KIEV, UKRAINE (THE GRAYZONE) — As the United States undergoes a national mourning process over a spate of mass shootings, American white nationalists with documented histories of violence are attaining combat experience with advanced US-made weapons in a foreign proxy war.
That’s according to the Department of Homeland Security, which has been gathering intelligence on Americans who have joined the ranks of the more than 20,000 foreign volunteers in Ukraine.
The FBI has indicted several American white nationalists associated with the Rise Above Movement after they trained with the neo-Nazi Azov Battaliion and its civilian wing, the National Corps, in Kiev. But that was almost four years ago. Today, federal law enforcement has no idea how many US neo-Nazis are participating in the war in Ukraine, or what they are doing there.
But one thing is for certain: the Biden administration is allowing the Ukrainian government to recruit Americans – including violent extremists – at its embassy in Washington DC and at consulates across the country. As this report will show, at least one notorious extremist fighting in Ukraine has received extensive promotion from mainstream media, while another who is currently wanted for violent crimes committed in the US was mysteriously able to evade FBI investigators looking into war crimes he previously committed in Eastern Ukraine.
According to a Customs and Border Patrol document released thanks to a May 2022 Freedom of Information Act request by a nonprofit called Property of the People, federal authorities are concerned about RMVE-WS’s, or “racially-motivated violent extremists – white supremacy” returning to the US armed with new tactics learned on the Ukrainian battlefield.
“Ukrainian nationalist groups including the Azov Movement are actively recruiting racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist white supremacists to join various neo-Nazi volunteer battalions in the war against Russia,” the document states. “RMVE-WS individuals in the United States and Europe announced intentions to join the conflict and are organizing entry to Ukraine via the Polish border.”
The document, which was drafted by Customs and Border Protections, the Office of Intelligence, and other Homeland Security sub-agencies, contains write-ups of interviews conducted by law enforcement with Americans en route to Ukraine to fight Russia.
One such volunteer interviewed in early March “admitted to contacting the Georgian National Legion but decided against joining the group as they were accused of war crimes,” according to the document. Instead, the volunteer “ hoped to obtain a work contract with the Azov Battalion.”
That interview was conducted nearly a month before additional war crimes committed by the Georgian Legion were reported by The Grayzone. However, the volunteer’s allegation may also refer to the illegal execution of two men who had attempted to break through a Ukrainian checkpoint, or an additional, unreported crime known to insiders within volunteer networks.
One key “intelligence gap” listed in the document speaks to the US government’s complete lack of oversight in the proxy war it is sponsoring in Ukraine. NATO arming campaign which has offered no assurances that Western weapons won’t fall into the hands of Nazis. “What kind of training are foreign fighters receiving in Ukraine that they could possibly proliferate in US based militia and white nationalist groups?” the document asks.
Property of the People shared the document with Politico, which sought to downplay and even discredit its explosive contents by inserting the caveat that “critics say” the Department of Homeland Security document “echoes one of the Kremlin’s top propaganda points.”
But as this report will illustrate, the presence of hardcore American neo-Nazis in the ranks of the Ukrainian military is far from a deception cranked out by the Kremlin’s propaganda mills.
From fascist street brawler to volunteer fighter in US-backed unit
Among the most prominent American white nationalists currently serving in the ranks of the Ukrainian military is Paul Gray. The US military veteran has spent almost two months fighting among the Georgian National Legion, a Ukrainian military outfit that has been celebrated by US lawmakers and has committed multiple war crimes.
Besides having served in the US Army, Gray is a veteran of various street brawls against leftist groups in the US. This April, he was shuffled to a hospital in “an undisclosed location” in Ukraine for wounds sustained in combat. This time, his adversaries were not masked members of Antifa; they were soldiers in the Russian military.
To be sure, Paul Gray is not just some angry suburban dad glibly labeled a fascist by the liberal media because he delivered an off-color rant at a parent-teacher conference. He is the real deal: a former member of several bonafide fascist groups including the now-defunct Traditionalist Workers Party, American Vanguard, Atomwaffen Division, and Patriot Front.
Gray is also a former soldier of the 101st Airborne Division with a Purple Heart and multiple deployments to Iraq who was eager to impart battlefield lessons and training to Ukrainians engaged in a US-backed proxy war with Russia. This January while in Ukraine, he joined the Georgian National Legion, an outfit led by a notorious warlord who has enjoyed friendly visits with high profile members of US Congress while boasting of authorizing gruesome war crimes in Ukraine.
In fact, Gray is among at least 30 Americans currently fighting with the Georgian National Legion. The unit is therefore at the heart of the ratline channeling US weapons and fascist foreign militants into the Ukrainian military, while Congress and American corporate media cheer it on.
Indeed, Fox News has featured Gray no less than six times, painting him as a heroic GI Joe sacrificing himself to defend democracy. Fox did not inform its viewers of Gray’s identity until his most recent appearance, obscuring his record of neo-Nazism from its viewers.
For Texans who bore witness to the street rampages of local fascist organizations throughout the past five years, Gray was a familiar face.
Back in 2018, Gray was slapped with a citation by local police for trespassing on the campus of Texas State University at San Marcos. He was distributing fliers at the time for Patriot Front, a fascist organization led by Thomas Rousseau. While Gray, along with two others, were identified by the university, the names of five others were withheld, leading “the community” to accuse “the university of protecting white supremacists.”
Rousseau had been rising through the ranks of Vanguard America, a growing organization at the forefront of white nationalism. But the group swiftly collapsed after one of its members, 19-year-old James Alex Fields, plowed his car through dozens of people protesting the now-notorious “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017 after he had been photographed equipped with a shield featuring the organization’s emblem. The attack, which was witnessed by this reporter, left a protester dead, and resulted in Fields being locked away for life. Vanguard America’s founder, Rousseau, subsequently bolted from the group and formed Patriot Front.
According to self-described “anti-fascist” journalist Kit O’Connell, Gray joined forces with Patriot Front to provide combat training to fellow veterans. He also helped the group disrupt the Houston Anarchist Bookfair in 2017.
Gray has also been associated with the Traditionalist Workers Party, a lead organizer of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, as well as with Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi organization whose members have trained with Ukraine’s Azov Battalion, and which was designated as an illegal terrorist organization by the United Kingdom and Canada.
In leaked chat logs, Atomwaffen celebrated the bloody exploits of a member who murdered a gay Jewish college student in December 2017. Another member slaughtered the parents of their own girlfriend. Yet another member of Atomwaffen, Devon Arthurs, murdered his neo-Nazi roommates that same year after they mocked him for converting to Islam.
One of Arthurs’ victims, Andrew Oneschuk, had appeared on the Azov Battallion’s official podcast a year before his killing. The host encouraged the teenager and other Americans to come to Ukraine to join Azov – something Oneschuk had previously tried and failed to do in 2015.
Details of Paul Gray’s involvement with Atomwaffen and the Traditionalist Workers Party were left unexplained by journalists Kit O’Connell and Michael Hayden. However, this reporter was able to corroborate Gray’s collaboration with the neo-Nazi Vangaurd America organization, as well as Patriot Front.
In 2017, Gray helped organize a rally featuring Vanguard America and Mike “Enoch” Peinovich, a prominent white supremacist blogger. The event was billed as “a movement of like-minded whites are banding together to fight off the diseased hordes of anti-white, anti-fascist, communist scum parasitizing and subverting the good denizens of Bat City.” The Daily Stormer, a popular neo-Nazi blog, hailed the fascist confab as a gathering of “proud white men got up and talked about Jews and their hordes without any reservation whatsoever.”
Prior to the fascist jamboree, Gray successfully convinced Texas State Representative Matt Schaefer to sponsor the rally, promising him the event was simply aimed at supporting “conservative leaders and the policies they are seeking.” Schaefer later apologized for accepting Gray’s request, claiming he was “lied to.”
Gray ultimately grew so prominent in the Texas neo-Nazi scene that he became a target of local “antifa” groups, who doxxed him and distributed photographs of him at fascist rallies. They also revealed that on Facebook he had “liked” a number of neo-Nazi pages, includinig Liftwaffe, a “Nazi-themed weight-lifting group” named after Nazi Germany’s Air Force.
In one of the photos, Gray can be seen in 2017 sporting a t-shirt emblazoned with the logo of the neo-Nazi podcast Exodus Americanus. Later that year, Gray’s sister opened a cafe in East Austin that became a target of anti-gentrification protests.
Gray rallied three of his friends, all fellow army veterans, to confront the protesters. When he later appeared on the Exodus Americanus podcast, his hosts introduced him as “our buddy down in Texas,” and “one of our dudes,” and described the protesters as “brown hordes” and “the local beaner squad.”
“Do you recall,” one of the hosts asked Gray, “when [co-host] Roscoe and I got really drunk and slept on your couch?”
During the interview, Gray recounted how he and his friends “fought off” the protesters. One of the hosts closed the interview by reciting the slogan, “white power!”
Fox & Nazi friends
At some point in early 2021, Gray found his way to Kiev, Ukraine and opened a gym, which helped him insinuate himself into the mixed martial arts culture popular among local ultra-nationalists.
In early February, 2022, as war with Russia approached, the known American neo-Nazi joined the Georgian National Legion and began training civilians and volunteers in American military techniques. His exploits earned glowing coverage from a San Antonio, Texas NBC affiliate, which effused, “From the front lines of Ukraine, veteran Paul Gray is using his extensive military background to empower a nation.”
Fox News had also discovered Gray around this time; the pro-GOP network cast him as an American Rambo leading Ukrainians into battle against Putin’s war machine. Throughout the first two weeks of March, the network featured Gray four times, giving him ample opportunity to wax poetic about spreading “democracy” and draw favorable parallels between Ukraine and his home state of Texas.
On March 1, when Gray was featured for the first time on Fox News, reporter Lucas Tomlinson noted that “he would only give us his first name.” Two days later, he was interviewed again on Fox & Friends, where he described the war in Ukraine as “their 1776.”
According to Gray, the Georgian Legion was “training hundreds every day. We’re out there. There’s Americans, there’s Brits, Canadians and all people from free countries of Europe and America and beyond.”
Asked whether there’s an “insurgency in the making,” Gray responded that “absolutely, these people here are doing everything they can to assist their soldiers on the front line and to assist their neighbors in some kind of insurgency if needed.”
Gray concluded the interview by appealing for more US weapons to Ukraine, which he called its “arsenal of democracy.” Fox host Pete Hegseth asked Gray whether he was willing to kill Russians, but the foreign fighter was unwilling to answer the question, changing the subject and chumming it up with Hegseth about how they both served with the 101st Airborne Division.
On March 8, Fox News’s Tomlinson discussed a trip he had made to the Georgian Legion’s “training camp” where he met Gray. “He said there was a platoon of Americans. When I asked to show me, he wouldn’t show me, but he says there’s 30 Americans joining him.”
Again, on March 12, Fox interviewed Gray. While in previous interviews Gray used the Georgian Legion’s emblem as his backdrop, he’d now been deployed to Kiev and wore their patch while holding a rifle. During the interview, Gray accused Russia of war crimes and genocide against Ukrainians, whom he called “the strongest Europeans” and again called on the United States to send its “arsenal of democracy” and “help out Ukrainians with the airspace.”
During the first four of Gray’s appearances on Fox News, his name was not disclosed. However, two local media reports identified the Fox favorite by his full name during the same period. None of the reports mentioned his close association with neo-Nazis.
After March 29, Gray disappeared from the media for almost a month. He only re-emerged after being injured in combat on April 27, when he was interviewed in Coffee or Die, the magazine of the Black Rifle Coffee Company, which is popular among right-wing law enforcement and military personnel. Gray told Coffee or Die’s correspondent Nolan Peterson, “We were ready for a tank to come down the road when the artillery hit us. A concrete wall protected me but then fell on me.”
Gray and his companion Manus McCaffery were shuffled off to a hospital “at an undisclosed location” according to Peterson, who said the pair “worked together as a team targeting Russian tanks and vehicles with US-made Javelin anti-tank missiles.”
Photos provided by Gray to the publication show him and McCaffery posing in Ukraine with two telling patches on their uniforms. One appeared to represent the ultra-nationalist Right Sector organization, however, the sword typically displayed in the group’s emblem was replaced with a gladiator-style helmet. The other patch featured a literal fasces.
Forbes also reported on Gray and McCaffery being wounded in Ukraine, but like Coffee or Die, it failed to note his neo-Nazi affiliations.
Some 19 days after he was injured, Fox caught up once again with Gray. The network neglected to note the foreign fighter’s neo-Nazi history, but for the first time, it quoted him by his full name in two segments it aired. One Fox piece highlighted Gray’s weapon of choice: the American-made Javelin anti-tank missile, showing him posing by a Russian tank he supposedly destroyed. “Confirmed kill,” a self-satisfied Gray declared.
Gray told the outlet that he planned on returning to the battlefield as soon as he recovered.
Ukraine is “a Petri dish for fascism. It’s the perfect conditions”
When Paul Gray signed up for the Georgian National Legion, he joined thousands of foreign volunteers eager to fight Russians on the Ukrainian battlefield. The Legion’s leader, Georgian warlord Mamuka Mamulashvili, is a former mixed martial arts fighter who shares Gray’s enthusiasm for hand-to-hand combat. Now fighting his fifth war against the Russian Federation, Mamulashvili, was reportedly sent to Ukraine at the insistence of jailed former Georgian President and longtime US asset Mikheil Saakashvili.
As The Grayzone reported, members of Congress on key foreign policy committees have hosted Mamulashvili in their offices inside the US Capitol. Ukrainian American nationalists, meanwhile, have raised funds for his Georgian Legion on the streets of New York City.
Gray now joins a growing list of Georgian Legion veterans with extremist backgrounds. The roster includes Joachim Furholm, a Norwegian fascist activist who was briefly imprisoned after attempting to rob a bank in his native country.
After signing up for the Georgian Legion, Furholm made several attempts to recruit American neo-Nazis into the ranks of the Azov Battallion, which had set up housing for him near Kiev as well as “training facilities for foreign volunteers he attempted to recruit.”
“It’s like a Petri dish for fascism. It’s the perfect conditions,” Furholm said of Ukraine in a podcast interview. Referring to Azov, he stated that “they do have serious intentions of helping the rest of Europe in retaking our rightful lands.”
Furholm appealed for listeners to contact him through Instagram. When a young man in New Mexico reached out, the Norwegian urged him to join the fight in Ukraine: “Get over here laddie, there’s a rifle and a beer waiting for you.”
Furholm’s media appearances were not limited to fringe neo-Nazi podcasts. After delivering a speech at an Azov rally in 2018, he was interviewed by the US government’s Radio Free Europe.
There is one Georgian Legion veteran whose violent exploits made him more notorious than even Furholm. He is an American military veteran named Craig Lang.
Wanted murderer rides the US ratline from the Venezuelan border to Ukraine
Lang was a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan who was injured in the latter theater of combat. Upon returning home for medical care, he fell into a bitter dispute with his pregnant wife, who retaliated against him by sending him a video of herself having sex with other men. Lang promptly gathered up some body armor, night vision goggles and two assault rifles, ditched his base in Texas and drove straight to North Carolina, where his wife lived.
There, he surrounded her condominium with land mines and attempted to murder her. Lang’s failed revenge killing earned him a dishonorable discharge and a prison sentence that was reduced to a short, several months stint on the grounds that the Army had been aware of his history of mental illness.
After his release, Lang continued to cycle in and out of prison before gravitating to Ukraine, where he linked up with fellow Army veteran Alex Zwiefelhofere. Both men joined the ultra-nationalist Right Sector organization in 2015, while Lang reportedly recruited dozens of fighters from the West.
By 2016, Lang was fighting alongside the Georgian National Legion in the eastern Donbas region, and giving interviews on behalf of the unit.
While on the front lines in 2017, Lang and sixth other Americans fell under investigation by the Department of Justice and the FBI, as they were believed to have “committed or participated in torture, cruel or inhuman treatment or murder of persons who did not take (or stopped taking) an active part in hostilities and (or) intentionally inflicted grievous bodily harm on them.”
Leaked documents from the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division of the Office of International Affairs claim Lang and the other suspects “allegedly took noncombatants as prisoners, beat them with their fists, kicked them, clobbered them with a sock filled with stones, and held them underwater.” Lang, who is said to be the “main instigator” of the torture, “may have even killed some of them before burying their bodies in unmarked graves.”
According to the leaks, one American under Lang’s command showed FBI investigators video of Lang beating, torturing and eventually killing a local. Another video, according to the publishers of the leak, shows Lang beating and drowning a girl after a fellow fighter injected her with adrenaline so that she would not lose consciousness as she was drowned. Lang allegedly carried out these crimes as a member of Right Sector.
As the low intensity war dragged on in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine, Lang and Zwiefelhofere reportedly grew “bored of the monotony of trench warfare.” In a desperate search for high-intensity combat action, the pair traveled to Africa, reportedly to fight al-Shabaab, but were swiftly deported by Kenyan authorities.
Back in the United States, the duo decided they wanted to travel to Venezuela to overthrow its socialist government and “kill communists.” To fund their expedition and secure guns and ammo, the pair posted an advertisement claiming they were selling weapons. When a Florida couple responded, they traveled to the Sunshine State and murdered them in their own home, stealing $3000, according to a superseding indictment from the Department of Justice.
How Lang managed to leave the United States after carrying out the alleged murder is unclear, as is the reason why he was not immediately apprehended for questioning by the FBI in connection with the bureau’s investigation over war crimes in Donbas. Somehow the wanted criminal was able to ride the ratline from the US to Colombia, and then back to Ukraine again.
Several months after the murders, Lang and Zwiefelhofer arrived in Cucuta, Colombia, a town on the border of Venezuela that has served a base for destabilization operations against the government in Caracas. There, they joined a band of insurgents seeking to attack the Venezuelan army. Zwiefelhofer was arrested upon his return to the United States, while Lang managed to escape justice by returning to Ukraine.
Despite being wanted for extradition to the United States, Lang’s lawyer, Dmytro Morhun, told Politico that his client had apparently returned to the battlefield. In reporting Lang’s membership in an unnamed “volunteer brigade,” Politico noted that he had also re-emerged on social media with a new Twitter account featuring a photograph of himself “wearing a Ukrainian military uniform and brandishing an anti-tank weapon.”
Discovered by this reporter, Lang’s Twitter account offers a strong hint that he belongs to Right Sector, the former street gang now incorporated into the Ukrainian military. This was the same unit Lang belonged to when he allegedly tortured a woman to death.
While previously a hot topic, the shocking saga of Craig Lang conveniently disappeared from the media’s radar following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February. Politico’s May 24th report contained his first mainstream media mention in months, with his name buried deep in the article.
Paul Gray, for his part, continues to receive glowing media coverage despite the exposure of his ties to neo-Nazi organizations. Meanwhile, the thirty Americans allegedly fighting by his side remain unidentified.
As the Department of Homeland Security has privately acknowledged, extremists like Gray and his compatriots are likely to return to the home front before long, bringing along a wealth of combat tactics and new connections with an international network of fascist militants and war criminals. What happens then is anyone’s guess.
Feature photo | MintPress News
Alexander Rubinstein is a former staff writer for MintPress News based in Washington, DC. He writes about police, prisons, and protests in the United States. He previously reported for RT and Sputnik News.