According to reports, the Department of Homeland Security fears that white supremacists who travel to battle zones would get combat experience.
US Customs and Border Protection, a Division of the Department of Homeland Security (CBP), is currently interrogating US militants who traveled to Ukraine for the purpose of joining the Russian resistance. This agency is worried about “violent extremist white supremacists” returning home with battlefield experience, according to an unclassified intelligence bulletin obtained by the government watchdog group People’s Property last week and cited by Politico.
The bulletin was prepared by the CBP and titled ‘United States Citizens Joining the Fight for Ukraine’ and is dated March 7, just over a week after Russia launched its military offensive.
This document shows the US government had been collecting information on Americans trying to travel to Ukraine, and continued to track their activities after they return home.
US citizens with US military service, and those who have not served before will also be eligible. “continue to attempt to depart the US with the intention of fighting alongside the international legion of territorial defense of Ukraine to fight in the armed conflict against the Russians,”According to the report.
The document also mentions that the Azov Battalion might be an attempt to recruit some of the individuals, which is described as a Ukrainian nationalist organization. “actively recruiting racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist-white supremacists(RMVE-WS) to join various neo-Nazi volunteer battalions in the war against Russia.”
Further, the document provides a description of the Azov battalion and describes it as “a” “far-right all-volunteer infantry military unit whose members – estimated at 900 – are ultra-nationalists and accused of harboring neo-Nazi and white supremacist ideology.”CBP bulletins state that Azov was formed from two ultra-nationalistic, neo Nazi groups. “engaged in xenophobic and neo-Nazi ideals and physically assaulted migrants, the Roma community and people opposing their views.”
CBP details six Americans, who had traveled to Ukraine in order to join the conflict. CBP agents stopped five of the men and asked them questions at JFK Airport, New York. A baggage check was done on sixth man.
The identities of one of the men were revealed as a leader in the Boogaloo militia, a right-wing militia from Virginia. Another man was a Marine vet who was planning to join the Azov Battalion with his friend. He was also an active-duty officer and a US veteran. Border Control officers searched both men’s baggage and found military equipment such as body armor plates, gun slings, military-style clothing, M4 rifle parts and optics.
One other American was also mentioned in the document. He had been a member of the French Foreign Legion before and attempted to join ISIS. Searches of the electronic device revealed that he also tried to join. “the armed conflict in Burma, Syrian National Defense Forces, and several other groups.”CBP received information from the person that indicated that he was planning to travel to Kiev, a Kiev sports center that is used as a training facility for Azov participants.
This document does not mention whether any of the US citizens interrogated had connections to far right groups. It also doesn’t say if anyone was actually from Ukraine.
This bulletin ends with a listing of “so-called” “intelligence gaps,” which are questions that the CBP doesn’t have answers to. These are “how many people would travel from the US to Ukraine to fight”, “what groups they would try to join”, “what strategies they would use to avoid detection by law enforcement,”Lastly, “what kind of training are foreign fighters receiving in Ukraine that they could possibly proliferate in US based militia and white nationalist groups?”
It’s unclear what law enforcement might have to do with Americans traveling to Ukraine to fight, as it is not explicitly illegal for US citizens to join the Ukraine conflict, and no Americans have been known to face criminal charges for participating in the military conflict so far.
Politico reports that the CBP refused to comment due to agency policy.