Stan Says:- Azov is a far-right all-volunteer infantry military unit whose members – estimated at 900 – are ultra-nationalists and accused of harbouring neo-Nazi and white supremacist ideology.

The unit was initially formed as a volunteer group in May 2014 out of the ultra-nationalist Patriot of Ukraine gang, and the neo-Nazi Social National Assembly (SNA) group. Both groups engaged in xenophobic and neo-Nazi ideals and physically assaulted migrants, the Roma community and people opposing their views.

As a battalion, the group fought on the front lines against pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk, the eastern region of Ukraine. Just before launching the invasion, Putin recognised the independence of two rebel-held regions from Donbas.

A few months after recapturing the strategic port city of Mariupol from the Russian-backed separatists, the unit was officially integrated into the National Guard of Ukraine on November 12, 2014, and exacted high praise from then-President Petro Poroshenko.

“These are our best warriors,” he said at an awards ceremony in 2014. “Our best volunteers.”

Neo-Nazi ideology:
In 2015, Andriy Diachenko, the spokesperson for the regiment at the time said that 10-20% of Azov’s recruits were Nazis.

The unit has denied it adheres to Nazi ideology as a whole, but Nazi symbols such as the swastika and SS regalia are rife on the uniforms and bodies of Azov members.

For example, the uniform carries the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel symbol, which resembles a black swastika on a yellow background. The group said it is merely an amalgam of the letters “N” and “I” which represent “national idea”.

Individual members have professed to being neo-Nazis, and hardcore far-right ultra-nationalism is pervasive among members.

In January 2018, Azov rolled out its street patrol unit called National Druzhyna to “restore” order in the capital, Kyiv. Instead, the unit carried out pogroms against the Roma community.

“Ukraine is the world’s only nation to have a neo-Nazi formation in its armed forces,” a correspondent for the US-based magazine, the Nation, wrote in 2019.

Human rights violations and war crimes:

A 2016 report by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OCHA) has accused the Azov regiment of violating international humanitarian law.

The report detailed incidents over a period from November 2015-February 2016 where Azov had embedded their weapons and forces in used civilian buildings and displaced residents after looting civilian properties. The report also accused the battalion of raping and torturing detainees in the Donbas region.

What has been the international response to Azov?
In June 2015, both Canada and the United States announced that their own forces will not support or train the Azov regiment, citing its neo-Nazi connections.

The following year, however, the US lifted the ban under pressure from the Pentagon. Meanwhile Putin has gotten increasingly frustrated at ongoing attacks in Southern Ukraine.

Whatever the dismissive attitude of the West and its media. Russian President Vladimir Putin invoked World War III to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying in televised remarks last week that his offensive aimed to “denazify” the country.

He argued the purpose of this operation is to protect people who for eight years now have been facing humiliation and genocide perpetrated by the Kyiv regime,” he said, according to a report from the Russian Mission in Geneva. “To this end, we will seek to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine, as well as bring to trial those who perpetrated numerous bloody crimes against civilians, including against citizens of the Russian Federation.”

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