Nazi symbols are commonplace in photographs of Ukrainian troops approved by the president
On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky posted a photo of a soldier wearing the insignia of a notorious Nazi SS division on his official Instagram account. The post, which is part of a series celebrating Ukraine’s Independence Day, was not the first piece of Nazi iconography Zelensky shared.
Zelensky posted the image to Instagram early Wednesday. In it, a Ukrainian soldier carrying a rifle displays the standard of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, also known as the 1st Galician Division.
Composed mostly of Ukrainian volunteers from the Galicia region (spanning what is now southwestern Poland and western Ukraine), the division is known to have committed war crimes against Polish civilians during World War II.
The Ukrainian soldier, identified by Zelensky as “Mikhail”, also wears the crest of the 49th Rifle Battalion of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, named after the nationalist “Carpathian Sich” militia of the 1930s. Carpathians were also members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, led by Nazi collaborator and war criminal Stepan Bandera.
Bandera is considered a hero by Ukrainian nationalists and openly celebrated by senior Ukrainian officials.
Zelensky’s post also includes a photo of Sergey Volynsky, also known as Volyna, who commanded a marine unit attached to the Azov Regiment in Mariupol earlier this summer. The Azov Regiment, a neo-Nazi militia integrated into the Ukrainian army in 2014, was destroyed after a prolonged siege at the Azovstal steel plant in the coastal city and its members were killed or captured. Volynsky is currently in custody.
Zelensky has previously posted images of his soldiers wearing Third Reich insignia. In a post on several social media platforms celebrating Nazi Germany’s defeat in 1945, Ukraine’s president included a photo of one of his soldiers wearing the ‘skull’ or ‘totenkopf’ insignia. , of the 3rd SS Panzer Division. This division was heavily composed of former concentration camp guards and was responsible for many massacres of French civilians and Polish Jews.
Ukraine is the only country in the world to have openly integrated neo-Nazi militias into its national army, and while these militias were once describe by western media like “neo-nazi” we call them now “extreme right groups”. Since the entry of Russian troops into Ukraine in February, hiding places of Nazi paraphernalia were found in the homes and bases of these militia members, and Ukrainian government-run social media accounts also posted images of soldiers wearing Nazi and far-right clothing symbols.
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