Britons join neo-Nazi militia in Ukraine

UK facing ‘surging and constantly evolving’ threat from far-right terrorism, watchdog warns

Azov militia
New recruits of the Azov battalion take part in a military oath ceremony in Kiev in 2014
(Image credit: Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

British fighters are travelling to Ukraine to join a neo-Nazi paramilitary group, according to the latest report from an anti-racism watchdog.

Hope Not Hate warns that people linked to the Azov battalion, a militia fighting Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine, are actively recruiting far-right activists from Britain, The Guardian reports.

The militia’s commander, Andriy Biletsky, previously led a hard-right nationalist movement called Patriot of Ukraine. According to The Hill, Biletsky has stated that Ukraine must “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade for their survival … against the Semite-led untermenschen” - a German term from Nazi racial ideology used to describe supposedly inferior people.

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At least two Britons are thought to have travelled to the war-torn country to join the Azov battalion in recent months, says Hope Not Hate.

The watchdog’s annual report warns that the UK is facing a “surging and constantly evolving” threat from far-right terrorism and violent extremism.

“As traditional British far-right groups collapse, far-right-inspired terrorism is on the rise,” the organisation says. “Replacing old-fashioned racial nationalism is anti-Muslim hatred.

“Today’s key activists tend to be younger, operate online and have little of the obvious ‘Nazi’ baggage of their predecessors.”

The publication of the report comes just days after Mark Rowley, the outgoing head of counterterrorism policing in the UK, said the public should be “gravely concerned” about neo-Nazi group National Action.

The now-banned organisation idolises Adolf Hitler, advocates ethnic cleansing and has voiced support for Thomas Mair, the far-right terrorist who murdered Labour MP Jo Cox.

Four right-wing terror plots have been foiled in the past year alone, Assistant Commissioner Rowley revealed.

Nick Lowles, head of Hope Not Hate, says he fears further violence from the extreme right in the months to come, adding: “It is vitally important now that police and the Government do more to crack down on the peddlers of hate and those pushing a civil war rhetoric.”

Responding to the report, Security Minister Ben Wallace said the Government’s Prevent strategy is “successfully fighting back” against the terrorist recruiters, whether they be Islamists, neo-Nazis or other violent extremists.

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