A Russian MMA fighter sporting neo-Nazi tattoos has been awarded a medal for his role in the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Mikhail Turkanov was awarded the Order of Courage by the North Slavic Community, a self-proclaimed “military-patriotic society of modern Cossacks.” The group announced the news on its official social media page, along with a photo of Turkanov dressed in military attire with the medal on pinned to his chest.
Ukrainian journalist Denis Kazansky later revealed that Turkanov received the medal for his “success in the denazification of Ukraine.”
“In Russia, [Turkanov] was repeatedly fined for publicly displaying Nazi symbols. And now he has become a ‘hero and anti-fascist,’” Kazansky wrote on Telegram.
Turkanov, 35, has a history of far-right extremism. His body is decorated with neo-Nazi symbols, including numerous swastikas, a Black Sun/Sonnenrad, a Celtic cross, the SS bolts, as well as the numbers 88, which stand for ‘Heil Hitler.’
In a 2019 interview with Match TV, Turkanov claimed that his tattoos were a part of his “pagan” beliefs and not a reflection on his views about white supremacy.
“All this comes from ignorance. That Hitler used an ancient symbol means nothing,” Turkanov said. “For example, the same swastika that I have on my tattoo was depicted on Russian banknotes under the Provisional Government. Yes, it has been used in many places. My tattoos are my business. I am not promoting anything and I am not shouting any slogans.”
Turkanov holds a 7-6 professional record and has not fought since July 2021 when he lost his third consecutive fight. He would go on to join the war in Ukraine a few months later.
His involvement in the Russia-Ukraine war stands in sharp contrast to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unsubstantiated claims that the purpose of his invasion of Ukraine was to “denazify” the country.
About the author: Karim Zidan is an investigative reporter for Bloody Elbow focusing on the intersection of sports and politics. His is also a contributor to The New York Times and The Guardian. (full bio)