Sources told Rolling Stone that, In the months leading up to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, an oligarch with Russian ties paid for locals to paint swastikas around Kharkiv. Sources said the effort was part of a false flag operation to exaggerate Ukraine’s Nazi presence that Putin used as a pretext for war. Via Rolling Stone:
The alleged plot, according to multiple sources, involved Pavel Fuks, a real estate, banking, and oil magnate who, the sources claim, was co-opted by Russian security forces to participate. Through intermediaries, Fuks allegedly offered between $500 and $1,500 for street level criminals to vandalize city streets with pro-Nazi graffiti in December, January, and February.
The accounts of Fuks’ alleged efforts to stir up animosity in Ukraine is derived from multiple sources, including U.S. intelligence reporting. Rolling Stone spoke to an Ukrainian who says he confronted Fuks twice about the alleged swastika plot. Another account of the plot was relayed to the U.S. government in recent weeks by a U.S. informant with high-level business and government contacts in Ukraine. A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter, confirmed that the allegations about Fuks’ activities had been received and distributed for analysis throughout the U.S. intelligence community. Finally, Rolling Stone spoke to four other sources who spoke on condition of anonymity and confirmed they heard about Fuks’ alleged role in a plot to paint swastikas independently of one another.
Oleg Plyush, a former top Ukrainian kickboxer who says he’s a friend of Fuks and spoke to him about the swastika plot, tells Rolling Stone he learned about the scheme from an intermediary involved with finding people to carry out the vandalism. According to Plyush’s account, when confronted about the scheme, Fuks claimed that “he had no choice” and that it was his “assignment” — mandatory if he wanted to stay in business in the region.
Like the U.S., Ukraine has long had anti-semites and Nazi sympathizers, especially in the infamous Azov Battalion, but sounds like they just weren't prominent enough for Putin's purposes.