I first wrote about the fate of Ole Johan Grimsgaard-Ofstad a few years ago. The Norwegian travelled to Syria in 2015 hoping to get involved in the war. He ended up an Islamic State hostage and dead. Someone who knew Grimsgaard-Ofstad well got in touch recently with a lot more information about this Quixotic right-winger. It’s quite a story.
Knut F. Thoresen is a Norwegian soldier and writer. His most recent book is out now. Nordmenn i krig: 1850-2019 (Norwegians at War) examines how his fellow countrymen have volunteered for every major war, and quite a few minor ones, since the mid-nineteenth century onward. Spain, Bosnia, Korea, WW1, WW2, Rhodesia. If you read Norwegian it’s an essential book and highly recommended.
Thoresen knew Grimsgaard-Ofstad well, first encountering him at school. He shared his memories of this unusual man by email.
Some more information has come to light about the political and legal mess surrounding French and Serbian volunteers from the far-right Unité Continentale group. They fought for the Novorossiya separatists in East Ukraine a few years back and now the Serb authorities are taking action.
A Serb contact talked about the UC group’s actions in Ukraine and the legal fall out that followed. He’s got some more information to add that sheds light on the complex story of Paris-based far-righters, Serb monarchists, and a war still smouldering in the East of Ukraine.
It’s a world of back-stabbing, rival fascist leaders, and unnecessary cruelty to pets. Watch out.
A well-informed Serbian observer of the events in East Ukraine got in touch to talk about this fellow countrymen’s involvement in the conflict. He prefers to remain anonymous.
In the first part of this interview we talked about Bratislav Zivkovic’s activities in the Crimea and the media storm when he returned home. In parts two and three we looked at Serb sniper Dejan Beric who became a celebrity with his YouTube videos.
Now the conversation has moved on to an American of Serb background who assisted the separatists in propaganda and humanitarian projects. Together with two other English speakers, Zack Novak was the public anglophone face of Novorossiya.
My interviewee’s opinions are his own. If you have corrections or elaborations then get in touch. The truth is not a monopoly business.
The fighting in Ukraine continues. Many of the foreigners who joined the Novorossiyan separatists have gone home to face the media or the courts. Others remain.
The situation in Ukraine is complicated and deadly. Foreign volunteers who took part in the fighting were either tough combat veterans, shameless publicity seekers, or naive young men used by forces they didn’t understand. Like most wars.
Someone who knows a lot about the situation got in touch after reading my post on Sasha Karan, a Serb mercenary who died in Syria after previously serving in Eastern Ukraine. I asked some questions about Serbia and Novorossiya. He answered under condition of anonymity. His opinions are his own.
If you have any information that supports, contradicts, or expands what my interviewee says then get in touch. There are as many opinions about the Ukrainian situation as there are bullets flying over the battlefield.
Here is part one of our talk.
In the summer of 2017 a young Serbian man died in Syria. He was the first Serb to lose his life fighting Islamic State. The international news didn’t notice. His fellow supporters of football team Vojvodina Novi Sad put up a tribute on Facebook.
Dimitrije Sasha Karan (Димитрије Саша Каран) was 24-years-old when he stepped on a landmine. He had a wife and a young son.
His path to the battlefield started in the terraces of Novi Sad. Born in the Bosnian town of Foča, Karan moved to Serbia as a child to avoid the civil war that wrecked Yugoslavia in the 1990s. He got involved in the Novi Sad football scene as a teenager.
The team had a fanatical fan group called the Firma (Фирма). Chanting, flares billowing smoke, drinking, expensive casual clothes, nationalism, the occasional fight. A Serb version of Italian ultras and British hooligans.
Karan loved the life. He became a Firma leader.
On 18 November 2015 Islamic State soldiers in Syria murdered a hostage. A 48-year-old Norwegian man in a prisoner’s yellow jumpsuit was casually shot dead.
Islamic State had been trying to get a ransom for Ole Johan Grimsgaard-Ofstad since it grabbed hold of him in March. His previous captors had given up trying to squeeze money out of the Norwegian government and passed him on to the Islamist fanatics.
Norway refused to pay kidnappers. It tried to persuade Islamic State to let Grimsgaard-Ofstad go free. All the Nordic negotiators got in return was videos showing the hostage suffering the after effects of sadistic torture.
The negotiations were top secret until September when Islamic State published photographs in its Dabiq online magazine showing a grim looking Grimsgaard-Ofstad, along with a 50-year-old Chinese hostage called Fan Jinghui.
The headline read: ‘For Sale‘.