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U.S. Troops to Train Azov Battalion; Pravy Sektor Chief to Join Ukrainian Army as Adviser

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Com­bat hel­mets of the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­men­t’s Azov Bat­tal­ion, as shown on Ger­man TV

Pravy Sek­tor

COMMENT: In a pre­vi­ous post, we not­ed that ele­ments of the 173rd Air­borne Brigade are to begin train­ing of Ukraine’s nation­al guard bat­tal­ions. Those bat­tal­ions include the “pun­ish­er” bat­tal­ions, includ­ing the Nazi Azov Bat­tal­ion. Now comes con­fir­ma­tion that Azov will, indeed, be the recip­i­ent of train­ing by the 173rd Air­borne, begin­ning on April 20th [Hitler’s Birthday–D.E.]. In addi­tion, Dmytro Yarosh, head of Pravy Sek­tor (one of the Nazi OUN/B heirs in Ukrain­ian pow­er struc­ture and gov­ern­ment) will be an assis­tant to the head of that coun­try’s army, this to “con­trol” the “pun­ish­er” bat­tal­ions, includ­ing Azov.

Russ­ian media are alleg­ing that an entire bat­tal­ion of Pravy Sek­tor com­bat­ants will be incor­po­rat­ed into the Ukrain­ian army. IF, in fact, this alle­ga­tion is accu­rate, it will be inter­est­ing to see if it ever is cov­ered by even the most mar­gin­al of West­ern media.
 
Whether or not the Russ­ian alle­ga­tion is on firm ground, the insti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion of the OUN/B heirs in Ukraine’s pow­er struc­ture and the Orwellian dis­missal of doc­u­ment­ed fact and well-estab­lished World War II his­to­ry about the Holo­caust and East­ern Front cam­paigns as being “Russian/Kremlin pro­pa­gan­da is rem­i­nis­cent of “Ser­pen­t’s Walk.” (Pro­grams cov­er­ing the Ukraine cri­sis are:FTR #‘s 777778779780781782, 783784794800803804, 808811817818824826829832833837.) 

“US Forces to Hold Exer­cises in Ukraine” [AP]; Stars and Stripes; 3/31/2015.

The Unit­ed States plans to send sol­diers to Ukraine in April for train­ing exer­cises with units of the country’s nation­al guard.

Ukraine’s Inte­rior Min­is­ter Arsen Avakov said in a Face­book post on Sun­day that the units to be trained include the Azov Bat­tal­ion, a vol­un­teer force that has attract­ed crit­i­cism for its far-right sen­ti­ments includ­ing bran­dish­ing an emblem wide­ly used in Nazi Ger­many.

Avakov said the train­ing will begin April 20 [Hitler’s birthday–D.E.!] at a base in west­ern Ukraine near the Pol­ish bor­der and would involve about 290 Amer­i­can para­troop­ers and some 900 Ukrain­ian guards­men.

Pen­ta­gon spokesman Col. Steve War­ren said the troops would come from the 173rd Air­borne Brigade based in Vicen­za, Italy. . . .

“Ukraine Far-right Leader Made Army Advi­sor in Move to Con­trol Mili­tias” by Claire Rosem­berg [AFP]; Busi­ness Insid­er; 4/6/2015.

 The con­tro­ver­sial leader of Ukraine’s ultra-nation­al­ist Pravy Sek­tor para­mil­i­tary group, which is fight­ing pro-Russ­ian rebels along­side gov­ern­ment troops, was made an army advi­sor Mon­day as Kiev seeks to tight­en its con­trol over vol­un­teer fight­ers.

Com­ing on the anniver­sary of the start of fight­ing in Ukraine, the move marks a key step in gov­ern­ment efforts to estab­lish author­ity over the sev­eral pri­vate armies that share its goal of crush­ing pro-Russ­ian sep­a­ratists in the east, but do not nec­es­sar­ily oper­ate under its con­trol.

While some such mili­tias answer to the inte­rior min­istry and receive fund­ing, the pow­er­ful Pravy Sek­tor or “Right Sec­tor” mili­tia, which cur­rently claims 10,000 mem­bers includ­ing reservists — but will not say how many are deployed at the front — had until now refused to reg­is­ter with the author­i­ties.

Its pos­ture is expect­ed to change fol­low­ing Monday’s announce­ment by the defence min­istry of the appoint­ment of its leader, Dmytro Yarosh, a hate fig­ure in Moscow who was elect­ed to Ukraine’s par­lia­ment last year, as advi­sor to the army chief of staff Vik­tor Muzhenko.

“Dmytro Yarosh will act as a link between the vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions and the Gen­eral Staff,” armed forces spokesman Olek­siy Mazepa told AFP.

“We want to achieve full uni­ty in the strug­gle against the ene­my, because now our aim is the coop­er­a­tion and inte­gra­tion of vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions in the armed forces,” he added.

Asked whether the appoint­ment might anger the West, polit­i­cal ana­lyst Taras Beresovets said becom­ing army advi­sor “does not make him an influ­en­tial per­son in the armed forces.”

“I do not remem­ber hear­ing offi­cial crit­i­cism of Yarosh or the ‘Right Sec­tor’ by any coun­try except Rus­sia,” he added. . . .

 

 

 

Discussion

9 comments for “U.S. Troops to Train Azov Battalion; Pravy Sektor Chief to Join Ukrainian Army as Adviser”

  1. Reuters — Ultra-nation­al­ist Ukrain­ian bat­tal­ion gears up for more fight­ing

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/25/us-ukraine-crisis-azov-idUSKBN0ML0XJ20150325

    Posted by TBD | April 9, 2015, 9:08 pm
  2. The BBC has a piece on the pro­mo­tion of Dmytro Yarosh as a high lev­el mil­i­tary advi­sor that makes a rather amus­ing inad­ver­tant admis­sion: The expert they inter­view, Andreas Umland, insists that Dmytro Yarosh isn’t a neo-Nazi because he envi­sions a future for Ukraine where peo­ple of all eth­nic­i­ties and back­grounds can be Ukrain­ian cit­i­zens, unlike those oth­er far-right groups that have recent­ly risen to promi­nance in Ukraine. Noth­ing to wor­ry about folks!

    BBC News
    Ukraine cri­sis: Ten­sion over rise of nation­al­ist Yarosh

    The recent appoint­ment of a nation­al­ist leader, Dmytro Yarosh, to a high mil­i­tary posi­tion in Ukraine has sparked con­tro­ver­sy.

    By David Stern, Kiev

    8 April 2015

    In Rus­sia he has become a focus of accu­sa­tions that “fas­cists” and extrem­ists con­trol the gov­ern­ment in Kiev.

    How­ev­er, the nature of his duties, and the extent of his influ­ence in the armed forces, remains to be seen.

    Mr Yarosh is the head of Right Sec­tor, which first burst to promi­nence as an ultra-nation­al­ist umbrel­la organ­i­sa­tion, bat­tling riot police and help­ing man the bar­ri­cades dur­ing anti-gov­ern­ment protests last year.

    After the Feb­ru­ary rev­o­lu­tion, which brought a new pro-West­ern gov­ern­ment to pow­er, Right Sec­tor mor­phed into a polit­i­cal par­ty.

    How­ev­er, Mr Yarosh received less than 1% in pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, and his par­ty failed to pass a 5% bar­ri­er to enter par­lia­ment — though he him­self was elect­ed as a deputy.

    Russ­ian con­dem­na­tion
    From there, Right Sec­tor cre­at­ed from its num­bers one of the many vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions, fight­ing along­side reg­u­lar gov­ern­ment forces against Russ­ian-sup­port­ed insur­gents in east­ern Ukraine.

    And now Mr Yarosh and his group have made yet anoth­er leap in legit­i­ma­cy: Ukrain­ian offi­cials announced at the week­end that the Right Sec­tor leader would serve as an advis­er to the army chief of staff, Vik­tor Muzhenko, act­ing as a liai­son between the mil­i­tary and the vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions.

    Russ­ian media were quick to con­demn the move. “Neo-Nazis are strength­en­ing their posi­tions,” pro­claimed Rus­si­a’s state-owned Rossiya 1 TV. “Rad­i­cal armed groups will become a sep­a­rate assault brigade, led by Yarosh.”

    Rus­sia accus­es him of incite­ment to ter­ror­ism and at Rus­si­a’s request he is list­ed as want­ed by Inter­pol. He denies the charges.

    The claim that Mr Yarosh comes from neo-Nazi ranks, or rep­re­sents them, is a dis­tor­tion.

    “He is a nation­al­ist — though there is a dis­cus­sion, among experts, on whether labels like ‘ultra-nation­al­ism’, ‘fas­cism’ or ‘extreme right’ should be applied to him,” wrote Andreas Umland, an expert on the far right in Ukraine.

    Mr Umland points out that Mr Yarosh, unlike many oth­er far-right activists, defines nation­al­i­ty accord­ing to cit­i­zen­ship. That is, not just eth­nic Ukraini­ans are con­sid­ered to be, so to speak, “true Ukraini­ans”, but Rus­sians, Jews, Tar­tars or any oth­er group liv­ing on Ukrain­ian ter­ri­to­ry.

    That said, Mr Yarosh’s polit­i­cal beliefs fall firm­ly to the right of the polit­i­cal spec­trum.

    “In the past, he has made crit­i­cal state­ments about West­ern lib­er­al­ism and Euro­pean inte­gra­tion,” Mr Umland said.

    ...

    Note that Andreas Umland might be dis­miss­ing Yarosh’s exten­sive ties has open­ly crit­i­cized the Kiev gov­ern­ment for its embrace of the neo-Nazis, like this Novem­ber 7, 2014 Face­book post­ing where Muland warns:

    WARNING: The naivete of Ukrain­ian politi­cians and bureau­crats keeps sur­pris­ing me. The appoint­ments of two neo-Nazis, Vadym Troy­an to the Min­istry of Inte­ri­or and Yuri Mikhalchyshyn to the Secret Ser­vice, will cost Ukraine a lot. Urgent advice: As these appoint­ments will have to be reviewed soon­er or lat­er any­way, it is bet­ter to reverse these deci­sions before the enor­mous image dam­age that they can do to Ukraine across the globe is done.

    ...

    Umfeld also has a Face­book post­ing about this BBC arti­cle about Yarosh where he laments the usage of a pic­ture show­ing some­one in a Bakla­va with a Wolf­san­gel sym­bol because:

    The pho­to­graph is unfor­tu­nate, as the flag’s sym­bol is used by the “Patri­ot of Ukraine,” SNA and Azov Brigade, but not by the Right Sec­tor.

    So it sounds like the spin in Yarosh is some­thing like: Don’t wor­ry, Yarosh isn’t an neo-Nazi, unlike all those neo-Nazis groups like Azov, “Patri­ots of Ukraine, and SNA, he’s just sort of hung out with groups like that a lot (and let’s just ignore that fact that “Patri­ots of Ukraine” and SNA were found­ing of Right Sec­tor).

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 11, 2015, 1:21 pm
  3. The US involve­ment in Ukraine’s civ­il war just got a lit­tle more com­pli­cat­ed, in a good way this time:

    Blooomberg Views
    Ukraine’s Neo-Nazis Won’t Get U.S. Mon­ey
    Jun 12, 2015 10:41 AM EDT
    By Leonid Bershid­sky

    It’s easy to see why Rep­re­sen­ta­tive John Cony­ers, a Michi­gan Demo­c­rat, would have a prob­lem with the mil­i­tary unit com­mand­ed by Ukrain­ian leg­is­la­tor Andriy Bilet­sky: Cony­ers is a found­ing mem­ber of the Con­gres­sion­al Black Cau­cus, Bilet­sky is a white suprema­cist.

    The House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives has unan­i­mous­ly approved an amend­ment to the U.S. mil­i­tary bud­get, pro­posed by Cony­ers and Flori­da Repub­li­can Ted Yoho, ban­ning sup­port and train­ing for “the Ukrain­ian neo-Nazi para­mil­i­tary mili­tia ‘Azov Bat­tal­ion.’ ” Azov was set up in May 2014 to fight pro-Russ­ian sep­a­ratists in east­ern Ukraine. Here’s how the group’s Face­book page describes the cir­cum­stances:

    >
    In the first weeks after the Putin inva­sion of Don­bass began, the author­i­ties and law enforcers were con­fused and demor­al­ized. Nation­al­ists had to take ini­tia­tive. The Patri­ot of Ukraine orga­ni­za­tion and allied unof­fi­cial groups of right-wing youth ral­lied around Andriy Bilet­sky and chal­lenged the sep­a­ratists.

    By now, though, the Azov Bat­tal­ion has become a reg­i­ment of the Ukrain­ian Nation­al Guard and enjoys the enthu­si­as­tic sup­port of Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Arsen Avakov.

    Bilet­sky had run Patri­ot of Ukraine since 2005. In a 2010 inter­view he described the orga­ni­za­tion as nation­al­ist “storm troops” with its biggest unit in Kharkov, Bilet­sky’s native city in east­ern Ukraine. The group’s ide­ol­o­gy was “social nation­al­ism” — a term Bilet­sky, a his­to­ri­an, knew would deceive no one.

    The main tar­gets for Bilet­sky and his orga­ni­za­tion’s hos­til­i­ty were immi­grants in Kharkiv and the cap­i­tal Kiev, both of which are rel­a­tive­ly cos­mopoli­tan cities. In 2007, Bilet­sky railed against a gov­ern­ment deci­sion to intro­duce fines for racist remarks:

    So why the ‘Negro-love’ on a leg­isla­tive lev­el? They want to break every­one who has risen to defend them­selves, their fam­i­ly, their right to be mas­ters of their own land! They want to destroy the Nation’s bio­log­i­cal resis­tance to every­thing alien and do to us what hap­pened to Old Europe, where the immi­grant hordes are a night­mare for the French, Ger­mans and Bel­gians, where cities are ‘black­en­ing’ fast and crime and the drug trade are invad­ing even the remotest cor­ners.

    Such expres­sions of hatred would be beyond the pale even for the Euro­pean far right. Bilet­sky land­ed in prison in 2011, after his orga­ni­za­tion took part in a series of shootouts and fights. Fol­low­ing Ukraine’s so-called rev­o­lu­tion of dig­ni­ty last year, he was freed as a polit­i­cal pris­on­er; right-wing orga­ni­za­tions, with their para­mil­i­tary train­ing, played an impor­tant part in the vio­lent phase of the upris­ing against for­mer Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych. The new author­i­ties — which includ­ed the ultra-nation­al­ist par­ty Svo­bo­da — want­ed to show their grat­i­tude.

    The war in the east gave Bilet­sky’s storm troop­ers a chance at a high­er sta­tus than they could ever have hoped to achieve. They fought fierce­ly, and last fall, the 400-strong Azov Bat­tal­ion became part of the Nation­al Guard, receiv­ing per­mis­sion to expand to 2,000 fight­ers and gain­ing access to heavy weapon­ry. So what if some of its mem­bers had Nazi sym­bols tat­tooed on their bod­ies and the unit’s ban­ner bore the Wolf­san­gel, used wide­ly by the Nazis dur­ing World War II? In an inter­view with Ukraine’s Focus mag­a­zine last Sep­tem­ber, Avakov, respon­si­ble for the Nation­al Guard, was pro­tec­tive of his heroes. He said of the Wolf­san­gel:

    In many Euro­pean cities it is part of the city emblem. Yes, most of the guys who assem­bled in Azov have a par­tic­u­lar world­view. But who told you you could judge them? Don’t for­get what the Azov Bat­tal­ion did for the coun­try. Remem­ber the lib­er­a­tion of Mar­i­upol, the fight­ing at Ilo­vaysk, the lat­est attacks near the Sea of Azov. May God allow any­one who crit­i­cizes them to do 10 per­cent of what they’ve done. And any­one who’s going to tell me that these guys preach Nazi views, wear the swasti­ka and so on, are bare-faced liars and fools.

    Two months lat­er, Bilet­sky was a mem­ber of par­lia­ment. In that elec­tion, far-right par­ties failed to draw enough votes to make it into the nation­al leg­is­la­ture, but indi­vid­u­als such as Bilet­sky did. He ran for office in a mid­dle-class con­stituen­cy of Kiev, on this pro­gram: “Strong nation! Hon­est author­i­ties! A mighty coun­try!” That was enough to win him more than 30,000 votes.

    This year, when the U.S. sent mil­i­tary train­ers to west­ern Ukraine to help the Nation­al Guard, Avakov said Azov would be among the first units to take part in the Fear­less Guardian exer­cise, but the U.S. insist­ed the unit be left out.

    Now, Cony­ers and Yoho have almost suc­ceed­ed in mak­ing Azov inel­i­gi­ble for any form of U.S. assis­tance. “These groups run counter to Amer­i­can val­ues,” Cony­ers told Con­gress. “And once the fight­ing ends, they pose a sig­nif­i­cant threat to the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment and the Ukrain­ian peo­ple. As we’ve seen many times, most notably with­in the Muja­hed­din in Afghanistan, these groups will not lay down their arms once the con­flict is over.”

    That is a rea­son­able assump­tion, giv­en that Bilet­sky’s orga­ni­za­tion was train­ing to fight well before the war start­ed. Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko should take note of Cony­ers’ view, as well as of West­ern calls for the repeal of a recent law that makes it oblig­a­tory to hon­or World War II-era Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist groups. Bilet­sky’s grad­u­a­tion the­sis was about one of them, the Ukrain­ian Insur­gent Army, a mili­tia guilty of the eth­nic cleans­ing of Poles in west­ern Ukraine.

    ...

    Well, it’s progress. One down and who knows how many to go. So let’s hope the US con­gress expands on this move, ide­al­ly by halt­ing all of the mil­i­tary aid that’s only going to fuel this con­flict for years to come.

    But if the mil­i­tary aid is des­tined to con­tin­ue, hope­ful­ly the cut off of aid to the neo-Nazi bat­tal­ions ends up cut­ting down their recruit­ment num­bers too. Because as John Cony­ers point­ed out, when you give vio­lent extrem­ists whack jobs a bunch of weapons and train­ing to go kill the peo­ple you want them to kill, they don’t tend to stop the killing once they’ve done your dirty work:

    ...

    Now, Cony­ers and Yoho have almost suc­ceed­ed in mak­ing Azov inel­i­gi­ble for any form of U.S. assis­tance. “These groups run counter to Amer­i­can val­ues,” Cony­ers told Con­gress. “And once the fight­ing ends, they pose a sig­nif­i­cant threat to the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment and the Ukrain­ian peo­ple. As we’ve seen many times, most notably with­in the Muja­hed­din in Afghanistan, these groups will not lay down their arms once the con­flict is over.”

    ...

    Yep.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 13, 2015, 10:02 am
  4. It looks like the Azov Bat­tal­ion is about to receive some gifts from Uncle Sam. Gifts that the US House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives explic­it­ly banned in a unan­i­mous vote. At least, based on the ear­ly Christ­mas present the US Con­gress just gave to the group, more gifts for Azov seem high­ly like­ly:

    The Nation
    Con­gress Has Removed a Ban on Fund­ing Neo-Nazis From Its Year-End Spend­ing Bill
    Under pres­sure from the Pen­ta­gon, Con­gress has stripped the spend­ing bill of an amend­ment that pre­vent­ed funds from falling into the hands of Ukrain­ian neo-fas­cist groups.

    By James Car­den
    1/13/2016 10:08 am

    In mid-Decem­ber 2015, Con­gress passed a 2,000-plus-page omnibus spend­ing bill for fis­cal year 2016. Both par­ties were quick to declare vic­to­ry after the pas­sage of the $1.8 tril­lion pack­age. White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters “we feel good about the out­come, pri­mar­i­ly because we got a com­pro­mise bud­get agree­ment that fought off a wide vari­ety of ide­o­log­i­cal rid­ers.” The office of House Speak­er Paul J. Ryan tout­ed the bill’s “64 bil­lion for over­seas con­tin­gency oper­a­tions” for, among oth­er things, assist­ing ”Euro­pean coun­tries fac­ing Russ­ian aggres­sion.”

    It would be safe to assume that one of the Euro­pean coun­tries which would stand to ben­e­fit from the omnibus measure—designed, in part, to com­bat “Russ­ian aggression”—would be Ukraine, which has already, accord­ing to the White House, received $2 bil­lion in loan guar­an­tees and near­ly $760 mil­lion in “secu­ri­ty, pro­gram­mat­ic, and tech­ni­cal assis­tance” since Feb­ru­ary 2014.

    Yet some have expressed con­cern that some of this aid has made its way into the hands of neo-Nazi groups, such as the Azov Bat­tal­ion. Last sum­mer the Dai­ly Beast pub­lished an inter­view by the jour­nal­ists Will Cath­cart and Joseph Epstein in which a mem­ber of the Azov bat­tal­ion spoke about “his battalion’s expe­ri­ence with U.S. train­ers and U.S. vol­un­teers quite fond­ly, even men­tion­ing U.S. vol­un­teers engi­neers and medics that are still cur­rent­ly assist­ing them.”

    And so, in July of last year, Con­gress­men John Cony­ers of Michi­gan and Ted Yoho of Flori­da drew up an amend­ment to the House Defense Appro­pri­a­tions bill (HR 2685) that “lim­its arms, train­ing, and oth­er assis­tance to the neo-Nazi Ukrain­ian mili­tia, the Azov Bat­tal­ion.” It passed by a unan­i­mous vote in the House.

    And yet by the time Novem­ber came around and the con­fer­ence debate over the year-end appro­pri­a­tions bill was under­way, the Cony­ers-Yoho mea­sure appeared to be in jeop­ardy. And indeed it was. An offi­cial famil­iar with the debate told The Nation that the House Defense Appro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee came under pres­sure from the Pen­ta­gon to remove the Cony­ers-Yoho amend­ment from the text of the bill.

    The Pentagon’s objec­tion to the Cony­ers-Yoho amend­ment rests on the claim that it is redun­dant because sim­i­lar legislation—known as the Leahy law—already exists that would pre­vent the fund­ing of Azov. This, as it turns out, is untrue. The Leahy law cov­ers only those groups for which the “Sec­re­tary of State has cred­i­ble infor­ma­tion that such unit has com­mit­ted a gross vio­la­tion of human rights.” Yet the State Depart­ment has nev­er claimed to have such infor­ma­tion about Azov, so fund­ing to the group can­not be blocked by the Leahy law. The con­gres­sion­al source I spoke to point­ed out that “even if Azov is already cov­ered by Leahy, then no there was no need to strip it out of final bill.” Indeed, the Leahy law can­not block fund­ing to groups, no mat­ter how nox­ious their ide­ol­o­gy, in the absence of “cred­i­ble infor­ma­tion” that they have com­mit­ted human-rights vio­la­tions. The Cony­ers-Yoho amend­ment was designed to rem­e­dy that short­com­ing.

    Con­sid­er­ing the fact that the US Army has been train­ing Ukrain­ian armed forces and nation­al guard troops, the Cony­ers-Yoho amend­ment made a great deal of sense; block­ing the avowed­ly neo-Nazi Azov bat­tal­ion from receiv­ing US assis­tance would fur­ther what Pres­i­dent Oba­ma often refers to as “our inter­ests and val­ues.”

    ...

    Whether White House spokesman Josh Earnest was refer­ring, in part, to the Cony­ers-Yoho amend­ment as one of those “ide­o­log­i­cal rid­ers” the admin­is­tra­tion fought to defeat is unclear. What is clear is that by strip­ping out the anti-neo-Nazi pro­vi­sion, Con­gress and the admin­is­tra­tion have paved the way for US fund­ing to end up in the hands of the most nox­ious ele­ments cir­cu­lat­ing with­in Ukraine today.

    “Whether White House spokesman Josh Earnest was refer­ring, in part, to the Cony­ers-Yoho amend­ment as one of those “ide­o­log­i­cal rid­ers” the admin­is­tra­tion fought to defeat is unclear. What is clear is that by strip­ping out the anti-neo-Nazi pro­vi­sion, Con­gress and the admin­is­tra­tion have paved the way for US fund­ing to end up in the hands of the most nox­ious ele­ments cir­cu­lat­ing with­in Ukraine today.”

    This is one of those sen­tence frag­ments that you pret­ty much nev­er want to be used in a non-Onion sen­tence:
    “What is clear is that by strip­ping out the anti-neo-Nazi pro­vi­sion, Con­gress and the admin­is­tra­tion have paved the way for...”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 14, 2016, 10:19 pm
  5. @Pterrafractyl–

    Note that the Lukhansk‑1 bat­tal­ion, for­mer­ly com­mand­ed by Arty­om Vitko, an unabashed Nazi, received U.S. train­ing.

    http://m.jpost.com/Diaspora/Ukrainian-legislator-toasts-Hitler-438561#article=6024OEFFMUUzRTczNzUxNkZDNTY3NENDQkZENUE2NzIzM0E=

    Then again, this is no sur­prise, since ele­ments of U.S. intel­li­gence, as well as the GOP’s eth­nic her­itage out­reach orga­ni­za­tion, have sup­port­ed the OUN/B from the end of WWII to this day.

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | January 15, 2016, 4:47 pm
  6. Here’s an unusu­al bit of good news regard­ing the US pol­i­cy towards Ukraine: For the past three years, the US bud­gets passed in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives have includ­ed a ban on US aid to Ukraine going to the Azov Bat­tal­ion. But that pro­vi­sion was always removed before the final pas­sage of the bills.

    This year, how­ev­er, it looks like the pro­vi­sion made it all the way through, with Demo­c­ra­t­ic rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ro Khan­na lead­ing the charge on this mat­ter. As a result, the final ver­sion of this year’s spend­ing bill con­tains the lan­guage, “none of the funds made avail­able by this act may be used to pro­vide arms, train­ing or oth­er assis­tance to the Azov Bat­tal­ion.” That said, the omnibus spend­ing bill this year still has about $620.7 mil­lion in aid for Ukraine, includ­ing $420.7 mil­lion in State Depart­ment and for­eign oper­a­tions funds and $200 mil­lion in Pen­ta­gon funds, so odds are some of that mil­i­tary fund­ing is going to be head­ing in the direc­tion of the Azov Bat­tal­ion. But at least it won’t be offi­cial­ly approved when that hap­pens. It’s progress:

    The Hill

    Con­gress bans arms to Ukraine mili­tia linked to neo-Nazis

    By Rebec­ca Kheel — 03/27/18 01:42 PM EDT

    A lit­tle-noticed pro­vi­sion in the 2,232-page gov­ern­ment spend­ing bill passed last week bans U.S. arms from going to a con­tro­ver­sial ultra­na­tion­al­ist mili­tia in Ukraine that has open­ly accept­ed neo-Nazis into its ranks.

    House-passed spend­ing bills for the past three years have includ­ed a ban on U.S. aid to Ukraine from going to the Azov Bat­tal­ion, but the pro­vi­sion was stripped out before final pas­sage each year.

    This year, though, the $1.3 tril­lion omnibus spend­ing bill signed into law last week stip­u­lates that “none of the funds made avail­able by this act may be used to pro­vide arms, train­ing or oth­er assis­tance to the Azov Bat­tal­ion.”

    “White suprema­cy and neo-Nazism are unac­cept­able and have no place in our world,” Rep. Ro Khan­na (D‑Calif.), an out­spo­ken crit­ic of pro­vid­ing lethal aid to Ukraine, said in a state­ment to The Hill on Tues­day. “I am very pleased that the recent­ly passed omnibus pre­vents the U.S. from pro­vid­ing arms and train­ing assis­tance to the neo-Nazi Azov Bat­tal­ion fight­ing in Ukraine.”

    The Unit­ed States has been aid­ing and train­ing Ukrain­ian forces in their fight against Russ­ian-backed sep­a­ratists since 2014, and recent­ly expand­ed that aid to include arms. The omnibus includes about $620.7 mil­lion in aid for Ukraine, includ­ing $420.7 mil­lion in State Depart­ment and for­eign oper­a­tions funds and $200 mil­lion in Pen­ta­gon funds.

    The Azov Bat­tal­ion was found­ed in 2014, and its first com­man­der was Andriy Bilet­sky, who pre­vi­ous­ly head­ed the neo-Nazi group Patri­ot of Ukraine. Sev­er­al mem­bers of the mili­tia, which has been inte­grat­ed into the Ukrain­ian Nation­al Guard, are self-avowed neo-Nazis.

    But a spokesman for the group has defend­ed it, telling USA Today in 2015 that only 10 to 20 per­cent of recruits are neo-Nazis and that those peo­ple do not rep­re­sent the offi­cial ide­ol­o­gy of Azov.

    ...

    “The State Depart­ment should pres­sure Kiev to dis­so­ci­ate itself with this group and inves­ti­gate whether any of our weapons or train­ing have already been pro­vid­ed to them,” Khan­na said in his state­ment. “This is just one of many rea­sons why law­mak­ers should be con­cerned about chan­nel­ing huge amounts of weapons into this volatile con­flict zone.”

    Last year, online posts by the militia’s news ser­vice showed mem­bers test­ing U.S.-made grenade launch­ers at a fir­ing range. The posts have since been delet­ed, and the Ukrain­ian Nation­al Guard insist­ed in a Jan­u­ary state­ment that the grenade launch­ers were not in Azov’s pos­ses­sion.

    U.S. offi­cials have said vet­ting required under the so-called Leahy Law already pre­vents the Unit­ed States from aid­ing Azov. The Leahy Law bans U.S. aid from going to groups when the “sec­re­tary of State has cred­i­ble infor­ma­tion that such unit has com­mit­ted a gross vio­la­tion of human rights.”

    But pro­po­nents of a ban spe­cif­ic to Azov say the Leahy Law did not pre­clude it from get­ting aid, since the sec­re­tary of State has nev­er made such a deter­mi­na­tion about the group.

    ———-

    “Con­gress bans arms to Ukraine mili­tia linked to neo-Nazis” by Rebec­ca Kheel; The Hill; 03/27/2018

    “House-passed spend­ing bills for the past three years have includ­ed a ban on U.S. aid to Ukraine from going to the Azov Bat­tal­ion, but the pro­vi­sion was stripped out before final pas­sage each year.”

    Yes, the pro­vi­sion to ban US aid going to the Azov Bat­tal­ion was always stripped out. Until now. And Rep. Ro Khan­na appears to be the most out­spo­ken advo­cate of keep that ban in place:

    ...
    This year, though, the $1.3 tril­lion omnibus spend­ing bill signed into law last week stip­u­lates that “none of the funds made avail­able by this act may be used to pro­vide arms, train­ing or oth­er assis­tance to the Azov Bat­tal­ion.”

    “White suprema­cy and neo-Nazism are unac­cept­able and have no place in our world,” Rep. Ro Khan­na (D‑Calif.), an out­spo­ken crit­ic of pro­vid­ing lethal aid to Ukraine, said in a state­ment to The Hill on Tues­day. “I am very pleased that the recent­ly passed omnibus pre­vents the U.S. from pro­vid­ing arms and train­ing assis­tance to the neo-Nazi Azov Bat­tal­ion fight­ing in Ukraine.”

    ...

    “The State Depart­ment should pres­sure Kiev to dis­so­ci­ate itself with this group and inves­ti­gate whether any of our weapons or train­ing have already been pro­vid­ed to them,” Khan­na said in his state­ment. “This is just one of many rea­sons why law­mak­ers should be con­cerned about chan­nel­ing huge amounts of weapons into this volatile con­flict zone.”
    ...

    “The State Depart­ment should pres­sure Kiev to dis­so­ci­ate itself with this group and inves­ti­gate whether any of our weapons or train­ing have already been pro­vid­ed to them...This is just one of many rea­sons why law­mak­ers should be con­cerned about chan­nel­ing huge amounts of weapons into this volatile con­flict zone.”

    Bra­vo for Rep Khan­na. It will be inter­est­ing to see what kind of polit­i­cal push back he expe­ri­ences.

    So will this ban actu­al­ly pre­vent aid to flow­ing to the Azov Bat­tal­ion? Well, if the fol­low­ing inci­dent last year — a video show­ing up online of Azov mem­bers test­ing US-made grenade launch­er, fol­lowed by a removal of that video and a denial by the Ukrain­ian Nation­al Guard that Azov was in pos­ses­sion of these grenade launch­ers — is an indi­ca­tion of what to expect, which should prob­a­bly expect Azov get­ting their hands on US mil­i­tary aid and just not talk­ing about it:

    ...
    Last year, online posts by the militia’s news ser­vice showed mem­bers test­ing U.S.-made grenade launch­ers at a fir­ing range. The posts have since been delet­ed, and the Ukrain­ian Nation­al Guard insist­ed in a Jan­u­ary state­ment that the grenade launch­ers were not in Azov’s pos­ses­sion.
    ...

    Inter­est­ing, one rea­son some US offi­cial have giv­en for not impos­ing this Azov-spe­cif­ic ban on US mil­i­tary aid is that exist­ing US law already bans US aid from going when the “sec­re­tary of State has cred­i­ble infor­ma­tion that such unit has com­mit­ted a gross vio­la­tion of human rights.” The prob­lem is that the US Sec­re­tary of State has nev­er actu­al­ly made that deter­mi­na­tion about Azov:

    ...
    U.S. offi­cials have said vet­ting required under the so-called Leahy Law already pre­vents the Unit­ed States from aid­ing Azov. The Leahy Law bans U.S. aid from going to groups when the “sec­re­tary of State has cred­i­ble infor­ma­tion that such unit has com­mit­ted a gross vio­la­tion of human rights.”

    But pro­po­nents of a ban spe­cif­ic to Azov say the Leahy Law did not pre­clude it from get­ting aid, since the sec­re­tary of State has nev­er made such a deter­mi­na­tion about the group.

    And that means that when Azov inevitably gets its hands on the US mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine, banned or not, we had bet­ter hope the evi­dence of the inevitable gross vio­la­tions of human rights that Azov is going to com­mit with that mil­i­tary aid gets well doc­u­ment­ed. Yes, Azov was banned from mil­i­tary aid this year. But not in pre­vi­ous years and who knows whether Rep. Khan­na and his in con­gress will suc­ceed again.

    So while there’s no short­age of rea­son to doc­u­ment the human rights abus­es by neo-Nazis, we can sad­ly add this to the list of rea­sons: so the US Sec­re­tary of State can final­ly label these neo-Nazi orga­ni­za­tion unwor­thy of US mil­i­tary aid and spe­cif­ic pro­vi­sions in annu­al spend­ing bills won’t be nec­es­sary.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 28, 2018, 2:02 pm
  7. Well that did­n’t take long: It looks like the same smear machine that tar­get­ed for­mer Rep. John Cony­er’s over his oppo­si­tion to arm­ing the neo-Nazi Azov bat­tal­ion is turn­ing its focus on Rep. Ro Khan­na after Khan­na ensured that the ban on funds going to arm­ing or train­ing the Azov Bat­tal­ion remained in place in the con­gres­sion­al spend­ing bill that passed a cou­ple weeks ago. In a par­tic­u­lar­ly dis­gust­ing op-ed in The Hill, Kristofer Har­ri­son — a for­eign pol­i­cy advis­er to Sen. Ted Cruz’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and who also hap­pens to a co-founder of a com­pa­ny that spe­cial­izes in Russ­ian infor­ma­tion war­fare, with offices in Wash­ing­ton and Kyiv — declared that Khan­na’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the Azov Bat­tal­ion as neo-Nazi in nature is ridicu­lous an all part of a big lie pushed by Putin. As Har­ri­son puts it, Azov keeps get­ting smeared as a neo-Nazi bat­tal­ion because it’s one of the most effec­tive defen­sive units and the entire notion that there are is a sig­nif­i­cant neo-Nazis pres­ence in Ukraine is all just Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da and Khan­na fell for it:

    The Hill

    Did Cal­i­for­ni­a’s Ro Khan­na get duped by Rus­si­a’s pro­pa­gan­da?

    By Kristofer Har­ri­son, opin­ion con­trib­u­tor —
    04/02/18 11:20 AM EDT

    Con­grat­u­la­tions, Rep. Ro Khan­na (D‑Calif.), it appears you were just duped by Rus­sia (and bragged about it). As a result, you pro­mot­ed Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da about Ukraine’s Azov Bat­tal­ion being Nazis with text in the behe­moth $1.3 tril­lion spend­ing bill. The ques­tion is, who put you up to it?

    Ukraine is not your jam. Your focus is on vis­it­ing coal mine towns, antitrust issues and, as one of Sil­i­con Valley’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives, tech­nol­o­gy — all legit­i­mate issues. Yet, even though experts on Ukraine are typ­i­cal­ly unfa­mil­iar with the Azov Bat­tal­ion, you weighed in on the issue. Of course, it is always pos­si­ble that you have a secret obses­sion with Ukraine, but it’s more like­ly that some K Street swamp crea­ture asked for a favor.

    Just know, the favor was for Vladimir Putin.

    ...

    It is ridicu­lous non­sense that Ukraine is beset with a bunch of Nazis. The Rus­sians have been push­ing this fool­ish­ness for a while. In Rus­sia, if you want to dis­cred­it some­one, call them a Nazi. Putin is using it to jus­ti­fy his war to his sub­jects. Rus­sians are not par­tic­u­lar­ly keen on attack­ing Ukraine. But if it is to free them from the yoke of Nazis, well, that’s dif­fer­ent.

    The rea­son why the Krem­lin is using infor­ma­tion war against the Azov Bat­tal­ion, specif­i­cal­ly, is par­tial­ly because they some­times make them­selves easy PR tar­gets. These are guys with guns fight­ing a Russ­ian inva­sion, not a PR agency with media train­ing. But the big­ger rea­son is that the Azov Bat­tal­ion is one of the most effec­tive defen­sive units.

    Rus­sia can’t beat them on the bat­tle­field, so they use K Street lob­by­ist sell­outs to help crip­ple them. Who wants to pro­vide guns to fas­cists? Nobody. That is the ruse you fell for.

    You are fill­ing illus­tri­ous shoes. In 2015, an uniden­ti­fied lob­by­ist snook­ered Rep. John Cony­ers (D‑Mich.) to do exact­ly what you have done. Cony­ers sin­gled out the Azov Bat­tal­ion to pre­vent it from get­ting assis­tance in the defense appro­pri­a­tions bill. The Defense Depart­ment object­ed, and the process of cor­rect­ing the mis­take in Con­fer­ence cre­at­ed yet anoth­er open­ing for Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da. Only, this time, the bill has been signed into law. So what­ev­er fix you choose has to make it to the president’s desk.

    The tech­nique Rus­sia used was a clas­sic KGB tac­tic — that’s the sure tell that what duped you was a Krem­lin oper­a­tion. In the 1980s, the KGB used this tech­nique to spread the false­hood that the CIA cre­at­ed AIDS. Some­how, they con­vinced an Indi­an med­ical jour­nal to print an arti­cle “prov­ing” the case. They then ref­er­enced that arti­cle in pub­li­ca­tions all over the world.

    In this instance, the Russ­ian active mea­sure began with an arti­cle in a pub­li­ca­tion that should know bet­ter: For­eign Pol­i­cy. John Cony­ers read the piece on the Con­gres­sion­al Record. It then spread like wild­fire among lazy jour­nal­ists and Russia’s net­work of fools, knaves and pro­pa­gan­dists.

    Nat­u­ral­ly, cor­rect­ing the mis­take should be your first order of busi­ness. And Khan­na, should for­swear writ­ing laws, about which you have no exper­tise, at the insti­ga­tion of lob­by­ists. That is just good gov­er­nance. There is also a les­son here about how mas­sive, 2,000-plus page spend­ing bills lend them­selves to cor­rup­tion.

    But this need not be a black mark on your record as the process of cor­rect­ing it presents an oppor­tu­ni­ty for you to help your coun­try. Help the coun­try smoke out the K Street sell­out. Iden­ti­fy who played you for a fool and left you hold­ing Putin’s dirty laun­dry.

    Rus­sia is attack­ing the U.S., and quis­ling K Street lob­by­ists are help­ing them. Help us iden­ti­fy them.

    Kristofer Har­ri­son worked for Defense Sec­re­tary Don­ald Rums­feld and Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleez­za Rice and was a for­eign pol­i­cy advis­er to Sen. Ted Cruz’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. He is a co-founder and prin­ci­pal of ITJ Strate­gies, a grass­roots PR con­sul­tan­cy, and of AMS, a com­pa­ny that spe­cial­izes in Russ­ian infor­ma­tion war­fare, with offices in Wash­ing­ton and Kyiv. The com­pa­ny does not do any work on behalf of the Azov Bat­tal­ion or relat­ed inter­ests.

    ———-

    “Did Cal­i­for­ni­a’s Ro Khan­na get duped by Rus­si­a’s pro­pa­gan­da?” by Kristofer Har­ri­son; The Hill; 04/02/2018

    It is ridicu­lous non­sense that Ukraine is beset with a bunch of Nazis. The Rus­sians have been push­ing this fool­ish­ness for a while. In Rus­sia, if you want to dis­cred­it some­one, call them a Nazi. Putin is using it to jus­ti­fy his war to his sub­jects. Rus­sians are not par­tic­u­lar­ly keen on attack­ing Ukraine. But if it is to free them from the yoke of Nazis, well, that’s dif­fer­ent.”

    It’s just “ridicu­lous non­sense that Ukraine is beset with a bunch of Nazis.” So says the guy who runs a con­sult­ing firm that spe­cial­ized in “Russ­ian infor­ma­tion war­fare”. No, accord­ing to Har­ri­son, the Azov Bat­tal­ion keeps get­ting smeared with these neo-Nazi alle­ga­tions because it’s so effec­tive on the bat­tle­field:

    ...
    The rea­son why the Krem­lin is using infor­ma­tion war against the Azov Bat­tal­ion, specif­i­cal­ly, is par­tial­ly because they some­times make them­selves easy PR tar­gets. These are guys with guns fight­ing a Russ­ian inva­sion, not a PR agency with media train­ing. But the big­ger rea­son is that the Azov Bat­tal­ion is one of the most effec­tive defen­sive units.

    Rus­sia can’t beat them on the bat­tle­field, so they use K Street lob­by­ist sell­outs to help crip­ple them. Who wants to pro­vide guns to fas­cists? Nobody. That is the ruse you fell for.
    ...

    And then Har­ri­son goes on to draw par­al­lels between Khan­na and for­mer con­gress­man John Cony­ers, who Har­ri­son also por­trays as a Krem­lin dupe:

    ...
    You are fill­ing illus­tri­ous shoes. In 2015, an uniden­ti­fied lob­by­ist snook­ered Rep. John Cony­ers (D‑Mich.) to do exact­ly what you have done. Cony­ers sin­gled out the Azov Bat­tal­ion to pre­vent it from get­ting assis­tance in the defense appro­pri­a­tions bill. The Defense Depart­ment object­ed, and the process of cor­rect­ing the mis­take in Con­fer­ence cre­at­ed yet anoth­er open­ing for Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da. Only, this time, the bill has been signed into law. So what­ev­er fix you choose has to make it to the president’s desk.
    ...

    So, along those lines, lets take a look at the anal­o­gous arti­cle that Har­ri­son wrote about John Cony­ers and his oppo­si­tion to pro­vid­ing US sup­port for the neo-Nazi Azov Bat­tal­ion back in 2015. Har­ri­son pret­ty much mades the same charges against Cony­ers back then that he just made against Khan­na — that he was falling for Krem­lin pro­pa­gan­da about Azov — and casu­al­ly dis­miss­es the neo-Nazi nature of the Azov (he claims that Azov does­n’t actu­al­ly use the Nazi Wol­san­gel sym­bol and the resem­blance is mere­ly a coin­ci­dence).

    And note the basis for Har­rison’s dis­missals of the Cony­er­s’s con­cerns over the neo-Nazi nature of Azov: Har­ri­son talked with Azov’s spokesper­son who assure Har­ri­son that there was no truth to the claims that Azov was a neo-Nazi bat­tal­ion. That was the source Har­ri­son repeat­ed­ly cites to refute the asser­tions of Azov’s neo-Nazi nature: Azov’s spokesper­son:

    The Huff­in­g­ton Post

    Putin’s Man in Con­gress

    By Kristofer Har­ri­son
    08/07/2015 03:56 pm ET Updat­ed Aug 07, 2016

    Are you skep­ti­cal that Moscow’s crass pro­pa­gan­da efforts could real­ly impact hearts and minds in Europe? Unfor­tu­nate­ly, they not only have an impact there; those infor­ma­tion oper­a­tions are mak­ing inroads right here in the Unit­ed States thanks to a senior Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­gress­man and pli­able media.

    On June 11th, the House passed Amend­ment 492 to the Nation­al Defense Autho­riza­tion Act. It was rushed through by Rep. John Cony­ers (D‑MI), now on his 50th year in Con­gress. The amend­ment would pre­vent the U.S. from aid­ing Ukraine’s vol­un­teer Azov Bat­tal­ion based on the Moscow-inspired lie that it is a neo-Nazi orga­ni­za­tion.

    There is no char­i­ta­ble excuse for Cony­ers’ amend­ment, even if it is stripped from the final bill: It was the prod­uct of Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion. Over the past six weeks, news of the amend­ment fea­tured promi­nent­ly in vir­tu­al­ly all Russ­ian- and for­eign-lan­guage pro­pa­gan­da out­lets, and is even appear­ing in some U.S. press. Rep. Cony­ers should dis­close which lob­by­ist cajoled him into becom­ing a cog in Putin’s pro­pa­gan­da machine.

    This mat­ters a lot to Ukraine. The Azov Bat­tal­ion has been one of the most effec­tive units at halt­ing Russia’s advance into Ukraine. The non­sense that Ukraine is filled with Nazis has been part of a pro­pa­gan­da meme pumped through Russia’s state-con­trolled media for more than a year. Rus­sia is try­ing to cre­ate the fic­tion that Ukraine is beset by Nazis and Islam­ic ter­ror­ists, thus neces­si­tat­ing Russ­ian mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion. If the idea actu­al­ly takes hold in the Unit­ed States, it could also crip­ple what­ev­er sup­port Ukraine is receiv­ing.

    Ukraine’s vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions are slow­ly com­ing under the tent of the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment, after hav­ing been born as pri­vate units in the chaos of Yanukovych’s abdi­ca­tion, Russia’s inva­sion and Russ­ian-cre­at­ed dys­func­tion at Ukraine’s Min­istry of Defense (Yanukovych’s defense min­is­ter was actu­al­ly a Russ­ian cit­i­zen). And to be sure, the Azov Bat­tal­ion has not always been a pub­lic rela­tions dar­ling. The bat­tal­ion ced­ed the ear­ly infor­ma­tion war, shy­ing from an aggres­sive defense against Russia’s pro­pa­gan­da, and from putting out PR fires.

    An aggres­sive PR defense would have been help­ful when a cou­ple of their sol­diers alleged­ly sport­ed swasti­ka or SS patch­es, and it would have helped to counter Russia’s smoth­er­ing pro­pa­gan­da cam­paign aimed at con­vinc­ing peo­ple that the Azov’s emblem is a Nazi “Wolf­san­gel“ (it’s not, it an “N” and an “I” trans­posed over one anoth­er — the resem­blance is mere­ly coin­ci­den­tal). As a result, they have some PR spade work to do. But let’s be clear: We’re talk­ing about a unit at war, not a day­care. The Azov Bat­tal­ion should not have to be respon­si­ble for defend­ing itself against lies thrown over the tran­som from Moscow and repeat­ed by irre­spon­si­ble Mem­bers of Con­gress and reporters. Much of what lit­tle sup­port the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion has pro­vid­ed Ukraine is focused on inte­grat­ing these vol­un­teer units into Ukraine’s Nation­al Guard. That is help­ing them regain some much need­ed legit­i­ma­cy.

    To put things into per­spec­tive, in 2010 a pho­to­graph sur­faced from Hel­mand Afghanistan of U.S. Marine Scout Snipers pos­ing in front of a Waf­fen SS flag. The Marines chose the flag because of the SS, for “Scout Sniper.” Clear­ly, they were guilty of bad judge­ment, but I chal­lenge Rep. Cony­ers to make a neo-Nazi case about the U.S. Marines. Pres­i­dent Putin actu­al­ly tried that.

    The Azov’s spokesman, Roman Zvarych, told me that the bat­tal­ion has a selec­tive screen­ing pro­gram that accepts only 50 out of almost 300 recruits each month. He says they have a thor­ough back­ground check and reject mem­bers for var­i­ous rea­sons, includ­ing hav­ing fas­cist lean­ings. He explained fur­ther that they have actu­al­ly com­mit­ted two for­mer mem­bers to psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tals because of their pro-fas­cist view­points. Were the Azov a neo-Nazi unit it would be mighty odd behav­ior to intern sup­port­ers of fas­cism in psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tals, stri­dent­ly deny any sup­port of Nazism, as Mr. Zvarych does, and nonethe­less suf­fer 33 fatal­i­ties and 196 severe injuries in com­bat.

    Rep. Cony­ers played an impor­tant role in help­ing the Russ­ian Nazi meme evolve from the stuff of con­spir­a­cy the­o­rists, kooks and fel­low-trav­el­ers into some­thing the main­stream press hap­pi­ly prints. Rep. Cony­ers took to the floor of the House to sub­mit his amend­ment and label the unit, “The repul­sive Neo-Nazi Azov Bat­tal­ion.” From there, the Dai­ly Beast ran a sto­ry titled “Is Amer­i­ca Train­ing Neon­azis in Ukraine?” using Cony­ers’ bill as fac­tu­al sup­port. The day after the amendment’s pas­sage, Leonoid Bershid­sky ran a Bloomberg View arti­cle titled “Ukraine’s Neo-Nazis Won’t Get U.S. Mon­ey.” Even the Cana­di­ans have been affect­ed. On June 16th, the Nation­al Post ran a sto­ry titled “Fears that Cana­di­an Mis­sion in Ukraine May Unin­ten­tion­al­ly Help Neon­azi Groups.”

    The New York Times fell for this non­sense in “Islam­ic Bat­tal­ions, Stocked with Chechens, Aid Ukraine in War with Rebels.” From there it has been a steady drum­beat. Most recent­ly, Reuters got into the game with “Ukraine Strug­gles to Con­trol Mav­er­ick Bat­tal­ions.” Before Cony­ers’ amend­ment we saw one of the more egre­gious exam­ples of jour­nal­is­tic lapse: Last sum­mer, For­eign Pol­i­cy ran the lit­tle noticed arti­cle “Prepar­ing for War With Ukraine’s Fas­cist Defend­ers of Free­dom.” A year lat­er, Rep. Cony­ers actu­al­ly used the FP arti­cle on the House floor as the main fac­tu­al sup­port for his amend­ment. That Rep. Cony­ers reached back to an arti­cle that was more than a year old shows how long and per­va­sive this cal­cu­lat­ed strat­e­gy of cor­rupt­ing jour­nal­ism and Con­gress has been going on.

    The For­eign Pol­i­cy arti­cle ref­er­ences Andriy Bilet­sky, who the arti­cle states is the founder of the Azov, and accus­es him of being a mem­ber of a group called the Social-Nation­al Assem­bly and Patri­ots of Ukraine. Accord­ing to Zvarych this group no longer exists, and when it did, Bilet­sky was serv­ing a two-and-a-half year prison sen­tence on polit­i­cal charges. A Tele­graph arti­cle ref­er­ences a sol­dier by the name “Phan­tom.” True to his nom de guerre, he does not exist.

    The arti­cle also ref­er­ences a Mikael Skillt. The arti­cle selec­tive­ly quot­ed an inter­view he gave in which he said he con­sid­ered him­self a Nazi as a young man and went on to claim he plans to fight for Assad in Syr­ia because it would pay “very good mon­ey.” Unlike “Phan­tom,” Mr. Skillt does exist. He is the Azov’s head sniper train­er. Zvarych point­ed out that Skillt also gave an inter­view where he said he did indeed har­bor neo-Nazi lean­ings as a young man, but “after hav­ing spent some time in Azov he real­ized that he was mis­tak­en.” I didn’t ask about the pre­pos­ter­ous claim that Mr. Skillt want­ed to be a hired gun for Bashar Assad.

    This is embar­rass­ing and dan­ger­ous. How did bla­tant Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da make it past these papers’ edi­tors? It’s a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion as the Rolling Stone UVA rape sto­ry, only this one involves dozens of sto­ries from most news out­lets and the longest serv­ing Rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the House blind­ly repeat­ing lies spun by Vladimir Putin so as to make his inva­sion of a U.S. ally eas­i­er. Accord­ing to Mr. Zvarych none of the reporters for the above sto­ries con­tact­ed them for com­ment. Yet these reporters felt okay label­ing Azov Nazis. Like Rep. Cony­ers, these reporters sim­ply danced to Putin’s tune.

    Jour­nal­is­tic stan­dards of Russia’s aggres­sion have been pret­ty poor, even in describ­ing the war itself. Since Russia’s inva­sion, some jour­nal­ists have inapt­ly cho­sen to show their impar­tial­i­ty by adopt­ing some of Putin’s ver­biage. For exam­ple, few news out­lets call the war what it is: a Russ­ian inva­sion. Rather, they pre­fer to frame it as Putin has, and speak of it as a fight between Ukraine and “pro-Russ­ian rebels.” Objec­tive jour­nal­ism would show that call­ing them “pro-Russ­ian rebels” is like call­ing King George’s Hes­sians “pro-British rebels.” Yet, this for­mu­la­tion is per­va­sive.

    I find it hard to believe Con­gress­man Cony­ers reads a lot of press about Ukraine and inde­pen­dent­ly draft­ed that amend­ment. It appears that, in addi­tion to the press, some­one is hawk­ing Putin’s line in Wash­ing­ton. I asked Rep Conyers’s press sec­re­tary mul­ti­ple times what proof the con­gress­man used to for­mu­late his opin­ion and she had no response. Who bent Conyers’s ear? Ear­li­er this month, The Blaze ran an arti­cle sug­gest­ing that Lan­ny Davis (yes, Hillary’s Lan­ny Davis) might be one of the poten­tial cul­prits. He quite pub­licly did Pres­i­dent Putin’s bid­ding in 2008 after Russia’s inva­sion of Geor­gia, pen­ning an op-ed that blamed Russia’s inva­sion, implau­si­bly, on the Geor­gians. He cur­rent­ly lob­bies for U.S.-indicted Putin crony Dmytro Fir­tash, who was recent­ly released from an Aus­tri­an court on a $136 mil­lion bond.

    ...

    At the same time, the media needs to be more mind­ful of how it cov­ers Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine and future bel­liger­ence. Reporters should be hon­est that it is a Russ­ian inva­sion aid­ed by mer­ce­nar­ies and they should inves­ti­gate before lazi­ly reprint­ing Krem­lin pro­pa­gan­da. Mr. Zvarych extend­ed an invi­ta­tion for jour­nal­ists to embed with them. Go vis­it them. At least email them.

    Last­ly, every­one needs to stop falling for neo-Nazi smears. They are ludi­crous. Not every­one should be expect­ed to fol­low events close­ly in Ukraine. That only makes it more impor­tant that our jour­nal­ists and polit­i­cal lead­ers get it right.

    Kristofer Har­ri­son was a Defense and State Depart­ment advi­sor dur­ing the George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion. He is cur­rent­ly a part­ner at Polit­i­cal Alpha and a co-founder of the Chi­na Beige Book.

    ———

    “Putin’s Man in Con­gress” by Kristofer Har­ri­son; The Huff­in­g­ton Post; 08/07/2015

    “On June 11th, the House passed Amend­ment 492 to the Nation­al Defense Autho­riza­tion Act. It was rushed through by Rep. John Cony­ers (D‑MI), now on his 50th year in Con­gress. The amend­ment would pre­vent the U.S. from aid­ing Ukraine’s vol­un­teer Azov Bat­tal­ion based on the Moscow-inspired lie that it is a neo-Nazi orga­ni­za­tion.

    It’s all a Moscow-inspired lie. The numer­ous reports of neo-Nazi pledges and ide­olo­gies that per­me­ate Azov are all Moscow-inspired lies, accord­ing to Kristofer Har­ri­son. And the Nazi Wolf­san­gel on their uni­forms isn’t a Wolf­san­gel at all. It’s a total­ly ran­dom sym­bol that coin­ci­den­tal­ly hap­pens to look like the Wolf­san­gel:

    ...
    An aggres­sive PR defense would have been help­ful when a cou­ple of their sol­diers alleged­ly sport­ed swasti­ka or SS patch­es, and it would have helped to counter Russia’s smoth­er­ing pro­pa­gan­da cam­paign aimed at con­vinc­ing peo­ple that the Azov’s emblem is a Nazi “Wolf­san­gel“ (it’s not, it an “N” and an “I” trans­posed over one anoth­er — the resem­blance is mere­ly coin­ci­den­tal). As a result, they have some PR spade work to do. But let’s be clear: We’re talk­ing about a unit at war, not a day­care. The Azov Bat­tal­ion should not have to be respon­si­ble for defend­ing itself against lies thrown over the tran­som from Moscow and repeat­ed by irre­spon­si­ble Mem­bers of Con­gress and reporters. Much of what lit­tle sup­port the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion has pro­vid­ed Ukraine is focused on inte­grat­ing these vol­un­teer units into Ukraine’s Nation­al Guard. That is help­ing them regain some much need­ed legit­i­ma­cy.
    ...

    And we can be sure of all of this because Azov’s spokesman, Roman Zvarych, assured Har­ri­son that there were no Nazis allowed into the unit. And, in fact, they actu­al­ly com­mit­ted two mem­bers to a psy­chi­atric unit for their extrem­ist beliefs. Yep, Azov is so anti-Nazi that it actu­al­ly com­mits real Nazis to men­tal insti­tu­tions when iden­ti­fied:

    ...
    The Azov’s spokesman, Roman Zvarych, told me that the bat­tal­ion has a selec­tive screen­ing pro­gram that accepts only 50 out of almost 300 recruits each month. He says they have a thor­ough back­ground check and reject mem­bers for var­i­ous rea­sons, includ­ing hav­ing fas­cist lean­ings. He explained fur­ther that they have actu­al­ly com­mit­ted two for­mer mem­bers to psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tals because of their pro-fas­cist view­points. Were the Azov a neo-Nazi unit it would be mighty odd behav­ior to intern sup­port­ers of fas­cism in psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tals, stri­dent­ly deny any sup­port of Nazism, as Mr. Zvarych does, and nonethe­less suf­fer 33 fatal­i­ties and 196 severe injuries in com­bat.
    ...

    And what about the fact that Azov bat­tal­ion was found­ed by Andrey Bilet­sky, the co-founder and for­mer leader of the neo-Nazi “Social-nation­al Assem­bly”? How does Har­ri­son explain that one away? Well, accord­ing to Har­ri­son, this is all because the point because, accord­ing to Roman Zvarych, the Social-nation­al Assem­bly no longer exists. And when it did exist Bilet­sky was serv­ing a 2 1/2 year prison sen­tence. That’s his expla­na­tion. An expla­na­tion that’s not his­tor­i­cal­ly accu­rate (Bilet­sky start­ed the Social-nation­al Assem­bly in 2008 and did­n’t go to prison until 2011) and would­n’t make sense even if it was his­tor­i­cal­ly accu­rate:

    ...
    The For­eign Pol­i­cy arti­cle ref­er­ences Andriy Bilet­sky, who the arti­cle states is the founder of the Azov, and accus­es him of being a mem­ber of a group called the Social-Nation­al Assem­bly and Patri­ots of Ukraine. Accord­ing to Zvarych this group no longer exists, and when it did, Bilet­sky was serv­ing a two-and-a-half year prison sen­tence on polit­i­cal charges. A Tele­graph arti­cle ref­er­ences a sol­dier by the name “Phan­tom.” True to his nom de guerre, he does not exist.
    ...

    And remem­ber all those reports about Mikael Skillt, the Swedish neo-Nazi who joined Azov? Well, accord­ing to Zvarych, that’s all a mis­un­der­stand­ing. You see, Skillt used to be neo-Nazi when he was younger, but he’s not one any­more. So all those inter­views where Skillt open­ly shares his white pow­er ide­ol­o­gy don’t reflect the real Skillt. See, no Nazis!

    ...
    The arti­cle also ref­er­ences a Mikael Skillt. The arti­cle selec­tive­ly quot­ed an inter­view he gave in which he said he con­sid­ered him­self a Nazi as a young man and went on to claim he plans to fight for Assad in Syr­ia because it would pay “very good mon­ey.” Unlike “Phan­tom,” Mr. Skillt does exist. He is the Azov’s head sniper train­er. Zvarych point­ed out that Skillt also gave an inter­view where he said he did indeed har­bor neo-Nazi lean­ings as a young man, but “after hav­ing spent some time in Azov he real­ized that he was mis­tak­en.” I didn’t ask about the pre­pos­ter­ous claim that Mr. Skillt want­ed to be a hired gun for Bashar Assad.
    ...

    And the fact that the jour­nal­is­tic world could­n’t see how all these neo-Nazi against Azov were all just Moscow-inspired lies is just embar­rass­ing and dan­ger­ous, the way Har­ri­son sees it:

    ...
    This is embar­rass­ing and dan­ger­ous. How did bla­tant Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da make it past these papers’ edi­tors? It’s a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion as the Rolling Stone UVA rape sto­ry, only this one involves dozens of sto­ries from most news out­lets and the longest serv­ing Rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the House blind­ly repeat­ing lies spun by Vladimir Putin so as to make his inva­sion of a U.S. ally eas­i­er. Accord­ing to Mr. Zvarych none of the reporters for the above sto­ries con­tact­ed them for com­ment. Yet these reporters felt okay label­ing Azov Nazis. Like Rep. Cony­ers, these reporters sim­ply danced to Putin’s tune.
    ...

    “This is embar­rass­ing and dan­ger­ous.”

    And in that nar­row sense Har­ri­son is cor­rect. This a all very embar­rass­ing and dan­ger­ous­ly. So let’s hope Rep. Ro Khan­na is ready for the mael­strom of embar­rass­ing and dan­ger­ous pro-neo-Nazi pro­pa­gan­da head­ing his way thanks to PR mer­ce­nar­ies like Kristofer Har­ri­son.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 16, 2018, 1:19 pm
  8. @Pterrafractyl–

    Fun­da­men­tal to your analy­sis is Roman Zvarych.

    In the ear­ly 1980’s, he was the per­son­al sec­re­tary to Jaroslav Stet­zko, the war-time head of the Ukrain­ian col­lab­o­ra­tionist gov­ern­ment that imple­ment­ed Nazi eth­nic cleansing/genocide pro­grams in Ukraine!

    Zvarych was also: Min­is­ter of Jus­tice (the Ukrain­ian equiv­a­lent of Attor­ney Gen­er­al) in Vik­tor Yuschenko’s gov­ern­ment.

    Yuschenko’s wife was the for­mer Yka­te­ri­na Chu­machenko, UCCA/OUN/B oper­a­tive and Deputy Direc­tor of Pub­lic Liai­son in Ronald Rea­gan’s gov­ern­ment.

    Zvarych (also some­times translit­er­at­ed as Svarych) also was Min­is­ter of Jus­tice in both Tim­o­shenko gov­ern­ments and is an advis­er to Petro Poroshenko.

    In short, Zvarych him­self is a direct, incar­nate link between the Ukrain­ian fas­cism of the WWII era and con­tem­po­rary Ukrain­ian fas­cism.

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | April 16, 2018, 3:09 pm
  9. US-Fund­ed Neo-Nazis in Ukraine Men­tor US White Suprema­cists

    FBI: Azov Bat­tal­ion Trained Rise Above Move­ment

    By Max Blu­men­thal

    Last month, an unsealed FBI indict­ment of four Amer­i­can white suprema­cists from the Rise Above Move­ment (RAM) declared that the defen­dants had trained with Ukraine’s Azov Bat­tal­ion, a neo-Nazi mili­tia offi­cial­ly incor­po­rat­ed into the country’s nation­al guard. The train­ing took place after the white suprema­cist gang par­tic­i­pat­ed in vio­lent riots in Hunt­ing­ton Beach and Berke­ley, Cal­i­for­nia and Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia in 2017.

    The indict­ment stat­ed that the Azov Bat­tal­ion “is believed to have par­tic­i­pat­ed in train­ing and rad­i­cal­iz­ing Unit­ed States-based white suprema­cy orga­ni­za­tions.”

    https://consortiumnews.com/2018/11/17/blowback-us-funded-ukraine-neo-nazis-mentor-us-white-supremacists/

    Posted by Some guy | November 18, 2018, 11:41 am

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