After months of denying the influence of Neo Nazis in Ukraine’s military, the Washington Post has finally conceded the point – long blasted as “conspiracy theory” or “Kremlin disinformation” – about the nation’s Azov battalion.
In an article published April 6th 2022, the Washington Post explains in its headline: “Right-wing Azov Battalion emerges as a controversial defender of Ukraine.”
The report cites Hans-Jakob Schindler, a senior director at the Counter Extremism Project, who admitted the “allure” for Neo Nazis in Ukraine is “not surprising,” in WaPo’s words.
“There’s nothing shocking about it,” he said. “It’s the only conflict you can join.” He added: “Where you want to go? To Syria, where Muslims killing Muslims, to West Africa, where Black people kill Black people? As you’re a Nazi, that’s not the conflict you want to join.”
WaPo also concedes, in less uncertain terms:
Despite their military successes, the Azov continued to be criticized as adherents to neo-Nazi ideology. Even as they have consistently denied any Nazi affiliations, their uniforms and tattoos on many of their fighters display a number of fascist and Nazi symbols, including swastikas and SS symbols. In 2015, Andriy Diachenko, the spokesperson for the regiment at the time, told USA Today that 10 to 20 percent of Azov’s recruits were Nazis.
The Jeff Bezos-owned newspaper is still keen to run cover for the group, much as the New York Times did during the Second World War:
The Azov battalion is also not what it was in 2014. Ever since it was incorporated into Ukraine’s National Guard late that year, they “had to purge a lot of those extremist elements,” said Mollie Saltskog, a senior intelligence analyst at the Soufan Group. “There was much more control exerted over who is affiliated with the battalions.”
The paper interviewed Col. Andriy Biletskiy – co-founder and commander of Azov who is on the record as wanting to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade … against Semite-led Untermenschen [subhumans]…”
“We don’t identify ourselves with the Nazi ideology,” said Biletskiy. “We have people of conservative political views, and I see myself as such. But, as any person, I don’t want my views to be defined by others. I’m not a Nazi. We completely reject it.”
Another interviewee for the article, author Michael Colborne, said that while he “wouldn’t call [Azov] explicitly a neo-Nazi movement… There are clearly neo-Nazis within its ranks.”
“There are elements in it who are, you know, neo-fascist and there are elements who are maybe more kind of old-school Ukrainian nationalist,” said Colborne.
“At its core, it’s hostile to liberal democracy. It’s hostile to every everything that comes with liberal democracy, minority rights, voting rights, things like that.”
The paper admits: “…the battalion’s far-right nationalist ideology has raised concerns that it is attracting extremists, including white supremacist neo-Nazis, who could pose a future threat. When Putin cast his assault on Ukraine as a quest to “de-Nazify” the country, seeking to delegitimize the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian nationalism as fascist, he was partly referring to the Azov forces.”
The news report flies in the face of both news reports and opinion pieces published by the Washington Post since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, both of which have sought to reject the influence of Neo Nazis in the nation’s military.
While the paper still suggests that Neo Nazis serving the secularist, Jewish-born president Volodymyr Zelensky somehow negatives their extremist purpose, critics have alleged it says more about Zelensky and his willingness to lead Neo Nazi elements in his national guard than it does the changing nature of the Azov battalion.