Media Are Now Whitewashing Nazis They Had Previously Condemned

Recently the New York Times, like many other ‘western’ outlets, has changed its language when reporting about the fascist Ukrainian Asov Battalion.

What was once “a Ukrainian neo-Nazi paramilitary organization” which even the FBI said is notorious for its “association with neo-Nazi ideology” was first relabeled as merely “far right” before it became a normal “unit in the Ukrainian military”.

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Scrawled on his rifle was a white nationalist credo popularized by the American domestic terrorist and neo-Nazi David Lane. On his flak jacket was a symbol commonly used by the Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian neo-Nazi paramilitary organization.

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Defenders of the Ukrainian Azov Battalion, which the F.B.I. calls “a paramilitary unit” notorious for its “association with neo-Nazi ideology,” accuse us of being part of a Kremlin campaign to “demonize” the group.

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Facebook last week said it was making an exception to its anti-extremism policies to allow praise for Ukraine’s far-right Azov Battalion military unit, “strictly in the context of defending Ukraine, or in their role as part of the Ukraine National Guard.”

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These scenes are from videos shared online in recent days by the Azov regiment, a unit in the Ukrainian military, which says they were taken in the mazelike bunkers beneath the sprawling Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine.

It is not that Azov has de-radicalized over time. It has in fact grown more extreme.

Azov has infiltrated other organizations, especially some units of the Ukrainian regular military, the national guard, the police and the internal secret security organization SBU. Azov is by far not the only fascist (para-)military organization in Ukraine. There is the Aidar battalion, the Right Sector, the C-14 ‘youth’ organization of the fascist Svoboda party as well as a dozen other such organization.

These groups are not only not prohibited as they should be but get encouraged and partially financed by the Ukrainian government.

The infiltration of the security services and government has dangerous consequences for the Ukrainian public.

Over the years many ‘western’ media have correctly reported about the Ukrainian fascists. Here is an incomplete collection (h/t Antispin):

  • 15,000 Ukraine nationalists march for divisive Bandera – Jan 1 2014 – USA Today
  • Is the US backing neo-Nazis in Ukraine? – Feb 25 2014 – Salon
  • How the far-right took top posts in Ukraine’s power vacuum – Mar 5 2014 –  Channel 4
  • Rein in Ukraine’s neo-fascists – Mar 6 2014 – CNN
  • Denying the Far-Right Role in the Ukrainian Revolution – Mar 7 2014 – FAIR
  • The Neo-Nazi Question in Ukraine – Mar 11 2014 – Huffpost
  • Yes, There Are Bad Guys in the Ukrainian Government – Mar 18 2014 – Foreign Policy
  • Analysis: U.S. Cozies Up to Kiev Government Including Far Right – Mar 30 2014 – NBCnews
  • Profile: Ukraine’s ultra-nationalist Right Sector – Apr 28 2014 – BBC
  • The Neo-Nazi Question in Ukraine – May 11 2014 – Huffpost
  • Fascism returns to the continent it once destroyed – May 12 2014 – TNR
  • Ukraine conflict: ‘White power’ warrior from Sweden – Jul 16 2014 – BBC
  • Preparing for War With Ukraine’s Fascist Defenders of Freedom -, Aug 30 2014 – Foreign Policy
  • German TV Shows Nazi Symbols on Helmets of Ukraine Soldiers – Sep 9 2014 – NBCnews
  • Azov fighters are Ukraine’s greatest weapon and may be its greatest threat – Sep 10 2014 – Guardian
  • Volunteer Ukrainian unit includes Nazis – Mar 10 2015 – USA Today
  • US House Admits Nazi Role in Ukraine – Jun 14 2015 – Consortium News
  • Why Ukraine’s New Ultranationalist Party Will Not Last – Oct 19 2016 – Atlantic Council
  • Ukraine’s Hyper-Nationalist Military Summer Camp for Kids | NBC Left Field (vid) – Jul 13 2017 – NBCnews
  • The reality of neo-Nazis in Ukraine is far from Kremlin propaganda –  Nov 9 2017 – The Hill
  • The US is Arming and Assisting Neo-Nazis in Ukraine, While Congress Debates Prohibition – Jan 18 2018 – The RealNews Network
  • In Ukraine, Ultranationalist Militia Strikes Fear In Some Quarters – Jan 30 2018 – RFERL
  • Commentary: Ukraine’s neo-Nazi problem – Mar 19 2018 – Reuters
  • America’s Collusion With Neo-Nazis – May 2 2018 – The Nation
  • Ukraine’s Got a Real Problem with Far-Right Violence (And No, RT Didn’t Write This Headline) – Jun 20 2018 – Atlantic Council
  • Ukraine, Anti-Semitism, Racism, and the Far Right​ – Oct 16 2018 – Atlantic Council
  • Azov, Ukraine’s Most Prominent Ultranationalist Group, Sets Its Sights On U.S., Europe – Nov 14 2018 – RFERL
  • Neo-Nazis and the Far Right Are On the March in Ukraine – Feb 22 2019 – The Nation
  • Ultranationalism in Ukraine – a photo essay – Apr 11 2019 – Guardian
  • There’s One Far-Right Movement That Hates the Kremlin – Apr 17 2019 – Foreign Policy
  • Is America Training Neonazis in Ukraine? – Dec 8 2019 – DailyBeast
  • The Azov Regiment has not depoliticized – Mar 19 2020 – Atlantic Council
  • Like, Share, Recruit: How a White-Supremacist Militia Uses Facebook to Radicalize and Train New Members – Jan 7 2021 – Time
  • Profile: Who are Ukraine’s far-right Azov regiment? – Mar 1 2022 – Aljazeerah
  • How Ukraine’s Jewish president Zelensky made peace with neo-Nazi paramilitaries on front lines of war with Russia – Mar 4 2022 – Grayzone
  • Ukraine’s Nazi problem is real, even if Putin’s ‘denazification’ claim isn’t – Mar 6 2022 – NBCnews
  • Right-wing Azov Battalion emerges as a controversial defender of Ukraine – Apr 6 2022 – Washington Post

Next to those and many more media reports there are some detailed ones from various organization which document the war crimes Azov and groups like it have committed in Ukraine. In 2015 the Foundation for the Study of Democracy published a report about the War crimes of the armed forces and security forces of Ukraine: torture and inhumane treatment. In 2018 the Human Rights Platform “Uspishna Varta” wrote in a report about the Ministry of Internal Affairs and General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine:

The existence of paramilitary groups within a number of far-right parties and nationalist organizations, which is expressly prohibited by Article 37 of the Constitution of Ukraine, is of high concern. As a part of the party “National Corpus” (earlier – “Azov”) the paramilitary division “National Druzhina” operates, which held a public march in the center of Kiev in February 2018. The activities of this organization are not only not suppressed by representatives of law enforcement bodies, but are openly encouraged by the leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine.

28% of all violations of political rights and freedoms recorded by the human rights platform “Uspishna Varta” in April-August 2018 involved right-wing radical organizations, primarily C14, as well as “National Druzhina”, “Bratstvo”, “Right Sector”, etc.

The OHCHR documented 22 cases of discrimination, hate speech, and/or violence directed at persons belonging to minorities or those holding alternative, special social, or political opinions between 16 February and 15 May. At the same time, in 21 cases violence was committed by members of ultra-right groups, who appear to have acted with impunity. The police and the State Prosecutor’s office did not prevent acts of violence, did not properly characterize them as hate crimes, did not effectively investigate discriminatory crimes, and did not prosecute the perpetrators, which violates the right to equally not be discriminated against in view of the law and leads to an atmosphere of impunity and a lack of justice for victims.

All this is well know. Over the years ‘western’ media have warned of growing fascism in Ukraine. While fascist parties get few votes in Ukraine they are in fact very powerful. They own the streets, have the guns and kill politicians who do not do what Azov and other fascist groups say. They can act with impunity.

Amnesty International has documented some of the crimes committed by fascist groups in Ukraine:

  • Ukraine: Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch call for impartial inquiry into events in Odesa on 2 May – May 8 2014
  • Ukraine: A deadly rocket attack highlights the need for civilian protection in eastern Ukraine –  Jul 16 2014
  • Ukraine: Abuses and war crimes by the Aidar Volunteer Battalion in the north Luhansk region – Sep 8 2014
  • Ukraine: Summary killings during the conflict in eastern Ukraine – Oct 20 2014
  • Ukraine: The Authorities’ Inaction Emboldens Rising Violence by The Far-Right – May 16 2018
  • Ukraine: Swift, decisive action required to bring perpetrators of two fatal attacks against Roma to justice – Jul 2 2028
  • Ukraine: Address attacks against activists and human rights defenders – Oct 3 2018
  • Ukraine: First-ever Pride march in Kharkiv marred by violence, underscores multiple failures by the authorities – Dec 23 2019

Human Rights Watch has a long list of reports on Ukraine. While some blame eastern separatists and Russia many others point to violence from the fascist far-right.

Currently a main Azov unit is sitting in the basement of  the Azovstal metalworks in Mariupol surrounded by Russian troops. It claims to have civilian hostages and refuse to surrender. To whitewash them now just because they have gotten themselves into this situation, as the NYT obviously does, is not justified.


As one commentator snarks:

Bernd Neuner @Bernd__Neuner – 15:08 UTC · Apr 30, 2022

#Putin’s latest failure:

Western media’s de-nazification of #Ukraine much faster and more thorough than #Russia’s 🤡