CEP Webinar: "The Azov Movement in Ukraine" | Joshua Fisher-Birch

Thursday, Feb 10, 2022

Joshua Fisher-Birch
Research Analyst, Counter Extremism Project 

Since the start of the conflict in Ukraine in 2014, the Azov Movement has emerged as one of the most significant right-wing extremist structures in Ukraine. Transforming from an erstwhile military unit into a broader political and social movement, Azov is seen by many stakeholders in transnational violence-oriented right-wing extremist networks as an example to emulate. In addition to being incorporated into state military structures as a Regiment, Azov initially welcomed foreign fighters, including from Europe and the United States that flocked to the conflict in Ukraine to gain military and fighting experience. This provided the group with an international network, in particularly within the violence-oriented right-wing extremist milieus in Europe and the United States. 

Azov’s transformation from a group focused solely on paramilitary activities in Ukraine into a social and political movement that espouses right-wing extremist ideological ideas was paralleled with wide-ranging outreach to other right-wing extremist networks outside Ukraine. This led to some calls for the designation of Azov as a foreign terrorist group by the United States, a potentially problematic move. Currently, the paramilitary training infrastructure within Ukraine—in particular its commercially organized training facilities with only scant customer controls mechanisms—presents the risk that violence-oriented right-wing extremist and terrorist individuals from abroad obtain weapons and explosives training in Ukraine. This would therefore potentially increase the effectiveness of the violence that these individuals may perpetrate in their home countries.

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