Decade-Old Prohibition on Ukrainian Military Unit Lifted

( – When Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin gave varying accounts of why it felt the need to start a war. Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the Ukrainian government of Nazism. The US has now decided to lift a prohibition on a military unit accused of being Nazi sympathizers.

On June 10, the US State Department confirmed it lifted restrictions on providing weapons to the Azov Brigade. The controversial Ukrainian military unit has played a leading role in the effort to repel the Russian military. The decision by the US government means that American personnel will be allowed to train those involved in the brigade and give them US-made weapons.

The Azov Brigade issued a statement saying the news began a “new page in the history” for the unit. It went on to say that the “weapons and training” from America would help increase the unit’s combat ability and “contribute to the preservation of the lives and the health of personnel.”

The Azov Brigade became prominent in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea. The following year, it was integrated into the Ukrainian National Guard. Around the same time, the US prohibited, under the Leahy Law, the unit from receiving American weapons. The law bans US funds from being used to assist units of foreign militaries if there is credible evidence to prove they were involved in human rights abuses.

The US became concerned about the brigade because its founder, Andriy Biletsky, was a far-right nationalist who sympathized with the Nazis. Other members of the group were also believed to have Nazi ideologies.

The State Department recently concluded there was “no evidence” that the Azov Brigade carried out human rights violations. Officials didn’t say when the prohibition on the group was lifted but did explain that the original group had been disbanded for years.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, accused the US of “flirting with neo-Nazis.”

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