Francesco Fontana

The Italian Francesco Fontana is a (former) Avanguardia Nazionale member, who later became involved in the neofascist movement CasaPound. In 2015 he joined the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion in Ukraine as a volunteer fighter. According to an article by John Færseth:1

Francesco Saverio Fontana became involved in Maidan in January [2015] ... Fontana, who describes himself as “national revolutionary, anti-imperialist, anti-communist, anti-USA and anti-Soviet," called the Ukrainian revolution the sort of nationalist uprising against a corrupt regime that he had wished to take part in most of his life ... Fontana says he soon found himself drawn towards Right Sector. "People like me easily recognize others like ourselves, despite the language barrier. So I started to spend more time in Kiev and to help Right Sector, although I did not fight in the first line," he says. Fontana became the only Italian militant with a membership card in Right Sector, and met leader Dmytro Jarosh and other key people in the movement. ...

Fontana eventually decided to leave Right Sector in an amiable manner after street fights in Odessa on 2 May. He wanted to fight, but Right Sector leaders opposed letting a foreigner go to the front where he could be used in Russian propaganda. Like [the Swedish Mikael] Skillt, Fontana found the Azov Battalion a better-organized alternative to Right Sector, which had been losing members to Azov and to the national guard. He met with Skillt in Kiev in the middle of May and soon after left for Mariupol, where he underwent various physical and ideological tests. Gaston Bresson, who had also been a member of Right Sector, joined him about a month later after learning that the forces of Right Sector were then down to 50 or 60 people with few or no weapons.

In August, Fontana went back to Italy because of family reasons.“I left a part of my heart there,” he says of Ukraine. “But I am 50 years old, so I can’t make that much of a difference, even though that might just be an excuse towards myself. My purpose when I joined was never to go to war, but to make a revolution. And what I have experienced has given me back a lot from the past. I have learned to renounce, since at first they didn’t want to take me because I was too old and too big. I had to push myself, and I was really proud when they accepted me. It has brought back thoughts and dreams that I used to have. I became a full soldier and I am really happy for that. I even have an Azov tattoo now, so it is part of my heart and of my skin."

But instead Fontana was seen in London on August 2, 2015, joining the Ukrainian "Misanthropic Division" to disrupt pro-Novorossyia protests in front of the Ukrainian embassy.

"Half a dozen people associated with the far-right Ukrainian grouping, the 'Misanthropic Division' disrupted a pro-Novorossiya protest outside the Ukrainian embassy in London, Sunday. A Misanthropic Division member, who called himself Francesca, said 'the purpose of our counter-demonstration was to disrupt the pro-Novorossiya scum demonstration.'"2

During the interview Fontana, who is from Pisa, refers to himself as a fascist. But he is adamant that he is not a Nazi, despite having respect for all nationalists. He is also reluctant to describe members of the Ukrainian nationalist movement or the Azov Battalion as Nazis, joking that some pro-Russian propaganda even paints Ukrainian Jews as Nazis.

Fontana sees the conflict as a war between two capitalist powers over oil and money and says that when he chose the Ukrainian side it was primarily out of loyalty and love for the land and the people of Ukraine, not what he calls the political elite who remain in control despite the revolution. He says he can understand other Italians who have chosen to fight for the Russian-supported separatists, a remark that diverts him briefly into geopolitics:

"Frankly, I can understand it when Putin doesn’t want NATO and others in his backyard. I was myself a Putinist when I arrived on Maidan, and if I have to choose between Russia and America, I choose Russia. First, Russia is a part of Europe. If you go to St. Petersburg you find Italian architecture, if you go to New York you find fake Italian pizza. It’s different cultures, with different roots. Second, the Americans and British invaded Italy. Just near Milan, they killed 190 people with bombs.”

He adds, however, that Ukrainians have historical experiences that make Russia a more natural enemy to them. “There is a certain respect and affiliation between European right-wingers and nationalist volunteers on both sides,” he says. “I don’t care about people from Transnistria or the Caucasus. I have no problem shooting at them. But there is a curiosity and respect between us volunteers. I know their backgrounds; I could have been among them myself. But the gods like to play with destinies. We even talk to each other, of course not about military secrets. From a political point of view, I understand the reasons of my enemies, and they call me ‘mon honorable ennemi’ – my honourable enemy."

“There is one Italian there, he is a Tuscan like me, from Lucca. He has a wife and son in Donbass and like me he is against the United States. I have never seen an American in Donbass and if they came here I would feel it had been for the second time. I have found things here that I thought were dead to the world and I don’t like the idea of having this country filled with McDonald’s over the next 10 years, and loose all its traditions."1