Last year, Bellingcat, a website founded by the British journalist and former blogger Eliot Higgins, published a story titled, “Ukrainian Far-Right Fighters, White Supremacists Trained by Major European Security Firm.” It was written by Oleksiy Kuzmenko, a journalist focused on Ukraine and specific issues pertaining to the region. The comprehensive report was full of assumptions, and he spent a great deal of time searching through social media in an effort to connect the dots between his wild assertions.

Much like several articles published by Bellingcat, this piece was based entirely on open-source information and trolling social media. That alone does not make for inaccurate reporting, but Kuzmenko got this narrative so inaccurate it requires refutation.

The European Security Academy (ESA) never officially instructed the Azov Regiment, as was posited by the article. Two ESA instructors appeared in Ukraine in 2015. They asked members of the Azov Regiment if they would want to take part in a training program that lasted 10 days. Those who participated paid a little money out of their own pocket to do so. Afterward, the two instructors worked to create ESA Ukraine, an affiliated firm of the ESA. This new affiliated firm never took off. If Bellingcat had done their research and had spoken with the guys on the ground, they would have learned that ESA has never been back to Ukraine, and further, that the regiment didn’t approve of their work.

I was in the country during that time and those who participated in the training said there was nothing to gain from crawling around while guys kick dirt in your face. Bear in mind the Azov Regiment is considered a special operations unit, and the trainers from the ESA were treating them like new recruits.