Canberra had tried but failed to prevent the violent criminal with deep extremist ties from traveling, local media has reported
Daniel Newman, a far-right extremist and a violent criminal, has flown from Australia to Ukraine to join the fight against Russian troops, Australia's Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) newspaper reported on Thursday, citing its sources. The development coincides with efforts by Canberra to prevent violent extremists from traveling to the war-torn country to gain combat experience, SMH said.
Newman first traveled to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and then to Europe in February, before arriving in Ukraine this month, the report claims, adding that the man had supposedly told his associates he was planning to take up arms against the Russian forces.
Newman is a member of an international extremist group named Combat 18, or C18. Founded in the UK in the early 1990s, it then expanded its network to other nations in Europe and beyond. The group's members have reportedly been linked to several murders, including in the UK and Germany. In 2019, Canada put C18 on its terrorist list.
Newman himself was previously jailed for violent offenses in the Australian state of Victoria. He then helped Australia's neo-Nazis forge connections with prison gangs as well as set up a cell in Tasmania, according to SMH.
This is allegedly Newman's second attempt to leave Australia for Ukraine, having previously sought to exit the country last year.
Australia's Department of Home Affairs as well as the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) launched a dedicated operation codenamed Project Backencourt, to prevent neo-Nazis from leaving Australia and getting combat experience overseas.
A spokesperson for Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil refused to provide any comments on the development. "The government does not comment on matters of national security," the spokesperson said.
According to the SMH, though, the authorities managed to prevent another far-right extremist and an ex-soldier, Conor Stretenovic, from flying to Europe out of concerns he might also like to fight for Ukraine. The man had his passport canceled in 2020.
Far-right extremists from various Western nations have joined the ranks of Ukrainian forces, first during the conflict in Donbass and later during the conflict between Moscow and Kiev.
Back in 2021, TIME magazine reported that Ukraine's infamous Azov regiment alone, many members of which espouse neo-Nazi ideology, had managed to recruit as many as 17,000 foreigners from a total of 50 nations.