Digos, Turin’s special police unit, executed raids in northern Italy with the assistance of police in Milan, Forli, Varese, and Novara, according to the BBC. The police operation was part of an investigation into Italians who had fought alongside Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Police arrested Fabio Del Bergiolo, who had previously worked as a customs official and who is associated with Italy’s far-right Forza Nuova political party. Also arrested during the raid was Fabio Bernardi and Swiss national Alessandro Monti. Police confiscated from the group a sizable arsenal of weaponry, including 26 guns and 800 rounds of ammunition, but even more disturbing was that they had a Matra Super 530 F air-to-air missile, which had apparently been manufactured in France and sold to Qatar. How it landed in the hands of Italian fascists remains unclear. Also confiscated during the raid was a cache of Nazi memorabilia.

Earlier this month, Italian authorities sentenced three men to prison for fighting alongside the Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine. Whether or not the three men arrested over the weekend were involved in similar activities abroad remains unknown.

But why would far-right extremists fight alongside Russian proxies to occupy European territory in Ukraine? The answer to that is as complicated as the Ukrainian conflict itself, a conflict that has seen communists, neo-Nazis, and Chechens fight on both sides of it for different reasons and agendas. Both Ukraine and Russia sent their neo-Nazi elements to fight on the front lines. Kadyrov’s Chechen militias fought alongside the Russian separatists, but other Chechen nationalists or Islamists fought alongside the Ukrainians as a way to get back at the Russian government. The odd European communist has also found their way into the mix over the years.

To understand why European ultra-nationalists would fight alongside Russian separatists, one has to disregard any sort of conventional logic. A journalist friend of the author met such people while reporting from the Russian side of the conflict. One European right-winger fighting in eastern Ukraine explained his reasons for being there: He was fighting the Rothschilds who had taken over Europe and were putting chemtrails in the sky. From his convoluted point of view, the Jews had taken over Europe, and Russia was standing up to them.

According to one report, the three men recently sentenced in Genoa may have been in it for the money, but not much of it at $340-450 a month. “In April 2018, Ukraine’s embassy in Rome said it had informed the Italian authorities that there were at least 30 Italians fighting against Kyiv’s forces in eastern Ukraine,” Radio Free Europe reports. On the other hand, Europeans and Americans also served on the Ukrainian side as volunteers or as equally poorly paid mercenaries in units such as Asov, Donboss, and Right Sector. Asov had a heavy neo-Nazi influence and was funded by right-wing organizations in countries such as Poland.

It will be interesting to learn of the motive, intent, and background of the recently arrested neo-Nazi cell in Italy. Where did the weapons and the missile come from? Ukraine? Maybe Libya? In a sense, the West is beginning to feel the blowback as volunteer fighters return home from war—often with access to military-grade weaponry. We haven’t yet scratched the surface of the long-term consequences of this.

Featured image courtesy of the Italian police