Multiple outlets use the same talking points, quotes, and ‘experts’ to whitewash Ukraine’s notorious “Azov” regiment
During the last week of March, multiple major media outlets in the UK and the US ran stories about Ukraine’s ‘Azov Batalion’, seeking to whitewash almost a decade of previous reporting that clearly identified the unit’s Nazi sympathies and ethos. Supposedly acting independently, they nonetheless stuck to the same talking points and often the same verbiage, suggesting a concerted effort to spin the unit as heroic defenders of Ukraine against the alleged “real” fascists – the Russians.
The latest wave of the lionization of Azov began sometime before the Russian military operation – notorious was the much-publicized image of an AK-47-wielding Ukrainian granny training to repel invaders in the regiment’s camp. The last week of March, however, saw the puff pieces come in a tight group, like the bullet holes after an AK burst.
The first of the bunch was a ten-minute video, from Britain’s state-broadcaster BBC, on March 27, in which presenter Ros Atkins sought to debunk Russian “untruths” about Nazis in Ukraine. How can Ukraine be “held hostage” by Nazis when its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is Jewish, Atkins argues, pointing to his 73% of the vote, at the last election, and triumphantly declaring that, “No far-right groups have any formal political power in Ukraine.” Remember that word, “formal” – it does a lot of heavy lifting here.
Atkins’s piece set the tone for the articles that followed. Two days later, on March 29, the Financial Times ran a story describing Azov as “key to the nationwide resistance effort.” While it acknowledges that Azov was created in 2014 “by volunteers with nationalist and often far-right political leanings,” the FT shrugs off its Nazi connections.
Thus, the Nazi symbols used by the unit itself are described as “now claimed as pagan symbols by some battalion members.” This is taken at face value, but is literally untrue. The “Black Sun” (also known as the Sonnenrad) dates back to a mosaic commissioned in the 1930s by the Nazi SS head Heinrich Himmler, while the overlaid Wolfsangel rune – historical German, not Ukrainian heraldry – was used by several Wehrmacht and SS regiments, as well as the Dutch Nazis, during WWII. More to the point, the symbols themselves were picked out by Azov founder Andriy Biletsky – a notorious white supremacist – as he himself told another outlet back in 2014. …