Today, Putin made a two-hour-long state of the nation speech to commemorate the upcoming one-year unfortunate anniversary of his full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
He restated his typical tropes; let me know if you want me to analyze some of them in a future blog post in the comments.
Here, I wanted to revisit his claims that he came to de-Nazify Ukraine as was reiterated during his speech today.
Yes, there are neo-Nazis in Ukraine, but to paint a complete picture we have to look at them comparatively with other countries — especially Russia.
So, let’s start here. Are there Nazis and neo-Nazis in Ukraine? Yes. But the same can be said about any European country, from Hungary, Austria, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere.
Are they a real threat to Ukrainian stability? No.
Paradoxically, neo-Nazis should be more of a concern in the rest of Europe. Let’s have a brief look at the most potent neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine.
Neo-Nazi Groups in Ukraine
Ukraine’s largest right-wing group, Azov, was founded, like other far-right militia groups in Ukraine, during the 2014 Maidan revolution.
Azov was founded by former members of the neo-Nazi paramilitary group, Patriot of Ukraine. This militia has been fighting against Russian troops in Ukraine from 2014 onward, which is one of the reasons Ukraine officials have not shown any significant protest against its establishment.
By November 2014, Azov was fully integrated into the National Guard of Ukraine.
Azov’s military capacity did not exceed more than 2,000 soldiers. In comparison to Ukraine’s military of 200,000 soldiers prior to the full-scale invasion, Azov is a small unit with little military influence.
Azov’s main threat is in its various social media misinformation campaigns that show them assisting the poorest in Ukraine during the pandemic, among other things, which may garner some popularity.
Since the full-scale invasion, Azov has been reformed — and, for many, it has lost its Nazi roots. That is for good reason since…