Neo-Nazis from Sweden are in Ukraine fighting for the cause of the pro-European Union, US-backed Kiev government. They are fighting with the Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian squad which flies a flag with Nazi symbols and which one Swedish soldier says fights for “a white Ukraine.”
The Azov Battalion is one of Ukraine’s many paramilitary groups formed in response to the government’s struggle against pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east.
Many of the battalion members are, by their own description, ultra-right Ukrainian nationalists, according to an Al Jazeera report: “The battalion has adopted symbols and slogans that come close to those used by neo-Nazis, drawing alarm from many moderate Ukrainians and fuelling the fire of Russian media accusations that the current Kiev government is a ‘fascist junta.'”
Now four Swedish neo-Nazis have joined the group. Mikael Skillt is one of them: “My goal is a white Ukraine,” he told newspaper Svenska Dagbladet on July 23 in a telephone interview made while he was “with the Azov Battalion somewhere outside Donetsk.”
Skillt said: “I am a nationalist and I want there to still be white Europeans in Europe.”
“We’re finding and grabbing people who collaborated with the separatists.”
Asked how he communicated with the locals, he replied: “I often have an interpreter. I understand some Russian, but I do not speak the language itself. I can only say commands like ‘stay,’ ‘down on your knees,’ ‘hands behind your head.'”
Skillt also thinks that Ukraine’s large Jewish minority should leave the country because he does not count it as white.
According to Svenska Dagbladet, the commander of the Azov Battalion, which is governed by the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior, is Andrij Belitskij, who also leads an organisation called Social National Assembly (SNA). The organisation’s goal is to ensure “the white race should be released from international capital” and that “sexual perversions and contacts between the races” be punished.
According to the Ukrainian political scientist Anton Shekhovtsov, research into the extreme right-wing movements in Europe show the SNA is behind a string of attacks against homosexuals and ethnic minorities conducted in Kiev in recent weeks.
Shekhovtsov argues that it has been a huge mistake to let them control their own battalion: “They do not fight for a democratic Ukraine. Their vision of Ukraine is a fascist dictatorship,” he says.
Far right volunteers have joined the pro-Kiev forces from Hungary and Bulgaria as well as Sweden.