Photos of a training held by Ukraine's neo-Nazi Azov Battalion on February 13, 2022 (Photo credit: Official Azov photos)
Major Western media outlets have helped to amplify a photo op staged by neo-Nazi extremists in Ukraine as a form of anti-Russia propaganda.
Ukraine’s state-backed neo-Nazi militia the Azov Battalion organized a training session for civilians on February 13 in the southeastern city of Mariupol, near the border with Russia.
The fascist extremists captured videos and photos of Ukrainian elderly women and children learning how to shoot guns. And they found eager allies in the Western press.
Several US and British media outlets promoted the training session, depicting it as a noble form of Ukrainian “self-defense” against a supposed impending Russian invasion, without mentioning that the event was organized by neo-Nazis.
This is despite the fact that the Nazi-style Wolfsangel symbol could be clearly seen on the patches of the Azov extremists hosting the training.
A Nazi-style Wolfsangel patch can be seen on the Azov militant training Ukrainians
Media networks like Bloomberg promoted video footage of the training session in which these Azov fascists proudly display their Nazi-style Wolfsangel patches, and failed to disclose their extremist far-right views.
Another Nazi-style Wolfsangel patch on an Azov militant at the training session in Mariupol, Ukraine
The Azov Battalion played a key role as the violent muscle behind a US-backed coup in Ukraine in 2014. Following the putsch, Azov was officially incorporated into the country’s National Guard.
The group makes no secret of its fascist and white-supremacist ideology, proudly using two Nazi symbols in its official logo.
The Nazi symbols used by Ukraine’s Azov Battalion
NBC News’s chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, exemplified how renowned Western reporters helped amplify this neo-Nazi propaganda operation.
Engel tweeted a photo of a Ukrainian great grandmother named Valentina Constantinovska who participated in the training.
The veteran NBC journalist failed to mention that the event was organized by neo-Nazis.
Photos of this elderly Ukrainian woman holding an assault rifle on the ground were heavily promoted by US and British media outlets.
Newspapers like The Times and the Daily Telegraph put the image on the front page, while failing to mention the fascist Azov extremists behind the photo op.
A video package of the Azov training session was prepared by major Western news agency the Associated Press (AP), and subsequently republished by numerous top media outlets.
The original AP source footage was simply titled “Ukraine special forces offer training to civilians.” In the lengthy description accompanying the video, the AP quietly acknowledged that the Azov Battalion was “formed in 2014 by far-right activists,” but this fact was curiously not disclosed by other media outlets.
In fact the Azov Battalion published video of the training session on its own official YouTube account, and posted a press release about the event to its website.
Western corporate media outlets essentially acted as Azov’s unwitting press team.
Military.com published the AP video with the headline “Ukraine Special Forces Offer Training to Civilians.”
Britain’s The Independent ran the footage as well, under the title “Ukraine Special Forces train elderly and child civilians amid rising Russian tensions.”
Neither Military.com nor The Independent disclosed that the training session was organized by Nazis, describing them instead simply as “the Special Forces Unit Azov.”
Not all Western media outlets were so gullible, however.
Euronews, for instance, published the same footage with the title “Ukraine far-right group offers training to civilians.”
Euronews acknowledged that the training was organized by “Members of Ukraine’s far right movement Azov.” The media outlet reported, “Ukraine’s far right Azov Battalion, part of Special Forces Unit at Ukraine’s National Guard, trained residents to assemble and dissemble a gun, to load ammunition and aim at targets.”
London’s BBC, on the other hand, uncritically promoted the video of the neo-Nazi training session.
On January 30, NBC News published another example of subtle Nazi propaganda. Its video titled “Kyiv residents pick up their guns to train for potential Russian attack” featured Azov fighters, but did not mention their far-right extremist ideology.
NBC described the hard-line fascist militants simply as “veterans of the conflict against pro-Russian separatist rebels in Ukraine’s Donbas region.”
Azov is one of several far-right extremist militias in Ukraine. The country has even launched its own version of the Freikorps, proto-fascist paramilitaries in Germany that formed the violent base of Nazism.
One of the few exceptions to this pattern of whitewashed Western media reporting was Al Jazeera English, which published a report on February 13 titled “Ukraine: Allegedly neo-Nazi armed groups fighting Russia-backed separatists.”
Al Jazeera English reporter Charles Stratford interviewed members of Ukraine’s far-right Freikorps.
Unlike the other journalists, Stratford did make it clear that these extremists are neo-Nazis. He did not hide their explicitly fascist ideology.
The report by Al Jazeera English even showed the Freikorps militants posing in front of a Nazi-style Wolfsangel flag, next to a Ukrainian national flag.
AL Jazeera English also made it clear that some of these Nazi extremists have been incorporated into the Ukrainian state.
Benjamin Norton is a journalist, writer, and filmmaker. He is the founder and editor of Multipolarista, and is based in Latin America. // Benjamín Norton es un periodista, escritor, y cineasta. Es fundador y editor de Multipolarista, y vive en Latinoamérica.
This article was produced by Multipolarista.