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Ukraine: Inside The Neo-Nazi Azov Battalion

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Ukraine: Inside The Neo-Nazi Azov Battalion

A far-right 'neo-Nazi' battalion has joined Ukrainian troops in their fight against invading Russian forces.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's 'special military operation' announcement continually referenced alleged Nazi elements in Ukraine, despite Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a Jewish politician, beating out a non-Jewish candidate for the presidency by a huge margin.

Putin cited the alleged 'genocide against the millions of people living' in the Donbas region and slammed NATO states for 'supporting extreme nationalists and Neo-Nazis in Ukraine, who, in turn, will never forgive the Crimeans and Sevastopol residents for choosing reunification with Russia'.

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While 'talk of Nazism in Ukraine is completely out of place', one analyst told DW, footage emerged this week of Azov fighters greasing their bullets in pig fat, seemingly to be used against Muslim Chechens deployed as part of Russia's forces. These combatants are who Putin was believed to be referencing in his phrase 'demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine'.

The Azov Battalion is a far-right all-volunteer infantry military unit that allegedly supports white supremacist ideologies, and has also been involved in training civilians to fight against invading troops. They first fought alongside Ukrainian soldiers against pro-separatist troops in 2014, and have since been embedded in the military.

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However, as per Al Jazeera, it only has 900 members, so it's still considered a fringe element in the army. It was founded eight years ago by Andriy Biletsky from the ultra-nationalist Patriot of Ukraine gang and the neo-Nazi Social National Assembly group; both groups were accused of engaging in neo-Nazi ideals, and the latter is known to have attacked minority groups in Ukraine.

Back in 2010, Biletsky said Ukraine's national purpose should be to 'lead the white races of the world in a final crusade... against Semite-led Untermenschen [inferior races]', before being elected four years later, forcing him to step down from the Azov Battalion as it doesn't permit elected officials.

However, the group fought against separatists in the now-so-called 'People's Republic' of Donetsk, and after managing to recapture Mariupol from the Russian-backed troops, the Azov Battalion was integrated into Ukraine's national guard. 'These are our best warriors. Our best volunteers,' former president Petro Poroshenko said.

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In 2016, the Azov Battalion was designated as a 'dangerous organisation' by Facebook, placed under the same designation as ISIS and the Ku Klux Klan. When Russia launched its invasion, this decision was reversed.

'For the time being, we are making a narrow exception for praise of the Azov regiment strictly in the context of defending Ukraine, or in their role as part of the Ukraine national guard,' a Meta spokesperson said.

'But we are continuing to ban all hate speech, hate symbolism, praise of violence, generic praise, support, or representation of the Azov regiment, and any other content that violates our community standards.'

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If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org 

If you would like to donate to the Red Cross Emergency Appeal, which will help provide food, medicines and basic medical supplies, shelter and water to those in Ukraine, click here for more information

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: News, Russia, Ukraine, World News, Racism

Cameron Frew
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