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Why does Azov still not receive Western weapons?

Friday, 19 April 2024, 12:57

Nonsense. That's the first word that comes to mind in the context of the current ban on the transfer of Western weapons to Azov.

Few people in Ukraine know about this, and almost no one speaks about it publicly. It's time to draw attention to this Kafkaesque situation and make it public.

Since 2017, a number of US Consolidated Appropriation Bills have contained the following amendment: "None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to provide arms, training, or other assistance to the Azov Battalion."


In 2015, Congressman John Conyers Jr, a Democrat from Michigan, proposed this amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill for the fiscal year ending 30 September 2016. The congressman made the proposal, noting that Foreign Affairs, as well as "other leading media outlets", had characterised the Azov Battalion as "openly neo-Nazi" and "fascist".

According to media reports, the Department of Defense subsequently called for the proposed amendment to be withdrawn, arguing that aid to Azov should already be prohibited by the Leahy Act, which states that "no assistance shall be provided to ... any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights". At the time, the ban on providing arms to Azov was not included in the final bill.

However, in 2017, this amendment was included in the text of the Appropriations Bill. It is also present in this year's Defence Appropriation Bill.

It is noteworthy that the Leahy Act, which requires that incidents of human rights violations be reviewed on the basis of specific facts, was not applied to Azov, and the decision to adopt the amendment was primarily based on the characterization of Azov by Western media, which apparently formed their attitude towards the unit under the influence of Moscow propaganda.

All of the main accusations against Azov have been repeatedly refuted on the basis of facts on the internet and in the media – particularly on

Does it make sense to point out once again that the very wording "Azov battalion" used in the law actually refers to a non-existent unit?

At the end of 2014, Azov ceased to be a battalion and became a separate special forces detachment. Since February 2023, our unit has been the 12th Special Forces Brigade Azov of the National Guard of Ukraine. Not a battalion, not a regiment. A brigade.

It is this amendment, which wanders from one Appropriation Bill to another from year to year, that is the reason why Azov did not have modern Western weapons in 2022, during the defence of Mariupol. At that time, we were holding back the enemy's superior forces in besieged Mariupol, using the extremely limited resources we had, and we proved ourselves to be extremely effective.

How many lives could have been saved and what would have been the results of the city's defence if, in addition to our strong motivation, cohesion and professionalism, Azov had had modern armoured vehicles and artillery systems at its disposal?

Even after 2022, when it seemed that the world had finally learned the truth about Azov, we still cannot send our soldiers to most leading Western military exercises and do not receive the vitally needed weapons that our allies provide to Ukraine. This problem is partly solved by volunteers and conscientious Ukrainians who do their best to help the unit: for example, the Tylovyky volunteer project raised UAH 77 million for 17 FV432 Bulldog armoured personnel carriers for the Azov Brigade. But the war demands more.

Now the whole of Ukraine is experiencing what Azov has been dealing with since 2014. Unfortunately, Azov is not only the first unit in the Ukrainian army to implement Western military standards – it has also become one of the first and main targets of Moscow's propaganda. Ever since the beginning of the Russo-Ukrainian war in 2014, Moscow has accused Azov and other volunteer units of "neo-Nazism" and set out to destroy them.

In 2022, the Russians wanted to "denazify" the whole of Ukraine, labelling the entire nation "Nazis". Ten years ago, no one helped Azov to withstand the influence of the Kremlin's propaganda machine. Today, the whole country is in the same situation. And just as Azov has been experiencing for 10 years, Ukraine may now face a lack of Western assistance.

I emphasise that the very existence of such amendments and prohibitions not only prevents Azov from performing its combat missions more effectively, but is a blow to the defence capability of our country, tarnishes Ukraine's image on the international level, and is humiliating for the entire Ukrainian army.

There is no evidence or confirmation of the accusations that Russian propaganda has been spreading about Azov for 10 years. If there were, delegations of Azov fighters would not have been received in the United States, in European countries, and in Israel. Azov members would not have held meetings with representatives of the US Congress and human rights organisations. They would not have spoken at the UN, the Council of Europe, or top Western universities. They would not have given interviews to the world's leading media outlets and would not have participated in panel discussions at major military conferences. This is the absurdity of the situation: Azov is welcomed at the highest level throughout the Western world, but still not given weapons.

Azov is used to overcoming difficulties on its own. We were the first unit in Ukraine to adopt NATO standards, and we did it on our own initiative. Without Western weapons, we have become one of the most capable units in the country in 10 years. Our fighters are returning to the ranks after Russian captivity, fighting the enemy and fulfilling all the tasks set by the command.

No obstacles will stop us on our way. However, justice demands answers. How many more refutations of the Kremlin's lies do we have to provide before politicians in the West finally open their eyes to the truth? How long will a structural unit of the Security and Defence Forces of Ukraine, subordinated to the military leadership of the state, be stigmatised by such humiliating amendments?

And most importantly, how many more Ukrainian soldiers – fighters of our brigade, who are defending not only the freedom and independence of Ukraine, but also the entire free Western world from the real, unimagined Nazis of today – must be killed and wounded for lack of modern Western weapons, before Azov is finally removed from the Appropriations Bill and all "blacklists"?

Disclaimer: Articles reflect their author’s point of view and do not claim to be objective or to explore every aspect of the issues they discuss. The Ukrainska Pravda editorial board does not bear any responsibility for the accuracy of the information provided, or its interpretation, and acts solely as a publisher. The point of view of the Ukrainska Pravda editorial board may not coincide with the point of view of the article’s author.

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