by Alexander Rubinstein
Celebrated in mainstream US media for its anti-Russian trolling, the Twitter operation known as NAFO was founded by a Polish antisemite to raise money for a militia that has hosted war criminals, white nationalists and wanted murderers.
Whether they know it or not, anyone who has checked Twitter for recent coverage of the Ukraine proxy war has likely encountered at least one of the thousands of trolls that comprise NAFO, or the “North Atlantic Fellas Organization.” Thanks to the efforts of NAFO and its “fellas,” any journalist or prominent figure critical of Ukraine or NATO on Twitter is likely to receive hundreds of replies accusing them of being paid by Russian President Vladimir Putin (or even performing fellatio on him) from accounts with Shiba Inu dog avatars.
Since its inception several months ago, NAFO has earned gushing praise from the Washington Post, which hailed it for “show[ing] that the tables could be turned on Russia, when it came to trolling.” The arms industry-funded, Washington DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), meanwhile, hosted an online panel highlighting NAFO as an instrumental weapon in the Russia-Ukraine infowars.
Yet NAFO’s beltway boosters often gloss over its role as a fundraising machine for the Georgian Legion, a US-backed Ukrainian fighting group that stands accused of gruesome battlefield atrocities. Several former members of the Legion have produced first-hand testimony documenting its perpetration of war crimes, including the torture and execution of POWs and civilians.
One NAFO founder explained that he chose the Georgian Legion as a funding recipient precisely because of the unit’s reputation as a band of “mercenaries and criminals” that was willing to carry out barbarous acts which could cause foreign governments to shy away from supporting it. Another NAFO founder has praised the Georgian Legion’s leader for “killing Russians since the ’90s.”
Among the Georgian Legion’s most notorious members are US fugitive and murderer Craig Lang, as well as Paul Gray, an American whose past involvement in several neo-Nazi organizations was never mentioned during the friendly primetime interviews he was granted by Fox News and its local affiliates.
While providing a financial feeding tube to a militia that revels in its own atrocities, NAFO continues to attract effusive support from mainstream US journalists and think tankers who portray the operation as little more than a grassroots expression of online solidarity with Ukraine.
Obsessively online interventionists find meaning and purpose as “fellas”
Employing cartoon memes of the Shiba Inu dog breed, NAFO’s postmodern aesthetic, irreverent style and dedication to viciously trolling any critic of the Ukraine proxy war has garnered the adulation of Western media and interventionist government officials alike.
To outsiders, the lingo that flows through internal NAFO chats might seem unintelligible: “fellas” refers to members; “nafoarticle5” is a call to action that urges “fellas” to dog-pile on a particular social media post; “vatnik” serves as a pejorative for Russians and virtually anyone critical of the US-backed proxy war. Phrases such as “NAFO expansion is non-negotiable” and sarcastic claims that they are funded by the CIA (which they simultaneously claim “doesn’t exist”) are also ubiquitous.
Behind the anonymously named Twitter accounts of NAFO members lies a base of extremely online, mostly male civilians seeking a sense of purpose and community. Some participants have tattooed Shiba Inu avatars onto their bodies while others have published photos of their newborn babies in the arms of an adult sporting a NAFO shirt.
One founder of the troll farm tweeted a photo of an elaborate NAFO tattoo emblazoned on his arm, but has since deleted it.
In public, NAFO leaders market the image of a charity-focused community of do-gooders, however, many posts by its fellas reflect the kind of psychologically deranged outbursts familiar to young adult men who spend endless hours ranting on a messaging platform built for gamers. In mid-October, for example, an administrator complained that she was forced to ban two members of the NAFO Discord for publicly plotting the murder of a third member of the community.
While US corporate media have declared that within NAFO “there is no command structure,” effectively releasing the group’s founders from accountability for the fellas’ behavior, this reporter found all the hallmarks of an organizational hierarchy. The group’s Discord server is run by founders, assigned administrators, moderators, and “forgers” who make memes used for harassing people on social media. “Verified fellas” are granted access to otherwise locked channels, while regular “fellas” are assigned more mundane roles.
“It’s preferred that people who are not heavily involved in the day to day do not speak on behalf of NAFO or what NAFO is to the press,” one administrator wrote in the server’s announcement’s channel.
Inside NAFO’s social media crowdfunding nexus
There are three ways to obtain a NAFO avatar and become a verified “fella.” The first is to make a donation to the Georgian National Legion through an email address attached to PayPal and belonging to Taras Reshetylo, a field commander of the Georgian Legion. Another way to join is by donating to an organization called “Protect Ukraine Defenders,” or a merchandise purchase from a website called Saint Javelin. Saint Javelin’s logo depicts the Virgin Mary bearing a US-manufactured Javelin missile.
Though distinct from NAFO at its foundation, Saint Javelin sold merchandise for the organization and recently incorporated NAFO into its brand. For months, all of Saint Javelin’s proceeds from NAFO merchandise went directly to the Georgian Legion, according to its website. Like NAFO, Saint Javelin estimates that it has raised huge sums for the war — more than a million dollars.
Besides fundraising for the Georgian Legion, Saint Javelin passes on proceeds to United24, an initiative launched by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky “as the main venue for collecting charitable donations in support of Ukraine.” It also channels money to the Ukrainian World Congress, an organization which has defended the legacy of World War Two-era Nazi collaborator and mass murderer Stepan Bandera, branding him “the undisputed symbol of Ukraine’s lengthy and tragic struggle for independence.”
Saint Javelin’s partnership with Zelensky’s United24 aims to help raise funds to build an “army of drones.”
The Saint Javelin website was launched by a former journalist named Christian Borys whose employment history spans NATO state-funded outlets including Canada’s CBC and Britain’s BBC. Borys has also authored articles for the US government-sponsored outlet Radio Free Europe.
One of Borys’ most notorious journalistic escapades consisted of a night of bar-hopping in the Ukrainian city of Lviv, where he patronized an antisemitic restaurant and returned with a review for Vice News portraying it as one of the city’s many weird and wonderful haunts.
The restaurant converts anti-Jewish tropes into a marketing gimmick; its waiters dress as Orthodox Jews who haggle with patrons over the prices of menu items. “If you play your cards right [it’s] ridiculously cheap,” Borys gushed in his review.
Noting that Lviv “was home to around 220,000 Jewish people,” Borys wrote that “the population now only hovers around 1,100,” Strangely though, he neglected to explain how the genocidal rampage of Stepan Bandera’s Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists helped violently extinguish the local Jewish population. He merely stated that the restaurant “pays homage [to the local Jewish population] in a weird way.”
The Ukrainian ethnic-owned restaurant contains a terrace that overlooks the ruins of “one of the most important synagogues in Eastern Europe.”
In the same 2015 article, Borys described going to a bar where “you’re served by little people,” visiting another that forces you to recite ultra-nationalist slogans before entering, and emptying an AK-47 clip in a target depicting Putin’s face at a local shooting range.
VICE News publishes a “supplied” photograph of President Zelensky being handed a Saint Javelin t-shirt by the country’s Minister of Defense
On Twitter, Borys erupted with glee when a member of the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion was spotted wearing a Saint Javelin patch. He seemed equally thrilled when his former employer published photographs from an unstated source of Ukraine’s Defense Minister Olekseii Reznikov handing President Zelensky a Saint Javelin t-shirt.
In the NAFO Discord chat, Borys suggested paying protesters to hold NAFO demonstrations outside Russian embassies.
A retired Marine and amateur conflict pundit named Matt Moores claimed to have established the relationship between NAFO and Borys after co-founding the former organization. On October 7, NAFO was incorporated into the Saint Javelin brand, with the latter becoming the former’s parent company, according to a post by a NAFO administrator in the Discord server’s announcement channel.
The third organization for which NAFO fundraises, Protect Ukraine Defenders, was launched by a well-connected functionary of the Brussels-based intelligentsia named Ievgen Vorobiov. Vorobiov started as an intern for the European Union state-funded Centre for European Policy Studies think tank, then moved on to gigs at the Polish government-founded Polish Institute of International Affairs and Foreign Policy magazine. Before founding Protect Ukraine Defenders, Vorobiov spent nearly four years at the European Union Advisory Mission in Ukraine.
An anchor for amplifying pro-proxy war Twitter accounts
While Twitter has responded to NATO state pressure to suppress accounts associated with Russian state media, and has banned numerous other users for simply questioning the official Western version of events in Ukraine, organizations connected with NAFO have seen explosive growth since the Ukraine proxy war began. Saint Javelin, for its part, has received verification from Twitter and amassed nearly 70,000 followers since launching an account this February.
A NAFO founder who operates under the pseudonym “Kama Kamilia” had less than 200 Twitter followers in April 2022; today they broadcast to an audience of over 22,000. NAFO co-founder Christian Borys had less than 5,500 followers in February 2022 and now boasts more than 36,000. Similarly, Matt Moores’ Twitter account grew by more than 16,000 followers since January.
“Kama Kamilia” has explicitly linked the Georgian Legion’s follower count to the popularity of his NAFO organization: “I think they had 4,000 followers when we started [now] they have… more than 20,000.” As of early October, that number is more than 110,000.
In September, the Discord tech company granted NAFO “partnered” status, meaning it now serves as a corporate “role model” and is considered one of “the best servers out there.” Yet it is composed of just over 3,000 members, raising questions about the tens of thousands of new followers NAFO has suddenly accumulated on Twitter.
NAFO’s expansion has also driven the growth of hundreds, if not thousands, of otherwise insignificant Twitter accounts which have participated in online harassment and used the group to push crowdfunding efforts.
One NAFO-stylized account which the Georgian Legion follows and at least one administrator of the NAFO Discord boasted that they were able to purchase gear for a Ukrainian soldier named “Igor.” In the photographs attached to the Tweet, Igor can be seen wearing a Nazi Sonnenrad patch.
The war crimes of the Georgian Legion
Behind the goofy Shibu Ina avatars and rambunctious chat sessions lies a mission that defines NAFO: to raise as much money as possible for the Georgian National Legion. One administrator of the official NAFO discord put it succinctly: “NAFO has always been about supporting the Georgian Legion first and foremost.”
Another administrator stated on July 2 of this year that “$43,000 (USD) has been raised by the fellas for the Georgian Legion.” Three months later, a NAFO member estimated the figure to be “likely totaling over $1 million,” a metric of the explosive growth of the group. “It is the most organic movement I’ve been involved with,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
While NAFO fundraises for several allied organizations, supporters are most frequently directed to donate to the Georgian Legion. Matt Moores, the US Marine veteran who co-founded NAFO and describes himself as “very online,” has explained in interviews that NAFO “started as a fundraiser really.”
“Beyond the memes, beyond the jokes, beyond the humor, there is a real component of it with, you know, fundraising. These little cartoon dog avatars that they have, each one of them is made by a volunteer, a fella forger, in our community and these little small donations have raised close to $300,000 so far,” Moores explained.
With an existing Twitter following, Moores reached out to someone who posts online under the Kama Kamilia in May. It was then that NAFO was born.
“I was looking and saw that someone was posting these little cartoon dogs and using them to, you know, mock and to belittle these, you know, propaganda statements and the supposed achievements of the Russian military and just trying to throw these little jabs wherever you could get them in,” Moores said. “One day someone asked Kamil ‘how do I get one of these?’ And he said ‘if you send $20 or whatever it is to the Georgian Legion we’ll make you one of these.’ So from there it has really gotten quite out of hand.”
Little is known about the NAFO co-founder “Kama Kamilia,” as corporate media outlets hyping them as a pro-Ukraine influencer extraordinaire have refused to disclose his real name. However, this reporter and researcher Moss Robeson have determined that he is Kamil Dyszewski, a 29-year-old Polish national and failed criminologist-turned-video game reviewer living somewhere near London.
The NAFO founder has posted a number of antisemitic memes, including some mocking Jewish victims of the Holocaust, seemingly glorifying Adolf Hitler, and calling for the deportation of President Trump’s Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to Tel Aviv.
“I just stumbled my way through life, now into this. What fuels it for me is the absolute hatred and vitriol I have towards the Russians,” Dyszewski has said. “I just found a way which we could expedite the process of getting them [the Russian government] removed.”