Sergey Gnezdilov with a beard and green camo hat and t-shirt.
Sergey Gnezdilov fought in Bakhmut with a Ukrainian mobile artillery unit (Picture: Sergey Gnezdilov/Facebook)

Far-right thugs attacked a Ukrainian soldier they called a ‘pro-Russian organiser of gay parades’ while he was in Kyiv on leave from frontline service.

A group of ‘three strong guys’ threatened to ‘beat the hell out of’ Bakhmut veteran Sergey Gnezdilov if he didn’t apologise for criticising neo-Nazi leader Yevhen Karas.

He had allegedly called Karas a ‘dumbass’.

This act of intimidation is reminiscent of an era of far-right violence from before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, when gangs would blockade and firebomb queer venues, techno clubs and LGBT+ centres, and beat people up on the street.

Karas, now a military officer once pictured making a Nazi salute, was a figure at the forefront.

He founded the extremist Ukrainian nationalist group C14, or Sich, which has carried out attacks on LGBT+ people, left-wing activists and members of the Romani community since its formation in 2010.

It has also made frequent use of Nazi symbols like the Celtic Cross, Tyr rune and sonnenrad.

Gnezdilov was leaving an exhibition of Alla Gorska, a dissident artist murdered while under KGB surveillance in 1970, when he was confronted by men describing themselves as ‘Karas’ people’

They ‘rushed’ and ‘forcefully pushed’ Gnezdilov, a soldier since 2019, away from a waiting car.

One of the men is believed to also be an armed forces member on leave.

Taking to Facebook, Gnezdilov, who refused to apologise, said: ‘They did not just quarrel, they provoked a fight.

‘They begin to argue, push, that is, they provoke a fight, so that no one will beat them first.

‘They begin to psychologically pressure that, “We’re going to beat the hell out of you right now”.’

Gnezdilov in a white t-shirt, green jacket and green hat with a string under his chin, towering over a man in blue jeans and hoodie confronting him in a courtyard.
Gnezdilov (left) being confronted by a man describing himself as one of ‘Karas’ people’, referring to neo-Nazi leader Yevhen Karas (Picture: Sergey Gnezdilov/Facebook)

Later, the attackers wrote that Gnezdilov is ‘an organiser of gay parades who walks around exhibitions during the war’.

Gnezdilov said: ‘The irony of the situation is that we are leaving the exhibition of the dissident who was killed in the last century.

‘And here you are threatened with physical violence.

‘You just see these clear parallels and it becomes a little creepy, even because we, as a society, can generally get down to such trash here.’

Gnezdilov said he would report the attack to the police.



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Karas has not addressed Gnezdilov or the allegations head on.

But he did share a cryptic and threatening message from Andrii Illienko, a former MP for far-right Svoboda, to his 230,000 Telegram followers yesterday.

Gnezdilov in a hat and green fatigues with a gopro camera around his neck
Gnezdilov joined the Ukrainian Armed Forces in 2019 (Picture: Sergey Gnezdilov/Facebook)

It said: ‘I don’t know why there is such a stir – but I know for sure that Yevhen Karas is a powerful figure who started his war against the Russian world and the communists 15 years before it became mainstream.

‘That is, when almost everyone didn’t care that the “Russian March” was happening in Kyiv (more precisely, it wasn’t happening thanks to Karas), and left-wing radical groups tried to terrorize the streets of Kyiv.

‘Since then, Karas has been fighting this war brilliantly. Including these two years.

‘And if someone publicly slanders him and calls him an agent of Moscow, then I suspect that he must finally start answering for his words.

‘It is generally such a great practice to answer for words. How much less problems we would have in society if the weight of the word finally had any meaning.’

Three men in t-shirts and shorts next to a statue. The middle one has his right arm raised in a Nazi salute.
C14 founder Yevhen Karas (middle) giving a Sieg Heil salute, often called a Nazi salute

This is not the first time Karas, now a military officer once pictured giving a Nazi salute, has been linked with this kind of violence.

His C14, or Sich, group has been branded a ‘neo-Nazi’ organisation by Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, along with outlets including Reuters, Haaretz and open source investigators Bellingcat.

Even former members have said ‘C14 are all neo-Nazis’, Bellingcat revealed.

It has brandished Nazi symbols like the Celtic Cross, and has posted the slogan, ‘We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children’, known as ‘the 14 words’.

Experts say this common neo-Nazi slogan is the origin of ’14’ in the group’s name.

But C14 denies the neo-Nazi label and claims the name comes from the foundation of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army on October 14, 1942.

Shirtless men hold flames in the air and give Nazi salutes as they hold a banner saying
C14 has frequently used symbols like the Celtic Cross and the arrow-like Tyr rune appropriated by Nazi Germany

That group was implicated in the murder and ethnic cleansing of tens of thousands of Jewish and Polish people during the Second World War.

C14 has even gone as far as suing Hromadske, the news outlet Gnezdilov works for and which first reported the attack on him, for calling it ‘neo-Nazi’.

A Ukrainian court sided with the extremist group, ordering Hromadske to retract the claim and pay £108 in court fees in 2019.

Far-right violence and intimidation was more common before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Gangs would blockade and firebomb queer venues, techno clubs and LGBT+ centres, and beat people up on the street.

While that hasn’t disappeared entirely, war has largely neutralised the threat.

Members of ultranationalist organisations like Karas were some of the first to join battalions fighting Russian forces in the Donbas after 2014.

This escalated after 2022, diverting attention and resources away from a domestic culture war towards resistance to Russian occupation.

Putin’s attempt to erase Ukrainian identity and culture has had a unifying effect on Ukrainian society as different segments realise they’re in this fight together.

In particular, attitudes have shifted in favour of rights for LGBT+ people, who are also a target of Putin’s campaign of destruction.

As arch-conservative defender of family values, Andrii Kozhemiakin, said when declaring support for a same-sex civil partnerships bill introduced last year: ‘If Putin hates gays, we should support them.’

But some didn’t get the memo.

A Ukrainian church stripped soldier Viktor Pylypenko of a war medal after realising the LGBT+ activist is gay in February.

And ‘Karas’ people’ clearly believe ‘organiser of gay parades’ to be an insult.

For Gnezdilov’s part, he said: ‘I am an active military serviceman, and the only “gay parade” that I could organise is the festival of Ukrainian culture Videlkafest in the South of Odesa – they could not.’

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