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Getting to know the Azov Regiment, the Ukrainian Militia Group that Russia is Fighting All

KOMPAS.com – Some time ago, the Ukrainian National Guard shared a video on its Twitter account that appears to show Azov fighters or regiments smearing bullets with lard.

The bullets were ostensibly used against Chechen troops deployed to Ukraine to assist Russian troops in launching their military invasion of the country.

In a video shared by the Ukrainian National Guard, a man purported to be a member of the Azov regiment is seen dipping a bullet in what appears to be lard, while speaking to Chechen fighters.

“Dear Muslim brothers and sisters. In our country, you will not enter heaven. You will not be allowed to enter heaven. Please go home. Here, you will encounter difficulties. Thank you for your concern, goodbye,” said the man as in the video.

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So, who is the Azov regiment?

Reported from Al Jazeera, Monday (1/3/2022), the Azov regiment is a right-wing volunteer infantry military unit.

The Azov Regiment is an ultra-nationalist group accused of harboring neo-Nazi and white supremacist ideologies.

The unit was originally formed as a volunteer group in May 2014 from the ultra-nationalist Ukrainian Patriot gang, and the neo-Nazi group National Social Assembly (SNA).

Both groups engage in xenophobic and neo-Nazi ideals and physically attack migrants, the Roma community and those who oppose their views.

As a battalion, the Azov regiment fought on the front lines against pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine.

Just before launching the invasion, Putin recognized the independence of the two rebel -held provinces of Donbass.

Months after recapturing the strategic port city of Mariupol from Russian-backed separatists, the unit was formally integrated into the Ukrainian National Guard on November 12, 2014, and won high praise from then-Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko.

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

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AFP/EMMANUEL DUPARCQ A Ukrainian man stands on the rubble in Zhytomyr Wednesday (2/3/2022), after the Russian bombing the day before. The shooting killed at least 3 people and injured nearly 20 according to local residents and local authorities, destroying a local market and at least 10 houses on Tuesday (1/3/2022).

Who founded the Azov regiment?

The Azov regiment was led by Andriy Biletsky, who served as leader of the Ukrainian Patriots (founded in 2005) and the SNA (founded in 2008).

SNA is known to have carried out attacks against minority groups in Ukraine.

In 2010, Biletsky said that Ukraine’s national goal was to “lead the white race of the world in the final crusade against the Semitic-led Untermenschen (inferior race).

Biletsky was elected to parliament in 2014.

He left Azov because elected officials could not be in the military or the police force. He remains a member of parliament until 2019.

The 42-year-old has been nicknamed Bely Vozd or the White Lord by his supporters.

He founded the far-right National Corps party in October 2016, whose core base is veteran Azov.

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Who funded the Azov regiment?

The Azov Regiment received support from Ukraine’s Interior Minister in 2014, as the government had acknowledged that its own military was too weak to fight pro-Russian separatists and relied on volunteer paramilitary forces.

The Azov regiment was privately funded by oligarchs, the most famous of which was Igor Kolomoisky, a billionaire energy magnate and governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region at the time.

In addition to Azov, Kolomoisky funds other volunteer battalions such as the Dnipro 1 and Dnipro 2 units, Aidar, and Donbass.

The Azov Regiment received seed funding and assistance from other oligarchs such as Serhiy Taruta, the billionaire governor of the Donetsk region.

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Russia's STRELA 10 anti-aircraft missile launcher prepares during the Army-2015 military exhibition at the Alabino firing range, outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, June 16, 2015.AP PHOTO/IVAN SEKRETARV Russia’s STRELA 10 anti-aircraft missile launcher prepares during the Army-2015 military exhibition at the Alabino firing range, outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, June 16, 2015.

Alleged neo-Nazi ideology of the Azov . regiment

In 2015, Andriy Diachenko, spokesman for the Azov regiment at the time, said that 10 to 20 percent of Azov’s recruits were suspected to be Nazis.

The unit has denied that it adheres to Nazi ideology in its entirety, but Nazi symbols such as the swastika and SS regalia are widespread on the uniforms and bodies of members of the Azov regiment.

For example, the uniform carries the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel symbol, which resembles a black swastika on a yellow background.

However, the Azov regiment said that it was simply a mixture of the letters “N” and “I” representing “national ideas”.

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Individual members have professed to be neo-Nazis, and far-right ultra-nationalism is spreading among its members.

In January 2018, Azov launched a street patrol unit called the National Druzhyna to “restore” order in the capital, Kiev.

The Azov Regiment carried out Pogroms, which are organized massacres against the Roma community and attacking members of the LGBTQ community.

“Ukraine is the only country in the world that has a neo-Nazi formation in its armed forces,” a correspondent for the US-based magazine Nation wrote in 2019.

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Human rights violations and war crimes

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

The report details incidents during the period from November 2015-February 2016, in which the Azovs had placed their weapons and troops in former civilian buildings, and residents were displaced after looting civilian property.

The report also accused the battalion of raping and torturing detainees in the Donbass region.

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A veteran of the Azon Battalion conducts military exercises for civilians on Sunday (30/1/2022).Gleb Garanich/Reuters A veteran of the Azon Battalion conducts military exercises for civilians on Sunday (30/1/2022).

The world says about the Azov regiment

In June 2015, Canada and the United States (US) announced that their own troops would not support or train Azov’s regiment, citing its connections to neo-Nazi ideology.

However, the following year, the US lifted the ban under pressure from the Pentagon.

In October 2019, 40 members of the US Congress led by Representative Max Rose signed a failed letter calling on the US State Department to designate Azov as a “foreign terrorist organization” (FTO).

Recently, another US legislator, Elissa Slotkin, repeated a request, which includes other white supremacist groups, to the Biden administration.

Transnational support for the Azov regiment has been widespread, and Ukraine has emerged as a new center for the far right around the world.

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Movement on Facebook

In 2016, Facebook first designated the Azov regiment as a “dangerous organization”.

Under the Dangerous Companies and Individuals policy, Azov was banned from its platform in 2019.

The Azov Regiment is placed under Facebook’s Tier 1 designation, which includes groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan and ISIS. Users belonging to the Tier 1 group representation will be banned.

However, on February 24, the day Russia launched its invasion, Facebook overturned its ban, saying it would pay credit to Azov.

“For now, we make a narrow exception to praise the Azov regiment strictly in the context of defending Ukraine, or in their role as part of the Ukrainian National Guard,” a spokesperson for Facebook’s parent company Meta told reporters. Business Insider.

“But we continue to prohibit all hate speech, hate symbolism, violent praise, public praise, endorsement or representation of the Azov regiment, and any other content that violates our community standards,” he added.

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