US neo-Nazi says He Fought in Ukraine, Records Place Him in Florida

A US neo-Nazi who claims he made multiple trips to Ukraine to fight alongside military units can’t seem to keep a straight story.

Online court filings place Kent McLellan, who goes by the alias Boneface, in Florida at the same time he claims he was fighting in last year’s bloody siege of Mariupol.

Additional records show McLellan was legally mandated to remain in Florida in 2014 and 2015, the two other times he says he visited Ukraine to fight alongside Right Sector and the Azov Regiment. The Florida Department of Corrections confirmed to Bellingcat that he was monitored during this time and never granted permission to travel abroad.

While McLellan could have violated the terms of his parole to leave the US, this appears unlikely as digital evidence of McLellan’s life, from social media posts to neo-Nazi forum messages to prison records, shows consistent residence in Florida from 2014 to the present day. 

McLellan—who came to wider media attention earlier this month when he participated in a neo-Nazi demonstration outside of Disney World in Orlando—has in recent years bragged of his supposed exploits in Ukraine.

Throughout 2022 his story was widely covered by Russian state media, which accepted it at face value and also claimed he had received Ukrainian citizenship.

Mugshots of McLellan over the years show his increasing number of face tattoos (Florida law enforcement).

More recently, McLellan’s claims have been exploited by US far-right media personalities, including former Donald Trump advisor Roger Stone and conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer, who have used them to attack the Biden Administration and its policies supporting Ukraine. Stone exclaimed of the “Biggest Nazi Scandal in US History” in the leadup to Loomer appearing on his online show, where she claimed he was part of a secret US government conspiracy.

McLellan’s Claims

In an interview with a far-right podcast on 18 August 2023, McLellan said he travelled to Ukraine in 2014 and 2015 to participate in fighting alongside two far-right military units — Right Sector and the Azov Regiment — that hosted radical foreign fighters in their ranks. McLellan said he was recruited to fight in Ukraine by Gaston Besson, a French military veteran who helped organise international recruitment efforts for Azov in 2014. Besson, a resident of Croatia, passed away in 2022.

McLellan also claimed in this interview that he travelled to Ukraine in January 2022, before Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country began on 24 February. McLellan said he fought alongside the Azov Regiment during the siege of Mariupol, where tens of thousands of people were killed as Russian forces besieged and occupied the Ukrainian port city.

McLellan said his first trip to Ukraine in 2014 was to serve with Right Sector; his subsequent trips, he claims, were to serve with the Azov Regiment. Azov has been officially a Brigade since February 2023; the unit, originally known as the ‘Azov Battalion’ when founded in 2014, was incorporated as a unit into Ukraine’s National Guard in November 2014.

In an interview livestreamed on the Telegram channel of neo-Nazi Christopher Pohlhaus—who organised the Disney World rally—on 9 September 2023, McLellan offered a specific timeline for his 2022 claims. He said he was in Ukraine “in January” and in late spring: “I came back April first, went back April fourth, came back I believe May 27th.”

Pohlhaus interviewed McLellan because his story has been questioned in far-right circles. In a follow-up stream on 11 September, Pohlhaus said Blood Tribe, the neo-Nazi group he leads, no longer considers McLellan in “good standing.” Several far-right Ukrainian accounts on Telegram have also dismissed his claims.

Audio excerpt from a stream on neo-Nazi Christopher Pohlhaus’ Telegram channel, in which McLellan claims he was in Ukraine in 2022.

Testing McLellan’s 2022 Claims

McLellan says he was in Ukraine from January until 1 April 2022 and again from 4 April to 27 May. But a series of simple, open source records searches places him in Florida during his supposed second trip.

A police report in the public Escambia County Court Records database, which any member of the public can access, shows that McLellan was arrested in Escambia on 1 April, 2022, the day he says he returned from Ukraine, at 9:59pm local time.

Excerpt from McLellan’s 2022 arrest report (Escambia County court records).

McLellan was subsequently charged with battery and released on a US$5,000 bond the next day. An arraignment hearing was scheduled for 22 April, a day on which McLellan claimed he was back fighting in Ukraine.

However, the arraignment worksheet located in the filings for the battery case confirms McLellan was in Florida for the 22 April hearing, not in Mariupol. A checkmark on the sheet next to “DP” signifies “Defendant Present.” (The Escambia County Clerk’s office confirmed to Bellingcat that “DP” checked off on the worksheet signifies that McLellan was at the courthouse that day).

Excerpt from McLellan’s arraignment worksheet (Escambia County court records).

McLellan also submitted an affidavit in support of a request for a public defender in Escambia County Court on the same day. He signed and dated the application form “4/22/2022”. (A court clerk stamped the affidavit the same day he signed it).

Excerpt from McLellan’s application for criminal indigent status (Escambia County court records).

In his application for a public defender, McLellan stated that he had no income, no bank savings, no benefits, nor any other kind of financial resources or support.

Excerpt from McLellan’s application for criminal indigent status (Escambia County court records).

Thus, records show that McLellan was in Florida on a day in 2022 when he claimed he was in Ukraine. Not only that, by McLellan’s own admission he did not personally have the financial means to fly to and from Ukraine multiple times that year—a costly undertaking not just to travel from the United States, but to travel overland into Ukraine from bordering countries, given that air travel has been shut down in Ukraine since February 2022.

Testing McLellan’s 2014 and 2015 Claims

McLellan has claimed he was in Ukraine for unspecified periods in 2014 and 2015. However, McLellan was on probation in Florida from 2012 to 2016 and barred from travelling abroad.

McLellan pleaded guilty in October 2012 to participating in paramilitary training tied to the white supremacist group American Front. The public Osceola County Court Records database contains the sentencing document that shows McLellan was handed a four-year state probation.

Excerpt from McLellan’s 2012 sentencing document (Osceola county Court records).

The document goes on to state the conditions of McLellan’s probation, including that he could not travel abroad without the permission of a probation officer.

Excerpt from McLellan’s 2012 sentencing document (Osceola County court records).

Using the public database of the Clerk of the Circuit Court and County Comptroller in Osceola, Bellingcat found a 2016 document that states McLellan’s probation was revoked and terminated in fall 2016; the document was signed 27 September by a district judge and filed by the clerk’s office on 20 October. This means that, from October 2012 to September 2016, McLellan was unable to leave the United States without permission.

Excerpt from McLellan’s probation revocation (Osceola Clerk of the Circuit Court and County Comptroller records).

The Florida Department of Corrections confirmed that at no point was McLellan allowed to go abroad. “Kent McLellan was supervised on probation from 2012 to 2016 and was not granted permission to leave the state at any point during this timeframe,” said a department spokesperson, in a statement to Bellingcat. (McLellan was required to make monthly reports with a probation officer).

When he appeared on the neo-Nazi podcast in August 2023, McLellan claimed his probation ended two years earlier than 2016: “My first trip [to Ukraine] was 2014… Life really wasn’t going anywhere here at the time being. I’d just beat this f—ing probation that I’d had.”

Stay-at-Home Lad

McLellan’s commitment to the Sunshine State goes beyond the times he claims he was in Ukraine, establishing his enduring and long-term residence there.

The Florida Department of Corrections public offender network database states that McLellan was incarcerated from 25 March to 7 July 2010 and again from 18 April 2018 to 1 October 2020—in the former case for a property damage charge and in the latter for dealing methamphetamine.

Screenshot of McLellan’s page from the Florida Department of Corrections Offender Network.

Returning to the Osceola County Court Records database, one can find the filings for McLellan’s 2017 methamphetamine case that led to his second incarceration term. Among the documents is a transcript of an 8 March interview with McLellan, conducted by police officers upon his arrest.

The officers quizzed him about his far-right background and he obliged, telling them of his past involvement with local Florida chapters of the white supremacist group American Front and violent neo-Nazi group Combat 18. He did not mention Right Sector, Azov or anything at all related to Ukraine.

Excerpt of 8 March 2017 transcript of interview of McLellan by police (Osceola County court records).

An officer notably comments on McLellan’s myriad face tattoos, many of which feature nods to his far-right leanings.

Excerpt of 8 March 2017 transcript of interview of McLellan by police (Osceola County court records).

While he did not mention Ukraine in his interview with the officers, McLellan was also active on the notorious, now-defunct neo-Nazi message board Iron March in 2016 (Iron March’s contents and database were leaked online in 2019).

When he signed up for Iron March in February 2016, he claimed to be affiliated with the Ukraine-based neo-Nazi network Misanthropic Division. By September 2023, once he became the subject of social media attention, Misanthropic Division’s Telegram channel called McLellan a “larper” who “never was in Ukraine” and referred to him with clown-face emojis.

Data from several tables in the Iron March database show the IP addresses McLellan used to register for and post on the forum, between February and September 2016. All of these IP addresses were based in Florida. Additionally, in messages to other Iron March users—including to Brandon Russell, the founder of notorious American neo-Nazi terrorist organisation Atomwaffen Division—McLellan shared his phone number which had a central Florida area code, 407.

Screenshot of SQL query results from leaked Iron March database showing the IP addresses McLellan used for his two registered accounts on the website (top), and one of McLellan’s conversations with Atomwaffen Division founder Brandon Russell (bottom). IP addresses and phone number blurred by Bellingcat.

In 2015, the year he claims to have spent at least part of in Ukraine, McLellan was posting images on social media site VK taken in Florida. His time in Ukraine may be in doubt, but McLellan has been a big fan of the Sunshine State for the past 15 years.

A photo from McLellan’s VK account posted in 2015, taken in Florida.

‘Lieutenan Mshipellan’

In an August 2022 video from Russian media outlet Izvestia, McLellan speaks to a reporter about his apparent exploits in Ukraine, and flashes what he claims is his Azov identification card in a close-up to the camera. The statues and structures in the background throughout the video made it easy for Bellingcat to geolocate the video to a park in Pensacola, Florida. 

A screenshot of an August 2022 interview with McLellan in Pensacola, FL by a Russian media outlet.

But McLellan’s purported Azov identification card looks to be a fake. When compared to an example of a legitimate Azov identification card, McLellan’s has a different colour, font, text and arrangement — and his photo features a visible shadow and is off-centre, not something one would usually see in a military identification card. The spelling of the word for ‘lieutenant’ in Ukrainian is incorrect — the military rank in Ukrainian is correctly spelled ‘лейтенант’ (leytenant), not ‘лейтенан’ (leytenan) as on McLellan’s card. Moreover, the Cyrillic text below reads ‘Мшипеллан’ — ‘Mshipellan’ — a series of letters which has no meaning in Ukrainian or any other language that uses the Cyrillic alphabet.

A close-up of his purported Azov ID, which McLellan posted in a Telegram group earlier this summer, contains the same errors.

A close-up of McLellan’s purported Azov ID card, posted by him in a Telegram chat group in July 2023.

Other photos and video that McLellan has posted purporting to show his time in Ukraine, as well as his affiliations with both Right Sector and Azov, have been debunked by social media users.

Meanwhile, McLellan’s onetime boosters on the US far-right have disavowed him in the days since the Disney World rally. “It’s pretty clear that the Boneface story is so fabricated,” Pohlhaus said on an 11 September video linked to on his Telegram channel. Pohlhaus added later in the video that McLellan was a “deceiver” who “has broke the oath” of the group.

Boneface‘s Reply

In a message exchange with Bellingcat’s reporter on Telegram, McLellan continued to claim he had been in Ukraine and fought with Right Sector and Azov even when Bellingcat informed him of the main findings of our investigation. 

Among the photos McLellan sent to Bellingcat was a screenshot from a video purporting to show him firing a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG). When Bellingcat asked him whether the photo was intended to be evidence of him fighting in Ukraine, he stated “yes, that I was involved in this conflict.” 

A photo McLellan sent to Bellingcat.

McLellan then sent a link to a September 2022 YouTube video which he claimed showed him shooting the RPG.

That video, however, isn’t from September 2022. It was published by a Ukrainian soldier on Instagram on 28 February 2022, with the location indicated as the highway leading west from Kyiv towards the city of Zhytomyr. Bellingcat was able to geolocate this original video to a spot on this highway — the M06 highway — in the town of Kalynivka, in Kyiv Oblast approximately 40 kilometres west of the capital’s city limits (50.4163303, 29.7677246).

Bellingcat then asked McLellan where the video — which he claimed showed him — had been filmed. He told us ‘Hwy 27,’ claiming it was a highway that goes “throughout Ukraine.” The only highways in Ukraine with the ‘27’ suffix are nowhere near Kalynivka: these include a highway in Odesa Oblast in southwestern Ukraine, in Chernihiv Oblast in north-northeastern Ukraine and a small highway in Crimea, occupied by Russia since 2014. 

When Bellingcat asked, McLellan said he had not fought in any other regions of Ukraine besides eastern Ukraine. The location of the above video is almost 700 kilometres away from Mariupol.

Bellingcat then asked McLellan whether there was anyone in Right Sector or Azov who could vouch for his presence in their units in Ukraine. McLellan first gave the handles of two anonymous Telegram accounts. He then claimed a prominent Azov veteran who was wounded during the siege of Mariupol would be able to vouch for him, but was unable to furnish direct contact information for him when asked.

Bellingcat then contacted the Azov veteran on his public Instagram account, but received no reply by time of publication.

Independent researcher Jennefer Harper contributed to this report

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