July 20, 2024

A group of British parliamentarians was willing to meet with them and listen to what they had to say, even though they have been accused by Amnesty International, the UN and Human Rights Watch of a slew of human rights violations, including torturing and raping civilians.

UK lawmakers applauded a neo-Nazi unit of the Ukrainian military this week during a parliamentary roundtable event.

The militia in question is known as Azov, and it was founded in 2014 by a white supremacist known as Andrey Biletsky. It’s clear from their logo what they stand for; it was designed using symbols that were used in the past by the SS.

The battalion started out as a volunteer militia responding to the war in Donbas and had just a few hundred members at first. It was known for being highly effective in battle. The unit was eventually integrated into the main armed forces of Ukraine, going from a volunteer militia to a formal unit of the military under control of the state, although they did get to hold onto their Third Reich iconography.

Now a regiment-sized unit, it operates as part of the Ukrainian National Guard and has both Ukrainians and foreign fighters who subscribe to its beliefs. Boasting private and state training and support, it is given a surprising degree of autonomy when it comes to operational decisions.

Somehow, a group of British parliamentarians was willing to meet with them and listen to what they had to say, even though they have been accused by Amnesty International, the UN and Human Rights Watch of a slew of human rights violations, including torturing and raping civilians.

The three Azov members included men who were captured in Mariupol. They told the lawmakers about the roughly 900 other members of their neo-Nazi group who are still being held prisoner in Russia, where Azov has been banned on the grounds that it is an extremist organization.

The trio posed for photos with Boris Johnson, the former prime minister of the UK. They can be seen in the photos holding an Azov banner that features a symbol that was used by the Waffen-SS Division Das Reich known as the Wolfsangel.

Johnson was also seen in videos on social media telling the UK government that he thinks they should provide Ukraine with more weapons and money.

He said: “The single best investment that we can make in the defense of the whole Euro-Atlantic area is supporting Ukrainian heroes.”

The event was chaired by the attorney general of England and Wales, MP Victoria Prentis. The three men also thanked two other MPs by name, UK-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group Chair Bob Seely and former Data and Digital Infrastructure Minister Sir John Whittingdale.

Azov batallion has been involved in numerous controversies

The Azov battalion has been involved in a slew of controversies that go beyond its neo-Nazi associations. For example, videos shared by the Ukrainian National Guard in 2022 appeared to show Azov fighters dipping bullets in pig fat before using them against Muslim Chechen fighters.

They have been banned since 2017 from receiving U.S. arms because of their neo-Nazi links, which means they do not have access to the weapons the U.S. has been shipping to Ukraine.

The batallion’s role in Ukrainian politics has been a big point of contention as well, with some viewing it as a destabilizing force in Ukrainian society. Its participation in politics, such as establishing the National Corps political party, has Ukrainians worried that they could try to militarize Ukrainian politics and infuse the government with extremist ideologies.

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