Swedish neo-Nazis join fight in Ukraine
Published: 30 Jul 2014 15:57 GMT+02:00
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Azov is a special force of about 300 soldiers, including multiple volunteer soldiers from across Europe. The force was established by the Ukrainian government, but does not fight alongside the national army and is instead steered by ultra-nationalists.
Four Swedes are in the group. Neo-Nazi Mikael Skillt is one of them.
"They are not fighting for a democratic Ukraine," Anton Shekhotsov, a Ukrainian political scientist who researches right extremist movements in Europe, told Sveriges Radio (SR). "Their vision of Urkaine is a fascist dictatorship."
The squad, which wields a yellow and black flag decorated by the Wolfsangel symbol, is a powerful weapon against pro-Russian separatists. But they have their own priorities.
The battalion's commander, Andrij Belitskij, is also the leaer of the Social-National Assembly (SNA), which lists among its goals the end of "sexual perversions and contact between races".
Skillt, a member of the neo-Nazi Party of the Swedes (Svenskarnas parti), seems to agree.
"My goal is a white Ukraine," Skillt told newspaper Svenska Dagbladet (SVD) last week. "I am a nationalist and I want there to still be white Europeans in Europe."
The Swede is originally from Sundsvall, and has been in Ukraine since February. Skillt has confirmed on social media as well as for Swedish media that he fights in the Azov battalion - and that he does so in Swedish uniform.
The Ukrainian government, however, denied that any foreigners fight in their units.
Anton Gerashenko, advisor at the Ukrainian Ministry of Home Affairs, dodged questions from Swedish media on Wednesday.
"I''ll stay tight-lipped on this one," he said to SR. "It's forbidden by law for foreign citizens to fight. You seem like a sensible person. So there is nothing more to say."
Shekhotsov warned that the battalion may not be satisfied simply by separatist defeat.
He reported that the SNA has been behind multiple attacks against sexual and ethnic minorities in Kiev. He also expressed concern that, although Azov may not successfully instate dictatorship, the force may still block the construction of a democratic Ukraine.
His fears seemed confirmed by Swedish soldier Skillt, who called the struggle in Ukraine a war based on race.
"This can be the grounds for something much bigger," he told SR. "It's not impossible that the Kiev government will fall."
The Local's attempts to contact Mikael Skillt have been unsuccessful.