The Azov regiment fighters near Mariupol. September 2014
Article by: Yana Polianska
The House of Representatives of the US Congress is considering an amendment refusing to train the Azov regiment for budget money. One representative called the regiment “neo-Nazi.” According to the initiators of the amendment, with time the warriors may turn the weapons against their own people and go against the government. Azov is outraged by these allegations and reply that they are patriots and do not appeal to global ideological currents. Experts, in their turn, believe that such a decision in the House of Representatives can be called a “defeat of Ukrainian diplomacy.”
The corresponding amendments to bill HR 2685 “On defense spending in 2015” in the lower house of the US Congress, the House of Representatives, were approved without hesitation. According to this decision, if it comes into force, the Azov regiment will lose the right to be financed and Ukraine will not receive MANPADS. Democrat Congressman John Conyers and Republican Congressman Ted Yoho were the initiators of these changes.
To persuade his colleagues, Conyers stated, “These groups contradict American values, and as soon as hostilities cease they will become a serious threat to the government of Ukraine and its people.” He compared Azov with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, which at one time were actively equipped by the US. Conyers remarked that when the Soviet-Afghan conflict was over, the Mujahideen did not lay down their arms. By analogy, the congressman added, “Azov” can also “turn against their own people to impose their hateful views upon them.”
The representative also stated that Andriy Biletskyi, the regiment’s leader, organized the neo-Nazi Social-National Assembly in 2008 and that Azov uses neo-Nazi symbols on their flag.
Later, addressing his voters from his official site, Conyers called representatives of Azov “repulsive neo-Nazis,” stressing that they are described this way by a number of American and international media: Foreign Policy Magazine, Reuters, The Telegraph, The Washington Post.
The site also states that Biletskyi and his supporters are forming Azov on the basis of racism and anti-Semitism and that they reject democracy. Conyers also fears, referring to The Washington Post, that the battalion may “pursue pro-Russian forces in an uncontrolled manner or even turn against the Ukrainian government, if it insists on a diplomatic solution of the conflict.” The US is only trying to “avoid undesirable consequences,” noted the congressman.
House passed my amendment to prohibit assistance to Azov Battalion—a far-right white supremacist militia at front lines of Ukraine conflict
— John Conyers (@repjohnconyers) June 11, 2015
“As was made vividly clear with U.S. involvement in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion decades ago, overzealous military assistance or the hyper-weaponization of conflicts can have destabilizing consequences and ultimately undercut our own national interests,” Conyers is quoted on his site.
A day before, a similar position was voiced by the press secretary of the White House Josh Earnest during the G7 summit in Germany. He stressed that the US will not supply offensive weapons to Ukraine, since it will not promote a peaceful solution to the conflict in the east of the country.
“I can say that the position of the (US – Ed.) President has not changed regarding not providing additional offensive weapons to Ukraine. Supplying additional weapons would only lead to further escalation of the situation, according to the president. And it should be resolved diplomatically,” Earnest stressed.
Azov is outraged by such statements of Congress representatives
Azov is outraged about the allegations of Nazi ideology and advises the US to better analyze their own behavior in the international arena, noting that “Azov always stood on the positions of patriotism and never appealed to any other global ideological currents. ”
“Instead, we would like to remind that the United States has assumed under the Budapest memorandum to guarantee the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. Please note that the level of implementation of these safeguards taken by the US is in an extremely poor condition,” Azov adds in their statement (below is a translated post of the original Ukrainian statement posted by the regiment’s English-language FB page).
In an exclusive comment to RFERL, the spokesman of the commander of the Azov regiment Oleksandr Alfyorov reminded the United States about their own commitments. “It is good that Congress representatives think about this, but it’s a pity that they forgot about the Budapest Memorandum,” he said.
The decision on Azov is a defeat of Ukrainian diplomacy?
According to political expert Kostyantyn Matviyenko, such a resounding decision in the House of Representatives is a “defeat of Ukrainian diplomacy.”
“This decision was made suddenly, nobody knew about it being prepared. It is unknown how the monitoring on the base of which such a position was formed was done,” said the expert.
Matviyenko stresses that there is still no official position of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine. This gives evidence, the expert added, that Ukrainian diplomats do not monitor, control, or predict processes.
Instead, political scientist Oleksandr Paliy emphasizes that there is currently only the position of the House of Representatives, not the general position of the United States. According to him, accusing Azov of neo-Nazism is far from the truth.
“Some people see certain things in a banana, according to Freud. There are questions directed at Azov symbols and abstract issues. There are no fascist of Nazi practices in Azov. There are Russians, some Poles, some Croats in their ranks , and there is no fascism there,” he says.
According to Paliy, the U.S. does not understand that these radical movements are actually alien to Ukraine. Paliy adds that if a representative of Azov does display Nazi symbols or rhetoric, this is perceived by society as a relapse. “For Ukrainians, who were victims of genocidal politics in the 20th century, and who are experiencing aggression today, references to fascism are strange and unnatural,” he says.
Not everyone in the United States supports Ukraine – Romaniuk
We should remember that the US supports pluralism and thus we should not forget that not all Americans support Ukraine. So commented Anatoliy Romaniuk, Director of the Center for Political Studies, on the decision of the House of Representatives.
According to Romaniuk, right-wing currents can definitely be present in the structure of the regiment, but we should not classify the entire military formation as neo-Nazi. However, he advises realistic assessment of the situation in Ukraine and in the ATO. “We need to assess it realistically. We shouldn’t decorate and avoid problem issues. Because these problematic aspects are widely used against us,” he said.
The Azov regiment is a regiment of the National Guard of Ukraine based in Mariupol of the Donetsk Oblast. It is involved in the anti-terrorist operation in the south of Donetsk Oblast, mainly within the Azov Sea coastal region. Its leader, Andrei Biletskyi, in a recent interview noted that in Azov there are “many Belarusians, Georgians, people from the EU. Fewer Americans and Canadians. They think that Putin’s idea of “Eurasianism” poses significant danger to European democracy and their homes.”