Leader of neo-nazi Azov Battalion reportedly killed in Ukraine
Azov Battalion leader Artyom Murakhovsky reportedly killed. Courtesy Morning Star.

Neo-Nazi forces from the notorious Azov Battalion were said to have suffered a heavy defeat in Ukraine on Thursday as fierce fighting continues.

The Donetsk People’s Republic militia claimed to have killed one of the fascist unit’s leaders, Artyom Murakhovsky, during a battle in the city of Avdiivka in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region.

The battalion was also said to have suffered its biggest losses since the Russian invasion began on February 24 in the besieged Black Sea port city of Mariupol.

The Azov Battalion has its headquarters in the city, which it has been defending from Russian troops.

Members of the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion hold a torchlit rally in Kiev. | Efrem Lukatsky / AP

Prior to the war, the neo-nazi regiment had been training locals in Mariupol as part of a citizen’s militia, exercises which received widespread coverage in mainstream Western media.

Most, however, failed to explain that the soldiers photographed showing “babushkas” how to use combat rifles were in fact fascists responsible for horrific crimes in the Donbass region.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has described Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “special operation” aimed at the denazification and demilitarisation of Ukraine.

Western countries have poured scorn on Mr. Putin’s claims, with governments and media organizations, including the BBC in Europe, and almost all major media in the U.S., downplaying the influence of fascist forces in Ukraine.

Discussion regarding the influence of the far right there is often dismissed as “pro-Putin propaganda.”

The Azov Battalion, which was integrated into the Ukrainian Armed Forces in 2014 following the Maidan coup, has links to far-right organizations abroad, including in Germany, which has seen a resurgence in neo-nazi activity, with fascists having infiltrated the country’s police and armed forces.

The Azov Battalion-led forces and other right-wing extremists in the Ukrainian army, acting in the name of the Ukraine government, are so numerous in the East that they were able to kill 15,000 Russian-speaking civilians there since 2014. The bloody war Ukrainians everywhere in the country are experiencing now has actually gone on for a long time with death and destruction coming at the hands not of Russia, but of right-wing Ukrainians. Russians, incredulous when they heard reports that Putin had invaded Ukraine, would say things like “We don’t believe it. It’s only Ukrainians killing Ukrainians.”

Members of Ukraine’s ‘Territorial Defense Forces,’ armed groups formed out of right-wing ‘volunteers,’ train close to Kiev on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022. Ukrainian President Zelensky is encouraging fascist groups to arm themselves more heavily. | Efrem Lukatsky / AP

The West, led by the United States working with Ukrainian allies, has given power to the extreme right in Ukraine, just as they gave power to the right-wing fundamentalists in Afghanistan in the last century. At best, they hoped that by working with the neo-fascists to stage the 2014 coup in Kiev and by allowing them to kill off 15,000 in the east they would be able to weaken opposition to their rule and consolidate their control of the entire country, making it easier to bring Ukraine into the European Union, which, as it does with its poorer members such as Portugal and Greece, would thoroughly exploit them to the benefit of wealthy capitalists, particularly those In Germany.

The problem with trying to make opportunistic use of fascists to gain economic control over a country is that one often creates Frankenstein monsters.

A youngster points a weapon during a basic combat training for civilians, organized by the Special Forces Unit Azov, of Ukraine’s National Guard, in Mariupol, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Feb. 13, 2022. Vadim Ghirda|AP

Adding to this mess created by the U.S. capitalists working with their capitalist allies in Ukraine is the additional mess created by the capitalists in control of Russia when they decided to invade. The Russian action is being used by the extreme right to embolden both their own Ukrainian Nazis and ones coming in from overseas to help them.

According to the latest UN figures 1,081 civilians have been confirmed killed since the Russian invasion began nearly four weeks ago, although it said the death toll is much higher.

A mass grave was found in Mariupol, with the head of the UN human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine Matilda Bogner saying a team was carrying out assessments.

“One mass grave we’ve been able to get satellite information on, and we estimate that one of those graves holds about 200 people,” she said.

The UN said it was also investigating alleged indiscriminate shelling in Donetsk by the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the beating of those perceived to be pro-Russian by the police.


Steve Sweeney
Steve Sweeney

Steve Sweeney writes for Morning Star, the socialist daily newspaper published in Great Britain. He is also a People's Assembly National Committee member, patron of the Peace in Kurdistan campaign, and a proud trade unionist. Steve Sweeney escribe para Morning Star, el diario socialista publicado en Gran Bretaña. También es miembro del Comité Nacional de la Asamblea Popular, patrocinador de la campaña Paz en Kurdistán y un orgulloso sindicalista.

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.