Greek Parliament platforms Azov Battalion fighter: Gov't spox says "it was wrong and inappropriate"

Azov Battalion

"Including a message from an Azov Battalion member was wrong and inappropriate", said government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou in the aftermath of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking to the Greek Parliament.

Zelensky gave his video address in the presence of President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, main opposition SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance leader Alexis Tsipras, the head of the opposition Movement for Change (KINAL) parliamentary group Michalis Katrinis and MeRA25 representative Giorgos Logiadis. The parliamentary groups of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), MeRA25 and the right-wing Elliniki Lysi were absent.

Controversy arose though when Zelensky included a video message from a member of the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, who claimed to be Greek.

The appearance of the neo-Nazi fighter prompted SYRIZA MP's Nikos Filis, Thodoris Dritsas and Yiannis Giolas to walk out of the session.

"The speech by members of the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion in the Greek Parliament is a challenge. They spoke of a history day, but it's a historic shame. Solidarity with the Ukrainian people is a given. But the Nazi cannot have a say in parliament," said SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras.

Following this, government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said "Including a message from an Azov Battalion member was wrong and inappropriate."

For his part, the Azov Battalion fighter, who claimed to be Greek but could not speak Greek, said in Ukrainian: "I am addressing you as a Greek."

"My name is Michael, my grandfather fought in the war against the Nazis, I was born in Mariupol and I participate in the defence of the city," he added.

The Azov Battalion are based in Mariupol and have long led a campaign of terror against civilians, including the 120,000 Greeks that live in the port city and its surrounding villages, including Sartana.

With Russian forces besieging Mariupol, in which 120,000+ ethnic Greeks live, SKAI news spoke with a Mr Kiouranas who lives in the city and exposed that Ukrainian “fascists” are killing people for trying to leave the city.

When asked by SKAI news if he planned to leave the city, Kiouranas responded “how can I leave? When you try to leave you run the risk of running into a patrol of the Ukrainian fascists, the Azov Battalion.”

“They would kill me and are responsible for everything,” he added.

Who are the Azov Battalion?

Azov Special Operations Detachment (Ukrainian: Окремий загін спеціального призначення «Азов»), or Azov Battalion, is a right-wing extremist and neo-Nazi unit of the National Guard of Ukraine, based in Mariupol, in the Azov Sea coastal region.

In 2014, the regiment gained notoriety after allegations emerged of torture and war crimes, as well as neo-Nazi sympathies and usage of associated symbols by the regiment itself, as seen in their logo featuring the Wolfsangel, one of the original symbols used by the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich.

Representatives of the Azov Battalion say that the symbol is an abbreviation for the slogan Ідея Нації (Ukrainian for “National Idea”) and deny connection with Nazism.

In 2014, a spokesman for the regiment said around 10–20% of the unit were neo-Nazis.

In 2018, a provision in an appropriations bill passed by the U.S. Congress blocked military aid to Azov on the grounds of its white supremacist ideology; in 2015, a similar ban on aid to the group was overturned by the Congress.

Members of the regiment come from 22 countries and are of various backgrounds.

The unit’s first commander was far-right nationalist Andriy Biletsky, who led the neo-Nazi Social-National Assembly and Patriot of Ukraine.

In its early days, Azov was a special police company of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, led by Volodymyr Shpara, the leader of the Vasylkiv, Kyiv, branch of Patriot of Ukraine and Right Sector.

In 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives also passed a provision blocking any training of Azov members by American forces, citing its neo-Nazi connections.

The House had previously passed amendments banning support of Azov between 2014 and 2017, but due to pressure from The Pentagon, the amendments were quietly lifted.

This was protested by the Simon Wiesenthal Center which stated that lifting the ban highlighted the danger of Holocaust distortion in Ukraine.

READ MORE: Who Is The Pontian Greek Fighting In Mariupol Against The Azov Battalion?