CEP Policy Brief: Foreign Fighters In The 2022 Russia-Ukraine War

(New York, N.Y.) The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) today published a new policy brief, Foreign Fighters in the 2022 Russia-Ukraine War: An Initial Assessment of Extremist Volunteers. The brief provides a risk assessment of the potential threats posed by violence-oriented extremists in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war once they return to their prior countries of residence/homeland. The brief concludes with policy recommendations to quickly and comprehensive identify and share knowledge on this threat as well as disrupt the travel of violence-oriented extremists to Ukraine.

Of the individuals joining the conflict in Ukraine, violence-oriented foreign extremists represent the smallest fraction of those traveling to take part in the conflict. Nonetheless, they pose a clear security risk. These extremists will likely obtain combat experience in the conflict zone and potentially have a greater impact on the violence-oriented extremist milieus in their home countries upon their return. Their ability to plan and successfully carry out attacks in accordance with their ideology increases massively. Further, the presence of violence-oriented right-wing extremists in Ukraine likely will be used in misinformation campaigns that attempt to characterize the Ukrainian government as dominated by right-wing extremist ideologies.

As the situation develops, it is ideal to disrupt the travel of these extremists to the conflict zone. If the travel of violence-oriented extremists cannot be prevented, then upon their return, specific monitoring mechanisms are advisable.

Amongst other precautions, governments should explore the possibility of collecting and collating information on violence-oriented extremists that are at risk of traveling to the conflict zone or are preparing to travel to the conflict zone. Also, the security and intelligence authorities of the respective home countries of foreign fighters should establish or intensify dedicated information exchange frameworks and set up a comprehensive surveillance strategy that monitors the activities of the foreign fighters in Ukraine.

For more information on the developing situation regarding extremist foreign fighters in Ukraine as well as CEP’s complete policy recommendations, the brief Foreign Fighters in the 2022 Russia-Ukraine War: An Initial Assessment of Extremist Volunteers is available here.

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Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

Without doubt, the secularists are evil and more malicious than the polytheists and secularism is farther astray from the path and more malicious than polytheism. The secularists who are associated with Islam even [merely] by identity are considered apostates by a group of scholars. The Jews, Christians, those who worship graves, and many polytheists and unbelievers have committed lesser acts of unbelief than the secularists.

Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, Salafist propagandist Mar. 1, 2021
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