Ukrainian ultra-nationalist Azov battalion stages torch-lit march in Kharkov (VIDEOS)
Thousands of supporters of the ultra-nationalist Azov Battalion held a torch-lit march on the streets of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkov under the watchful eye of some 550 police officers.
Singing and chanting nationalist slogans, around 2,000 members of the civil wing of the Azov Battalion marched through the city. Slogans such as “Ukraine – above all” , “glory to Ukraine” and “death to the enemies!” were heard during the procession.
Carrying Azov Battalion and Right Sector flags, the entire march was illuminated with flaming torches, as participants proceeded from the city’s Constitution Square to the Cascade Fountain monument, at central Shevchenko Park.
No clashes have been reported as at least 550 police officers were deployed to provide security, local media reported.
Following the coup in 2014, Kiev, with the help of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, organized a number of Ukrainian nationalist paramilitary groups. One such group, the Azov Battalion, was formed in May 2014 in Mariupol. All members of the unit now serve as part of the National Guard of Ukraine.
Azov Battalion participants are also known on the internet as “black men” due to their uniforms. The Wolfsangel (Wolf’s Hook) Nazi symbol can be commonly seen on uniforms worn by Azov fighters. It was originally used by the SS and the Hitler Youth, as well as various modern-day neo-Nazi groups.
Non-governmental organization “Azov Civil Corps” was created as a civil platform for the extreme right movement. A political party called the National Corps was also set up under the Azov umbrella in October this year.
The National Corps supports severing diplomatic, trade and cultural ties with Russia and restoring Ukraine’s nuclear power status. The party also advocates the right to bear arms and wants to amend the constitution to expand presidential powers, granting the executive branch the authority to be the chief of the armed forces as well as the head of government.
Elements of neo-nazi ideology have gathered support since Petro Poroshenko’s took over the administration. He consolidated power in part with the help of those same ultra nationalist powers following the February 2014 coup in Kiev.
Extreme right battalions continue to serve as the backbone of the so-called anti-terrorist operation in eastern Ukraine.
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.