Azov fighters are neo-Nazis and Ottawa had to know this, Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Efraim Zuroff has told Canadian media.
The director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel has condemned Canadian troops for training neo-Nazi fighters in Ukraine, saying it was Ottawa’s responsibility to make sure such things did not happen. The Canadian military, however, denied any obligation to vet the training recipients.
“The Canadian government didn’t do its due diligence,” Efraim Zuroff told the Ottawa Citizen on Wednesday. “It’s the responsibility of the Canadian Defense Ministry to know exactly who they are training.
“There is no question that there are neo-Nazis in different forms in Ukraine, whether they are in the Azov regiment or other organizations,” he added.
His comments came after a Radio Canada report on Monday that, back in November 2020, Canadian troops were photographed training members of the “Azov” regiment as well as a at least one soldier bearing the insignia of the SS division “Galizien,” a Ukrainian unit that fought for the Nazis in WWII.
The Canadian military acknowledged the photos’ authenticity, the Ottawa Citizen reported. However, Canadian Forces (CAF) denied having an obligation to vet the soldiers it was training.
Ukraine is responsible for vetting its own personnel, Captain Veronique Sabourin told the newspaper. All Canadian military members training Ukrainian troops were briefed on how to recognize insignia “associated with right-wing extremism,” and if they suspected such ties or “racist views” the trainees would be removed. However, “There is no burden of proof on the CAF to demonstrate this beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has vocally supported Ukraine since February 24, when Russia sent troops into the neighboring country on a mission to “demilitarize and denazify” the government in Kiev. Governments and media across the West have since also begun to insist that claims about “Azov” and other units of the Ukrainian military having Nazi sympathies was “Russian disinformation.”
“It’s not Russian propaganda, far from it,” Zuroff told the Citizen. “These people are neo-Nazis. There is an element of the ultra-right in Ukraine and it’s absurd to ignore it.”
Canada has reportedly spent nearly a billion dollars (US$794 million) on training Ukrainian troops since the 2014 coup in which Western-backed nationalists overthrew the country’s democratically-elected government. Neo-Nazi fighters were instrumental regime-change operation, and the Azov Battalion was used to suppress dissent afterward.
According to the Citizen, Canada’s Joint Task Force Ukraine actually produced a briefing in 2017 noting that “multiple members of Azov have described themselves as Nazis.”