US Army probes new soldier's Ukraine separatist past
Washington (AFP) – The US Army is investigating whether any recruitment procedures were violated when an American-French dual citizen enlisted despite having fought with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The Washington Post reported Monday that 29-year-old Guillaume Cuvelier started basic training in January, even though he had espoused extreme right-wing French nationalist views and had fought for the Kremlin-backed Donetsk People’s Republic in 2014.
“US Army Recruiting Command has initiated an inquiry to determine whether or not proper enlistment procedures were followed,” Army spokesman Colonel Pat Seiber told AFP.
A March 2014 executive order bars US citizens from assisting the Donetsk People’s Republic by way of “funds, goods or services.”
According to his large digital footprint, Cuvelier also spent time fighting with the Kurdish peshmerga in northern Iraq before heading to America.
Now a private first class in the Army, Cuvelier grew up in Rouen, France, and graduated from university there in 2009, the Post said, citing his now-deleted Facebook profile.
Records show that in 2010 regional French elections, Cuvelier was a candidate for the Parti de la France, a nationalist party that is even more right-wing than the Front National from which it had splintered.
Kelli Bland, a spokeswoman for US Army Recruitment Command, said incoming soldiers are subject to a range of screening procedures including whether they have a criminal past or a history of gang or extremist activity.
“Being a member of a gang or other group that is associated with criminal activity or extremist views or actions is inconsistent with Army values, and applicants who are members are denied entry based on questionable moral character,” Bland told AFP in a statement.
Cuvelier told the Post in a text-message exchange that he has changed.
“The Army is my only chance of moving on and cutting with my past,” Cuvelier told the Post.
“I realized I like this country, its way of life and its Constitution enough to defend it.”
“By publishing a story on me, you are jeopardizing my career and rendering a great service to anyone trying to embarrass the Army. My former Russian comrades would love it. … so, I please ask you to reconsider using my name and/or photo,” he added.
Bland said that dual citizens are subject to the same background checks as all US citizens.
But if a dual-national needs a security clearance, they require extra screening and could ultimately be asked to renounce their foreign citizenship.