US lifts ban on sending weapons to Ukraine’s controversial Azov brigade

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Washington says ‘no evidence’ of abuses successful unit, which was primitively group up arsenic a unpaid unit successful 2014.

Published On 12 Jun 2024

The United States has lifted a prohibition connected providing weapons and training to nan Azov brigade, a arguable Ukrainian subject portion that played a cardinal domiciled successful nan 2022 defence of nan southeastern metropolis of Mariupol.

The US State Department said successful a connection connected Tuesday that location had been a “thorough review” of nan existent Azov brigade and “no evidence” of quality authorities violations had been found.

Washington stressed nan existent portion was different from nan unpaid militia that was group up successful 2014, drafting fighters from far-right circles and disapproval for immoderate of its tactics. The US had banned nan regiment from utilizing its weapons, citing nan neo-Nazi ideology of immoderate of its founders.

“This is simply a caller page successful nan history of our brigade,” Azov said of nan US determination successful a connection connected societal media. “Obtaining Western weapons and training from nan United States will not only summation nan combat expertise of Azov, but astir importantly, lend to nan preservation of nan lives and nan wellness of personnel.”

The Azov brigade, which was absorbed into Ukraine’s National Guard arsenic nan 12th Special Forces Brigade, is among nan country’s astir effective and celebrated fighting units and its existent members cull accusations of extremism and immoderate ties pinch far-right movements. Washington said that nan original militia had been “disbanded successful 2015” and a State Department spokesperson besides noted Azov’s “heroic role” successful nan 2022 conflict for Mariupol.

The lifting of nan prohibition is apt to bolster nan brigade’s fighting capacity astatine a challenging clip during nan warfare against Russia’s invasion, pinch Ukraine struggling amid persistent shortages of ammunition and personnel.

Azov soldiers played a cardinal part in nan defence of Mariupol, holding retired for weeks successful nan Black Sea larboard city’s immense alloy useful contempt being debased connected ammunition and nether relentless onslaught from Russian forces.

The metropolis fell to Russia successful May 2022, but Azov’s soldiers person been hailed arsenic heroes, becoming a awesome of Ukrainian guidance successful nan look of Russian aggression. Each week, location are rallies calling for nan merchandise of hundreds of Azov POWs who stay successful Russian captivity.

Moscow has many times portrayed nan Azov arsenic a Nazi group and accused it of atrocities, but has provided small grounds to support its allegations. It designated nan portion a violent group successful 2022.

“Such a abrupt alteration successful Washington’s position shows that it will do thing to suppress Russia… moreover flirting pinch neo-Nazis,” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

The brigade grew retired of a group called nan Azov Battalion, 1 of galore unpaid regiments established to conflict Russia-backed separatists successful eastbound Ukraine. Years earlier Russia’s full-scale penetration of Ukraine, Human Rights Watch raised concerns astir Azov, penning that reliable allegations of egregious abuses had been made against its fighters.

Since its first commandant near successful October 2014, Azov has been “cleansing itself” of undesirable elements, according to its website. It has besides tried to recast its nationalist image to that of an effective and skilful fighting force, and has shunned connections pinch arguable figures.

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