At the end of last month, U.S. Congressmen met with veterans from Ukraine’s controversial Azov Regiment in Washington. (The event went almost entirely unreported in Western media.) Members of the Azov delegation were pictured with Adam Schiff, Pete Sessions, Todd Young and Rick Scott.
A lot has been said about the Azov Regiment, formerly known as the Azov Battalion.
Their detractors claim they are neo-Nazis. The Regiment’s founder has espoused far-right views and even co-founded something called the ‘Social-National Assembly’. Its former emblem features two neo-Nazi symbols (the wolfsangel and the black sun). Members have been pictured next to swastikas, and some have openly admitted to being Neo-Nazis.
Their defenders claim that Azov has undergone considerable changes since its founding: the far-right leadership has left, and the regiment has been depoliticized. Consequently, they argue, it is false to charge the Regiment with neo-Nazism.
Although Azov started out as a “volunteer battalion”, it was formally incorporated into Ukraine’s National Guard in November of 2014 – making it eligible for U.S. military aid. However, concerns about the Regiment’s ideology led to a Congressional ban on Azov receiving arms in 2018.
Opinion remains divided on whether Azov is or is not far-right.
Writing for the Atlantic Council (a pro-Western thinktank that is banned in Russia), Oleksiy Kuzmenko claims that Azov has not been depoliticized and “remains joined at the hip” to the far-right ‘National Corps’. Ivan Katchanovski agrees, noting that recent media coverage will have a “dangerous effect” because “Nazis in Ukraine are made into national heroes”.