Mounting proof Canada skilled Ukrainian extremists, gov’t must be held to account: specialists

By Christy Somos, author

Click on right here for updates on this story

    Toronto, Canada (CTV Community) — With mounting proof pointing to the Canadian Armed Forces having skilled members of Ukraine’s navy who’re additionally reported to be a part of extremist teams, specialists say Ottawa must strongly bolster its investigation and vetting of the troopers it trains and arms within the embattled nation.

The Division of Nationwide Defence promised an intensive evaluate of Canada’s mission in Ukraine after approached them for remark in October 2021, relating to a report from George Washington College that discovered extremists within the Ukrainian navy had been bragging about being skilled by Canadians as a part of Operation UNIFIER.

The group in query – which calls itself Navy Order Centuria, or just Centuria, has hyperlinks to the far-right Azov motion.

The Canadian navy mentioned they had been alarmed by the report and denied any information that extremists had taken half in coaching, including that it doesn’t have the mandate to display screen the troopers they practice from different nations.

Within the month that adopted, an investigation by the Ottawa Citizen discovered that not solely did Canadian officers meet and get briefed by leaders from the Azov Battalion in 2018, they didn’t denounce the unit’s neo-Nazi beliefs – regardless of being warned about their views by their colleagues– and their most important concern was that media would expose that the assembly had taken place. Officers and diplomats allowed themselves to be photographed with battalion officers which was then used on-line by Azov as propaganda.

The federal authorities, which has spent greater than $890 million coaching Ukrainian forces by way of Operation UNIFIER, has repeatedly pressured that it has not and won’t ever practice troopers affiliated with Azov.

Nonetheless, a latest investigation by Radio Canada into paperwork associated to Canada’s mission in Ukraine discovered proof that troopers from the Azov regiment, recognized by patches on their clothes and different insignias, have participated in coaching with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) as lately as 2020 on the western-backed Zolochiv coaching centre in Western Ukraine.

In a collection of messages to, a spokesperson for the Azov regiment at present combating in Mariupol, Ukraine mentioned they had been excluded as a gaggle from coaching with Canadian instructors in Op. UNIFIER however that they “wrote a program” for their very own programs and “had been instructors in all disciplines within the Nationwide Guard of Ukraine coaching centre,” confirming Radio Canada’s earlier reporting.

The spokesperson didn’t deal with questions associated to particular person Azov regiment members receiving coaching by way of Op. UNIFIER.

Nonetheless was capable of finding proof on the social media account of Azov regiment chief Kyrylo Berkal, name signal “Kirt,” of members coaching with Canadian instructors, the place they confer with “cooperation” with Op. UNIFIER in 2019. Berkal’s social media options Nazi symbols and different extremist views. requested the federal government whether or not it might re-evaluate its particular relationship with Ukraine, its coaching mandates for Op. UNIFIER or evaluate the deadly help being despatched to Ukraine in gentle of the latest studies. A spokesperson for the Canadian Joint Operations Command of the CAFs mentioned in a press release emailed to earlier this month that “all members deploying on Operation UNIFIER are briefed to assist them acknowledge patches and insignia related to right-wing extremism.”

The assertion mentioned that if Canadian troopers “suspect” their Ukrainian friends or counterparts maintain racist views or belong to right-wing extremist parts they “are eliminated instantly.”

Nonetheless the assertion reiterated that in relation to vetting international troopers; “there isn’t a burden of proof on the CAF to reveal this past an inexpensive doubt.”

The CAF mentioned it takes “each affordable measure” to make sure no coaching is supplied to extremists, however the assertion mentioned “Ukraine is a sovereign nation” accountable for recruiting and vetting its personal safety forces.

Addressing considerations that extremist parts within the Ukrainian navy now have entry to a lot deadlier firepower due to nations like Canada arming Ukraine for the reason that Russian invasion, the CAF mentioned that donations of navy help are supplied “completely” to the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine and that these donations are “managed with finish customers certificates supplied by the MoD of Ukraine.”

Christian Leuprecht, safety analyst and professor on the Royal Navy Faculty and Queen’s College, mentioned “Canadians don’t get to select who they do and don’t practice” on advise and help missions just like the one in Ukraine.

“Anytime you have got a nationalist sort battle, you’re going to have extremists. You’re going to have individuals who maintain extremist views engaged within the battle,” Leuprecht mentioned in a phone interview with “In order that’s not explicit to Ukraine, and I believe the issue that Canadians have is in that mission don’t have the luxurious to select and select…. both you’re within the mission otherwise you’re not.”

Leuprecht mentioned Canada’s navy assets are too stretched to arrange a vetting mechanism in Ukraine, and that the federal government would have needed to weigh the dangers of working a coaching mission.

“When it comes to the grand trade-off, it’s by no means acceptable to have extremists in our midst,” he mentioned. “On the similar time, if you’re coaching lots of or hundreds of individuals over six-and-a-half years in an jap European nation, it’s unavoidable that you just’re going to get some of us who’re xenophobic or extremists.”

Nonetheless, Leuprecht mentioned when the navy resumes Op. UNIFIER, there must be critical conversations about learn how to take care of the Azov motion and different far-right battalions being lionized as defenders of Ukraine after the conflict, swelling their ranks.

“We’ve clearly learnt some exhausting classes right here that make us all uncomfortable as Canadians…if or after we re-engage with Ukraine on the advise and help mission, how is it not going to allow this battalion particularly or people who find themselves affiliated with it,” he mentioned. “It will likely be an vital query going ahead exactly of the heroic standing that the battalion may have taken on.” WHAT IS THE AZOV MOVEMENT ABOUT?

The Azov motion was created in 2014 in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and was predominantly a paramilitary unit of radical nationalists, which – together with its founder and chief Andriy Biletsky—overtly espoused anti-Semitic and different far-right ideology. The motion has attacked anti-fascist demonstrations, metropolis council conferences, media shops, artwork exhibitions, international college students, the LGBTQ2S+ neighborhood and Roma folks.

A 2016 report issued by the Workplace of the UN’s Excessive Commissioner for Human Rights particulars accusations towards the Azov motion’s militia generally known as the “Azov Battalion” of torture and different conflict crimes within the ensuing battle in 2014. The Ukrainian Nationwide Guard later took the Azov Battalion into its ranks – the place it’s now extra generally generally known as the Azov Regiment.

More moderen efforts to distance the present iteration of the Azov regiment by politicians and lecturers from its notorious roots and present ties to the far-right “are in distinction to vital details,” in keeping with investigative journalist and the unique writer of the report into Centuria, Oleksiy Kuzmenko in a collection of emails despatched to

“The Azov Regiment is clearly a extremely succesful unit of the Nationwide Guard of Ukraine. For my part it’s a extremely professionalized wing of the Azov motion included into the Nationwide Guard of Ukraine, but it surely’s not depoliticized, neither is it only a common unit as some declare,” he mentioned.

Kuzmenko mentioned the unit proudly carries recognizable far proper symbols on its insignia and continues to be intently tied to the bigger, internationally energetic far-right Azov motion and its political wing the Nationwide Corps get together. He additionally mentioned he was not conscious of the Ukrainian military doing any vetting for extremism in its ranks.

The Nationwide Corps get together is “overtly hostile to liberal democracy, common voting rights [and] minority rights,” Kuzmenko mentioned. “The get together isn’t explicitly neo-Nazi however the Azov motion contains explicitly neo-Nazi parts. To be clear, the Nationwide Corps get together has almost negligible electoral help however on the similar time it has lengthy loved impunity for violence.”

Kuzmenko mentioned that those that push for “absolution” of the Regiment from its far-right heritage and hyperlinks “seemingly need the general public to consider that its evident ties to the Azov motion, its use of far-right, white nationalist symbols and many others. don’t imply something,” he mentioned. “In the event you purchase that, I’ve a bridge to promote you.”

Nonetheless, Kuzmenko mentioned it was vital to notice that many Ukrainians who don’t help far-right ideology had joined up with models bearing variations of the Azov title since Russia invaded, eager to defend their nation – however the Nationwide Corps get together is making efforts to teach newcomers in its ideology.

“I consider that present claims…that the [Azov] Regiment isn’t far-right….are supposed to make help for these fighters extra palatable to the West,” Kuzmenko mentioned. “And to bury the truth that the federal government of Ukraine has lengthy embraced a far-right navy unit as a part of the Nationwide Guard of Ukraine.”

Nonetheless, Kuzmenko mentioned he doesn’t assume there’s any motive “why it must be exhausting to overtly admit that these forces… [are] very a lot far-right and that they (the Azov motion) are additionally valiantly combating Russia whose brutality [and] crimes dwarf …the hazard the far-right pose to Ukraine.”

Russia’s causes for invading Ukraine included references to “de-Nazify” the nation, with President Vladimir Putin focusing on the Azov motion in his remarks. This has made criticism of the Ukrainian navy, Op. UNIFIER and even the Azov Regiment a fraught topic.

In a press release emailed to, the Government Director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Community Evan Balgord mentioned the group didn’t need to contribute to “the Russian narrative that Ukraine or the Ukrainian military are Nazis…Azov doesn’t characterize Ukraine.”

Nonetheless, Balgord mentioned “it must be the standing coverage of the CAF to research any militias they intend to coach and arm in order that they by no means practice or arm neo-Nazis or their equivalents. They need to by no means have skilled and armed Azov. The folks within the CAF who determined to satisfy with them and lend them help, realizing they had been neo-Nazis, ought to face self-discipline.”

A press release emailed to from the NDP International Affairs Critic Heather McPherson about Canada’s coaching of Azov members struck the same tone. Nonetheless, the assertion did embrace requires powerful inquiries to be answered by Ottawa.

“The federal government mentioned they wouldn’t practice the Azov Battalion, but pictures point out they did. Reporting has additionally proven that the CAF had considerations about assembly with them, but they nonetheless met with them,” the assertion continues. “There’s a clear want for accountability and transparency on how these selections had been made with the federal government’s promised evaluate. Merely saying the federal government wasn’t conscious or weren’t accountable for vetting just isn’t an appropriate response when there have been Nazi symbols seen on the uniforms of some troopers.”

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence didn’t reply to’s a number of requests for remark by time of publication.


As Canada and its allies proceed to funnel weapons and help to Ukraine, the query of legal responsibility hangs within the air. If a member of the Ukrainian navy who has extremist views or is a part of a gaggle like Centuria or the Azov Regiment – commits a criminal offense with coaching or weapons supplied by Canada, the place does the blame lie?

The reply is sophisticated and has a number of ranges, in keeping with Professor of Constitutional and Worldwide Regulation on the College of Ottawa, Errol Mendes.

Beginning on the worldwide degree, Mendes used the instance of Canada promoting arms to Saudi Arabia, for which he famous Canada has been accused by human rights organizations previously of violating the Arms Commerce Treaty, by offering weapons to a authorities that has a recognized historical past for human rights violations.

“How does this then apply to Ukraine if among the weapons which were despatched find yourself with the Azov Regiment or any group which will come underneath scrutiny for allegations of conflict crimes?” he mentioned in a phone interview with “The distinction is that the arms had been despatched to Saudi Arabia underneath the auspices of the Saudi authorities which is well-known to have been concerned in human rights violations – might one say the identical factor about Ukraine?”

A step down from the worldwide degree, Mendes says, is to find out how vital was the federal government of Ukraine and Canada’s involvement within the coaching and the gross sales of the weapons.

“How a lot command accountability have they got for any of the violations underneath the Geneva Conventions and underneath worldwide humanitarian regulation generally? Command Duty is the place it’s important to show, if this ever ended up in a court docket of regulation, and assess what are the duties of the navy leaders in Ukraine after which the political leaders they report back to?” he mentioned. “Did they know? Did they do something to cease the acts from being dedicated? It actually boils all the way down to the extent of information that the suitable commanders and people they report back to on the political degree.”

Mendes mentioned it might be a troublesome promote legally to show that Canada is accountable for actions carried out by Ukrainian troopers they skilled or armed.

“In that state of affairs it’s important to determine not solely those that have precise command accountability, however whether or not anyone else had been doubtlessly aiding them… and will one then make the argument that if Canada knew [about the extremists], might they be seen as aiding in that sense, that may be topic to clearly lots of evidentiary necessities to be proved,” Mendes mentioned.

Mendes mentioned Canada ought to deal with supporting the Ukrainian prosecution workplace and oversight mechanisms to “assist the navy command take care of the unfavourable far-right forces within the military.”

Please be aware: This content material carries a strict native market embargo. In the event you share the identical market because the contributor of this text, you might not apply it to any platform.


Supply hyperlink