"Ukraine Above All": Syracuse to DC
Right Sector USA: Part 2
It’s not necessary but recommended that you read Part One first.
In recent years, there has been something of a bipartisan tradition on Ukraine’s Independence Day in Syracuse, New York, culminating in a group photo on the steps of City Hall of the mayor with members of the local Ukrainian community — some waving the flags of far-right battalions in Ukraine, including the neo-Nazi Azov Regiment.
These flags, signed by fighters in eastern Ukraine, get around, having also appeared in Washington, DC to cheer on Ukrainian veterans participating in the annual Marine Corps Marathon. The flags belong to the “Ukrainian Above All Volunteer Movement,” run by Roman Volytskyy, a right-wing Ukrainian émigre in Syracuse who is 60-61 years old.
Over the last seven years since the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine, some nationalist segments of the organized Ukrainian American community have provided aid to extremists, including the military wings of the notorious Azov and Right Sector movements.
Volytskyy’s operation in Syracuse, although no longer in full swing, appears to be the US arm of a Right Sector splinter group led by Dmytro Yarosh, a well-known far-right leader associated with the Ukrainian intelligence service. In Washington, key organizations have enjoyed a warm relationship with the Ukrainian embassy, but it’s less clear how things may have changed since the election of Volodymyr Zelensky as President in 2019.
In 2013-14, the Euromaidan, or so-called “Revolution of Dignity” in Ukraine, lit a fire under the post-Soviet “new Ukrainian diaspora,” also known as the fourth wave. The “old diaspora” is dominated by the post-WWII third wave, and in particular, the OUN-B — the late Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera’s clandestine, self-described “revolutionary” faction of the far-right Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. As those reading this likely already know by now, the OUN-B has lorded over the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA) for decades.
Since 2014, nationalistic fourth wave Ukrainians, who immigrated to the United States after the collapse of the Soviet Union, have created at least two notable organizations in Washington, DC: “US Ukrainian Activists” and “United Help Ukraine.” In New York City, a younger, more liberal generation founded a non-profit called Razom for Ukraine, which raised almost $600,000 from 2014-18, including over $100,000 during the Euromaidan in early 2014. These groups are not members of the UCCA; the OUN-B diaspora network is for the most part a third wave affair.
In 2014, the neo-fascist Right Sector movement established a branch in the United States, which mostly fizzled out by 2017. As it were, “Right Sector USA” (RS-USA) launched in Manhattan at a meeting held in the historic US headquarters building of the OUN-B. The neo-Nazi spokesperson of Right Sector Canada, who attended RS-USA’s first meeting in New York, publicly admitted to Canadian media that they were fundraising to procure arms for Right Sector. From the beginning, RS-USA had a relationship with Razom and the UCCA, both based in the remnants of Manhattan’s Ukrainian neighborhood. Apparently RS-USA did not have a relationship with the US OUN-B, but at the very least, they rubbed shoulders.
Right Sector’s conflict with the Ukrainian government and the departure of its founding (radical Banderite) leader Dmytro Yarosh in 2015 perhaps spelled the demise of its US branch. Yarosh was presumably a member of the OUN-B in the mid-to-late 1990s as a founding member of the paramilitary Tryzub organization, which split off from the OUN-B apparatus in Ukraine around the turn of the new millennium and led the effort to launch Right Sector over a dozen years later. He formed a new far-right network in early 2016, which retained the support of some fourth wave Ukrainian émigres, particularly in Syracuse and Washington...
Dmytro Yarosh commanded the Stepan Bandera All-Ukrainian Organization Tryzub (basically: Stepan Bandera’s Trident) on and off through most of the early 21st century before leading Right Sector in 2014-15. “Since its inception, ‘Tryzub’ activities have been closely linked with the Security Service of Ukraine [SBU],” according to Zaborona, a Ukrainian journalism site. The SBU has reportedly maintained close ties to Yarosh and the Right Sector.
In March 2016, less than a month after Dmytro Yarosh launched his new political party, Roman Volytskyy traveled from Syracuse and presented him with a t-shirt from United Help Ukraine (UHU), a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC. The acknowledgments section of the UHU website boasts certificates from the commanders of numerous far-right volunteer battalions in Ukraine, thanking United Help Ukraine for its support.
In return, Dmytro Yarosh handed Volytskyy the pin he received as a member of Ukraine’s Parliament, so he could auction it. The pin became part of a “Right Sector set” that sold online for $850, apparently to the secretary of the Association of Ukrainians in Slovenia.
From left to right, the above certificates are signed by Azov’s neo-Nazi leader Andriy Biletsky, who once declared that Ukraine’s mission is to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade… against Semite-led Untermenschen [subhumans]”; Andriy Gergert (standing on the far right in the above picture), commander of the Arrata battalion, which is part of Dmytro Yarosh’s “Ukrainian Volunteer Army”; Oleksiy Kolupov, head of the OUN battalion, created by the OUN-M, or “Melnykite” faction of the OUN; Oleg Kutsin of the Carpathian Sich battalion, closely tied to the neo-fascist Svoboda party; and Semen Semenchenko, the controversial former commander of the Donbas battalion.
In December 2020, for International Human Rights Day, UHU expressed solidarity with Andriy Antonenko, one of five suspects in the murder of Ukrainian journalist Pavlo Sheremet. Ukrainian law enforcement seized a substance from Antonenko similar to what was used to blow up Sheremet’s car, and according to journalist Oleksiy Kuzmenko, they claimed that he “shared ultra-nationalist ideas, cultivated greatness of the white race, [and] segregation by ethnicity.”
United Help Ukraine’s activity is broken down into four categories on its website: medical supplies, humanitarian aid, raising awareness, and wounded warriors. Between 2014-18, UHU raised over $400,000, so it has likely raked in well over half a million dollars in its existence. As of 2018, the year of the most recent 990 tax form filed by UHU that can be found online, its board of directors included:
Ruslan Zamary, the founding president of UHU; since 2019 he has worked as a “Lead Technologist” for Booz Allen Hamilton, the US intelligence contractor that employed Edward Snowden when he blew the whistle on the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance
Tetyana Aldave, the second president of UHU, an attorney and advisor for the US Securities and Exchange Commission
Marya Bayduk, the third president of UHU, an assistant research professor at Georgetown University
Yuri Yankovski, allegedly a “founding father of the Ukrainian Internet”
Julie Gershuskaya, an employee of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics
Yuri Yankovski, vice president of the UHU, visited South America in 2015-16, and took pictures of himself in Chile and Peru wearing a t-shirt made by the white supremacist brand Svastone, which is Ukrainian slang for swastika. Svastone is run by Arseniy Bilodub, a member of the Right Sector leadership and the lead singer of the neo-Nazi band Sokyra Peruna.
Yankovski’s nephew works for the US-funded Radio Svoboda in Ukraine, who on New Year’s Day in 2017 photographed his Ukrainian American uncle at a torchlit march celebrating what would have been the 108th birthday of Stepan Bandera. In June 2019, not long after an unprecedented 73% of voters elected Volodymyr Zelensky as the next President of Ukraine, Yankovski participated in a nationalist march against Zelensky in Kyiv that ended outside Bankova, or the Office of the President.
UHU has used far-right volunteers in Ukraine to distribute aid. Take for example Ruslan Koshovenko, who appears to have worked closely with the UHU’s point person in Kyiv while associating with the extremist OUN Volunteer Movement, which the DC charity has supported. (It’s not linked to the OUN-B but OUN-M.) In May 2021, at a march honoring the Ukrainian division of the Waffen-SS, Koshovenko was pictured making a Nazi-like “trident” salute, most popularly used by the “social-nationalist” Svoboda party.
Bohdan Druzhkin, a member of the far-right Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists (KUN) political party — the electoral arm of the OUN-B in 1990s Ukraine — has delivered aid on behalf of United Help Ukraine, at least in 2015 and 2017, to Right Sector’s Volunteer Ukrainian Corps and Svoboda’s Karpatska Sich battalion. In return, Druzkhin sent UHU a thank you certificate and a signed Ukrainian flag from the Svoboda-linked Karpatska Sich battalion. In 2018, the KUN reunited with Tryzub, its former paramilitary arm, and they joined forces with the OUN-M, forming a tripartite “Leadership of Ukrainian Nationalists,” cheered on by the leaders of Right Sector and Svoboda.
And then there was Roman Dzivinskyi, a member of Right Sector USA while in the United States to receive medical treatment, and to my knowledge the only Maidan protester who was the victim of a bombing attack. In 2014, Razom for Ukraine invited Dzivinskyi to attend a meeting of the Ukrainian Staff Association of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund in Washington. Joining a UCCA delegation that visited Capitol Hill, Dzivinskyi met Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), a founding member of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus. Back in Ukraine, he delivered medical aid to Right Sector on behalf of United Help Ukraine.
In 2018, Roman Dzivinskyi visited a Banderite-themed tavern in Lviv with Ilona Doerfler of “US-Ukrainian Activists” (USUA), who lives in Washington but is from Kyiv. (The establishment shares owners with an antisemitic “Jewish-themed restaurant,” recommended by Terrell Star, now an Atlantic Council fellow, who seemingly approved of Right Sector-USA’s appearance at a protest in Manhattan the summer of 2014.) As a key member of USUA, Doerfler has attended many events at the Ukrainian embassy in Washington, including a farewell event organized by the State Department for Olexander Motsyk, the outgoing Ukrainian Ambassador in 2015. That’s how Doerfler met Victoria Nuland. At the time, Doerfler said that under Motsyk, “the embassy house activists Razom for Ukraine and United Help Ukraine had a playground for meetings, discussions and charity events.”
Doerfler has been pictured in Washington wearing a shirt of the Arrata Battalion — originally the 8th battalion of Right Sector’s Volunteer Ukrainian Corps, until it joined Dmytro Yarosh’s so-called Ukrainian Volunteer Army. During the 2019 presidential elections in Ukraine, she suggested that Volodymyr Zelensky is a Trojan horse for Russia. Yarosh threatened Zelensky that he’d be lynched if he “betrays” the nation. In February 2021, Doerfler added a Facebook banner, “Je Suis [Serhiy] Sternenko,” in solidarity with the murderous former leader of Right Sector in Odessa.
US-Ukrainian Activists and United Help Ukraine have worked hand in hand, and both appear to have a decent relationship with the US-Ukraine Foundation (USUF), a think tank also based in Washington. Last year, the USUF held a webinar with Diana Vynogradova, a prominent neo-Nazi in the Right Sector leadership previously convicted for her role in the racist murder of a Nigerian in Ukraine. Vynogradova seems to have been Right Sector’s point person with its representatives in the US and Canada.
United Help Ukraine’s Yuri Deyachkiwsky is the brother of Orest Deychakiwsky, co-chair of the Democracy and Civil Society Task Force of the USUF’s influential Friends of Ukraine Network, and a steering committee member of the Democratic National Committee’s “Ukrainian Americans for Biden.” Yuri Deyachkiwsky is more of an overt nationalist than his sibling, and donated as much as $515 to Right Sector USA in 2015. Their father was a member of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists.
In 2019, Bloomberg published an article, “The Art of Crowdfunding War,” the beginning of which is worth quoting at length:
Yuri Deychakiwsky thinks he was home in North Potomac, Md., when he saw the video. He can’t recall exactly. After writing so many checks to support the war effort overseas, even watching bombs rain down on strangers doesn’t quite register in his memory.
Born in Cleveland to Ukrainian immigrants, Deychakiwsky is a 61-year-old cardiologist at Johns Hopkins Community Physicians in Bethesda. Around Christmastime in 2017, he wired $3,000 to a Ukrainian émigré in Syracuse, N.Y., for what his contact cryptically codenamed “our grasshopper”—a drone whose specs Deychakiwsky declines to share—which was to be used by the Ukrainian Volunteer Army, a battalion fighting Russian-backed separatists.
And now there it was on Deychakiwsky’s smartphone screen, dropping explosives on trenches in eastern Ukraine as enemy militants scrambled for cover. In one clip, a bomb detonated near a separatist. The man stood stunned for a moment, then sprinted for cover before falling down and crawling on his belly, possibly suffering from a leg wound. “It gives me an uneasy feeling as a physician and a Christian that I’m participating in this,” Deychakiwsky says.
Sure enough, Volytskyy’s “Volunteer Movement” has worked with the US-Ukraine Foundation and United Help Ukraine in Washington, as well as an OUN-B front based in Buffalo, New York.
Subscribers may recall that the Ukrainian American Freedom Foundation, ostensibly the subject of the anonymous, sensational whistleblower complaint that started this blog, is a co-owner of the OUN-B headquarters building in Kyiv, and the sole owner of the Ukrainian Home Dnipro in Buffalo, both of which are filled with Banderite portraits.
The Ukrainian Federal Credit Union (UFCU) has branches in Syracuse and Buffalo, the latter located inside the UAFF building. The UAFF, supported by the UFCU, reportedly has (or at least had) a “humanitarian aid fund,” originally established “to assist protesters in the Euromaidan uprising, but later expanded to the Ukrainian army.” According to a journalism site run by the communications school at Syracuse University,
Roman Volytskyy, a 54-year-old resident of Syracuse, is one of many independent volunteers who have donated their time and safety to bring supplies over to Ukraine. Irina Dobyuk [the UFCU assistant branch manager in Syracuse], translating for the Ukrainian-born Volytskyy, said that on a trip in late June , Volytskyy carried four bags filled with night vision goggles and binoculars on a plane from the United States to Ukraine. Once there, he met up with an aid truck loaded to its 25-ton capacity with supplies and made his way to the city of Izyum, about a dozen miles from the front lines. “They were risking their lives for sure,” Dobyuk said of Volytskyy and the other volunteers.
In the summer of 2018, Volytskyy was pictured in Ukraine standing alongside members of Karpatska Sich, an extremist overt neo-Nazi organization (not to be confused with the “social-nationalist” Svoboda-linked battalion). Karpatska Sich has declared, “We will not allow globalism, liberalism, capitalism, leftism, LGBT and [feminist] activism, and other type of perversions to exist peacefully and reproduce on our land.”
There are numerous pictures of Volytskyy with Yarosh and leaders of rogue battalions associated with the “Ukrainian Volunteer Army,” including Andriy Gergert, commander of the Arrata battalion, and Muslim Cheberloevsky, head of the Sheikh Mansur battalion, which is a Chechen unit. These unruly right-wing groups, as well as the Melnykite OUN battalion, officially disarmed in 2019, but they remain a force to be reckoned with.
In May 2021, President Zelensky and his National Security Council imposed sanctions on Muslim Cheberloevsky and members of the Sheikh Mansur battalion for criminal activity. Some of its fighters are said to have trained alongside ISIS. The flag of another Ukrainian Chechen unit, the Dzhokhar Dudayev battalion, is among those collected by the “Ukraine Above All Volunteer Movement” in Syracuse.
Many questions remain, including: has Roman Volytskyy helped procure weapons for far-right volunteer battalions and extremists? (I’m guessing yes.) What is his relationship with US and Ukrainian officials? How much money have organizations like United Help Ukraine, US Ukrainian Activists, the US-Ukraine Foundation, and OUN-B funneled to “Ukraine Above All”? What do Washington and Kyiv think of some in the Ukrainian American community aiding right-wing radicals that would probably like to see a new Maidan-style revolution occur in Ukraine?