Azov Brigade to be allowed to use US weapons

Sunday, June 16, 2024

On Monday, the United States State Department reversed a ten-year-old restriction on the use of their weapons by the Azov Brigade of Ukraine after determining it has not committed human rights violations. The Azov Brigade is known in Ukraine for participating in the defense of Mariupol in 2022. It has been accused by Russia of being a far-right, ultranationalist, extremist, racist, and neo-Nazi group. The Azov Brigade is currently designated as the 12th Special Forces Brigade in the Ukrainian National Guard.

The Azov Brigade was banned from using American weapons due to concerns of the neo-Nazi beliefs of the brigade's founders. Human Rights Watch had also raised concerns about human rights violations by members of the brigade. Since 2014, according to the brigade website, it is "cleansing itself" of unwanted elements. The US State Department said there was "no evidence of gross violations of human rights" by the brigade.

Azov Brigade logo
Image: Inkscape'r.

Russia's highest court has declared the Azov Brigade a terrorist organization since 2022. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia had an "extremely negative" view of the brigade and it was an "ultranationalist armed formation." He also said the United States was "ready to flirt with neo-Nazis" and using the "Ukrainian people as an instrument in their hands".

The Azov Brigade said the decision was a "new page" in the "unit's history" and they were "becoming even more powerful, even more professional and even more dangerous for occupiers." They stated it would "increase the combat ability of [the] Azov [Brigade]" and "contribute to the preservation of the lives and the health of personnel."

The brigade had been barred from attending US-led military exercises or receiving weapons through the United States.

The Azov Brigade was established in 2014 to fight Russian separatists during the Russo-Ukrainian War. It was incorporated into the Ukrainian National Guard in 2015.