Russian Ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov commented on a letter from 40 members of the US House of Representatives to the State Department demanding that the Ukrainian Azov volunteer regiment be recognized as a terrorist organization.
“The rampant radical right-wing extremism has spread far beyond the borders of Ukraine itself. Congress, apparently following the US intelligence agencies, is beginning to become aware of the threat posed by Azov and the Americans in contact with it. It is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore this danger, ”the embassy quoted Facebook as saying.
Earlier, on October 16, members of the House of Representatives of the American Congress wrote a letter to the State Department, in which they called Azov "a well-known Ukrainian ultranationalist militarist organization that openly accepts neo-Nazis into its ranks."
The author of the letter was Congresswoman Democrat from New York State Max Rose. In addition to it, the document was signed by another 39 parliamentarians. According to them, despite the short existence of this unit, it has already appeared several times in the center of scandals.
“Despite the relatively short history of this group, the UN recorded a number of cases of human rights violations and torture. According to the FBI, contrary to these facts, Azov has continued to recruit, radicalize and train American citizens for years, ”the congressmen said.
Congressmen rely on a statement by FBI officer Scott Birwerth. In 2018, he spoke during the trial of members of the Rise Above Movement, who staged riots in Charlottesville in 2017. According to him, four members of this movement were associated with Azov. “Based on my training and experience, I know that the Azov battalion is a paramilitary unit of the Ukrainian National Guard. It is often associated with Nazi ideology, as well as the use of appropriate symbolism. According to some reports, members of the organization could take part in the training and radicalization of white racist organizations in the US, ”said Birwerth.
Congressmen also found a link between Azov and the US attacks. They noted that Brenton Tarrant, who had committed terrorist attacks in Christchurch in New Zealand, announced his connections with Azov. At the same time, the shooters who staged the attacks in the United States claimed that they were influenced by the New Zealand attack.
“The New Zealand Christchurch massacre was a turning point in the fight against terrorism. In his manifesto, the shooter claimed that he trained in the Azov regiment in Ukraine and constantly wore neo-Nazi symbols associated with it. According to the shooters from Powey and El Paso, the attacks in Christchurch had a direct impact on them. The connection between Azov and the terrorist attacks in America is obvious, ”they emphasized.
It should be noted that Azov itself denies the accusations against it. Commenting on the letter of American congressmen, the radicals called it an “information attack” on Ukraine.
“This cannot be left without reaction”
Speaking about the manifestation of nationalism in Ukraine, Antonov also recalled how the Prime Minister of Ukraine Aleksey Goncharuk attended the performance of the Sokira Peruna music group in Kiev. This team is known for its right-wing attitude.
According to Antonov, if you leave this without reaction, "it will happen as in Latvia, where Defense Minister Artis Pabriks sank before the public heroization of the Waffen-SS units."
“This cannot be left without reaction,” Antonov told RIA Novosti. “We urge official Washington, civil society and human rights organizations, to finally give an appropriate assessment of neo-Nazi trends in Ukraine and the Baltic countries.”
As a first step, the Russian ambassador admitted, Washington could support the draft resolution of the UN General Assembly on combating the glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to the escalation of modern forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance proposed by Russia.
Given the reaction of American congressmen, it can be stated that the problem of Ukrainian nationalists is now felt in the United States, said Vladimir Olenchenko, senior researcher at the Center for European Studies at IMEMO RAS.
“This, apparently, is so obvious that it is recorded by law enforcement agencies in the United States. The fact that American congressmen spoke out for the ban indicates that this problem has reached the United States and has become fraught with difficulties,” he told RT.
"Interfere with the breeding of forces"
Azov was created in 2014 to participate in battles in eastern Ukraine. In the same year, he was included in the official structure of the country's Ministry of Internal Affairs. From the very beginning, it was formed mainly from members of the right-wing Ukrainian organizations.
The UN has repeatedly recorded the crimes of Azov fighters in the Donbass. In particular, we are talking about mass rape, abduction, torture and beatings. The documents also reported robberies, robbery and murder of civilians by members of this unit.
So, in the 14th OHCHR report on the human rights situation, released in 2016, an episode is mentioned when Azov fighters detained a resident of Mariupol on January 28, 2015. Until February 6, they subjected him to torture, beatings and interrogations. Including with the help of electric current, gas mask, water and handcuffing to a horizontal bar. Only on February 7 he was transferred to the SBU, where he was officially registered.
In June 2018, four Western human rights organizations - Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, Amnestey International and Front Line Defenders - appealed to the Ukrainian authorities to take control of the situation with nationalists and hold them accountable for the crimes committed.
It is noteworthy that the US Congress has already criticized this formation. In 2015, the House of Representatives adopted an amendment prohibiting the Pentagon from using funds to finance Azov. However, this item was included in the budget only in 2017.
Most likely, congressmen will not be able to achieve more this time than the ban on financing Azov, says Ruslan Bortnik, director of the Ukrainian Institute for Analysis and Policy Management.
“Now this situation has become aggravated due to a wider political game: people from Azov, ultra-right groups, interfere with the deployment of forces in eastern Ukraine, interfere with the implementation of the Minsk agreements,” he said in a conversation with RT. “So far, this will be limited to such a situation and, most likely, it will be decided once again that no material, military assistance to the United States can fall into the hands of this regiment.”
“A powerful, aggressive political force”
In Russia, they also criticized Azov. Spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova in February noted that the authorities use this battalion for punitive operations in the Donbass.
“This group, whose representatives are known for their right-wing radical views, was repeatedly used by the Kiev regime to carry out punitive actions against the civilian population of Donbass, for which it was called a neo-Nazi formation by a number of American congressmen,” she said during the briefing.
Nationalists in Ukraine as a whole have very strong political positions, said State Duma deputy from the Crimea Ruslan Balbek. “Nationalism in today's Ukraine is a powerful, aggressive political force. They dictate the terms to the government and, in case of refusal, openly declare their readiness to overthrow the current government, ”he told RT.
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According to Olenchenko, nationalists were used during the presidency of Petro Poroshenko as a political tool.
“During the presidency of Poroshenko, nationalism was not only supported, but also stimulated. It was used by Poroshenko to suppress dissent in Ukraine and to intimidate the population. Even the latest events related to the intentions of the Kiev authorities to normalize the situation around the DPR and LPR, met with resistance from the nationalists, ”the expert emphasized.
The scale of the influence of the radicals is also indicated by the fact that Kiev sometimes sabotages its international agreements for fear of conflicting with the nationalists, Olenchenko believes.
* “Islamic State” (IG) - the organization was recognized as terrorist by decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of December 29, 2014.