by Gordon M. Hahn
The U.S. Congress recently adopted an amendment that ostensibly forbid US advisors now training the Ukrainian army and National Guard from training members of the Azov Battalion. Although a good first step, this measure not enough to either deal with Azov or address the Maidan regime’s imposing neo-fascist challenge, both of which I have detailed several times elsewhere (see, for example, Gordon M. Hahn, “The Ukrainian Revolution’s Neo-Fascist Problem,” Fair Observer, 23 September 2014, http://www.fairobserver.com/region/europe/the-ukrainian-revolutions-neo-fascist-problem-14785/).
There are many more neo-fascist elements in the Ukrainian army and National Guard than the those of the Azov Battalion. Some are ultra-nationalists or neo-fascists who never served in the neo-fascist battalions. Some are former members of those battalions, and identifying who is a former, present or future member will be impossible to determine.
Second, there are many more in Ukraine’s other state organs, including the siloviki. Thus, Anton Gerashchenko, the ultra-nationalistic advisor to the chief of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD), Arsen Avakov, who organized many of the neo-fascist-filled volunteer battalions, responded to Congress’s move by saying there was an anti-Ukrainian lobby in the U.S. Congress and urged congressmen to visit the Azov’s base near Mariupol in Donetsk. Indeed, Ukrainian media reports indicate that Avakov personally oversees Azov, whose commander is the leader of the fascist Social-National Assembly party (SNA), Andriy Biletskiy. Moreover, the head of the Kiev Oblast police, Vadim Troyan, is a SNA member (http://vesti-ukr.com/strana/103513-pochemu-ssha-otkryli-front-protiv-batalona-azov). The posts held by Avakov, Biletskiy, and Troyan are appointed positions. The US must demand their removal from office.
Third, the Azov Battalion is responsible for war crimes, including the 9 May 2014 slaughter of some 20 Mariupol policemen who refused to join Kiev’s ‘anti-terrorist’ operation launched at that time and ensconced themselves inside the Mariupol police station, which was then subjected to tank and other heavy fire by Azov without negotiations. Indeed, Azov Battalion commander and Social-National Assembly leader Biletskiy recently celebrated the crime’s first anniversary with a military parade in which Ukrainian military and civilian officials (including MVD chief Avakov and Chairman of the Ukrainian Defense and Security Council and former Maidan acting president Oleksandr Turchynov, who initiated the ATO) and weapons banned from the area in accordance with the Minsk 2 accords openly took part (“Andriy Biletskiy pro zvil’nennya Mariupolya,” You Tube, 13 June 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lu3HanEJ78, last accessed 19 June 2015).
Fourth, Congress’s measure could simply be a measure to cover up the training of neo-fascists in the Ukrainian army and National Guard. Akin to our training ‘moderate’ revolutionaries and ‘moderate jihadists’ in Syria, this policy is likely to lead to a similarly sad result: more violence in Ukraine.
Finally, the Congress’s move is a bit odd, since the Barack Obama Administration, Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, the DC think tank community, academia, and mass media consistently deny that there are any neo-fascists in Ukraine.
Gordon M. Hahn is an Analyst and Advisory Board Member of the Geostrategic Forecasting Corporation, Chicago, Illinois; Senior Researcher, Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, San Jose, California Analyst/Consultant, Russia Other Points of View – Russia Media Watch; and Senior Researcher and Adjunct Professor, MonTREP, Monterey, California. Dr Hahn is author of three well-received books, Russia’s Revolution From Above (Transaction, 2002), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), which was named an outstanding title of 2007 by Choice magazine, and The ‘Caucasus Emirate’ Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014). He also has authored hundreds of articles in scholarly journals and other publications on Russian, Eurasian and international politics and wrote, edited and published the Islam, Islamism, and Politics in Eurasia Report at CSIS from 2010-2013. Dr. Hahn has been a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (2011-2013) and a Visiting Scholar at both the Hoover Institution and the Kennan Institute.