Ukrainian soldiers wearing helmets with Nazi symbols
The German television station ZDF has broadcast footage showing members of the Ukrainian Army with Nazi symbols on their helmets such as a swastika and the symbol of Hitler's special SS units. News server Echo24.cz cited NBC News as reporting that ZDF broadcast the footage as part of its reporting on the situation in Ukraine earlier this month.
We're no big deal, just nationalists
The video footage was used by ZDF's Moscow correspondent Bernhard Lichte in his reportage on the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine. "The additional volunteer corps are recruited by the Ukrainian government from various corners of the political spectrum," the ZDF correspondent commented.
The video was filmed by a team of journalists from Norway's TV2. "We were filming a reportage about Ukraine's Azov Battalion in the east in the town of Urzuf when we encountered those soldiers," said Oysten Bogen of TV2.
Before filming the helmets, the journalists said they asked the spokesperson for the battalion if he had observed any fascist tendencies among them. "He said absolutely not, that they were just Ukrainian nationalists," Bogen said.
As Ondřej Mrázek has written in his analyses for Romea.cz, neo-Nazis and other extremists are fighting on both sides, both the pro-Russian separatist side and the Ukrainian side. The largest number of neo-Nazis are on the Ukrainian side (not only from Russia and Ukraine, but from Denmark, Finland, Italy, Spain and Sweden) precisely in the volunteer Azov Battalion, which is based on the Social-National Assembly (SNA) initiative.
The battalion officially falls under the Ministry of Defense in Kiev, which also arms and finances it together with contributions from some Ukrainian oligarchs. SNA leader Andriy Biletsky has publicly announced that Azov's military actions are not just a patriotic defense of Ukraine, but the first "crusades for the white race" of a new era against "Semites and other subhumans."
"SNA followers and other soldiers fighting in the Azov Battalion profess a slightly altered Nazi ideology. They claim that every nation - in this case, the Ukrainian nation - has the holy right, after the victory over 'the Russian enemies of humanity and multicultural sexual perverts from Europe' to introduce racial laws, deportations, and other such steps in its own country aiming to 'preserve [its] ethnic purity and unspoiled genetic fund'," Mrázek writes.
Amnesty International demands volunteers be punished
International human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) has called on the Ukrainian government to stop the sprees of violence committed by volunteers fighting alongside government forces in the east of the country against pro-Russian separatists. Units comprised of volunteers, according to AI, are committing not just blunders, but war crimes.
"The Ukrainian authorities are not allowed to copy the abuses and illegality that was customary in the areas previously controlled by separatists," said Salil Shetty, AI's Secretary-General, during a meeting with Ukrainian PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Kiev. If the government does not stop the sprees by volunteer battalions, there is a risk of tensions increasing in the east of the country and compromising the announced intention to establish and ensure law and order.
AI's challenge is based on data about both blunders and war crimes committed in the north of the Donetsk territory by the voluntary Ajdar Battalion, one of the 30 such volunteer units permitted to join the fight against the separatists. The AI report suggests that participants in the Ajdar Battalion commited dozens of abductions, extortions, illegal imprisonments, ill-treatment, robberies and evidently also executions between the end of July and the end of August.
Fascists and racists fighting on the pro-Russian side as well
As AI has pointed out, the same atrocities are being committed by pro-Russian forces in Ukraine. Ultra-right extremists including neo-Nazis and other racists are also fighting on the pro-Russian side.
Recently there was a meeting at Yalta between Anpilogov, who is an advisor to Russian President Putin; the Russian ultra-nationalist Yegor Kholmogorov; the PM of the illegal Republic of Transcarpathian Rus; and functionaries from the Hungarian Fascist party Jobbik, the French National Front, the British National Party, Belgium's Flemish Interest, the Polish Falanga party, Italy's New Force party and other ultra-right organizations. Right-wing extremists from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Serbia are fighting on the side of the pro-Russian rebels.
The UN also says both the pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian units are committing human rights violations. A UN report says abductions, murder and torture are being committed.
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