Ukraine: The Azov Battalion, a Neo-Nazi Paramilitary Force Behind Zelensky

The photograph that heads this article is of one of the detachments of the Azov Battalion, a paramilitary force composed mostly of militants of Ukrainian extreme right-wing organizations such as Pravy Sector and Svoboda, movements that were protagonists in the overthrow of the government of Viktor Yanukovych at the beginning of 2014, and which in the years since have come to be incorporated as dependents of the country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, and have important Ukrainian and international financial networks, including, paradoxically, that of the Jewish tycoon Ihor Kolomoisky. They are part of the paramilitary and military forces fighting against the militias in eastern Ukraine, formed in that part of the country notoriously more inclined to an alliance with the Russian Federation and not with the European Union, and resisting the advance of an extreme right that has only grown in the western part of the country and Kiev, the capital, where the insurrection and overthrow of 2014 became known as “Euromaidan”, motivated by the suspension by the Yanukovich government of the Association Agreement between the European Union and Ukraine.

In order to understand the situation in Ukraine, the first thing to do is to dispel doubts and widespread ignorance about basic issues in the history of that country. First of all, the history of Ukraine has been for more than a century strongly strained by its geographical location between Russia and Europe. That placed it in the midst of conflicts of the highest intensity that began with the First World War, continued with the Russian civil war after the Bolshevik revolution, and then projected into the fascist and Nazi advance and the Second World War.

This context explains a situation difficult to understand without that element: what is known as “Ukrainian nationalism” is marked by the fascist and Nazi influence that arose in Eastern Europe on the part of the most conservative and reactionary sectors of the societies of the region, against the Russian revolution and the leftist organizations and movements of those years. Hence, the forces supporting the government of Volodymir Zelensky (initiated in 2019), following in the footsteps and alliances of the predecessor Petro Poroshenko (2014-2019), declared the birthday of Stepan Bandera, the nationalist leader who battled against the USSR and collaborated with the Nazis in the middle of the last century, as an official day of commemoration of Ukrainian nationalism.

The complicity that Western governments have had with the Ukrainian government, so inclined towards an extreme right of notoriously fascist and pro-Nazi characteristics, has raised concerns for years, but as it usually happens when there are economic and geopolitical interests at stake, they have been generally silenced or omitted by the dominant Western press. In fact, as has been denounced on numerous occasions, the famous documentary Winter on Fire, widely disseminated via Netflix, makes practically no mention of this essential component of the 2014 Ukrainian government’s destabilization, assassination and overthrow, given that it was led by the notorious and explicitly fascist and neo-Nazi component of the militias.

Symbologies are not superfluous, and what was previously mentioned about Stepan Bandera is not the only issue. The coat of arms of the Azov Battalion consists of a stylized wolfsangel rune, and behind it, a black sun, both symbols profusely used in Nazi Germany, among others, by entire divisions of the SS or Waffen SS, the elite corps of Hitler’s Army.

Therefore, no one should be surprised that in the successive votes in the UN General Assembly on a resolution against the glorification of Nazism and other forms of racial hate speech, the votes against have been cast by the United States and Ukraine, with the European Union governments abstaining and a large majority of countries voting in favor.

The Nazi sympathies of the Ukrainian government have even provoked protests from the U.S. government’s close ally, the State of Israel. The Israeli ambassador to Ukraine, Joel Lion, has made several statements and posted on his social networks rejecting the glorification of Nazism by the Ukrainian far right.

The international ties and work of this fascist far right, established as a paramilitary organization with official recognition of the Ukrainian state, have been highlighted in numerous press releases both in Europe and the United States, whose governments promote a foreign policy that uses the Ukrainian government as the spearhead of a NATO geopolitical onslaught towards territories bordering Russia, in an attempt to present Russia as a potential “invader” of Ukraine, in a context in which in the East of the country and in the Crimean peninsula, there is a significant majority of Russian-speaking inhabitants, with historical and cultural ties with Russia, who reject the extremist right-wing drift of the Kiev government.

The evidence is abundant. A recent article in the U.S. media Newsweek expressly recognized the relations and profile of these groups that in practice function as NATO allies against Russia: “A year after 1/6, the war in Ukraine attracts the U.S. extreme right to fight Russia and train for violence at home”, referring to the ties with the U.S. extreme right and the assault on the Capitol in Washington at the beginning of last year.

The Spanish media Publico. es acknowledged a few days ago (“The neo-Nazi powder keg in Ukraine”): “Since the 2014 Maidan revolt, the government, army and security forces have institutionalized within their ranks former militias and volunteer battalions linked to neo-Nazi ideology,” Kuzmenko recently told Newsweek, citing as an example the Azov Special Operations Detachment, which was established by the Ukrainian Interior Ministry in 2014, and subsequently transferred to the National Guard (…. ) Eight years later, while the fighting in the Donbas region has continued unabated, with a potential Russia-Ukraine confrontation with NATO looming on the horizon, not all geopolitically savvy Americans have closed ranks with their government. Even less so when the threat of violence and terrorism from the extreme right is considered the country’s main internal threat. More than a few European and American (including Spanish) neo-Nazi groups and activists have visited Ukraine in recent years to network or receive paramilitary training”.

However, the governments of the United States and the other NATO members continue to ignore this, and the media aligned with their geopolitics have been intensifying a series of economic and military measures in Ukraine and the surrounding areas, such as the strategic Black Sea, to strengthen the position of the Ukrainian government and to weaken and besiege the pro-Russian populations in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, and also, directly, the Russian Federation, whose territorial security is strongly threatened by the possible entry of the Ukrainian government into the NATO political-military pact.

De Frente