The paramilitary group, National Militias (Natsionali Druzhyny), is a non-governmental organization associated with the National Corpus. Founded in May 2017, its stated aim is “to maintain order on the streets of Ukrainian cities.” The group’s chairman is Ihor Mykhailenko (nicknamed “Cherkas”), while Andrii Biletskyi“НАШІ ЛІДЕРИ” [Our leaders], Natsionali Druzhyny, https://ndrugua.org/leaders. is also listed on its “Leaders” page. The organization itself claims to have offices in 18 regions across Ukraine, and to be entirely funded through membership fees.
Although formally founded six months earlier, the National Militias first attracted public attention in January 2018, after the appearance of a video featuring its members marching in central Kyiv. The video shows the organization’s members dressed in matching dark uniforms with their faces covered. The video ended with the words, “We are many. We are not afraid to use Force [sic] to establish a Ukrainian Order on the streets!” The march prompted numerous comparisons to mass events that occurred under Nazi rule.Viacheslav Sharmovych, “"Національні дружини": хто і навіщо їх створив” [National Militias: who created them and why] , BBC News Ukraine, January 30, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/ukrainian/features-42859649.
Despite the organization’s stated purpose to assist the police in patrolling the streets and maintaining public order, members of the National Militias are known to have clashed with law enforcement. In January 2018, members of the Kremenchuk branch were involved in a physical confrontation with police.“У Кременчуці сталася масова бійка між членами "Національної дружини" і поліцією – відео” [In Kremenchuk, massive brawl between the National Militias and police - video], NV, January 30, 2018, https://nv.ua/ukraine/events/v-kremenchuhe-proizoshla-massovaja-potasovka-mezhdu-chlenami-natsionalnoj-druzhiny-i-politsiej-video-2448761.html. Later, in July 2018, National Militias members fought with law enforcement during a rally against the construction of a residential complex in Kyiv’s Osokorky District.“"Нацдружини" побилися з поліцією через забудову в Києві” ["National Militias" fought with police over construction in Kyiv] , BBC News Ukraine, July 28, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/ukrainian/news-44993016.
On March 9, 2019, the National Militias and the National Corpus picketed the Ukrainian Presidential Administration, demanding punishment for those involved in corruption scandals in the defense sector. During the picket, the far-right demonstrators clashed with the police and the National Guard.“Мітинг у центрі Києва: «Нацкорпус» та «Нацдружини» вимагають покарати причетних до розкрадань в оборонці” [Rally in the center of Kyiv: National Corpus and National Militias demand punishment for those involved in theft in defense sector], ZIK, March 16, 2019, https://zik.ua/news/2019/03/16/mityng_u_tsentri_kyieva_natskorpus_ta_natsdruzhyny_vymagayut_pokaraty_1530555. As a result, two police officers and one National Guard officer were injured.
The two organizations later carried out similar demonstrations in different regions of Ukraine, which also resulted in clashes. In particular, the rallies singled out the former deputy secretary of Ukraine’s National Security Council, Oleh Hladkovskyi, whose son was involved in the aforementioned scandal. Members of both organizations appeared at his home several times. The demonstrations often involved scattering toy pigs—a reference to Hladkovskyi’s former surname, “Svynarchuk” (in Ukrainian “svyn” means pig). On condition of anonymity, journalists from the Ukrainian newspaper Texty revealed that participants in the demonstrations were paid.“Всеїдність і охоронний бізнес. Хто фінансує «Національний корпус»” [Omnivors and security business. Who finances the “National Corpus”], Texty, March 28, 2019, http://texty.org.ua/pg/article/editorial/read/92374/Vsejidnist_i_ohoronnyj_biznes_Khto_finansuje_Nacionalnyj.
In March 2018, National Militias members began guarding the office of the TV channel ZIK .“"Національні Дружини" взяли під охорону телеканал ZIK” [“National Militias” bring television channel ZIK under their protection], Ukrainska Pravda, March 27, 2018, https://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2018/03/27/7175935.
In June 2018, the Kyiv National Militias branch issued an ultimatum to a Roma settlement in the capital’s Holosiivskiy Park, demanding its residents vacate the park within 24 hours.“«Нацдружини» погрожують поселенню ромів у Голосіївському парку Києва” [National Militias threatens Roma settlement in Kyiv's Holosiivskiy Park], Hromadske, June 7, 2018, https://hromadske.ua/posts/natsdruzhyny-oholosyly-ultymatum-poselenniu-romiv-u-holosiivskomu-parku-kyieva. The next day, members of the organization harassed the encampment’s residents and dismantled their temporary housing structures. The police did not open criminal proceedings.Mariia Leonova, “«Нацдружини» погромили табір ромів у Голосієво в Києві” [National Militias raided a Roma camp at Holosiivskiy in Kyiv], Hromadske, June 7, 2018, https://hromadske.ua/posts/natsdruzhyny-pohromyly-tabir-romiv-u-holosiievo-v-kyievi.
On July 20, 2018, members of the National Militias caught a man throwing bottles at the local Heavenly Hundred Heroes memorial in Chernihiv. They tied him to a pole and fastened a sign to his chest that read, “I am a vatnik [a patriotic Russian redneck]. Spit on me.” They spat on him and berated him. Witnesses called police.“У ЧЕРНІГОВІ ЧОЛОВІКА ПРИВ’ЯЗАЛИ ДО СТОВПА З ТАБЛИЧКОЮ "Я ВАТНИК"” [In Chernihiv a man was tied to a poll with a 'I am a vatnik’ sign], TSN, July 20, 2018, https://tsn.ua/ukrayina/u-chernigovi-priv-yazali-cholovika-do-stovpa-z-tablichkoyu-ya-vatnik-1189593.html. See also Olena Rebrik, 2018, “У Чернігові чоловіка прив'язали до стовпа” [Man is tied to utility pole in Chernihiv], Hromadske, July 20, 2018, https://hromadske.ua/posts/u-chernihovi-cholovika-pryviazaly-do-stovpa-politsiia-na-mistsi-bezdiie.
In January 2019, a member of the organization’s Uman branch publicly made anti-Semitic statements.Eduard Dolinsky, Facebook, “Видео отвратительного антисемитского шабаша,” [Video of a disgusting anti-Semitic coven], Facebook, February 1, 2019, https://www.facebook.com/eduard.dolinsky/videos/2315915268440528. The organization later issued a statement claiming he had been suspended.“Про ситуацію в Умані 20 січня 2019 року” [On the situation in Uman on January 20, 2019], Natsionalnyi Korpus, February 8, 2019, https://nationalcorps.org/pro-situacju-v-uman-20-schnja-2019-roku.
That same month, the National Militias announced plans to serve as election observers during the upcoming presidential elections. The organization’s chairman, Ihor Mykhailenko (aka Cherkas), wrote on Telegram: “I was asked, will we use force at polling stations? To put it simply, if we need to punch someone in the face in the name of justice—we will do so without delay.”Chas Ch, “ND- спостерігачі на виборах Президента” [ND – observers in the presidential elections], Telegram, January 17, 2019, https://t.me/CherkassND/190. In March 2019, a spokesman for the organization, Ihor Vdovin, confirmed his readiness to perpetrate violence in the event of any violations, stating, “We will do what our commander stated.”Natsionalnyi Druzhyni, “Ігор Вдовін: Якщо правохоронці закриватимуть очі на порушення — тоді НД застосовуватимуть силу” [Igor Vdovin: If law enforcement officers turn a blind eye to a violation — then ND will use force], YouTube, March 6, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxHfacPWnTg.
That same day, Ukraine’s Central Election Commission issued a resolution addressing the need to ensure law and order during the presidential election process. The statement called on official observers to strictly adhere to their requirements and asked the police to ensure law and order.“Про звернення щодо необхідності забезпечення законності та правопорядку під час виборчого процесу чергових виборів Президента України 31 березня 2019 року” [On the petition on the need to ensure law and order during the next presidential election process on March 31, 2019], Zakonodavstvo Ukrainy, March 6, 2019, https://zakon.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/v0494359-19.
The National Militias also claims to protect rule of law by combating drug advertising and allegedly illegal alcohol sales.
While the National Militias has made few ideological statements, one can assume that it is ideology similar to the Azov movement. The aforementioned statement regarding the use of force to establish a “Ukrainian Order” appears to link the movement to the far right.