Belarusian ‘Journalist’ Roman Protasevich Trained by Canadian Armed Forces, While with Neo-Nazi Azov Battalion

Aidan Jonah
In May 2021, the Canada Files’ Editor-in-Chief wrote a report (sourcing here) for the 48th UN Human Rights Council session. The Planetary Association for Clean Energy (more detail on them at the end) contacted him after he investigated the tenure of Belarussian “journalist” Roman Protasevich in a Canadian-backed, neo-Nazi Battalion in Ukraine. The following article is a modified and updated version of this report:

Who is Roman Protasevich?

Spanning coup attempts in Belarus to training with the Western-backed neo-Nazi “Azov” battalion in Ukraine, Roman Protasevich’s political intrigues coincide with the efforts of the U.S. and friends to influence activity in countries bordering Russia. Having been absorbed into the Western media-sphere four years ago, after appearing with neo-Nazis trying to topple Belarus’ President Lukashenko, Protasevich became a leading voice in regime-change organizations funded by the likes of USAID.

Yet his “activist” background, which includes fighting against the residents of the Donetsk People’s Republic (known as Donbass), was no impediment to becoming a media star.

Instead, on May 23, 2021, he became a ‘cause-celebre’ when his Ryanair flight was forced to make an emergency landing due to a mysterious “bomb threat,” later determined to have been faked. Protasevich became the centre of Western media attention, wherein the Belarusian President was alleged to have masterminded this aerial diversion.

Canada supported far-right coup in Ukraine, that Protasevich was a part of

Before he entered into the media sphere, Protasevich was a prominent activist in Belarus. A sympathetic Ukrainian article on his background explained that:

“Back in 2012, he was detained as an administrator of opposition groups on social networks. Protasevich was then a member of the Young Front, a centre-right, pro-European organization that organized street activities against Lukashenko.”

Young Front is registered in the Czech Republic and is nationalist, anti-communist, and anti-Lukashenko.

The website “Freedom of Information Act Research” revealed that “Protasevich was part of the Maidan in Kiev 2013/2014, as a picture on Facebook shows, where, clad in a Belarusian People’s State flag, he is taking part in the destruction of a Lenin statue.”

They also revealed that “[Protasevich] is a sympathizer of the Pahonia Detachment, a Belarusian militia that has fought alongside the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion in Ukraine’s post-Maidan civil war.”

Dmytro Yarosh was the head of Right Sector, a neo-Nazi Ukrainian confederation of militias formed in November 2013. Yarosh and Right Sector members later made up the core of the Azov Battalion.

Canadian writer Richard Sanders revealed that the Ukrainian Canadian Congress 2014 Ukrainian festival in Toronto allowed Right Sector Canada, the Ottawa-based support arm of Right Sector, to raise money to buy military equipment for its fighters in Ukraine. Canadian national broadcaster CBC showed images of Bandera on Right Sector’s festival table, an event which was subsidized by the Canadian government to the tune of $99,700.

The Western-backed and neo-Nazi-militia-led Maidan coup against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was completed in February 2014.

The Canadian Embassy in Ukraine “was used as a haven for several days by anti-government protesters,” including members of Right Sector, during that tumultuous month.

In March that year, Canada’s International Development Agency initiated an aid programme carried out through Internews Network, costing nearly three million Canadian dollars, “Strengthening Investigative Reporting in Ukraine.” This initiative financially supported pro-coup “journalists” such as Protasevich in creating outlets that were then used to claim investigative journalism standards in the country were improving.

The Canadian government eventually contributed over 91 million dollars in “aid” to the post-coup government in Kyiv March 2014 – March 2016.

In April, then-Prime Minister Harper had Canada send six Royal Canadian Air Force CF–18 fighter aircraft to Poland. Canada also sent up to 20 staff officers to NATO headquarters in Belgium, to assist NATO planning efforts.

Two months later, Ukraine formally integrated extremist far-right militias that played a crucial role in the Maidan coup, including the Aidar, Dnipro, Donbass, and Azov Battalions, into the National Guard, which is led by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Protasevich stays in Ukraine, gets training from the Canadian Armed Forces

The Ukrainian government launched a war against Donbass after Donbass citizens overwhelmingly voted for independence, and subsequently asked to join the Russian Federation in response to the Maidan coup.

Contrary to mainstream narratives, Protasevich was still in Ukraine at this time. In fact, he was serving with the Azov Battalion.

On 24 May 2021, University of Ottawa Professor Ivan Katchanovski brought to light Ukrainian media reports revealing that Protasevich had served in Ukraine’s Azov Battalion’s press corps during the war on Donbass. Verified photos show Protasevich appearing in a 2015 edition of “Black Sun”, the Azov battalion official publication.

On 26 May 2021, footage obtained by independent photographer Dean O’Brien showed that Protasevich had served as a soldier in Azov Battalion for some time during the war in Donbass. This was also verified by Volodymyr Ishchenko, a Post Doctorate Research fellow at Technische Universität Dresden Impressum.

Video footage has now emerged of so-called ‘Belarus Journalist’ Roman Protasevich who it appears was in fact part of the neo-Nazi ‘Azov’ Battalion and fought in the #Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.

— Dean O’Brien – BA (Hons) (@DeanoBeano1) May 26, 2021\n“,”resolvedBy”:”twitter”,”providerName”:”Twitter”,”width”:550,”height”:null}” data-block-type=”22″>

In April 2015, the Harper administration initiated Operation UNIFIER, under which Canadian Armed Forces supplied Ukrainian military and paramilitary police units with training and weapons.

In March 2015, Conservative parliamentarians attended a fundraising dinner for Army SOS, which raised CAD$52,000 for Ukrainian troops such as Azov Battalion. Army SOS claimed to have raised more than CAD$1 million, fundraising enabled by the Canadian government.

Grayzone editor Ben Norton cited an article from Radio Free Liberty/Europe, a US-funded propaganda outlet, indicating Protasevich had professed in September 2015 that he was still serving with Azov.

A thorough analysis of his VK social media page shows that Protasevich claims to have returned to Belarus by December 2015. Since Protasevich gave an interview as an Azov soldier in September 2015, and returned to Belarus opposition protests only in 2017, the more trustworthy date of return to Belarus is May 22, 2016, the date of his final VK post. This means his intimate contact with the Canadian Armed Forces could’ve lasted up to eight months.

Therefore, it is inevitable CAF directly trained Protasevich, while providing weapons to the neo-Nazi battalion in which he served.

Neo-Nazi militias in Ukraine, integrated into the Ukrainian military have been accused of committing war crimes on multiple occasions, and are also associated with a lethal wave of anti-Roma pogroms that swept through Ukraine in spring 2018. C14 and National Druzhina, the two gangs behind the attacks, proudly posted pogrom videos on social media. National Druzhina is a part of the Azov Battalion.

Weapons supplied by Ottawa under the auspices Operation UNIFIER have consistently reached neo-Nazi militias in Ukraine. ATIPs filed by Ottawa Citizen reporter David Pugliese have revealed the Canadian government was more concerned about bad PR gained from meeting with them, than their racist, murderous ideology.

Canadian law enforcement officers have even further relations with neo-Nazi militias in Ukraine, through the Canadian Police Engagement Programme in Ukraine, which began in March 2015:

“Canadian police officers in Ukraine provide strategic advice and training to their Ukrainian counterparts. This advice and training covers topics such as police safety, criminal investigations and preventing and responding to gender-based violence.”

Canadians went to Ukraine to fight with Ukrainian militias and were able to return home without facing charges under the Foreign Enlistment Act. This act being originally created to prevent Canadians from joining the resistance to General Francisco Franco’s fascist war in the mid-1930s on Spain’s republican government.

A recent report from George Washington’s Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies revealed that neo-Nazi militia group Centuria members have likewise received training from the Canadian military, at the Hetman Petro Sahaidachny National Army Academy. Centuria members have also participated in joint military exercises with the CAF. Members of Centuria claim to have “succeeded in establishing cooperation with foreign colleagues” from Canada.

Protasevich returns to Belarus, after jetting around Europe

As indicated above, Protasevich had returned from Ukraine to Belarus by May 2016. While he kept a low profile for the remainder of that year, he returned to the public eye in 2017.

During a wave of anti-Lukashenko protests in 2017, Protasevich appeared with neo-Nazis on multiple occasions, including at mass book burnings, disturbingly reminiscent of Bücherverbrennung, a campaign of ceremonial incineration of ‘subversive’ texts, including works by Jewish, communist, socialist, anarchist, and liberal, authors throughout the 1930s in Nazi Germany and Austria.

In December 2017, Protasevich moved to Prague, Czech Republic after an arrested for hooliganism, and began formally integrating into the imperialist media sphere, joining US government propaganda outlet Radio Free Europe and being named a 2017-18 Vaclav Havel Journalism fellow.

Four months after a week-long stay in Washington DC in April 2018, where he visited the US State Department among other centres of imperial power, Protasevich began working for USAID-funded on 31 August 2018.

In March 2020, he became Editor-in-Chief of Nexta, a foreign-funded Telegram messaging channel covering Belarusian news and located in Poland.

Stepan Putila, Protasevich’s partner at Nexta, worked for many years at Belsat. Founded in December 2007 by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the station dubs itself “reminiscent of” Radio Free Europe and Voice of America, describing its mission as “promoting democratization processes” in Minsk, and boasting that events in Ukraine “have shown Belsat TV has influenced the public opinion not only in Belarus, but elsewhere in the region, too.”

Together with US regime-change organization National Endowment for Democracy-funded activists in Belarus, Nexta played a key role in organizing pro-coup demonstrations in Belarus against the election loss of Western-supported candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who garnered only 11 per cent of the vote, yet falsely claimed that the election had been rigged in Lukashenko’s favour.

The Confederation of Independent States’ election observation mission found no evidence of fraud in the Belarusian election.

Belarus as a target of the West, who only care for plane groundings featuring their assets

Belarus has long been a Western target for a coup d’état. Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko is a socialist who has enjoyed the support of the Communist Party of Belarus since its founding in 1996. Belarus has refused to join NATO and condemned its attempts to interfere in the country.

During a time of leftist retreat, Lukashenko has spoken favourably of historical communist figures. Under his leadership, Belarus has also refused to privatize public infrastructure and state owned firms, and succeeded in drastically slashing poverty, avoiding the drastic drop in life expectancy experienced by former USSR republics after they embraced capitalism. Indeed, it was the first country among former Soviet and Warsaw Pact states to return to pre-1991 levels of GDP, by reversing all neoliberal reforms instigated in the early 1990s.

The World Bank wants Belarus to privatize state firms and cut subsidies, while in May 2021 the European Union laughably attempted to bribe Belarus with a “three billion euro economic and investment package,” to be collected when it finally embraces the same capitalist system which devastated other former USSR republics.

In its coverage of Protasevich’s situation. the mainstream media is contradictory in its coverage. It expresses concern for Protasevich, yet expressed no concern in 2013, when former Bolivian President Evo Morales’ airplane was intercepted in Austria and banned from flying in French and Portuguese airspace on the orders of the US government, which wrongly believed that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was onboard.

An airplane close to Belarusian airspace had even previously been targeted by the Ukrainian military:

“In 2016, 50 km before the Belarusian border, Ukraine threatened to use military fighters against a civilian carrier, to turn the passenger plane around and land it in Kiev. After the landing, one passenger was removed from the aircraft by the Ukrainian SBU”.

That passenger was an anti-Maidan coup activist.

FOIA Research reveals that Protasevich’s “presence in Greece roughly coincided with a visit of the Western-backed coup leader in exile, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, with the President of Greece, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, and US Ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey Pyatt. According to Protasevich’s Twitter account, during Tsikhanouskaya’s stay in Athens he worked as her photographer, and took pictures of her in different settings.”

Protasevich has been charged with organizing riots and faces 15 years in jail if convicted. He was moved to house arrest in late June.

On PACE: The Planetary Association for Clean Energy is a Canadian think-tank which has accreditation to participate in the UN Human Rights Council, and submit formal documents to the body, at each of the three sessions the UNHCR holds each year.

Aidan Jonah is the Editor-in-Chief of The Canada Files, a socialist, anti-imperialist news site founded in 2019. He has written about Canadian imperialism, federal politics, and left-wing resistance to colonialism across the world. He is a third-year Bachelor of Journalism student at Ryerson University, who was the Head of Communications and Community Engagement for Etobicoke North NDP Candidate Naiima Farah in the 2019 Federal Election.