Huurlingen voor Oekraïne

De onafhankelijke republiek Oekraïne heeft, na een revolutie die zijn pro-Russische president verjoeg, nu in het oosten van zijn grondgebied een conflict met burgers van Russische afkomst waarbij aan beide zijden huursoldaten worden ingezet.

Begin dit jaar hield de Russische bevolking van het schiereiland Krim een referendum dat door de regering van Oekraïne niet werd erkend, maar wel door de regering van Rusland. Het referendum resulteerde in de onafhankelijkheid en daarna de aansluiting van het gebied bij Rusland. Dit zeer tegen de wens van de autochtone bewoners van het schiereiland, de Krim-Tataren en de regering in Kiev.

Korte tijd later kwamen inwoners van steden in het oosten van het land in opstand tegen het regime in Kiev. Men wilde zich afscheiden om zich vervolgens aan te kunnen sluiten bij Rusland. Op het Maidanplein in Kiev vond op 20 februari 2014 een slachting onder pro-Westerse burgers plaats. Wie daarvoor verantwoordelijk was, maakt deel uit van de propagandaoorlog die gaande is in Oekraïne.

In de stad Odessa kwam het tot bloedvergieten tussen soldaten van onbekende herkomst en pro-Russische burgers waarbij veel slachtoffers vielen. Wat de situatie nog meer verward, is een oproep van Oekraïense Krim-Tataren die meevechten in de Syrische opstand. Eén van hun leiders riep op tot een Jihad, een heilige oorlog, tegen de Russen in de Oekraïne. Pro-Russische Tartaren aan de andere kant lijken het te hebben gemunt op de Tartaarse minderheid op het schiereiland.

Mengt Rusland zich in het conflict?

In het Westen wordt geroepen dat Rusland de rebellen zou steunen. Die steun was op de Krim duidelijk, daar waren echter ook Russische troepen gelegerd. In het Oosten van Oekraïne is de situatie veel onduidelijker. Wat wel duidelijk is geworden, is dat er Russen meevechten met de Pro-Russische separatisten. Sommige hebben zich ook opgeworpen als commandant of bestuurder van de onafhankelijke Donetsk People’s Republic en de Luhansk People’s Republic. Dat onder deze vrijwilligers Russische militairen meevechten, is waarschijnlijk. Maar dat zegt nog niets over een officiële Russische ondersteuning van de opstand in het Oosten van Rusland.

Ditzelfde geldt voor de inzet van militair materieel van de Russen. Russische militairen die sympathiseren met de separatisten zullen materieel hebben meegenomen zodra ze daartoe in staat zijn geweest. De Russische grensbewakers zullen daarbij een oogje hebben dichtgeknepen, maar van structurele en grootschalige Russische ondersteuning lijkt vooralsnog geen sprake. De separatisten hebben ook nog een enkele militaire bases en politiebureaus overvallen waarbij wapens zijn buitgemaakt, het merendeel van Russische makelij.

Van onomstotelijk bewijs voor directe Russische ondersteuning van de separatisten in Oost-Oekraïne lijkt echter geen sprake. Wel zijn er veel huurlingen in het gebied actief. Over de aanwezigheid van Tsjetsjeense strijders van het ‘leger’ van de leider van Tsjetsjenië, Ramzan Kadyrov, is door verschillende bronnen bericht. Zij zouden deel uitmaken van het Vostok Bataljon. Er zouden ook Ossetiërs, Oezbeken, Servische Chetniks en vrijwilligers van andere nationaliteiten meevechten met de Pro-Russen. Ook Oekraïners, zowel burgers als militairen, maken deel uit van de separatisten.

Aan de kant van de regeringsgetrouwe Oekraïense troepen ligt de zaak zo mogelijk nog iets gecompliceerder. De Russen hebben meermaals het Westen ervan beschuldigd zich in het conflict te hebben gemengd. Begin juni werden deze beschuldigingen concreter en riep de Russische overheid de VS op haar huurlingen van private bedrijven terug te trekken. In maart doken de eerste berichten over Amerikaanse huurlingen aan Oekraïense zijde op. De pro-Russische krant Russia Today sprak van 300 tot 400 huurlingen, afkomstig van het particuliere bedrijf Academi (voorheen Xe Services en Blackwater). De huurlingen zouden zijn ingezet door de Oekraïense regering om demonstranten in het zuidoosten van het land te bestrijden.

Academi

Het private Academi, dat taken van het Amerikaanse leger uitvoert, ontkende de beschuldigingen en beschuldigde op haar beurt een ‘onverantwoordelijke blogger’ en een ‘internetjournalist’ ervan de geruchten te hebben verspreid. Het bedrijf stelde op 17 maart dit jaar dat haar medewerkers niet actief zijn in Oekraïne. Waarom het bedrijf in haar persbericht het woord ‘onverantwoordelijk’ gebruikt, is onduidelijk. Het persbericht, inmiddels van hun website verwijderd, belicht vooral de reputatie van Academi en haar geschiedenis met namen als Blackwater, Xe Services en Erik Prince.

Nadat de storm was geluwd, vroeg Rusland begin april nog opheldering over de aanwezigheid van Amerikaanse huurlingen, maar ook daarop kwam geen antwoord. De meeste media besteedden er geen aandacht aan. Pas toen de Duitse krant Bild am Sonntag begin mei berichtte dat 300 of 400 huurlingen van het bedrijf Academi meevochten tegen de separatisten, explodeerde de Duitse media. Van Der Spiegel tot de Aachener Nachrichten namen het bericht over. Dit had te maken met de claim van Bild dat de Duitse Bondskanselier Angela Merkel door de Bundes Nachrichten Dienst (BND), de Duitse inlichtingendienst, op de hoogte was gesteld van het feit dat 400 Amerikaanse huursoldaten meevochten. Volgens Bild am Sonntag was die informatie aan de BND ter beschikking gesteld door de Amerikaanse inlichtingendienst NSA.

Opnieuw reageerde Academi met de verwijzing naar onverantwoordelijke media en dat het bedrijf niet aanwezig zou zijn in Oekraïne. Vervolgens ging het persbericht vooral over de namen Academi en Blackwater, die van Erik Prince en Xe Services komen niet langer voor. Ditmaal voelde het Witte Huis zich geroepen de aanwezigheid van de Amerikaanse huurlingen te ontkennen, waarbij de woordvoerder van de US National Security Council naar de website van Academi verwees. De Duitse krant Südwest Presse haalde op 22 mei een leverancier en bekende van Blackwater-baas Eric Prince aan die anoniem wenste te blijven. Volgens deze bron zouden er wel degelijk Amerikaanse huurlingen betrokken zijn bij talrijke vuurgevechten met pro-Russische separatisten.

De beschuldigingen ten aanzien van de aanwezigheid van Amerikaanse huurlingen, maar ook helikopters van het Amerikaanse leger, volgen elkander in rap tempo op. De Russen herhaalden hun klacht in juni en augustus van dit jaar. Naast Academi, zouden ook Greystone Limited, onderdeel van Academi, en Cubic Applications International, actief zijn in Oekraïne. Zowel de Russische legercommandant Valeri Guerassimov als de onderminister van Buitenlandse Zaken Ryabkov, spreken van tientallen Amerikaanse huurlingen die mee zouden vechten met het Oekraïense leger, en westerse beveiligingsbedrijven die paramilitaire taken uitvoeren in Oekraïne.

CIA

In het weekend van 12 en 13 april is de CIA-directeur John Brennan op een missie in Kiev geweest. Brennan kwam op het moment dat verschillende Oekraïense soldaten hun wapens overdroegen aan de pro-Russische rebellen. Het verhaal deed de ronde dat de Russen een geheime operatie uitvoerden in het gebied en het Oekraïense leger af bluften. Duidelijk was wel dat Kiev aan de verliezende hand was. De precieze strekking van de conversaties van de CIA-baas met de Oekraïners is niet duidelijk, maar Forbes magazine duidde de Amerikaanse hulp als ‘non-lethal help’. Gezien de intensieve relatie tussen Amerika en Oekraïne zal de CIA bepaalde informatie met het Oekraïense leger delen, zeker over de positie van Russische eenheden, maar ook over de separatisten.

De slechte moraal van het Oekraïense leger en de bluf van de Russen zullen zeker hebben geleid tot een groot aantal verliezen. Verschillende militaire helikopters en vliegtuigen zijn door de rebellen uit de lucht geschoten in mei en juni van dit jaar. Op 19 mei beweerde de separatistische burgemeester van de Oost-Oekraïense stad Slavyansk dat de rebellen van de opstandige steden in het oosten 650 Oekraïense militairen zouden hebben gedood, verwond of gevangen hebben genomen. Onder hen 70 buitenlanders, zoals 13 CIA-operators en 14 medewerkers van Greystone, terwijl diverse medewerkers van de CIA en private bedrijven gewond zouden zijn geraakt.

Deze beweringen en cijfers van verliezen aan de Oekraïense, maar ook aan de Pro-Russische zijde, zijn moeilijk te verifiëren. Wel is duidelijk dat het Oekraïense leger in eerste instantie op verschillende plaatsen in het oosten van het land zware verliezen heeft geleden. Na de aanslag op vlucht MH17 werden de Pro-Russische rebellen teruggedrongen en rukte het Oekraïense leger op. Of er buitenlanders zijn omgekomen aan beide zijden van het slagveld is nog onduidelijker.

Brennan’s bezoek aan Kiev en het langzaam terugkerende vertrouwen bij het Oekraïense leger, duiden erop dat er ‘adviseurs’ aan het werk zijn. Het is dan ook niet gek dat de Russische wapenexpert Andrey Klintsevitsj in de Glavnoye Weekly News van 18 juni stelt dat er Amerikaanse specialisten aanwezig zijn in het conflictgebied om het Oekraïense leger te coördineren. Natuurlijk kan alles worden gezien in het licht van de Russische propaganda, maar dit geldt evenzeer voor de Amerikaanse ontkenningen over de aanwezigheid van Amerikaanse huurlingen.

Ook de directeur van het Russische Instituut voor Strategische Studies, Leonid Resketnikov, beweert dat er Westerse troepen actief zijn. Hij stelt dat er Amerikaanse en Poolse sluipschutters worden ingezet in Donetsk. Ook Igor Strelkov (Igor Girkin), de minister van Defensie van de Donetsk People’s Republic, vertelde op een persbijeenkomst in juli dat een pro-Kiev checkpoint tussen Ilovaisk en Amvrosiyevka wordt bemand door Poolse huurlingen. Volgens hem droegen de soldaten kleding met emblemen van het Poolse leger.

De Poolse regering ontkent de beschuldigingen, maar de voormalige baas van de Tsjechische militaire inlichtingendienst stelde in juni dat hij zich kon voorstellen dat er huurlingen aan het strijden zijn in Oekraïne. Hoewel hij geen informatie had over Tsjechische huurlingen in het land, vertelde hij over Tsjechen in Irak die waren gesneuveld en dat het niet de eerste keer zou zijn dat er huurlingen meevechten in een conflict binnen Europa of elders in de wereld.

Het bewijs voor de aanwezigheid van Amerikaanse, Poolse of Tsjechische huurlingen is vooralsnog bepaald niet overtuigend. Er is een vage film op Youtube te zien van een gevangen genomen man die roept dat hij ‘US-citizen’ is. Ook andere nationaliteiten zouden meevechten.

Volgens de Israëlische krant The Times of Israel vochten op het moment dat de regering in Kiev omvergeworpen werd door de huidige machthebbers – verschillende voormalige Israëlische militairen van Oekraïense afkomst die naar hun thuisland waren teruggekeerd – mee tegen het oude regime van Janoekovitsj. Een van hen zou Delta heten en het commando hebben over een eenheid van veertig mannen en vrouwen. Delta zou al in februari rond het protest op het Maidanplein actief zijn geweest.

De foto van Delta maakt echter duidelijk hoe moeilijk de bewijslast is voor de aanwezigheid van huurlingen aan beide zijden van het slagveld. De meeste militairen dragen een bivakmuts en militaire uniformen lijken gemakkelijk uitwisselbaar. Tenzij mensen zelf aangeven dat zij meedoen aan de strijd in Oekraïne of huurlingen organiseren voor het slagveld, blijft het speculeren.

Propaganda-oorlog

In deze gepolariseerde oorlog waarbij de feiten vaak moeilijk te checken zijn en bronnen al evenmin, vinden regelmatig gebeurtenissen plaats die slechts binnen een van de ‘kampen’ wordt gerapporteerd. Zoals het bericht van Anonymous Ukraine, een website die in maart beweerde enkele e-mails te hebben onderschept van een Amerikaanse militair attaché in Kiev en een Oekraïense commandant die met elkaar communiceren. Daaruit blijkt dat de VS met hulp van Special Forces aanvallen zouden willen uitvoeren onder valse vlag op doelen in Oekraïne met de bedoeling de Russen hiervan de schuld te geven.

De gehackte mails zijn niet verder onderzocht, maar Anonymous Ukraine zegt zich in te willen zetten om de wereld te tonen dat volgens hen de fascisten de macht hebben overgenomen in Oekraïne. De groep hackte daartoe eind februari allerlei Poolse websites en plaatste een ‘nazi-alert’ op de voorpagina’s. Hiermee doelt Anonymous Ukraine op extreem-rechtse partijen in het bestuur van het land. Svoboda en de SNA zijn na de ‘Maidan revolutie’ toegetreden tot de regering en Svoboda heeft de controle over ongeveer een kwart van de ministeries volgens Foreign Policy. Svoboda leverde de minister van Defensie, de vice-premier, de openbare aanklager en de vice-voorzitter van de nieuwe regering.

De ‘revolutionaire’ regering in Kiev wordt door zijn tegenstanders, vooral de Russen, daarom ‘Bandera Nazi’s’ genoemd. Stepan Bandera was een Oekraïense nationalist die aan het einde van de Tweede Wereldoorlog vocht tegen Polen, de nazi’s en het Rode Leger. Bandera bleef tot in de jaren ’50 met zijn nationalistische rebellenbeweging militair actief. Vervolgens werd hij door een KGB-agent in München vermoord. Bandera werd in het westen van Oekraïne gezien als een held, terwijl het in het door Russen gedomineerde oosten van het land juist andersom was.

Op 5 juli publiceerde de internetsite Antiwar.com een artikel genaamd The war on truth waarin wordt beweerd dat de protesten in het begin van dit jaar tegen president Janoekovitsj dubieus waren. Tijdens de zogeheten ‘Euromaidan-protesten’ werd een bloedbad aangericht waarbij zowel politiemensen als demonstranten zijn gedood. Uit nader onderzoek van de Oekraïense autoriteiten zou volgens de auteur zijn gebleken dat de slachtoffers aan beide zijden zijn gevallen door kogels afkomstig uit dezelfde vuurwapens.

Ook het Duitse tv-programma Monitor van 10 april plaatste vraagtekens bij de ‘officiële’ versie van de gebeurtenissen op 20 februari 2014. Was het wel zo zeker dat de speciale eenheid Berkut verantwoordelijk is geweest voor het bloedbad en de vlucht van voormalig president Janoekovitsj? Het programma schetst een beeld van een onderzoek naar een bloedbad waarvan de conclusie bij voorbaat al vaststaat. Het leidt tot onduidelijkheid bij de slachtoffers en nabestaanden, terwijl een officier van justitie van de extreem-rechtse Svoboda duidelijk niet geïnteresseerd is in waarheidsvinding.

‘Maidan’ en de gevlucht Janoekovitsj vormen een keerpunt in de Oekraïense ‘revolutie’. De interim-regering die vervolgens werd gevormd, werd door zowel de VS als de EU snel erkend. De ‘ware’ toedracht op het Maidanplein en de opkomst van Svoboda is voor geen enkele Westers regime reden geweest om vragen te stellen over de legitimiteit van het huidige gezag in Oekraïne.

Geld maakt macht

Na ‘Maidan’ volgden de ontwikkelingen zich snel op. Eerst was er de strijd om de Krim en vervolgens Oost-Oekraïne. Het conflict in Oost-Oekraïne is echter van een ander kaliber dan de onafhankelijkheid van de Krim. Dat heeft niet alleen met de aanwezigheid van de Russische vloot te maken in de Zwarte Zee. Oost-Oekraïne is niet alleen bevolkt met merendeel etnische Russen, het is tevens het welvarende deel van het land met de aanwezigheid van grondstoffen en industrie. Zo zullen er bij het zenden van troepen naar het Zuid-Oosten van het land om de opstand neer te slaan naast nationalistische motieven ook economische motieven ten grondslag hebben gelegen.

De gouverneur van de regio Dnepropretovsk, de oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, is één van de rijkste personen van het land. Hij heeft belangen in het geïndustrialiseerde oosten, waar tevens vele mijnen aanwezig zijn. Kolomoisky werd op 15 mei door de krant Russia Today genoemd als opdrachtgever van de massamoord in Odessa, waarbij tientallen pro-Russische betogers werden aangevallen en vermoord. De Britse krant The Independent gaf begin mei al aan dat Kolomoisky een geldbedrag had ingezet op elke gevangen genomen Russische ‘agent’.

Kolomoisky is ook één van de financiers – sommigen zeggen samen met de VS – van een bijzondere legereenheid die onder bevel staat van het ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken. Op 15 juni noemde de Russische minister van Buitenlandse Zaken Lavrov in The Voice of Russia Kolomoisky hem als financier van dit speciale bataljon. Volgens een artikel dat op 1 juni verscheen op de website van het Canadese Global Research is ook de VS financier van deze eenheid, genaamd het Azov Bataljon. Wie de eenheid financiert, lijkt minder belangrijk dan de samenstelling van de groep.

Azov bataljon

De Fransman Gaston Besson, die eerder vocht als vrijwilliger in Birma, Laos, Suriname, Kroatië en Bosnië, was in juni en juli ter plaatse en fungeerde als contactpersoon voor geïnteresseerde vrijwilligers. Volgens Besson zijn er al Zweden, Italianen, Finnen en Tsjechen in de eenheid opgenomen. Hoewel de Tsjechische regering in een artikel begin juni in de Prague Post ontkent dat zijn onderdanen meevechten, wezen de opstandelingen al eerder op het feit dat er Polen en Tsjechen in het Azov Bataljon streden.

Global Research openbaarde op 28 mei dat Poolse contractors en Oekraïense rechts-extremisten in Polen zijn opgeleid om burgerprotesten neer te slaan. Dat er Italianen en Zweden aanwezig zijn, blijkt uit diverse artikelen van Al-Jazeera over de aanwezigheid van Italiaanse en Zweedse fascisten. Ook werd bekend dat de neo-nazi Francesco Saverio Fontana in dienst gekomen is van de eenheid. Op 22 juli publiceerde Gaston Besson een krantenartikel op zijn Facebook-pagina waaruit blijkt dat een Zweedse neo-nazi in dienst van het Azov Bataljon gevangen genomen was door de separatisten. Het ging hier om Mikael Skillt, die de functie vervulde van sluipschutter.

Het Azov Bataljon rekruteert actief buitenlandse vrijwilligers die moeten gaan dienen naast een substantiële hoeveelheid Oekraïense Russen die curieus genoeg al in de eenheid aanwezig zijn. Naast het Azov Bataljon zijn er nog enige andere bataljons die op soortgelijke manier georganiseerd zijn; de Dniepr en Donbass Bataljons. Op 20 juni verklaarde Lavrov in de Russia and CIS Military Weekly dat Azov een sleutelrol heeft vervuld bij de aanval op de Russische ambassade in Kiev medio juni.

Social Nationalist Assembly

Het Azov Bataljon is georganiseerd door de extreem-rechtse politieke partij Social Nationalist Assembly (SNA) die een wolfsangel gebruikt als embleem. Deze partij maakt deel uit van een coalitie van extreem-rechtse groepen, waar ook kozakken en de politieke straatbende White Hammer deel van uitmaken. Het geheel werd bekend onder de naam Pravyi Sektor (Right Sector). Het Azov Bataljon zelf heeft ook als embleem een omgekeerde wolfsangel, die erg veel lijkt op het embleem van de Waffen-SS divisie Das Reich, met op de achtergrond een ander nazi-teken, het zonnerad.

Svoboda en SNA zijn niet hetzelfde, maar hebben grote overeenkomsten. SNA heeft zich eind 2013 aangesloten bij een groep van extreem-rechtse clubs in Oekraïne onder de naam Right Sector. Dmytro Yarosh van de Right Sector, Deputy Secretary of National Security van het land, stelde dat Right Sector en Svoboda veel vergelijkbare ideologische standpunten innemen. Hij beschuldigde Svoboda er echter wel van racistisch te zijn, maar leden van Right Sector worden ook genoemd bij aanvallen op Russen en joden.

SNA-leider Andriy Biletskyy, die zijn eigen groep binnen Right Sector leidt, is ook de leider van het Azov Bataljon. Biletskyy zat enige maanden geleden nog in de gevangenis in zijn woonplaats Charkov op verdenking van moord. Nu is de 34-jarige oud-historicus en ultranationalist aanvoerder van een elite-eenheid die vuile klusjes moet opknappen voor de regering.

In een interview op 17 juni op de Oekraïense website Ukrayinska Pravda vertelt Biletskyy dat niet magnaat Kolomoisky de eenheid financiert, maar verschillende zakenmensen uit de stad Mariupol. Volgens hem is de eenheid onafhankelijk en worden veel uitgaven als voedsel en onderdak door leden van de eenheid zelf bekostigd. Er zouden zo’n 30 tot 50 procent etnische Russen dienen in zijn bataljon.

Waarom Azov zo’n belangrijke rol kan spelen en ingezet wordt aan het front, komt volgens Bileskyy omdat zijn eenheid bestaat uit vrijwilligers die graag willen vechten. Volgens hem zijn de leden van politie-eenheden en het leger juist in dienst gegaan om een onbezorgd leventje te kunnen leiden. Azov maakt in theorie onderdeel uit van de Nationale Garde, meldde de Eurasia Review van 29 juni.

In dienst van de revolutie

Gaston Besson geeft in een op zijn Facebook-pagina gepubliceerde bericht aan dat een basis van de SNA zal fungeren als contactplaats voor arriverende buitenlandse vrijwilligers. Deze vrijwilligers zullen, net zoals de Oekraïense vrijwilligers in de eenheid, niet worden betaald. Daarna volgt een lijst met gegevens die moeten worden doorgegeven, zoals leeftijd, woonplaats, motivatie en militaire ervaring. Voor instructeurs is er een minimum dienstverband van twee maanden en voor vrijwilligers die actief willen dienen in het bataljon is er een dienstverband van vier tot zes maanden.

Besson: “We zijn socialist, nationalist en radicaal!”, en even verder: “We hebben sterke ideeën voor de toekomst van de Oekraïne en Europa.” Wat deze ideeën zijn, licht hij niet toe. Na weken van strijd tussen separatisten en speciale bataljons van de regering in Kiev, schrijft Besson op zijn Facebook-pagina: ‘Ukraine : De la Revolution a la Guerre […] Du ” Maidan ” au Pravyi Sektor , au S.N.A. et pour finir le Bataillon Azov sur le Front de l Est […] Et demain ? La grande reconquete Europeenne […] Gloire a l ‘Ukraine !’ De grote herovering van Europa!

Op 22 juli vermeldt de Facebook-pagina van Besson een oproep om geld te storten voor Azov met de toevoeging ‘for all other matters’ het mailadres van Besson. Dat Azov daadwerkelijk wordt ingezet en meevecht aan het front mag ook blijken uit een artikel van 7 juli van Agence France Presse. De separatistenleider Denis Pushikin geeft in het artikel aan dat zijn mannen tientallen leden van Azov hebben gedood bij gevechten in de regio Saur-Mogila.

Conclusie

Aan beide zijden van de burgeroorlog vechten huurlingen mee. Zo wordt een proxy-oorlog gevoerd. Rusland is officieel geen partij, maar knijpt een oogje toe bij materieel dat over de grens rolt. Strijders uit het land melden zich vrijwillig aan en gaan vechten voor de pro-Russische separatisten. Rusland stelt zich ambivalent op, maar dat doet ook het Westen.

Aan de andere kant van het slagveld vechten ook huurlingen, maar deze huurlingen zijn anders dan aan pro-Russische zijde niet alleen gemotiveerd door een territoriale oorlog. Het zijn fascisten die deel uitmaken van een huurlingenleger dat ook extreem-rechtse connecties heeft in de politiek. De val van de regering van Oekraïne zal niet veel veranderen aan deze strijdgroepen.

Deze extreem-rechtse groepen zijn gemachtigd door de regering in Kiev om een eigen legertje te organiseren en die zorgen niet alleen in het oosten van het land voor spanningen. Veel joodse inwoners van het land zijn deze extreem-rechtse paramilitaire groepen een angstige voorbode in een land waar joden-vervolgingen vóór en tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog berucht en zeer omvangrijk waren. De aanvragen voor emigratie naar Israël stromen dan ook binnen.

Of deze groepen actief door het Westen worden gesteund is even onduidelijk als de steun van de Russen voor de separatisten, maar Amerika en de EU leggen deze groepen geen strobreed in de weg. Oekraïne is er alles aan gelegen aansluiting te zoeken bij het rijke Westen. De EU en de Verenigde Staten is er echter ook alles aan gelegen om Oekraïne in hun invloedssferen te krijgen. Hierbij zullen zowel geopolitieke als economische motieven een rol spelen. Welke rol het Westen precies heeft gespeeld bij het afzetten van president Janoekovitsj en de steun aan de ultra-nationalisten zal waarschijnlijk nooit duidelijk worden, evenmin wat er op het Maidanplein is gebeurd.

De ultranationalisten zijn nodig om het vuile werk op te knappen in een proxy-oorlog tussen twee grootmachten. Zij spelen een rol tijdens en vlak na een revolutie die met behulp van onduidelijke paramilitairen en private contractors voor de uitbreiding van de NAVO en om de bodemschatten uit de oostelijke Oekraïne toegankelijk maakt voor het Westen.

Deze proxy-oorlog is ook een totale propaganda-oorlog geworden, waarbij waarheidsvinding als eerste wordt geslachtofferd. George Restle van het Duitse tv-programma Monitor postte op 30 juli een kort statement onder de titel ‘Oekraine: Alstublieft zwart – wit!’ Hij constateert dat in het huidige sociale media tijdperk, met de hoeveelheid aan overheidswoordvoerders, het niet langer gaat om waarheidsvinding, maar om een meningsvorming zonder onderzoek, waarbij nuancering niet past. Wie beide zijden van een conflict bekritiseert, hoort nergens meer bij…

Rende van de Kamp

Driven by far-right ideology, Azov Battalion mans Ukraine’s front line

A volunteer military unit is confronting Russia in the east, but future clashes with pro-Western Kiev may lie ahead

URZUF, Ukraine — From his watch post overlooking the sandy beaches of the Azov Sea, Nemets is charged with guarding the shoreline against a possible Russian incursion.

“Twenty minutes by boat, and you’re in Russia,” the 30-year-old said, as he squinted into the midday sun and shrugged to adjust the heavy bulletproof vest weighing down his narrow shoulders in the summer heat.

Nemets, who prefers to go only by his nom de guerre, comes from the central Ukrainian city of Kirovohrad and is a member of the all-volunteer Azov Battalion, one of Ukraine’s many paramilitary groups formed in response to the government’s struggle against pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east, the territory where a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down on July 17.

“This is war, and this is how people become a nation,” he said. “This is the process in which we are learning who is strong and who isn’t.”

The pro-Kiev battalion was named after the blue waters of this southeastern Ukrainian sea that Nemets now guards. More than half of the battalion’s fighters are Russian-speaking eastern Ukrainians, who were brought up in the region now being fought over and who may have spent summer holidays swimming in the sea’s warm waters.

Many of the Azov Battalion members are, by their own description, ultra-right Ukrainian nationalists. Ideologically, they are aligned with the Social-National Assembly, a confederation of groups in Ukraine that have drawn heavy criticism for their radical form of nationalism since the start of the protest movement in Kiev last November, which eventually ousted the Kremlin-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych.

But in Ukraine’s current war the lines have blurred between patriotism and extreme nationalism in this former Soviet republic, now deeply divided as it muddles through its worst political crisis since the breakup of the Soviet Union. At times, the government has coordinated with groups accused of extreme nationalism in its military operation against what it says is a Moscow-sponsored separatist movement. The fighters of the Azov Battalion are a symbol of that alliance, and it is a coordination that some analysts say should be watched carefully.

“Modern history shows that any opportunistic cooperation of the authorities with the extreme right in the end results in problems for the government and society,” wrote Anton Shekhovtsov, an expert on Ukraine’s far right and a Ph.D. student at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College London, in his blog last month.

The Azov Battalion is recognized as part of the Ministry of the Interior’s troops and has been actively engaged in battles in key areas of what the government calls an “anti-terrorist operation,” or ATO. It has included fights for Mariupol, the largest of the port cities on the Azov Sea, on May 9 and June 13.

The battalion has adopted symbols and slogans that come close to those used by neo-Nazis, drawing alarm from many moderate Ukrainians and fueling the fire of Russian media accusations that the current Kiev government is a “fascist junta.”

Oleh Odnorozhenko, the chief ideologist of the Social-National Assembly and a member of the Azov Battalion, insists that they and their sister organization the Right Sector are not neo-Nazis or neo-fascist, as the Russian media have depicted them.

“That is all Putinism propaganda,” Odnorozhenko said about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claims that the groups are elements of an anti-Russian fascism determined to eradicate ethnic Russians from Ukraine. “We aren’t anti-Russian here. Two-thirds of the guys speak Russian. But we are anti-Putin.”

For all the controversy surrounding the government’s association with paramilitary groups like Azov, some argue that it is a necessary evil in extreme times.

“The country is quite radicalized on both sides now,” said Vasyl Arbuzov, a Donetsk native and an aide to the Kiev-appointed governor of the province, Sergei Taruta. “These aren’t the kind of guys I hang out with on the weekend, but at the moment they are the kind of guys we need because they are willing to fight.”

When the battle for Ukraine’s east erupted in April, the country found that its defense forces were in a parlous state after decades of budgetary neglect. Ukraine, it turned out, was not prepared to wage a war on its own soil, particularly what the government claims is a fight against the heavily funded Russian military.

“I’m not sure their nationalistic ideology is taken that seriously by the guys at the battalion, but it’s the thing that binds them together at the moment. It’s the tissue that’s holding them together as they fight for Ukraine,” Arbuzov said. “They aren’t here to protect the white race. They are here to protect the state of Ukraine against oppressors, which today is the Russian Federation.”

The 300 or so troops of the Azov Battalion are living and training in the ousted president’s former summer residence here, a collection of multistoried beach homes in a landscaped setting atop a picturesque cliff overlooking the Azov Sea.

On the training grounds, men run drills on storming buildings and urban fighting in an open space in the middle of the seaside resort’s territory. Nearby, there is a common building housing sleeping quarters and a cafeteria.

While some of the men were on a training course, others were working out with free weights in makeshift outdoor gyms, or tinkering with the battalion’s military vehicles, including its own makeshift armored personnel carrier. A fighter who goes only by his nom de guerre, Malik, said he designed the APC himself, using welded steel to create attack-proof side panels on an old Russian Kamaz heavy truck.

Malik said he was a motorcycle mechanic before he joined the battalion in May, after his native Crimea was annexed by Russia. His APC creation survived an attack during a fight in Mariupol last month. “Everyone wants one now. The Right Sector tried to copy my design, but they couldn’t do it,” Malik said. “But we need more equipment here, particularly technical weapons and body armor.”

While the battalion is recognized by the Interior Ministry and provided with some arms, it is largely funded by charity from Ukrainians, wealthy businessmen, the Ukrainian diaspora and other European far-right groups.

Its ideological alignment with other far-right, social-nationalist groups has attracted volunteers from Sweden, Italy, France, Canada and Russia.

Lemko, a Canadian volunteer whose roots are Ukrainian, said he came to the Azov Battalion several weeks ago because he was concerned about the direction in which Ukraine was heading. He said he was a national socialist — though he rejected the term neo-Nazi — and was a member of far-right groups in Canada, many of which, he said, face problems with the Canadian government because of their political beliefs.

The Canadian volunteer said he was fighting not just against the pro-Russian separatists in the east but for Ukraine’s future; that is, a future that does not include joining the European Union. Joining the EU would destroy Ukraine’s national identity, just as it destroyed the national states of the rest of Europe by admitting economic refugees across borders, he said.

“Ukraine should be for Ukrainians,” Lemko said. “We don’t need the European idea of multicultural extremism here. Ukraine must protect its cultural and ethnic integrity.”

Such sentiments — which go directly opposite to what the pro-European leadership in Kiev and many of its supporters want — might bode ill for the future of the alliance between the far right and Ukraine’s current government.

Nor is Lemko alone. Sitting in a plastic lawn chair with a Kalashnikov resting on his lap, he discussed Ukraine’s future with two volunteer fighters from Sweden. They all agreed that Ukraine is a wealthy country whose economic potential was stolen by oligarchs. But recently elected President Petro Poroshenko was just another oligarch replacing the previous regime, they said.

“I’m here to support a national idea of Ukraine. I’m willing to die helping them get these bandits out,” said Sevren, 28, from Gothenburg, Sweden.

Lemko agreed. “We actually have two enemies now, the EU on one side and the Russian Federation on the other. But first, we need to deal with the separatists,” he said.

July 24, 2014 5:00AM ET
by Sabra Ayres @SabraAyres

Find this story at 24 July 2014

Neo-fascists train to fight Ukrainian rebels

© 2014 Al Jazeera America

Ukraine crisis: the neo-Nazi brigade fighting pro-Russian separatists

Kiev throws paramilitaries – some openly neo-Nazi – into the front of the battle with rebels
Phantom, 23, a fighter in the Azov battalion, outside its HQ in the Ukrainian seaside town of Urzuf

The fighters of the Azov battalion lined up in single file to say farewell to their fallen comrade. His pallid corpse lay under the sun in an open casket trimmed with blue velvet.
Some of the men placed carnations by the body, others roses. Many struck their chests with a closed fist before touching their dead friend’s arm. One fighter had an SS tattoo on his neck.
Sergiy Grek, 22, lost a leg and died from massive blood loss after a radio-controlled anti-tank mine exploded near to him.
As Ukraine’s armed forces tighten the noose around pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, the western-backed government in Kiev is throwing militia groups – some openly neo-Nazi – into the front of the battle.
The Azov battalion has the most chilling reputation of all. Last week, it came to the fore as it mounted a bold attack on the rebel redoubt of Donetsk, striking deep into the suburbs of a city under siege.
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Andriy Biletsky, in black T-shirt, commander of Ukraine’s Azov battalion (Tom Parfitt)
In Marinka, on the western outskirts, the battalion was sent forward ahead of tanks and armoured vehicles of the Ukrainian army’s 51st Mechanised Brigade. A ferocious close-quarters fight ensued as they got caught in an ambush laid by well-trained separatists, who shot from 30 yards away. The Azov irregulars replied with a squall of fire, fending off the attack and seizing a rebel checkpoint.
Mr Grek, also known as “Balagan”, died in the battle and 14 others were wounded. Speaking after the ceremony Andriy Biletsky, the battalion’s commander, told the Telegraph the operation had been a “100% success”. “The battalion is a family and every death is painful to us but these were minimal losses,” he said. “Most important of all, we established a bridgehead for the attack on Donetsk. And when that comes we will be leading the way.”
The military achievement is hard to dispute. By securing Marinka the battalion “widened the front and tightened the circle”, around the rebels’ capital, as another fighter put it. While Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, prevaricates about sending an invasion force into Ukraine, the rebels he backs are losing ground fast.
But Kiev’s use of volunteer paramilitaries to stamp out the Russian-backed Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics”, proclaimed in eastern Ukraine in March, should send a shiver down Europe’s spine. Recently formed battalions such as Donbas, Dnipro and Azov, with several thousand men under their command, are officially under the control of the interior ministry but their financing is murky, their training inadequate and their ideology often alarming.
The Azov men use the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel (Wolf’s Hook) symbol on their banner and members of the battalion are openly white supremacists, or anti-Semites.

The Azov battalion uses the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel (Wolf”s Hook) symbol on its banner (Tom Parfitt)
“Personally, I’m a Nazi,” said “Phantom”, a 23-year-old former lawyer at the ceremony wearing camouflage and holding a Kalashnikov. “I don’t hate any other nationalities but I believe each nation should have its own country.” He added: “We have one idea: to liberate our land from terrorists.”
The Telegraph was invited to see some 300 Azov fighters pay respects to Mr Grek, their first comrade to die since the battalion was formed in May. An honour guard fired volleys into the air at the battalion’s headquarters on the edge of Urzuf, a small beach resort on Ukraine’s Azov Sea coast. Two more militiamen died on Sunday fighting north of Donetsk <>. Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s president, called one of them a hero.
Each new recruit receives only a couple of weeks of training before joining the battalion. The interior ministry and private donors provide weapons.
The HQ is a seaside dacha compound dotted with pines that once belonged to the ousted president of Ukraine, Vladimir Yanukovich, when he was governor of this region. Families in swimsuits with towels and inflatable rings walk past gate-guards toting automatic rifles.
Parked inside among wooden gazebos overlooking the sea are the tools of Azov’s trade – two armoured personnel carriers, a converted truck with retractable steel shutters to cover its windows, and several Nissan pick-ups fitted with machine-gun mounts.

A converted truck with steel shutters used by the Azov battalion and known to the fighters as ‘the Lump of Iron’ (Tom Parfitt)
Mr Biletsky, a muscular man in a black T-shirt and camouflage trousers, said the battalion was a light infantry unit, ideal for the urban warfare needed to take cities like Donetsk.
The 35-year old commander began creating the battalion after he was released from pre-trial detention in February in the wake of pro-western protests in Kiev. He had denied a charge of attempted murder, claiming it was politically motivated.
A former history student and amateur boxer, Mr Biletsky is also head of an extremist Ukrainian group called the Social National Assembly. “The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival,” he wrote in a recent commentary. “A crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.”
The battalion itself is founded on right wing views, the commander said in Urzuf, and no Nazi convictions could exclude a recruit. “The most important thing is being a good fighter and a good brother so that we can trust each other,” he said.
Interestingly, many of the men in the battalion are Russians from eastern Ukraine who wear masks because they fear their relatives in rebel-controlled areas could be persecuted if their identities are revealed.
Phantom said he was such a Russian but that he was opposed to Moscow supporting “terrorists” in his homeland: “I volunteered and all I demanded was a gun and the possibility to defend my country.”
Asked about his Nazi sympathies, he said: “After the First World World War, Germany was a total mess and Hitler rebuilt it: he built houses and roads, put in telephone lines, and created jobs. I respect that.” Homosexuality is a mental illness and the scale of the Holocaust “is a big question”, he added.

Fighters of the Azov battalion say farewell to their first comrade to die in the war against Russia-backed rebels (Tom Parfitt)
Stepan, 23, another fighter, said that if leaders of the pro-Russian separatists were captured they should be executed after a military tribunal.
Such notions seem a far cry from the spirit of the “Maidan” protests that peaked in Kiev in February with the ousting of Mr Yanukovich, who had refused to sign a trade agreement with the European Union. Young liberals led the way but the uprising, which ended with the president fleeing to Russia, provoked a huge patriotic awakening that sucked in hardline groups.
Azov’s extremist profile and slick English–language pages on social media have even attracted foreign fighters. Mr Biletsky says he has men from Ireland, Italy, Greece and Scandinavia. At the base in Urzuf, Mikael Skillt, 37, a former sniper with the Swedish Army and National Guard, leads and trains a reconnaissance unit.
“When I saw the Maidan protests I recognised bravery and suffering,” he told the Telegraph. “A warrior soul was awakened. But you can only do so much, going against the enemy with sticks and stones. I had some experience and I though maybe I could help.”
Mr Skillt says he called himself a National Socialist as a young man and more recently he was active in the extreme right wing Party of the Swedes. “Now I’m fighting for the freedom of Ukraine against Putin’s imperialist front,” he said.
His unit is improving fast under his tutelage. “What they lack in experience, they make up in balls,” he said. Once he is done with Azov –where he claimed he receives a nominal GBP100 a month – Mr Skillt plans to go to Syria to fight for President Bashar al-Assad as a hired gun earning “very good money”.
Such characters under Kiev’s control play straight into the hands of Russian and separatist propaganda that portrays Ukraine’s government as a “fascist junta” manipulated by the West.
“These battalions are made up of mercenaries, not volunteers,” said Sergei Kavtaradze, a representative of the rebel authorities in Donetsk. “They are real fascists who kill and rape civilians.” Mr Kavtaradze could not cite evidence of his claim and the battalion says it has not harmed a single civilian.
Ukraine’s government is unrepentant about using the neo-Nazis. “The most important thing is their spirit and their desire to make Ukraine free and independent,” said Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Arsen Avakov, the interior minister. “A person who takes a weapon in his hands and goes to defend his motherland is a hero. And his political views are his own affair.”
Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russian and Ukrainian security affairs at New York University, fears battalions like Azov are becoming “magnets to attract violent fringe elements from across Ukraine and beyond”. “The danger is that this is part of the building up of a toxic legacy for when the war ends,” he said.
Extremist paramilitary groups who have built up “their own little Freikorps” and who are fundamentally opposed to finding consensus may demand a part in public life as victors in the conflict, Mr Galeotti added. “And what do you do when the war is over and you get veterans from Azov swaggering down your high street, and in your own lives?”

By Tom Parfitt, 11 Aug 2014

Find this story at 11 August 2014

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2014

Foreigners join far-right militias in Ukraine’s fight against rebels

Fears that nationalist Azov Battalion and others could ultimately turn on new rulers

Sitting in the shade of a broad pine tree and a pink-and-orange umbrella, two Swedes and a Canadian explain why they are ready to kill, and be killed, for the future of a free Ukraine.

They are members of the Azov Battalion, one of several units of volunteers fighting alongside Ukraine’s military and national guard against separatist rebels – allegedly backed by Moscow – who want the country’s eastern regions to join Russia.

The battalion is based by the Sea of Azov in southern Donetsk province, in a beachside complex formerly used as a holiday home by the family of Viktor Yanukovich, who was ousted as Ukraine’s president in February.
The unit was formed by the Social National Assembly, a Ukrainian nationalist group described by critics as violently racist, and its emblem includes variations on the “black sun” and “wolf’s hook” symbols long associated with Nazism.

Lurid propaganda

The ideology of Azov is a gift to the Kremlin, which has used lurid propaganda to discredit Ukraine’s revolution as a fascist coup that threatens the country’s tens of millions of Russian-speakers and, more broadly, Europe.
There are also growing fears in Ukraine that Azov and other far-right militias could ultimately turn on its new rulers, whom they see not as representatives of the revolution but of a venal oligarchy that has dominated the country for decades.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and covert support for rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk regions has fuelled radicalism in a Ukraine already reeling from the revolution, and stoked national passions in a country that feels attacked by its huge neighbour and largely abandoned by its supposed allies in the West.
Azov now plans to expand its ranks from 300 to 500 men, and a French supporter called Gaston Besson – who fought for Croatian independence in the 1990s – is forming a brigade of foreigners willing to take up arms for Ukraine’s freedom and territory.
“Volunteers have come from Russia, France, Italy, Belarus, Canada, Sweden, Slovenia – many countries,” said Oleg Odnorozhenko, a self-proclaimed ideologue of the Social National Assembly.
“We have had about two dozen foreigners so far. Lots more want to come but we select those with relevant experience,” he added, noting that a Georgian special forces trainer was working “semi-officially” with Azov.
The shouts of children on the beach drifted through Yanukovich’s old compound on a warm sea breeze, as three of Azov’s foreign contingent discussed why they were here, far from home, and ready to spill and shed blood for Ukraine.
“I was sick of the television pictures from CNN and Russia Today, so I decided to come to Ukraine and see for myself. I found a great people, who desire freedom, being used in a tug-of-war,” said Severin (28) from Gothenburg in Sweden.
“I would love to solve Ukraine’s problems with political discussions. But that’s impossible now,” he added.
“I am in favour of a free European people. And I am here to help these European people live in freedom.”
Severin calls himself a national socialist, but rejects the connotations that he says come with the term “neo-Nazi”. He wanted to serve in the Swedish army “to protect my land and people” but was rejected due to his political beliefs.

Like the two men alongside him, Mikola from Stockholm and a man from Canada who uses the nickname “Lemko”, Severin is against immigration, multiculturalism, globalisation and the rampant capitalism and liberalism he sees ruining the modern world.
The three men share a faith in the strength of ethnically pure nations, living according to their traditions.
Lemko, who hails from Canada’s large Ukrainian diaspora, said he believed in a “Ukraine for the Ukrainian people” and saw the western social model as just as great a threat to the country’s future as the antipathy of the Kremlin. “I lived in western Europe for 11 years, so I know,” said Lemko, who is in his 30s. “Ukraine has two enemies – Russia and the EU.”
Disillusioned by a western world that they regard as feckless, decadent and enslaved by high finance, the men saw an inspiring sense of purpose, patriotism and self-sacrifice in the tent camp on Kiev’s Independence Square, where the revolution played out last winter.
First combat
Severin saw his first combat action on June 13th, when the Azov Battalion fought separatist militants in the nearby port city of Mariupol.
“On the way there, I thought this would be a special day. But it was harsh, and after experiencing that no one would say war was beautiful. Mortars went off close by and two of my comrades were injured. But I was proud to serve.”
Lemko has no plans to return to Canada and Severin says he could be here for “two months or years”, while Mikola hopes to return to Sweden in the near future to continue his psychology studies.
“I’m here to deal with the separatists,” Mikola said. “After that, let’s see.”
The foreigners, like the local members of Azov, are derisive of Ukraine’s billionaire president, Petro Poroshenko, the pro-EU government in Kiev and western states that have been deeply reluctant to take a tough stand against Russia.
“A split is a definite possibility,” Lemko said of fears that the various units fighting the rebels today will one day clash over political differences, and over who exactly controls these increasingly large and well-armed paramilitary battalions.
What is clear is that Azov’s extreme nationalism does not have widespread support in Ukraine: three far-right candidates mustered barely 10 per cent of votes between them in May’s presidential election, even during a deep national crisis.
Desire to defend
Vasyl Arbuzov, an adviser to Donetsk governor Sergei Taruta, said Ukraine’s nationalists were bound far less by ideology than by a desire to defend the country.
“These aren’t the kind of guys I hang out with on the weekend but, at the moment, they are the kind of guys we need because they are willing to fight,” he said.
Inside their seaside base, Kalashnikovs on their laps, three of Azov’s foreigners said they were ready for anything.
“How much talking can you do?” said Lemko.
“Whatever it takes – there’s no turning back now.”

Daniel McLaughlin
Thu, Jul 17, 2014, 01:01

Find this story at 17 July 2014

© 2014 THE IRISH TIMES

Interview with the Radio Sweden Concerning the Azov Battalion in Ukraine

My Interview with the Radio Sweden Concerning the Azov Battalion in Ukraine

What is Azov Battalion?
This is a paramilitary/special police formation organized about 2 months ago by the Social- National Assembly (SNA) and its paramilitary wing, called Patriot of Ukraine (PU), with support of a leader of the Radical Party and the Ukrainian government. It was called a battalion, but initially it included only about 60 men. They are also called “black men” because of black uniform that they wear.
Who’s in charge of Azov battalion?
The battalion is formally subordinated to the Minister of Internal Affairs. But it is de facto subordinated to the Social National Assembly and it is commanded by leaders of the SNA/PU. The de facto commander of the battalion is Andrii Biletski, the leader of Patriot of Ukraine.
Who’s fighting for them? (ideologically uninterested citizens, far right radicals etc.)
The battalion mostly includes members of the SNA/PU, football ultras from Dynamo Kyiv, and other far right radicals. There are also far right sympathizers and some other Maidan activists.
If comprised of far right radicals mainly, how important is the ideology for this group?
The ideology is central to the battalion. Its new members give their oath in presence of the SNA/PU leaders and the SNA/PU flag, depicting Wolfsangel, a neo-Nazi symbol. During such a recent ceremony, they also recited a prayer honoring Stepan Bandera and other leaders of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, a radical nationalist and semi-fascist organization.
If many of them are so-called neo-fascists, in what way exactly?
The SNA/PU advocate a neo-Nazi ideology along with ultranationalism and racism. The same applies to the SNA/PU commanders and members of the Azov battalion and many football ultras and others who serve in this formation. Biletsky is called the “White Leader.” He and several other commanders of the battalion were imprisoned on murder or terrorism charges, but they were released after the fall of Yanukovych. The SNA/PU are one of the founders of the Right Sector.
What happened in Mariupol last week? Is there any truth behind pro-Russian allegations of pro-Ukrainian forces harming civilians in Mariupol?
The Azov battalion took control last week over Mariupol after a brief fight with a relatively small number of pro-Russian separatists. Their videos indicate that they assault civilians and torture their prisoners, but these cases are not investigated or prosecuted. The Azov battalion along with other formations also stormed the police headquarters in this city on May 9th when 9

people were killed, including the attackers, policemen, and civilians. But it is difficult to say if these civilians were killed by the battalion, since there are no investigations.
How many foreigners is estimated to fighting with the Azov battalion?
The precise numbers are difficult to know. But various reports suggest that at least several foreigners are in the battalion, including at least one from Sweden.
Do you have any information of the swede fighting for them, Mikael Skillt?

Skillt came to Ukraine during the Euromaidan protests last winter. He then joined C14, a neo- Nazi organization affiliated with Svoboda, a major far right party which plays important role in the current government. Skillt now joined the Azov battalion.

by Ivan Katchanovski
June 19, 2014

Find this story at 19 June 2014

Academia © 2014

Ukraine conflict: ‘White power’ warrior from Sweden

The appearance of far-right activists, both foreign and home-grown, among the Ukrainian volunteers fighting in east Ukraine is causing unease.

Mikael Skillt is a Swedish sniper, with seven years’ experience in the Swedish Army and the Swedish National Guard. He is currently fighting with the Azov Battalion, a pro-Ukrainian volunteer armed group in eastern Ukraine. He is known to be dangerous to the rebels: reportedly there is a bounty of nearly $7,000 (£4,090; 5,150 euros) on his head.

In a telephone conversation from an undisclosed location, Mr Skillt told me more about his duties: “I have at least three purposes in the Azov Battalion: I am a commander of a small reconnaissance unit, I am also a sniper, and sometimes I work as a special coordinator for clearing houses and going into civilian areas.”

As to his political views, Mr Skillt prefers to call himself a nationalist, but in fact his views are typical of a neo-Nazi.

“It’s all about how you see it,” he says. “I would be an idiot if I said I did not want to see survival of white people. After World War Two, the victors wrote their history. They decided that it’s always a bad thing to say I am white and I am proud.”

‘One stray liberal’
Mr Skillt believes races should not mix. He says the Jews are not white and should not mix with white people. His next project is to go fight for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad because he believes Mr Assad is standing up to “international Zionism”.

Mikael Skillt in Ukraine
Mikael Skillt in Ukraine
Not all of Mr Skillt’s views are widely shared in the Azov Battalion, which is about 300-strong in total.

He says his comrades do not discuss politics much, though some of them may be “national socialists” and may wear swastikas. On the other hand, “there is even one liberal, though I don’t know how he got there”, he adds, with a smile in his voice.

Mr Skillt says there is only a handful of foreign fighters in the Azov Battalion and they do not get paid. “They see it as a good thing, to come and fight,” he explains. However, Mr Skillt is expecting more foreigners to join soon: he says there is now a recruiter who is looking for “serious fighters” from outside Ukraine.

The key figures in the Azov Battalion are its commander, Andriy Biletsky, and his deputy, Ihor Mosiychuk.

Andriy Biletsky is also the leader of a Ukrainian organisation called the Social National Assembly. Its aims are stated in one of their online publications:

“to prepare Ukraine for further expansion and to struggle for the liberation of the entire White Race from the domination of the internationalist speculative capital”
“to punish severely sexual perversions and any interracial contacts that lead to the extinction of the white man”
This, according to experts, is a typical neo-Nazi narrative.

‘Foreign journalists’
The Azov Battalion was formed and armed by Ukraine’s interior ministry. A ministerial adviser, Anton Gerashchenko, got angry when I asked him if the battalion had any neo-Nazi links through the Social National Assembly.

Azov Battalion fighters parading with flags in Kiev, 3 June
Azov Battalion fighters parading with the Wolfsangel banner favoured by neo-Nazis
Young women say goodbye to Azov Battalion fighters in Kiev, 23 June
Young women saying goodbye to Azov Battalion fighters in Kiev last month
Azov fighters guarding suspected rebels in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, 13 June
Azov fighters guarding suspected rebels in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, last month
“The Social National Assembly is not a neo-Nazi organisation,” he said.

“It is a party of Ukrainian patriots who are giving their lives while the rich Europeans are only talking about supporting Ukraine. When, may I ask, will English people come here and help us fight terrorists sent by Russia’s President [Vladimir] Putin, instead of lecturing us on our moral values or people’s political affiliations?”

Mr Gerashchenko was adamant, however, that there were no foreign citizens fighting in the Azov Battalion.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

Neo-Nazis are as dangerous as pro-Russia extremists in Eastern Ukraine”

Anton Shekhovtsov
Expert on far right in Europe
“There are foreign journalists, from Sweden, Spain and Italy, who have come to report on the heroic achievements of the fighters in their struggle against terrorism,” he said.

He insisted he had never heard of Mikael Skillt, the Swedish sniper.

Ukraine is a democratic state, which held a democratic election in May, where the far right and nationalist parties got hardly any votes. These views are not popular with the electorate.

But Anton Shekhovtsov, a prominent expert on far-right and neo-Nazi movements in Europe, believes the Ukrainian government should be clear about whom it is arming to fight for Ukraine’s democratic cause.

“It is a pressing concern, especially with regards to the anti-terrorist operation,” he said. “In my view, the war against pro-Russia separatists is the war for democratic values. Neo-Nazis are as dangerous as pro-Russia extremists in eastern Ukraine.”

6 July 2014
By Dina Newman

Find this story at 6 July 2014

Swedish neo-nazi Mikael Skillt is fighting in the Azov Battalion against separatist 

BBC © 2014

Why CIA Director Brennan Visited Kiev: In Ukraine The Covert War Has Begun

Ukraine is on the brink of civil war, Vladimir Putin has said, and he should know because the country is already in the midst of a covert intelligence war. Over the weekend, CIA director John Brennan travelled to Kiev, nobody knows exactly why, but some speculate that he intends to open US intelligence resources to Ukrainian leaders about real-time Russian military maneuvers. The US has, thus far, refrained from sharing such knowledge because Moscow is believed to have penetrated much of Ukraine’s communications systems – and Washington isn’t about to hand over its surveillance secrets to the Russians.

If you have any doubts that the battle is raging on the ‘covert ops’ front just consider today’s events in Pcholkino where Ukrainian soldiers from the 25th Airborn Division handed over their weapons and APC’s to pro-Russian militiamen and pretty much surrendered. The Ukrainian commander was quoted as saying “they’ve captured us and are using dirty tricks”. This is the kind of morale-busting incident that can spread quickly. It doesn’t happen spontaneously and it often begins with mixed messages, literally – messages purporting to come from the chain of command but actually originate from the enemy’s dirty tricks department.

So what kind of conversations did Brennan have during his visit? There’s no way of knowing for sure of course. But, according to my sources, and based on my experience of reporting on the Russian invasion of Georgia, the US-Ukraine information exchange would go a lot further than simply tracking numbers and motions of Russian tanks and soldiers. The operative term here is ‘non-lethal’ help – that remains Washington’s official position. But in today’s digital and virtual battlefield, the game can be over before the first shot gets fired. And if Moscow’s mastery over the digital domain can be countered, Putin might think twice about risking the expensive hardware that he has invested billions in upgrading since the Georgian war.

In that conflict, the US refused to sell air-cover missiles (Manpads) to Tbilisi while the Israelis deactivated the ones they’d sold after Putin threatened them with retaliation by selling Hezbollah comparable weapons. So Georgia was left with the Ukraine-made missiles it had purchased, which proved effective but not numerous enough. The Russians have undoubtedly rectified that vulnerability, especially as they and Ukraine share the same weapons systems. In effect, Russian warplanes have likely found ways to jam targeting vectors or to create illusory electronic clusters to decoy the manpads.

So Brennan might have shared data on how to get past the jamming. The same kind of forensic struggle applies to aerial combat, a rare thing these days but one that may become decisive if ground-based missiles prove ineffectual. Since the Russians can hack into any kind of long-distance chatter about such details between the US and Kiev, Brennan probably had to physically hand them over to his Ukrainian interlocutors. That is, to fully vetted individuals, because as we’ve seen repeatedly during the current crisis, not least in the Maidan, Russian spies masquerading as Ukrainian patriots are not uncommon. Ukraine’s politicians and military personnel (though not nearly as much) have a long history of divided loyalties.

Digital conflict, by its very nature, is a shadow conflict and therefore fundamentally psychological. If you lose touch with central command or you suspect the enemy is messing with your communications, you become isolated. You fire at your own side, shoot down your warplanes. In fact, you’re likely to stop shooting altogether, out of confusion and paralysis, as happened in some military bases in Georgia. And now is happening in Ukraine. You don’t know if the coded messages telling you to refrain from firing are a feint or genuine. In a modern war between two sides with hardware i.e. not a guerilla war, line-of-sight engagements occur less often than you’d think. Tanks and planes and artillery get knocked out from afar. Digital certainty is everything. The absence of it spells disaster.

So Brennan needed to reassure his hosts above all on that matter. Or perhaps vice-versa. They might need to reassure the US that Ukraine’s military position is not hopeless. If the US assessed the Ukrainian armed forces as too electronically compromised to use heavy weapons systems, then Washington might discourage a confrontation, might refuse to help in crucial ways, as happened in Georgia. Or Washington might suggest alternate methodologies, low-tech or asymmetrical alternatives, to create enough confusion or humiliation as to tarnish Putin’s popularity. The Russian side has clearly initiated such tactics already. Brennan will try to shore up the security of Ukraine’s military signals systems. He will suggest ways to retaliate in kind by hacking into the pro-Moscow militia’s comms.

To get an idea of how crucial is this stage of the confrontation, just witness how images of Ukrainian armored vehicles now driven by militias have gone global. Moscow will trumpet the news, claiming that even Ukrainian soldiers don’t want to fight, that the US is stoking artificial hatred. The government in Kiev will find itself snookered – either to admit that its signals channels are hopelessly compromised and therefore cannot mount a convincing military operation or that such incidents are spontaneous but limited. A tough position either way. One thing is certain, the war has begun.

Melik KaylanMelik Kaylan
WASHINGTON 4/16/2014 @ 4:30PM 9,980 views

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The foreigners who flocked to join the fight – in Ukraine

Military leaders in Ukraine charged Russia was deepening its foray into Ukrainian territory and sending new troops to the Crimean border.
Aug. 27, 2014 Bystanders watch a fire consuming a school in downtown Donetsk after being hit by shelling. Several civilians died when their car was completely burned after being hit by shell fragments in central Donetsk, the rebel-held city in eastern Ukraine. Francisco Leong/AFP/Getty Images
View Photo Gallery —Refugees flee the violence, some seeking shelter in Russia, while Ukraine says its army has penetrated the rebel stronghold of Luhansk in what could prove to be a breakthrough development in the months-long conflict.

Foreign fighters have become central to the narrative of the Islamic State and its fighting in Syria and Iraq: Just this week the distinct British accent of the man believed to have called American journalist James Foley was a grim reminder that thousands of foreigners have traveled to the Middle East to join the fight. It’s a big concern for many governments.

But foreigners have also flocked to other world conflicts, notably Ukraine.

This point was brought home this week, with the death of an American fighting in Ukraine. Mark Gregory Paslawsky, a 55-year-old born in New York, is believed to be the only U.S. citizen who has fought in Ukraine until he died in fighting on Aug. 19. His death was announced in a Facebook post by Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko.

Paslawsky, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, grew up in a Ukrainian-American family. He had moved to Ukraine decades ago, but his decision to fight in the Ukrainian Army’s volunteer Donbas Battalion this year earned him the fascination of the global media. Vice Media produced a documentary about him just a few weeks ago, which you can watch below:

Paslawsky was far from the only fighter with a foreign nationality in Ukraine: There seem to have been many from Russia and South Ossetia among the separatist ranks. But there are also reports of more unexpected guests.

Last month the BBC profiled Mikael Skillt, a Swedish military veteran who had joined the pro-Ukrainian volunteer force Azov Battalion. While Paslawsky’s decision to fight seems to have been motivated by an understandable Ukrainian nationalism, Skillt’s decision seemed to be motivated by something more extremist, even neo-Nazi.

“After World War II, the victors wrote their history,” Skillt told the BBC. “They decided that it’s always a bad thing to say I am white and I am proud.”

The force Skillt reportedly fights for, the Azov Battalion, has become a source of controversy for its use of neo-Nazi symbols and rhetoric. The commander of the group has told reporters that he has fighters from Ireland, Italy, Greece and Scandinavia, with as many as two dozen foreigners fighting for it by mid-summer. There were also reports that an exclusively Polish militia was fighting in Ukraine, though the Polish government later released a statement saying that the information it has “does not corroborate such allegations.”

The numbers may be small when compared to those who have gone to the Middle East, where there are estimated to be as many as 12,000 foreign fighters, but they are a reminder that foreign fighters are not a uniquely Islamist issue.

You certainly have to wonder if attracting fringe far right groups, even in small numbers, is a positive for Ukraine. The BBC says Interior Ministry adviser Herashchenko became angry when asked about the Azov Battalion’s alleged extremist links and denied foreigners were fighting with the group. It also plays into the early Kremlin narrative that the Euromaidan protests were influenced by outside forces – months ago, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused a private firm of sending American mercenaries to fight separatists in Ukraine, though those claims were deemed “rubbish” by the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt.

Pro-Russian separatist forces have some unlikely foreign allies too, however. Earlier this month Reuters reported that a number of Spanish “civil war nostalgics” were fighting alongside pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. Two Spanish men, Rafael Muñoz Perez and Ángel, published a video on YouTube explaining their motivation for heading to Ukraine.

“We are here to defend civil people,” Muñoz Perez explains.

By Adam Taylor August 22

Find this story at 22 august 2014

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Israeli militia commander fights to protect Kiev

Delta, a Ukrainian-born former IDF soldier, heads a force of 40 men and women, most of whom are not Jewish, against gov’t forces

Ukraine appeals to UNSC over Russian invasionKerry warns Russia against intervention in UkraineYanukovych blames fascists, West for Ukraine chaosUkraine Reform shul defaced by anti-Semitic graffitiSwitzerland, Austria freeze Yanukovych’s assetsUnidentified armed men patrol Crimea airport

He calls his troops “the Blue Helmets of Maidan,” but brown is the color of the headgear worn by Delta — the nom de guerre of the commander of a Jewish-led militia force that participated in the Ukrainian revolution. Under his helmet, he also wears a kippah.

Delta, a Ukraine-born former soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, spoke to JTA Thursday on condition of anonymity. He explained how he came to use combat skills he acquired in the Shu’alei Shimshon reconnaissance battalion of the Givati infantry brigade to rise through the ranks of Kiev’s street fighters. He has headed a force of 40 men and women — including several fellow IDF veterans — in violent clashes with government forces.

Several Ukrainian Jews, including Rabbi Moshe Azman, one of the country’s claimants to the title of chief rabbi, confirmed Delta’s identity and role in the still-unfinished revolution.

The “Blue Helmets” nickname, a reference to the UN peacekeeping force, stuck after Delta’s unit last month prevented a mob from torching a building occupied by Ukrainian police, he said. “There were dozens of officers inside, surrounded by 1,200 demonstrators who wanted to burn them alive,” he recalled. “We intervened and negotiated their safe passage.”

The problem, he said, was that the officers would not leave without their guns, citing orders. Delta told JTA his unit reasoned with the mob to allow the officers to leave with their guns. “It would have been a massacre, and that was not an option,” he said.

The Blue Helmets comprise 35 men and women who are not Jewish, and who are led by five ex-IDF soldiers, says Delta, an Orthodox Jew in his late 30s who regularly prays at Azman’s Brodsky Synagogue. He declined to speak about his private life.

Delta, who immigrated to Israel in the 1990s, moved back to Ukraine several years ago and has worked as a businessman. He says he joined the protest movement as a volunteer on Nov. 30, after witnessing violence by government forces against student protesters.

“I saw unarmed civilians with no military background being ground by a well-oiled military machine, and it made my blood boil,” Delta told JTA in Hebrew laced with military jargon. “I joined them then and there, and I started fighting back the way I learned how, through urban warfare maneuvers. People followed, and I found myself heading a platoon of young men. Kids, really.”

Anti-government protesters take a break on a barricade at Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 (photo credit: AP/ Marko Drobnjakovic)
Anti-government protesters take a break on a barricade at Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 (photo credit: AP/ Marko Drobnjakovic)

The other ex-IDF infantrymen joined the Blue Helmets later after hearing it was led by a fellow vet, Delta said.

As platoon leader, Delta says he takes orders from activists connected to Svoboda, an ultra-nationalist party that has been frequently accused of anti-Semitism and whose members have been said to have had key positions in organizing the opposition protests.

“I don’t belong [to Svoboda], but I take orders from their team. They know I’m Israeli, Jewish and an ex-IDF soldier. They call me ‘brother,’” he said. “What they’re saying about Svoboda is exaggerated, I know this for a fact. I don’t like them because they’re inconsistent, not because of [any] anti-Semitism issue.”

The commanding position of Svoboda in the revolution is no secret, according to Ariel Cohen, a senior research fellow at the Washington DC-based Heritage Foundation think tank.

“The driving force among the so-called white sector in the Maidan are the nationalists, who went against the SWAT teams and snipers who were shooting at them,” Cohen told JTA.

Still, many Jews supported the revolution and actively participated in it.

Earlier this week, an interim government was announced ahead of election scheduled for May, including ministers from several minority groups.

Volodymyr Groysman, a former mayor of the city of Vinnytsia and the newly appointed deputy prime minister for regional policy, is a Jew, Rabbi Azman said.

“There are no signs for concern yet,” said Cohen, “but the West needs to make it clear to Ukraine that how it is seen depends on how minorities are treated.”

On Wednesday, Russian State Duma Chairman Sergey Naryshkin said Moscow was concerned about anti-Semitic declarations by radical groups in Ukraine.

But Delta says the Kremlin is using the anti-Semitism card falsely to delegitimize the Ukrainian revolution, which is distancing Ukraine from Russia’s sphere of influence.

“It’s bullshit. I never saw any expression of anti-Semitism during the protests, and the claims to the contrary were part of the reason I joined the movement. We’re trying to show that Jews care,” he said.

Anti-government protesters lob stones during clashes with riot police outside Ukraine’s parliament in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Efrem Lukatsky)
Anti-government protesters lob stones during clashes with riot police outside Ukraine’s parliament in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Efrem Lukatsky)

Still, Delta’s reasons for not revealing his name betray his sense of feeling like an outsider. “If I were Ukrainian, I would have been a hero. But for me it’s better to not reveal my name if I want to keep living here in peace and quiet,” he said.

Fellow Jews have criticized him for working with Svoboda. “Some asked me if instead of ‘Shalom’ they should now greet me with a ‘Sieg heil.’ I simply find it laughable,” he said. But he does have frustrations related to being an outsider. “Sometimes I tell myself, ‘What are you doing? This is not your army. This isn’t even your country.’”

He recalls feeling this way during one of the fiercest battles he experienced, which took place last week at Institutskaya Street and left 12 protesters dead. “The snipers began firing rubber bullets at us. I fired back from my rubber-bullet rifle,” Delta said.

“Then they opened live rounds, and my friend caught a bullet in his leg. They shot at us like at a firing range. I wasn’t ready for a last stand. I carried my friend and ordered my troops to fall back. They’re scared kids. I gave them some cash for phone calls and told them to take off their uniform and run away until further instructions. I didn’t want to see anyone else die that day.”

Currently, the Blue Helmets are carrying out police work that include patrols and preventing looting and vandalism in a city of 3 million struggling to climb out of the chaos that engulfed it for the past three months.

But Delta has another, more ambitious, project: He and Azman are organizing the airborne evacuation of seriously wounded protesters — none of them Jewish — for critical operations in Israel. One of the patients, a 19-year-old woman, was wounded at Institutskaya by a bullet that penetrated her eye and is lodged inside her brain, according to Delta. Azman says he hopes the plane of 17 patients will take off next week, with funding from private donors and with help from Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel.

“The doctor told me that another millimeter to either direction and she would be dead,” Delta said. “And I told him it was the work of Hakadosh Baruch Hu.”

BY CNAAN LIPHSHIZ February 28, 2014, 9:37 pm 50

Find this story at 28 February 2014

© 2014 THE TIMES OF ISRAEL

400 US mercenaries ‘deployed on ground’ in Ukraine military

About 400 elite mercenaries from the notorious US private security firm Academi (formerly Blackwater) are taking part in the Ukrainian military operation against anti-government protesters in southeastern regions of the country, German media reports.

The Bild am Sonntag newspaper, citing a source in intelligence circles, wrote Sunday that Academi employees are involved in the Kiev military crackdown on pro-autonomy activists in near the town of Slavyansk, in the Donetsk region.

On April 29, German Intelligence Service (BND) informed Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government about the mercenaries’ participation in the operation, the paper said, RIA Novosti reported. It is not clear who commands the private military contractors and pays for their services, however.

In March, media reports appeared suggesting that the coup-imposed government in Kiev could have employed up to 300 mercenaries.That was before the new government launched a military operation against anti-Maidan activists, or “terrorists” as Kiev put it, in southeast Ukraine.

At the time, the Russian Foreign Ministry said then that reports claiming Kiev was planning to involve “involve staff from foreign military companies to ‘ensure the rule of law,’” could suggest that it wanted “to suppress civil protests and dissatisfaction.”

In particular, Greystone Limited, which is currently registered in Barbados and is a part of Academi Corporation, is a candidate for such a gendarme role. It is a similar and probably an affiliated structure of the Blackwater private army, whose staff have been accused of cruel and systematic violations of human rights in various trouble spots on many occasions.

“Among the candidates for the role of gendarme is the Barbados-registered company Greystone Limited, which is integrated with the Academi corporation,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “It is an analogue, and, probably and affiliated body of the Blackwater private army, whose employees have repeatedly been accused of committing grievous and systematic human rights abuses in different troubled regions.”

Allegations increased further after unverified videos appeared on YouTube of unidentified armed men in the streets of Donetsk, the capital of the country’s industrial and coalmining region. In those videos, onlookers can be heard shouting “Mercenaries!”“Blackwater!,” and “Who are you going to shoot at?”

(FILES) A picture taken on July 5, 2005 shows contractors of the US private security firm Blackwater securing the site of a roadside bomb attack near the Iranian embassy in central Baghdad. (AFP Photo / Ahmad Al-Rubaye)(FILES) A picture taken on July 5, 2005 shows contractors of the US private security firm Blackwater securing the site of a roadside bomb attack near the Iranian embassy in central Baghdad. (AFP Photo / Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

Academi denied its involvement in Ukraine, claiming on its website that “rumors” were posted by “some irresponsible bloggers and online reporters.”

“Such unfounded statements combined with the lack of factual reporting to support them and the lack of context about the company, are nothing more than sensationalistic efforts to create hysteria and headlines in times of genuine crisis,” the US firm stated.

The American security company Blackwater gained worldwide notoriety for the substantial role it played in the Iraq war as a contractor for the US government. In recent years it has changed its name twice – in 2009 it was renamed Xe Services and in 2011 it got its current name, Academi.

The firm became infamous for the alleged September 16, 2007 killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad. The attack, which saw 20 others wounded, was allegedly without justification and in violation of deadly-force rules that pertained to American security contractors in Iraq at the time. Between 2005 and September 2007, Blackwater security guards were involved in at least 195 shooting incidents in Iraq and fired first in 163 of those cases, a Congressional report said at the time.

Published time: May 11, 2014 15:04
Edited time: May 12, 2014 21:59 Get short URL

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Einsatz gegen Separatisten Ukrainische Armee bekommt offenbar Unterstützung von US-Söldnern

400 US-Söldner sollen in der Ostukraine gegen die Separatisten kämpfen. Das berichtet “Bild am Sonntag” und beruft sich dabei auf Geheimdienstinformationen. Die Kämpfer kommen demnach vom Militärdienstleister Academi, früher bekannt als Blackwater.

Berlin – Es war ein eindeutig formuliertes Dementi. “Unverantwortliche Blogger und ein Onlinereporter” hätten “Gerüchte” verbreitet, wonach Angestellte der Firma Academi in der Ukraine im Einsatz seien. Das sei falsch und nichts mehr als ein “sensationalistischer Versuch, eine Hysterie zu kreieren”. So äußerte sich der US-Militärdienstleister, ehemals unter dem Namen Blackwater zu unrühmlicher Bekanntheit gelangt, am 17. März auf seiner Webseite.

Die staatliche russische Nachrichtenagentur “Ria Novosti” legte freilich am 7. April nach: Blackwater-Kämpfer agierten in der Ostukraine – und zwar in der Uniform der ukrainischen Sonderpolizei “Sokol”. Eine unabhängige Bestätigung dafür gab es nicht.

Ein Zeitungsbericht legt nun nahe, dass an der Sache womöglich doch etwas dran sein könnte: Laut “Bild am Sonntag” werden die ukrainischen Sicherheitskräfte von 400 Academi-Elitesoldaten unterstützt. Sie sollen Einsätze gegen prorussische Rebellen rund um die ostukrainische Stadt Slowjansk geführt haben. Demnach setzte der Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) die Bundesregierung am 29. April darüber in Kenntnis. Wer die Söldner beauftragt habe, sei noch unklar.

Die Informationen sollen vom US-Geheimdienst stammen und seien während der sogenannten Nachrichtendienstlichen Lage, einer regelmäßigen Besprechung unter Leitung von Kanzleramtschef Peter Altmaier (CDU), vorgetragen worden. An dem Treffen hätten auch die Präsidenten der Nachrichtendienste und des Bundeskriminalamts, der Geheimdienstkoordinator des Kanzleramts und hochrangige Ministeriumsbeamte teilgenommen.

Angeblich Luftraum gezielt verletzt

Die Zeitung berichtet aus der Runde weiterhin, dass die US-Geheimdienstler auch über Informationen verfügten, wonach russische Flugzeuge absichtlich den Luftraum der Ukraine verletzt hätten. Die Regierung in Moskau hatte das dementiert. Der BND habe aber Informationen der Amerikaner, dass Moskaus Militärpiloten den Einsatzbefehl bekommen hätten, gezielt in den ukrainischen Luftraum einzudringen.

Eine Bestätigung für den Bericht gibt es bisher nicht. Der BND habe eine Stellungnahme abgelehnt, so “Bild am Sonntag”. Private Sicherheitsfirmen wie Academi gerieten insbesondere während des Irak-Kriegs in die Kritik. In den USA stehen mehrere ehemalige Blackwater-Angestellte im Zusammenhang mit der Tötung von irakischen Zivilisten vor Gericht. Academi hat sich mit einer Millionenzahlung von Ermittlungen in den USA freigekauft.
11. Mai 2014, 08:10 Uhr

11. Mai 2014, 08:10 Uhr

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PRIVATE US-SICHERHEITSFIRMA ACADEMI Wer steckt hinter der Söldnertruppe?

Ukrainer, Russen oder doch auch US-Amerikaner? Wer kämpft wirklich auf welcher Seite im ukrainischen Bürgerkrieg?
Am Wochenende sorgte ein Bericht der „BILD am SONNTAG“ für Aufregung, wonach die ukrainischen Sicherheitskräfte von 400 Söldnern der US-Firma Academi unterstützt würden. Der Bundesnachrichtendienst habe die Bundesregierung am 29. April darüber in Kenntnis gesetzt. Die Informationen sollen vom US-Geheimdienst stammen.
Das Dementi kam prompt:
Academi habe nirgendwo in der Ukraine Personal präsent oder im Einsatz, sagte Vizeunternehmenschefin Suzanne Kelly „Zeit Online“. Es sei auch nicht geplant, in der Ukraine präsent zu sein oder einen Einsatz zu starten.

Doch wer steckt wirklich hinter Academi?
Das Unternehmen bezeichnet sich selbst als Anbieter von Sicherheitsdienstleistungen. Es verweist auf seine Erfahrung in den gefährlichsten Regionen der Welt, ein erstklassiges, weltweites Netzwerk von Sicherheitsexperten und seine vertrauensvolle Partnerschaft mit staatlichen und privaten Kunden.
Academi ist aus der 1997 gegründeten privaten US-Sicherheitsfirma Blackwater hervorgegangen.
Das Unternehmen erlangte traurige Berühmtheit, als im Irak-Krieg Blackwater-Mitarbeiter, die dort im Auftrag des Pentagon tätig waren, am 16. September 2007 im Westen von Bagdad 17 irakische Zivilisten erschossen. Zudem sollen Söldner an Folter-Verhören in Geheimgefängnissen der CIA beteiligt gewesen sein.
Blackwater wurde 2009 in Xe Services umbenannt, was laut Beobachtern dabei helfen sollte, die Makel der Vergangenheit zu loszuwerden. 2010 kaufte eine private Investorengruppe die Firma. Der Gründer Erik Prince, ein früherer Marinesoldat und Millionenerbe, verließ das Unternehmen.
VergrößernDer frühere Blackwater-Chef Erik Prince, Archivbild von 2007
Der frühere Blackwater-Chef Erik Prince, Archivbild von 2007
Foto: Reuters
2011 erfolgte die erneute Umbenennung in Academi. Geleitet wird die Firma nun vom Ex-Brigadegeneral der US Army, Craig Nixon. Im Aufsichtsrat sitzt auch der ehemalige Justizminister unter Präsident George W. Bush, John Ashcroft.
Das Management betont, rein gar nichts mehr mit Blackwater und Prince zu tun zu haben. Es sei „unglaublich unverantwortlich“, den Eindruck zu erwecken, Academi und Blackwater seien ein und dasselbe, schimpfte Vizechefin Kelly.
Doch in seiner auf der Webseite des Unternehmens abrufbaren Image-Broschüre verweist Academi auf seine langjährige, über ein Jahrzehnt zurückreichende Erfolgsgeschichte.
VergrößernMitarbeiter der privaten US-Sicherheitsfirma Blackwater schützen Paul Bremer, den zivilen US-Verwalter im Irak (Mitte), in Bagdad, Irak. Archivbild vom 8. September 2003
Mitarbeiter der privaten US-Sicherheitsfirma Blackwater schützen Paul Bremer, den zivilen US-Verwalter im Irak (Mitte), in Bagdad, Irak. Archivbild vom 8. September 2003
Foto: dpa
Das Unternehmen erhält weiterhin lukrative Aufträge der US-Regierung, unter anderem als Betreiber von Militäranlagen in Afghanistan.
Die Firma gibt an, pro Jahr rund 20 000 Mitarbeiter zu Aufträgen zu entsenden. Kunden seien Regierungen und private Einrichtungen. Nach brasilianischen Medienberichten schulte Academi zuletzt die Polizei des Landes für den Umgang mit terroristischen Bedrohungen bei der anstehenden Fußball-Weltmeisterschaft.
Ob tatsächlich Academi-Söldner in der Ukraine im Einsatz sind, lässt sich schwer nachprüfen. Auf den bereits im März bei Youtube hochgeladenen Videos, die als „Beweis“ angeführt werden, sind lediglich maskierte, schwer bewaffnete Männer zu sehen. Aus einer wütenden Menge sind „Blackwater“-Rufe zu hören.

Seit dem Erscheinen der Videos wird immer wieder spekuliert, dass Söldner die pro-westliche ukrainische Regierung unterstützen.
Die russische Nachrichtenagentur Interfax verbreitete die Äußerungen eines russischen Diplomaten in Kiew, wonach 300 Söldner bereits in der ukrainischen Hauptstadt eingetroffen seien. Die meisten seien aus den USA und zuvor im Irak und in Afghanistan im Einsatz gewesen. Dabei wird auch immer wieder die private US-Sicherheitsfirma Greystone genannt – früher ebenfalls ein Tochterunternehmen von Blackwater.
Die britische „Daily Mail“ fragte den Sicherheits-Experten Dr. Nafeez Amad vom unabhängigen Londoner Institut für Politikforschung und -entwicklung (IPRD), ob es sich bei den im Video gezeigten Soldaten um US-Söldner handeln könnte.
Seine Antwort: „Schwer zu sagen. Es ist sicherlich im Bereich des Möglichen.“ Die Uniformen der Männer glichen denen von US-Söldnern. Die Männer sähen auch nicht wie russische Söldner aus.
Andererseits sei die Frage, warum sich die Männer in dem Video so öffentlich zur Schau stellen, wird Dr. Amad weiter zitiert.
„Natürlich ist auch möglich, dass das alles russische Propaganda ist.“

14.05.2014 – 22:33 Uhr

Find this story at 14 Mai 2014

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