Ukrainian Jihad: Rise of a Christian Taliban?

March 19, 2015—Like an unnecessary crossover of two perfectly capable dramas, are the stories of rising Islamic extremists and uprising Ukrainian nationalists intersecting?

The coverage at The Intercept by Marcin Mamon lends a lot of credence to the development. Most recently, an interview of Ukrainian nationalist Dmytro Korchynsky reveals the St. Mary’s Battalion, a Christian Orthodox militia with a jihadist attitude. From the Intercept:

“We Dmytro_Korchynsky1need to create something like a Christian Taliban,” he told me. “The Ukrainian state has no chance in a war with Russia, but the Christian Taliban can succeed, just as the Taliban are driving the Americans out of Afghanistan.”

Korchynsky has been a right-wing political organizer for decades, even fighting alongside Chechen terrorists in the 1990’s in the Caucasus against Russia. His current political organization is Bratstvo or Brotherhood. But it was Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year that pushed him to create St. Mary’s Battalion. The battalion recruits 18-25 year old men and helps with their documentation to acquire basic Ukrainian military training.

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After registration, St. Mary’s recruits are sent to a base in Mariupol adorned with a flag depicting Jesus Christ. They pray in a makeshift chapel alongside commanders and read Catechism of Brotherhood, a handy guidebook on ideology and religion found scattered around private and common spaces.

The cover of poster21the guidebook features a Christian Orthodox symbol for Jesus Christ and the words “In this sign you will conquer” in Latin. Underneath the symbol is a woman with her face covered in jihadist garb with a finger pointed up, looking more like a member of the Islamic State or as some say, Christian Taliban. Inside the book are isolated violent Bible verses.

According to The Intercept, Korchynsky only refers to the Christian Taliban or Hezbollah or al Qaeda because it connects with people faster and easier compared to claiming the heritage of the Crusades.

“We really like civilization,” he explained. “We want to have hot water in the bath and a functional sewage system, but we also want to be able to fight for our ideals.”

Korchynsky talks about “brothers” in Russia who will join the battle from the underground, not unlike how the Islamic State finds its supporters. But he isn’t the only one flirting with jihad. has reported on Ukraine’s Right Sector leader Dmitryo Yarosh extending open support to Islamic terrorism:

In a post of the Right Sector’s social media page, Yarosh claims long-standing Ukrainian support for “Chechen militants,” and urges terrorist leader Doku Umarov to launch attacks against Russia in support of Ukraine.

Yarosh claims the ongoing chaos in Crimea provides a “unique chance” for Umarov to defeat Russia once and for all.

Do you believe the two underworlds of Ukrainian nationalism and Islamic extremism have intersected? Make your voice heard in the comments.

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The Intercept

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