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 Wiesenthal Centre to Nantes Mayor: “Ban Reportedly Neo-Nazi Azov Battalion Meeting Bent on Recruitment of French Youth”

“This danger to the youth of Nantes is equal only to recruitment to ISIS. Nantes must not be a way-station to either Donets or to Damascus.”

In a letter to Nantes Mayor, Johanna Roland, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, drew attention to “a troubling meeting to be convened in Nantes on 16 January by supporters of the Ukrainian Azov Battalion.”

Samuels stressed that “the Wiesenthal Centre takes no position regarding the current Ukrainian-Russian confrontation... Nevertheless, we are disturbed by reports of neo-Nazi influence among the Azov recruits. Indeed Canada and the United States have blocked any training for this Unit, which they apparently thereby designate as 'neo-Nazi'.”

The letter cited British correspondents from the Guardian and the Telegraph newspapers: “A majority of the Unit's members can be labelled as neo-Nazi:

- in iconizing 'Hitler as a great military leader' and in denying the Holocaust
- in claiming that 'Putin is a Jew'
- by the Wolfsangel (Wolfs Hook) logo on their banner and swastika tattoos
- in quotes from the Unit's leader, Colonel Andrey Biletzky, that his historic mission is 'a crusade against the Semite-led 'Untermenschen'[subhumans]... the struggle for the liberation of the entire White race', and threats to 'vigorously punish sexual perversions and inter-racial contacts'.”

Samuels also quoted Mark Galeotti, a New York University security expert, who sees this Battalion of volunteers as “a magnet to attract fringe elements from across Ukraine and beyond.”

The letter highlighted that “Azov has already recruited far right  radicals from Belarus, Croatia, Serbia, Sweden and ironically – their declared enemy – Russia. A Swedish sniper member has, reportedly, announced his planned move on from Azov to Syria to fight for Assad,” emphasizing that, “most importantly, the Azov Battalion has a French instructor, Gaston Besson, who is working to recruit young volunteers from France over the Internet.”

Samuels lamented that “all of this is so far from the Maidan Spring in Kiev, which launched a struggle for liberal democracy in Ukraine...This is even further removed from the spirit of Nantes, the host of the World Forum for Human Rights, which our Centre often attends.”

The Centre urged the Mayor “that Nantes ban this Azov Battalion supporters' conclave as a danger to the youth of France, equal only to their recruitment to ISIS.”

“Nantes must not be a way-station to either Donets or to Damascus”,  concluded Samuels.