Ukraine’s State-Sponsored “Azov Battalion” Expands Use of Nazi-Inspired Symbols

KIEVOn September 22, Ukraine’s Azov Battalion had a ceremony honoring its fighters who were killed in combat in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass regions. It is natural for any military unit to honor its dead. But it is evident from the images on Azov’s own website that this ceremony used iconography that is disturbingly reminiscent of the 1930s Nuremberg rallies, including the use of searchlights, the banners with Waffen-SS stylized logos and the flames.

The background of Azov, its leadership, its recruitment and emblems are all deeply disturbing. It grew out of the Social-National Assembly of Ukraine (S.N.A.), a group of far right and neo-Nazi organizations founded in 2008 that share the social-national ideology and agree upon building a social-national state in Ukraine. It logos are rooted in SS symbological conventions.

And here we see a clear connection between a fighting unit within Azov called Borodach and the Deaths’ Head (the symbols derive from from the Waffen SS Totenkopf division):

Azov’s first leader was Andriy Biletsky, a man referred to as the “white chief” who once wrote that “the historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival. A crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen [‘subhumans’].” Numerous media outlets have also documented Azov fighters with swastikas, and the group has also been caught out in efforts to recruit neo-Nazis into its ranks.

Perhaps most disturbingly, Azov is not just some far right extremist group. Certainly both the U.S. and many European countries have fringe neo-Nazi organizations within their borders. but this has actually been integrated into the official state-sponsoed Ukrainian National Guard, giving the proliferation of fascist symbol the de-facto imprimatur of the Ukrainian government.

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