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Ukrainian Far-Right Fighters, White Supremacists Trained by Major European Security Firm

August 30, 2018

By Oleksiy Kuzmenko

Translations: Русский

Summary of Findings

Since 2016, the European Security Academy (ESA) an EU-based company that offers advanced training programs for security, law enforcement and military professionals, has provided sophisticated training geared towards combat application to elements of Ukraine’s controversial Azov Regiment, also known as the Azov Battalion, which has been integrated into the Ukrainian National Guard in Mariupol. A large group fromх Ukraine consisting at least partially of Azov veterans, along with likely current members of Azov movement and other far-right activists, received special-ops like training in the ESA training center in Poland. Among recipients of ESA advanced firearms and tactics training are also current activists of far-right organizations in Ukraine linked to attacks on, or harassment of Ukrainian Roma, LGBT persons and rights activists: Tradition and Order, The National Corps and The National Militia.

At least one individual who previously received sophisticated training from ESA recently provided firearms training to members of the Azov-linked “National Corps”, an ultra-nationalist organization in Ukraine recently linked to attacks on ethnic minorities and other vulnerable populations.

Although the ESA Managing Director told Bellingcat that the company would deny training to applicants who support far-right ideologies and/or have links to violent ultra-nationalist organizations, several ESA training recipients from Ukraine have documented, public connections to ultra-nationalist organizations and ideologies. In some cases, these recipients of training are currently members of ultra-nationalists organizations, and others have over the years publicly shared numerous photographs of themselves giving Nazi salutes, or have highly-visible tattoos suggesting support for white supremacist movements.

At least one recipient of ESA training in Poland, who is an active member of the ultra-nationalist group “Tradition and Order”, openly admitted online to supporting a “national-socialist” ideology. Another ESA training recipient with multiple certifications from the company has a highly visible white supremacist “Celtic Cross” tattoo which can be easily spotted in a photograph posted by the company to their Facebook page. Despite the fact that ESA said that they would not provide training to individuals linked to far-right ideologies and organizations, one individual who received sophisticated weapons training from ESA has swastikas tattooed on his head and was involved in a number of high-profile, internationally reported incidents of racist displays and attacks in Ukraine.

The ESA Managing Director told Bellingcat that the company conducted in-depth background checks of applicants, but did not specify disqualifying criteria.

This investigation starts with an introduction to the cast of characters featured in the research, followed by background information on the ESA and Azov. The latter half of the investigation details how many far-right, ultra-nationalist individuals, including some self-admitted neo-Nazis and white supremacists, took part in ESA trainings in Ukraine and Poland.

Key Figures and Groups

Individuals

  • Arsen Avakov is Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs since 2014 and Azov’s political patron, whose ties to Ukraine’s ultra-nationalists go back almost a decade, according to Anton Shekhovtsov, renowned researcher of the European far-right. It’s under Avakov that Azov was incorporated into the National Guard in a move that, although presented as means to defuse the ultra-nationalist battalion, led to its explosive growth and branching out into the National Corps political party and increasingly assertive National Militia street movement.
  • Andriy Biletsky is the head of Azov movement and member of the Parliament of Ukraine. Biletsky’s whole life is in ultra-nationalist politics, and he cultivated Azov from a ragtag group of poorly-armed militants and soccer hooligans into a large three-pronged movement, and an aggressively expanding political and street movement with mostly unchecked ambitions. Biletsky enjoys patronage of Ukraine’s Minister of Interior Affairs Arsen Avakov and is allegedly linked to the latter for nearly a decade.
  • Andrzej Bryl is the founder of 1500+employee strong Delta Security Group, which includes the European Security Academy (ESA). Bryl is a military and security expert in Poland with reportedly decades of experience, including alleged cooperation with Poland’s military. His company’s clients include various international governments. Bryl posed in a picture with a group of trainees from Ukraine, comprised at least partially of Azov veterans and activists of ultra-nationalist organizations in Ukraine.
  • Bartosz Bryl is managing director of the European Security Academy. Although he insists that the company would deny training to ultra-nationalists and conducts in-depth background checks of its applicants, the company provided services to the controversial Azov Regiment and, per Bellingcat research, trained ultra-nationalists who hold leadership positions in organizations with a history of violence, individuals that openly profess support for “national-socialism” and white supremacy, and those mired in high-profile racist attacks in Ukraine.
  • Sergiy Korotkih is one of Azov’s combat commanders and organizational leaders and a former citizen of Belarus with ties to neo-Nazi organizations in Russia. He was granted Ukrainian citizenship by President Petro Poroshenko in 2014. He is reportedly a close associate of Arsen Avakov as the head of the Department for the Protection of Strategic Objects of the National Guard of Ukraine, a distinct police unit that apparently received ESA training in Ukraine in July 2016, although being staffed, per photographic evidence, with a number of individuals who openly and publicly support far-right, white supremacist, and ultra-nationalist ideologies.
  • Nikita “Odissey” Makeev is a combat veteran of Azov, a Russian citizen, and an ESA trainee from 2016. He is a leader of GO Zirka (Civic Organization “Defense and Reconstruction of the Country”), a satellite organization of Azov’s National Corps and National Militia.
  • Ihor “Maliar” is an Azov combat veteran and a prominent figure in Ukraine’s far-right scene, with a huge online following of nearly 20,000 on Instagram. He was an active participant of some of Ukraine’s iconic and more controversial moments during the Euromaidan demonstrations, as well as the perpetrator of a high-profile racist attack in 2015 that was widely reported in international media. Maliar sports clearly visible swastika tattoos on his head and was able to receive sophisticated ESA training in 2016.
  • Ivan Pilipchuk is an apparent veteran of Ukraine’s war with Russia and Russia-led separatists and is currently one of the leaders of “Tradition and Order”, a violent ultra-nationalist organization connected by Human Rights Watch to attacks on Ukrainian Roma, LGBT persons, and LGBT rights activists. Pilipchuk’s online presence suggests he self-identifies as a “national-socialist”, and shows a penchant for posing – non-ironically – with Nazi salutes. He was a part of a large group from Ukraine, comprised at least partially of Azov veterans, who trained in Poland with ESA in 2017.
  • Vadim Lapaev “Balak” is a veteran of Azov, and apparently an activist of the National Militia, a street branch of the Azov movement that has used violence to further its goals. His online presence suggests that he supports ultra-nationalist ideologies and there are multiple photographs of Lapaev posing with Nazi salutes, including in armed groups and with a swastika banner. In one of the photos, he is seen with a swastika necklace and a white supremacist-linked Othala rune tattooed on his chest. He was able to obtain multiple certifications from ESA in Ukraine. One of Lapaev’s white supremacist tattoos, a Celtic Cross on his left hand, is clearly seen in one of the photos publicly posted by ESA on Facebook.

Organizations

  • The Azov Regiment (also called the Azov Battalion or just “Azov”) is effectively an autonomous special operations detachment in the National Guard of Ukraine long mired in controversy because of its far-right ideology, along with credible accusations of human rights abuses from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Azov is a three-pronged movement with a well-trained and armed military power integrated with the Ukrainian National Guard, a growing political movement with own political party, The National Corps, and a vigilante street movement called the National Militia. ESA instructors led an intensive week-long training for Azov in Ukraine in 2016, developed a boot camp for the regiment and trained Azov veterans and activists of the movement on other occasions.
  • The European Security Academy (ESA) is a large military and security training provider headquartered in Wroclaw, Poland. The Discovery Channel has described the ESA as the “world’s top security academy”, and the ESA training center near Poznan, Poland is the world’s largest outside of the United States, according to the BBC. Although ESA told Bellingcat it would deny training to members of violent ultra-nationalist organizations and neo-Nazis, the company provided training to publicly white supremacist and neo-Nazi members of the Azov Regiment and trained other members of Ukrainian ultra-nationalist organizations. Some of such trainees have visible white-supremacist tattoos, a very public online presence showing white supremacist and far-right ideologies, and were involved in high-profile racist attacks reported in international media.
  • The Department for the Protection of Strategic Objects of The National Guard of Ukraine (Ukrainian: ВІДДІЛ ОХОРОНИ ОБ’ЄКТІВ СТРАТЕГІЧНОГО ЗНАЧЕННЯ ПРИ ДЕПАРТАМЕНТІ ДЕРЖАВНОЇ СЛУЖБИ ОХОРОНИ ПРИ МВС УКРАЇНИ, ВООСЗДДСО) is a distinct protection police unit headed by a prominent Azov leader with links to Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs. Photographic evidence suggests that the ESA trained the unit in July 2016, and Bellingcat linked numerous participants of this training to Azov and Azov-linked violent far-right organizations, including at least one individual previously involved in a high-profile racist attack in Ukraine reported by international media.
  • The National Corps is Azov’s far-right political party, founded in 2016 and headed by Andriy Biletsky. The party has fewer than 20,000 member and only two members in Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada parliament (out of 450 total MPs). The party aims, among other things, to re-establish Ukraine as a nuclear-armed state, promotes  “Ukrainecentrism”, and opposes EU institutions which it describes as “Brussel’s bureaucracy”. The ESA trained prominent National Corps activists, possibly contributing to the party’s capacity for violence since at least one ESA trainee later acted as National Corps firearms instructor.
  • The National Militia is Azov’s aggressively expanding street branch headed by the regiment’s former military commander. Along with the National Corps, it reportedly carried out attacks on minorities in Ukraine, and seeks to mirror law-enforcement functions to enforce “Ukrainian order”.
  • GO Zirka (Civic Organization “Defense and Reconstruction of the Country”) is a satellite organization of Azov movement, headed by Sergiy Korotkih, a former commander of Azov’s military reconnaissance and current head of Department for the Protection of Strategic Objects of the National Guard of Ukraine. One of GO Zirka other leaders Nikita Makeev, an Azov combat veteran and Russian citizen who received ESA training in 2016.
  • “Tradition and Order” is an aggressively expanding violent ultra-nationalist organization that has reportedly carried out attacks on Ukrainian Roma, LGBT individuals, and LGBT rights activists. It provides advanced firearms and combat tactics training to members. At least one of the organization’s leaders, a self-admitted “national-socialist” with a penchant for giving Nazi salutes, attended an ESA course in Poland.

“World’s Top Security Academy” in Ukraine

The ESA is a military and security training provider headquartered in Wroclaw, Poland. Per the company’s site, it has representatives in multiple EU countries, the Middle East, Russia, Ukraine, and Brazil. The Discovery Channel has described the ESA as the “world’s top security academy”, and the ESA training center close to Poznan, Poland is the world’s largest outside of the United States, according to the BBC.

ESA Shooting Range Complex, part of ESA’s training center that covers 150 hectares; Source: E.S.A. – European Security Academy Facebook

Approximately 650-700 people attended ESA courses each year, according to a 2015 article in The Warsaw Business Journal. The center serves as a major training hub for the private military and security contracting industry internationally and was mentioned in a 2015 AFP report.

According to the ESA’s site, it is part of Delta Security Group, which employs 1500+ people. Both ESA and Delta were founded by Andrzej Bryl, and Bryl family members appear to hold notable positions in both companies.

The ESA entered the Ukrainian market in early 2015. In May of that year, it conducted a Tactical Carbine Level 1 open-air seminar for 12 participants in Zhytomyr, according to the Ukrainian Gun Owners Association.

Since then, according to the ESA’s social media pages, the company has provided training in Ukraine to some of the country’s elite military and police units, and played a role in broadening expertise of previously highly-specialized units to meet challenges brought by the war with Russia and the separatists it leads in eastern Ukraine.  

For instance, the “Cyklon” (ЦИКЛОН – Ukrainian) anti-terror unit of Ukraine’s Penal Enforcement trained with the ESA in December 2015 in Ukraine and April 2016 in Poland in a broad range of operations and environments. “Bulat”, the special operations unit of the Department of State Guard of Ukraine, trained with the ESA in 2016 in Poland, per the company’s Facebook.

Ukraine’s government apparently valued ESA services highly, judging by its repeated contracting of the trainers and the recognition they gave to the ESA. The company’s social media pages proudly feature a recognition plaque issued to ESA by the Department of State Guard of Ukraine in 2016, along with mementos presented by the Internal Security Forces of Lebanon and Special Security Force of Bangladesh.

Azov’s “Gratitude” to the ESA

Another endorsement that the ESA received in Ukraine is much more problematic. A March 2016 post on the ESA Ukraine Facebook page features a glowing endorsement from the Azov Regiment, a military formation long mired in controversy because of its far-right ideology, along with credible accusations from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) of Azov members and leaders committing and allowing serious human rights abuses.

“Fighters and commanders of special operations regiment Azov express great gratitude to instructors of European Security Academy – Ukraine for (your) help in defending Ukrainian state. Your civic stance and support of our regiment inspire us to show valor in battle. You are our rock. And your support is our victory ”, reads a commemorative plaque/certificate signed by Ihor “Cherkass” Mykhailenko, who at the time was the military commander of the Azov Regiment. Currently, “Cherkass” is the head of Azov’s street branch, the National Militia organization.

A photograph of an endorsement/commemorative plaque from Azov signed by Ihor Mykhailenko was posted by ESA Ukraine on Facebook

Azov: Overview of the Three-Pronged Movement

Azov was established by prominent far-right leader Andriy Biletsky in early 2014 as a volunteer battalion and was later incorporated into the National Guard of Ukraine that same year. The incorporation did little, if anything, to temper Azov’s far-right political positions and activism; rather the National Guard integration has boosted Azov.  

While Azov has attempted to distance itself from neo-Nazism and white supremacy as it has grown, Biletsky has made this task difficult through his notorious past public utterances promoting antisemitism and white supremacy. Most notably, Biletsky once argued that “the historic mission of our nation [Ukraine] in this critical moment is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival […] A crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.” While not all members–or perhaps even not a majority–of Azov’s three-pronged movement are white supremacists or neo-Nazis, it is impossible to deny that it is rooted in these ideas from its founder.

Promotion of Ihor “Cherkas” Mihailenko, commander of the “National Militia”. The text boasts how “Cherkas” is a “Nationalist, Veteran, Family Man, Sportsman”

“Rather than disband Azov, the government incorporated it into the Ukrainian National Guard overseen by the Ministry of the Interior”, U.S. Congressman Ro Khanna, a critic of Azov, said about this military organization in April 2018. In May of this year, he claimed that the “battalion has very much engaged in incidents of neo-Nazism”.

Khanna has characterized Azov as a “neo-Nazi battalion” and the Congressman is behind the 2018 Congressional ban (see Section 8129 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018) on the use of U.S. budget funds “to provide arms, training, or other assistance to the Azov Battalion”.

Azov is often described in the media as a military formation, but its leaders speak of it as a multifaceted movement. The most well-known part of Azov is its military wing, the Azov Regiment, but it also includes a political wing, the National Corps party, and a street wing, the National Militia.

The National Militia made an alarming entrance onto Ukraine’s political stage early in 2018 with a public swearing-in ceremony in Kyiv and a torchlit march. The National Militia, which is not part of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry or any official government bodies that are legally authorized to combat crime and enforce the law, publicly pledged to patrol Ukrainian cities for crime and to establish what they consider “Ukrainian order”. Members of Azov movement appear to flow between three branches with ease and all three organizations pursue the same ultra-nationalist, far-right political ideology.

Swearing-in ceremony in Kyiv

Matthew Schaaf, director of Freedom House’s Ukrainian Office, has described the rise of Azov’s National Militia to public prominence and its ambitions as “scary”. The National Militia, as well as the National Corps, is growing its footprint in Ukraine, and both of these organizations conduct regular weapons and military tactics trainings for members.

National Militia weapons and physical training supervised by that organization’s leader Ihor “Cherkas” Myhailenko in September 2017

The Azov movement is highly critical of Ukraine’s current government and is dis-proportionally visible in Ukraine due to the controversial and at times violent politics espoused by its political and street branches. The movement reportedly enjoys backing of Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov who, according to well-known researcher of European far-right movements Anton Shekhovtsov, played an important role in building up Azov and has utilized and boosted far-right elements in Ukraine throughout his political career.

To the right is Andriy Biletsky, founder and leader of Azov battalion, leader of Azov movement; Behind Biletsky is Ihor “Cherkas” Myhailenko, commander of the National Militia

Earlier this year, the National Corps and National Militia threatened a Ukrainian Roma community near Kyiv and later razed the abandoned campsite, streaming the event on Facebook Live. The incident has been called a pogrom by many observers, and additional attacks on Roma camps from other far-right groups followed throughout Ukraine. A 2018 OHCHR report mentions instances when members of the National Corps, along with other far-right groups, assumed the role of law enforcement, attacked women rights activists, and disrupted LGBT rights events.

National Corps and National Militia have readily used violence to advance their goals. For instance, in July 2018 National Militia and National Corps clashed with Ukraine’s police at a construction site in Kyiv’s Osokorky Neighborhood. Per National Militia’s account of the incident posted on Facebook, the organization’s activists “assumed functions of the municipal police” in order to “protect Kyiv’s residents”.

Clash between National Militia forces and Ukrainian police at a construction site in Kyiv

During the confrontation stones were thrown at Police by activists of 2 Azov-linked organization.

National Corps leaders at the site included Rodion Kudriashov, who is a prominent Azov Regiment combat commander, leader of violent soccer hooligans in Ukraine’s Dnipro city, and current head of National Corps’ command center. Kudriashov’s multitude of roles with the Azov movement illustrates how fluidly Azov activists flow between their various positions as military commanders and civic activists.

Rodion Kudriashov during National Corps and National Militia led clashes at a construction site in Kyiv.

Kudriashov in a 2016 documentary “The Brave Hearts: Ultras” by Ukraine’s “2+2” Channel that covered transition of leaders of Ukraine’s violent soccer hooligan groups into military commanders during the war with Russia and Russian-led separatists. The documentary failed to mention that at least some of the individuals it covered embrace and practice a far-right and ultra-nationalist ideology

ESA “Promised to further assist” Azov in 2016

Although the aforementioned glowing endorsement of the ESA by the Azov commander Myhailenko did not mention specifics, a February 2016 article on Azov’s own web publication Nackor.org details a grueling, week-long training given to the Regiment’s 4th Company by ESA instructors. Per Nackor, the specific training was developed by ESA to meet the challenges faced by Azov, which integrated into the Ukrainian National Guard at the end of 2014, in the ongoing war in the Donbas.

The Nackor article elaborated: “After a week-long training Azov fighters looked extremely tired and exhausted, but also happy about the experience they had and their work with world-class specialists from ESA, who also promised to further assist Azov in conducting similar trainings, and share their expertise”.

Article on Azov’s website highlighting cooperation between the regiment and the ESA

Azov’s online publication does not mention more exercises with ESA instructors, but there is a May 2016 article on the site providing detailed information about the European Security Academy’s history and services.

Also in May 2016, the ESA Ukraine Facebook page posted about an intense three-day boot camp training developed by the company and geared towards fighters in the ATO (“Anti-Terror Operation”, the term for Ukraine’s operations in the Donbas from 2014-8. The “ATO” was reorganized as the Joint Forces Operation earlier this year). Per the post, Azov’s fighters were the “first in Ukraine” to participate in the course.

The ESA’s Facebook page carries few explicit mentions of Azov, but the regiment’s presence is obvious from a number of photographs featured prominently on the page. For instance, the cover of the ESA’s Facebook page is a photograph of the company’s founder Andrzej Bryl taking a knee in front of a memorial apparently located in Poland dedicated to Vyacheslav “Kuzmich” Galva. Galva was an Azov military instructor in its early days and was killed in the ATO in 2014.

Azov’s cooperation with an EU-based security company has not been heavily publicized before, but the more problematic issue surrounds some of the particular individuals who participated in ESA trainings. Bellingcat’s investigation has revealed that active members of far-right organizations in Ukraine with a record of violence are among the ESA’s training graduates in Ukraine and Poland. These individuals include members of National Corps, National Militia, Tradition and Order, and Defense and Reconstruction of the Country (GO Zirka), a group closely linked to the Azov movement. While not all members of these groups are outright neo-Nazis or white supremacists, a number of ESA graduates have openly professed support for “national-socialism” on social media and other public platforms either through their explicit words and gestures or their tattoos (e.g. swastikas and white supremacist symbols).

Bellingcat was able to identify specific individuals who publicly posted about their training with the ESA across multiple social media pages. In some cases, these individuals also tagged other trainees, allowing further research into the ESA trainees.

While the following material is not necessarily representative or exhaustive regarding the ESA’s policies, persons with links to far-right movements who received ESA training, or Azov’s overall membership, these individual cases do present convincing evidence of the ESA providing advanced training to openly white supremacist and neo-Nazi members of Ukrainian ultra-nationalist organizations.

Azov-Affiliated Weapons Instructor Trained with the ESA in 2016

Months after Azov’s 4th Company training with ESA instructors and Nackor’s article heralding further cooperation between two organizations, the ESA Facebook page posted an action-packed video summary of a “completed project by ESA Ukraine” — a close protection operative course. The video was also posted on YouTube by Anton Farb, an ESA instructor at the time. There are also high-resolution photographs of the participants available on the ESA Ukraine Facebook page. The ESA Facebook pages did not provide the participants’ names, but we were able to identify the group in the video with a high level of confidence along with the particular individuals.

Image from an ESA training with Ukrainian participants

Whether by design or not, the training in question – a sophisticated course in close protection – could eventually trickle down into Azov’s political branch, the National Corps, and its satellite organization GO Zirka (abbreviation of “Defense and Reconstruction of the Country”).

A group of individuals in the video are wearing t-shirts with a highly recognizable and macabre emblem: a hooded grim reaper skull against the backdrop of “black sun”, a symbol widely used by Azov, with the inscription “It sure is great in heaven, but I have more friends in hell”. The emblem is associated online with a particular unit of Ukraine’s National Guard — the Department for the Protection of Strategic Objects. The unit used to have a dedicated page at ooso.com.ua (a reference to which was preserved at a VK page apparently related to the National Guard), but it is now defunct.  

VK page for the Department for the Protection of Strategic Objects with the ooso.com.ua URL preserved, despite the site now being offline

There is also a dedicated page on the National Guard’s official site, but its content disappeared after Bellingcat repeatedly sent requests for commentary to the National Guard.

Emblem with a grim reaper and black sun below the phrase “Heaven is safe, but I have more friends in hell”

According to Ukrainian government records, this particular National Guard unit (legal ID Code 39779699) was founded in 2015 and headed by Sergiy Korotkih, a highly controversial figure and a reported current associate of both Azov’s head Biletsky and Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs Avakov. Korotkih, previously a Belarusian citizen, was granted Ukrainian citizenship by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko personally in 2014 for his actions in defense of Ukraine, despite his widely reported ties to neo-Nazi groups in Russia.  

Korotkih confirmed to Bellingcat that the unit is currently active and its staffing policies favored ATO (now JFO) veterans. The National Guard, in response to Bellingcat’s request, stated that the Protection police did not use the state budget to pay for the services provided by the ESA.

Bellingcat was able to identify most of the individuals in the 2016 video as veterans of the Azov Regiment, with two particular individuals linking the ESA to the National Corps and GO Zirka.

Second on the right is Nikita Makeev, third to the right is “Maliar”

One of these two individuals is Nikita Makeev (call sign “Odissey”). Makeev co-founded GO Zirka in 2016 together with aforementioned Sergiy Korotkih and currently heads the organization. GO Zirka, which is involved in both veteran and street politics, is a satellite of the Azov movement and is closely aligned with the National Corps and the National Militia.

On the right is Nikita Makeev, on the left is “Maliar”

Makeev is a former Azov fighter and, according to various media reports, a Russian citizen. By his own admission, Makeev traveled to Ukraine from Russia to support the Euromaidan demonstrations and eventual revolution, later joined Azov, and fought in the Donbas. Nackor reported in 2016 that Makeev was trying to obtain Ukrainian citizenship. Makeev is a close associate of National Corps Deputy Head Nazarii Kravchenko and has been seen with him at numerous rallies and events. As mentioned earlier, National Corps has heavily invested into military-like training of its members.

“Nikita ‘Odissey’ Makeev, 32 years old, Russia”

Makeev confirmed to Bellingcat that he had worked in the Ukrainian National Guard unit in question, but was no longer employed there.

Another ESA trainee of particular interest is Ihor “Maliar” (the latter is his call sign; his last name is not publicly known).

Interview with “Maliar”, who is described as an “activist” an “ATO participant”

A veteran of Azov and the ATO, and reportedly wounded in battle, Maliar is currently an activist with the National Corps and a close associate of many Azov movement leaders, including the aforementioned Nazarii Kravchenko of the National Corps and Serhiy Filimonov, the head of National Corps Kyiv chapter.

Maliar did not return requests to comment, but the National Guard said in response to a request from Bellingcat that they never employed Maliar.

Publication describing Maliar as an Azov member and fighter in the ATO

Maliar is a particularly public and recognizable figure, having been featured in various Azov Regiment publications and articles. He is easily identifiable because of his many tattoos, including swastikas tattooed on his skull and a massive tattoo of a grinning skull covering his entire upper body.  

Maliar, second on the left with Nazarii Kravchenko, deputy head of the National Corps political party

First on the left is Azov’s leader Andriy Biletsky, next to him is Nazarii Kravchenko, deputy-head of the National Corps party

Maliar, still only in his twenties, is already a well-known veteran within Ukraine’s far-right and soccer hooligan scene, much like Kravchenko and Filimonov. Memorably in late 2013, Maliar, as he himself confirms in the documentary “Day of a Provocateur”, was the centerpiece of one of more controversial events of the Maidan protest and eventual revolution: an attack on defensive police formations in front of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine. During the attack, a masked Maliar used a heavy metal chain against dozens of policemen.

Videos and photos of the event are widely available. At the time the attacks, Maliar was part of a group led reportedly by Ukraine’s notorious far-right leader Dmytro Korchynsky. The attack, which included use of a hijacked bulldozer truck, was dismissed as provocative by political leaders of the protests against then-president Viktor Yanukovych.

Instagram photograph of Maliar, showing swastika tattoos behind both of his ears. The photograph was published by a Dnipro barber shop advertising Maliar’s recent haircut.

Relevant to this investigation, however, is that in 2015, months before participating in an ESA training, Maliar was reportedly involved in a number of high-profile displays of racism during Ukrainian football matches. In May 2015, Maliar–with much longer hair, but the same “VICTORY OR VALHALLA” tattoo on his neck–was photographed by various news outlets brandishing a white supremacist Celtic Cross banner (the “Celtic Cross” is listed in Hate Symbols Database maintained by the Anti-Defamation League) as one of hundreds of football fans who invaded the post-game pitch after Ukraine’s “Dnipro” team beat Italy’s “Napoli” in the semi-final of Europa League in Kyiv. Per the BBC, “Dnipro” was later punished by UEFA for its fans’ behavior.

In October of the same year, “Maliar” was, according to an open source investigation by the Ukrainian publication Bukvy and video evidence, part of a racist attack on black soccer fans at the stadium during the Dynamo Kyiv vs Chelsea match in Kyiv. The incident was widely covered in international media.

Maliar punches a black man on the stadium during the incident in October 2015

Per the National Corps Kyiv chapter, Maliar acted as a firearms instructor for the far-right organization on a number of occasions in 2017 and 2018. This role could be boosted by the training he received from ESA. Both a December 2017 Telegram post by National Corps Kyiv and a subsequent Facebook post show Maliar instructing National Corps activists on using a pump-action shotgun.

The text of the Telegram post reads: “‘National Corps’ activists spent this Saturday morning meaningfully, they practiced shooting a pump-action shotgun. Our instructors, first and foremost, explained how to handle weapons safely and provided basic handling tips. Afterward young nationalists had an opportunity to use the weapons practically and make several dozen shots with it”. The post includes a photograph of Maliar holding a pump-action rifle in front of a group of young men.

Maliar is on the far left holding a pump-action rifle close to his leg

In the photograph, Maliar is to the left of another weapons instructor self-identified on social media as “Sashko Vovk” (it is unclear if this is his actual name). Vovk, according to numerous photographs posted online, is an activist with the National Militia and National Corps.

October 2017 photo posted by “Sashko Vovk”. The text reads: Representatives of the National Corps Kyiv Chapter at a party Assembly. Vok is third on the right

In various images available on social networks, Vovk’s tattoos are clearly visible. Those include 14 and 88 tattooed on his shoulders, which refer to the white supremacist/Nazi “14 words” and “88” numeric hate symbols (the WP/SH with axes on his stomach likely means either “White Power Sieg Heil” or “White Power Skinhead”).

“Sashko Vovk” National Corps Kyiv chapter activists is on the left, In the center is Serhiy Filimonov, head of National Corps Kyiv Chapter

Maliar and Vovk are seen again providing hands-on firearms training to National Corps Kyiv activists in February 2018 posts on the organization’s Telegram (as well as on their Instagram).

Telegram and Instagram posts showing Maliar as a weapons instructor describe his work with Azov veterans: “‘Azov’ Regiment veterans conducted a weapons lecture for National Corps activists today. They spoke about safe handling of weapons, comparative effectiveness and application of certain ‘men’s toys’. The activists learned to assemble and disassemble ‘Hatsan’ pump-action rifle, ‘Fort 17′ traumatic gun and AKM automatic rifle’. The future belongs to us!”.  

On background in the center on the right side is Maliar explaining something to a National Corps activist

Not a Russian Propaganda Creation, but an Actual ESA Alumnus

Numerous social media posts also suggest that the ESA conducted another training for Azov fighters in the fall of 2016 (likely in October). A post in a VK group that exclusively covers military topics shows a number of photographs of an alleged “ESA training course” attended by Azov fighters. Individuals in the images are wearing ESA patches and pose in a group photo with the ESA instructor and representative in Ukraine, Semen “Sem” Rudkovsky.

Bellingcat was able to confirm that a number of individuals in the photos are in fact connected to Azov. For instance, a fighter going by nickname“Francuz” (Frenchman), a likely Azov fighter going by “Ingvar”, and others.

Last on the right is Lapaev

Of special interest is a particular participant of the fall 2016 training: Vadim Lapaev, also known as “Balak”. Lapaev has been frequently referred to in Ukrainian media as an Azov veteran.

Lapaev’s very public social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram offer an exhaustive account of his life and involvement with the ESA; for instance, he was apparently able to obtain numerous certifications from the ESA.

Interview with Lapaev describing him as an Azov member who fought in the ATO

This is especially remarkable since Lapaev’s social media profiles present numerous photographs (including ones apparently taken in the conflict zone) of him giving Nazi salutes among groups of armed individuals, and even posing with a Nazi flag. One of the photos Lapaev posted shows him with a swastika necklace and a white supremacist-linked Othala rune tattooed on his chest.

Various ESA certificates apparently obtained by Lapaev

On the right is Lapaev. He is seen with a swastika necklace and a white supremacist-linked Othala rune tattooed on his chest

Lapaev appears in a number of photographs posted by the ESA Ukraine Facebook page, including next to ESA instructor “Sem”.

On the far left is ESA instructor “Sem”, next to him is Lapaev

One photo of Lapaev posted by the ESA clearly shows a white supremacist (per ADL’s Hate Symbols Database) Celtic Cross tattoo on his right hand.

Posted to ESA Ukraine Facebook is a close-up photo of Lapaev’s left hand. The Celtic Cross is a prominent element of the tattoo on his hand

Lapaev, like aforementioned Makeev and “Maliar”, is also linked to Azov movement.

Photographs of Lapaev in full spec ops gear with what appears to be a semi-automatic rifle are featured on the National Militia Instagram in a propagandist context, suggesting he is a member of the organization. One Instagram video shows a fully equipped and armed Lapaev among a group of armed National Militia fighters taking part in a sophisticated tactical drill staged for “the urban warfare scenario”.

The video post featuring Lapaev has the caption: “Limited visibility, complicated infrastructure, and presence of civilian population make urban warfare into one of the most difficult types of a firefight”. Added are the hashtags “national militia” and “national militia drills” in Ukrainian.

ESA Trained Azov Fighters and a Self-Described”National-Socialist” in Poland

On another occasion, a March 2017 ESA training that took place in Poland welcomed a large group of Ukrainian trainees, some of whom had links to Azov. Bellingcat was able to identify one member of the group as a current activist in a leadership position in the violent Ukrainian far-right organization “Tradition and Order”.

ESA Ukraine Facebook post about a training in Poland from March 2017

A March 2017 Facebook video posted on the ESA Ukraine page and a photo report on the same page shows a CPO (close protection operative) course in the ESA training center in Poland for a large “Ukrainian group”. While the ESA pages do not provide further detail about the “Ukrainian group”, some of the actual participants of the course subsequently took to social media to share their experience.  

A photograph taken by one participant shows ESA founder Andrzej Bryl posing with the group, while another participant tagged multiple other trainees in various photographs detailing what appears to be a challenging spec ops-styled training that included fire drills, lectures, intense physical exercise, and other activities.

Squatting in the bottom row in the center, wearing a dark olive jacket, is Andrzej Bryl, founder of the ESA. Standing immediately behind and touching Bryl’s shoulder is Ivan Pilipchuk, an activist of far-right Tradition and Order organization

Numerous individuals who appear in the photographs taken during the course appear to be linked to Azov. As a matter of fact, one online commentator who reacted to a video of the ESA training posted on Instagram by a participant (an Azov veteran) remarked that it looked like “half of Azov went there”.

Screenshot of a participant video of numerous members of “Ukrainian group” in Poland during a live fire drill

Comment for a photograph taken during a training, reading: “looks like half of Azov went there”)

Some participants, for instance, “Ingvar” and “Frenchman” of the training in Poland, had previously appeared in photographs from the ESA training in Ukraine in October 2016.

Of particular interest is Ivan Pilipchuk tagged and clearly visible in multiple photographs taken during the training in Poland. Pilipchuk also noted on social media that he participated in the ESA training.

A photo gallery from the training in Poland posted by a participant later in 2017. The actual training took place in March

Pilipchuk appears to hold a leadership position in “Tradition and Order”, a far-right organization with a record of violence. In a recent statement, Human Right Watch connected “Tradition and Order”, along with a number of other far-right organization in Ukraine, to attacks on Ukrainian Roma, LGBT persons, and LGBT rights activists.

According to photographs posted by Pilipchuk on his social media profiles on Facebook and Instagram, he fought in the ATO, and likes to pose giving Nazi salutes.

Pilipchuk giving a Nazi salute in Avdiivka

Nazi paraphernalia on Pilipchuk’s Instagram account, with the caption “A gift from my brothers”

Remarkably in one his Facebook posts, where he’s also seen giving a Nazi salute, he appears to admit to sharing what he describes as “fascist, national-socialist” ideology. The post in question is not referencing his time in the ESA center in Poland.

While some photographs from Ukrainian soldiers and Azov fighters doing Nazi or fascist gestures are meant to be sarcastic or as dark humor in response to Russian propaganda overestimating the presence and influence of neo-Nazism in Ukraine, Pilipchuk’s photograph and caption are meant earnestly, and seem to be aligned with his views expressed in other social media posts, as well as views expressed by other people identified by Bellingcat in the group .

Pilipchuk provided the following caption for the photograph in which he and other individuals wearing military fatigues are seen giving Nazi salutes :

“That’s a picture from Tactical Combat Casualty Care training. I’d like to thank our teachers for sharing knowledge. Can’t think of another opportunity to meet up for us, fascist, national-socialist, nationalist and some ‘friends’ from neighboring countries that didn’t want to pose for the photo. Much respect.”

Pilipchuk is second of the right

Online presence of another individual seen in the photo with Pilipchuk (sixth on the right in the group, black T-shirt, shaved head) raising his hand in a Nazi salute supports our understanding that there is little irony involved in Pilipchuk’s identification of members of the group in the photo as “national-socialists”. The individual in question goes by “created_t0_create” on Instagram and appears to be an Azov veteran and current National Militia activist. He has posted various endorsements of neo-Nazism and white supremacy, including “power to the whites” slogans, references to the Nazi “14/88” numeric hate symbols, and so on.

created_t0_create” with Andriy Biletsky, head of Azov

For instance, in a March 20th Instagram post, he “reminisced” about Berlin:

“… voices of young national-socialists were once heard on these streets, along with barking of German Shepherds, thunderous marches shook the air, young Aryan women were praising Adolf Hitler with a Roman salute. But what’s happening now? Turks, negroes and Arabs fuck with blonde whores! Bavarian-style houses are covered in Turkish flags. All over Berlin faggots and junkies rap in German. Is this the modern world that the war was fought for? Fucking scum, kikes and blacks, have built their own heaven? Well, we the whites shall build our own white heaven!”

There’s also no doubt that “created_t0_createis a close friend of Pilipchuk and knows Lapaev and Maliar. In one of his social media posts, “created_t0_createalso wrote that he needed to sign up for an ESA training to improve his shooting skills.

Ivan Pilipchuk is visible in recent photos from “Tradition and Order” leadership meetings as well as with “Tradition and Order” leader Bohdan Khodakovsky.

Pilipchuk is also seen in a recent hand-to-hand combat training for the “Tradition and Order” members, where he donned an ESA-branded rashguard. “Tradition and Order” actively engages in far-right street politics.

Commenting on recent attacks on groups of Ukrainian Roma, the organization’s head Bohdan Khodakovsky gleefully remarked that “Ukrainian Roma are an inalienable part of Ukrainian folklore, almost as important as pogroms”.

“Tradition and Order” conducted an “anti-ethnic crime walk” at one of Kyiv’s marketplaces in early June 2018. The organization’s activists, predominantly athletic young men, passed out leaflets instructing “foreign workers” on “proper” behavior. The organization was also active in homophobic rallies during Kyiv Pride earlier this year. On the day of Kyiv Pride, Pilipchuk posted a photograph from the location of the march and wrote that he was ready to fight.

“Tradition and Order” offers training in combat tactics, and firearms to members in various location in Ukraine. The trainings, per the organization’s statements on social media, are coordinated with the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Ukraine. The organization noted on social networks that the trainings are conducted by “prominent activists and veterans of the ATO”.

ESA Claims it Would Deny Training to Ultra-Nationalists

In an email exchange with Bellingcat, ESA Managing Director Bartosz Bryl stated that the company conducted in-depth background checks of all applicants. Bryl also confirmed that the ESA would deny training to applicants who support far-right ideologies and neo-Nazism, along with those who have a history of connections with, or are currently part, of violent ultra-nationalist organizations.

Bryl also stated that reasons to deny training to a particular applicant could vary “depending on the course content and type”.

Transcript of e-mail sent to the ESA from Bellingcat

It may be worth mentioning that an ESA representative in Ukraine, Dmitrii Novak (apparently an active-duty policeman with the National Police of Ukraine), is connected on Facebook to Vadim Lapaev (“Balak”) and some other ESA trainees. In Lapaev’s case, numerous photographs of himself giving Nazi salutes are visible to the public, not to mention his Facebook friends.

Dmitrii Novak at an ESA training facility, from his Facebook page.

Dmitrii Novak in his police uniform, from his Facebook page.

The Ukrainian National Guard did not respond to Bellingcat’s request to comment whether Azov’s training with the ESA in early 2016 was paid for entirely or in part by the government but stated that no government funds were used to pay for ESA services. The latter was stated regarding the National Guard unit that apparently trained with the ESA in July 2016.

Bartosz Bryl said via email that his company will not disclose information related to payments for specific trainings to third parties. However, in a 2012 interview with “Channel Russia 2”, the company’s founder Andrzej Bryl said that the ESA worked predominantly with national governments.

ESA Ukraine representative Dmitrii Novak told Bellingcat in a phone conversation that trainees paid out of their own pocket, even when they represented a state agency.

Oleksiy Kuzmenko

Oleksiy is a DC-based journalist focusing on Ukraine and specific issues surrounding the country, such as LGBT and women's rights. In early 2017, he dug deeper into a widely distributed Ukraine-related report by CrowdStrike, an American cyber security company behind the attribution of the 2016 DNC hacking to Russia.

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24 Comments

  1. Franchman

    Hello, you wrote my name in your new post about esa and azov regiment. I’m not member “National Corp” and “tradition and order”
    I finish cours in esa for security job in Europe or Arabic country. I pay my many and I have’t “nazi” tattoo. I’m patriot of my country and i defance her in azov regiment on Russian-Ukrainian war.
    What a problem?! You have misstated information… Oficial ESA Ukraine don’t train Azov, it’s only idea instructors patriots from Ukraine… In Poland Ukrainian group treined for own funds. And my friends also finished this course for work in Europe or Arabic country.

    Reply
  2. Feanor

    What a surprise. The Russian claims of ultra-right wing militias from back in 2014 turn out to be correct. Now if Bellingcat did an investigation of what the Ukrainian government did, when using it’s own conscripts against the rebels proved ineffective, at the very beginning of the war. Before even the siege of Slavyansk.

    Reply
    • Lucky13

      Funny that you state that they were ineffective, yet they were still good enough to stop you Russians? Doesn’t say much for Russia and her proxies now does it?

      Reply
      • Feanor

        They didn’t stop much of anything. And the rebels in the east are extremely weak and barely attempted any offensive military action. They fought a desperate defensive against advancing Ukrainian forces and when they were about to lose, Russian Army regulars stepped in, kicked the crap out of the Ukrainian armed forces and associated militias, and then used the victory as leverage to get the Minsk accords signed. Learn the history of the conflict you’re discussing. We’re near the anniversary of that great catastrophe at Ilovaysk.

        Reply
        • Lucky13

          You go on believing that comrade… you are delusional and nothing more than a sycophant to Putin and his merry band of criminals.

          Reply
          • Feanor

            It’s curious how anyone who doesn’t automatically agree with the narrative of the Ukranian government (who routinely lies and contradicts itself) must be a Putin supporter.

  3. Ivanna

    You are so proud that they “interfered and kicked the crap”? What right did they have to interfere in other country’s affair? You have no moral sense at all? Even your Putin was denying for years that Russia had anything to do with the war on Donbass. Do you understand that if it wasn’t for Russia there wouldn’t be the war at all and thousands of lives would be saved? Some of the main vandals and criminals would’ve been arrested (and probably let out of prison by now) and there would be nothing more – no plane with innocent victims, no dead on both sides, no political complications for Russia… No, I think that the most important thing for you was that somebody “kicked the crap” out of somebody else. It’s like music for Russian ear! Yes, we remember Illovaysk. God forbid we should ever forget it! God forbid we’ll ever forget the “sacred word of Russian officer” and what it means! And whose hands are in our son’s blood!

    Reply
    • Feanor

      “You are so proud that they “interfered and kicked the crap”? What right did they have to interfere in other country’s affair? You have no moral sense at all?”

      While you raise a good point, the reality of international relations in this day and age is such that countries interfere in the affairs of other countries all the time. It’s a routine reality, and Russia is far from the worst offender in this department. As for morality, if you’re looking for morality in politics, you’re better off looking for diamonds in raw sewage. Better odds.

      “Even your Putin was denying for years that Russia had anything to do with the war on Donbass.”

      My Putin? Lol. Thanks for assuming my political beliefs. Of course anyone who doesn’t sympathize with the Ukrainian cleptocracy must be a Putin supporter. Because the world is 2-dimensional. In the words of good old Bush Jr. “You’re with us or against us”.

      “Do you understand that if it wasn’t for Russia there wouldn’t be the war at all and thousands of lives would be saved? Some of the main vandals and criminals would’ve been arrested (and probably let out of prison by now) and there would be nothing more – no plane with innocent victims, no dead on both sides, no political complications for Russia… ”

      One can take it a step further and say that if the US and EU hadn’t recognized the illegal coup d’etat in Kiev, or even funded/supported the Euromaidan, there would also have been no war, and the main vandals would have been arrested and probably let out of prison by now. 😉

      It’s downright comical when you consider that the US is throwing an international shit fit over Russia buying some election ads, when you consider the level of political meddling the US is involved in through “democracy promotion” and funding political movements in other countries. Not that it’s terribly relevant to this conversation.

      “No, I think that the most important thing for you was that somebody “kicked the crap” out of somebody else. It’s like music for Russian ear!”

      The most important thing is getting the facts straight. Ukraine is rapidly outpacing Russia in myth-making regarding the current war and your next reply illustrates my point perfectly. The corruption, blood, rot, crimes, and misery, of the war are rapidly being buried by legends about “Ukrainian heroes” when really it was a small number of right wing extremists, a small number of criminals (Tornado btln anyone? and let’s not get stated about Aydar btln), and a large number of terrified and unwilling conscripts who had no desire to fight anyone, much less their own countrymen in the east.

      “Yes, we remember Illovaysk. God forbid we should ever forget it! God forbid we’ll ever forget the “sacred word of Russian officer” and what it means! And whose hands are in our son’s blood!”

      Thank you for proving my point. Now do your research in something other then official Ukrainian sources. It was the Ukrainian command that decided not to abide by the terms of the green corridor, which were that Ukrainian forces had to exit without heavy weapons or armored vehicles. In fact it was the Ukrainian forces that initially broke the ceasefire that was in place, which is why two Russian tanks were destroyed, and a third briefly captured (then recaptured by the DNR, where those morons seeing the Thales thermals inside presented the tank to Russian TV as a Ukrainian tank upgraded by the west). Ukrainian command was unwilling to take the indecency of having their troops disarmed, and preferred to attempt a suicidal breakthrough, at the expense of their soldiers lives. The predictable result of Ukrainian forces shredded by Russian fire was too disastrous to present as a heroic breakout, so now the politicians and army officials have been squabbling about who to blame for it for the past 4 years.

      Reply
      • Concerned Citizen

        Actually the Thales sight is French and is used by Ukraine in tank upgrades.

        Those were just upgraded Ukrainian tanks.

        Reply
        • Feanor

          It was a T-72B3, with a characteristic wind sensor, the Sosna sight box, and the Thales thermals. I have seen no public evidence of any wide-scale Ukrainian tank upgrades from pre-2016 with Thales sights. There may be a prototype or two in factory yard somewhere, but the only upgraded tanks the Ukrainian military employed in any significant numbers were the T-64BM Bulat. If you have evidence to the contrary, I would appreciate it.

          Reply
      • Ivanna

        The old tired argument about US sponsoring revolution in Kyiv shows that you are either a victim or a perpetrator of the pro-Russian propaganda. The people in Майдан had no idea that they were being paid by Washington. The people in USA (including media) had no idea where Ukraine was and what it was until the events started. For weeks I watched in amazement how they were trying to figure out who the Ukrainians were (the same as Russians or different?) and what was all the fuss about. At that time USA considered Russia a valuable ally in dealing with world’s serious problems, especially with nuclear Iran and terrorism. There was no point for USA to jeopardize that relationship for the sake of Ukraine which had no significance at all in the great political game. The idea that Ukrainian revolution was planned and financed throughout by USA who is hell-bent on destroying “Mother Russia” is a favourite tool of Russian propaganda and you are promoting it here. After that there was no point for me to read any further. In your political views you are an apologetic cynic. The fact that some other countries interfere in other countries’ affairs is not an excuse for anything. There is nothing to be proud of. Sometimes mistakes are made; sometimes there are reasons to believe that there is a threat. Ukraine never threatened anyone, it voluntarily got rid of its nuclear power (in exchange for guarantees of security) and it never ever invaded other countries. Today it is trying on its own to survive and withstand the military might of the monstrous neighbor who everybody is afraid of. I don’t even want to start about Illovaysk. All that you’ve written about it – let it be on your consciousness. Incidentally I was talking recently with one Russian. They know very well that it was the bloody crime they committed and they just ask with their typical flippancy: “So what? What should we do now? Shoot ourselves?” They wouldn’t even bother to justify themselves. You are doing it for them. Now start justifying the hit on the civilian plane and Russian soldiers posing with the children’s toys! Not to me. Good day.

        Reply
        • Concerned Citizen

          Ukraine never at any point had nuclear weapons.

          Ownership of all nuclear weapons in Ukraine passed to Russia, the sole recognised successor state of the Soviet Union.

          The Ukrainian revolution was planned and financed by a number of groups, including Ukrainian-Americans, Soros, and the US. The result of course has been disastrous for Ukraine which is now a failed state.

          As for MH17, looks like Ukraine shot it down to me.

          Reply
          • Lucky13

            Get your hand off it!
            MH17 was not shot done by Ukraine and Ukraine is not a failed state. And Maidan was a citizens response to a corrupt and criminal Russian puppet government.
            I think that your tin foil hat is on a bit too tight.

          • Concerned Citizen

            Ukraine is a failed stare.

            Maidan was a violent coup carried out by hired fascist thugs in the pay of foreigners.

            And Ukraine most likely shot down MH17.

          • Feanor

            Don’t be silly. The rebels as much as admitted that they shot it down. Before they knew what it was, they had a press conference where they claimed they shot down a Ukrainian cargo plane. Then when luggage started turning up, they quickly turned around and pretended like they had nothing to do with it. They were likely trying to engage a Ukrainian military jet, Su-25s were reported in the area earlier that day, and shot down the airliner by mistake.

      • Ivanna

        My last few thoughts. You are by no means the neutral observer. You don’t think that US and EU should’ve recognized the new Ukrainian government (why? the Verhovna Rada stayed the same and the president was lawfully elected; besides — what about Chile or Romania – their governments also shouldn’t have been recognized? or is it necessary to kill the president in order for a new one to be recognized?). At the same time you write about DNR as of something legitimate. You criticize the fact that Ukrainians consider their fallen soldiers as heroes ( what business is it of yours?) but you are OK that lots of real criminals on Russian side (like Motorola – born sadist who took pleasure in torturing Ukrainian prisoners) are considered heroes both in Russia and so called DNR. Your “prorussian ears” are sticking out at every turn. How do you know that Ukrainian army in Illovaysk consisted of “small number of right wing extremists, a small number of criminals … and a large number of terrified and unwilling conscripts”? This statement is taken right from the Russian sources which like to present it that way. For them patriots are always “extremists”, fighters are criminals (in the whole of Ukraine you won’t find as many criminals and mercenaries as is now fighting on Russian side) and all the others are always “unwilling participants” who don’t want to fight against their “Russian brothers”. This is a typical Russian myth and you’re OK with it and are actively spreading it here. What about big number of patriots-volunteers who were the first to stand up in defense of their country while the army wasn’t ready yet?
        You seem to be enjoying it that “Russian Army regulars stepped in, kicked the crap out of the Ukrainian armed forces”. Yes, Ukrainian army was weak and totally unprepared. Years before it got rid of all its nuclear and other defenses. That was a huge mistake. If Ukraine hasn’t relied on promises of other countries it wouldn’t have become a laughing stock for such as you. And again – you are glossing over the fact that Russian army had no business at Donbas whatsoever let alone “stepping in” into something. But you are totally OK with it. New Ukrainian president, elected by people, is not OK but Russian army “stepping in” is OK. Even for Russia it wasn’t OK because Putin brazenly denied it for years and some of the Russians believed him. They were told that Russia has nothing to do with fighting in Ukraine, that it was all slanderous lies of the western countries. But you don’t see any problem with it because “there is no morality”. That is all one needs to know about your “objectivity”.
        As for your irony that the world is not two- dimensional — you’d be surprised how quickly it becomes two-dimensional when you are a victim of aggression.

        Reply
        • Concerned Citizen

          “What about big number of patriots-volunteers who were the first to stand up in defense of their country while the army wasn’t ready yet?”

          Pravy Sektor fascists, football hooligans and the like.

          Reply
        • Feanor

          “The old tired argument about US sponsoring revolution in Kyiv shows that you are either a victim or a perpetrator of the pro-Russian propaganda. The people in Майдан had no idea that they were being paid by Washington. The people in USA (including media) had no idea where Ukraine was and what it was until the events started.”

          Don’t be silly. Nobody pays the people in the streets to revolt. That’s not how it works. Nor does it require wide knowledge of Ukrainian politics among the US population. Quite the opposite. It’s better that the average American neither knows nor cares. It makes it easier for the US to engage in “democracy promotion”. As to the mechanics of professional revolutionaries, and the color revolutions specifically, they’re well known. Some basic google searches will show you the pattern, starting with Otpor in Serbia. It’s a political technology for (relatively) non-violent regime change in mild authoritarian countries.

          “For weeks I watched in amazement how they were trying to figure out who the Ukrainians were (the same as Russians or different?) and what was all the fuss about. At that time USA considered Russia a valuable ally in dealing with world’s serious problems, especially with nuclear Iran and terrorism.”

          Not really. US elites were never too happy with Russia’s resurgence. But Russia has strong trade ties with Europe, and the growth of Russian influence up to that point had been relatively slow.

          “There was no point for USA to jeopardize that relationship for the sake of Ukraine which had no significance at all in the great political game. The idea that Ukrainian revolution was planned and financed throughout by USA who is hell-bent on destroying “Mother Russia” is a favourite tool of Russian propaganda and you are promoting it here.”

          The US is not interested in destroying mother Russia. It’s interested in maintaining its slipping grasp on global hegemony. Russia is one of the countries that challenges this hegemony most directly. In the early 2000s the US was the reigning super power. But a decade of wasteful and ineffective wars in the Middle East, while China, India, the EU, and even Russia, all grew slowly stronger, has jeopardized this. Without a Soviet menace to unite the Europeans under an American banner, the EU is far less willing to sacrifice their own trade interests. And China and India have never been particularly close to the US. Out of all of those, the weakest, by far, is Russia. So certain groups within the US thought that if they could bring Russia to recognize US strength, it would have an effect on the other players.

          “After that there was no point for me to read any further. In your political views you are an apologetic cynic. The fact that some other countries interfere in other countries’ affairs is not an excuse for anything. There is nothing to be proud of. Sometimes mistakes are made; sometimes there are reasons to believe that there is a threat.”

          And sometimes private interests dominate state policy at the expense of others. I’m not apologizing for anything. If you want to look into international relations, you either have to recognize the realities, both historic and present day, or give up. Otherwise you are left repeating the sad ramblings of propaganda.

          “Ukraine never threatened anyone, it voluntarily got rid of its nuclear power (in exchange for guarantees of security) and it never ever invaded other countries.”

          It’s a bit tricky. Given the political and economic landscape, giving up nukes was not the gesture of good will that you make it out to be. It was the only viable option. Strategic nuclear arsenals are extremely expensive to maintain, and neither Russia nor the US, never mind western Europe, would have been comfortable for the various post-Soviet republics to retain tactical, easily transportable, nuclear arsenals that could easily fall into the wrong hands.

          “Today it is trying on its own to survive and withstand the military might of the monstrous neighbor who everybody is afraid of.”

          I don’t think everybody is afraid of Russia. The EU certainly isn’t, it’s stronger, wealthier, more populous, and more technologically advance. China certainly isn’t. Even Georgia, despite having fought a war with Russia, isn’t acting particularly scared. Even Belarus, who has no western friends to speak of, isn’t afraid of getting into minor trade wars with Russia. And to be honest, even Ukraine isn’t acting scared of Russia. 😉

          Reply
        • Feanor

          “My last few thoughts. You are by no means the neutral observer. You don’t think that US and EU should’ve recognized the new Ukrainian government (why? the Verhovna Rada stayed the same and the president was lawfully elected; besides — what about Chile or Romania – their governments also shouldn’t have been recognized? or is it necessary to kill the president in order for a new one to be recognized?).”

          Aha! So you do know your history. No, it’s not necessary to kill the president. It’s necessary to elect a new one. Nobody voted for Turchinov. And he led Ukraine straight into a war, as well as a major economic confrontation, with Ukraine’s biggest trading partner. None of these policies were smart, or in the interests of Ukraine as a nation. They were in the interests of his foreign backers, and of the fringe Sovoboda party which can’t win an election to save their lives (because they are right-wing extremists that are rightfull loathsome to the general population).

          “At the same time you write about DNR as of something legitimate. You criticize the fact that Ukrainians consider their fallen soldiers as heroes ( what business is it of yours?) but you are OK that lots of real criminals on Russian side (like Motorola – born sadist who took pleasure in torturing Ukrainian prisoners) are considered heroes both in Russia and so called DNR.”

          The DNR is a political entity. It’s legitimacy is highly questionable to put it mildly. And plenty of crimes were committed by the rebels. Nowhere do I deny this, and nowhere do I comment on this. However crimes committed by one side do not excuse the other.

          “Your “prorussian ears” are sticking out at every turn. How do you know that Ukrainian army in Illovaysk consisted of “small number of right wing extremists, a small number of criminals … and a large number of terrified and unwilling conscripts”? This statement is taken right from the Russian sources which like to present it that way.”

          Read some interviews with soldiers from regular army units that were in the summer 2014 campaign. More then one or two. Read a few dozen. Read ones not in major newspapers but in small private ones, or even small online ones. The picture I painted doesn’t just apply to the Ukrainian army at Ilovaysk but the Ukrainian army of 2014 in general.

          “For them patriots are always “extremists”, fighters are criminals (in the whole of Ukraine you won’t find as many criminals and mercenaries as is now fighting on Russian side) and all the others are always “unwilling participants” who don’t want to fight against their “Russian brothers”. This is a typical Russian myth and you’re OK with it and are actively spreading it here.”

          Members of Right Sector, Svoboda, and Azov, are right wing extremists. This is a fact. The horrendous track record of the Azov, Aydar, and Tornado volunteer btlns is well known. And they are not the only ones. Denying the presence of these criminals is absurd, and rather stupid. The Ukrainian government itself is putting them on trials, now that many of them are no longer useful.

          “What about big number of patriots-volunteers who were the first to stand up in defense of their country while the army wasn’t ready yet?
          You seem to be enjoying it that “Russian Army regulars stepped in, kicked the crap out of the Ukrainian armed forces”. Yes, Ukrainian army was weak and totally unprepared. Years before it got rid of all its nuclear and other defenses.”

          Ukraine didn’t just get rid of its defenses. For 20+ years the Ukrainian government was run by an insanely corrupt oligarchy that spent its entire time looting the carcass of the Soviet empire, and plundering the wealth of the nation. All of the state institutions in Ukraine became extremely weak. Education, healthcare, law enforcement, etc.

          “That was a huge mistake. If Ukraine hasn’t relied on promises of other countries it wouldn’t have become a laughing stock for such as you.”

          It wasn’t Ukraine the nation-state that relied on those promises. It was a small group of corrupt politicians who were only out for their personal gain. Ukraine as a nation got no say in this.

          “And again – you are glossing over the fact that Russian army had no business at Donbas whatsoever let alone “stepping in” into something. But you are totally OK with it. New Ukrainian president, elected by people, is not OK but Russian army “stepping in” is OK.”

          Please, that election was a joke. They banned the two biggest left-wing parties less then 3 months before the election. Then they run their candidate, a typical oligarch centrist, and against him are two right wing nutjobs, an anemic western liberal, and some similar but smaller cleptocrats there to establish their own future political ambitions rather then take a serious shot at this election. It was a farce. It’s as if the US had an election where the democrats and the green party was banned and the elections were between the republicans, the Tea Party, and the KKK.

          “Even for Russia it wasn’t OK because Putin brazenly denied it for years and some of the Russians believed him. They were told that Russia has nothing to do with fighting in Ukraine, that it was all slanderous lies of the western countries. But you don’t see any problem with it because “there is no morality”. That is all one needs to know about your “objectivity”.
          As for your irony that the world is not two- dimensional — you’d be surprised how quickly it becomes two-dimensional when you are a victim of aggression.”

          Again, “OK” and “not OK” are value judgements. You’re entitled to yours. But to condemn Russian actions in Ukraine, without being a hypocrite, you have to indite the entire current system of international affairs. And before you do either of those things, try getting your facts straight. Russia is no choir boy, but they’re far from the biggest or meanest bully on the playground.

          Reply
          • Ivanna

            I cannot answer every point, it takes too much time. Just a few. When I said that EU and US are afraid of Russia did you really think I meant trading? Of course I didn’t. I meant military actions. I totally understand their fear. Having nuclear weapons and unbalanced population who consider themselves to be perpetual “victims” of the West (with their nationalistic leader at helm) Russia is unreasonable. They will easily start WWIII just to prove themselves, even if they suffer the most. And they know that they are feared and enjoy it. To be feared for them means to be respected.
            As for the “not smart decision” to start the war, it hasn’t been started by Ukraine and if Ukraine didn’t answer the aggression half of it today would be in ruins like Donbas. Turchinov didn’t need to be elected. He was authorized by Verhovna Rada to temporarily take the duties of the president until the president was elected. That’s how it’s done in every country.
            “Nobody pays the people in the streets to revolt”. OK, then show who was paid. Do you have the proof of any dealings, any payments, any shady talks? Don’t talk about how it is usually done in general, just show how it was done in Kyiv. If you have not proof then it’s just made up fantasies of yours.
            “US elites were never too happy with Russia’s resurgence”. Again – how do you know? Did they tell you? The proof, please? Don’t give your own theories.
            “…certain groups within the US thought that if they could bring Russia to recognize US strength, it would have an effect on the other players”. Are you sure it was like that? Or is it how you think it was? For me it sounds totally unconvincing. Everybody knew that economically Russia was a weak country, not a rival for US or EU at all. It heavily depended on oil prices, nothing more. How would the “bringing of it to recognize US strength have an effect on other countries” (China or others) is beyond me. Name this “certain groups” and show how they were involved.
            You talk about war crimes? You agree yourself that at least Ukrainian government is looking into it, there are trials and punishments. Who is looking into separatist’ and Russian’ crimes? Where are the trials? The violence in Donbas started with the death of two martyrs – deputy Rybak and student from Kyiv Popravka who happened to be there (came to visit his girlfriend). Rybak was trying to prevent tearing down of the Ukrainian flag. They were both tortured, their bellies were cut, stuffed with sand and then they were drowned, half-alive (there was a third guy but I don’t remember his name). Did anybody punish their torturers? Or others who cut off ears and genitals of Ukrainian soldiers, cut off their arms because there were tattoos like “Glory to Ukraine!” or their tongues because they were speaking Ukrainian? Did you hear about any such trials? Many of these sadists are made “heroes” in Donbas and Russia. Don’t tell me that you don’t justify Russian crimes because you are doing exactly that.
            “…to condemn Russian actions in Ukraine, without being a hypocrite, you have to indite (indict?) the entire current system of international affairs..” For me to justify Russia’s actions, like you’re doing here is the highest form of hypocrisy. I don’t even know how it’s possible.
            When something suits your pro-russian agenda you call it “political reality”, when it doesn’t it becomes either a “joke”, or a “silliness”. By the same token I can say that the Russian actions in Ukraine are vindictive “silliness” and stupidity. There is no way one country can justifiably punish other country for changing its political vector. The bottom line is: one has no right to do so! And don’t tell me about Russia’s “political reality” because for Ukraine “political reality” was to do what it did and she had a right to do so. Independent countries (like grown people) have a right to make their own choices, even their own mistakes regardless of what their neighbors think about it. What they cannot do is to commit aggression against others. If you find it necessary to justify the act of aggression there is nothing left to talk about. I am ending this talk.

  4. in-Polish-news

    In his reply to the Polish news outlet “o2” Bartosz Bryl says that they would not deny training to applicants with a far-right background:
    “ESA is a private company and does not set its formal criteria or disqualifies its potential clients on the basis of their political orientation, as long as it does not directly conflict with the law adopted in the country in which the European Security Academy is conducting its training projects.”
    https://www.o2.pl/artykul/sa-zarzuty-ze-polacy-szkolili-ukrainskich-nacjonalistow-firma-z-wroclawia-odpowiedziala-6289916148295809a

    Reply
  5. Brit

    Just wondering if all of the semi naked and tattooed pics are relevant, like homo erotic porn? I wonder if they like taking showers together after a hard day pumping iron? A lot of prominent Nazi’s hid in the closet for years, so I wouldn’t be surprised.

    Reply

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