Aris Roussinos, the Foreign Affairs Editor at UnHerd, has a fascinating piece about the worrying role of neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine over the past several years. While emphasising that the Russian claim that Ukraine is a ‘Nazi state’ is certainly false – “Ukraine is a genuine liberal-democratic state, though an imperfect one, with free elections that produce significant changes of power, including the election, in 2019, of the liberal-populist reformer, Volodymyr Zelenskyy”, who is of course Jewish – nonetheless, Ukraine, he says, is an outlier in Europe in the official role the state gives to neo-Nazi militia:
Ukraine is not a Nazi state, but the Ukrainian state’s support – for whatever reasons, valid or otherwise – of neo-Nazi or Nazi-aligned groups makes the country an outlier in Europe. The continent has many extreme Right-wing groups, but only in Ukraine do they possess their own tank and artillery units, with the state’s support.
The most prominent and powerful of these neo-Nazi groups is Azov.
Alongside other far-Right groups, such as Right Sector, the nascent Azov movement played an outside role in the fighting against Ukrainian security police which left 121 dead and secured the success of the revolution. Acquiring control of a large property, just off Independence Square, from the Ministry of Defence, Azov turned the building, now named Cossack House, into its Kyiv headquarters and recruiting centre.
Though Azov has since toned down its rhetoric, and many of its fighters may be non-ideological and simply attracted by its martial reputation, its activists are often to be seen covered in tattoos of SS totenkopfs and lightning bolt runes, or sporting the Sonnenrad or Black Sun symbol of esoteric Nazism. Derived from a pattern created for Himmler at Wewelsburg castle in Germany, chosen as an occultic Camelot for senior SS officers, the Sonnenrad is like the Wolfsangel rune of the SS Das Reich division, one of Azov’s official symbols, worn on their unit patches and on the shields behind which their fighters parade in evocative torchlit ceremonies.