De-Nazification of Ukraine: Myth vs. Reality

Although it is well documented that Ukraine has many individuals that hold white supremacist or other far-right views, this truth has been exploited by Russia to make justification for their invasion. In addition, the links of white supremacist groups to the Kremlin are even more well documented. According to NBC News contributor and former FBI agent Ali Soufan, the Kremlin embraces white supremacists, using them to wage war in other conflicts, such as in Syria and the Central African Republic. (Soufan, 2022) As written by Soufan, “Putin has condoned and enabled a transnational white supremacist network that stretches around the globe. It is one more instrument in the toolbox Moscow uses to divide democracies.” (2022). Groups known as the Wagner Group, RIM, and Myriad all have close links to the Kremlin and consistently carry out terrorist attacks and other evils, all in the name of white supremacy. While gaslighting the public over Ukraine, according to Soufan, “Russia is also serving as a refuge for extremists, with one of America’s most dangerous neo-Nazis finding sanctuary in the country. The BBC reported in 2020 that Rinaldo Nazzaro, the American leader of the white supremacist paramilitary group The Base, was living in Russia and directing the group from St. Petersburg. (Chatter on extremist online channels suggests Nazzaro may have stepped down from this role since Russia’sRussia’s invasion of Ukraine, perhaps at the behest of his hosts.).” (Soufan, 2022) Evidence such as this once again shows that Russia’s justification for war–––that Nazis are running Ukraine is inaccurate and indeed hypocritical, considering Russia’s record with white supremacists.

As written in other reports, groups with linkage to white supremacy, and neo-nazism, such as Azov, have been forced to join the Ukrainian National Forces, no longer able to maintain their independent status. As written in Foreign Affairs, “the government drew a line: all independent pro-Ukrainian paramilitary groups would either join the official armed forces or face demobilization by any means necessary. The Ukrainian government acted at the right time—that is, when its army was strong, and public opinion was on its side.” (Mironova & Sergatskova, 2017). It is also important to note that Ukraine has taken steps to stop neo-nazis and other radicals from their ranks. Mironova and Sergatskova write; “The Azov fighters acquiesced peacefully, having always anticipated a merger with the army. After the union, the government first act was to root out two groups within Azov, foreign fighters and neo-Nazis, by vetting group members with background checks, observations during training, and a law requiring all fighters to accept Ukrainian citizenship. Fighters who did not pass this screening were offered the chance to join civilian volunteer corps to help the war effort; these corps assisted police, cleared snow (a crucial task in Ukraine), and even worked on a public radio.” (2017) Any group independent from Ukraine’s national forces by 2015 was given an ultimatum by the government and would be jailed if they refused to amalgamate.

Besides official links within the Ukrainian military, several white supremacists from around the west have come to Ukraine. This is primarily due to Zelensky’s call to action, asking for any assistance he can get. Those wanting to gain military and combat experience have signed up. Although it may be true that white supremacists are fighting in Ukraine, the reason for their presence is not consistent with Russia’s theory that Ukraine’s military is ingrained with nazis. The American and other western citizens voluntarily travel to Ukraine, not because they want to free Ukraine from Russia’s tyranny but because they want to gain combat experience. (Miller-Idriss, 2022)

Although the Azov battalion is the most well-documented group with troubling views, many other individuals in Ukraine hold troubling views. However, as the war in Ukraine has advanced, the Ukrainian government has taken the necessary steps to root it out. Although these views are abhorrent and disgusting, every large group will contain individuals with troubling views. Russia is not accusing Ukraine of that. Russia says Ukraine is run by Nazis, which is not accurate. As written in this report, it is Russia that has troubling state links to white supremacist groups. This disinformation is another example of Russia trying to mislead the world and gain sympathy for their unjustifiable cause.

Works Cited

Miller, Cynthia. Fighting Russia in Ukraine sadly appeals to far-right extremists, 7 March 2022, https://www.msnbc.com/opinion/msnbc-opinion/fighting-russia-ukraine-sadly-appeals-far-right-extremists-n1290901.

Accessed 17 June 2022.
Mironova, Vera, et al. “How Ukraine Reined In Its Militias.” Foreign Affairs, 1 August 2017, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/ukraine/2017-08-01/how-ukraine-reined-its-militi as.

Accessed 17 June 2022.
Soufan, Ali. “Putin’s ‘Nazi’ pretext for Russian war on Ukraine is belied by white supremacy ties.” NBC News, 5 April 2022, https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/putin-nazi-pretext-russia-war-ukraine-belied-wh ite-supremacy-ties-rcna23043.