The tale of a Vegas gambler, failed politician, and professional Nazi groupie
The war in Ukraine has been a bonanza for grifters. From mercenaries and gun runners to OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) and journalists, a bottomless well of western financing combined with a firehose stream of information both true and false has created a perfect environment for war profiteering.
The need to produce staggering amounts of propaganda means anyone shameless enough to toe the line will profit enormously. This has been a clarion call for a colorful cast of characters who have descended on Ukraine, willing to roll the dice in search of fame and fortune from the suffering of others.
One of the most flagrant of these is a journalist by the name of Sarah Ashton-Cirillo. A former real estate speculator and competitive poker player turned failed politician, whose previous attempts at journalism involved little more than a weekend party with Las Vegas proud boys, Sarah is now the chief mouthpiece for some of the most brutal and prolific Nazi murderers since the time of the Waffen SS.
Know when to fold ‘em
In retrospect, it is easy to see why Sarah fits in so well with the Nazi mercenaries infesting Ukraine. Despite describing herself as a “left libertarian,” Sarah’s actions reveal a woman who is little more than a political mercenary, jumping between wildly disparate causes at the drop of a hat in pursuit of fame.
As late as 2021, Sarah worked as a campaign consultant with the Clark County, Nevada GOP. She had a talent for the job, as 2 out of her 3 candidates won. She marketed herself as a “unicorn,” to enhance her mystique, and therefore her prestige.
Sarah was seen as a unicorn because she is trans. For several years, she played up her status as a trans Republican to further her career, and the Nevada GOP was eager to use her as a token to give them the appearance of egalitarianism even as they enacted monstrous anti-trans laws which have led to death and suffering for people like Sarah.
While Sarah frames this as some grand infiltration of the Republican Party, she was nonetheless helping them win.
At around the same time, Sarah was carrying out a bizarre “sting operation” on the Nevada GOP. She utilized her connections within the party to get close to party officials whom she claims were seeking to overturn the 2020 Presidential election.
Sarah knew exactly what to do, reaching out to a group of Vegas Proud Boys she was already familiar with. Sarah and the fascists spent a weekend in her hotel suite, where they hatched their plans to overturn the election, no doubt among other activities. Sarah aspired to reveal this plot as a part of a planned book exposing the crimes of the Nevada GOP.
The Proud Boys accomplished very little, picketing an election commission building for a time before they went home. Sarah accomplished even less. Despite her best efforts, absolutely nothing happened to anyone involved in her sting operation, all of whom are still employed by the state GOP. She even claims to have gone to the FBI, who were no doubt confused about why she wanted them to arrest their agents.
After burning all her bridges with the state GOP, Sarah was also expelled from the Nevada DSA. Sarah claims that this was some grand chekist crusade against her and free speech, however, the reality is much simpler. Between her associations with the Nevada GOP, Proud Boys, and other far-right activists and her constant attacks on the DSA and its members, their hand was forced. A party that gladly admits intelligence agents, police, and arms dealers into its ranks viewed Sarah as an unacceptable risk to the party.
Now having destroyed any hope of support from either left or right, Sarah decided to run for office, launching a bid for Las Vegas City Council against the far-right Michele Fiore.
Sarah went all out, claiming to have released copious information on Fiore’s financial improprieties to the FBI. Once again, she received fawning coverage in the press, taking ample opportunity to plug her yet unreleased book about her “infiltration” of the far right. In her mind, she was a crusading anti-fascist warrior who took down the Nevada GOP, the Proud Boys, and would now slay one of Trump’s fiercest dragons.
As usual, Sarah’s fantasy was not tethered to material reality. Sarah’s revelation that the GOP was working with Proud Boys had about as much impact as revealing the Pope is Catholic. Her document dumps to the FBI did nothing to either the GOP or Fiore, who remains a city councilwoman.
Sarah dropped out of the election in October, ostensibly to focus on her career as a “journalist” on her new website political.tips. She dished petty dirt on the Nevada GOP until March of 2022, when she traveled to Ukraine, alongside her friend Vic Harkness. Harkness had previously worked as a hacker for DSTL, the British equivalent of DARPA. It is unclear when Harkness and Sarah met and how close they are, but Harkness’ skills and connections may explain why so many doors opened so quickly for Sarah.
Know when to walk away
Sarah hit the ground running in Ukraine. Almost immediately after arriving, she was given press credentials and wormed her way into the Kharkov branch of the infamous neo-Nazi Azov battalion. Specifically, she appears to be embedded with Kraken, a division of Azov formed in the spring of 2021. By April, she was already privy to Kraken operations the day they happened, such as when she broke the arrest of Chilean MRA Gonzalo Lira.
While she was the first journalist on the story, she was quietly beaten to the punch by one of her comrades, the infamous neo-Nazi mercenary, police chief and Azov special forces commander Sergey “Botsman” Korotikh. Never a man to miss out on the spotlight, Botsman couldn’t help himself and spilled the beans on Twitter before Sarah could.
Before joining Azov in 2014, Sergey was best known for his time leading the National Socialist Society, a Russian neo-Nazi gang. During his 6-year rule, Botsman and the NSO racked up dozens of murders and hundreds of millions of rubles in profit from extortion, arms trafficking, robbery, smuggling, and kidnapping.
Botsman’s crowning achievement was the 2007 kidnapping and murder of Shamil Odamanov, an innocent construction worker who Botsman decapitated with a dull knife in front of a Swastika flag. Sergey held the severed head aloft for the benefit of the camera before another unidentified victim was shot in the back of the head and thrown into a pit along with Shamil’s headless body. As far as anyone knows, the two men were chosen at random, kidnapped off the streets, and murdered simply because of their race.
Sarah’s comrade filmed the atrocity and proudly posted it to liveleak, along with a manifesto.
“Our party is the militant vanguard of the National Socialist struggle.
1. We announce the beginning of the armed struggle of our party against the black colonists and those who support them from the ranks of the officials of the Russian Federation.
2. We consider it necessary to evict all Caucasians (Muslims) and Asians from Russian territory.
3. We consider it necessary to grant independence to all Caucasian republics (including Chechnya), along with the eviction of the entire Caucasian population of Russia.
4. We demand the release of all Russian National Socialists convicted in recent years who are imprisoned now, and an end to the persecution of Maksim Martsinkevich.
4. We demand the resignation of president Putin (in the text with a small letter) and transfer all power in the country to the National Socialist Government, which should be formed by Dmitry Rumyantsev, the leader of the National Socialist Society of Russia.
5. We are an independent militant wing of the National Socialist Society (N.S.S.), and we recognize the political leadership of the National Socialist Society.
6. We will not stop our struggle until power in the country passes to the National Socialist government.”
The video, called “The Execution of a Dag and a Tajik,” spread like wildfire across the internet and eventually led to the NSO’s downfall. After public outcry from the murders forced Russian police to act, Botsman turned snitch to save his own skin. He ratted out his entire organization leading to a total of 27 murder charges and life imprisonment for every NSO member. After this, Sergey fled Russia and worked as a mercenary for years before returning to Ukraine to co-found Azov at the invitation of interior minister Arsen Avakov.
The other Nazi Botsman mentioned in his Twitter posts is a man named Sergey “Chili” Velichko. Chili is one of the most prolific butchers in the war, a brazen and unrepentant war criminal who fills his social media with the evidence of his crimes.
Formerly a soccer hooligan like most of Azov, Chili has been an active neo-Nazi since at least 2014, when he threw Molotov cocktails at trade unionists on the front line of the Maidan coup. Chili was among the first generation of Azov and was quickly taken under the wing of the much more experienced Botsman. He has done his teacher proud, earning a reputation as one of Azov’s most bloodthirsty killers.
It was Chili who was responsible for the infamous kneecapping video which circulated on social media. Filmed at a dairy farm near Kharkov where Kraken brings victims to torture and murder, several Russian POWs were pushed out of a van and shot in the legs by Chili, who then gloats for the camera as he films their suffering. Off camera, the POWs were further brutalized and mutilated, Chili gouged out their eyes and cut off all their fingers before he murdered them.
Sadly, these men were far from the only ones to meet such a grisly fate at Chili’s dairy farm. His Instagram was a testament to the ubiquity of these crimes before he finally deleted it a few months ago.
None of this has dissuaded Sarah, of course. She continues to give unwavering support to Azov and Kraken and as of the time of this article’s publication is still embedded with the neo-Nazi unit. Nor has it stopped Sarah’s increasingly influential backers from expanding their proliferation of her Nazi propaganda.
Know when to run
In Ukraine, Sarah has finally found the fame and fortune she was so desperately seeking before. She has once again found a niche as a “unicorn” working to launder the reputation of her Nazi friends. This time, however, she has help.
Sarah has caught the eye of mainstream outlets, such as the long-running and influential Canadian LGBTQ magazine Xtra, which published this profile of Sarah on July 27th. While it appears to be the sort of puff piece she is used to, a closer examination shows this article to be particularly insidious.
The author, right-wing journalist Adam Zivo, is an employee of the NATO Association of Canada. He serves as a propagandist for NATO, working to pinkwash the reputation of an alliance that has a long and continuing history of funding the murderous fascists who have stood against the advancement of LGBTQ rights.
Zivo is something of a kindred spirit to Sarah, appropriating the language and aesthetics of progressives in support of the far right. No longer content to simply defend Kyle Rittenhouse, attack the homeless, or carry water for apartheid Israel, Zevo now uses the language of the so-called “social justice warriors” he despises to defend NATO’s pet Nazis.
For her part, Sarah, who still markets herself as a “progressive” has let the mask drop entirely. In the fertile ground of post-Maidan Ukraine, she has expanded her horizons, doing interviews with all sorts of fascists, including one where she feted a Rhodesian mercenary and defended apartheid on Twitter. The outrage from this interview was such that it became one of the few Sarah ever deleted. Unfortunately for her, her Rhodesian friend is not quite as canny. When pressed, the former gambler doubled down.
Despite her previous statements to the contrary, it seems black lives matter to Sarah only exactly as much as necessary to advance her career. Perhaps when she said people should be held accountable for systematic racism, she made an exception for the soldiers fighting to preserve it.
To further solidify her fascist bona fides Sarah proudly wears a patch depicting the flag of the fascist Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) on her body armor when her propaganda work takes her near the front lines. The UPA was founded and led by Nazi collaborator and Holocaust perpetrator Roman Shukhevych. Sarah loves their flag so much that she joked that she would de-transition for a fellow journalist who posted it on Twitter.
Sarah’s perspective no doubt differs from the hundreds of thousands of innocent people murdered by the terrorists who marched under that flag. In Lviv, Sarah patroled the same streets searching for “saboteurs” that the infamous Nachtigall battalion under the command of Shukhevych washed with the blood of their victims in 1941.
In 1941, Lviv was a majority Polish city, with a sizable plurality of over 100,000 Jews. Many of them were refugees fleeing from the Nazi and Banderite terror that gripped Eastern Europe. The men who marched under Sarah’s beloved flag entered the city with specific orders to change that. They carried out their orders with gusto, murdering Jews, Poles, Hungarians, Communists, and any other undesirables they could get their hands on as the leaders of the OUN pledged allegiance to Adolf Hitler in the castle above the city.
“Don’t throw away your weapons yet. Take them up. Destroy the enemy. … Moscow, the Hungarians, the Jews—these are your enemies. Destroy them.”—OUN propaganda pamphlet from Lviv, 1941.
By the time the Red Army liberated Lviv in 1944, between 800 to 2000 of the city’s Jews remained alive. They survived because they took refuge in the sewers, forced to live like rats in the filth rather than face the hammers, axes, and garottes of Shukhevych’s fascist maniacs.
Indeed, in Lviv, the Nazis had to restrain the nationalists to carry out the orderly and methodical extermination favored by the Einsatzgruppen. After the Einsatzgruppen moved on, the nationalists returned to hack Jews to pieces with farming implements in a massacre they dedicated to the memory of slain fascist leader Symon Pelitura.
Extreme brutality was the calling card of all units led by Shukhevych. In the Volnhya region of Poland, Shukhevych’s men carried out a campaign of genocide lasting for years, during which over 100,000 Polish civilians were murdered.
The apotheosis of this slaughter was known as “Bloody Sunday” in which the UPA, marching under the very same red and black flag Sarah is so proud of, attacked 100 Polish settlements simultaneously. 8000 civilians were massacred in less than 24 hours, and many of them were burned alive or shot dead inside their churches while attending mass.
Any one who escaped were hunted down and butchered with hammers, axes, and knives. Children were captured alive when possible, and hanged from the trees lining the roads. Sarah’s heroes were so proud of their crimes that they proudly raised the red and black flag and erected a banner declaring this “the road to an Independent Ukraine.”
“We had a heavy machine gun (Russian) and two small calibre mortars. At nigh we prepared ourselves and on the next day the whole gang, including me, attacked a Polish church, in which a mass was under way; some 200 hundred people were there, [including] elders and small children. The church was surrounded and the killing started, we fired from the machine gun through the main entrance and windows, as a result killing many people and children; those who were trying to escape were chased and killed. Then, a pogrom of individual families started, in which I also participated”.—Iwain Hryn, a former UPA fighter, describes the massacre in court testimony.
This was not an isolated incident. As part of their intentional campaign of genocide, the UPA made a point of targeting children to ensure Volhynia could never be repopulated by the hated Poles. Sadly, in most cases the victims are still unknown, their very existence wiped out by Sarah’s heroes. However, in a few cases, we can put names on the mutilated corpses.
In one instance, three victims were exhumed and photographed in time to identify. The image is gruesome: In it, there are three dead children laying on the ground. Two of them are brothers, Janusz and Marek Mekela from Gvyadowski. Janusz was 3 years old, and his brother Marek was 2. Both were beaten with such savagery that their arms and legs were broken. Sarah’s heroes then finished them off with bayonets.
In between the brothers lies the body of Stasya Stefanyak, a 5-year-old girl who was beaten, raped, and disemboweled by the UPA. She was still alive as the knife entered her belly. It is likely that the red and black flag which Sarah is so proud of is one of the last things they saw before they died.
It seems, therefore, that Sarah’s concern for the welfare of children is selective at best.
Every hand is a winner
Now we are left with one final question.
Does Sarah believe any of this, or is she simply a grifter playing out the thread to its conclusion before she cashes in her chips?
To me, it makes no difference. Actions speak louder than words and Sarah has put in a staggering amount of work towards furthering the cause of the far right both at home and abroad, even if she claims to be doing the opposite.
In the absence of any real ideology, people like Sarah must cling to symbols. She constantly defends the honor of her Nazi friends by playing up their alleged tolerance for LGBTQ rights as if their monstrous atrocities can be erased with a rainbow sticker.
This belies a serious lack of historical knowledge and the complete absence of any framework to analyze it. Sarah is not a brave activist or a daring journalist, but rather a nihilist and a mercenary. I do not believe Sarah is a fascist, a socialist, or much of anything beyond a gambler trying to bluff her way to fortune. This does not make her innocent. If anything, it makes her even worse than the Nazis she admires. Men like Botsman, Chili, and Roman Shukhevych are not afraid to stand even to death for what they believe in, no matter how terrible.
Sarah, however, will not just say anything, but she will become anyone she needs to further her goals. She can be a crusading anti-fascist one moment, and a fascist propagandist the next, if she believes it will make her famous. She is willing to sell out “friends,” comrades, and even her fellow trans people if it keeps the spotlight on her for even a moment longer. Absolutely nothing matters in her journey to the top, just as long as she arrives at the destination with her pockets lined and her name in the headline.
Like a card cheat, Sarah uses subterfuge to hide her real intentions, trying to stack the deck in her favor while the dealer is distracted. As is fitting from the woman once ranked #80,000 in the world, her clumsy attempts cannot fool anyone who is paying attention. The truly worrying thing is I do not think she realizes this, rather, she believes that she is actually the top-flight poker player she thinks she is.
As is usual, Sarah’s fantasies are not tethered to material reality.
While I hold Sarah in the highest possible contempt, I hope she realizes before it’s too late that the stakes in this game are far higher than she knows. At this table, you play with nothing less than your life. A day will come when her Nazi friends decide to call her bluff and cash in her chips one way or another.
While her skills as a poker player are lacking, we can only hope she folds before that day comes.
This article was originally written for and posted on the Donbass Devushka Patreon page. Please take a look, and subscribe if you like the content. All proceeds go to charities in the region to help the people of Donbass survive and recover from this war. Thank you!
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About the Author
Evan Reif was born in a small mining town in Western South Dakota as the son of a miner and a librarian.
His father’s struggles as a union organizer, and the community’s struggles with de-industrialization, nurtured Evan’s deep interest in left-wing politics. This, along with his love of history, made him a staunch anti-fascist.
When not writing, researching or working, Evan enjoys fishing, shooting, and Chinese cooking.