American, Canadian, European and Australian neo-Nazis and white supremacists are among the foreign volunteers who join Ukrainian paramilitary groups to fight against Russian forces.
Ukrainian authorities and paramilitary groups have asked foreign fighters to travel to Ukraine to fight Russian forces. As the government has encouraged foreign volunteers to fight in the International Home Defense Legion – a new unit that has received “thousands” of applications from abroad – paramilitary groups have posted their own advertisements for their units. Among those who responded are white supremacists and neo-Nazis from the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia.
Calls for foreign volunteers to fight alongside Ukrainian government forces have spread on Telegram, Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms. On Telegram, a white supremacist channel posted a summary of active groups fighting against Russia in Ukraine. The post read: “So far we have seen on the side of the Ukrainian volunteers: average non-ideological groups / patriotic groups, national socialists and fascists of all kinds, gangsters and OUN-type groups, religious traditionalists, Chechen separatists, Georgian nationalists, fascist anti-Football Ultras, anarchist militias, Belarusian diasporas, American SOF veterans.”
An ultranationalist Telegram channel launched a call for the recruitment of “foreign volunteers” on February 27, 2022 to “make Russians die again”. The message called on people with military experience to join Ukraine’s International Territorial Defense Legion and provided contact details for several people who have recruited foreign fighters.
A February 22 Facebook post from a multinational force that includes Georgians, Europeans and Americans showed an American member conducting an interview in front of the Georgian flag.
Calls by paramilitary groups for foreign volunteers come largely from ultranationalist and neo-Nazi brigades. One such neo-Nazi unit was formed as a voluntary paramilitary force in May 2014 following the advance of Russian-backed separatists in the eastern region of Ukraine, historically known as Donbass. Initially, foreign fighters were allowed to enlist in the unit, but restrictions on foreign recruitment were put in place in March 2018, which eventually led to an effective ban on foreign fighters by the end of 2020. But amid the construction of Russian armies along the Belarus-Ukraine border and the Russia-Ukraine border, the unit announced that it would open recruitment to foreign fighters with military experience. Other ultranationalist groups reposted calls for the unit’s recruitment, while other ultranationalist and neo-Nazi paramilitary groups asked for foreign donations. One such entity requested donations in a February 22, 2022 post, where it provided information allowing people to donate through PayPal, SWIFT, Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Tron.
Globally, neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups have also called on their followers to volunteer with Ukrainian paramilitary units, as an American neo-Nazi did in a January 19 post.
Another example is a video posted on a French neo-Nazi Telegram channel on February 26, in which a commander of a neo-Nazi paramilitary in Ukraine asked people to volunteer to fight Russia. The message read: “’For the third day in a row, the Ukrainians repelled the attacks of the second largest army in the world, which still claimed to take Mariupol… [Vi] organizes the resistance throughout the country, especially in Kyiv where the population is preparing to fight heroically. The occupants are not able to take a strategic position. And we will do everything to make sure that never happens. Ukraine will win! All those who want to defend Kyiv will be welcomed in the teams of volunteers at the address: Prospekt Peremogi, ATEK factory. Honor to Ukraine!’”
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MEMRI writes about itself that “they help the American authorities in the fight against terrorism”. They also monitor the activities of Nazi groups in Russia and other countries.
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