June 25, 2024

The ex-UK prime minister touted the Azov brigade as “heroes” despite reports it has committed numerous war crimes.

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has joined fighters from Ukraine’s notorious neo-Nazi Azov unit to pose for a photo while holding a banner bearing a symbol associated with the Third Reich’s SS.

The controversy erupted on Wednesday when several members of the Azov brigade, widely known for its neo-Nazi ideology and outlawed in Russia, were greeted by British MPs as part of a roundtable discussion on the return of the unit’s prisoners of war in the UK Parliament.

Founded as a neo-Nazi militia in 2014, Azov was a key participant in the fighting in Donbass prior to the outbreak of full-blown hostilities in 2022. During this time it was accused by the UN and several human rights organizations of engaging in torture, rape, and looting. It was eventually integrated into Ukraine’s National Guard, and in 2023 was expanded to a brigade.

The event was chaired by MP Victoria Prentis, attorney general of England and Wales. Johnson also met with the Azov brigade fighters, touting them as “heroes” and urging the West to give Kiev more weapons and the authority to carry out strikes “outside their own borders,” including on Russian soil.

“We rely wholly on such heroes as the people who are here tonight with us, from the Azov brigade,” he added.

READ MORE: Ex-Ukrainian president pictured wearing Nazi symbol (PHOTOS)

Johnson also posed for a photo with the Azov fighters while holding a yellow banner with the Wolfsangel (wolf’s hook) insignia. The symbol was used by several German divisions during World War II, including the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich, which was notorious for its war crimes, particularly against the Jewish and French populations.

While the photo-op was largely ignored by the British media, it caused a firestorm on social media, with some users accusing Johnson of insulting the memory of hundreds of thousands of Brits who died fighting the Nazi ideology. 

The Russian Embassy in London denounced what it called a “grotesque spectacle” in the UK Parliament, pointing to Azov’s record of war crimes.

Moscow has also claimed that Johnson was responsible for derailing Russian-Ukrainian peace talks in Istanbul in the spring of 2022. Russian officials have insisted that the negotiations, which revolved around Ukraine’s neutrality, initially made progress but later collapsed after Johnson allegedly advised Kiev to continue fighting. Johnson has denied the accusation.

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