Despite efforts to remove it from the foundation, a Ukrainian far-right group violence with relations with the white supremeists in America is using Facebook to recruit new members, organize violence, and spread its far-right ideology around the world.
Although it banned the Azov movement and its leaders more than a year ago, Facebook continued to profit from the far-right organization’s ads recently placed on Monday.
Since July, Azov, which emerged during the Russian invasion of 2014, has opened at least a dozen new Facebook pages. Alla Zasyadko, a 25-year-old member, used one to place 82 ads on social media, paying Facebook at least $ 3,726, according to the platform’s ad library. Ads were calling for street protests against the Ukrainian government. One of the ads encouraged children to sign up for a patriotic youth training course. Like courses gun training included.
Zasyadko did not respond to a request for comment.
A Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News, “The battalion of Azov is banned on our platforms and we remove content that represents, praises or supports them when we learn about it.”
At the time this story was published, the Azov movement’s main Facebook page, listed as the Ukrainian Legion – a name resembling the movement’s political arm, the National Legion – was still active.
Facebook has been heavily criticized for allowing US right-wing militant organizations to organize and run ads on the platform. Several groups have committed violence in the Black Lives Matter protests, support the civil war, and accused of conspiracy kidnap and kill elected political officials. Facebook to speak last month that it deleted thousands of pages and groups associated with “militarized social movements”. Many of those sites and groups have been taken down after BuzzFeed News drew their attention to Facebook.
But getting rid of right-wing extremists from social media has proven difficult, with many of them reappearing a few days or weeks after being removed.
Facebook banned the Azov movement, which had many supporters of new Nazi beliefs, in April 2019. The company removed a number of pages related to the group, including those run by members. senior executives and the various affiliates they lead.
But as of July 16, this group has operated the new Ukrainian Legion site. This page makes no attempt to disguise that it belongs to the Azov National Legion – it openly discusses the activities and leaders of the National Corps, links to Azov websites and emails, and at the same time posted photos of uniformed members at the torchlight rallies and parades.
Facebook has no reason not to know that the Azov movement is dangerous. After a series of violent attacks on Romans and LGBTQ people across Ukraine by members of the National Corps and its paramilitary street wing, the National Militia, US State Department is named Azov’s National Legion was a “group that hated nationalism.”
Matthew Schaaf, head of the Ukrainian office of the human rights group Freedom House and has closely observed the group, said the Azov movement’s ability to mobilize people through social media poses a threat to society.
Schaaf told BuzzFeed News: “Over the past few years, people joining Azov-affiliated groups have used violence against vulnerable groups in Ukrainian society and intimidated public officials, with social media. Associations serve as an important tool for organizing these actions and sharing their results. . “Many of these assaults were accompanied by before and after propaganda posts on social media.”
Azov entered service in 2014 as a volunteer battalion to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian invasion and separatist proxies. The battalion’s emblem is similar to that of Wolfsangel, the insignia widely used by the German army during WWII. Although Human rights groups have charged the battalion on torture and war crimes in the early months of the Ukraine-Russia conflict, in late 2014, the Ukrainian National Guard merged the Azov battalion into the official group, where it was renamed the regiment of Azov. .
This military unit was once the Kremlin’s favorite fraudster, with Russian President Vladimir Putin using the group to justify his attacks on Ukraine against fascism. Although the group is not widely available in Ukraine, its link to neo-fascism is clear. In 2010, the battalion’s founder, Andriy Biletsky, to speak that Ukraine must “lead the white races of the world in one final crusade … against Semite-led Untermenschen. [subhumans]. “
Unable to contact Biletsky for comment.
While the whole regiment still looked to Biletsky for inspiration, he turned to politics; He served as a member of Ukraine’s parliament from 2014 to 2019 but lost his reelection post. He now heads the National Corps political party, which has been largely unsuccessful in getting its members to elected posts but is using social media to try to bolster support. He was also one of the founders of the movement’s Intermarium project, which built bridges with white nationalists and neo-fascists in Western Europe and America.
Although Facebook previously removed the Intermarium pages, a new Intermarium page was created on September 9. Run by the international secretary of the National Army Corps, Olena Semenyaka, it shared news and information about far-right and neo-Nazi figures in Europe and promoted “cultural” events at the Kyiv office.
After the ban, Semenyaka also reopened Facebook and Instagram accounts under a pseudonym.
Semenyaka did not respond to a request for comment.
Thanks in part to social media, the National Corps has infiltrated with white nationalist groups in the United States, including those based in California. Rise on the movement, whose members participated in the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, but were charged with their actions later. reduction. In April 2018, RAM founder Robert Rundo visited Kyiv and took part in an event hosted by Azov. fighting club. That October, the FBI wrote that it believed Azov was involved in “the training and radicalization of US-based white radical organizations.”
Last month, Ukraine expelled two American neo-fascists affiliated with the US-based Atomwaffen Division, who attempted to form a local branch of the group with Azov warriors to gain “combat experience”.
As Azov used Facebook to expand beyond Ukraine’s borders, experts grew increasingly concerned. “The use of violence and the ability they can assemble a predominantly young male crowd willing to use violence, all facilitated by social media,” Schaaf said. giving them power ”.