In earlier posts we looked at foreign volunteers who found their way into the separatist militias of Eastern Ukraine. Most popular was a five-part interview with a well-informed Serbian contact who took us on a deep dive into the activities of his fellow countrymen.
He got back in touch recently with information about a extremist French organisation that supplied volunteers to the separatists for its own political ends. Some were hardened soldiers, others green recruits.
There’s a Serbian connection and a lot of infighting, so buckle up for backstabbing and paranoia in the ranks of Unité Continentale. As always, my interviewee’s opinions are his own. If you have any information about the situation in Novorossiya then please get in touch.
1. What is Unité Continentale?
It’s a French far-right political organisation that pushes a ‘Eurasian’ viewpoint and sees America globalism as the biggest threat to Europe. I don’t know too much about it but apparently it grew out of something called the Front Européen de Libération run by Frenchman Christian Bouchet. The Front linked together lots of very small neo-fascist groups across Europe, and was influenced by the ideas of [Belgian] Jean Thiriart and [American] Francis Parker Yockey. When the Front collapsed a man called Victor Lenta started up Unité Continentale. The name implies some kind of Europe-wide umbrella group, but the only foreign contacts it seems to have are with Serbia.
2. What is the connection with Serbia?
Well, the first time I had heard about Unité Continentale was when a group of guys in Paris supported Vojislav Seselj, leader of the Serbian Radical Party, many years back. If you are not familiar with this politician I recommend researching him a little because he is a far-right leader with a lot of support in Serbia, possibly the only leader of that type in Europe who can actually assemble an army of volunteers ready to die for a cause. I am talking about veterans and civilians alike. He had a lot of problems with the ICC in The Hague for his actions during the war in Bosnia and Croatia. Anyway, after posters in support of Seselj went up around Paris (bear in mind that Seselj is personal friend of Jean-Marie Le Pen) I heard nothing more about the activities of this group until their arrival in Eastern Ukraine.
3. How was Unité Continentale involved in Novorossiya?
The media had reported that a group from France was sending some drones to rebels in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), and later it turned out that this was the same Continentale group. Several members had previously visited Serbia and were baptised in the Orthodox Church. I can’t give you the specifics on this, but all of the Continentale volunteers with the exception of Victor Lenta regularly attended church services in the DNR.
4. How did this group get involved as volunteers in Novorossiya?
Lenta and a Franco-Serbian named Nikola Perovic were well trained veterans of the elite French ground forces. The rest of group, at least in beginning, were just inexperienced volunteers. Apparently Victor Lenta had been expelled from the French Army for being connected to far-right gangs that torched mosques. He set out to recruit as many people as possible to this militia unit. They recruited several young and naive Serbians along with several active members of the French Army and a few French civilians with a medical background who would be able to help wounded rebels and civilians.
5. What happened to the Unité Continentale group in Eastern Ukraine?
The arrival in June 2014 of the Unité Continentale group was the biggest media spectacle that I can remember. The inexperienced French volunteers turned out to be a brave and motivated bunch, although some say that Perovic and Lenta were less keen in risking their lives. I don’t know whether that’s true or not. Anyway, the UC group was mostly used in observation and patrol missions near the front lines, often under bombardment.
6. There are rumours about infighting within the UC volunteers. What happened?
It seems that Perovic and Lenta were in some sort of power struggle over who would lead the group. If outsiders could see this then you’d better believe that Serbian intelligence knew all about it too and decided to to exploit this weakness in order to dismantle the group and stop its recruitment of Serbian kids. One of the men in the UC group was journalist Radomir Počuča and there are rumours that he was used by Serb intelligence to cause dissent and break up the group. He was facing a long prison sentence for his activism against an NGO group called ‘Women in Black‘ so I don’t think he had any other choice than to do the dirty work.
The paranoia and dissent got so deep that the Continentale group committed a terrible crime when they had severely beat one Serbian volunteer. This man only just survived; although according to media reports he in now serving in DNR Army. Apparently the UC men thought he was an informer for Serbian intelligence.
Počuča was also involved in some other weird things in Novorossiya, like getting arrested for allegedly trying to assassinate [non-UC] famous Serb volunteers Beric and Vujic. He was eventually expelled from Ukraine.
7. Where are they now?
It seems the UC group was dissolved by the Novorossiya authorities fairly quickly, maybe as early as January 2015. Its association with Počuča had, intentionally or not, negatively impacted the image of the unit. Combined with the apparent unwillingness of some members for self sacrifice, it led to part of the group being expelled while the braver ones were transferred to other units. The latest information I have from maybe a year ago is that those who stayed to serve ended up marrying local girls.
However, remember that the UC group was not the only far-right French volunteer unit in Novorossiya. There were others. For a while Ukraine was a magnet for foreigners with strange views.
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