DISINFO: Ukraine is openly using Nazis in its army
Ukraine is the only country in the world that has openly integrated neo-Nazi militias into its national army, and while these militias were once described as "neo-Nazi" in the Western media, they are now referred to as "far-right groups".
Since the Russian troops entered Ukraine in February, Nazi paraphernalia has been found hidden in the homes and bases of members of these militias, and pictures of soldiers wearing Nazi and far-right symbols have been posted on Ukrainian government-run social media accounts.
This is a recurrent pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about Nazi Ukraine, presented as justification for Russian military aggression against Ukraine, which started on 24 February 2022.
The Azov unit, which the claim indirectly references was formed in May 2014 in Mariupol from volunteers, initially as a battalion of the Special Purpose Police Patrol Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. In September 2014, it was transformed into a battalion in a regiment structure, later to the National Guard of Ukraine. The battalion sized unit strength is estimated at around 900 - 1100 persons.
Although it was just one among dozens of volunteer militias, Azov unit garnered controversy over the far-right politics of its initial founders, the use of neo-Nazi symbolism in some of its insignia, and the anti-Semitic views of some members. The unit was integrated into the National Guard of Ukraine in 2015. Since its integration, Azov regiment members have repeatedly denied being a far-right political unit, although they acknowledge that it includes individuals with such views.
In 2015 Ukraine issued a ban on Nazi and Communist ideologies. Generally speaking, far-right groups enjoyed a very limited presence during the Euromaidan itself and had poor results in the 2014 presidential and parliamentary elections. The "Right Sector" candidate received 0.7% of the vote in the May 2014 presidential elections, and the party received 1.8% of the vote in the October 2014 parliamentary elections. In the 2019 election cycle, far-right candidates fell short of the 5% minimum guaranteeing entry into parliament.
The accusation of Nazism and building a link to Nazi Germany is one of the favourite techniques of pro-Kremlin outlets. Read our past analysis Nazi east, Nazi west, Nazi over the cuckoo's nest.
Learn more about the reasons behind Kremlin's obsession with framing Ukraine as a Nazi state in the EUvsDisinfo analysis titled "Why does Putin portray himself as the tamer of neo-Nazism".
See more cases about so-called 'Nazi Ukraine' here.