Ukraine: Why is Putin talking about Nazis?

Vladimir Putin wants to “denazify” Ukraine, accused of practicing genocide among the pro-Russian populations of Donbass. The Nazis? The Azov Battalion, a far-right unit of the Ukrainian army. But not only.

The war between Russia and Ukraine did not begin on February 24, 2022. It originated with the Mayan revolt and the Donbass civil war in 2014, pitting pro-Russian separatists against the Ukrainian government. The two entities of Donbass, in eastern Ukraine, proclaim their independence and sign friendship and cooperation agreements with Russia. These are the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR).

The Odessa massacre

Unacceptable for Kiev, which sends its tanks to bomb the region. Thus its own population. Abominable killings take place in the Donbass, but also in several cities. On May 2, 2014, in Odessa, the bloody clashes cause dozens of deaths, especially among the pro-Russian population, whose arson of the House of Trade Unions remains in the memory.
A real massacre. In eight years, the war in Donbass will make more than 13,000 deaths. The Minsk agreements of 2014 and 2015 will be without effect. The OCSE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) can only note the failure of the negotiations.
On February 21, 2022, Russia recognizes the independence of the two republics of Donbass, DPR and LPR. It invaded Ukraine.

Nazi groups in the army

Emblem of the Azov Battalion (MrPenguin20, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
Emblem of the Azov Battalion (MrPenguin20, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Ukrainian army is composed of groups and militias with a sulphurous past. There is the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and its military branch, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). A national tribute was paid to them on October 14. And on January 1, a torchlight march honors the memory of Stephan Bandera, leader of both organizations and collaborator with the 3ᵉ Reich, as Le Monde Diplomatique recalls.
But above all there is the famous Azov Battalion.
This battalion formed from volunteers at the beginning of the Donbass war has since been incorporated into the regular army of Ukraine, in the National Guard. Most of its members are followers of the Nazi ideology, of the supremacy of the white race. And they do not hide it. The strange cross that decorates their flag leaves no doubt: it looks a lot like the swastika of sad memory.

Andriy Biletsky, MP and military

The founder and leader of the Azov Battalion is Andriy Biletsky. This 43-year-old ultranationalist Ukrainian, police lieutenant-colonel and member of parliament, took part in the war in Donbass.
Blietsky joined the far-right paramilitary organization Tryzub in 2002. Then he moved closer to the Social Nationalist Party of Ukraine. In 2005, he launched the organization Patriots of Ukraine. With members of the UNA-UNSO, Tryzub and SNPU which became Svoboda, the political party is called All-Ukrainian Union Freedom.

In 2008, Blietsky brought together several far-right organizations in the Social Democratic Assembly, including the Patriots of Ukraine. The war that has been raging in Ukraine since February 24 teaches us that the dichotomous vision of the world that the West wants to impose is not so obvious. There are no bad guys in the East and good guys in the West. The world is more complicated. It is necessary to make the effort to know the history.