‘Coming after you:’ Ukrainian ultranationalists stage Nazi-like torch parade
The gathering, called ‘March Khorobrikh’ (March of the Brave) by its organizers, was arranged to mark the opening of the monument to 10th century Slavic ruler Svyatoslav.
According to its organizers, up to 5,000 ultranationalist activists marched through the central avenue of the city alongside the Azov fighters carrying burning torches and Azov flags with the battalion’s insignia – “Wolfsangel” or wolf hook, which was used during WWII by two of Nazi Germany’s SS divisions.
The participants were burning flares and chanting nationalistic slogans. The demonstrators then staged a rally on the city’s central square, where the monument to Svyatoslav had been erected. The march and the rally were led by battalion commander and member of the Ukrainian parliament, Andrey Beletsky.
The money for the creation and erection of the monument, which was called “a gift” to the city, was collected from Ukrainians by the Azov fighters. However, its erection on Mariupol’s central square was not agreed on with the city authorities and is therefore considered illegal.
“If they [the authorities or anyone else] are willing to demolish the monument, they are welcome to try,” Beletsky said announcing that the monument would be guarded by the Azov fighters.
He also added the Svyatoslav monument would not be the only “monument to the outstanding Ukrainian figures that will be erected in Mariupol.”
The statement issued by the Azov press-service and confined to the opening of the Svyatoslav monument praised the tenth century ruler’s aggressive foreign policy as well as the fact that “the then Ukraine was feared and respected by its enemies,” apparently referring to the Old East Slavic state called Kievan Rus.
The slogan of the rally was borrowed from Svyatoslav, who is said to have been warning all of his enemies with this catchphrase before attacking them. The legendary slogan is as relevant as ever, the organizers claimed, urging Ukraine’s younger generation to say “we are coming after you” to everything that is killing Ukraine, such as “the enemy, treason, separatism, and Russia.”
The volunteer Azov battalion was established in 2014 by Andrey Biletsky, a historian and firebrand political activist who describes his ideology as “social nationalism.” As a part of Ukraine’s National Guard, the unit actively participated in Kiev’s military assault on the rebellious eastern regions, gaining access to heavy weaponry and financial funds.
In December 2014, a report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights blamed Azov, among other Ukrainian volunteer battalions, for numerous and grave human rights violations including torture and the forced disappearances of dissidents.
In July, the US Congress’ House of Representatives called Azov an “openly neo-Nazi” and “fascist” organization and unanimously adopted amendments to a proposal for the 2016 American defense budget prohibiting funding and arming the unit as well as banning US instructors working in Ukraine from aiding the battalion.
In August, a group affiliated with the Azov battalion established a summer camp for children, in which its members taught the youngsters to shoot AK-47 assault rifles.