For Immediate Release
Friday, March 11, 2022
(New York, N.Y.) – The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) is monitoring the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with particular attention to the influx of foreign fighters involved. CEP’s experts and resources provide background and insight into the threats and risks posed by the conflict.
- Expert Analysis On Foreign Fighters: With reports of foreign fighters seeking to participate in the Russia-Ukraine war, CEP examined the likely risks posed by violence-oriented extremists in the conflict once they return to their home countries in a new policy brief, Foreign Fighters in the 2022 Russia-Ukraine War: An Initial Assessment of Extremist Volunteers. Violence-oriented foreign extremists represent the smallest fraction of those traveling to take part in the conflict but are a clear risk as they will likely obtain combat experience. The brief provides recommendations on how to identify and reduce the threat of violence-oriented extremist traveling to and from Ukraine. Cited in The National, “The brief says that nations need to quickly and comprehensively identify and share knowledge on the threat as well as disrupt the travel of extremists to Ukraine.”
- CEP Experts In The News: CEP Senior Director Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler, speaking to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, asserted that extremists see the conflict in Ukraine as a means to gain combat experience. “All of them saw this as an opportunity to take part in a fight. But not necessarily primarily to fight ... against the Russians or against the Ukrainians, but to get combat experience,” he said. He also addressed the role of extremists in the conflict in Newsweek, explaining that “Immediately after the invasion, some groups within Ukraine affiliated with right-wing extremism, in particular the Azov Regiment, which is now part of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, have put out public calls on social media for volunteers to come and join them.”
- Identifying Extremist Content Online: CEP researchers have published comprehensive reports on how extremists are propagandizing and organizing online.
- CEP Researcher Joshua Fisher-Birch pointed to one notable Telegram channel whose founder and associates had worked with Ukraine’s far-right, anti-Kremlin Azov movement in the past. He told the Daily Beast that the channel made a pro-Russian post “claiming that they were fighting against Jews, liberalism, and globalism” before deleting it and replacing the post with a statement of support for white people rather than a nation state.
- Research Into Extremists In Central-Eastern Europe (CEE): Prior to Russia’s February 2022 invasion, CEP published Career Break or a New Career? Extremist Foreign Fighters in Ukraine and Looks Can Be Deceiving: Extremism Meets Paramilitarism In Central and Eastern Europe. The reports examine the motivation of far-right extremists to fight in Ukraine, a trend that began with Russia’s 2014 invasion. As cited by the Wall Street Journal, the reports note that “since 2014, more than 17,000 fighters from more than 50 countries have joined the Russian-backed forces there…”
To read CEP’s brief Foreign Fighters in the 2022 Russia-Ukraine War: An Initial Assessment of Extremist Volunteers, please click here.
To read CEP’s report Career Break or a New Career? Extremist Foreign Fighters in Ukraine, please click here.
To read CEP’s report Looks Can Be Deceiving: Extremism Meets Paramilitarism In Central and Eastern Europe, please click here. To watch the webinar on this topic, please click here.
On October 27, 2018, domestic terrorist Robert D. Bowers carried out an anti-Semitic attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. He fired on congregants as they gathered for worship, killing 11 people and wounding six others.