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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. . . .





5 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


    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.”


    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.


    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.



    Posted by Dave Emory | January 15, 2016, 4:47 pm

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