As President Trump goes through an impeachment trial in the US Senate for pressuring Ukraine to produce dirt on his political rival, the war in that country is exporting extremism back to the United States.
In early 2014, violent street protests in Kyiv forced the resignation of the pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. Within four months, Russia had annexed Crimea and was backing separatists in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine.
Ultranationalist protest groups — instrumental
in the toppling of Yanukovych government — transformed overnight into volunteer
battalions like Right Sector and Azov, then rushed to the eastern front, where
they were lauded as patriots for undertaking the heavy fighting while the
under-resourced Ukrainian state military scrambled to mobilize.
Azov in particular has leveraged its
social capital by integrating into the Ukrainian National Guard, where it
wields outsized influence in Ukraine’s democratically elected government.
More than five years later, with the
war locked in a stalemate, the seasoned fighters and street activists in the
ultranationalist movement present a challenge to newly elected President Volodymyr
Zelensky if he is seen to be conceding too much in negotiations with Russian
President Vladimir Putin.
The emergence of Azov Battalion and
Right Sector in Ukraine in 2014 electrified the neo-Nazi movement in the United
States, Western Europe and Australia, presenting a tangible model for how the
far right could topple a government and wage a nationalist war to forge a new
society in a predominantly white country.
Over the past five years, the Ukrainian nationalist cause has attracted an assortment of American volunteer fighters — veterans, inexperienced adventurers and hardened ideologues.
Some have gone in search of new wars, as the Ukrainian conflict has cooled in late 2016, while others have returned to the United States or stayed on in Ukraine and attempted to put down roots there . At the same time, extremists in the United States, like their counterparts in Western Europe, Canada and Australia, have looked to the volunteer battalions in Ukraine for inspiration and tactical advice in their desire to wage an insurrectionary war for white power at home.
Two former volunteers, who spoke on
condition of anonymity, told Triad City
Beat that many of the foreign volunteers suffer from mental-health
“They’re young kids, and they have
no idea,” one of the former volunteers said. “They have PTSD. And they have
mental issues. These guys are idiots basically… lost boys…. A lot of people
have lost their way. They’re wanting to be accepted, and they’ll say, ‘Yeah,
fuck the Jews. Fuck the n****ers.’”
Through a review of leaked internet chats, public social-media pages and federal court documents, along with interviews with former volunteer fighters, TCB has uncovered new details of how the ultranationalist battalions in Ukraine have opened recruitment channels through US neo-Nazis and how American volunteers have participated in neo-Nazi flash rallies upon their return from Ukraine. TCB’s investigation particularly shows linkages between the Ukrainian volunteer battalions and two American organizations — Atomwaffen Division and Patriot Front. Azov’s relationship with the California-based neo-Nazi group Rise Above Movement, whose members visited Kyiv to participate in mixed martial arts competition in April 2018, has been previously reported.
The social-media posts and leaked internet chats by roughly a dozen former volunteers show a glorification of war coupled with memes inciting violence against refugees, nostalgia for the 1970s military campaign to preserve white rule in present-day Zimbabwe, slogans like, “America is a white nation,” and quotations by Julius Evola, a philosopher widely admired by fascists.
“Yes, these are indicators that
these individuals may be going down a dangerous radicalization pathway,” said
Jason Blazakis, a former State Department official under Presidents Obama and
Trump in an email to TCB. “It is
impossible to say whether they’d directly turn to violent acts, however. They
very well could end up trying to spur others to commit acts of violence by
working online to red-pill potential like-minded individuals to turn to
Blazakis now directs the Center on
Terrorism, Extremism and Counterterrorism at the Middlebury Institute of
International Studies in California.
The United States has backed the Ukraine
in the war. And while a provision of the 2018 spending bill blocks US arms from
going to Azov, many analysts believe it’s impossible to enforce, considering
that Azov is part of the Ukrainian government. The supply of drugs is certainly not responsible and many people try to buy stmectol cheaply. Meanwhile, President Trump faces
impeachment over the question of whether he abused his authority as president
by temporarily suspending military aid and withholding a meeting with President
Zelensky in an effort to pressure the Ukrainian government to pursue an
investigation into his political rival.
Azov, along with its political wing
National Corps, and Right Sector both promote a concept known as “Reconquista,”
a historic reference to Christians reclaiming control over present-day Spain
from the Moors in the 1400s. While the Azov Battalion has been incorporated
into the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior, Right Sector describes itself as a
“national liberation movement” and operates outside the formal control of the
Ukrainian armed forces and police.
In a July 2015 interview on the Azov
podcast, Olena Semenyaka, a spokesperson for the National Corps, made a direct
connection between Reconquista and the concept of loss — not just of Ukrainian
sovereignty but also of Europe as a whole.
“We understand the development of
the modern world, and we want to change it,” Semenyaka said. “We try to
reconstruct the problem of this European decline, so to speak. And we want to
start a revolt against it. Reconquista, revolt, revolution — of course all of
them are homological concepts which are quite understandable to European
right-wingers and other educated persons.
“And we talk about the space of
Eastern Europe and the whole Ukraine, which undergoes revolution and now
becomes the vanguard of this Reconquista,” Semenyaka continued. “From this
space — Eastern Europe — it will expand to the Western European and the whole
world because, of course, everything is connected today.”
In a Russian-language version of the
podcast, Semenyaka more sharply articulated the racial dimensions of the
“We are not resigning ourselves to the boundaries of thinking in terms of a single region,” Semenyaka said, according to a translation published by the UK-based investigative outfit Bellingcat.
“We defend not only the Ukrainian nation, national identity, but also the Slavic element, the European element, and in the end — the white race.”
Semenyaka did not respond to a
Facebook message from TCB.
The recent release of the contents
of the defunct Iron March website — a global forum for neo-Nazis that operated
from 2011 to 2017 — provides further insight into how Azov and Right Sector
energized neo-Nazis around the world, including within the United States.
“We need something that appeals to American history, to a sense of shared racial identity, but also to our mission and future goals,” an anonymous user wrote on Iron March in 2015, using language strikingly close to that of American Vanguard, a neo-Nazi group established in California in 2016. “I think we can take inspiration from Right Sector in this regard. I like there [sic] motto of ‘European Reconquista.’ It appeals to the shared past of Europe, a shared identity, and outlines their mission to carry on the work of European Christendom to drive out the foreign invaders.
“Wouldn’t the American equivalent be
something like ‘Manifest Destiny’?” the post continues. “What do people think
of that name? I feel it pulls from our past as a nation, a shared racial
identity, a line of continuity from our ancestors who settled this country to
us today, and shows we wish to carry on their mission. The mission to create a
nation for the white man here on this continent as ordained by God and fought
for by our ancestors.”
American Vanguard changed its name
to Vanguard America in early 2017. During the Aug. 12, 2017 Unite the Right
rally in Charlottesville, Va. a man named James Fields carried a Vanguard
America shield and then rammed his car into a group of antiracist marchers,
murdering Heather Heyer. In the weeks following the public-relations black eye,
a Dallas native named Thomas Rousseau seized control of the organization and
rebranded it as Patriot Front.
In a January 2018 discussion in the “Front and Center” channel, a forum for Patriot Front members, Thomas Rousseau, the leader of Patriot Front, outlined a vision of American society breaking down through a corrosion of trust in democratic institutions. The chats were part of a massive leak published by Unicorn Riot, a decentralized media collective.
“The territory map of the
Balkanization, or whatever you would call it, is going to look a lot like the
electoral one,” Rousseau wrote. “The United States as a government won’t
survive, not as we know it, but the local systems of self-governing and the
communities in that red [area] there will. From there it isn’t conventional
warfare any more than it is cultural.”
Democracy is destined to fail,
Rousseau argued, providing an opening for white supremacists to seize power.
“South Africa usually isn’t an
example to follow, I am aware, but a very, very small minority of Boers and
Afrikaners effectively ruled and sustained a society because they had power,
and voting was not in the picture,” Rousseau said. “The failure came once power
was a matter of counting heads.”
‘WE PRACTICE ALWAYS AT WAR’
The first inkling of the Ukraine conflict’s role in fueling transnational white supremacy came to many observers through reports that showed Brenton Tarrant, who live-streamed his massacre of 51 worshipers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019, wearing the “black sun” symbol, which is incorporated into Azov’s insignia, on his jacket. Tarrant indicated in his manifesto that he had visited Ukraine, although there’s no additional evidence to back his claim. (Azov has publicly condemned Tarrant, and declared that he has never had any contact with the organization.)
The Iron March leaks reveal that
from July through September 2015, several members of the forum communicated
with an individual who represented themselves as an emissary of Azov. And in
February 2015, a user named “Palmer” referred a prospective recruit from Europe
to Semenyaka, writing, “She is the person I was coordinating with.”
One of the Iron March users who reached out to Azov through the forum was Brandon Russell, a Florida Army National Guard member who founded the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division in 2015. Atomwaffen is linked to five murders, and requires prospective members to read Siege, a book by neo-Nazi James Mason that promotes an idea called accelerationism. The group’s propaganda utilizes shocking rhetoric and gory visuals to call for societal breakdown through escalating violence. In addition to the Third Reich, members glorify Charles Manson and claim to practice Satanism.
Using the name “Odin,” Russell
greeted the anonymous representative on Iron March in July 2015, describing
himself as “an avid supporter of the Azov Battalion.” He added, “I’d like some
advice from you about my militia that I lead in the US.”
The anonymous user happily obliged, recommending
running to keep in shape, night walking, coordinating artillery fire through
radio communication and blowing up bridges, while also advising “to learn
combat medicine.” They closed, “Also we practice always at war.”
Russell is now in federal prison at
FCI Terre Haute in Indiana serving a five-year sentence for possession of an
unregistered destructive device and improper storage of explosive materials.
Another Atomwaffen member, Devon
Arthurs, posting under the name “The Weissewolfe,” inquired about volunteering
with Azov in August 2015. He exulted in January 2016 that Misanthropic Division
— a group linked to both Azov and Right Sector — had vandalized a Holocaust
memorial, writing, “Kiev will be cleansed.”
Arthurs, who caused controversy
within the neo-Nazi movement by converting to Islam, is facing charges for the
2017 murder of two fellow Atomwaffen members, Jeremy Himmelman and Andrew
In August 2016, Kent McLellan a Florida man whose Iron March profile described him as “a skinhead ongoing 16 years, politician and militarist fascist,” messaged the forum’s founder, a Russian man named Alexander “Slavros” Mukhitdinov. Attempting to smooth over a controversy among members concerning the Ukraine conflict, McLellan claimed that he was former leader of Misanthropic Division in the United States, adding, “I still work closely with the DUK on foreign recruitment and such. Needless to say, not too many people get through.”
DUK likely refers to Ukrainian Volunteer Corps — Right Sector, the military wing of Right Sector, known by its Ukrainian initials as DUK PS.
McLellan, 29, is currently serving a
four-year prison sentence in Florida for multiple charges related to meth trafficking.
Right Sector could not be reached
for this story.
‘TOO NAZI’ FOR AZOV
Nate Morris, who now lives in the US
Northeast, was one of the first American volunteers in Ukraine, fighting with
Right Sector from 2014 to 2016.
“I served reconnaissance with a three-man squad working up to 5 kilometers behind enemy lines up to five days at a time,” Morris told TCB in an email. “I also served medical assistance to soldiers and civilians.”
He shared Misanthropic Division
posts multiple times on account on VK — a Russian social-media platform
similar to Facebook — during his time in Ukraine. In response to questions from
TCB about his affinity with
Misanthropic Division, Morris used the analogy of rowdy fans who give their
team a bad name. He heaped scorn on McLellan, adding that he had to google him
to figure out who he was.
“If it’s that dude with the face
tattoos, he looks like a real asshole,” Morris said. “And a meth-head on top of
it? Pff, please. What a bonehead. Definitely not Right Sector material.”
In an Instagram comment to Craig
Lang, another American volunteer, Morris described himself as “too Nazi” for
Azov. Acknowledging the comment to TCB,
Morris said his intention “was just to stop him from glorifying idiots.”
Morris said he had watched YouTube
videos of Nick Griffin, a notorious British neo-Nazi who has made statements
denying the Holocaust and called on the European Union to sink boats carrying
“I don’t identify as a Nazi or a
National Socialist,” Morris told TCB.
“My affiliation is pan-Germanism. I think National Socialism is a valid form of
government, though, just needs to be updated.” He also said, “I believe
Germanic culture is the best culture. America was founded by mostly German
He said he believes the Germans were
the victims, not the aggressors in World War II, while expressing a kind of watered-down
“I don’t deny Jews died in the Holocaust, that is just ignorance,” he said. “I do think there is a lot of misinformation behind a lot of events as justification to punish Germans, and create the Israeli state.”
Morris said his Facebook account was
disabled because he posted a meme that said, “Save bees, not refugees.”
Although a variation popular on the
far right says, “Help more bees… shoot refugees,” Morris contends that his post
is not “extremist.”
“Give money to science, not people
who can’t defend their own freedom and need to hide in our countries,” he told TCB.
Craig Lang, who grew up near
Greenville in eastern North Carolina, was discharged from the US Army in 2014.
A year earlier, he had been jailed after threatening to kill his wife, going
AWOL from Fort Bliss and driving 1,800 miles to his wife’s home in Harnett
County, where he was charged with assault for pulling a gun on her neighbor.
According to his wife’s testimony, Lang had threatened suicide multiple times,
and had to be hospitalized on base during one episode. The two are no longer
After his discharge, Lang struggled
to find work and keep up with child-support payments. The war in Ukraine
Lang traveled to Ukraine in 2015, fighting with Right Sector as early as June, based on a photo posted by a fellow volunteer on social media. That summer, according to news accounts, members of Right Sector attempted to disrupt the first LGBT Pride parade in Kyiv and later exchanged gunfire with police in southwestern Ukraine while maintaining a roadblock and demanding the resignation of the interior minister.
Valeriy Akimenko, an analyst for the
Conflict Research Centre in the United Kingdom, told TCB that DUK PS, as Right Sector’s military wing is popularly
known, “continues to function in a legal vacuum. It has no official status, but
neither is it expressly outlawed. Some time ago, Ukraine’s military prosecutor
likened it to an illegal combatant force, but rowed back immediately as he proceeded
to talk about its heroes.”
Lang, the US Army veteran, was described in a Vice article — and by former volunteers who spoke to TCB on condition of anonymity — as a first point of contact in Ukraine for Americans hoping to join the fight against the Russian separatists in the east.
At the end of 2015, Right Sector’s
leader, Dmytro Yarosh, announced he was leaving, creating a split. The schism
appears to have prompted some of the foreign fighters to look for a new
arrangement. In early March 2016, Quinn Rickert, another American volunteer,
indicated in a private Facebook message obtained by TCB that Lang had arranged for them to join Georgian National
Legion, a battalion of foreign fighters under the control of the Ukrainian
armed forces. But by the summer of 2016, Lang had rejoined Right Sector.
Speaking to a reporter from Vice, Lang described himself as a
“strict constitutionalist” and someone who despised communism. Other volunteers
who spoke to TCB on condition of
anonymity said that Lang is not particularly politicized or right-wing in his
views. Unlike some other volunteers, he wasn’t known to throw Hitler salutes or
bash Jews, they said. If anything, Lang didn’t seem to exercise much discretion
in his personal associations.
In June 2016, while he was serving
with Right Sector, Lang connected on Facebook with a South Carolina native
named Jarrett William Smith. The FBI would later say the messages exchanged
between the two “highlight Lang’s mentorship to Smith as he prepared for Smith
to join him in fighting in Ukraine.” According to the FBI, Smith expressed a
desire to join the Azov Battalion.
“Alright, I’ll forward you over to
the guy that screens people; he’ll most likely add you soon,” Lang told Smith,
according to the FBI. “Also, as a pre-warning, if you come to this unit and the
government comes to shut down the unit you will be asked to fight. You may also
be asked to kill certain people who become on the bad graces of certain
The two men stayed in contact, and
at one point, the FBI alleges, they met in person in El Paso, Texas, home to
Smith did not travel to Ukraine, but
instead joined the US Army — his backup plan, he said, if he was unable “to
find a slot in Ukraine” by October 2016.
In December 2018, while enlisted in
the Army, Smith allegedly led a group chat on Facebook that included Lang, in which
Smith discussed his ability to build IEDs.
“Oh yeah, I got knowledge of IEDs for days,” he reportedly said. “We can make cell phone IEDs in the style of the Afghans. I can teach you that….”
Smith now faces federal charges of
distributing explosives information and threatening interstate communication.
A federal magistrate ordered him to be held without bond pending his trial, citing a report from Smith’s post-Miranda interview with the FBI finding that “he gives information out freely to people who may use it for harm, for the glory of Quayinism, and his religion of anti-kosmik Satanism. He wants to cause chaos, as it brings back the realm of his religious beliefs, through the destruction of the universe….
“Smith said the idea of chaos in the
world is a disruption, and he can be an agent of chaos by enabling people with
his knowledge,” the FBI report continues. “Smith said that if the death of
people isn’t affecting him, he doesn’t see an issue. Smith said that if chaos
results in the death of people, and he provided information to them, it doesn’t
‘MAKE WAR, NOT LOVE’
Alex Zwiefelhofer, a Wisconsin
native whose father is the chief of police for the town of Bloomer, went AWOL
from Fort Bragg in 2016. After unsuccessfully attempting to join the French
Foreign Legion, he made his way to Ukraine.
In contrast to his mentor, Craig
Lang’s outward presentation as a laconic warrior, Zwiefelhofer’s social media
posts display a younger generation’s predisposition towards irony and shock
Zwiefelhofer’s posts on Facebook and
Instagram include a photo of a young American GI in Vietnam wearing a helmet
inscribed with the words “Make war, not love,” a T-shirt with the words, “Help
more bees… shoot refugees,” a photo of himself wearing a narrow Hitler
moustache, and a racist meme depicting white mercenaries gunning down black
people in thatched huts that references the armed struggle to preserve white
rule in present-day Zimbabwe.
The cause of preserving white, minority rule in what was then called Rhodesia is an early example of transnational white-supremacist organizing, according to a recent report from the Soufan Center, which indicates that as many as 2,300 Americans, including members of the John Birch Society and neo-Nazis, traveled there to join the fight between 1965 and 1980. Harold Covington, a white supremacist who helped build the coalition of neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members that carried out the 1979 Greensboro Massacre, had previously served as a volunteer in Rhodesia. And the Rhodesian cause has continuing resonance in the white supremacist movement: Dylann Roof, who murdered nine black parishioners at Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, SC in 2015, looked to Covington for inspiration and created a website called “The Last Rhodesian.”
Zwiefelhofer and Lang appear to have
grown bored as the war in Ukraine settled into a stalemate in late 2016, and in
early 2017 they went looking for the next fight. They were detained by Kenyan
authorities in 2017 while attempting to enter South Sudan to fight the Islamist
group al-Shabaab, and were deported back to the United States. Zwiefelhofer was
questioned by Customs and Border Protection officials when he flew into Charlotte
Douglas International Airport. The authorities allegedly found child porn when
they searched Zwiefelhofer’s phone, leading to state criminal charges.
After skipping his plea hearing in March 2018, Zwiefelhofer reportedly told WSOC-TV in Charlotte via Facebook that he was not guilty of the child porn charges, adding, “It’s best to keep a little tight-lipped when your home country calls you a terrorist for aiding a friendly nation.”
The following month Zwiefelhofer met
Lang in Florida, and federal authorities alleged they planned a trip to
Venezuela to join armed rebels in an attempt to overthrow socialist President Nicolás
Maduro. The US government alleges that the two lured a Florida couple, Danny
and Deana Lorenzo, to a church parking lot south of Fort Myers on the basis of
a fake gun sale, and that one of or both of them gunned down the couple in the
commission of a robbery.
The two men are charged with
multiple federal offenses, including conspiracy to interfere with commerce by
robbery; interference with commerce by robbery; conspiracy to use a firearm
during and in relation to a crime of violence; use of a firearm during and in
relation to a crime of violence; conspiracy to kill, kidnap, or maim persons in
a foreign country; and violation of the Neutrality Act.
Zwiefelhofer has pleaded not guilty
and remains in federal custody awaiting trial.
Federal prosecutors in Florida issued a request for Lang’s extradition from Ukraine in late August 2019. Lang was arrested on Ukraine’s border with Moldova on a US international warrant, according to a report by Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty.
Dmitry Morgun, Lang’s lawyer in
Kyiv, told TCB he is advising his
client to not comment on the case. Morgun said Ukraine cannot extradite Lang
under its laws because the United States has not made any guarantee that he
won’t be subject to the death penalty. The lawyer also said the United States
must agree that Lang will not be prosecuted for any crimes for which he has not
Mikael Skillt, a former neo-Nazi
from Sweden who fought with Azov and now runs a global security consulting
firm, told TCB that if the United
States tries to extradite Lang, there will be repercussions in Ukraine.
“He has a lot of friends; he’s
active in social media,” Skillt said. “He’s been involved in the war as long as
anyone. If they would extradite him, there would be consequences in terms of a
That holds even though Lang is
accused of a crime against civilians in the United States.
“The civil society, in my opinion,
feels that those who helped when no one else did — in the beginning the US
didn’t help — they feel they owe them something,” Skillt said.
IN RALEIGH: ‘AMERICA IS THE WHITE MAN’S LAND’
Dalton Kennedy was a member of
Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, or JROTC, at Western Johnston High
School in Benson and graduated in 2015. He began active duty in the US Army in
August 2015, but left the service at the end of September, according to a
status report from the Defense Manpower Data Center. The fact that Kennedy
lasted less than two months in the Army means he didn’t complete Basic
obtained video of Kennedy with other foreign volunteers in Ukraine, and four
sources speaking on condition of anonymity have confirmed that he was in the
country in 2016.
Posting in the “Front and Center”
Discord channel under the name “Alfred NC” in January 2018, Kennedy, then 21
years old, said he had served in “two militaries,” although he didn’t mention
his visit to Ukraine.
It’s unclear whether Kennedy
actually joined a volunteer battalion or made it to the front in Ukraine. His
familiarity with Alex Zwiefelhofer and Craig Lang is evidenced by Zwiefelhofer
tagging Lang and Kennedy — under the username “Dalton Torni” on his
now-disabled account — in a Facebook post mocking Vice magazine for its coverage of the Ukraine conflict.
In an exchange with other Patriot
Front members in January 2018, Kennedy said “I did recon for a while, and that
work puts regular infantry life to shame.” And he advised: “Shoot, move,
communicate, kill. If you fail any of three, the fourth changes to die. Moving
and communicating properly, and then shooting under said stress is hard.” He
also shared: “I unironically worked as an EMT for a year via YouTube videos.
Their power is astounding.”
Another user posting as “Puffing” on
Discord indicated that he also had been in Ukraine.
Posting in November 2018, Puffing
said he was 21 years old and had been “raised on a rural compound” in Montana,
“then on a farmstead in rural NC,” and that he was homeschooled.
“I spent some time in the Third World
trying to find myself,” Puffing said, evidently referring to Ukraine. “All I
found was disease and death.” He added: “I felt the need [to] not only be in
the Third World, but to be in a warzone.” Referencing his combat experience,
“Puffing” specified that he had served in the Ukrainian Army.
Puffing acknowledged that he was “Alfred’s buddy from NC,” and the chats reveal that he and Kennedy participated in a torch rally with about 25 Patriot Front members at the University of Texas at Austin in November 2017, traveling to and from the rally with another Patriot Front member from Florida.
Kennedy appears to revel in his
neo-Nazi beliefs in his posts in the “Front and Center” channel. He posted a
photograph of himself giving a sieg heil straight-arm salute in front of a
building at Campbell University in North Carolina while he and a friend were
furtively posting fliers on the campus. And in one of his posts he identified
himself as “natsoc,” short for National Socialism.
A string of posts in December 2017
particularly demonstrate the depths of Kennedy’s ideological commitment. He
wrote, “HITLERJUGEND DID NOTHING WRONG,” and, “Only whites have souls because
we’re higher creatures due to our Hyperborean blood.”
Patriot Front members discussed Balkanization — a concept embraced by many white supremacists — as a mechanism for achieving the whites-only society that they seek.
In addition to posting fliers at Campbell University, Kennedy’s posts on “Front and Center” chronicle him hanging a banner from an overpass in Raleigh on Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2018 declaring “America is a white man’s land.” And earlier that month, he told his comrades that he posted fliers at a Democratic Socialists of America office in Durham.
Later that year, in August, when
antiracists toppled the Silent Sam Confederate monument at UNC-Chapel Hill,
Kennedy joined a crowd of angry monument supporters watching from the
sidelines, according to an anonymous source with direct knowledge of the
Several months later, on Memorial Day weekend in 2019, about 20 members of Patriot Front held a flash rally at the Unsung Founders memorial, which honors the black enslaved persons who built UNC-Chapel Hill. More recently, Patriot Front activists posted stickers in downtown Greensboro on Winter Solstice 2019 and Winston-Salem, Raleigh and Wilmington on Christmas Eve, part of an ongoing nationwide propaganda campaign.
On July 1, 2019, FBI Special Agent
James Roncinske interviewed “DK” — who is likely Dalton Kennedy — in
Buckhannon, W.Va., according to an affidavit filed last month. “DK” told Roncinske
that he had communicated with Lang and Zwiefelhofer via Facebook Messenger in
2018, and that “DK” had declined two invitations from Lang to join him in a
military expedition in Venezuela. Kennedy also reportedly told Roncinske that
he met Lang and Zwiefelohofer in Raleigh in May or June 2018.
Kennedy could not be reached for
this story. James Kennedy, his father, told TCB
he had no knowledge of his son’s travels to Ukraine or his white supremacist
“I mean, he wasn’t raised that way,”
James Kennedy said. “He’s got black and Spanish and all kinds of things in his
family. It’s weird to me.”
Matthew Ryan Burchfield, another individual confirmed by two sources to have been in Ukraine, attended a rally in support of Silent Sam shortly after the toppling. Burchfield was doxed in May 2019 by an anonymous group known as Atlanta Antifascist, which accused him of being a neo-Nazi.
Burchfield confirmed in a Facebook
message to TCB that he is currently
in Ukraine. Burchfield said he went to Ukraine as a food tourist and that his
trip has nothing to do with far-right activism. But he declined to comment on
the claim by Atlanta Antifascist that he’s a neo-Nazi. Asked about his presence
at the Silent Sam rally in Chapel Hill, Burchfield responded: “Was in the area
and figured I’d see what was going on.”
‘I DON’T FEAR DEATH AT ALL’
The footage shows two foreign volunteers dressed in military fatigues with caps bearing the Right Sector insignia outside a training camp north of Kyiv. The younger man, identified as “Ty,” shifts uncomfortably as the other man, a Norwegian former neo-Nazi and bank robber named Joachim Furholm, explains his motivation for joining the fight.
When it was his turn to speak, Ty,
who had no previous military experience, told documentary filmmaker Emile
Ghessen: “I would have full-on dreams night after night after night of being
here, and serving here. And it just got to the point where I couldn’t get it
off my mind.
“I don’t fear death at all,” he continued. “It doesn’t matter if I die here or anywhere else in the world. You’re gonna die anyway. I know for a fact that if I didn’t come here, on my deathbed I’d regret not coming here.”
confirmed through Facebook posts and two anonymous sources who were in Ukraine
that “Ty” is Ty Wingate Jones, a 22-year-old who grew up in Harnett County.
Jones’ Facebook page reflects a
fascination with right-wing violence, including sharing YouTube videos made by
a Nazi World War II re-enactor and a series of photos of the Rhodesian Army in
combat, a news article about vigilantes kidnapping refugees on the
Bulgaria-Turkey border, and a meme expressing admiration for Otoya Yamaguchi, a
17-year-old Japanese ultranationalist who murdered the head of the Japan
Socialist Party during a political debate in 1960.
And in a thread on a family member’s
Facebook page, Jones promoted racist stereotypes, characterizing “listening to
rap,” “cussing,” “using drugs” and “being degenerate” as characteristics of
“your mainstream black,” in contrast to a “normal” black person who “is no
different from white.”
Later in his film, Ukraine — Europe’s Forgotten Ward: Robin
Hood Complex, Ghessen conducted a second interview with Furholm, who had by
that time been kicked out of the volunteer battalion. At the time, Furholm was
staying at an abandoned holiday park on the outskirts of Kyiv that was owned by
National Corps. He was angry at the Norwegian government, whom he blamed for his
ejection from the volunteer battalion, and hinted that he would organize a
group of supporters to take revenge.
“Let us say theoretically that I
were to go on a terrorist, guerilla campaign against the government,” Furholm
told Ghessen. “Then it would not be very clever to speak about my acts and
intents and actions and plans for an interview so they can see it. I guess it
will be a surprise. If I survive, we’ll find out, won’t we?”
It’s unclear whether Furholm and
Jones have remained in contact. Jones could not be reached for this story, but
a Facebook post by his mother indicates that he was working on a fishing
operation in Alaska this past summer, and then joined his family for an elk
hunt in Colorado in October.
‘WORK IN SUPPORT OF OUR UNCLE’
Aaron Harford was living in
California and estranged from his wife and children in Arkansas at the
beginning of 2016, and the 39-year-old’s marriage was falling apart. According
to a criminal complaint filed by Investigator Jason Jackson — now the
chief of police in Arkadelphia — prior to his return to Arkansas, Harford “sent
numerous threatening text messages” to his wife “threatening to kill her with a
knife, blow up their family home, and other threats of bodily harm.”
Harford told TCB he couldn’t remember making the statements, but Chief Jackson
noted in his affidavit that he has copies of them.
“Is it okay to threaten someone with
six months in prison over something on Facebook?” Harford asked in an interview
In December 2016, with an arrest
warrant hanging over him, Harford tweeted at Mikael Skillt, the Swedish former
neo-Nazi who had served with Azov, indicating his interest in connecting. It’s
unclear whether Skillt ever responded.
In June 2018, Harford emailed a
judge, according to a document on file in the Arkansas state court system,
apologizing for not showing up in court to face a charge of terroristic
“I am doing work in support of our Uncle,
and am unable to comply [with the court order] despite my desire to do so and
be legal,” Harford wrote. “The work means I will be out of contact for months,
possibly years, but I will do my utmost to make my family proud, and hopefully
someday both you and they will understand the path I am taking.”
Harford makes no secret of the fact
that he is currently in Ukraine, and his LinkedIn page identifies him as a
medical volunteer with “3rd Battalion DUK PS,” the acronym for
Ukrainian Volunteer Corps — Right Sector. Harford told TCB that he attended a Dec. 8 protest in Kyiv to warn President
Zelensky against making any concessions to Russia.
Harford said the idea that he’s a
white supremacist is ludicrous, considering that he’s descended from Ukrainian
Asked about his statement to Judge
Gregory Vardaman that he was supporting “our Uncle,” Harford told TCB that he meant was that he was
“serving American ideals.” But he quickly added that he’s become disillusioned
with the United States, which he said has become “repressive.”
“It’s become a police state,” he
said. “I tried to deal with that system for two years…. It was almost
impossible to deal with any of the demands that were put on me there. They bury
you under a mountain of illegality and rules, and make it impossible for you to
live your life.”
‘…UNTIL SOME KIND OF BOILING POINT IS REACHED’
A tip in late March 2019 led the FBI
to Jarrett William Smith’s Facebook page, and the agency received a report that
Smith had disseminated guidance on how to build IEDs and had spoken about his desire
to travel to Ukraine to fight with Azov.
In addition to staying in touch with
Craig Lang by Instagram in 2019, Smith befriended Joffre Cross, a Patriot Front
member in Houston on VK. In 2007, Cross pleaded guilty to federal charges after
admitting to stealing morphine and body armor from Fort Bragg, and offering
them for sale to a cooperating source working for the FBI who was posing as a
white supremacist. He currently faces state charges in Texas for illegally
possessing firearms and body armor as a convicted felon. Cross participated in
the “Front and Center” channel on Discord under the moniker “502ssOtto” during
the same period that Dalton Kennedy was active on the channel.
An anonymous manifesto shared by
Cross on his VK page and liked by Smith on Aug. 5, 2019 gives some insight into
Cross’s ties to the wider neo-Nazi movement and the analysis shared by the two
Entitled, “Fourth Generation Civil
War,” the manifesto predicts that American citizens who want to see a reduction
in immigration will become radicalized by government inaction, and gradually
come to support the goal of a white ethno-state. “As the cycle of
disenfranchisement and radicalization continues,” the manifesto declares, “it
is likely that the amount and frequency of violence will increase until some
kind of boiling point is reached.”
On Aug. 19, 2019, Smith spoke to a
law enforcement “confidential source” in an online chat group about looking for
more “radicals” like himself, killing members of “antifa” and destroying cell
towers or a news station, according to the FBI.
On Sept. 20, using the handle “Anti-Kosmik 2182,” Smith exhorted fellow white supremacists on the app Telegram to burn down the house of antifascist podcaster Daniel Harper. As the Daily Beast reported, one Telegram user published a video showing himself driving by Harper’s house in Michigan. That inspired this advice from Smith: “Ditch the car somewhere a few blocks away, take back alleys, trails in the woods, etc., and then come up on the house wearing a mask. I’m not saying do anything illegal, but I am saying it would be a real shame if all he has went up in literal flames.”
broke of Smith’s arrest on Sept. 23, Cross hailed him as a “POW” on his VK
page, while lamenting, “We gotta be smarter than talking to people we don’t
know thoroughly in real life about anything questionable.”
German, a former special agent with the FBI who is now a fellow with the
Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, cautions
that a history of committing crime, particularly violent crime, is a far better
predictor of future violence than racist or extremist posts on social media.
who infiltrated white-supremacist groups as an undercover agent in the FBI,
also discounts the radicalization theory, which US law enforcement has
primarily applied to Muslim foreign fighters, as opposed to the white
supremacists who are responsible for the largest share of domestic terrorist
acts in the United States in recent years.
look at research on foreign fighters, the concept is that once somebody has
made that decision to fight in a foreign conflict, if they’re Muslim, their
mind is altered in a way that is fundamentally dangerous,” German told TCB.
“This concept of radicalization says that if someone has been exposed to this
ideology, their mind is supposedly so radicalized that even if they’ve
abandoned the battlefield, their mind is altered for the rest of their life.
There have been studies of foreign fighters. They have not been found to be a
significantly greater threat to their home country.”
Morris, the American volunteer who fought in Right Sector from 2014 to 2016,
frequently posts photographs of firearms on his Instagram page, along with
photos of himself with his dog, German beer, food and the construction sites
that chronicle his work life. In October 2018, he also posted a photo of an
Interstate exit sign for Newtown and Sandy Hook, in Connecticut, writing,
“Storm Sandy Hook.”
It was a
joke, he told TCB. Morris said when he saw the exit sign, he started
thinking about a ridiculous theory promoted by the media provocateur Alex Jones
blaming the US government for the Sandy Hook shooting because it took place
less than two months after Hurricane Sandy. “I am not a Jones follower,” Morris
said in an email message to TCB. “He’s a clown. I drove by the exit, and
it reminded me of that idiot, of all things.”
said he is not a terrorist. “I have a squeaky-clean record,” he said. “Not even
a parking ticket. I’m not a violent person.”
said his war has ended.
to start a family and travel with them before I get too old,” he said. “I’m 36
in four weeks, and never married. I’m not a person to enjoy others’ suffering.
Life is good. I really feel sorry for the civilians in Ukraine who have to
witness war every day. It’s a miserable life, especially for the elderly.”
former volunteer who spoke on condition of anonymity took a philosophical
stance, arguing that hate and love persist in the world simultaneously. But he acknowledged
there is a segment of the foreign fighter population that causes him concern.
“It’s worrying that people who are
free and easy in Ukraine, who recite from American
History X and talk about putting
your teeth on the curb. These people who are lost and they’re looking for
a cause are out there,” he said.
“You’re having domestic citizens from the US coming over here and they’re bringing their crap back to your doorstep,” the former volunteer continued. “It’s not good. These guys coming out here waving guns — it’s easy. You can arrive at the airport in Kyiv, and before you know it you can be on the frontline.”
- Al-Shabaab — short for Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen, a jihadist fundamentalist group based in East Africa that’s aligned with al-Qaeda
- Atomwaffen Division — neo-Nazi group founded in Florida in 2015 that promotes societal collapse through chaos and violence, inspired by Charles Manson
- Azov Battalion — ultranationalist militia that is integrated into the Ukrainian National Guard
- Georgian National Legion — battalion of foreign fighters integrated into the Ukrainian armed forces
- Iron March — secret global neo-Nazi internet forum that was active from 2011 to 2017
- Misanthropic Division — worldwide neo-Nazi network with links to Azov and Right Sector
- National Corps — political wing of Azov
- Patriot Front — US neo-Nazi group formerly known as Vanguard America, and before that, American Vanguard
- Right Sector — ultranationalist militia that operates outside of the formal command structure of the Ukrainian military and police
- Devon Arthurs — Atomwaffen Division member facing murder charges in the deaths of two fellow Atomwaffen members
- Matthew Ryan Burchfield — American volunteer who has visited Ukraine
- Joffre Cross — Patriot Front member, U.S. Army veteran
- Joachim Furholm — Norwegian national who volunteered in Ukraine, active in the neo-Nazi scene in Norway before coming to Ukraine
- Aaron Harford — Right Sector medical volunteer from Arkansas
- Jason Jackson — chief of police in Arkadelphia, Ark.
- Ty Wingate Jones — American volunteer who has visited Ukraine
- Dalton Kennedy — American volunteer who has visited Ukraine, active with Patriot Front and other white supremacist groups
- Craig Lang — U.S. Army veteran who fought with Right Sector and Georgian National legion in Ukraine, now wanted for double murder in Florida
- Kent McLellan — neo-Nazi skinhead in Florida who claimed to recruit for Right Sector
- Nate Morris — American who volunteered in Ukraine with Right Sector
- Alexander “Slavros” Mukhitdinov — founder of Iron March, a global neo-Nazi forum
- Puffing — Discord username for Patriot Front member who claimed to have combat experience in Ukraine
- Thomas Rousseau — leader of Patriot Front
- Brandon Russell — founder of Atomwaffen Division
- Olena Semenyaka — spokesperson for National Corps
- Mikael Skillt — former neo-Nazi from Sweden who fought with Azov Battalion in Ukraine and now runs a global security firm
- Jarrett William Smith — U.S. Army soldier who faces federal charges for attempting to disseminate information about explosives
- Brenton Tarrant — Australian terrorist who murdered 51 Muslim worshipers in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019
- Viktor Yanukovych — former pro-Russian president of Ukraine who was ousted during the 2014 Maidan uprising
- Dmytro Yarosh — Right Sector leader who left the organization in 2015
- Volodymyr Zelensky — president of Ukraine, elected in April 2019
- Alex Zwiefelhofer — U.S. Army soldier who went AWOL and joined Right Sector in Ukraine, now in federal custody awaiting trial for charges related to a double murder in Florida
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