WATCH: Zelensky Defends Neo-Nazi Azov Battalion in Fox Interview – ‘They Were Defending Our Country’
21 hours ago (Updated: 21 hours ago)
Western media has attempted to defend Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky from accusations that his government is closely linked to neo-Nazi forces by highlighting that he is a Russian-speaking Jewish man, as well as by refusing to disclose that groups like the Azov Battalion are fascist and complicit in crimes against humanity.
In an April 1 interview with Fox News, Zelensky was asked about the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion and its presence in the country’s armed forces – a question almost no other Western media outlet has dared to ask him.
“I wanted to have you clear something up for us. This is: these reports about the Azov Battalion, that is said to be a Nazi-affiliated organization operating as a militia in your country, said to be committing their own atrocities,” Fox News’ Bret Baier asked Zelensky via video link on Friday.
“What should Americans know about that unit, about those reports?”
“So, Azov was one of those many battalions. They are what they are, they were defending our country. And later, I want to explain to you, everything from all the components of those volunteer battalions later, were incorporated into the military of Ukraine. Those Azov fighters are no longer a self-established group, they are a component of the Ukrainian military. Back in 2014, there were situations when our volunteers were encircled, and some of them did violate laws, laws of Ukraine, and they actually were taken to court and got prison sentences. So, law is above all,” Zelensky replied.
However, despite getting such a telling answer to Baier’s question, Fox News cut the exchange from the video of the interview that was posted to their official YouTube account, nor is it mentioned in the write-up posted on Fox News’ website. The full version of the interview only appears on Baier’s own YouTube account.
The Azov Battalion was formed in May 2014 by neo-Nazi groups in Berdyansk, Zaporizhia Oblast, after Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov authorized the creation of paramilitary units to fight Russian-speaking separatists in eastern and southern Ukraine, including in the Donbas, where the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics had recently declared independence.
However, anger with the Ukrainian government was strong across the Russophone parts of Ukraine, including Kharkhov, Zaporizhia, Kherson, Dnipropetrovsk, Nikolaev and Odessa regions, all of which saw substantial protests in the Spring of 2014, following attempts by the government to reduce the status of Russian as a national language of Ukraine. The Azov Battalion became a haven for neo-Nazis affiliated with Right Sektor and other formations that had aided in the February 2014 coup d’etat that was supported by the United States.
The crimes of the neo-Nazi voluntary battalions are widely documented, including a report on the Azov Battalion by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and one about the Aidar Battalion by Amnesty International.
Recently, the Azov Battalion has appeared in the Western media several times due to its dogged defense of Mariupol, a port city in Donetsk Oblast that the militia captured from the Donetsk People’s Republic in a June 2014 offensive. However, Western media aren’t talking about Azov because of its neo-Nazi ties and central role as provocateur of the Russian special military operation in Ukraine – in fact, they aren’t talking about its Nazism at all.
In the New York Times, for example, the language has been changed to all but erase Azov’s ideology. On February 25, the paper referred to the militia as having “drawn far-right fighters from around the world,” but a month later on April 3, the Azov was referred to by name with no further qualification, except as the primary source of information about the deaths of civilians in Bucha, which the Ukrainian government has claimed were killed by withdrawing Russian troops.
CNN has referred to Azov as “far-right,” but has also repeatedly used as a source a Ukrainian officer named Denis Prokopenko, who holds the rank of major in the Azov Battalion. Several news reports over the last month with Prokopenko interviews have failed to disclose Azov’s ideology.
In the weeks before the special operation began, NBC’s Richard Engel also gave voice to the Azov Battalion when he uncritically reported on a media stunt involving grandmothers receiving rifle training.
However, when it comes to CBS, outright denial of Azov’s Nazism is what passes for journalism.