Location Poland Poland

Ukrainian Far-Right Fighters, White Supremacists Trained by Major European Security Firm

Since 2016, the European Security Academy (ESA) an EU-based company that offers advanced training programs for security, law enforcement and military professionals, has provided sophisticated training geared towards combat application to elements of Ukraine’s controversial Azov Regiment, also known as the Azov Battalion, which has been integrated into the Ukrainian National Guard in Mariupol. A large group from Ukraine consisting at least partially of Azov veterans, along with likely current members of Azov movement and other far-right activists, received special-ops like training in the ESA training center in Poland. Among recipients of ESA advanced firearms and tactics training are also current activists of far-right organizations in Ukraine linked to attacks on, or harassment of Ukrainian Roma, LGBT persons and rights activists: Tradition and Order, The National Corps and The National Militia.

At least one individual who previously received sophisticated training from ESA recently provided firearms training to members of the Azov-linked “National Corps”, an ultra-nationalist organization in Ukraine recently linked to attacks on ethnic minorities and other vulnerable populations.

Although the ESA Managing Director told Bellingcat that the company would deny training to applicants who support far-right ideologies and/or have links to violent ultra-nationalist organizations, several ESA training recipients from Ukraine have documented, public connections to ultra-nationalist organizations and ideologies. In some cases, these recipients of training are currently members of ultra-nationalists organizations, and others have over the years publicly shared numerous photographs of themselves giving Nazi salutes, or have highly-visible tattoos suggesting support for white supremacist movements.

At least one recipient of ESA training in Poland, who is an active member of the ultra-nationalist group “Tradition and Order”, openly admitted online to supporting a “national-socialist” ideology. Another ESA training recipient with multiple certifications from the company has a highly visible white supremacist “Celtic Cross” tattoo which can be easily spotted in a photograph posted by the company to their Facebook page. Despite the fact that ESA said that they would not provide training to individuals linked to far-right ideologies and organizations, one individual who received sophisticated weapons training from ESA has swastikas tattooed on his head and was involved in a number of high-profile, internationally reported incidents of racist displays and attacks in Ukraine.

The ESA Managing Director told Bellingcat that the company conducted in-depth background checks of applicants, but did not specify disqualifying criteria.

This investigation starts with an introduction to the cast of characters featured in the research, followed by background information on the ESA and Azov. The latter half of the investigation details how many far-right, ultra-nationalist individuals, including some self-admitted neo-Nazis and white supremacists, took part in ESA trainings in Ukraine and Poland.

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