by Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis, Declassified UK, 10 March 2022
Amid ongoing atrocities by Russian forces in Ukraine, far-right resistance groups appear to be in possession of UK-made anti-tank weapons.
A Ukrainian neo-Nazi group in the besieged city of Kharkiv is said to have received anti-tank missiles made in Belfast.
Images of the controversial Azov regiment with the Next Generation Light Anti-tank Weapon (NLAW) were tweeted on Tuesday by Nexta TV, a Belarusian opposition media outlet.
“The Azov regiment was the first to learn about [the] new weaponry,” Nexta claimed.
Britain’s defence ministry has so far delivered 3,615 NLAWs to Ukraine at an estimated cost of around £72 million.
It is highly likely the NLAWs pictured with Azov members were supplied by the UK. The only other donor of the equipment to Ukraine is believed to be Luxembourg, which recently sent 100.
Parliament has been told the British weapons are not destined for the Azov regiment, which is formally incorporated in Ukraine’s National Guard and part of its Interior Ministry.
However, the new images show members of the group, wearing their notorious Wolfsangel uniform patch, learning how to use the powerful equipment.
The Azov regiment’s founder has said that Ukraine should “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade…against Semite-led Untermenschen [subhumans].”
The US Congress passed a bill in 2018 that banned spending public money on arming the Azov regiment.
Another controversial Ukrainian ultra-nationalist group, the Pravy Sektor (Right Sector), has also published a photo appearing to show its members posing with UK-made anti-tank weapons.
The group denies being right-wing extremists, but continues to praise Stepan Bandera – an ultra-nationalist Ukrainian militant who collaborated with the Nazis during World War Two.
Based on present-day borders, one in four of the Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide was murdered in Ukraine.
Nato and the ‘Black Sun’
In another embarrassing development this week, Nato deleted a tweet celebrating International Women’s Day, after complaints it featured a Ukrainian soldier wearing a ‘Black Sun’ Nazi symbol on her uniform.
A Nato official told Declassified: “As part of an International Women Day collage for social media, we posted an image from stock footage of an international agency. The post was removed when we realised it contained a symbol that we could not verify as official.”
Ukraine elected a Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and neo-Nazi parties have failed at the ballot box. But the far-right plays a disproportionate role in the country’s security forces and its members are regarded as some of Ukraine’s most effective fighters.
Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin seized on the presence of such groups in an attempt to justify his illegal invasion of Ukraine. Yet ultra-nationalist and extreme right-wing groups are also present in the Russian military and society-at-large.
Putin’s troops have committed war crimes by repeatedly shelling civilian targets. Russian jets bombed a children’s hospital yesterday during a supposed ceasefire.
Authorities in Mariupol, a city in south east Ukraine, said the shelling of a maternity ward killed three people and injured 17 others, including a woman in labour.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created more than two million refugees and caused at least 1,424 civilian casualties, according to UN bodies.
Arms control fears
NLAWs are designed by Saab in Sweden and made by French arms manufacturer Thales in Northern Ireland.
Britain’s decision to supply Ukraine with these rocket launchers before the invasion has been widely praised. There are reports the weapons were used to eliminate Putin’s tanks at the start of the war.
Defence secretary Ben Wallace announced yesterday he is also considering supplying Ukraine with portable anti-aircraft missiles.
But with expectations now rising of a negotiated Russian withdrawal, some analysts are asking what will happen to these weapons after the war. The Global Organized Crime Index already describes Ukraine as “one of the largest arms trafficking markets in Europe.”
Western powers have previously pursued high risk strategies of arming extremist elements in Afghanistan, Syria and Libya to achieve short-term policy goals. Such schemes carry a high risk of ‘blowback’ in the medium to long-term.
While extreme Islamist or fascist groups may contain the most motivated and fearless warriors, they can seek to exert their own political ideology over territory they control, or even conduct terrorist attacks abroad.
A spokesperson for the UK Ministry of Defence said: “The UK Government has gifted military aid only to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. We have robust procedures in place that allow us to vet all aspects of our exports and supply chains which are kept under constant review.”
Saab told us it is not providing comments on products related to the war in Ukraine. Thales was also approached for comment.