|A lunatic Chaplin imitator|
and his greatest fans
|First as tragedy|
|Then as farce|
The Azov Battalion (Ukrainian: Полк Азов) is a volunteer militia group in Ukraine. While it functions as a reserve unit of Ukraine's army, it also has paramilitary and political elements. The group is something of a magnet for neo-Nazi figures such as Olena Semenyaka, who has spoken with American wingnuts Kevin MacDonald and Jared Taylor. (Needless to say, Katie Hopkins loves her.)
Additionally, the army unit uses Nazi-era symbols such as the Sonnenrad. Despite the fact that the battalion is a group of only around 900 to 1500 people (many of them foreign volunteers), while the entire Ukrainian armed forces has 245,000 personnel, and despite the fact that Russia has its own neo-Nazi military groups which are also much larger, such as the infamous Wagner Group (about 6000 mercenaries as of 2017), the mere existence of the Azov Battalion is a wet dream for pro-Russian propaganda groups, who frequently bring it up as evidence that Ukraine is a neo-Nazi state and that all Ukrainian nationalists are Banderites.
If one thought the CIA had a monopoly on training Nazis, one would be disappointed: a major European security firm trained them too. Popular critics of Russian propaganda would gain a lot more credibility if they pointed out how military interventions are well known to exacerbate problems with extremist groups rather than solve them, instead of insisting on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's (Jewish) ancestry (when some Azov members falsely believe that Putin is a Jew) and dismissing the problem with election results, when the scary part is their military power and international connections, not popular support. Ukraine actually saw a rise in crimes against Romani people in 2017-2018, which are regularly ignored when the original Nazis are mentioned and are clearly also not high in Putin's list of priorities.
2022 Russian invasion
The Azov Battalion was obliquely used as a pretext by Putin for Russia's war of extermination  against Ukraine, claiming that it would "de-Nazify" Ukraine. The claim of de-Nazification flies in the face of Ukraine being led by Zelenskyy, who is both democratically-elected and Jewish. But furthermore, The Azov Battalion is fighting to keep Zelenskyy in power, something very un-Nazi. While there is little doubt that The Azov Battalion has far-right leadership and is nationalist, it is not so clear that the leadership are neo-Nazis. The leadership admits that there are extremists and neo-Nazis within their ranks. Andriy Biletskiy, a former commander in 2014, was reported to have made neo-Nazi-type statements (e.g., that Ukraine was to "lead the white races of the world in a final crusade … against Semite-led Untermenschen"), which he has denied making. Biletskiy however has claimed that Azov has attracted both Jews from the Israeli Defense Forces and Chechen Muslims, as well as liberals and anti-fascists.
- See the longer Wikipedia entry Azov Battalion.
- See the Wikipedia article on Operation Gladio.
- Sabra Ayres, "Driven by far-right ideology, Azov Battalion mans Ukraine’s front line," Al-Jazeera, July 24, 2014. Accessed June 26, 2019.
- Oleksiy Kuzmenko, "'Defend the white race': American extremists being co-opted by Ukraine’s far-right," Bellingcat, February 15, 2019. Accessed June 23, 2019.
- Tom Parfitt, "Ukraine crisis: The neo-Nazi brigade fighting pro-Russian separatists," The Telegraph, August 11, 2014. Accessed June 4, 2019.
- Jared Holt, "Far-Right Ukrainian political party to appear alongside U.S. white nationalists," Right Wing Watch, Jan. 2, 2019, as displayed Aug. 7, 2019.
- Putin’s fascists: the Russian state’s long history of cultivating homegrown neo-Nazis by Robert Horvath March 21, 2022 3.05pm EDT) The Conversation.
- Putin Wants to Win, But Not at All Costs: His military strategy is far more calculated than his predecessors'. by Leonid Bershidsky ((December 5, 2017, 11:00 PM PST) Bloomberg.
- What is the Wagner Group, Russia’s mercenary organisation? Supposedly active in Ukraine, it has been accused of human-rights abuses and has ties to the Kremlin (Mar 7th 2022) The Economist.
- Russian mercenaries in Ukraine linked to far-right extremists: Wagner Group connected to white supremacists, Tech against Terrorism investigation finds by Mark Townsend (20 Mar 2022 05.15 EDT) The Guardian.
- Kuzmenko, leksiy. "Ukrainian Far-Right Fighters, White Supremacists Trained by Major European Security Firm". "Since 2016, the European Security Academy (ESA) an EU-based company that offers advanced training programs for security, law enforcement and military professionals, has provided sophisticated training geared towards combat application to elements of Ukraine's controversial Azov Regiment, also known as the Azov Battalion, which has been integrated into the Ukrainian National Guard in Mariupol."
- Azov fighters are Ukraine's greatest weapon and may be its greatest threat by Shaun Walker (10 Sep 2014 08.36 EDT) The Guardian.
- Like, Share, Recruit: How a White-Supremacist Militia Uses Facebook to Radicalize and Train New Members (January 7, 2021 6:20 PM EST) TIME.
- Ukraine: A year after attack on Roma camp in Kyiv, no justice for victims (April 16, 2019) Amnesty International.
- Right-wing Azov Battalion emerges as a controversial defender of Ukraine: Militia with far-right views says it welcomes all volunteers, regardless of ideology, in the fight against Russia by Sudarsan Raghavan et al. (April 6, 2022 at 2:00 a.m. EDT) The Washington Post.
- Zach Bikus, "World-Low 9% of Ukrainians Confident in Government" Gallups, March 21, 2019