The relationship between Kiev and Ankara is developing into an alliance as they strengthen their military, technological and political relations. However, such a development is also contributing to the destabilization of Russia’s periphery and aims to encroach on Russia’s sovereignty and sphere of influence.
It is recalled that in 2015, members of the Turkish Far-Right and ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves terrorist organization, which were formerly funded and aided by NATO’s Operation Gladio, are periodically used by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to fight in regional conflicts and enforce Turkification in areas they occupy, such as Syria’s Idlib province. It is now being reported that the Grey Wolves are being deployed on Ukraine’s border with Crimea, particular in the Kherson region. Effectively, the Turkish extremists created a bridgehead for possible aggression against Crimea and enforce a blockade.
One of the main organizers of the blockade, Lenur Islyamov, posted a photo with Turkish fighters on his social media page, accompanied by the caption: “Turkish patriots from the organization Bozkurtlar, commonly referred to as the ‘Grey Wolves’, visited us during the blockade.”
Austria’s Contra Magazin announced the arrival of 300 fighters of Turkic origin from Turkey and neighboring countries in Mariupol in 2015-16. A little earlier, another unit recruited from the Turkish Crimean Tatar diaspora followed the same route. Ukraine and Turkey were supposed to use these forces for sabotage and terrorist activities against Russian sovereignty over Crimea and for military operations in Donbass.
The situation repeated itself in early April this year when it again appeared that Ukraine was preparing for war against the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics in the Donbass. In early April, Libyan media reported about Turkey’s readiness to transfer up to 7,000 Syrian militants to Donbass.
A week later in mid-April, military-focused Telegram channel WarGonzo reported that the Turkish special services in northern Syria were recruiting Russian-speaking terrorists for military operations alongside the Ukrainian army. It was then reported that a company of Turkish military personnel had arrived in Mariupol to coordinate the terrorists.
According to WarGonzo, a battalion of North Caucasian jihadists that fled to Ukraine after the First and Second Chechen campaigns was established. For Ukrainian national chauvinism, such cooperation is not new. During the First Chechen War, Far-Right Ukrainian militias fought alongside Chechen terrorists against Russia.
Cooperation between Ukrainian and Turkish ultra-nationalists have a long and continuous history. In 2017, Syria Today uploaded a video of the Syrian army conducting a search operation close to Deir ez-Zor. The Syrian army found traces of Ukrainian nationals in ISIS ranks in one of the buildings. Kiev denied sending Ukrainian nationals to the Middle East, stating that, on the contrary, they are trying to prevent this kind of transit. However, Kiev continuously expresses support for Turkey’s activities in Syria, including the occupation of Idlib.
During last year’s Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, Ukrainian officials expressed moral support for the Turkish-Azerbaijani alliance against Armenian forces. The Turkish-Azerbaijani victory was openly called a model for Ukraine to follow regarding Crimea and Donbass. In turn, the head of the Azerbaijani diaspora in Ukraine, Hikmet Javadov, who in 2014 took an active anti-Moscow position, said that Ukraine needs help from Turkey and the Turkic world to “defeat Russia” and “return Donbass.”
Ukrainian-Turkish cooperation in Central Asia is not ignored either. In September, when crossing the Russian-Ukrainian border, an illegal immigrant from Uzbekistan was detained. He had a map and spy equipment sewn into his clothes and during the interrogation, it turned out he worked for the Ukrainian special services. A few days earlier, the Uzbek authorities announced the detention of 12 members of the Hizb ut-Tahrir terrorist organization that were operating in Ukraine under the leadership of Kyrgyz national Mahmudjon Kholdarov. It can be assumed that the Central Asian strategy of the Ukrainian special services and other departments is coordinated with Ankara to build a united “Turkic world” to challenge Russia’s sphere of influence.
Finally, a conference was recently held in Turkey, titled: “South Azerbaijan is not Iran,” and was held in the presence of the chairman of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Kocaeli province, Yunus Emre, and the secretary of the Grey Wolves of the same province. Although the conference mostly focused on Azerbaijani claims over Iranian territory, it is not dismissed that a “pan-Turkic” map with Grey Wolves symbols was on display and included Crimea and Dagestan as a part of Ankara’s ambition to territorially expand.
How the Grey Wolves reconciles their claims over Crimea against Ukrainian claims is not yet known.
None-the-less, there is a decades-long history of Turkish and Ukrainian ultra-nationalists cooperating to fight and challenge Russia in its traditional sphere of influence. This has only become more pronounced since the so-called Maidan revolution in 2014. The Ukrainian state is effectively now dominated by the influence and power of Far-Right militias and their allies in the military. Meanwhile, Erdoğan is often pictured making the Grey Wolves hand symbol and is in a coalition government with the Nationalist Movement Party, the political wing of the Grey Wolves.
This marriage between Ukrainian and Turkish ultra-nationalists, who now rule their respective countries, is a force that only aims to pressure and challenge Russia in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, the Middle East and Central Asia. In this way, NATO is also satisfied as one of its most important member states and non-member partners are now closely coordinating together against Russia.