division was disbanding. “Over the course of past weeks and months, the level and degree of federal infiltration and the numerous arrests stemming from that have so severely hampered the group’s ability to function as a group that it would be pointless to even pretend that anything resembling organizational activity could continue,” he said.60

However, Atomwaffen’s German affiliate may still be operational, after emerging in mid-2018.61 In October 2019, German officials attributed to the Atomwaffen cell death threats emailed to two prominent Green Party politicians, one of whom had Turkish heritage. The German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that an email to one of them, Claudia Roth, read: “You are currently the second name on our hit list” and was signed “Sincerely, Atomwaffen Division Deutschland.”62 German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said the group’s activities were being closely monitored by the intelligence services.63

German authorities are also concerned about the number of armed forces members with far-right extremist views. Christof Gramm, head of military intelligence, said in January 2020 that some 550 Bundeswehr soldiers were being investigated on suspicion of right-wing extremism, 360 of them new cases in 2019.64

Transnational contacts among white supremacists were energized by the online forum ironmarch.org, which was active between 2011 and 2017. Over the six years of its existence, 1,600 users collectively posted more than 150,000 messages.65 Ironmarch became a virtual meeting place for adherents of neo-Nazi and other far-right extremist groups around the world.

Many Ironmarch participants did not actively seek overseas connections but appear to have been well aware of similarly minded groups and individuals in other countries. Groups such as National Action in the United Kingdom, the Azov Regiment in Ukraine, the Nordic Resistance Movement, and Skydas in Lithuania are among those represented and mentioned on the forum.66

Within months of its closure, another forum—fascistforge.com—was established. Its moderator, “Mathias,” declared on the site that it was “expressly pro Esoteric Fascism/Hitlerism. Christianity, Islam, or any other Abrahamic religion will not be tolerated here.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the forum gained more than 1,000 registered users in the year to October 2019.67 Paul Jackson assessed that “ironmarch.org and fascistforge.com allowed activists to conceive of their activism as set within a wider network of global neo-Nazism.”68 Atomwaffen’s German activists have been active on fascistforge, posting a variety of Nazi images and slogans against Muslims.j

Dozens of Americans—possibly hundreds—have traveled to Europe to meet like-minded far-right activists and paramilitary groups.69 For example, rock concerts and mixed martial arts (MMA) events (discussed further below) frequently see white supremacists from the United States and Europe gather together. Ukraine holds a particular attraction for white supremacists—ideologues, activists, and adventurers alike.

Part Two: The Far-Right Extremist Environment in Ukraine

The Evolution of the Far Right in Ukraine
In 2014, as pro-Russian groups began to seize parts of the Donbas, a neo-Nazi group that called itself Patriot of Ukraine formed a battalion to reinforce the beleaguered Ukrainian army. Few qualifications were required, and volunteers came from all walks of life. The group soon became better known as the Azov Regiment.

The author met some of the group’s fighters around the port city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov in the summer and fall of 2014. At that time, few were properly armed or had much military training, but they were very much on the frontlines. The Azov Regiment enjoyed support from within the government of then President Petro Poroshenko and the security services,k despite well-documented reports of human rights abuses.70 The deputy head of the Kyiv region police Serhiy Bondarenko openly voiced his support for Azov in 2015.l Members of the Azov Regiment also organized youth camps that taught basic military skills and ideology.71

The emergence of such an overtly far-right white nationalist militia—publicly celebrated, openly organizing, and with friends in high places—was electrifying to far-right individuals and groups in Europe, the United States, and further afield. Among them was the Christchurch shooter, Brenton Tarrant.

In his rambling 74-page manifesto, Tarrant implied he had been to Ukraine, though research by the author in both New Zealand and Ukraine suggests he did not. However, his manifesto became popular among Ukrainian paramilitary groups online and was translated into Ukrainian and printed as a book, according to research by the investigative group, Bellingcat.72 Bellingcat subsequently identified the man behind a Telegram channel selling the translation, a 22-year-old living in Kyiv.73

Since late 2014, with the gradual modernization of the Ukrainian armed forces and the attrition of the Donbas conflict, the Azov Regiment has become more formally organized, building on its formal affiliation with the Ukrainian National Guard.m This relationship gave it access to better weapons and training; Azov is equipped with tanks and other heavy armor. Azov Media now has 38,000 subscribers to its YouTube channel.74

Azov formally separated from its political leadership in October 2016 at a conference in Kyiv at which the National Corps was formed. Andriy Biletsky, founder and the first commander of the Azov Regiment, was elected the Corps’ leader. The conference was attended by supporters from Poland, Latvia, Croatia, Greece, Italy, and Germany.75 The creation of the National Corps gave far-right activism in Ukraine a new powerbase and a new complexion. The National Corps joined with other right-wing groups in the 2019 parliamentary elections in an effort to pass the five-percent threshold for representation. The alliance also included Freedom (Svoboda) and Right Sector as part of a “united nationalist bloc.” The bloc won barely two and a half percent of the vote,76 in part because President Petro Poroshenko had tacked considerably to the right in an abortive effort to be re-elected, co-opting much of its support.

However, the National Corps’ strength does not lie in parliamentary corridors. It focuses on grassroots activism that translates into a street presence that often threatens its adversaries. In 2018, hundreds of members of its so-called “National Militia Units” paraded through Kyiv in uniform and swore to clean the streets of illegal alcohol, drug traffickers, and illegal gambling establishments.77 They began patrols in some Kyiv districts, ostensibly as part of an anti-crime campaign. A National Corps spokesman described the patrols as “part of the Azov movement” that would help “where the authorities either can’t or do not want to help the Ukrainian community.”78

Their presence was largely tolerated by the National Police and Interior Ministry, according to human rights researchers in Ukraine who have spoken with the author.79 n On June 8, 2018, a group from the National Militia Units attacked and destroyed a Romany camp in Kyiv after its residents failed to respond to their ultimatum to leave within 24 hours. Police were at the scene but did not intervene, according to witnesses.80

The National Militia also threatened to intervene in the presidential election in March 2019. “If law enforcers turn a blind eye to outright violations and don’t want to document them,” spokesman Ihor Vdovin said, the group would carry out the orders of its commander, Ihor Mikhailenko, who had declared on Telegram, “If we need to punch someone in the face in the name of justice, we will do this without hesitation.”81

Another far-right group in Ukraine that has attracted interest and support among far-right extremists in the West is Right Sector. Originally involved in the Euromaidan protests in November 2013 because of its animosity toward Russia, Right Sector evolved into a volunteer fighting battalion in the Donbas.

Other far-right groups in Ukraine include Karpatsa Sich, whose members tried to disrupt the Pride rally in Kyiv in June 201982 and attended a gathering of far-right groups in Rome in January 2019.83 In 2019 and again this year, Karpatsa Sich joined “Festung Budapest”—a celebration organized by Légió Hungária of the attempted breakout by Nazi and pro-Nazi forces against the Soviet advance in 1945.84 Members of Karpatsa Sich have also been enthusiastic proponents of the Ukrainian translation of the Tarrant manifesto.85

The National Corps is the most potent and ideologically influential of the Ukrainian far-right groups. The head of its international department, Olena Semenyaka, is a leading light in European far-right circles, traveling to Germany, Sweden, Poland, Italy, and Estonia to address meetings and meet with National Corps’ allies. She has attended the Annual Ethnofutur Conference in Talinn and the European Congress of the “Young Nationalists” in Germany.86

The messages she has conveyed—alluding to a sense of European loss—are calculated to appeal both to the European and American far right. In a July 2015 interview on the Azov podcast,87 Semenyaka said: “We try to reconstruct the problem of this European decline, so to speak. And we want to start a revolt against it. Reconquista, revolt, revolution—of course all of them are homological concepts which are quite understandable to European right-wingers and other educated persons.”88 Semenyaka described Eastern Europe and Ukraine as the vanguard of this Reconquista. “From this space—Eastern Europe—it will expand to the Western European and the whole world.”89 Atomwaffen had a similar sentiment on its website: “The west cannot be saved, but it can be rebuilt and even stronger [sic] without the burdens of the past.”90

The message of the far right in Ukraine has certainly struck a chord among white supremacists in the United States. The recent hack of the defunct ironmarch.org has provided thousands of posts and messages from far-right activists around the world and is a useful window into their thinking.o The data was made public by an anonymous source in November 2019 and included emails, IP addresses, usernames, and private messages.91 One anonymous user posted in 2015, while talking about a “shared racial identity”: “I think we can take inspiration from Right Sector in this regard. I like there [sic] motto of ‘European Reconquista.’ It appeals to the shared past of Europe, a shared identity, and outlines their mission to carry on the work of European Christendom to drive out the foreign invaders.”92 Other posts on the forum suggested contacting Semenyaka as the first move in trying to reach Ukraine.93

Officials of the National Corps were instrumental in organizing ‘Paneuropa’ conferences in Kyiv in April 2017 and October 2018, attracting white supremacist and other far-right groups from across Europe.94 Semenyaka invited Greg Johnson, editor of Counter-Currents and a prominent figure in the U.S. alt-right movement, to the Kyiv conference in October 2018.p Johnson champions what he has called the “North American New Right,” whose goal (like that of several paramilitary groups) is a white ethno-state.95 At the conference, Johnson spoke about his Manifesto of White Nationalism and said that what was “happening in Ukraine is a model and an inspiration for nationalists of all white nations.”96 Also attending the event were representatives of the Norwegian Alliansen Nationalist Party, the neo-fascist CasaPound Italia, neo-Nazis affiliated with the German Der III. Weg and JN-NPD youth group, as well as Karpatsa Sich.97

The Paneuropa conference in 2018 was one of many in Europe that have brought together the far right from either side of the Atlantic. In March 2019, Semenyaka appeared with Johnson at the Scandza Forum in Stockholm.98

Another American ideologue of the far right (though no friend of Johnson’s), Richard Spencer, has also developed a relationship with European counterparts.q

Beyond the political alt-right, members of groups such as the Rise Above Movement, The Base, and Atomwaffen Division have been attracted to similar circles in Europe and specifically to Ukraine. Some of them have been courted by Azov and the National Corps.

The American who founded Atomwaffen, Brandon Russell, contacted an anonymous representative of Azov in 2015 through Ironmarch. Using the handle Odin, he described himself as “an avid supporter of the Azov Battalion” and said he’d like “some advice from you about my militia that I lead in the US.”99 Russell was a physics major who had joined the Florida National Guard.r

According to an investigation by Bellingcat, Azov was in contact with another putative member of Atomwaffen, Andrew Oneschuk, early in 2016 via its online podcast.100 According to Bellingcat, Oneschuk discussed issues facing Americans who wanted to join Azov, “and expressed interest in learning methods of attracting youth to nationalism in America.”101 s Oneschuk had actually tried to travel to Ukraine the previous year, at the age of 15, but had been stopped by his parents.102

At least one of the members of The Base arrested in January 2020 had expressed a desire to go to Ukraine. According to court documents, William Bilbrough had “repeatedly expressed an interest in traveling to Ukraine to fight with nationalists there” and had tried to recruit two other members of The Base to accompany him.103

Court documents also show that several members of the Rise Above Movement, including Robert Rundo, Ben Daley, and Michael Miselis, traveled to Germany, Italy, and Ukraine in the spring of 2018. They attended the Schild und Schwert (Shield and Sword) Festival, held in Germany on Adolf Hitler’s birthday, and met with European white supremacists.104 Their professed aim was to “bridge the gap between the two nationalist scenes,” according to a now-deleted YouTube video.105

According to the court documents, a video posted online on the group’s YouTube channel (also now removed) showed Daley “in Ukraine performing a salute known to be associated with the white Hammerskins,” a violent skinhead group in California to which Daley and others had previously belonged. It also allegedly included images of stickers being distributed with such messages as “rapefugees not welcome” and “fckantifa.”106

While in Ukraine, the group met the ubiquitous Olena Semenyaka, who said they had come “to learn our ways” and “showed interest in learning how to create youth forces in the ways Azov has.”107 According to an investigation by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, they also attended a concert by the white nationalist metal band Sokya Peruna, replete with Nazi regalia.108

It is worth noting that not all far-right activists and sympathizers see Ukraine as worthy of support, partly because some right-wing groups helped the Euromaidan pro-democracy movement in 2013 and partly because some find Russia a more attractive model. One German user on the ironmarch.org forum said: “I’m against this pro Ukrainian view, which is insulting the Nationalists and Patriots of Novorossiya. I think the Nationalists which are fighting for the Euromaidan-Regime are wrong and doing the job of the Western liberal-marxists.”109

Notably, the founder of The Base, Rinaldo Nazzaro, moved to St. Petersburg in Russia and married a Russian national.110 According to The New York Times, the FBI is scrutinizing any ties between Russian intelligence or its proxies and Nazzaro. One U.S. official said federal investigators are examining how at least one neo-Nazi organization, The Base, with ties to Russia is funded.111

Foreign Fighters in Ukraine
It is very difficult to establish how many foreign volunteers have traveled to Ukraine to fight in the Donbas conflict, whether for the pro-Russian separatists or the Ukrainian side. One estimate suggested that around 17,000 foreigners from 50 countries have at one time or another joined the conflict, but the vast majority were Russians on the rebels’ side.112

Having spent much of 2014 and 2015 in eastern Ukraine, the author would be surprised if the numbers of foreign fighters with Ukrainian units has ever exceeded the hundreds, especially once fighters of Russian origin are excluded. Nevertheless, the Azov Regiment has attracted far-right activists from across Europe and the United States. Exact numbers are difficult to establish, but research by Arkadiusz Legiec, senior analyst at the Polish Institute of International Affairs, estimated that over a five-year period, foreign volunteers from Belarus and Georgia topped 100 in each case, while a few dozen nationals from Italy, Sweden, Croatia, and Germany also went.113

Some volunteers have lasted just a few weeks. Others, like the Swede Mikael Skillt, served in the Battalion for months on the frontline.114 Skillt was an accomplished sniper, though not himself a white supremacist. The Azov Regiment also attracted a number of Croatian fighters or ‘Legionnaires.’115 A retired Croatian brigadier general associated with the far right, Bruno Zorica, appeared at a rally organized by the National Corps in 2018.116

The handful of Americans known to have traveled to Ukraine to fight as volunteers have largely done so as individuals rather than as members of a group. Some have been inspired to defend Ukraine against what they see as Russian aggression. Some have simply wanted adventure, seduced by a romanticized ideal of the Donbas conflict. Others have been attracted by the white supremacist or neo-Nazi messaging of far-right extremist groups.

The most notorious of the American fighters is a former U.S. soldier, Craig Lang. Lang arrived in Ukraine in 2014 and was one of several foreigners to join the Georgia National Legion, a volunteer group prohibited by Ukrainian authorities from taking part in combat operations.117 Lang later joined the Right Sector but by 2016 had returned to the United States because—in his words—the conflict had “got too slow” and “became trench warfare.”118

According to U.S. court documents, another former U.S. soldier, Alex Zwiefelhofer, arrived in Ukraine and met Lang in late 2016 or 2017. Zwiefelhofer appears to have been more attracted by adventure than far-right ideology. He had absconded from the U.S. Army in 2016 at the age of 19 and tried to join the French Foreign Legion before joining Right Sector in Ukraine.119

In June 2017, the pair were detained by Kenyan police as they tried to reach South Sudan.120 Their intent was apparently to fight against the al-Qa`ida affiliate al-Shabaab in Kenya or Somalia, according to the court documents. They later planned to go to Venezuela to join the opposition to the Maduro regime.121

In April 2018, Lang and Zwiefelhofer allegedly killed a married couple in Florida. Both men were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges related to the killings, including conspiracy to commit violence, but not actual murder charges.122 By then, Lang had returned to Ukraine, where he awaits extradition back to the United States.123

According to court documents, while in Ukraine, Lang also communicated via Facebook with Jarrett William Smith. In an exchange in June 2016, Smith wrote: “No former military experience, but if I cannot find a slot in Ukraine by October I’ll be going into the Army … To fight is what I want to do.”124

Lang responded, “I’ll forward you over to the guy that screens people he’ll most likely add you soon … Also as a pre-warning if you come to this unit and the government comes to shut down the unit you will be asked to fight.”125

Smith did join the U.S. Army, a year after beginning his exchanges with Lang. The two also met in El Paso, Texas, according to the complaint against Smith.126 Like Lang, Smith appears not to have belonged to a far-right group, but he was inspired by white supremacist ideology. Indeed, he belonged to a Telegram group that counted the Ukrainian publisher of the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto among its members.127 t In February 2020, “Smith pleaded guilty to two counts of distributing information related to explosives, destructive devices, and weapons of mass destruction.”128

Further evidence of the loose networks that connect far-right activists comes in the shape of Joachim Furholm, who had served in the Ukrainian armed forces before his contract was terminated. Ukrainian officials told the author that Furholm, who is Norwegian, tried to attract Americans to Ukraine to fight and expressed the view that such combat experience could be useful when fighters returned to the United States.129

In September 2018, Furholm reportedly spoke at a National Corps rally in Kyiv. A month later, he appeared on the American white nationalist Radio Wehrwolf and said the National Corps could help Americans who wanted to fight on the Ukrainian side in Donbas.130 Furholm also believed that Ukraine was ripe for a white nationalist government, citing its “perfect mix of bad economy, wartime situation, corrupt elite and media that no one trusts.”131

Furholm has said in the past that he “respects” Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik who committed the 2011 attacks that killed 77 people in Norway.132 He blamed Norwegian authorities for getting him expelled from his Ukrainian unit.133

The MMA Scene
One thread linking far-right Americans with Europeans of similar views is the mixed martial arts scene. The Rise Above Movement members who visited Europe in 2018 attended the Shield and Sword Festival in Ostritz, a small German town near the Polish border, as well as an event in Ukraine’s capital.134 Rise Above has described itself as “the premier MMA club of the Alt-Right representing the United States.”135 The group’s self-appointed leader, Robert Rundo, is an MMA fighter and took part in an event at the Reconquista Club in Kyiv in April 2018.136 In a post on the far-right messaging board Gab, the Rise Above Movement said “one of our guys has had the honor to be the first American to compete in the pan european organization Reconquista in Ukraine. This was a great experience meeting nationalist [sic] that came as far as Portugal and Switzerland to take part.”137

According to the criminal complaint against Rundo and his fellow travelers, they met members of the Russia-based White Rex group.138 Specifically, according to the author’s sources in Ukraine, they met the group’s founder Denis Nikitin.139 Nikitin used to organize MMA bouts internationally and is connected to the Azov Movement despite being Russian.140 Nikitin and Semenyaka both spoke at the ‘Europe Of The Future 2’ conference organized by Polish white supremacist group Szturmowcy in 2017.141

Nikitin is another example of the transnational networking of far-right extremism. He has openly expressed white supremacist views. He told The Guardian in 2018: “If we kill one immigrant every day, that’s 365 immigrants in a year. But tens of thousands more will come anyway. I realised we were fighting the consequence, but not the underlying reason.”142

White Rex sells clothing with neo-Nazi symbols and racist slogans, including “Zero Tolerance” and “White Rex Against Tolerance.” Rise Above’s own clothing line, Right Brand (now defunct), underlined the link with White Rex. One t-shirt read: “Facing the sun in my uniform. That’s how death will find me. White REX.”143 U.S. court documents attest that Right Brand Clothing’s Instagram page included a photograph of Rise Above Movement members meeting with Olena Semenyaka.144

White Rex events frequently featured the Russian Kolovrat, a swastika-like symbol popular with Russian white nationalists,u as well as the Black Sun symbol, which was worn by Tarrant during his Christchurch rampage.145

Posts on ironmarch.org also indicated that MMA is significant connective tissue for far-right groups in the United States and Europe. One user posted: “The great thing about MMA training like National Action and Sigurd do is it really doesn’t require much money, organization or structure like the other things I have mentioned. It can be done as long as people are near one another and can coordinate online when to meet up.”146

The Donbas conflict has become less attractive for foreign volunteers since 2016 as it has become less dynamic and as Ukrainian authorities have become more wary of the adverse publicity that these fighters often bring. Over the last year, sources in Ukraine have told the author that the number of foreigners accepted into fighting units—principally the Azov Regiment—has fallen into the low dozens.

Additionally, in 2018, the United States Congress banned the Azov Regiment from receiving weapons being supplied to the Ukrainian government, which now include Javelin anti-tank missiles.147 Its members are also not allowed to take part in U.S.-led military training held near Lvov.

There is pressure within the U.S. Congress to designate white supremacist groups that have developed international contacts as foreign terrorist organizations (FTO), to provide additional prosecutorial firepower against Americans who might be tempted to support them.

As already noted, in February 2020, U.S. Congressman Max Rose introduced the Transnational White Supremacist Extremism Review Act, which urges the Department of State to designate qualifying violent foreign white supremacist groups as FTOs. At the time of writing (April 2020), the legislation had not been introduced on the House floor.

The United Kingdom and Canada have designated several far-right entities as terrorist groups.v But the situation in the United States is different. The State Department must show an organization is foreign based and has engaged in terrorist activity that threatens U.S. national security interests. Currently, there are no far-right extremist groups listed among the more than 70 FTO, although as noted the Russian Imperial Movement and three of its leaders have been labeled Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

However, then Acting U.S. Homeland Secretary Kevin McAleenan told the House Homeland Security Committee in October 2019 that the United States was tracking Americans that went overseas to train with far-right organizations such as Azov. “We’ve had multiple efforts—Hammerskins, Rise Above Movement—just in the last year, where we’ve used that international cross-border collaboration and movement to address and make arrests, take away visas, prevent that collaboration,” McAleenan said.148

As noted, for now, the appeal of the Ukrainian ‘front’ to foreign volunteers, many of whom espouse far-right extremist views, has ebbed. However, the Kyiv government in December 2019 adopted a mechanism to apply legislation introduced by the leader of the National Corps Andriy Biletsky that makes it easier for foreigners fighting in the Ukrainian armed forces to acquire citizenship.149 Biletsky sits as an independent member of parliament.

It is too early to tell what effect the legislation may have. As noted, the number of volunteer fighters has fallen sharply in recent years but ideological ties between groups such as the Rise Above Movement, the remnants of Atomwaffen, and the National Corps remain. This shared outlook and mutual encouragement poses a greater challenge than the dwindling numbers of foreign fighters. There is no evidence that any foreign fighter has used his training in Ukraine to plan an attack in his homeland, even if a few individuals have considered that gaining military experience in Ukraine might be of benefit at home.

The numbers, training, and motivations of volunteer fighters in Ukraine are not in any way comparable to the networks of foreign jihadis in Syria and Iraq. However, white supremacist groups and individuals in the United States have established a web of informal links with similarly minded groups in Europe, online, and in person. Ukraine remains, as evidenced in court documents and on social media, the favored destination of many American and European white supremacists. The National Corps welcomes and encourages them, even as the Ukrainian state regards their presence as an irritant or embarrassment.

Recent cases in the United States, many of which are covered in this survey, suggest that a number of individuals charged with or convicted of offenses ranging from conspiracy to swatting have admired neo-Nazi movements in Europe, and especially the Azov Regiment and National Corps in Ukraine.

In the future, the appeal of Ukraine as a destination for foreign white supremacists will depend on the success of the National Corps and its militant street presence. Should the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky, which is inexperienced and struggling to deal with Ukraine’s multi-layered economic and social problems, falter, there may yet be an opening for the National Corps. The National Corps has been vocal in opposing ideas floated by Ukraine’s President for deescalating the tension in Donbas, seeing them as concessions to the Kremlin.150

The National Corps is well-organized, appears to be well-funded, and actively solicits international connections. Olena Semenyaka said in 2018: “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.”151

It is clear that U.S. federal authorities have stepped up the surveillance and infiltration of white supremacist groups, judging by the spate of arrests and convictions in the last year. However, the polarized political climate in the United States and much of Europe is fertile ground for such groups and the individuals who support them. Their growing presence on social media and messaging apps and at events on both sides of the Atlantic will continue to test law enforcement agencies. The links between white supremacists in North America and Europe continue to deepen, with Ukraine’s National Corps a key facilitator.     CTC

Tim Lister is a journalist with CNN who has covered multiple conflicts in the past decade in the Middle East and Ukraine. He is also co-author of Agent Storm: My Life Inside al Qaeda and the CIA and Nine Lives: My Time as MI6’s Top Spy Inside al Qaeda. Follow @TimListerCNN

Substantive Notes
[a] Exactly who might be described as ‘far right’ is considered later. It is impossible to be precise about the number of such individuals traveling between the United States and Europe, but the author’s research into events (such as far-right sponsored mixed martial arts tournaments, conferences, and ‘white nationalist’ rock festivals), as well as court documents and social media traffic indicates that over the past few years, at least hundreds and maybe more have traveled across the Atlantic—with most making trips from the United States to Europe rather than vice versa.

[b] Atomwaffen Division also idealized extreme right-wing terrorism, supporting Dylann Roof and describing Anders Breivik, Ted Kaczynski, and Timothy McVeigh as “the father, the son, and the holy spirit.” See Anti-Defamation League profile of Atomwaffen Division.

[c] Andrew Jon Thomasberg was one Atomwaffen member who applied to join Patriot Front. See “Former Atomwaffen Division Member Sentenced to Prison,” U.S. Department of Justice notice, Eastern District of Virginia, February 28, 2020.

[d] Swatting is the practice of making anonymous calls to law enforcement, claiming a hostage situation or shooting at the home or workplace of a target. It has been a favored tactic of Atomwaffen Division. See “Former Atomwaffen Division Leader Arrested for Swatting Conspiracy,” U.S. Department of Justice, Eastern District of Virginia, February 26, 2020.

[e] According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Patriot Front members posted flyers on college campuses at least 335 times in 2019, a six-fold increase from 2018. “The Year In Hate and Extremism, 2019,” Southern Poverty Law Center, p. 15.

[f] A lengthy ProPublica investigation estimated that the Patriot Front had some 300 members, regionally dispersed across the United States. Carol Schaeffer and Fritz Zimmermann, “They Are Racist; Some of Them Have Guns. Inside the White Supremacist Group Hiding in Plain Sight,” ProPublica, November 8, 2019.

[g] One Patriot Front member, Joffre Cross, was 33 years old when arrested on gun charges in Houston in February 2019. A former Army soldier, his links with white supremacists dated back to his active-duty days. Julian Gill, “Man with alleged ties to white supremacist groups arrested in Houston on weapons charges,” Houston Chronicle, February 25, 2019. Other examples of veterans becoming linked to far-right extremist groups are cited in this article. For a broader look at military veterans among far-right extremist groups, see Heidi Beirich, “Alarming Incidents of White Supremacy in the Military – How to Stop It?” Testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, February 11, 2020.

[h] Thomasberg pleaded guilty in November 2019 to possessing firearms while being an unlawful drug user and making a false statement in order to illegally purchase a firearm. “Atomwaffen Division Member Pleads Guilty to Firearms Charge,” U.S. Department of Justice, Eastern District of Virginia, November 12, 2019. Thomasberg was subsequently sentenced to one year in prison. He had joined Atomwaffen after attending the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. “Former Atomwaffen Division Member Sentenced to Prison,” U.S. Department of Justice, Eastern District of Virginia, February 28, 2020.

[i] RIM and its leaders Stanislav Anatolyevich Vorobyev, Denis Valiullovich Gariyev, and Nikolay Nikolayevich Trushchalov were designated. Nathan Sales, “Designation of the Russian Imperial Movement, Remarks,” U.S. Department of State, April 6, 2020.

[j] For example, one of many posts in February 2020 showed a masked gunman and a swastika with the slogan “It Is Nearly Time” in German.

[k] One senior member, the commander of Azov’s reconnaissance unit, was a Belarus citizen—Sergei Korotkykh. He was very publicly granted Ukrainian citizenship by President Petro Poroshenko in December 2014 and thanked “for his courageous, dedicated service.” The original posting on the presidential website has been removed, but details can be found at “Poroshenko grants Belarusian Neo-Nazi Ukrainian citizenship,” Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 8, 2014.

[l] Bondarenko made his support clear in an interview on an Azov podcast in 2015 reviewed by the author when he said he had previously taken part in what he called “direct action” and said he believed members of the Azov movement had “permanent ideological views.”

[m] The Azov Regiment was formally incorporated into the Ukrainian National Guard in November 2014 but retains considerable autonomy. See Oleksiy Kuzmenko, “The Azov Regiment Has Not Depoliticized,” Atlantic Council, March 19, 2020.

[n] A senior commander in Azov, Vadim Troyan, became head of the Kyiv Regional Police in late 2014 and later First Deputy Head of the National Police. See Christopher Miller, “In Ukraine, Ultranationalist Militia Strikes Fear In Some Quarters,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, January 30, 2018.

[o] Ironmarch.org was founded by the pseudonymous Alexander Slavros and was in existence between 2011 and 2017. See Michael Edison Hayden, “Mysterious Neo-Nazi Advocated Terrorism for Six Years Before Disappearance,” Southern Poverty Law Center, May 21, 2019.

[p] Counter-Currents’ publishing arm translates books and articles from European white nationalists into English and translates many English articles into European languages. The author has been shown a brief clip of Johnson at the conference saying he is on a “listening tour.”

[q] In 2017, Polish authorities banned Spencer from entering the country to speak at the Europe Of The Future 2 conference organized by the Polish group Szturmowcy (Stormtroopers.) Spencer was due to appear with Semenyaka. “Negujacy Holokaust zwolennik rasizmu z zakazem wjazdu do Schengen. Wnioskoway o to polskie wladze,” Polish News Agency cited by Niezalezna, November 20, 2017.

[r] Russell was sentenced to five years in jail in January 2018 for possession of an unregistered destructive device and improper storage of explosive materials. “Neo-Nazi Leader Sentenced to Five Years in Federal Prison for Explosives Charges,” U.S. Department of Justice, January 9, 2018. On his background, including in the Florida National Guard, see Jonah Engel Bromwich, “Man in Florida Told the Police He Killed Neo-Nazi Roommates for Disrespecting His Muslim Faith,” New York Times, May 24, 2017, and Janet Reitman, “How Did a Convicted Neo-Nazi Release Propaganda From Prison?” Rolling Stone, May 25, 2018.

[s] Oneschuk was shot to death in May 2017 in Florida. His alleged killer, Devon Arthurs, has been held in a secure hospital in Florida. Dan Sullivan, “Experts: One-time neo-Nazi charged in double murder has autism, schizophrenia,” Tampa Bay Times, December 19, 2019.

[t] In August 2019, Smith spoke with an FBI informant in an online chat, according to the criminal complaint, and discussed a plan for an attack inside the United States and the possibility of killing members of the left-wing group Antifa. Their communications are discussed in the indictment against Smith. See “USA v Jarrett William Smith, Indictment,” U.S. District Court, District of Kansas, September 25, 2019.

[u] The White Rex Facebook page, though not updated since 2015, has several images of the Kolovrat.

[v] In the United Kingdom, the Home Secretary has the power to ban extremist organizations. In February 2020, the far-right Sonnenkrieg Division was proscribed. See Jamie Grierson, “UK to ban neo-Nazi Sonnenkrieg Division as a terrorist group,” Guardian, February 24, 2020. Canada added two white supremacist groups to its list of proscribed terror organizations in June 2019. See Kathleen Harris, “Liberals add far-right extremist groups to list of outlawed terror networks,” CBC, June 26, 2019.

[1] A good profile of the National Corps is by Michael Colborne, “There’s One Far-Right Movement That Hates the Kremlin,” Foreign Policy, April 17, 2019.

[2] “Ukraine’s CEC announces official results of parliamentary elections,” UNIAN, August 3, 2019.

[3] Paul Jackson, “Transnational Neo-Nazism in the USA, United Kingdom and Australia,” Program on Extremism, George Washington University, February 2020, p. 2.

[4] “Global Terrorism Index 2019: Measuring the Impact of Terrorism,” Institute for Economics & Peace, November 2019, p. 45.

[5] Arie Perliger, Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America’s Violent Far-Right (West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center, 2012).

[6] G. Hawley, Making Sense of the Alt-Right (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017), p. 3.

[7] Bharath Ganesh, “Weaponizing white thymos: flows of rage in the online audiences of the alt-right,” Cultural Studies, January 2020.

[8] “Global Terrorism Index 2019: Measuring the Impact of Terrorism,” p. 46.

[9] Seth G. Jones, “The Rise of Far-Right Extremism in the United States,” CSIS Briefs, November 7, 2018.

[10] “Murder and Extremism in the United States in 2018,” Anti-Defamation League.

[11] Heidi Beirich, “The Year In Hate: Rage Against Change,” Southern Poverty Law Center, February 2019.

[12] See Table 1 in “2018 Hate Crime Statistics,” FBI.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Christopher Wray, “FBI Oversight Hearing,” House Judiciary Committee, February 5, 2020, testimony available via CSPAN.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] “White Supremacy Extremism: The Transnational Rise of the Violent White Supremacist Movement,” The Soufan Center, September 2019, p. 9.

[18] Perliger, p. 87.

[19] Wray.

[20] Jackson, p. 25.

[21] Graham Macklin, “The El Paso Terrorist Attack: The Chain Reaction of Global Right-Wing Terror,” CTC Sentinel 12:11 (2019).

[22] Graham Macklin, “The Christchurch Attacks: Livestream Terror in the Viral Video Age,” CTC Sentinel 12:6 (2019); “Christchurch shootings: Brenton Tarrant pleads guilty to 51 murders,” BBC, March 26, 2020.

[23] Macklin, “The El Paso Terrorist Attack.”

[24] Jill Cowan, “What to Know About the Poway Synagogue Shooting,” New York Times, April 29, 2019.

[25] Ben Collins and Andrew Blankstein, “Anti-Semitic open letter posted online under name of Chabad synagogue shooting suspect,” NBC News, April 28, 2019.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Kevin Roose, “On Gab, an Extremist-Friendly Site, Pittsburgh Shooting Suspect Aired His Hatred in Full,” New York Times, October 28, 2018.

[28] The Christchurch shooter’s ‘manifesto’ was accessed by the author in New Zealand.

[29] Ibid. One passage includes the following: “I support many of those that take a stand against ethnic and cultural genocide. Luca Traini, Anders Breivik, Dylan [sic] Roof, Anton Lundin Pettersson, Darren Osbourne etc.”

[30] See “USA v Yousef Omar Barasneh, Criminal Complaint,” U.S. District Court for Eastern District of Wisconsin, January 16, 2020.

[31] See Anti-Defamation League profile of Atomwaffen Division.

[32] See, for example, “Neo-Nazi ‘Atomwaffen Division’ Spreads Fear in Germany,” Spiegel International, November 13, 2019, and Anna Schecter and Rich Schapiro, “Influential neo-Nazi eats at soup kitchens, lives in government housing,” NBC News, November 26, 2019.

[33] Ibid.

[34] “White Supremacy Extremism,” p. 36.

[35] See, for example, Alfie Bown, “How video games are fuelling the rise of the far-right,” Guardian, March 12, 2018. See also Rumi Khan, “The Alt-Right as Counterculture: Memes, Video Games and Violence,” Harvard Political Review, July 6, 2019.

[36] “Former Atomwaffen Division Leader Arrested for Swatting Conspiracy,” U.S. Department of Justice, Eastern District of Virginia, February 26, 2020.

[37] “Three Members of California-Based White Supremacist Group Sentenced on Riots Charges Related to August 2017 ‘Unite the Right’ Rally in Charlottesville,” U.S. Department of Justice, Western District of Virginia, July 19, 2019.

[38] See “3 Alleged Members Of Hate Group ‘The Base’ Arrested In Georgia, Another In Wisconsin,” NPR, January 17, 2020.

[39] “USA v Brian Mark Lemley, Patrik Jordan Mathews and William Garfield Bilbrough,” U.S. District Court, District of Maryland, January 21, 2020.

[40] Nathan Sales, “Designation of the Russian Imperial Movement, Remarks,” U.S. Department of State, April 6, 2020.

[41] J.M. Berger, “Nazis vs. ISIS on Twitter: A Comparative Study of White Nationalist and ISIS Online Social Media Networks,” Program on Extremism, George Washington University, September 2016.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Rita Katz, “Telegram has finally cracked down on Islamist terrorism. Will it do the same for the far-right?” Washington Post, December 5, 2019.

[44] “State of Hate 2020: Far Right Terror Goes Global,” Hope Not Hate, pp. 30-32.

[45] See Blyth Crawford and Florence Keen, “The Hanau Terrorist Attack: How Race Hate and Conspiracy Theories Are Fueling Global Far-Right Violence,” CTC Sentinel 13:3 (2020).

[46] “White Supremacy Extremism.”

[47] GoDaddy, “We informed The Daily Stormer that they have 24 hours to move …,” Twitter, August 14, 2017.

[48] Taylor Hatmaker, “Google drops domain Hosting for infamous neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer,” Techcrunch, August 14, 2017.

[49] Carl Schreck, “Russian Web Host Suspends Daily Stormer After Government Inquiry,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, August 17, 2017.

[50] A.C. Thompson, Ali Winston, and Jake Hanrahan, “Inside Atomwaffen As It Celebrates a Member for Allegedly Killing a Gay Jewish College Student,” ProPublica, February 23, 2018.

[51] “The Year In Hate and Extremism, 2019,” Southern Poverty Law Center, March 18, 2020, p. 6.

[52] Wray.

[53] The text of the bill can be accessed at govtrack.us.

[54] “Committee Unanimously Advances Rose Bill to Require Terrorist Threat Assessment of Foreign Violent White Supremacist Extremist Groups,” press release from U.S. Congressman Max Rose, February 12, 2020.

[55] Daniel Sanford and Daniel De Simone, “British Neo-Nazis Suggest Prince Harry Should be Shot,” BBC, last modified December 5, 2018.

[56] Mike Baker, “Police Seize Guns From Man Thought to Be Neo-Nazi Leader,” New York Times, October 17, 2019.

[57] Phil Helsel, “Guns seized from Washington man said to be neo-Nazi leader prepping for ‘race war,’” NBC News, October 19, 2019.

[58] Asia Fields, “Suspected Washington leader of neo-Nazi group charged with violating gun ban under state’s red-flag law,” Seattle Times, December 17, 2019.

[59] “USA v Cameron Brandon Shea, Kaleb J Cole, Taylor Ashley Parker-Dipeppe, Johnny Roman Garza,” U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, February 25, 2020.

[60] Ben Makuch, “Audio Recording Claims Neo-Nazi Terror Group Is Disbanding,” Vice, March 16, 2020.

[61] “Neo-Nazi ‘Atomwaffen Division’ Spreads Fear in Germany.”

[62] Ibid.

[63] Ibid.

[64] Manuel Bewarder, Annelie Naumann, and Tim Röhn, “More than 500 soldiers suspected of right-wing extremism,” Die Welt, January 26, 2020.

[65] Jacob Ware, “Siege: The Atomwaffen Division and Rising Far-Right Terrorism in the United States,” International Centre for Counter Terrorism, July 2019.

[66] Author’s survey of cache of ironmarch.org posts, as posted by anonymous hacker. The ironmarch.org database is not easily available, but a version of it has been reconstructed at https://www.ironmarch.exposed.

[67] “The Year In Hate And Extremism, 2019,” p. 12.

[68] Jackson, p. 10.

[69] Author’s survey of U.S. individuals associated with far-right groups who have traveled to Europe since 2014. See also Richard Engel and Luke Denne, “Neo-Nazis from U.S. and Europe build far-right links at concerts in Germany,” NBC News, March 23, 2020.

[70] See “Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine 16 February to 15 May 2016,” Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

[71] “Ukraine’s Azov Regiment Opens Boot Camp For Kids,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, November 10, 2015.

[72] “The Russians and Ukrainians Translating the Christchurch Shooter’s Manifesto,” Bellingcat, August 14, 2019.

[73] Michael Colborne, “Revealed: The Ukrainian Man Who Runs A Neo-Nazi Terrorist Telegram Channel,” Bellingcat, March 18, 2020.

[74] Several examples of the weaponry now in the hands of the Azov Regiment can be seen on its YouTube channel.

[75] “Azov Battalion creates National Corps political party,” Kyiv Post, October 14, 2016. The Azov Regiment is often described as a battalion in the media.

[76] “Ukraine’s CEC announces official results of parliamentary elections.”

[77] Halya Coynash, “Far-right vigilantes imposing ‘Ukrainian order’ are strange partner for Ukraine’s National Police,” Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, January 30, 2018.

[78] Ibid. The radio interview by Roman Chernyshov is no longer accessible.

[79] Ibid.

[80] “2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ukraine,” U.S. State Department, March 31, 2019.

[81] Christopher Miller, “Deputized As Election Monitors, Ukrainian Ultranationalists ‘Ready To Punch’ Violators,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, March 7, 2019.

[82] “A Tough Weekend For Ukraine’s Anti-LGBT ‘Excremists,’” Bellingcat, June 25, 2019.

[83] A series of photographs shows the group’s members at the Casa Pound headquarters in Rome. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1129775520534292&set=a.342755122569673&type=1&theater

[84] A photo archive of the 2019 event is available on the website pixelarchiv.org and shows Karpatsa Sich banners.

[85] “The Russians and Ukrainians Translating the Christchurch Shooter’s Manifesto.” 

[86] A detailed record of Semenyaka’s travel is included in her profile on FOIA Research.

[87] Semenyaka’s comments are cited in Jordan Green, “The lost boys of Ukraine: How the war abroad beckoned American white supremacists,” Triad City Beat, January 19, 2020.

[88] Ibid.

[89] Ibid.

[90] Atomwaffen Division’s website no longer exists, but the full statement is cited in Barry J. Balleck, “Hate Groups and Extremist Organizations in America: An Encyclopedia,” ABC-CLIO, 2019, p. 51.

[91] Catalin Cimpanu, “Mysterious hacker dumps database of infamous IronMarch neo-nazi forum,” ZDNet, November 7, 2019.

[92] https://www.ironmarch.exposed.

[93] Ibid.

[94] The Facebook page of the event is no longer available, but some of the images circulated on Twitter, for example: Dolce, “On October 14, sev. conference participants took also part in the ‘March of the Nation for a Greater Europe’ org …,” Twitter, October 27, 2018, and Oleksiy Kuzmenko, “Karpatska Sich has been busy recently making inroads into European white nationalist scene …,” Twitter, April 5, 2019. The official report and images of the 2017 conference were posted on the social networking site Tumblr on June 15, 2017.

[95] More details of Johnson’s thinking are on the Counter-Currents website.

[96] Johnson’s remarks were uploaded to the Reconquista YouTube channel. In front of him is his book, “The White Nationalist Manifesto.”

[97] Program of the conference reviewed by author.

[98] Counter-Currents published the speakers’ roster.

[99] Russell’s messages and posts on Ironmarch can be found at https://www.ironmarch.exposed.

[100] Oleksiy Kuzmenko, “Defend the White Race’: American Extremists Being Co-Opted by Ukraine’s Far-Right,” Bellingcat, February 15, 2019. The podcast is dated January 9, 2016.

[101] Ibid.

[102] Janet Reitman, “All-American Nazis,” Rolling Stone, May 2, 2018.

[103] “USA v Brian Mark Lemley, Patrik Jordan Mathews and William Garfield Bilbrough,” p. 10.

[104] “USA v Robert Paul Rundo et al., Criminal Complaint,” U.S. District Court, Central District of California, October 20, 2018. Rundo was arrested and charged with criminal conspiracy in California.

[105] See Anti-Defamation League profile of Rise Above Movement.

[106] See “USA v Robert Paul Rundo et al., Criminal Complaint.”

[107] Semenyaka spoke to RFE/RL. See Christopher Miller, “Azov, Ukraine’s Most Prominent Ultranationalist Group, Sets Its Sights On U.S., Europe,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, November 14, 2018.

[108] Images of the concert and some attendees can be seen at the website Zaborona.

[109] The quote is from “The Sethian Perspective” from January 28, 2016, posted on https://www.ironmarch.exposed.

[110] Julian E. Barnes and Adam Goldman, “Russia Trying to Stoke U.S. Racial Tensions Before Election, Officials Say,” New York Times, March 10, 2020.

[111] Ibid.

[112] The full table can be found in “White Supremacy Extremism,” p. 29.

[113] Ibid.

[114] Skillt was interviewed in the video “Interview with AZOV-volunteer Mikael Skillt,” posted to YouTube by SalomonGarage, August 14, 2016.

[115] The Intermarium Support Group posted a video of some of the Croatian volunteers in 2018 on its YouTube channel. “Croatian Legionnaires of Azov,” posted to YouTube by Intermarium Support Group, November 27, 2018.

[116] “Speech by Bruno Zorica at the 3rd Intermarium conference,” posted to YouTube by Intermarium Support Group, November 8, 2018.

[117] The Ukrainian documentary showing Lang with the Georgia National Legion is no longer available, but it is referenced in Jordan Green, “Combat Vet. Ukrainian Freedom Fighter. Alleged Murderer: Craig Lang Was Always Looking for a War,” IndyWeek, November 26, 2019.

[118] Lang speaks in a documentary by Emile Ghessen about foreign fighters. See “Ukraine -Europe’s Forgotten War: Robin Hood Complex Official Documentary,” June 17, 2019.

[119] “USA v Alex Jared Zwiefelhofer and Craig Austin Lang, Criminal Complaint,” U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, August 16, 2019.

[120] Ibid.

[121] Ibid.

[122] Ibid.

[123] Author communication, Ukrainian court officials, March 2020.

[124] Their communications are discussed in the indictment against Smith. See “USA v Jarrett William Smith, Indictment,” U.S. District Court, District of Kansas, September 25, 2019.

[125] Ibid.

[126] Ibid.

[127] Ibid.

[128] “Guilty Plea: Soldier at Fort Riley Described How to Make Explosive Devices,” U.S. Department of Justice, District of Kansas, February 10, 2020.

[129] Author interviews on background with Ukrainian officials, October 2019.

[130] Kuzmenko, “‘Defend the White Race’: American Extremists Being Co-Opted by Ukraine’s Far-Right.”

[131] Ibid.

[132] Harald Klungtveit and Jonas Skybakmoen, “Høyreekstrem fremmedkriger lovet hevnangrep mot norske myndigheter: ‘Hvis de vil ha et monster, så skal de få et jævla monster,’” Filter Nyheter, February 26, 2019.

[133] “From Oslo to Donbas: Why Was a Norwegian Kicked out of the Ukrainian Army?” Hromadske International, October 4, 2018.

[134] Ali Winston and A.C. Thompson, “American Hate Group Looks to Make Allies in Europe,” ProPublica, July 5, 2018. Confirmed to the author by German intelligence officials. See also “USA v Robert Paul Rundo et al., Criminal Complaint.”

[135] Rise Above Movement posting on the far-right GAB online forum, December 18, 2017.

[136] Miller, “Azov, Ukraine’s Most Prominent Ultranationalist Group, Sets Its Sights On U.S., Europe.”

[137] “American White Supremacist Groups Exploiting International Connections,” Anti-Defamation League, March 16, 2020.

[138] “USA v Robert Paul Rundo et al., Criminal Complaint.”

[139] Author’s interviews on background with Ukrainian officials, 2019.

[140] Tim Hume, “A Russian neo-Nazi football hooligan is trying to build an MMA empire across Europe,” Vice, July 26, 2018.

[141] Oleksiy Kuzmenko, “’Defend the White Race’: American Extremists Being Co-Opted by Ukraine’s Far-Right,” Bellingcat, February 15, 2019.

[142] Simon Parkin, “The rise of Russia’s neo-Nazi football hooligans,” Guardian, April 24, 2018.

[143] The website of Rise Above’s Right Brand clothing no longer exists, but it is discussed in the Anti-Defamation League’s profile of Rise Above Movement.

[144] See “USA v Robert Paul Rundo et al., Criminal Complaint,” paragraph 17.

[145] For an excellent survey of Tarrant’s iconography, see David Toube, “New Zealand Massacre: White Nationalist Iconography and Ideology,” Quilliam Foundation, March 15, 2019.

[146] See the https://www.ironmarch.exposed database from April 13, 2015.

[147] The provision was attached to an omnibus spending bill. See Rebecca Kheel, “Congress bans arms to Ukraine militia linked to neo-Nazis,” Hill, March 27, 2018.

[148] “Global Terrorism: Threats to the Homeland, Part II,” House Committee on Homeland Security, October 30, 2019.

[149] “Ukraine simplifies granting of citizenship to foreigners who fought in Donbas,” Ukrinform, December 27, 2019.

[150] For example, see “Ukrainian Nationalists Disrupt Peace Presentation On War In East,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Ukrainian Service, March 12, 2020. The author also observed a rally in Kyiv in October 2019 at which hundreds of National Corps activists accused the new government of planning concessions to Russia in the Donbas conflict.

[151] Miller, “Azov, Ukraine’s Most Prominent Ultranationalist Group, Sets Its Sights On U.S., Europe.”

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