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Israel Has Been Selling Firearms to Ukraine

The arms ended up being used by neo-Nazis, human right groups argue in a petition asking for the trade to stop.

11 July 2018

Human rights groups have filed a petition with the Israeli High Court of Justice asking Israel to stop selling firearms to the Ukrainian government. They argue that the weapons end up being used by openly neo-Nazi groups such as the Azov militia, which are part of the Ukrainian army, and which display national socialist symbols such as the swastika and the Nazi salute, Haaretz reports.


Founded in Ukraine after Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, the Azov battalion gained the reputation of being one of the best fighting units in the war against pro-Russian separatists, TOL’s Tatiana Kozak wrote in 2016. Several Ukrainian politicians have been linked to the battalion, such as Serhiy Taruta, a former governor of the Donetsk province and a wealthy oligarch; Roman Zvarych, a justice minister in the government of ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych with links with the Ukrainian diaspora in the United States; and controversial Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.


Earlier this month, The Real News Network raised similar allegations concerning the final destination of some weapons sent to Ukraine, citing work by journalist Asa Winstanley that detailed incidents of the Azov battalion posting videos online showing members using Israeli Tavor rifles.


A member of Azov Battalion mans a heavy-machine gun while on patrol. Image via Carl Ridderstrale/Wikimedia Commons.


“The Tavor rifle is one of the most distinctive weapons in the Israeli arsenal. It is the standard issue rifle for Israeli soldiers … So there’s no mistake here. This is clearly an Israeli weapon, and it reflects what was seen in the Israeli Defense Ministry documents which were turned up by Israeli human rights lawyers and were obtained by Asa …,” journalist Max Blumenthal told The Real News.


Although the extent of the collaboration between Israel and Ukraine has not been publicized, the petition submitted by the human rights activists provides “abundant evidence showing the arming of the Ukrainian regime and its Azov forces,” writes Haaretz.


Neo-Nazi groups have vandalized Jewish memorial sites, and nationalist groups have assaulted members of Ukraine’s sexual minority and Roma groups.


“We reported all the vandalism acts against the Jewish people to the police and prosecutors, but in four years not a single anti-Semitism case has been investigated and taken to the court. So we really can’t even say which acts were Russian provocations [to stir up trouble], and which were really anti-Semitism,” Josef Zisels, chairman of the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine said, as quoted by The Kyiv Post.



  • The Azov militia forms the military wing of the Azov movement, which is led by Andriy Biletsky, the former head of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi Social-National Party, who is now an elected member of parliament. The militia is the creation of Azov’s political wing, the National Corpus, and is now 3,000 members strong.


  • The rise of the Azov battalion has coincided with a surge in attacks against Ukrainian Roma. In late June, one man was killed when masked men attacked a Roma camp near Lviv in western Ukraine in the fifth attack of its kind in two months. The suspects told police they belonged to an organization called “Sober and angry youth.”


  • The Kyiv Post reports that there is no separate article on hate crime in the Ukrainian criminal code, potentially emboldening certain groups to engage in vandalism or assaults.

Compiled by Tyler Haughn

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