Russian President Vladimir Putin’s accusation that Ukraine advocated Nazism, the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion seemed proof of his claim. But further research seems to implicate the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in establishing and funding the white supremacist paramilitary.
Sputnik News, a Russian state-owned news agency that is now inaccessible in the US, reported last week that Putin’s claims of ties between the US government and the Ukrainian neo-Nazi Azov Battalion were true.
Formed in 2014, the Azov Special Operations Detachment is a right-wing extremist, neo-Nazi, formerly paramilitary, unit of the National Guard of Ukraine, based in Mariupol, in the Azov Sea coastal region.
A 2016 report issued by the Office of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights details accusations against the Azov movement’s use of torture and other war crimes in the ensuing conflict after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. The battalion’s sources of funding have always been unclear but the report cited the battalion’s online claims of receiving training from foreign military forces including those of Canada, Germany, the US, and the U.K.
Ukraine: An in-your-face neo-Nazi graduated in 2018 from a tactical medicine program supported, per the military of Ukraine, by the Canadian military and the USA. He now trains Ukrainian cadets in the “Desna” center, sometimes alongside Canadian instructors. Thread pic.twitter.com/6Sr5xY33Oa
— Oleksiy Kuzmenko (@kooleksiy) March 5, 2020
Funding from the US was banned by Congress in 2014 due to the Azov Battalion’s white supremacist ideology, but this ban was overturned in 2015.
In 2015 Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced that the Azov Regiment would be among the first units to be trained by United States Army troops in their Operation Fearless Guardian training mission. The six-month training was carried out by paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Support Battalion and funded under the Congress-approved Global Contingency Security Fund.
The Nation wrote in 2018:
This did not begin under President Trump but under President George W. Bush, when then Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko’s “Orange Revolution” began rehabilitating Ukraine’s wartime killers of Jews, and it grew under President Obama, who, along with Vice President Joseph Biden, were deeply complicit in the Maidan coup and what followed.
According to another report, in October 2016, the Texas-based AirTronic company signed a contract to deliver $5.5 million dollars worth of Precision Shoulder-Fired Rocket Launched Javelin anti-tank missiles to “an Allied European military customer.” AirTronic Chief Operating Officer Richard Vandiver emphasized that the sale of grenade launchers was authorized through “very close coordination with the U.S. Embassy, with the U.S. State Department, with the U.S. Pentagon and with the Ukrainian government.”
Ukrainian journalist Yury Butusov later revealed that many of these units ended up in the hands of the Azov battalion.
In a 2019 report in the Daily Beast, both the US Army and the State Department stated that they carefully vetted Urainain participants in training programs but later admitted that the Leahy vetting process was used to weed out humanitarian violators and did not exclude neo-Nazi ideology.
In January, as the Russian invasion seemed imminent, Yahoo News cited CIA officials as saying that their organization had been overseeing a secret intensive training program in the US for elite Ukrainian special operations forces and other intelligence personnel since 2015. The program was established by the Obama administration after Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014, and the Biden administration has further augmented it.
It should be noted that the US has been the only nation to join Ukraine in voting against a UN resolution titled “Combating glorification of Nazism, Neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” The State Department justified its bizarre position by claiming the resolution was just another of many “Russian disinformation narratives smearing neighboring nations under the cynical guise of halting Nazi glorification.” The State Department also cited its “steadfast commitment to freedom of expression.”
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