Members Only | March 22, 2022 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

How can the UK take pride in fighting Nazis in World War II while arming neo-Nazis in Ukraine? It just doesn’t square

An explosive new development unearthed by Declassified UK.


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They say one of the first casualties in war is truth. Over the last few weeks, while the UK and US media have been covering Russia’s war against Ukraine, rightly highlighting the civilian casualties killed by Russian forces, there’s one story that hasn’t gained traction.

Most are aware of ultra-right wing neo-Nazis, embedded at the heart of Ukraine’s armed forces, known to be among Ukraine’s most effective fighters. 

But in an explosive new development unearthed by the investigative website Declassified UK, it’s believed that some of the anti-tank weaponry in the hands of neo-Nazis was likely manufactured in the UK, in Belfast by the French arms company, Thales.

Azov are viewed as an integral part of Ukraine’s national defense with ambitions, according to the group’s founder Andriy Biletsky, to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade … against Semite-led Untermenschen [subhumans].”

Just days ago, the Azov battalion were reportedly pictured in Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine located in the northwest of the country, posing with the Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapon (NLAW).

The UK Defense Ministry is thought to have equipped Ukraine forces with almost 4,000 NLAWs while Luxembourg is thought to have donated around 100. 

Officially, parliament was informed by James Heappey MP, Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces, that the UK has not provided assistance to the Ukrainian National Guard including the Azov Battalion.

Given the new images showing Azov in the possession of NLAWS however, and considering that the UK has donated the overwhelming majority of them to Ukraine, Heappey’s assurance to parliament is surely thrown into question.  

There are also concerns that weaponry headed from the UK to Ukraine has fallen into the hands of other ultra rightwing groups beyond Azov.

The implications of the UK bearing responsibility for anti-tank rocket launchers falling into the hands of neo-Nazis like Azov are serious, especially when we consider that Africans and other nonwhite people are thought to remain trapped in the country.  

In recent days, we’ve seen many reports and videos documenting the plight of nonwhite people fleeing the country and the racism faced by them at the borders.

Azov are viewed as an integral part of Ukraine’s national defense with ambitions, according to the group’s founder Andriy Biletsky, to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade … against Semite-led Untermenschen [subhumans].”

Considering that Azov are accused of war crimes, and that they seek influence and power, arming them while nonwhite people vulnerable to their extremist ideology remain trapped in the country seems cruel and irresponsible.   

While much sympathy has been drummed up for Ukrainian refugees fleeing the country, nowhite people are sitting ducks.  They are struggling to get through the border while Ukrainian pets have been prioritized ahead of them and while groups like Azov pose lethal danger to them amid the chaos of war.  

The US Congress has denounced the Azov regiment, passing a bill in 2018 prohibiting public money from being allocated to them.

The UK, however – a strong ally of the US, potentially delivering Azov weapons, with the promise of more – makes a mockery of this.

However, given the accusations the UK and US have faced, regarding the arming of dangerous groups during the wars on Libya and Syria, while selling weapons to regimes, including Saudi Arabia and Israel, known for human rights breaches, this wouldn’t be the first time.

Putin’s claim of “denazifying” Ukraine is a false justification for the war. Civilian areas have been bombed, even during ceasefire, and the Russian armed forces, too, are known for having extreme rightwing elements.

However, whitewashing and ignoring the clear influence, danger and aspirations of neo-Nazis in Ukraine, while denouncing Russia’s aggression, is not good enough.

The danger of appeasing neo-Nazis is all too clear. 

Britain and its allies do not have the luxury of denouncing human rights transgressions and war crimes while providing support for groups which view nonwhite people as subhuman. 

It just doesn’t square.  

If armed neo-Nazis in Ukraine is the price of the West defending Ukraine, we have to ask; what will be the long term cost?

This war has thrown a magnifying glass on many issues of racism, which we knew plagued the discourse. In the media, people from the Middle East and North Africa have been portrayed as little more than hapless impotent victims born in uncivilized war-torn countries, producing an unlimited stream of refugees poised to invade Europe, ready to steal jobs and housing.

Pundits have exclaimed in wonderment, though, about the fact that these new refugees from Ukraine have blonde hair and blue eyes – and look just like them.

European countries, in turn, have gone out of their way to accept the roughly 2 million Ukrainian refugees who look like them. 

Just a few years ago, however, Black and brown refugees fleeing war were seen as an existential threat to European countries and “values.”

They were and are treated as a political football producing political movements like Brexit while viewed as an unwanted symptom of some sort of impending “clash of civilisations.”

We have seen the gut-wrenching reports of Black and brown people blocked at the border of Ukraine, facing racism in Ukraine and Poland, while Poland has been praised for its welcoming of Ukrainians.

And now we see, that in the middle of the war, neo-Nazis have very likely been armed by weapons made in the UK.  

In UK schools, much is made of Britain’s role in World War Two, fighting the Nazis and pitting the values of democracy and freedom against fascism. Britain, therefore, allegedly involved in a chain of events that equips neo-Nazis with rocket launchers is quite something.

It’s important that we understand the full picture of war, and part of that process must be grounded in understanding exactly who is fighting, for what reasons, and ultimately, the origins of weapons.  

The UK providing millions of pounds in weaponry, some of it likely ending up in the hands of neo-Nazis – the most extreme elements of European nationalism – will only end in disaster. 

Richard Sudan covers human rights and American foreign affairs for the Editorial Board. Based in London, his reporting has appeared in The Guardian, Independent and others. Find him @richardsudan.

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