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Fake Azov video tries to frame Ukraine prior to Dutch referendum

Fake Azov video tries to frame Ukraine prior to Dutch referendum

It’s so bad, it’s good

On January 18, a random youtube channel uploaded its first video, in which people attempting to give themselves away as the Azov regiment threatened residents of The Netherlands with reprisal should they vote against the EU-Ukraine Association at the advisory referendum scheduled for April 6. Speaking in crude English, the “regiment’s spokesman” evokes parallels with islamist extremism by warning the Dutch that Azov members are ready to find them in their bedrooms should they choose “no.”

Read more: Ukraine-EU Association Agreement endangered by Dutch referendum

The next morning the Deputy Commander of the Azov regiment uploaded an appeal on Azov’s official youtube channel, in which he called the video a “pathetic provocation and a poor-quality fake that has nothing to do with our battalion.” Azov’s website clarifies why exactly the video is a provocation. An English translation is below:

A video in which a group of camouflaged people destroyed the flag of The Netherlands began spreading online in the evening of January 18.  The people on video attempt to impersonate the soldiers of the Ukrainian [Azov] regiment. It’s clear at first glance that these persons can’t be from Azov: they lack regimental chevrons, wear inappropriate footwear and uncharacteristic uniforms. But it’s the airsoft guns that make this clip ridiculous. Anyone who is minimally knowledgeable in weapons will notice this immediately. The airsoft gun model AK-74M (which is simply not in service in the regiment) is loaded with magazines from an AKM of a completely different caliber! Further comments on the quality of the fake are unnecessary; we will only mention the voice of the “main spokesman,” which sounds identical to the voice of the previous fakes directed against Azov.

The video’s content is also laughable to anybody familiar with the position of the regiment  regarding the EU. Azov members, as it befits Ukrainian nationalists, have always perceived the idea of ​​Ukraine joining the European Union negatively, instead supporting the idea of a Baltic-Black Sea alternative union for our country. In addition, from the very beginning of its existence, the regiment insisted on the unity of European nations in the fight against the “Asian invasion” in whatever form it would take (post-Soviet or Islamic). Thus, it makes no sense for Azov soldiers to burn the flag of an allied European nation, and especially with a pro-EU argument. However, it makes lots of sense for Russia, which is trying to spoil the international image of Ukraine. The referendum which will take place on April 6 in The Netherlands is a very appropriate opportunity for this. Putin’s Federation is prepared to demonize Ukraine in general and the Ukrainian volunteer movement in particular to neutralize negative reporting of his actions in Crimea and Donbas in the eyes of the international community. However, it is obvious that the Russian propaganda machine, as always in the history of this country, is at least as “dirty” as it is “quick”: the fakes are filmed with the same actors, dressed in second hand clothing, and equipped with toy guns.

Cheap fake in every way

While the arguments about airsoft guns and inappropriate uniforms are best assessed by military specialists, it’s difficult imagining who could be fooled by a video uploaded on a random youtube channel that does not appear on any official resources of the Azov regiment. Furthermore, the position of the Ukrainian right wing is not that different from the position of the European right wing: they aren’t enthusiastic about the EU.

Azov – a favorite of Russian propaganda

The Azov regiment have long been a favorite of Russian propaganda – their popularity in the Kremlywood productions can be compared only to the Right Sector. The ultranationalist regiment started off as a volunteer battalion and was later incorporated as a regiment into the Ukrainian army and is infamous for the extreme right-wing views of some of its members and for its insignia, which is widely compared to the wolfsangel – something that the regiment’s members deny, explaining that the symbol is derived from IN, standing for “Idea of Nation”. Whatever the views of some of Azov’s members, they seem to remain personal views only: the discipline and valor of Azov is widely recognized.

Read more: “Azov” – What’s the problem?

Previous fakes about Azov include the purported bathing of an Azov member in a swastika ice hole, a faked photo of an Azov member with a Nazi tattoo, and a video (which is also debunked by Azov’s official structures) where the same camouflaged men as in the “Dutch referendum” video allegedly crucify and burn a member of Russia’s hybrid army in Donbas. It ends right before the fire gets too bad – check this debunking. These videos are only a fraction of the fakes being produced daily by Russian media in order for Russian citizens to accept the war in Ukraine.

Further provocations possible

While this staged video fake is crude and unprofessional, it is a sign that the Dutch referendum now becomes a propaganda topic for further discrediting yet to come. We hope that Dutch citizens will not let themselves be fooled and manipulated and that Ukrainian authorities will be vigilant in tracking and neutralizing these episodes of international importance.

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