Teenage girl soldier hailed as Ukraine’s ‘Joan of Arc’ by Elle magazine is revealed as neo-Nazi and is arrested over cop killing
- Vita Zaverukha, 19, arrested after a failed attempt to rob a petrol station
- Two police officers killed and three injured after ensuing chase in Kiev
- Vita is a known to be a neo-Nazi, spreading her views through social media
- But she featured in French magazine Elle praising female Ukrainian fighters
A neo-Nazi portrayed as Ukraine’s version of Joan of Arc by French fashion magazine Elle for her ‘brave’ fight against the Russian separatists has been arrested in connection with the deaths of two policemen.
Vita Zaverukha was taken into custody after two officers were killed and three more injured on May 4, following a gang’s failed attempt to rob a petrol station in the capital Kiev.
The gang, who all have links to the far-right in Ukraine, and allegedly were involved in a shoot out as they tried to flee the scene.
At first glance, it seems shocking that this slight, blonde teenager could be involved at all.
But Vita, 19, is charged with ‘an attempt on an officer of the law’, reported news outlets in Moscow – and a quick search reveals she is an active promoter and supporter of vile neo-Nazi ideals.
What’s more, she is also suspected of being linked to an attack on a traffic police post in Bykovnya two days beforehand, and it is also claimed she participated in bloody attacks on the Odessa House of Trade Unions in May last year in which 46 perished and 200 were injured.
Yet just six months ago, Elle magazine’s French edition was portraying her as Joan of Arc-type figure, bravely defending her home from Russian separatists – taken in, it seems, by her innocent appearance.
Vile: Vita Zaverukha is open about her Nazi sympathies, happily posing for pictures on the Russian version of Facebook performing a Nazi salute (left), and wearing the group’s insignia (right)
Violent: Vita is a volunteer fighter for the far-right Aidar Battalion, which has been accused of war crimes – but Elle magazine did not realise her extreme views when they included her in a feature (below).
Vita – who uses the name Sveta in the piece – poses dressed in her army fatigues, staring at the camera in a pose which is reminiscent of the hundreds of other female fighters feted as heroes for their stance against their attackers.
The magazine shows ‘Sveta’ as a brave young woman volunteering as a fighter to save her country from being overrun by Russian-backed militants.
In a caption alongside the photograph, she is quoted as saying: ‘If the Russians return to my town, I will shoot. If not me, then who will do it?’
But the magazine’s mistake was quickly picked up: Vita is a well-known member of the Aidar Battalion, which last September was slammed by Amnesty International for its campaign of terror through the war-torn Luhansk region.
Among the 400-strong volunteer unit’s alleged crimes were abductions, unlawful detention, ill-treatment, theft, extortion, and possible executions.
The battalion is known for its links to the far-right, and members have previously been pictured with Nazi insignia.
But it is Vita’s VK page – the Russian equivalent of Facebook – which provide unequivocal evidence of her own extreme views.
Contrast: Vita’s VK page is littered with pictures of her fighting, and with Nazi symbols, but it also include more innocent looking shots – like this one, where she wears a Ghostbusters jumper
Pictures of the blonde teenager performing the Nazi salute, posing in a t-shirt covered in the fascists’ emblem and even decorating her tent with a colourful swastika populate the page, while pictures she shares include things like ‘Ukraine with Yids’.
What Vita – who says she is ‘Aidar from the beginning’ and will continue to be so – writes on the page makes her vile views even more startling obvious.
‘I promote Nazism, terror, genocide,’ she wrote in December last year. ‘For all this, I’m not a bad person. The justification is the “War for Peace”. If you go bringing the work to the end, only in this case, justify my actions would not. Winners are not judged.’
‘Winners are not judged’: Vita dismisses people who believe in a peaceful solution to the conflict
Battle: Vita and her battalion are fighting the Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine
Skewed ideas: Vita has said she will stay loyal to Aidar always, as they were her unit ‘from the beginning’
In one of her more recent posts, she writes: ‘The victory may be only radical action – campaigning and murder.
‘Rallies , picketing and other dressing did not achieve. Action should always be sharp. The less time costs for the action , the longer it takes effect.’
The revelations meant Elle France was forced to print an apology – although whether they were referring to Vita in particular was unclear.
The statement explained they had met her in Luhansk, but there was nothing to suggest – from her clothes to her words – that she was in any way attached to a far right movement.
‘ELLE’s editorial board, as well as the two journalists in charge of the coverage, were shocked to learn the true ideological beliefs of this woman,’ the statement continued. ‘We vigorously condemn all and any xenophobic, anti-semitic, racist and Nazi ideologies.’
Her arrest has also been met with a sigh of relief from those who knew her.
Inspiration: A friend has revealed she developed her views after meeting her boyfriend (pictured together)
Warped: ‘I promote Nazism, terror, genocide,’ she says. ‘For all this, I’m not a bad person’
A friend told Ukrainian Vesti TV as saying: ‘I am glad she was detained. She is just weird.
‘If somebody does not control herself and at the same time has a gun, sooner or later it leads to tragedy.
‘But I think she is just a stupid girl.
‘She was influenced by her neo-Nazi boyfriend. She does not have any brain of her own.’
Ekaterina Roshuk, former Managing Director at The Kyiv Times, claimed she had ‘long ‘terrorised’ the city, with no one able to do anything about her.
‘The police were afraid to touch a hero of the Anti-Terrorist Operation, which in turn was used as license to engage in lawlessness.’
The state-owned Russian broadcaster Sputnik News Service also claimed: ‘She is also suspected of attempting to destroy a thermal power station in militia-controlled Luhansk, and of attempting to organize the robbery of the office of a Russian firm operating in her home city of Vinnitsa, central Ukraine.’
It added: ‘In March, a video appeared showing Vita shooting an RPG into a village in Donbass ‘just for fun’.’
Vesti reported that Vita’s four male accomplices were members of volunteer battalions fighting in country’s eastern conflict zone.
They were named as Vadim Pinus, 23, a decorated Azov Battalion fighter who was killed in the shootout with police, Evgeniy Koshelyuk, 20, sniper Andrei Romanyuk, 17, and Nikolai Monishenko, 17.
She and ‘friends’ were earlier accused of staging a row with a shop in Vinnitsa, blaming managers for links to Russia.
It was not possible to reach Zaverukha or her lawyer.