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U.S. Soldier Plotted Attack, Wanted To Fight With Far-Right Ukrainian Paramilitary, Prosecutors Say

Azov Battalion members and supporters from various right-wing movements burn flares during a rally in front of parliament in Kyiv in May 2016.
Azov Battalion members and supporters from various right-wing movements burn flares during a rally in front of parliament in Kyiv in May 2016.

U.S. prosecutors say a U.S. Army soldier allegedly plotted to bomb a U.S. news network, and sought to travel to Ukraine to fight with a far-right nationalist paramilitary group known as the Azov Battalion.

Documents filed on September 23 in U.S. District Court in Kansas said that Jarrett William Smith had been charged with distributing information related to explosives and weapons of mass destruction.

Smith, 24, was stationed at Fort Riley, a major U.S. Army base in Kansas, according to the documents.

According to the charging documents, Smith discussed on Facebook in 2016 and later dates that he was interested in traveling to Ukraine to fight with the Azov Battalion, a paramilitary unit that has fought against Russia-backed separatists and also espouses an ultranationalist ideology.

Prosecutors also said Smith discussed a plan to kill so-called "antifa" activists, militant left-wing activists who often engage in violent opposition to right-wing groups.

Smith also allegedly described how to build a bomb that could be triggered using a cell phone. He also allegedly suggested building a car bomb and targeting an unnamed U.S. news network.

Smith was arrested on September 21. It wasn't clear if he had a lawyer, or when his first court appearance was scheduled.

The issue of U.S. white-supremacist organizations being drawn to Ukrainian groups is a concern that was raised by U.S. law enforcement as recently as 2017.

That year, the FBI warned that Azov's military wing was "believed to have participated in training and radicalizing United States-based white supremacy organizations."

The statement came as part of case against a California man who traveled to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, to participate in a fight club with Ukrainian ultranationalists.

The founder of the Azov Battalion, Andriy Biletskiy, later went on to found a Ukrainian political party known as the National Corps, which has been labeled by the U.S. State Department as a "nationalist hate group."

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    Mike Eckel

    Mike Eckel is a senior correspondent reporting on political and economic developments in Russia, Ukraine, and around the former Soviet Union, as well as news involving cybercrime and espionage. He's reported on the ground on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the wars in Chechnya and Georgia, and the 2004 Beslan hostage crisis, as well as the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

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