Gov’t Spox says ‘It was wrong and inappropriate’ – Greek City Times

“It was wrong and inappropriate to record a message from a member of the Azov battalion,” government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s speech to the Greek parliament.

Zelensky delivered his video address in the presence of the President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the main opposition leader of the SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the opposition faction Movement for Change (KINAL) Michalis Katrinis and the representative of MeRA25 Giorgos Logiadis. The factions of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), MeRA25 and the right-wing Elliniki Lysi were absent.

However, controversy arose when Zelensky enclosed a video message from a member of the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion who claimed to be Greek.

The appearance of the neo-Nazi fighter prompted Nikos Filis, Thodoris Dritsas and Yiannis Giolas from the SYRIZA MP to leave the session.

“The speech of members of the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion in the Greek Parliament is a challenge. You spoke of a history day, but it’s a historical disgrace. Solidarity with the Ukrainian people goes without saying. But the Nazi cannot have a say in parliament,” said SYRIZA boss Alexis Tsipras.

Following this, government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said: “It was wrong and inappropriate to record a message from a member of the Azov battalion.”

For his part, the Azov battalion fighter, who claimed to be Greek but could not speak Greek, said in Ukrainian: “I address you as Greek.”

“My name is Michael, my grandfather fought against the Nazis in the war, I was born in Mariupol and I take part in the city’s defense,” he added.

The Azov Battalion is based in Mariupol and has long been leading a campaign of terror against civilians, including the 120,000 Greeks who live in the port city and surrounding villages, including Sartana.

As Russian troops besiege Mariupol, home to more than 120,000 ethnic Greeks, SKAI News spoke to a Mr. Kiouranas who lives in the city and revealed that Ukrainian “fascists” are killing people trying to leave the city.

At the request of SKAI News when planning to leave town, Kiouranas would reply, “How can I go? If you try to leave, you run the risk of encountering a patrol of Ukrainian fascists, the Azov Battalion.”

“You would kill me and you are responsible for everything,” he added.

Who is the Azov battalion?

The Azov Special Operations Command (Ukrainian: Окремий загін спеціального призначення «Азов») or Azov Battalion is a far-right neo-Nazi unit of Ukraine’s National Guard based in Mariupol in the coastal region of the Azov Sea.

In 2014, the regiment rose to prominence following allegations of torture and war crimes, as well as neo-Nazi sympathies and use of associated symbols by the regiment itself, as seen in their logo featuring the Wolfsangel, one of the regiment’s original symbols 2nd SS -Panzerdivision Das Reich.

Azov Battalion officials say the symbol is an acronym for the slogan Ідея Нації (Ukrainian for “National Idea”) and deny any connection to Nazism.

In 2014, a regiment spokesman said that around 10-20% of the unit were neo-Nazis.

In 2018, a provision in a budget law passed by the US Congress blocked military aid to Azov due to its white supremacist ideology; In 2015, a similar ban on aid to the group was lifted by Congress.

The members of the regiment come from 22 countries and have different backgrounds.

The unit’s first commander was far-right nationalist Andriy Biletsky, who headed the neo-Nazi Social National Assembly and Patriot of Ukraine.

In its early days, Azov was a special police company of the Interior Ministry headed by Volodymyr Shpara, leader of the Vasylkiv, Kyiv, branch of the Patriot of Ukraine and Right Sector.

In 2018, the US House of Representatives also passed a provision banning any training of Azov members by American forces, citing its neo-Nazi connections.

The House had previously passed amendments banning Azov support between 2014 and 2017, but due to pressure from the Pentagon, the changes were quietly rescinded.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center protested that the lifting of the ban highlighted the danger of Holocaust distortion in Ukraine.

READ MORE: Who is the Pontic Greek fighting the Azov Battalion in Mariupol?

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