NEWSWATCH Reuters: Ultra-nationalist Ukrainian battalion gears up for more fighting

Map of Ukraine, Including Crimea, and Neighbors, Including Russia

[“Ultra-nationalist Ukrainian battalion gears up for more fighting” – Reuters – Gabriela Baczynska – March 25, 2015]

Reuters reports on the conflict in Ukraine, including activities by the far-right Azov battalion in eastern Ukraine.

The far-right Azov battalion, whose symbol resembles a black swastika on a yellow background, is preparing to defend the port city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine against a widely expected attack by pro-Russian separatists.

The 1,000 strong ultra-nationalist militia has a reputation as a fierce pro-government fighting force in the almost year-old conflict with the Russia-backed rebels in east Ukraine, and is disdainful of peace efforts.

The Azov commander is Andriy Biletsky, and grew out of a paramilitary national socialist group called “Patriot of Ukraine,” with a professed ideology that included white supremacy, authoritarianism and economic centralization.

Some observers question what future impact might unfold from the faction.

Some Ukrainian politicians have defended Biletsky and his troops as patriots. There is lingering doubt, however, over what role Azov might play when the military conflict ends and whether its members could challenge President Petro Poroshenko and his government or threaten the wider public security.

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