Paul Massaro with Capitol building and Commission On Security And Cooperation In Europe logo over blue

Attitude1/Adobe Stock U.S. Helsinki Commission/Facebook @apmassaro3/Twitter (Licensed) Remix by Caterina Rose

Congressional human rights commission slammed for appointing staff director with social media history boosting Holocaust perpetrators

'So, one of your senior leaders is the guy who is glorifying Nazis...'


Marlon Ettinger


Posted on Apr 23, 2024

A Congressional body tasked with “guiding interstate relations, among them respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms” in the former Soviet Union, is facing backlash online after announcing the appointment of Paul Massaro as its new staff director.

Massaro—who posted and deleted tweets glorifying a WW2-era Ukrainian fascist who inspired pogroms that killed over a hundred thousand Jewish and Polish people—was also once criticized for a gleeful post when a Russian tourist was killed by a shark at a beach.

“So, one of your senior leaders is the guy who is glorifying Nazis (Azov) that your own report in the past admitted were Nazis? How does this make sense?” asked @BusinessGamesAI under a post about the announcement on X.

The Congressional body, called the U.S. Helsinki Commission, was established in the mid-70s to monitor human rights in the Soviet Union. After the Soviet Union dissolved in the 90s, it’s been tasked with a mandate covering Russia, countries in Eastern and Central Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia.

Before his appointment on Monday, Massaro was a senior policy advisor for “counter-corruption and sanctions” at the Helsinki Commission. According to a press release from the Commission, he was “instrumental” in passing anti-corruption legislation, some of which specifically took aim at Russian assets in response to their invasion of Ukraine. One of those laws, The Oligarch Assets for Ukrainian Victory Act, takes aim at assets which were illegally obtained by Russian oligarchs with the goal of sending those assets to Ukraine as aid.

In a piece from the Forward last year, U.S. officials refused to comment on Massaro’s praise of the Azov Battalion. Azov, which was founded by the Ukrainian neo-Nazi Andriy Biletsky as an unofficial militia to fight Russia in Donbas in 2014, was incorporated into a formal Ukrainian military brigade in 2023.

After that decision, Massaro posed for a selfie with an Azov flag, whose logo the Forward called a “near-facsimile of the so-called wolfsangel symbol used by the Nazi Waffen SS.”

Six days later, he posted a selfie with a smile on his face while wearing a patch with a portrait of Stepan Bandera on his arm. Bandera was a far right ethnonationalist who wrote about his movement’s affinity with Nazi race policies and antisemitism, but the Nazi authorities imprisoned him for most of the war. His followers went on to form the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), which perpetrated massacres that killed as much as 100,000 Polish people and tens of thousands of Jews.

“Hey, look what I’ve got” Massaro captioned the post.

Massaro quickly deleted the tweet after backlash, citing the request of a Polish friend. The Polish government, which is a close ally of Ukraine in the war with Russia, criticized the Ukrainian government after institutions including the parliament commemorated the birthday of Bandera last year.

Support for Bandera, who wrote a letter to the Nazi leader Alfred Rosenberg in 1941 arguing that “German and Ukrainian interests in Eastern Europe are identical,” has cropped up in the Ukranian armed forces alongside neo-Nazi iconography. Ahead of Ukraine’s former Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Valery Zaluzhny’s dismissal by president Vloldymyr Zelenksy over differences in military strategy, Zaluzhny posed next to a far-right member of Ukraine’s military in front of a portrait of Bandera and flags displaying far-right imagery.

Forward reported that a spokesperson for Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the co-chair of the commission, told the newspaper that Massaro had taken down the Bandera post after being spoken with “about the inappropriate nature of his posts.”

But the posts were evidently no barrier to further appointments.

Massaro, for his part, was sanguine, ignoring the criticism and posting that it’s a “profound honor to be appointed Staff Director of the Helsinki Commission where I have served for a decade. The mission remains the same: Ukrainian victory and the defense of democracy.”

And on the back of the news that Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) brokered a deal advancing more aid to Ukraine, he had a triumphant tweet.

“The change in DC is palpable. It’s like America has found itself again,” he wrote. “God bless this great country and our great allies who stand strong against tyrants and terrorists abroad[.]”

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*First Published: Apr 23, 2024, 1:02 pm CDT