Friends and relatives accompany members of the Azov Battalion departing Kyiv to fight Russian forces in 2014. (Shutterstock) (Shutterstock)
Azov Battalion

White supremacists see invasion as a war for National Socialism and an opportunity to kill Jews.

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

Neo-Nazis and white supremacists in the U.S. and around the world are being recruited to fight in Ukraine to defend National Socialism (Nazism), the SITE Intelligence Group reported in an article recently published in the Washington Post.

SITE, a Maryland-based organization, tracks the online activities of white supremacists and jihadists. The report was authored by executive director Rita Katz.

According to Katz, online forums popular with neo-Nazis are seeing chatter ranging from recruiting members into their ranks to practical advice on crossing into Ukraine. But their endgame is not for Ukraine to become a democratic and multi-ethnic state.

“Some neo-Nazis simply see this new war as a place to act out their violent fantasies. For others, though, the force pulling them toward the conflict is a shared vision for an ultranationalist ethno-state. They see Ukraine as a golden opportunity to pursue this goal and turn it into a model to export across the world,” she wrote.

One group, known as the Azov Battalion, was absorbed into Ukraine’s national guard in 2014, and became Russian President Vladimir Putin’s pretext that the country needed to be denazified. According to Katz, the Azov Battalion is a fringe group in Ukraine, but is widely admired by neo-Nazis around the world.

Since Russia’s invasion three weeks ago, Azov’s Telegram channel has seen a flood of people from Western countries showing interest in joining.

Many make clear that they want to fight for a National Socialism, not for Ukraine’s elected government or its Jewish President, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Katz added that much of the chatter conflates Putin with the former Soviet Union and that the war represents “a sandbox for fascist state-building, ripe for the kind of armed far-right power grab they long to see in their own countries.”

Other neo-Nazis said they look forward to killing Jews in Ukraine.

“Anyway when I get to Ukraine I’m going to kill extra Jews now whenever I see them,” wrote someone who Katz identified only as D.

In another post, D. wrote, “I’m getting my gear together, hail Hitler, glory to Ukraine and let’s all kill some [expletive] Jews for Wotan!” Wotan, is also known as Odin in Norse mythology. Nazi Germany and today’s neo-Nazis appropriated many ideas and symbols of Norse mythology because they regarded Scandinavians — particularly Vikings — as racially pure.

Another white supremacist identified as Slovak drew inspiration from Afghan resistance to Soviet and U.S. invasions.

“The Afghans did it for over 40 years against both of these forces and now they’re in control of their destiny,” he wrote. “Ukraine will have to borrow a page from their book.”

Putin Harboring Neo-Nazis

Putin’s claims of denazifying Ukraine obfuscate the fact that Russia harbors Western neo-Nazis too.

These include Rinaldo Nizarro, leader of a neo-Nazi group called The Base. Nizarro is wanted by the FBI because The Base’s terror plans seek to bring about racial warfare. BBC News traced Nizarro to Moscow where he was listed as guest at a Russian government security exhibition in 2019.

They also include the Russian Imperialist Movement. Based in St. Petersburg, the SIM has provided what Katz describes as “paramilitary-style training to white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Europe.”

Citing a declassified U.S. intelligence report, Katz said Putin hosts these neo-Nazis in order to “aggravate societal fissures in the West.”

Katz concludes by noting that neo-Nazis who survive Ukraine will either stay and continue to inflame, or they will return to their Western countries with battle-hardened experience to pose security risks no different from former jihadists who used to fight for Islamic State.