The Azov Battalion have been part of the broader debate on the Ukraine war due to their neo-Nazi white supremacist ideology and their links to three different US administrations. They also appear to be a key reason why Russia decided to invade Ukraine, so why are they important?
Azov is a right-wing Neo-Nazi regiment garrisoned in Mariupol, Urzuf Donetsk Oblast, Kyiv and Berdiansk. Their official role is to ensure national security but in reality they often use violence, bully-boy tactics and criminal behaviour to intimidate and bend authorities to their will. They started life as a neo-Nazi militia but have been incorporated into the Ukrainian military and are now, as such, operating under the protection of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry. The former Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov, had strong links with the Azov battalion, which is why he was able to put them on the government payroll. He also appointed an Azov commander (Vadim Troyam) as his deputy. The so-called ‘Azov national security militia’ think nothing of smashing up property, attacking civilians with batons, setting property on fire, sexual violence or fighting with the police. In the past, they’ve also threatened Judges and laid siege to government buildings until deputies agreed to their terms. Supporters of the Azov militia think nothing of jumping into a fervent display of rapid-fire, elbow snapping, Nazi salutes either. Oleksander Radutskyl, a Deputy at Cherkasy City Hall, which had been sieged by Azov, is on record as saying that, in his view, “history is repeating itself… if we look at what happened in Germany when fascism was just rising up in the 1930s.. that’s what I would compare this to.”
When comparing Ukraine with Germany in the 1930’s, there’s more than just a strong feeling of déjà vu. It may come as a surprise to some people to learn that Azov have been recruiting children to their cause. They have a ‘Youth Activities Department’ and hold so-called ‘Azovet summer camps.’Azovets brochures get distributed around Ukrainian schools and, much like the ‘Hitler Youth’ that originated in Germany in the 1920s, this is a paramilitary organisation that provides children with combat training while lecturing them about white supremacist, ultra-nationalist, ideology.
Azov started life as a volunteer militia in May 2014, set up to fight Russian separatist forces in the Donbas War. They had some success as by June 2014 they’d managed to recapture Mariupol from pro-Russian separatists. Then, 5 months later, in November 2014, they were incorporated into the Ukrainian National Guard. Azov jokingly deny they are Neo-Nazis while openly using Nazi symbolism, including incorporating the Nazi Wolfsangel and Black Sun symbols into their logo. They’ve also previously admitted that a potential 50% of the unit are declared neo-Nazis. The German ZDF television network showed images of Azov fighters wearing swastika symbols on their helmets, as well as “the SS runes of Hitler’s infamous black-uniformed elite corps” while a Polish war correspondent, who had gained access to an Azov base, reported Azov fighters adorning Nazi tattoos on their bodies and Nazi emblems on their uniforms.
There is clearly a deeply anti-Semitic ideology within the Azov Battalion but, shockingly, despite the fact that over 40 Israeli human rights activists called for an end to arms sales to Ukraine, the Israeli government has continued selling military-style Tavor and Negev automatic weapons to the Ukrainian government in the full knowledge that some of these weapons would end up in the hands of the neo-Nazi Azov militia. Perhaps more shocking is the fact that some Ukrainian Jews support and serve in the Azov Battalion. A prominent Jewish member is Natan Khazin, the commander of the “Jewish Hundred” who fought during the Euromaidan protests in 2013, when pro-European Ukrainians came out to protest the decision to suspend the signing of the European Union–Ukraine Association Agreement.
Khazin claims that he hadn’t seen any significant manifestations of anti-Semitism during the Maidan protests. However, Khazin’s “comrades-in-arms” laughingly refer to themselves as the “Jewish Bandera” and carry a stylized red and black flag of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), with the Star of David added to it. The UPA was a militantly Ukrainian nationalist paramilitary group, established by the far-right Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, who operated during World War II. Stepan Bandera was a notorious Ukrainian anti-Semite, terrorist and Nazi collaborator. It might, at first, seem difficult to understand why this particular group of Jews would be perfectly at home with the idea of supporting and even fighting for a neo-Nazi militia, just as it might seem at odds to see Israeli flags adorning EDL marches here in the UK, but if you look at Israel’s broader strategy of cosying up with far-right anti-Semitic leaders and political figures like the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, Steve Bannon and Donald Trump, it’s not too big a stretch to understand where this is coming from. Orban once praised Miklós Horthy, a wartime ally of Hitler’s who oversaw the murder of 500,000 Holocaust victims but Netanyahu ordered his foreign ministry to bury any criticism of Orban’s anti-Semitic dog whistles, why? It would seem that ‘actual’ anti-Semites and fervent Zionists share a common prime objective – to remove all Jews from the world and transplant them in Palestine. Clearly, Israel isn’t interested in protecting all Jews – Zionist Jews are welcome but non-Zionists can fend for themselves and we only need to observe how fervently the State of Israel, along with it’s political and media allies, attack dissenting Jews who reject Zionism. So, if neo-Nazi groups start to gain political power and anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, well that’s a win win situation for both Nazis and Zionists alike. This, of course, also explains why Khazin could be reticent to accuse his Ukrainian nationalist, neo-Nazi, brothers in arms of being anti-Semitic. In his view, unless you’re a Zionist you’re not really a Jew so attacking non-Zionist Jews is technically not even anti-Semitic. Quid pro quo, so-called ‘gentiles’ who support Zionism will command more respect from, and have more value to, some Zionist Jews than actual Jews who happen to be non-Zionists.
Perhaps even more shocking is the revelations in Asa Winstanley’s July 2018 article. Winstanley revealed that Israel was actually arming the Azov militia and a letter obtained by the Electronic Intifada, from the Israeli defence ministry’s arms export agency, showed that Ukrainian armed forces also received training from the Israeli military. So, essentially, Israel has even been arming and training neo-Nazis in Ukraine. The video below was taken from the Azov Youtube channel and shows an Azov soldier reviewing the Fort 221 and the Fort 224, licensed copies, of the Tavor and the X95 (mini Tavor) rifles, manufactured in Ukraine under license from the Israeli government and Israel Weapons Industries.
In October 2014, Azov’s far-right leadership left the battalion in order to set up a political arm (the party was established in November 2016). The National Corp Party is led by Andriy Biletsky, a neo-Nazi who once said that he “pledged to restore the honor of the white race” and that “the historic mission of our nation” is to lead the “white races of the world in a final crusade for their survival… a crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.” Biletsky has already managed to advanced laws forbidding “race mixing.”
Shortly before leaving the battalion, Biletsky was awarded the “Order For Courage” by Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko and promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Interior Ministry’s police forces. A few months later Biletsky won a parliamentary seat (as an independent) in the Ukrainian parliament, at which point he had to step down as leader of the Azov battalion. Interestingly, the National Corp Party failed to win any seats in the 2019 election, despite having formed a coalition with three other right-wing parties.
It may surprise some to learn that in early 2015, under the Obama administration, the US Army Air Corp were also looking to provide a training program for the Azov Regiment, as part of their ‘Operation Fearless Guardian training mission.’ The program was temporarily halted in June after the US House of Representatives decided to block aid to the Azov battalion (this included supplying arms and training), because of their neo-Nazi ideology. However, the Pentagon then pressured the House Defense Appropriations Committee to remove the amendment and allow the ‘aid’ to go through. In November 2017, Azov received a foreign delegation of officers from the United States Armed Forces and Canadian Armed Forces. Even as late as January this year, just weeks before the Russian invasion, the Jacobin magazine published an article by Branko Marcetic, showing members of the Azov battalion meeting with U.S. military and NATO officials. Marcetic confirms that “the CIA has been secretly training anti-Russian groups in Ukraine since 2015.” and that “US arms have flowed to the militia.” Marcetic further reveals that the ‘West Point US Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center,’ produced a report in 2020 stating that “A number of prominent individuals among far-right extremist groups in the United States and Europe have actively sought out relationships with representatives of the far-right in Ukraine, specifically the National Corps and its associated militia, the Azov Regiment… US-based individuals have spoken or written about how the training, available in Ukraine, might assist them and others in their paramilitary-style activities at home.” Marcetic then goes on to explain that, in 2018, the FBI provided a sworn affidavit stating that Azov were participating in “training and radicalizing United States–based white supremacy organizations, including members of the white supremacist Rise Above Movement, prosecuted for planned assaults on counter protesters at far-right events, including the Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right’ rally.” According to Marcetic, three separate US administrations (Obama, Trump and Biden) have been “providing training, weapons and equipment to the very far-right movement that’s inspiring and even training” white supremacists in the USA.
In 2018, the US congress officially recognised that Azov was essentially a white supremacist group and passed a bill to block military aid to the Azov regiment. According to ‘The Daily Signal,’ a right-wing conservative American political media news website, Azov members include people from 22 other countries. However, prior to the ban, the Trump administration had already authorised shipments of rocket-propelled grenades and Raytheon anti-tank missiles. However, other NATO countries continue to supply weapons to the Ukraine military (some of which will, inevitably end up in the hands of the Azov battalion) and have been scaling up supplies over recent weeks because of the Russian invasion. It’s therefore right and appropriate to question whether supplying white supremacist, battle hardened, neo-Nazis with lethal weapons and military training makes Europe (or the rest of the world for that matter), a safer place? I dare say, anyone who isn’t a white supremacist neo-Nazi and who has some understanding of what’s really going on (under the radar) might now be questioning “what’s the bigger threat to world order” – Putin’s Russia?, China? or a NATO backed and trained global neo-Nazi militia? The irony of the fact that in WWII the world came together to fight the Nazi invasion and now here we are, in 2022, with much of the western world coming together to back neo-Nazis, is pretty striking and, frankly, sends a shiver up my spine.
On the subject of why Israel would be supplying weapons to a neo-Nazi militia in Ukraine. Max Blumenthal offers another insightful explanation…
“Attempts by some in Congress to bar US military aid to Nazis in Ukraine may explain military aid from Israel. Israel’s “deepening military-technical cooperation” with Ukraine and its fascist militias is likely a way to help its partner in the White House, and is another facet of the growing Zionist-White Supremacist alliance. Israel has historically acted as a useful route through which US presidents and the CIA can circumvent congressional restrictions on aid to various unsavoury groups and governments around the world. In 1980s Latin America, these included the Contras, who were fighting a war against the left-wing revolutionary government of Nicaragua, as well as a host of other Latin American fascist death squads and military dictatorships. It also included the South African apartheid regime, which Israeli governments of both the “Zionist left” and Likudnik right armed for decades. As quoted in Andrew and Leslie Cockburn’s book Dangerous Liaison, one former member of the Israeli parliament, General Mattityahu Peled, put it succinctly: “In Central America, Israel is the ‘dirty work’ contractor for the US administration. Israel is acting as an accomplice and an arm of the United States.” Amid an alarming rise in anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism, Israel now appears to be reprising this role in Eastern Europe.”
So, it seems, the US & Israel have a mutually beneficial contractual arrangement – the US recognises and protects the colonial apartheid regime of Israel and Israel does their dirty work for them, including training and equipping neo-Nazis.
On a final worrying note, in January 2021, Time Magazine reported on how Azov, who they described as “a White-Supremacist Militia,” were “using Facebook to Radicalize and Train New Members.” Time explained that they’ve repeatedly interviewed Azov’s leaders and recruits and have discovered that “the key to its international growth has been its pervasive use of social media, especially Facebook” and Youtube. Time then explains how “Facebook’s algorithms actually nudged users into joining these groups,” and that approx 64% of the people who joined these groups “were finding them through the platform’s own recommendation tools.” Apparently, Facebook didn’t start to pay attention until after the Christchurch mosque attacker live streamed the massacre of 51 Muslim worshippers on Facebook. It also transpired that he had been radicalized by far-right material that he’d found on YouTube and Facebook and that he had in fact spent time in Ukraine in 2015 and was even planning to relocate there permanently. However, in February 2022, the Intercept reported a shocking about-turn by Facebook. According to the Intercept, Facebook decided to temporarily lift restrictions and allow it’s users to praise the Azov Battalion for fighting the Russian invasion. Asides from the fact that this is a white-supremacist, neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, homophobic organisation, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported (on two separate occasions) that they have repeatedly abused human rights in the Donbas region. According to the OHCHR, violations include mass looting, unlawful detention, torture (with electricity and waterboarding), rape and sexual violence….
I must say, the more I watch and read the mainstream news and the propaganda that has literally flooded the US owned social media platforms, I’m painfully reminded of the old saying that “the first casualty of war is the truth!” and I’m progressively starting to question, what is the ultimate agenda here? Perhaps there are numerous agendas at play – NATO’s expansion, US economic global dominance, a US led smash-n-grab of gas & oil resources, the desire to persuade more Jews to see Zionism as ‘the ultimate solution’ to all their problems and to further legitimise the colonial apartheid state of Israel? Seems to me there are a lot of interested parties who have something to gain from another war in Europe and, frankly, we should have seen the trajectory of all this back in 2014 when the US Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, was discussing regime change in Ukraine with US Ambassador, Geoffrey Pyatt and declared that the US was happy to “fuck the EU!” in order to get what they wanted.
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