Ukrainian group of neo-Nazis organizing violence on Facebook


Despite attempts to expel her from the podium, a violent Ukrainian right-wing group with Relationships with White American Zealots It uses Facebook to recruit new members, organize violence, and spread its far-right ideology around the world.

Although it Banning the Azov movement and its leaders For more than a year, Facebook has continued to profit from the ads the far-right organization recently published until Monday.

Since July, Azov, which appeared during the Russian invasion in 2014, has opened at least a dozen new Facebook pages. Alaa Zasyadko, the 25-year-old, used one ad to place 82 ads on the social network, and paid Facebook at least $ 3,726, according to the platform’s ad library. Several ads called for street protests against the Ukrainian government. One of the ads encourages children to participate in a national youth training course. similar Courses Included firearms training.

Zasyadco did not respond to requests for comment.

A Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News, “The Azov Brigade is banned from our platforms and we remove content that represents, praises, or supports them when we are aware of this.”

At the time this story was published, the Azov movement’s Facebook homepage, listed as the Ukrainian Legion – a name similar to that of the movement’s political arm, the National Legion – was still active.

Facebook has come under heavy criticism for allowing far-right American organizations to organize Running ads On the platform. Some of these groups have committed Violence during the “Black Lives Matter” protestsAnd He called for civil warAnd allegedly conspired to Kidnapping and killing of elected political officials. The social networking site Facebook She said Last month, it removed thousands of pages and groups linked to “military social movements.” Many of those pages and groups have been deleted After BuzzFeed News caught Facebook’s attention to them.

But getting right-wing extremists off the social network has proven difficult, with many of them reappearing days or weeks after the deportation.

Facebook banned the Azov movement, which includes many members who espouse neo-Nazi beliefs, in April 2019. The company removed several pages associated with the group, including those run by its senior members and the various branches they lead.

But since July 16, the group has been running the page for the New Ukrainian Legion. The page does not try to hide that it belongs to the Azov National Corps – it publicly discusses the activities and leaders of the National Legion, links to Azov websites and e-mails, and posts photos of uniformed members at parades and torchlight parades.

Facebook has no reason not to know that the Azov movement is dangerous. In the wake of a series of violent attacks on Roma, LGBTIQ people, transgender and intersex people across Ukraine by members of the National Legion and the Paramilitary Street Wing, National Militia, US Department of State The name of the object The Azov National Corps is a “national hate group”.

Matthew Schaff, who heads Freedom House Ukraine’s human rights office and closely monitors the group, said the Azov movement’s ability to mobilize people via social media poses a threat to society.

“In the past two years, participants from Azov groups have used violence against vulnerable groups in Ukrainian society and threatened government officials, with social media being an important tool to organize these actions and share their results,” Schaff told BuzzFeed News. . Many of these attacks are accompanied by pre and post propaganda posts on social media.

The Azov began in 2014 as a volunteer military battalion that helped Ukraine defend itself against the invasion of Russia and its proxy separatist forces. The battalion’s symbol is similar to that of the Wolfsangel, the insignia that was widely used by the German Army during World War II. despite of The battalion was accused by human rights groups Torture and war crimes during the first months of the Ukraine-Russia conflict, in late 2014, the Ukrainian National Guard incorporated the Azov Battalion into its official hangar, changing its name to the Azov Regiment.

The military unit was the Kremlin’s favorite bogeyman, as Russian President Vladimir Putin used the group to justify his attacks against Ukraine as fighting fascism. Although the group is not very popular in Ukraine, its links to neo-Nazis are clear. In 2010, the founder of the battalion, Andrei Beltsky, announced, She said That Ukraine should “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade … against Untermenschen led by the Semites.” [subhumans]. “

Biletsky could not be reached for comment.

While the regiment still looked to Biletsky for inspiration, it had moved into politics. He served as a member of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine from 2014 to 2019 but lost re-election. He now heads a political party for the National Legion, which has been largely unsuccessful in getting members into elected office, but is using social media to try to increase support. He is also a co-founder of the movement’s Intermarium project, which builds bridges for white nationalists and neo-Nazis in Western Europe and the United States.

Although Facebook previously canceled Intermarium pages, a new Intermarium page was created on September 9. Managed by the International Secretary of the National Legion, Olina SeminyakaShe was sharing news and information about far-right and neo-Nazi figures in Europe and promoting “cultural” events in her Kiev office.

After the ban, Semenyaka has also reopened Facebook and Instagram accounts under a pseudonym.

Seminyaka did not respond to a request for comment.

Thanks in part to social media, the National Legion has made a path with white nationalist groups in the United States, including those based in California. High above the movement, Whose members participated in 2017 at the “Unite Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, but saw accusations about their actions later. Projection. In April 2018, Robert Rondo, founder of RAM, visited Kiev and participated in one of the Azov events Fight Club. In October of that year, the FBI wrote that it believed Azov was involved in “training and radicalizing organizations of white supremacy in the United States.”

Last month , Ukraine deported two American neo-Nazis Associated with the US-based Automavan Division that attempted to establish a local branch of the group with the Azov fighters to gain “combat experience.”

As Azov uses Facebook to expand beyond Ukraine’s borders, experts are increasingly concerned. “The use of violence and the possibility that they can mobilize large crowds of young people are often willing to use violence, all with the facilitation of social media,” Schaff said, “giving them strength.”

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