Azov Battalion

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Azov Battalion
AZOV logo.png
Fullname: The Special Operations Detachment "Azov"
Origin: Ukraine
Foundation: 5 May 2014 – present
Goals: to deflect the Ukrainian lands from the hands of the separatists

The Special Operations Detachment "Azov", often known as Azov Battalion, Azov Regiment, or Azov Detachment, (Ukrainian: Полк Азов) is a Ukrainian National Guard regiment, based in Mariupol in the Azov Sea coastal region. It saw its first combat experience recapturing Mariupol from pro-Russian separatists forces in June 2014. Initially formed as a volunteer militia on 5 May 2014 during the 2014 Ukrainian crisis, on 12 November 2014, Azov was incorporated into the National Guard of Ukraine. All regiment members were contract soldiers serving in the National Guard of Ukraine.

Since its inception, the regiment lost 43 soldiers in the course of the War in Donbass. In 2014, it gained notoriety after allegations emerged of torture and war crimes, as well as neo-Nazi sympathies and usage of associated symbols by the regiment itself, as seen in their logo featuring the Wolfsangel, one of the original symbols used by the German Nazi Party. In 2014, around 10-20% of the unit were neo-Nazis. The U.S. Congress passed legislation in 2018 blocking military aid to Azov on the grounds of its white supremacist ideology. Members of the regiment come from 22 countries and are of various backgrounds.

More than half of the regiment's members speak Russian and come from eastern Ukraine, including cities of Donetsk and Luhansk. The regiment's first commander was far-right nationalist Andriy Biletsky, who led the neo-Nazi Social-National Assembly and Patriot of Ukraine. In its early days, Azov was the Ministry of Internal Affairs' special police company, led by Volodymyr Shpara, the leader of the Vasylkiv, Kiev, branch of Patriot of Ukraine and Right Sector. Under the "Azov" umbrella were also created the non-governmental organization "Azov Civil Corps" and the political party National Corps.