From Consortium News
FBI: Azov Battalion Trained Rise Above Movement
Last month, an unsealed FBI indictment of four American white supremacists from the Rise Above Movement (RAM) declared that the defendants had trained with Ukraine's Azov Battalion, a neo-Nazi militia officially incorporated into the country's national guard. The training took place after the white supremacist gang participated in violent riots in Huntington Beach and Berkeley, California and Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.
The indictment stated that the Azov Battalion "is believed to have participated in training and radicalizing United States-based white supremacy organizations."
After a wave of racist violence across America that culminated in the massacre of 12 Jewish worshipers at a Pittsburgh synagogue, the revelation that violent white supremacists have been traveling abroad for training and ideological indoctrination with a well-armed neo-Nazi militia should cause extreme alarm.
Not only are white supremacists from across the West flocking to Ukraine to learn from the combat experience of their fascist brothers-in-arms, they are doing so openly -- chronicling their experiences on social media before they bring their lessons back home. But U.S. law enforcement has done nothing so far to restrict the flow of right-wing American extremists to Azov's bases.
There is one likely explanation for the U.S. government's hands-off approach to Azov recruitment: the extremist militia is fighting pro-Russian separatists as a front-line proxy of Washington. In fact, the United States has directly armed the Azov Battalion, forking over anti-tank rocket launchers and even sending a team of Army officers to meet in the field with Azov commanders in 2017.
Though Congress passed legislation this year forbidding military aid to Azov on the grounds of its white supremacist ideology, the Trump administration's authorization of $200 million in offensive weaponry and aid to the Ukrainian military makes it likely new stores of weapons will wind up in the extremist regiment's hands. When queried by reporters about evidence of American military training of Azov personnel, multiple U.S. army spokespersons admitted there was no mechanism in place to prevent that from happening.
Today, Azov boasts combat experience, unlimited access to light weapons, and supporters honeycombed throughout the upper echelons of Ukraine's military and government. No longer just a militia, the organization has developed into a political juggernaut that can overpower Ukraine's government. Two years ago, the group flexed its muscle on the streets of Kiev, bringing out 10,000 supporters to demand that the government bend to their will or face a coup.
"With its military experience and weapons, Azov has the ability to blackmail the government and defend themselves politically against any opposition. They openly say that if the government will not advance an ideology similar to theirs, they will overthrow it," Ivan Katchanovski, a professor of political science at the University of Ottawa and leading expert on Ukraine's far-right, commented to me. He continued, explaining:
"Currently the organizations that are fascist are stronger in Ukraine than in any other country in the world. But this fact is not reported by Western media because they see these organizations as supportive of the geopolitical agenda against Russia. So condemnations are limited to violence or human rights abuses."
The revelations of collaboration between violent American white supremacists and a neo-Nazi militia armed by the Pentagon add another scandalous chapter to a long history of blowback that dates back to the 1950's, when the CIA rehabilitated several Ukrainian Nazi collaborators as anti-communist assets in the Cold War.
The almost unbelievable story exposes an axis of fascism that stretches across the Atlantic, from the Ukrainian capital of Kiev to the sun-washed suburbs of Southern California, where some of the most rabid modern white supremacist gangs were born.White Nationalist Fight Club
This October, four members of the RAM gang -- Robert Rundo, Benjamin Drake Daley, Michael Paul Mirelis, and Aaron Eason -- were arrested by FBI agents. They were accused of "using the internet to encourage, promote, participate in, and carry out riots" from Huntington Beach to Berkeley, California. Four other members had been arrested in connection with their participation in the white supremacist riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a counter-protester, Heather Heyer, was killed in a vehicular homicide by a white supremacist.
RAM first appeared in the national limelight during a celebration of Donald Trump's election victory in Huntington Beach in March 2017. As about 100 far-right activists marched along the beach donned in red "Make America Great Again" caps and waving Trump flags, they were confronted by a small group of masked anti-racist counter-demonstrators. When a melee ensued, RAM members assaulted their outnumbered opponents, pummeling them into submission and even attacking a local reporter. Afterwards, Orange County police arrested several anti-racist demonstrators, but the RAM gang walked free.