39 Facts About Azov Regiment


Special Operations Detachment "Azov", known as the Azov Regiment and formerly the Azov Battalion, is a unit of the National Guard of Ukraine formerly based in Mariupol, in the coastal region of the Sea of Azov, from which it derives its name.

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Since 2014, criticism of the Azov Regiment has been a recurring theme of Russian propaganda, and the unit has been designated a terrorist group by Russia since August 2022.

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The performance of Azov Regiment was criticized by fellow members of the Donbas Battalion and by a later report by the commission of the Verkhovna Rada on the failures of the Battle of Ilovaisk, which criticized Azov Regiment of arriving undermanned and late to the battle, and failing to cover the flanks of other forces.

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The Azov Regiment Battalion helped to clear the city of separatists and reinforce Ukrainian positions.

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On 11 August 2014 another detachment of the Azov Regiment Battalion, backed by Ukrainian paratroopers, captured Marinka from pro-Russian rebels and entered the suburbs of Donetsk, clashing with Donetsk People's Republic fighters.

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In early September 2014, the Azov Regiment Battalion was engaged in the Second Battle of Mariupol.

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In September 2014, the Azov Battalion underwent a reorganisation, and was upgraded from a battalion to a regiment, and in 11 November, the regiment was officially enrolled into the National Guard of Ukraine.

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Around this time Azov Regiment started receiving increased supplies of heavy arms.

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On 14 October 2014, Azov Regiment servicemen took part in a march to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in Kyiv organized by the Right Sector.

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In February 2015, the Azov Regiment responded by spearheading a surprise offensive against the separatists in Shyrokyne.

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The attack by the Azov Regiment was reinforced by the Ukrainian Army, and Air Assault Forces, as well the Donbas Battalion of the National Guard and the independent volunteer battalions Ukrainian Volunteer Corps and the Chechen Muslim Sheikh Mansur Battalion.

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In February 2015, after breaking through Donetsk People's Republic lines, the Azov Regiment managed to quickly capture the towns of Shyrokyne, Pavlopil, and Kominternove, and began to advance toward Novoazovsk.

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In 2019 the Azov Regiment spent eight months on the frontline at Svitlodarsk arc, following more than three years of being withdrawn from the frontline.

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Azov Regiment regained attention during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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Kateryna Prokopenko, the wife of Denys Prokopenko, the lead Azov Regiment commander, took a major role in these demonstrations, which were broken up by police.

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On 10 May 2022, the Azov Regiment posted images on its Telegram page of what it said were its wounded soldiers in the bunkers of Azovstal.

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Prominent Russian lawmakers, Anatoly Wasserman and Vyacheslav Volodin, called on the government to deny prisoner exchanges for members of the Azov Regiment, and try them in Russia as "nazist war criminals" instead.

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On 24 May 2022, The Guardian reported that the regiment's commander Denys Prokopenko was able to briefly call his wife from the captivity, and according to him surrendered Azov fighters are being held in "satisfactory" conditions, with injured combatants held in a prison in Olenivka, and a small number of severely injured fighters held in a hospital of Novoazovsk.

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Azov Regiment suggested that the Russian side is restricting access to the soldiers by the Red Cross.

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The swap caused controversy in Russia among hardliners and pro-war supporters, as in the past few months the Russian government had affirmed that the Azov Regiment prisoners were going to trial over crimes and would not be handed over in any prisoner exchanges, and had used Azov Regiment extensively in propaganda.

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In May 2022, The Times reported that a new unit of the Azov Regiment had been inaugurated in Kharkiv, the publication noticed that the Azov SSO-Kharkiv unit was wearing a new patch, in which the "Idea of a Nation" symbol had been replaced by a stylized Tryzub formed by three golden swords.

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Azov Regiment was initially formed as a volunteer militia in May 2014.

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In January 2015, Azov Regiment was officially upgraded to a regiment and its structures took a definite shape.

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Russian Azov Regiment volunteers formed their own separate unit as a response to the Russian invasion, known as the Russian Volunteer Corps.

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Azov Regiment Battalion has been described as a far-right militia, with connections to neo-Nazism and members wearing neo-Nazi and SS symbols and regalia, and expressing neo-Nazi views.

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Azov Regiment soldiers have worn fascist or Nazi-associated symbols on their uniforms, including swastikas and SS symbols.

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In 2014, the German ZDF television network showed images of Azov Regiment fighters wearing helmets with swastika symbols and "the SS runes of Hitler's infamous black-uniformed elite corps".

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In 2015, Marcin Ogdowski, a Polish war correspondent, gained access to one of Azov Regiment's bases located in the former holiday resort Majak; Azov Regiment fighters showed him Nazi tattoos as well as Nazi emblems on their uniforms.

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Shekhovtsov argued that Azov should not be designated a foreign terrorist organization, for reasons including that it was a regiment of the Ukrainian National Guard, and therefore was part of official structures and followed orders given by the Interior Ministry, and that some claimed extremist links to Brenton Tarrant, the Rise Above Movement, and American right-wing terrorists in general were poorly evidenced.

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Azov Regiment noted that today, these numbers are even smaller and the use of neo-Nazi symbols among its members has been reduced greatly.

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Azov Regiment is a regular military unit subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

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Azov Regiment said that not only for Azov, but for all the far-right movements in Ukraine, especially since 2014, antisemitism has lost its importance.

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In March 2015, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced that the Azov Regiment would be among the first units to be trained by United States Army troops in the Operation Fearless Guardian training mission.

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Giannis Oikonomou, spokesperson of the Greek Government, said the inclusion of the Azov Regiment message was “incorrect and inappropriate”, but criticized SYRIZA for using the incident for political gain.

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Azov Regiment, along with other similar groups, have been central to Russia's narrative that there is a Nazi influence that permeates Ukraine, justifying intervention by the Russian armed forces in efforts to "denazify" it.

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In justifying the 2022 invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the narrative oriented around Ukrainian neo-Nazism continued, and the Azov Regiment has similarly played a central role under the pretext of "denazifying" Ukraine, with Russian media claiming its overwhelming presence and influence within Ukraine to paint a picture of the whole of the Ukrainian government and military as under Nazi control.

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Azov Regiment has featured in Chinese social media and news outlets in a similar fashion to Russian media.

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Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov justified the Mariupol hospital airstrike claiming the Azov Regiment was using the hospital as a base and had previously evicted the patients and staff.

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Russia denied the bombings and claimed that the Azov Regiment took civilians as hostages inside the building and bombed the theater themselves to frame Russia.

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