Podcast: Antifa and the Azov Battalion

Azov Battalion

In Episode 119 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the intellectual challenge posed to Western anti-fascists by Putin’s ultra-cynical fascist pseudo-anti-fascism. Russian state media have issued a “blueprint for genocide” in Ukraine—in the perversely paradoxical name of “de-nazification.” With much of the American “left” stupidly rallying around Putin and repeating his line that the Ukrainians are neo-Nazis, some of the once-stalwart antifas (themselves coming under attack from domestic fascism) are in danger of being coopted by fascism. Of course there are actual far-right elements on the Ukrainian side—which Ukrainian anti-fascists have been actively resisting. But in an atmosphere of totalizing propaganda, it is critical that we do not rely exclusively on pro-Putin sources for information on elements such as the notorious Azov Battalion, but get outside the confirmation-bias bubble. It is even more critical that we ruthlessly reject double standards, and acknowledge that the fascist element is far more hegemonic on the Russian side—and that Putin’s new Russo-fascism is aligned with Trumpism.

With reading from “The Principles of Newspeak” by George Orwell

Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.

Production by Chris Rywalt

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Photo: Azov Battalion website

  1. Azov Battalion’s ugly legacy: what are the facts?

    According to his Wikipedia page, the Azov Battalion’s original commander, far-right politician Andriy Biletsky, was only in that position for a matter of months in 2014. However, it is true that the formation has been implicated in some very ugly epidoses since then.

    Azov followers were accused in an incident in the western city of Chernivtsi in October 2016, in which masked men in military fatigues attempted to break up an LGBT film event. The Radio Free Europe account was unclear on whether the assailants were active members of the Battalion.

    A breakaway faction called the Azov National Militia (perhaps made up of purged neo-Nazis) was accused in an attack on a Romani camp in a Kyiv park in June 2018. Radio Free Europe reports that Romani were set upon by men armed with axes and hammers. There don’t appear to have been any injuries, but Romea.cz called the clearance of the camp a “pogrom.” The police apparently looked on and did not interfere.

    There was a similar cleansing of a Roma camp that same month, near Lviv—again carried out by a right-wing gang, although not linked to Azov followers per se.

    We do note an irony, very inconvenient to Russian propaganda, that the most consistent source for reportage on such Azov-linked ugliness has been Radio Free Europe, a media arm of the US State Department (although officially independent).

    It should also be noted that the Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk carried out an even worse attack on local Roma in April 2014, in which several were beaten and had their homes ransacked.