What fate awaits captured Azov fighters in Russia? | TBEN | 04.08.2022

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Russia’s Supreme Court has classified Ukraine’s Azov regiment as a terrorist organization. It has now been added to a long list of terrorist groups compiled by Russia’s domestic intelligence agency FSB, along with al-Qaida, the Taliban and others.

The Azov regiment originally grew out of a controversial right-wing extremist volunteer battalion. Today, Azov is included in the National Guard of Ukraine, which falls under the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Russia has tried to legitimize its invasion of Ukraine, claiming it must fight Azov.

Dozens of Asov fighters held their ground in the besieged Asovstal iron and steel factory

The Ukrainian Azov Regiment had its headquarters in Mariupol on the Sea of ​​Azov. The city was captured and has been under Russian control since May. Ukraine says more than 2,500 Azov fighters, who stayed behind in the city to defend its steel plant, are now in Russian captivity. Russia says 2,439 Azov members surrendered to its forces. Recently, 50 Azov fighters held in a prison in Olenivka, in Russian-occupied Donbas, were killed in an attack. The exact circumstances of their deaths remain disputed, with Russia and Ukraine blaming each other.

Dubious testimonials

Russian decision-makers and media have long labeled Azov a Nazi group. They claim that Azov fighters have booby-trapped houses, committed atrocities and used civilians as human shields. Vyacheslav Volodin, currently chairman of the State Duma, alleges that Azov committed war crimes.

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It took Russia’s Supreme Court just three hours to deliberate on the Russian prosecutor’s request to designate Azov as a terrorist organization. The meeting took place behind closed doors.

Asov officers pay tribute to a fallen comrade

Asov officers pay tribute to a fallen comrade

Despite this secrecy, pro-Kremlin media claim to know who testified in this case. Georgiy Volkov, who heads the public control commission that deals with human rights issues and prisons, is said to quote a captured Azov fighter as saying the regiment practiced cannibalism. In addition, journalist Marina Akhmedova is said to have told the court that she had investigated Mariupol and Volnovakha, Donetsk Oblast, and had heard from witnesses that Azov fighters had tortured and executed civilians. According to media reports, she had said that this torture stemmed from deep-seated hatred.

Difficult sentences on the horizon

The Russian criminal code provides for life sentences and fines of up to €16,000 ($16,300) for founders and leaders of terrorist organizations. Ordinary members of a terrorist organization risk between ten and twenty years in prison and fines of up to €8,000. Meanwhile, Azov sympathizers could be prosecuted for comments that “justify terrorism”. For this, the Russian criminal code provides for prison terms of two to five years and fines of up to 8,000 euros.

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The Moscow-based Center for Information and Analysis, which researches nationalism and racism in post-Soviet Russia, is urging people to carefully monitor their online behavior and make sure they don’t follow groups that follow one or the other. otherwise associated with “terrorist” or “extremist” organizations.

Olenivka prison after it was attacked – Russia and Ukraine blame each other for the deadly attack

Olenivka prison after it was attacked – Russia and Ukraine blame each other for the deadly attack

Symbols associated with the Azov regiment were classified as terrorist insignia as early as 2015. Displaying it can lead to 15 days in prison.

Comments from Ukraine

“It sounds a bit strange: a country that is almost classified as a state sponsor of terrorism, violating all the rules and conventions of war, is now pointing this out [Ukrainian] organization as a terrorist,” said Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak. This decision, he added, will not affect the real world and will not affect negotiations on the exchange of prisoners. “This move is nothing but internal propaganda.”

Yegor Chernev, a member of Ukraine’s ruling Servant of the People’s Party, tells TBEN he thinks the Russian measure aims to protect Azov’s fighters by removing the Geneva Convention. Volodymyr Aryev, a member of parliament for the opposition European Solidarity party, agrees. He says Kiev has urged the world to designate Russia as an aggressor as early as 2015.

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In response to the Russian move, the Ukrainian army stated: “After the public execution of prisoners of war of the Azov regiment in Olenivka, Russia is looking for new ways to justify its war crimes.”

The Azov regiment itself has called on the US and other countries to declare Russia a “terrorist state.” In a statement, the group said: “The Russian military and intelligence services commit war crimes every day; tolerating this or being silent is tantamount to complicity.”

The head of the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties Oleksandra Matviichuk, who has been involved in talks to arrange previous prisoner swaps, tells TBEN that the “Azov regiment belongs to the National Guard – labeling it a terrorist organization would be like designating all Ukrainian armed forces as a terrorist organization, when in fact they are protecting our country from invading terrorists.”

This article has been translated from German.

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