Ukrainization and Nazism in Brazil Under the Leadership of Jair Bolsonaro

Mision Verdad
Bolsonaristas use flags of the Ukrainian extreme right and of monarchist Brazil at a political rally (Photo: Archive).

On March 13, the Russian army destroyed the training centers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Yavoriv training camp and the village of Starichi, where mercenaries and foreign volunteers were trained.

The targeted attack on that military facility in Lviv region was confirmed by the Russian Defense Ministry. According to the department, 180 mercenaries and a large batch of weapons were destroyed.

After this attack, some foreigners who were going to fight for Ukraine suddenly decided to return home. Images and videos of their testimonies began to circulate on social networks, and among them, Brazilian mercenaries appeared, such as Jefferson Kleidin, who after crossing the border to Poland uploaded a photo of his bandaged hand with the text: “Thank God for another day of life. Sad for the friends who lost their lives in the attack on our base.”

The participation of foreigners so geographically distant from Ukraine resonates quite a bit. However, in terms of strengthening right-wing extremism and neo-Nazi groups, Brazil (especially with Jair Bolsonaro’s government at the helm) had visible and reported connections to Kiev beforehand.

SHE TRAVELED TO UKRAINE AND BECAME A FEMINAZI: THE STORY OF BRAZILIAN SARA WINTER

In an article for MintPress News, journalist Brian Mier gives a brief historical overview showing where the trend towards the formation of neo-Nazi movements in Brazil began.

During the 1930s, Brazil was home to the largest German Nazi party outside of Europe and had a much larger indigenous fascist movement, called integralistas, which attempted to enact a coup in 1938. The coup was crushed but the ideology endured in a country that already suffered from severe structural racism as the last place in the Americas to eradicate slavery.

However, in recent history this phenomenon has been growing stronger, especially with the rise to politics of Brazil’s current president, Jair Bolsonaro. The data corroborate this:

  • Since Bolsonaro became president in 2019, neo-Nazi groups in Brazil increased by 270%.
  • Currently, there are 530 neo-Nazi cells operating in the country, according to anthropology professor and Nazi researcher Adriana Dias.
  • The article also reviews a contemporary episode that explains how Ukrainian neo-Nazi groups, such as the Azov Battalion, have established contacts in the Latin American country. It takes the case of Sara Fernanda Giromini, alias “Sara Winter”, a woman from Sao Paulo who, as a young teenager already connected to right-wing extremist groups in Brazil, met Ukrainian and Russian neo-Nazis through the VK social network. In 2011 she traveled to Ukraine, where she was received and trained by the FEMEN organization. Back in Brazil, she formed a cell of the organization in her country.

Sara Fernanda Giromini, founder of FEMEN Brazil, called herself Sara Winter, in homage to the English fascist of the 1920s (Photo: Archive).

FEMEN Brazil folded after a series of allegations of sexism and corruption. FEMEN Ukraine said it had nothing to do with the Brazilian organization or its founder, a clear contradiction with the facts, since in 2012 Giromini was arrested during a FEMEN protest in Kiev. She claims that she was paid 2 thousand dollars to protest in the streets of the Ukrainian capital.

“UKRAINIZE BRAZIL”

The organization ended but Giromini did not give up her neo-Nazi contacts from the Azov Battalion and the Phoenix Battalion, and began inviting them to Brazil.

In 2016, it was discovered that the Azov Battalion was recruiting volunteers in seven cities in the southern state of Rio Grande do Soul (a place with a constituted fascist tradition) to take them to combat in the Donbas region.

The Brazilian neo-Nazi campaigned for Bolsonaro’s candidacy, and once he took office, began pushing for “Ukrainianization of Brazil.” Mier recounts:

Giromini, at the time a vocal member of the anti-abortion movement, campaigned strongly for Bolsonaro. After he took office in 2019, she initiated a public call to “Ukrainize Brazil.” Many of the more reactionary public figures associated with Bolsonaro, such as Rio de Janeiro’s openly fascist lawmaker Daniel Silveira, joined the campaign. Professor Dias says, “Azov’s tactic has always been to bring a group of 300 people to a city and, through training activities with the locals, start a far-right movement.” Giromini moved to Brasilia and started an organization called the “group of 300” to help generate support for the Ukrainization of Brazil.

In 2020, after Brazil’s Supreme Court blocked one of Bolsonaro’s attempts to circumvent the Constitution, Giromini’s group of 300 camped out on the national esplanade, held a series of tiki-torch protests in front of the court building and set off fireworks. Posing for selfies with guns, he cited for violence against Supreme Court ministers; on July 15, 2020, the Supreme Court ordered his arrest. After two weeks in jail, she was given an ankle bracelet, transferred to house arrest and ordered to stay away from social media. She has been there ever since.

Meanwhile, the presence of flags and symbols of Ukrainian signature far-right ideologies became more common at protests by Bolsonaro supporters.

In 2020, after Brazil’s Supreme Court blocked one of Bolsonaro’s attempts to circumvent the Constitution, Giromini’s group of 300 camped out on the national esplanade, held a series of tiki-torch protests in front of the court building and set off fireworks. Posing for selfies with guns, he cited for violence against Supreme Court ministers; on July 15, 2020, the Supreme Court ordered his arrest. After two weeks in jail, she was given an ankle bracelet, transferred to house arrest and ordered to stay away from social media. She has been there ever since.

Silva became an inspirational figure on the Internet for Brazilian right-wing groups. Back in Kiev, he has been uploading videos of the armed paramilitary squads he leads.

The MintPress article quotes Leonel Radde, a Porto Alegre councilman who has investigated neo-Nazi groups in Rio Grande do Sul. Radde points out that, from the symbols these groups adopt to the tactics they use, they are copies of the neo-Nazi movement in Ukraine, especially their actions in the 2014 coup.

What is being pursued is whether the Brazilian groups copy that model spontaneously from what they see on the Internet or whether there is Ukrainian, or Western, funding behind it. It should be noted that Giromini “spent some time near Porto Alegre doing organizational work and she started all this,” says Radde.

We are seeing one of the immediate consequences of this today in Kiev. Dozens of Brazilians trained in neo-Nazi cells have enlisted at the Ukrainian embassy in Brasilia to support the foreign movement that influenced them.

Although the Brazilian reinforcements have not helped to stop the “denazification” operation carried out by the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine, they do not lessen the threats they can unleash within the Brazilian nation, by allowing (and in the case of Bolsonarism, promoting) the spread of extremist ideologies and the consolidation of armed cells defending them.

Translation by Internationalist 360°


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