This investigation traces the recent history and possible causes of contact between what seems to be two antagonistic and contradictory forces: Ukrainian ultra-nationalist groups and Russian or pro-Kremlin actors, associations and institutions. […] Despite an apparently fundamental impossibility of cooperation, several contacts have taken place between certain radical right-wing Ukrainian groups and Russian or non-Russian pro-Kremlin actors. Some relations date back to the collapse of the USSR in 1991.
We illustrate different forms, motivations and spectra of paradoxical interaction of these supposedly opposing poles in Eastern European geopolitics. We not only list the evidence of their cooperation, but also try to explain why and how such seemingly unlikely collaboration became possible and, in some cases, continued after the Ukrainian Revolution and the Russian-Ukrainian War, in 2014.
[…] Our aim is to present when and how Ukrainian far-right groups (or certain circles posing as far-right members) have collaborated with actors who appear either as confusing partners or as allies fundamentally foreigners of the Russophobic Ukrainian ultra-nationalists. […]
Key Actors and Movements
Ukrainian National Assembly – Ukrainian National Self-Defense (UNA-UNSO)
The political party Ukrainian National Assembly – Ukrainian National Self-Defense, known by its Ukrainian acronym UNA-UNSO, is the oldest significant ultra-nationalist grouping in post-Soviet Ukraine.  The UNA-UNSO has its origins in the early 1990s when it emerged from two minor groups with pretentious names, the Ukrainian Interparty Assembly (UMA) and the Ukrainian National Union (UNS).  These groups had become known for helping to protect the Lithuanian Parliament when Soviet army units stormed the Vilnius TV Tower in 1991.  Additionally, members of the ranks of the ‘UNS were involved in the fight against the attempted putsch in Moscow in August 1991.  The emerging Ukrains’ka natsional’na samooborona(Ukrainian National Self-Defense or UNSO) resisted pro-Soviet forces in Kiev, protecting meetings of the Ukrainian independence movement. […]
Later in the 1990s, the UNSO participated in foreign armed clashes first in the Transnistrian Separation War,  then in the Abkhaz conflict, and later in the First Chechen War (more on this below).  Some UNSO paramilitary units also took part in the Bosnian conflict alongside local Croats. 
During the Transdniestrian conflict of the early 1990s, the UNSO’s engagement abroad was aimed at protecting the Ukrainian community on the left bank of Moldova.  In doing so, two UNSO paramilitary units ended up fighting alongside pro-Russian separatists against the Moldovan army. Thus, whether intentionally or not, the Ukrainian ultra-nationalists functioned as situational allies of the Moscow-linked forces in Transnistria and even indirectly collaborated with the 14th Army of the USSR (later part of the Armed Forces of the Federation of Russia).  This episode was one of the first examples of indirect Ukrainian ultra-nationalist cooperation with Russian neo-imperialist action.
UNA-UNSO’s position in the civil war in Moldova was even stranger given its simultaneous actions during the armed conflict in Abkhazia in Georgia. There, in the same period, UNA-UNSO supported Tbilisi fighting on the Georgian side against pro-Russian Abkhazian separatists. For example, on July 15 , 1993, an irregular UNSO armed group called “Argo” joined the battle against Russian troops near the village of Starushkino. This may be the first armed clash on a battlefield between Ukrainian paramilitaries and Russian regular forces in the post-Soviet period. Strangely, at the same time other UNSO activists were in Transnistria officially supporting the Ukrainian ethnic community against the Moldovan government and thus indirectly collaborating with the pro-Russian separatists in Moldova. 
The UNSO also participated in the First Chechen War of 1994-1996 alongside anti-Moscow separatists, sending a so-called “delegation for diplomatic protection” to Chechnya.  The first “delegation” was led by one of the movement’s founders, then Ukrainian deputy Yuriy Tym.  It should be noted here that the future leader of UNA-UNSO, founder of the micro-party Bratstvo and future temporary collaborator of the Russian imperial nationalists, Dmytro Korchyns’kyy (b. 1964), also participated in this so -called “delegation”. 
All-Ukrainian Union “ Svoboda ” (Freedom)
The party that later became Svoboda was established on October 13, 1991 in L’viv as the Social-National Party of Ukraine (SNPU).[…] In 2004, the SNPU was renamed All-Ukrainian Union “ Svoboda ” (Freedom) and elected Oleh Tiahnybok as its new president. The party has generally performed poorly in national parliamentary elections .[…]
Svoboda began to gain national prominence shortly after pro-Russian politician Viktor Yanukovych (b. 1950) won the presidential elections in 2010 . Party of Regions and in favor of Ukrainian language and culture.  In 2012, Svoboda was a leading organizer of protests against the pro-Russian Kivalov-Kolesnichenko Law: a new language bill associated with pro-Russian politicians Serhiy Kivalov (b. 1954) and Vadym Kolesnichenko (b. in 1958) which allowed – until 2018 – the Russian language to be used as a second state language in certain regions.  […]
As a new MP, Tiahnybok became one of the leaders of the Euromaidan protests in 2013-2014. And Svoboda had a few ministers in the first post-Euromaidan government at the end of February 2014.  […]
The Azov Movement and the National Corps
After the Euromaidan revolution, the Azov movement , which grew out of a battalion of volunteers first stationed in the Sea of Azov in 2014, emerged as a new multidimensional political phenomenon that is gaining attention in the post- revolutionary in Ukraine. Since the summer of 2014, the Azovmovement has emerged as a new prominent right-wing force in Ukraine, even rivaling the Svobodaparty .  It is estimated that the various organizations, departments, fronts, branches and arms of the Azov movement are capable of mobilizing 20,000 members throughout Ukraine. 
The Azov movement has its roots in a little-known and initially Russian-speaking group in Kharkiv called “ Patriots of Ukraine ”.  This initially tiny circle grew out of the SNPU paramilitary wing of the same name which had been disbanded in 2004. 
The young leader of the group, Andriy Bilets’kyy (b. 1979), along with some other members of the “Patriot of Ukraine” were imprisoned in 2011-2012 for various reasons, including allegations of theft, beatings, of terrorism and aggression. In part, these accusations were open and referred to political rather than criminal episodes. Locked-in ultra-nationalists were released after the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych in early 2014.  […]
By the fall of 2014, the battalion had become a well-known professional military unit and was transformed into a fully regular “Azov” regiment of the National Guard under the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine.  It has since been considered one of the most capable armed formations in Ukraine. The regiment’s commanders say it now operates to NATO standards.  In the winter of 2015, veterans and volunteers of the regiment created the Civilian Corps of Azov and thus began to expand their political grouping into a multifaceted social movement. In 2016, Bilets’kyy formed the National Corps political party, attracting members of the Azov Civil Corps and veterans of the Azov Battalion and Regiment.  […]
Although initially estranged from other Ukrainian far-right groups, Azov since 2016 has begun to cooperate with other ultra-nationalists in Ukraine. In the spring of 2019, the National Corps joined an electoral alliance of several Ukrainian far-right parties under the organizational umbrella of Svobodafor the July 2019 snap parliamentary elections. However, even this unified list of the Ukrainian far-right does not obtained only 2.15% in the proportional part of the elections and therefore did not cross the barrier of 5% to enter parliament. The ultra-nationalist coalition also failed to win any seats in the majority part of the election and was therefore unable to secure an official mandate in Ukraine. […]
Although it has officially allied itself with Svoboda and others since 2016, the Azov movement remains an ideologically and institutionally specific phenomenon within Ukraine’s ultra-nationalist political spectrum and contains branches that profess views atypical to the traditional Ukrainian far right.  For example, some Azov members do not espouse a Christian-Orthodox outlook, but an interest in paganism.  […]
There are rumors that the Azov movement was linked to Ukrainian Interior Minister 2014-2021 Arsen Avakov (b. 1964). And there is evidence of links between the Azov-dominated Ukrainian Veterans Movement and the Ministry of Veterans Affairs.  Nonetheless, since 2014 the public profile of the movement has been that of a resolute opposition force engaged in clashes with police and political mobilization against the government. 
The Azov Battalion/Regiment has been particularly active in recruiting foreigners to fight in eastern Ukraine.  Of all the foreign fighters in Donbass, there may have been as many as 3,000 Russian citizens who fought in the Russian-Ukrainian war on the side of the Ukrainian state.  […]
Pravy Sektor (Right Sector)
The Pravyy sektor (PS) was established in late 2013 during the initial Euromaidan protests as an informal umbrella organization for several minor far-right political and paramilitary groups. […]
With the start of the war in eastern Ukraine, the Right Sector formed the Ukrainian Volunteer Corps ( Dobrovol’chyy ukrains’kyy korpus – DUK), a small irregular military unit for which the term “corps” is hyperbolic. In 2015, the right sector publicly claimed to have nearly 20,000 active participants, a seemingly huge exaggeration.  In reality, the total number of permanent members involved in the decentralized movement was approximately several hundred men and a few women. […]
While prominent in Ukrainian, Russian and Western mass media in 2014, the right sector today is not even mentioned in many opinion polls and, when listed, elicits only minimal support from respondents. Nevertheless, the Right Sector has remained a registered party and has, in recent years, operated closely with Svoboda , the National Corps and other right-wing structures.  […]
Interactions of Ukrainian ultra-nationalists with Russian actors
Post-Soviet Ukrainian nationalist discourses are often loudly and radically anti-Russian. Yet Ukrainian and Russian ultra-nationalisms developed after the fall of the Iron Curtain and in the context of broader and interconnected Eastern European, pan-European or global far-right tendencies . Thus, there are similarities in the ideas, concepts and tactics of these transnational ideological movements and cross-border organizational networks – whether fundamentalist, ultra-conservative, neo-Nazi, identitarian, pan-nationalist or otherwise. Consequently, there was and is not only a certain mutual interest between the respective Russian and Ukrainian groups. At times this also led to contact and even collaboration between sections of the two ultra-nationalist movements. […]
The historically and currently predominant tendency between Ukrainian and Russian nationalisms is, of course, opposition. The already high estrangement between the Ukrainian and Russian far right increased further in the 2000s when most of Ukraine’s right-wing forces supported the election of pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko (b. 1954) in late 2004. [ 112] For Russia’s far-right, Ukrainian ultra-nationalist support for Yushchenko’s pro-Western course as well as his US-born, diaspora-connected second wife, Kateryna Yushchenko (b. 1961, née Chumachenko) , have become additional sources of irritation.
This polarization intensified during the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych (b. 1950) in 2010-2014. Yanukovych’s abandonment of the pro-European vector of Ukraine’s political development as well as his relatively pro-Russian stance has become one for all Ukrainian patriots, whether radical or not. 
Yanukovych’s pro-Russian foreign and cultural policies led to a temporary broadening of Ukrainian support for nationalism. During this period from 2010, some Russian ultra-nationalists started fleeing Russia for countries like Ukraine. This migration accelerated during and after the Euromaidan revolution of 2013-2014.
Bellingcat ‘s Michael Colborne and Oleksiy Kuzmenko noted:
Many far-right Russian nationalists have, perhaps to the surprise of many, been anti-Kremlin and have opposed Putin’s regime due to their perception of his soft stance on issues like immigration, seen better in the annual “Russian March”. While much of Russia’s far-right has helped foment and fight in the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine, some factions of Russia’s far-right have actually supported the protests on Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kyiv that multiplied in the February 2014 revolution and found room to operate in Ukraine. 
Ukrainian far-right contacts with Russian ultra-nationalists
In the early 1990s, the first indirectly pro-Russian activity of Ukrainian ultra-nationalists was their participation in the separatist war in Moldova alongside local Ukrainians (as mentioned above). As noted, UNA-UNSO for a short time fought alongside the Moscow Army in Transnistria.  However, this incident of armed collaboration remained an exception. Because the main interest of the Ukrainian ultra-nationalists in Transnistria was the Ukrainian population, this cannot be seen as an expression of UNA-UNSO support for Russian imperialism.
In the mid-1990s, one of the friendliest encounters in Ukraine between Ukrainian and anti-Kremlin Russian ultra-nationalists was between UNA-UNSO and the fringe National People’s Party of Russia ( Narodnaia ational’ naia partiia Rossii – NNPR). According to Albert Chatrov,
I n 1996 in Kyiv, at a [joint] conference of UNA-UNSO and the National People’s Party of Russia (NNPR), [its leader] Alexander Ivanov-Sukharevsky (b. 1950) discussed the idea to create a common conspiratorial white order coordination. The NNPR then considered participating in the agitation of federal troops in Chechnya over fraternizing with the Chechens and turning arms against the Kremlin. 
This amounted to a collaborative attempt by non-imperial ultra-nationalists to counter Russian imperialism during Yeltsin’s time.
Under President Putin, these contacts have become more frequent. Natalia Yudina summarized some of them:
Ukraine has been a haven for Russian right-wing radicals since the early 2000s. Pyotr Khomyakov, the ideological mastermind of the Northern Brotherhood ( Severnoe bratstvo ), spent some time in hiding there; Yuri Belyaev, the leader of the neo-Nazi Freedom Party ( Partiia svobody ). Also hiding in Ukraine were Alexander Parinov and Alexei Korshunov, former members of the neo-Nazi groups United Brigades-88 ( Ob’edinennye Brigady-88, OB-88 ) and the Russian Nationalists Combat Organization ( Boevaia organizatsiia russkikh natsionalistov , NÉE) . Korshunov was killed by his own grenade in Zaporozhye in October 2011. BORN co-founder Nikita Tikhonov, later convicted for the murders of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova, also hid in Ukraine for some time […]. [Mikhail] Oreshnikov [from the Russian city of Cheboksary] participated in the creation of the Ukrainian cell of the international neo-Nazi association called The Misanthropic Division. The Misanthropic Division is not a centralized organization : it has no permanent leaders or rigid structure. There are branches in Germany, the Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal, the United States and, it seems, even in Belarus. The Ukrainian branch was organized in 2013 under the auspices [of the Social-National Assembly] with the active participation of Russian nationalists. 
A new wave of cooperation between parts of both ultra-nationalist camps began during and after the 2013-2014 Euromaidan when Russian ultra-nationalists with pro-Ukrainian views took part in the kyiv uprising and started the war in Donbass .  The largest accumulation of active and presumably anti-Putinist Russian right-wing radicals in Ukraine was within the Azov movement, including its battalion/regiment. Yudina explained that
Russian militants from the Misanthropic Division took part in the Maidan protests, clashes with opponents of the Maidan in Kharkov, and some of them took part in the hostilities in Donbass on the side of kyiv. More than a dozen of its Russian members fought in Azov […]. Among the Russian fighters in Azov were Serhey (“Malyuta”) Korotkikh, one of the leaders of the National Socialist Society ( Natsional-sotsialisticheskoe obshchestvo , NSO); Alexander Valov of Murmansk; Novel “Zukhel” Zheleznov from Restrukt!Association; and neo-Nazi leader Mikhail Oreshnikov of Cheboksary. […] After the end of the active phase of hostilities in Ukraine, almost all remained in Ukraine. Some of them have integrated into Ukrainian society, obtained Ukrainian citizenship and now participate in local political life. 
Moreover, certain Russian neo-Nazi groups are represented, with their Ukrainian branches, in the various structures of the Azov movement.  Michael Colborne and Oleksiy Kuzmenko discussed one such group:
Wotanjugend [“Youth of Wotan”] was born in Russia and publishes its content online almost exclusively in Russian. Today, the self-proclaimed “Hammer of National Socialism”is based in Ukraine and, for all intents and purposes,is part of the far-right Azov movementwhich is trying to expand its national and international influence. ButWotanjugendare not limited to the web. In 2018, the leader ofWotanjugendmet with members of the violent American neo-Nazi gang Rise Above Movement (RAM) in Kyiv. Wotanjugendalso recently hosted a seminar that included lectures on running, firearms training, and even a mock knife fighting tournament.
Additionally, the leader of the group, Alexei Levkin , hopes he will obtain Ukrainian citizenship and has been a key figure in Azov’s public push to obtain Ukrainian citizenship for foreign far-right friends who have joined their ranks. . With its message that includes terrorist fanboying and literally Hitler worship, Wotanjugend continues to operate openly in Ukraine, using the country as a base to expand and spread its hateful message around the world. 
Natalia Yudina added that “ Ilya Bogdanov , a former member of the Wotanjugend community and a former FSB officer, left for Ukraine in 2014 and fought in Pravy Sektor [i.e., apparently, in the DUK presented above]”. 
Due to the service of foreign fighters, including Russians, in the Azov regiment, the National Corps became one of the main lobbyists for the legalization of the status (of permanent residents or citizens) of foreigners who fought against pro-military forces. Russians in eastern Ukraine. . Several of these foreigners, including some ultra-nationalist Russian immigrants, were granted citizenship during the 2014-2019 presidency of Petro Poroshenko (b. 1965). Sometimes this status was granted in explicit recognition of their contribution to the Ukrainian defense effort in the Donbass.
The most infamous case involved a former member of the neo-Nazi Russian National Unity party and the Belarusian Popular Front Sergei Korotkikh (b. 1974) who, after moving to Ukraine in 2014, became a key figure in the Azov movement.  Yudina detailed the case:
Korotkikh received his Ukrainian passport from President Petro Poroshenko personally on December 5, 2014. He worked in the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs, heading the Special Items Protection Unit, but he left this position at the end of 2017. Together with his colleague Azov member Nikita Makeev, Korotkikh was suspected of being involved in the attack on Petro Poroshenko in August 2019. However, Korotkikh was never held responsible for this matter. As of spring 2020, he continues to act as a representative of the National Corps ( Natsionalʹnyy korpus ), the political wing of Azov. 
[For more information: The National Policy Institute has compiled a dossier accusing Sergei Korotkikh of working for Russian intelligence services. The dossier’s author was later assaulted. Zaborona explains what it all means ]
Another such figure was Aleksei Levkin , a former member of the Russian group Wotanjungend , who immigrated from Russia and also gained some prominence in the Azov movement. He called himself a “political ideologue” for the former Azov self-defense branch, Natsional’nyy druzhyny(national squads) . The Ukrainian political careers of Korotkikh, Levkin and others indicate considerable influence of former Russian neo-Nazis within the Azov movement. 
The ideological basis of these apparently paradoxical contacts and even of these partial fusions is a particular type of racist pan-Slavism. In this context, questions of national sovereignty and territory are secondary to a supposed pan-national or even pan-European common “white” or “Aryan” identity. […]
Among the small pro-Ukrainian section of Russian political extremism, biologically racist or not, there is lament for Moscow’s actions in Ukraine since 2014 and considerable verbal solidarity with Ukraine’s struggle for independence from of Russia. Several individuals and certain small groups, such as the Wotanjugend, have settled in Ukraine. Other such militants also tried with varying degrees of success to participate in the Russian-Ukrainian war, supporting the Ukrainian side.
The Russian Insurgent Army [ Wikipedia entry ] and the Russian Center
The Russian Center is another minor organization made up of Russian nationalist political immigrants in Ukraine.
One expression of this type of far-right Russian-Ukrainian interaction came together to form the quasi-party Russian Center and its paramilitary wing, the Russian Insurgent Army. The latter is the hyperbolic name for a tiny group apparently made up of several dozen young adults. Until now, the activity of this small irregular and supposedly armed entity has been largely virtual.
The group was created in 2015 by Andrei Kuznetsov (alias “Orange”), a relatively well-known Russian opposition blogger who had emigrated from Russia to Ukraine.  Together with some other immigrants from Russia, he formed what was suggestively called the Russkaia Povstancheskaia Armiia (Russian insurgent army). The title alludes to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, a Western Ukrainian nationalist partisan movement during and after World War II that fought Soviet and Nazi troops.  […] The name may also refer to the Russian Liberation Army, the infamous Russian Vlasov unit which fought alongside the Wehrmachtagainst the Soviet Union during World War II. 
The Russian insurgent army claims to have participated on the Ukrainian side against pro-Russian forces in the Donbass war.  He was also suspected of carrying out clandestine activity in Russia, a supposition that seems implausible.  The Russian insurgent army was first introduced to the public on December 29, 2014 at a press conference in Kyiv. Young anti-Kremlin activist Andrei Kuznetsov has called for the unification of Russian anti-Putinist forces. […]
Although the group may be made up of a variety of individuals of different beliefs, it is dominated by racist activists, as various entries on its website illustrate. 
The formation of the Russian insurgent army led to the creation of an ethnic Russian political organization in Ukraine called the Russian Center, linked to the Azov movement. Its existence was announced on October 11, 2015 in kyiv.  Natalia Yudina clarified that the Russian Center was
created in September 2015 by members of Wotanjugend , an ultra-right online group, and by activists from the Kirov cell of the Movement Against Clandestine Immigration ( Dvizhenie Protiv Nelegal’noi Immigratsii , DPNI-Vyatka), now banned in Russia.The Russian Center positions itself as pan-Slavic, calling for the unity of all Slavs and seeking to go beyond Russia and Ukraine. They cooperate with nationalists from other countries, mainly with Polish nationalists from Zadruga (Polish neo-pagan organization created in 2006 in Wroclaw) and People’s Free Poland (radical Polish group that became famous in 2015 after the destruction of In September 2018, they organized an event “to strengthen Polish-Russian ties” in partnership with Free People’s Poland.
They also took part in the nationalist “march for independence” in Warsaw on November 11, 2018. The Russian Center of Ukraine marched with the Black Bloc, chanting the slogans of the “White Revolution” (“Europe, youth, revolution and “Honour and Glory to the Heroes”), and they burned the LGBT+ and EU flags […]. In February 2019, some of its activists took part in the torchlight procession on the occasion of the 101st anniversary of Estonia’s independence and the Etnofutur Third International Nationalist Conference in Tallinn.
[…] The closest Ukrainian contact to the Russian Center is, however, the Azov movement. Since 2016, members of the Russian Center have participated in several conferences organized by the international department of the Azov National Corps. These meetings were usually devoted to promoting international cooperation between far-right European groups and carried slogans such as “Rebuilding Europe”.  Nevertheless, the Russian Insurgent Army and the Russian Center, it must be emphasized, have remained so marginal in Ukrainian politics and society that even many Ukrainian political analysts may never have heard of them.
Russian insurgent army leader Andrei Kuznetsov says many Russian political refugees are in contact with his network of Russians in Ukraine. According to him, other Russian immigrants are in independent and direct contact with the Azov movement. Their links with the Azov Regiment and/or the National Corps allowed them to become involved in one way or another in the fight against the Putin regime that they had fled. The National Corps apparently helps them navigate the bureaucratic process to acquire temporary or permanent resident status in Ukraine or even Ukrainian citizenship. 
On the whole, right-wing Russian radical circles in Ukraine are marginal. Some may not work in public. One of the reasons for this is that all Russian émigrés and political organizations in Ukraine, even if openly anti-Putinist, are watched with suspicion in Ukraine. They are often suspected of being involved in covert operations for Moscow’s security services. For example, it has been alleged that the Belarusian KGB and/or the Russian FSB may run one of the most notorious recent far-right immigrants in Ukraine, Sergei Korotkikh of the Azov movement above; considerable research has been published on Korotkikh’s possible links to the security services.
The Azov-affiliated political party, the National Corps, has become a major channel for the entry of Russian nationals into Ukraine’s far-right political milieu. The leadership of the Azov movement recognizes itself publicly in its role of facilitating the legalization of foreign volunteers – not only Russians – serving, either as legal residents or as new citizens of Ukraine, in the Ukrainian Armed Forces.  [141
Contacts of the Azov Movement with BORN
For a short time, there was also a relationship between the Ukrainian Azov movement and the remnants of the notorious Russian right-wing terrorist group Boevaia organizatsiia russkikh natsionalistov (Russian Nationalist Combat Organization – BORN). This semi-clandestine organization was founded by Russian far-right activists Nikita Tikhonov and Ilia Goriachev in 2008 as a paramilitary branch of Russia’s ultra-nationalist political party Russkii Obraz. (Russian picture). As Yudina explained, “BORN members committed a number of political murders;among their victims were Judge Eduard Chuvashov of the Moscow City Court, lawyer Stanislav Markelov (1974-2009) and several prominent Antifa activists. BORN ceased operations after the arrests of Nikita Tikhonov and Yevgenia Khasis in November 2009 and was [officially] eliminated in 2010.” 
The Ukrainian collaboration with this group of former BORN members is surprising as BORN’s political wing, Russki Obraz , had once been a Kremlin-promoted project . According to Robert Horvath,
Despite his extremism, Russkii Obraz played an important role in the Kremlin’s “controlled opposition nationalism”, a set of measures aimed at manipulating the nationalist sector of the political arena. In 2008-2009, Russkii Obraz collaborated with pro-Kremlin youth organizations and gained privileged access to the tightly controlled Russian public sphere […]. Russky Obraz’s integration into controlled opposition nationalism has been consecrated by [among others] SPAS, a cable television channel dedicated to promoting “Russian Orthodox values”. Founded [in 2005] by [the last United Russia official and head of the Russian presidential administration department] Ivan Demidov, the SPAS provided a platform for pro-Kremlin ideologues like Nataliya Narochnitskaya and Aleksandr Dugin [see below]. below]. But SPAS has also offered jobs to two Russkii Obraz leaders: [Russian image ideologist Dmitrii] Taratorin, who has been named head of political programming; and [Ilya] Goryachev, who was responsible for public relations and an animation program of his own, “Network Wars”. The SPAS’s institutional prestige allowed them to engage in televised discussions with high-ranking state officials like Sergei Popov, an influential Duma deputy, and Major General Leonid Vedenov, head of the arms licensing department at interior ministry fire. who was responsible for public relations and an animation program of his own, “Network Wars”. The SPAS’s institutional prestige allowed them to engage in televised discussions with high-ranking state officials like Sergei Popov, an influential Duma deputy, and Major General Leonid Vedenov, head of the arms licensing department at fire from the Ministry of the Interior. who was responsible for public relations and an animation program of his own, “Network Wars”. The SPAS’s institutional prestige allowed them to engage in televised discussions with high-ranking state officials like Sergei Popov, an influential Duma deputy, and Major General Leonid Vedenov, head of the arms licensing department at interior ministry fire. 
Moreover, since 2014, some far-right activists linked to BORN and Russky Obraz have been active in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, i.e. the eastern Ukrainian separatist entity created by Moscow.  Hanna Hrytsenko detailed the links between the late BORN and the Azov movement.  For example, Hrytsenko describes the cases of Russian neo-Nazis Aleksandr Parinov and Roman Zheleznov, once linked to Tikhonov (co-founder of BORN). Parinov had permanently settled in Ukraine years before Euromaidan, possibly in 2009. 
After that, nothing was known about him until two independent investigations by Mediazona and Novaia Gazeta found Parinov in the Russian corps of the Ukrainian volunteer battalion Azov. The Corps was supposed to be led by another well-known Russian neo-Nazi who had also collaborated with [BORN co-founder] Ilia Goriachev, Roman Zheleznov with the nickname “Zukhel”. […] Zheleznov is not a member of the military service, but a volunteer of the Azov press service. 
Zheleznov left Russia for Ukraine in June 2014. While still in Russia, from 2007 he had been involved in a circle of fascists which later formed BORN. As part of this group, he was asked to collect information on Russian anti-fascists. According to Hrytsenko, Zheleznov’s accomplice Ilya Goriachev, who later became a BORN leader, used this information to establish cooperation with Nikita Ivanov and Pavel Karpov, two presidential administration employees interested in the information. Hrytsenko further explained that
[according to Anna Sennik, head of the information service of the regiment (later battalion) “Azov” and the militant of the “Patriot of Ukraine” [PU] Ihor Kryvoruchko, the successful entry of [Roman] Zheleznov into Ukraine was facilitated by Ihor Mosiichuk, one of the leaders of Ukraine’s far-right organization, Social-National Assembly [SNA] (of which the UP is a member). At the time [in the summer of 2014, Mosiichuk] was an [elected] member of the Kyiv city council and deputy commander [of the Azov battalion] […]. Zheleznov was met at kyiv Boryspil airport by representatives of the SNA […].In January 2016, Zheleznov and the Civil Corps of Azov (an association of civilian supporters of the unit) disrupted a rally in Kyiv in memory of Markelov as well as Baburova and attempted to disrupt the press conference that followed on right-wing radicalism. 
Hrytsenko also described another episode about Russian involvement in the Azov movement:
Aleksei Baranovskii, a friend of the Tikhonov and Khasis family, journalist and coordinator of the right-wing human rights center “Russian Verdict” as well as an expert on national issues for the pro-Kremlin and anti-migrant youth movement “Mestnye” [The Locals], moved to Ukraine. Baranovskii celebrated the murder of lawyer Markelov with champagne and was a witness in the murder case. Baranovskii moved to Kyiv in the fall of 2013 and has worked as a Ukrainian journalist ever since – until March 2014 at Kommersant-Ukraina and, after the Ukrainian edition of the publication closed, for Delo.ua. Baranovskii visited the [battalion] Azov as a journalist highlighting in his report on the battalion for Delo.uathat he himself did not take part in the military operations. 
The particular case of the fake UNA of the agent provocateur Eduard Kovalenko
Another example of Russian involvement with an ostensibly Ukrainian ultra-nationalist group did not involve genuine far-right cooperation, as described above and below, but was instead a disinformation operation likely guided from Moscow.
In the mid-2000s, the Kremlin and/or Ukrainian pro-Kremlin forces attempted to instrumentalize a supposedly fascist, artificially created organization to discredit pro-democracy electoral uprisings, liberal nationalism and resistance against Russia.
The main protagonist of this case was the dubious Ukrainian political activist Eduard Kovolenko (b. 1965) who was, at one time, presented as party chairman of the apparently virtual group Social-Patriotic Assembly of Slavs. 
Kovalenko’s episode touches on a variety of topics in Russian-Ukrainian relations over the past 20 years and links aspects of the 2004 Orange Revolution to the Russian-Ukrainian war since 2014, as well as prisoner exchanges between the Ukrainian government and Russian satellite states in the Donetsk Basin in 2019-2020.
In the wake of the 2004 presidential election campaign, a split from the Ukrainian far-right UNA party that used the same name was either created or infiltrated by pro-Kremlin operatives. The pseudo-UNA was purposely used to defame the pro-Western Ukrainian political camp. A leading expert on the international far right, Anton Shekhovtsov, summed up this operation on his blog in 2014:
As the 2004 presidential election approached, which ended in a dramatic showdown between Viktor Yanukovych and Viktor Yushchenko, a certain Eduard Kovalenko, leader of the far-right virtual party Ukrainian National Assembly (UNA ), said he and his parties would hold a march in support of Yushchenko as the presidential candidate.Yushchenko’s office immediately responded that it never needed this support and did its best to distance itself from Kovalenko’s sordid initiative. Yet Yushchenko’s office could not impede this march, and on June 26, 2004, Kovalenko proceeded. At the meeting held after the march, Kovalenko said: “We, the right-wing nationalist party, support the only candidate of the right-wing forces: Viktor Yushchenko. One Ukraine, one nation, one people, one president! And he gave a Hitler salute.
According to Andriy Shkil, then head of the [real] UNA-UNSO, the whole event was organized by Viktor Medvedchuk, then head of the presidential administration (under President Leonid Kuchma), who was later implicated in electoral fraud in favor of the pro-Russian Yanukovych who started the “orange revolution”.
Medvedchuk was (and still is) also known for his close personal relationship with Vladimir Putin who is godfather to Medvedchuk’s daughter. Kovalenko’s task was simple: by supporting Yushchenko under Nazi flags, he was expected to discredit the Democratic candidate in the eyes of Western observers. Fortunately for Yushchenko, however, the Western media largely did not buy into this set-up and ignored it . 
After the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war in the Donbass in the spring of 2014, the supposed pro-Ukrainian, ultra-nationalist and supporter of Yushchenko, Kovalenko transformed, despite his previous actions, into an anti-government and anti- war. He was arrested for his appeals to Ukrainians to refrain from military service and combat in the Donbass.  According to a May 2017 report by Halya Coynash,
[a] Kherson Oblast Court […] convicted Edward Kovalenko, a Ukrainian whose involvement in bogus far-right movements and separatist scandals dates back to at least 2004. Henichesk District Court has Kovalenko was found guilty of obstructing the legitimate activities of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and other military formations (Article 114-1 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced him to 5 years’ imprisonment.
Kovalenko was taken into custody in the courtroom. The criminal charges against Kovalenko arose over an anti-mobilization rally he organized on January 27, 2015. During the rally, he issued an ultimatum, threatening that if the mobilization did not stop in Ukraine, the protesters would block roads and take control. military recruiting office, police and administrative buildings.
In November 2016, [Kovalenko] was reported to be behind a petition to Serhei Aksyonov, installed as leader of Crimea by Russian soldiers in February 2014, Aksyonov in turn writing to Putin asking him ” to help Henichesk with gas.” In July 2016, he was directly involved in fabricating an alleged demand by local Ukrainian Bulgarians for Bulgarian autonomy. The July 4, 2016 report was titled “Ukrainian Bulgarian Diaspora Demands Territorial Autonomy from Poroshenko” and attached a letter allegedly signed by Yury Palichev, who in the report itself is described as one of the leaders of the Bulgarian Diaspora . he was directly involved in fabricating an alleged demand by local Ukrainian Bulgarians for Bulgarian autonomy.
The July 4, 2016 report was titled “Ukrainian Bulgarian Diaspora Demands Territorial Autonomy from Poroshenko” and attached a letter allegedly signed by Yury Palichev, who in the report itself is described as one of the leaders of the Bulgarian Diaspora . he was directly involved in fabricating an alleged demand by local Ukrainian Bulgarians for Bulgarian autonomy. The July 4, 2016 report was titled “Ukrainian Bulgarian Diaspora Demands Territorial Autonomy from Poroshenko” and attached a letter allegedly signed by Yury Palichev, who in the report itself is described as one of the leaders of the Bulgarian Diaspora . 
[…] Before the Orange Revolution, Kovalenko had achieved a certain public profile as an official Ukrainian ultra-nationalist leading a “Ukrainian National Assembly”. 
Since 2014, the real UNA-UNSO, which Kovalenko claimed to represent in 2004, participated with its own battalion of volunteers in the armed defense of Ukraine in the Donbass. In late 2019, Kovalenko’s case took an even stranger turn when the then-arrested and once blatantly fascist Ukrainian activist was transferred to Russia as part of one of the official prisoner exchanges enacted as a result of Russian-Russian negotiations. agreements known as the Treaty of Minsk.
Halya Coynach reported in early 2020:
While Russia claimed that the December 29 exchange was purely between Ukraine and the so-called “Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics”, it was first agreed at the December 9, 2019 meeting between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Few, in any case, would dispute that it is the Kremlin and its people who make all decisions regarding the release of prisoners and the inclusion of people to be handed over to Russia/Russian-controlled “republics”.
Russia could easily hope that Kovalenko’s former personality [as a Ukrainian fascist in 2004] had been forgotten, especially since his activities after the Russian invasion of Crimea and the military aggression in Donbass were quite different. […] While Kovalenko is, to date at any rate, the only so-called “Ukrainian nationalist” whose release Russia and its proxy “republics” have demanded “from Ukrainian persecution,” the UNA-UNSO was directed in the 1990s by the even more notorious provocateur Dmytro Korchinsky, who was allegedly a KGB agent in the USSR. times.
While the Kremlin, or its cronies, like Medvedchuk, hired individuals like Kovalenko to push their “Ukrainian nationalism” narrative, the Kremlin and various far-right Russian organizations, particularly that of fascist ideologue Alexander Dugin, were heavily involved from as far away as possible. in 2006, in recruiting and training Ukrainians with pro-Russian and right-wing views in Donbass, Crimea and, no doubt, other parts of Ukraine. While Russia tried to portray Ukraine’s post-Maidan leaders as “fascists” . 
The Kovalenko affair is an illustration of the Kremlin’s so-called “politico-technological” interference in Ukrainian internal affairs rather than any real cooperation of the Ukrainian far right with Russian actors. The obviously desired effects of Kovalenko’s various activities were, to an unusually high degree, related to deliberate misinformation and manipulation.
The Ukrainian far right and the Kremlin: the Korchyns’kyy affair
The case of Dmytro Korchyns’kyy associates a Ukrainian ultra-nationalist grouping, Bratstvo, and its well-known political leader, Korchyns’kyy, with some relevant (and not merely fringe) Russian anti-Ukrainian political actors in Russia. In the aftermath of the 2004 Orange Revolution, there was for about two years a curious association between UNA-UNSO co-founder and former Ukrainian far-right leader Korchyns’kyy and International Eurasist Movement leader Aleksandr Dugin , a notorious Russian fascist. ideologist. 
Already before this official temporary alliance in 2005-2006, Korchyns’kyy had established contacts in Russia, as he revealed in a television interview in 2017: “We have been cooperating with the moskals [derogatory term for Muscovites or Russians] since 1992 approximately, in one way or another, in various regions […]. It has always been a difficult relationship. We had illusions that we could do something with them.” 
When the surprised interviewer asked what the purpose of this cooperation was, Korchyns’kyy replied that he wanted to encourage Cossack separatism inside Russia. However, as mentioned above, during the period Korchyns’kyy refers to here (early 1990s), his UNA-UNSO crossed the southwestern border of Ukraine into Moldova, protecting Ukrainians living in Transnistria and incidentally supporting pro-Russian Transdniestrian separatism in the region. .
Korchyns’kyy’s contacts and visits to Moscow in the 2000s were also strange since in the 1990s he had made a multitude of anti-Russian announcements and, for example, proclaimed that “Crimea will either be Ukrainian or unpopulated”.  The late researcher on Russian nationalism Vladimir Pribylovskii wrote: “In 1996 [Korchyn’skyy] fought in Chechnya for the Chechen separatists. In his memoirs of the Chechen war, published in 2005 (in his book Revolution Haute Couture ), [Korchyns’kyy] recounts among other things how he was present when captive Russian soldiers were killed (their throats were cut and then shot to ensure you that they were dead). 
Also, after Korchyns’skyy’s intense cooperation with Dugin (more on that later), there was another curious episode. During the 2013-2014 Euromaidan revolution, the Ukrainian press reported allegations that after an arrest warrant was issued for Korchyns’kyy following his involvement in a violent clash outside the Ukrainian presidential administration building on December 1, 2013, the ultra-nationalist temporarily went into hiding. According to various reports, he moved either to Russia and/or to Transnistria (controlled by a pro-Russian satellite regime). According to a news report, he gave a Skype interview from a shelter for Russian asylum seekers to a Ukrainian TV channel. 
If his location at that time – which Korchyns’kyy later denied – were to be confirmed, that would be remarkable. In late 2013 and early 2014, the Kremlin media was already waging its large-scale disinformation campaign about a serious threat that radical Ukrainian nationalism posed to Russian speakers in Ukraine. Russian state television and newspapers presented Euromaidan as a fascist and anti-Russian uprising and began to demonize in particular the leader of the right sector, Dmytro Yarosh, as a fascist and supposedly decisive figure in the events that took place. take place in Kyiv.
While Yarosh was wanted for arrest in Russia, another Ukrainian ultra-nationalist, Korchyns’kyy, may have been able to escape Ukrainian arrest by taking refuge in Russia and/or Transnistria. Another dubious aspect of Korchyn’kyy’s contacts with Moscow and pro-Russian actors since the 1990s is that during this period – from the founding of UNA-UNSO in the early 1990s until today – Korchyn ‘skyy has periodically collaborated with Yuriy Shukhevych, an iconic figure in the Ukrainian nationalist movement. Yuriy Shukhevych is the son of Roman Shukhevych (1907-1950), the former Commander-in-Chief of the UPA and former leader of the radical Bandera wing of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. In 2014-2019, Yuriy Shukhevych, along with two deputies related to Korchyns’kyy (one of whom was Korchyns’kyy’s wife), was a member of a faction of Oleh Lyashko’s strongly patriotic so-called radical party in the Verkhovna Rada . 
Despite such a seemingly unequivocal background, Korchyns’kyy, as the head of Bratstvo , became a member of the Superior Council of the International Eurasian Movement in Moscow in 2004-2006. 
The only other Ukrainian included in this group was the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine and doctor of economics, Nataliia Vitrenko (b. 1951). Vitrenko’s “People’s Opposition Bloc” party won 2.93% of the official turnout in the 2006 parliamentary elections. She was then the leading representative of radical anti-Westernism in Ukraine and was known for her pro -Russians as well as for her frequent invectives against traditional Ukrainian politicians whom she regularly qualifies as “ fashisty ” (fascists). 
In 2004-2006, Vitrenko and Korchyns’kyy, although formally on opposite sides of the Ukrainian political spectrum and demonstrably different in their approaches to Russia, were together listed in the directory of members of the Higher Council of the International Eurasian Movement based in Moscow. .  It was also announced in February 2005 that Vitrenko and Korchyns’kyy had joined the highest council of the newly established Eurasian Youth Union.  The new organization represented the youth section of the International Eurasian Movementand was part of a broader “para-totalitarian” reconfiguration of the Russian public sphere in reaction to Ukraine’s Orange Revolution through, among other things, the creation of several pro-Kremlin youth groups. movements.  These two organizations, the International Eurasian Movement and the Eurasian Youth Union, are directed by and entirely devoted to the ideas of the famous Russian fascist publicist and doctor of political science, Aleksandr Dugin (b. 1962).