• The Making of a Christian Taliban in Ukraine - The Intercept

    Korchynsky does not pretend to be moderate, but he doesn’t appreciate the worst epithet used against his forces.

    We are not Nazis,” he tells me. “We are patriots and nationalists.

    Korchynsky is nearly a caricature of a Russian-hating Ukrainian nationalist. His silver hair contrasts with his dark, bushy mustache, which is turned down at the edges in the Cossack style. The St. Mary’s Battalion, which is one of more than a dozen private groups fighting alongside the Ukrainian Army against Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, is Korchynsky’s creation. It is also one of the more unusual volunteer formations in the ragtag forces taking on the separatists, incorporating an ideology that manages to mix Christian messianism with Islamic jihadism.

    The religious thread is not entirely surprising — Korchynsky and his men are devout Orthodox Christians. It was in the 1990s that Korchynsky learned the advantage of mixing religion and politics when he fought in the Caucasus region alongside Muslims, who were battling Russia for independence.

    Korchynsky points approvingly to Lebanon. There, Hezbollah participates in government as a political party, while its paramilitary wing wages war independent of the state (and is thus considered, by the United States and the European Union, a terrorist organization). Korchynsky believes that sort of dual structure would be beneficial for Ukraine. He sees himself as the head of an informal “revolutionary community” that can carry out “higher order tasks” that are beyond the formal control of government.

    That’s the theory. In practice, Korchynsky wants the war in eastern Ukraine to be a religious war. In his view, you have to take advantage of the situation: Many people in Ukraine are dissatisfied with the new government, its broken institutions and endemic corruption. This can only be solved, he believes, by creating a national elite composed of people determined to wage a sort of Ukrainian jihad against the Russians.

    We need 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.

    For Korchynsky and the St. Mary’s Battalion, the Great Satan is Russia.

    KORCHYNSKY WAS BORN to fight Russia.

    He is the descendent of a noble Polish family that, in the late 18th century, fought in the Kosciuszko Uprising, which was a doomed attempt to liberate Poland from the Russian empire. The Poles lost, and Korchynsky’s family moved to what was called the Kresy, or borderlands, in what is today Ukraine. As a Ukrainian, Korchynsky is continuing his family’s war against the Russian empire.

    In the early 1990s, he was one of the founders and leaders of a right-wing, nationalist organization known, somewhat awkwardly, as the Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian People’s Self Defense. When an uprising erupted in late 2013 against Ukraine’s corrupt president, Korchynsky immediately joined the fight, which was centered on the main square in Kiev, known as the Maidan.
    I asked Korchynsky how a man like him — contesting the political order in Ukraine — gets along with his wife, a member of the parliament. He replied that his wife understands that the country’s key problems can’t be solved in parliament. The most important thing is to continue the revolution, but it’s useful to have friends in the government. “Sometimes it helps get something done, like gets someone out of jail, or gets the authorities to give us extra weapons,” he says.

    Guidebook cover for the Brotherhood
    (Marcin Mamon)

    катехізис = catéchisme