US removes ban on arms transfers to the contentious Azov Brigade military unit in Ukraine


US removes ban on arms transfers to the contentious Azov Brigade military unit in Ukraine

The State Department said on Tuesday that the US had removed a ban on supplying arms and training to a contentious Ukrainian military unit that was essential to the defense of the important port city of Mariupol.

One of the most successful and well-liked fighting groups in Ukraine is the Azov Brigade, although it has suffered from its start as a volunteer battalion that attracted troops from far-right organizations and criticism for some of its tactics. Due to the neo-Nazi beliefs of some of the regiment’s founders, the US had prohibited the regiment from utilizing American weapons.

US removes ban
The US had banned Azov Brigade from using American weapons, citing the neo-Nazi ideology of some of its founders

The 12th Special Forces Brigade, which was formerly part of the Azov Brigade but was merged into the Ukrainian National Guard, denies any radical affiliations and any connection to far-right organizations. However, the Kremlin has used the regiment’s history to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a counteroffensive against Nazi influence.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, stated that Moscow saw Washington’s move as “extremely negative.” In addition to calling Azov a “ultranationalist armed formation,” he charged that US officials were “ready to flirt with neo-Nazis.”

Giving foreign military units or persons suspected of egregious human rights crimes equipment and training is against US law. In a statement, the State Department claimed to have discovered “no evidence” of these infractions.

In an Instagram message, the Azov Brigade said, “This is a new chapter in our unit’s history.” “Azov is growing more proficient, more powerful, and more dangerous for occupiers.”

The statement stated that “acquiring Western weapons and training from the United States will not only increase Azov’s combat ability, but most importantly, contribute to the preservation of personnel’s lives and health.”

Prior to the State Department’s ruling, Azov was not allowed to send combatants to military drills in the West or have access to weaponry purchased with US dollars. Removing the ban will probably improve the brigade’s ability to fight during a trying period in the conflict against Russia’s incursion. There is a continuous lack of staff and ammunition in Ukraine.

Human Rights Watch expressed concerns about Azov years before Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, noting that there had been reliable reports of severe atrocities committed against its fighters.

Moscow has publicly provided scant proof to support its frequent portrayals of the Azov as a Nazi organization and its alleged atrocities. Russia’s highest court formally classified Azov as a terrorist organization in 2022.

The brigade originated from the Azov Battalion, which was established in 2014 as one of several volunteer battalions to combat rebels in eastern Ukraine who were supported by Russia. It soon evolved into a distinct official division under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, then the National Guard.

According to the brigade’s website, it has been “cleansing itself” of undesirable personnel since the departure of its first commander in October 2014. It was impossible to determine if the brigade had succeeded in that. However, it has avoided ties with contentious people in an attempt to change the public perception of it from the controversy surrounding its ultranationalist beginnings to that of a competent and skillful fighting force.

The Azov soldiers were instrumental in defending Mariupol in 2022, enduring weeks of siege and ammunition shortage at the steel factory in the southern port city despite Russian forces’ destructive attacks.

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