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US Ends Ban on Ukrainian Military Unit for Weapon Use

Photo : AP

The Azov Brigade, a controversial Ukrainian military unit, celebrated the lifting of the United States' decade-long ban on the use of American weapons by the battalion. This move, announced by the State Department on Tuesday, marks a significant reversal by Washington and offers support to Ukraine in countering Russia's battlefield advances.

The Azov Brigade, known for its neo-Nazi origins, has remained one of Kyiv's most battle-hardened and renowned units. In a statement on the Telegram messaging app, the brigade expressed gratitude to the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine for confirming its compliance with U.S. legal requirements, allowing for assistance in the field of security. The brigade described the lifting of restrictions as a result of "long and painstaking work."

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However, Russia swiftly condemned the decision, accusing the U.S. of "flirting" with neo-Nazism. The State Department confirmed the lifting of the ban, citing the Leahy vetting process, which found no evidence of gross violations of human rights by the Azov Brigade.

The Leahy Law prohibits the U.S. Government from providing assistance to foreign security units implicated in gross human rights violations. The timing of the ban's lifting remains unclear.

This decision aligns with recent U.S. actions supportive of Ukraine, including allowing Kyiv to conduct limited strikes inside Russian territory using American weapons. As Russia continues its offensive in eastern Ukraine, the provision of Western weapons and training is seen as crucial for bolstering Ukraine's defense capabilities.

The Azov Brigade has emerged as a symbol of Ukrainian resistance, particularly after its steadfast defense of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol during the 2022 Russian invasion. Despite facing criticism for its ultranationalist roots, the brigade's integration into Ukraine's National Guard has elevated its status within Ukrainian society.

In response to the ban's lifting, Azov commander Denys Prokopenko emphasized the importance of removing obstacles to the brigade's combat effectiveness. Russian propaganda has long vilified the Azov Brigade, portraying its members as exemplifying Ukraine's alleged Nazi leanings.

The Kremlin denounced the decision, accusing the U.S. of exploiting Ukraine and "flirting" with neo-Nazism to advance its own interests. Prominent pro-Kremlin figures labeled the move as sponsorship and encouragement of Nazism, highlighting the ongoing tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine's sovereignty and security.

The lifting of restrictions on the Azov Brigade underscores the complex geopolitical dynamics at play in the region, with Ukraine caught in the crossfire of broader tensions between Russia and the West.

June 11, 2024 5:23 p.m. 418

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