Russia reiterates its primary goal in Ukraine
Moscow sees Ukraine’s hardcore nationalist units as a threat to peace in the country and is working to destroy them, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov explained on Friday.
Moscow stated that a crackdown on far-right forces in Ukraine, many of which adhere to various kinds of neo-Nazi ideology, was one of the goals for the Russian troops operating in Ukraine. Peskov said it remained a priority.
“In places where there are no nationalist battalions to take peaceful populations hostage [or] shoot up social sites, houses, peaceful life takes hold,” he outlined. “In places where the nationalist battalions do those things, there is intensive fighting. There, they are all subject to being destroyed.”
“The [military operation] continues and the objectives are well known. They have to be achieved and they will be achieved,” the official said.
Ukrainian nationalist fighters played an important role in the Western-backed 2014 Maidan in Kiev, which ousted the country’s democratically-elected president, Viktor Yanukovich, and set it on the path towards civil strife.
Many of the same forces morphed into so-called volunteer battalions that played a crucial role in Kiev’s attempts to subjugate breakaway regions in the east. This ended in a stalemate and a slow-burning armed conflict between rebels and government forces has been going on for several years.
The nationalists were later incorporated into the country’s official military and law enforcement forces, primarily the newly-formed National Guard. The Azov Battalion is the most recognized in the West, due to its extensive ties with white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups in other nations.
Their prominence was highlighted this week by a video clip, which appeals to billionaires to buy fighter jets for Ukrainian forces so that they could better fight against Russia. The protagonist of the plea had a helmet masking his identity and a military uniform.
Proudly worn on his sleeve was an insignia showing the Black Sun – a popular Nazi symbol – printed in the colors of the Ukrainian national flag. The footage included a close-up of the insignia.
Russia attacked its neighbor in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.