A former US soldier linked to the Ukrainian far right is accused of robbing and murdering couple for money to fly to Venezuela
Valentyn Ogirenko / REUTERS
- A former US soldier, Craig Lang, is being held in Ukraine on suspicion of killing a Florida couple in 2018, Radio Free Europe reports.
- Lang and his accomplice planned to steal from the couple and use the money to travel to Venezuela to fight with rebels there. They had previously fought with an ultranationalist militant group in Ukraine together.
- Lang is also linked to another former soldier who was charged with sharing bomb-making instructions over social media.
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Former US Army soldier Craig Lang is being held in Ukraine on suspicion of killing a Florida couple in 2018, whom he and an accomplice are accused of stealing from so they could travel to "participate in an armed conflict against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela," Radio Free Europe reports.Lang, 29, was enlisted in the Army from 2008 to 2014, after which he fought with ultranationalist Ukrainian paramilitary group Right Sector before attempting to fight Al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda linked extremist group in East Africa. Lang and his accomplice, Alex Zwiefelhofer, who also fought with Right Sector were deported from Kenya as they tried to enter South Sudan in 2017. Zweifelhofer enlisted in the Army in 2015, went AWOL in 2016, and was discharged in 2018, according to a criminal complaint from the US district court in Florida.
The two had planned to commit crimes, including "committing robberies, hot wiring and stealing boats and/or a yacht, escaping to South America and Ukraine, and smuggling firearms and ammunition," according to the complaint. Lang eventually traveled from the US to Cúcuta, Colombia, via Mexico City, to cross to border into Venezuela and fight the government. From there, Lang traveled to Madrid, Spain, and then on to Ukraine, where he was captured.Read more: Amid mass protests in Moscow, Vladimir Putin showed up at a right-wing nationalist motorcycle rally in Crimea
The two are being charged with conspiracy to commit robbery affecting commerce and to discharge a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, robbery interfering in commerce, and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, resulting in death, according to the DOJ. Zweifelhofer also faces charges of sexual exploitation of a minor in North Carolina related to video footage FBI officers found on his cell phone.If found guilty of the federal charges, Lang and Zwiefelhofer face up to life in prison or the death penalty. Lang is also linked to Jarrett William Smith, another former soldier, who the DOJ charged on September 21, with distributing bomb-making instructions via social media. Radio Free Europe reported. Smith planned to travel to Ukraine to fight with the ultranationalist Azov Battalion and had sought Lang's advice on fighting in Ukraine.