October 4, 2022


The Supreme Court of Russia announced on Tuesday of Ukraine The Azov Regiment is a terrorist organization, a designation that could lead to terrorism charges against some of the captured fighters who last stop inside the Mariupoli steelworks.

Dozens of Azov fighters have been held by Moscow since their surrender in mid-May. Russian authorities opened criminal cases against them, accusing them of killing civilians. Adding terrorism charges could mean even longer prison terms.

In a statement, the Azov Constitution rejected the Supreme Court’s decision, accusing Russia of “seeking new justifications and explanations for war crimes.” He urged the US and other countries to declare Russia a terrorist state.

Azov soldiers played a key role in the defense of Mariupol, holding out for weeks in the southern port city’s steel mill despite punishing attacks by Russian forces. Ukraine’s president hailed them and other defenders at the plant as heroes.

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Members of Ukraine’s Azov Battalion regiment pray in Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, March 11, 2022, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

SERGEY BOBOK/AFP/Getty


Moscow has repeatedly portrayed the Azov Regiment as a Nazi group and accused it of atrocities, although no evidence to support these claims has been made public. In May, Russia’s Prosecutor General’s office filed a motion to designate the regiment a terrorist organization.

The regiment, a unit of the National Guard of Ukraine, has a checkered history. It was developed by a group called the Azov Battalion, formed in 2014 as one of several volunteer brigades assembled to fight Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The Azov Battalion drew its original fighters from far-right circles and drew criticism for some of its tactics. Its current members have rejected accusations of extremism.

The constitution’s far-right origins have been seized upon by the Kremlin as part of its attempt to cast the Russian invasion as a battle against Nazi influence in Ukraine. Russian state media has repeatedly shown what it claimed were Nazi insignia, literature and tattoos linked to the constitution.

Last week, dozens of Ukrainian captured soldiers, including defenders of the Mariupol factory, were killed in an explosion at a barracks in a prison colony in Olenivka, an eastern town controlled by pro-Russian separatists. Moscow and Kyiv have blamed each other for the explosion, with Kyiv saying Russia blew up the barracks to cover up torture of prisoners.


Documenting the devastation on the front lines of the war in Ukraine

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Meanwhile, the the first cargo ship to leave Ukraine since Russia’s invasion more than five months ago was off the coast of Bulgaria on Tuesday as it headed for Istanbul and its final destination, Lebanon, testing an agreement signed last month by Moscow and Kyiv to unblock Ukraine’s agricultural exports and ease the global food crisis.

An estimated 20 million tons of grain have been stuck in Ukraine since the start of the war. The UN-brokered agreement to release the grain calls for the creation of safe corridors through mined waters outside Ukraine’s ports.

The Razoni, which sailed from the Black Sea port of Odessa on Monday with more than 26,000 tons of corn, was expected to arrive in Istanbul early Wednesday for inspection by Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN officials. Other ships from Ukraine are expected to follow.

In Odessa alone, at least 16 more ships, all blocked by Russia’s February 24 invasion, were waiting their turn, Ukrainian authorities said.

Global food prices have soared in a crisis caused by war, global supply chain problems and COVID-19. While Ukraine — and Russia — are the world’s major suppliers of wheat, barley, corn and sunflower oil, the deal alone may not reduce world hunger.

Most of the grain stuck in Ukraine is intended for animal feed, according to David Laborde, an expert at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington. Only 6 million tons is wheat, and only half of that is for human consumption, Laborde said. He said Monday’s shipment is actually chicken feed.

“A few ships leaving Ukraine is not going to change the game,” he said.

The ship’s departure came amid ongoing fighting, especially in southern and eastern Ukraine.



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