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Seeing No Neo-Nazi Militias in Ukraine

By       Message Robert Parry       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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Cross-posted from Consortium News

In the Ukraine crisis, U.S. and European politicians and media have relentlessly condemned Russia for violations of international standards, particularly Moscow's acceptance of Crimea's hasty vote to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia. But the West has gone nearly silent regarding Kiev's violation of rules for controlling armed militias, including neo-Nazi forces.

For instance, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has harshly criticized Russia's annexation of Crimea, has refrained from similar outrage over Ukraine's unleashing of extremist militias that have inflicted extensive bloodshed and abuse on ethnic Russians in rebellious eastern Ukraine.

The OSCE, which includes both Ukraine and Russia among its 57 member states, has a "Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security" which says that all members "will at all times provide for and maintain effective guidance to and control of its military, paramilitary and security forces" and that each state "will ensure that its armed forces as such are politically neutral."
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Yet, Ukraine has intentionally dispatched far-right militias, some waving neo-Nazi banners, to attack towns and cities in eastern Ukraine. Though this reality has drawn spotty recognition in the Western media, there has been little criticism of the Kiev regime for these tactics.

Instead the typical response -- especially from U.S. officialdom and media -- has been to dismiss claims about the close association between the Ukrainian government and neo-Nazi extremists as "Russian propaganda." That denial has held even as accounts of neo-Nazi militias have popped up in publications as hostile to Moscow as the New York Times, the London Telegraph and Foreign Policy.

An Aug. 10 article in the New York Times mentioned the neo-Nazi paramilitary role at the end of a long story on another topic. If you plowed through the story to the last three paragraphs, you would discover the remarkable fact that Nazi storm troopers were attacking a European population for the first time since World War II and that these neo-Nazi militias were largely out of control.

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"'The fighting for Donetsk has taken on a lethal pattern: The regular army bombards separatist positions from afar, followed by chaotic, violent assaults by some of the half-dozen or so paramilitary groups surrounding Donetsk who are willing to plunge into urban combat,' the Times reported.

"Officials in Kiev say the militias and the army coordinate their actions, but the militias, which count about 7,000 fighters, are angry and, at times, uncontrollable. One known as Azov, which took over the village of Marinka, flies a neo-Nazi symbol resembling a Swastika as its flag." [See Consortiumnews.com's "NYT Discovers Ukraine's Neo-Nazis at War."]

The conservative London Telegraph offered more details about the Azov battalion in an article by correspondent Tom Parfitt, who wrote:

"Kiev's use of volunteer paramilitaries to stamp out the Russian-backed Donetsk and Luhansk 'people's republics' should send a shiver down Europe's spine.

"Recently formed battalions such as Donbas, Dnipro and Azov, with several thousand men under their command, are officially under the control of the interior ministry but their financing is murky, their training inadequate and their ideology often alarming. The Azov men use the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel (Wolf's Hook) symbol on their banner and members of the battalion are openly white supremacists, or anti-Semites."

Based on interviews with militia members, the Telegraph reported that some of the fighters doubted the Holocaust, expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler and acknowledged that they are indeed Nazis.

Andriy Biletsky, the Azov commander, "is also head of an extremist Ukrainian group called the Social National Assembly," according to the Telegraph article which quoted a recent commentary by Biletsky as declaring: "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."

The Telegraph questioned Ukrainian authorities in Kiev who acknowledged that they were aware of the extremist ideologies of some militias but insisted that the higher priority was having troops who were eagerly motivated to fight. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Ignoring Ukraine's Neo-Nazi Storm Troopers."]

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Inconvenient Truth

More recently, Foreign Policy's reporter Alec Luhn encountered the neo-Nazis of the Azov and other militias in the port city of Mariupol. He wrote:

"Blue and yellow Ukrainian flags fly over Mariupol's burned-out city administration building and at military checkpoints around the city, but at a sport school near a huge metallurgical plant, another symbol is just as prominent: the wolfsangel ('wolf trap') symbol that was widely used in the Third Reich and has been adopted by neo-Nazi groups. ...

"Pro-Russian forces have said they are fighting against Ukrainian nationalists and 'fascists' in the conflict, and in the case of Azov and other battalions, these claims are essentially true."

The West's silence about this inconvenient truth is especially startling because it should come as no surprise to the European Union, which has long been aware of the extremist positions held by the Svoboda party, which emerged as a major political force in Ukraine after the Feb. 22 coup ousting elected President Viktor Yanukovych.

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at
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