An oligarch bankrolled a scheme to paint swastikas in Ukraine to fuel Putin's unfounded claims about rampant Nazism, a report says

An oligarch bankrolled a scheme to paint swastikas in Ukraine to fuel Putin's unfounded claims about rampant Nazism, a report says
Russian President Vladimir Putin has tried to justify his attack by saying that Ukraine was overrun by Nazis.MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images
  • A Ukrainian oligarch funded a scheme to paint swastikas in Ukraine, sources told Rolling Stone.
  • The graffiti reportedly aimed to fuel false claims that Nazis had a large presence in Ukraine.

An oligarch with ties to Russia bankrolled a scheme to paint swastikas in Ukraine over the winter as part of a campaign to spread claims that Nazis had a large presence in the country, sources told Rolling Stone.

Pavel Fuks, a Ukrainian businessman who formerly had Russian citizenship, used intermediaries to pay criminals between $500 and $1,500 to paint antisemitic graffiti across Ukraine in December, January, and February, the sources reportedly told the publication.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops to invade Ukraine in late February in what he called a "special military operation". He has called Ukraine's government — whose president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is Jewish — a "band of junkies and neo-Nazis" and said that the invasion aimed for the "demilitarization and de-Nazification of Ukraine."

Former Ukrainian kickboxer Oleg Plyush told Rolling Stone that he was friends with Fuks and spoke to him about the swastika plot. Plyush said he was aware of three pieces of antisemitic graffiti that he said were funded by Fuks, including some in Kyiv. The graffiti was carried out by "street thugs," two of whom he personally knew, Plyush told the publication.

Fuks, who is Jewish, helped finance the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center in Kyiv, which Ukrainian officials say was damaged earlier this month by attacks from Russia.


Plyush said that Fuks had told him he had "no choice" but to implement the scheme if he wanted to stay in business in the region. Rolling Stone did not say who this pressure came from.

According to the publication, the use of Nazi symbols is a tactic known to be used by Russian intelligence to help stir unrest, and the claims that Fuks was involved do not suggest the actions were driven by antisemitism.

Former KGB general Oleg Kalugin wrote in his memoir that KGB officers paid American agents to paint swastikas on synagogues and hospitals in New York and Washington during the Cold War to make it look antisemitic, per Rolling Stone.

Rolling Stone said it based its reporting on at least six sources. It said it was unable to independently verify specific vandalism incidences connected to the alleged scheme.

Fuks and his US lawyer did not respond to Rolling Stone's requests for comment. Neither Oleg Plyush nor Fuks' lawyer immediately replied to a request for comment for Insider.


Fuks, who was born in Kharkiv, made his money in the banking and real-estate industries. He negotiated with the Trump Organization about building a Trump Tower in Moscow, which never came to light. He has also worked with Rudy Giuliani.

Fuks was sanctioned alongside hundreds of other Ukrainian individuals, many of them wealthy, by Russia in 2018 as part of measures to hobble Ukraine's economy. He said in 2021 that he had renounced his Russian citizenship after starting the formal process in 2017.