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MOSCOW, January 31 (Sputnik) - A group of fighters from Ukraine's infamous Azov Regiment have been shown posing with a portrait of Adolf Hitler, the Russian television channel Zvezda reports.
The group photo, published on Facebook by a user calling himself "Weiss Kampfer," (German for "White Combatant") shows a group of eleven young men standing bare-chested, and another in a t-shirt featuring the official symbol of the battalion, which incorporates runic characters used by Nazi German SS units during the Second World War. A soldier in the center of the photo holds a portrait of the late German Fuhrer.
Facebook and Twitter users were quick to voice their hostility over the photo, one user noting sarcastically "I say, there are no fascists in Ukraine –it's all Putin propaganda." Others said that they hoped that the fighters from the Regiment would soon come to meet the DNR and LNR militia on the battlefield, alluding to the battalion's poor training.
The all-volunteer Azov regiment is widely reported to be among the most brutal of Ukraine's National Guard units. They formed as a battalion April 2014 and since then have expanded into a regiment. The fighting unit is equipped with heavy weapons, and is believed to have done much of the fighting against the separatist units in Ukraine's southeast. The regiment is known to be composed of unrepentant fascists and nationalists, listing its ideology as "social nationalist" and includes Ukrainian and foreign volunteers. The regiment uses Nazi German runic symbolism for its flag. Eastern Ukrainian and Russian commentators have accused the battalion of widespread abuse and of committing war crimes against the civilian population. The regiment is believed to be based in Mariupol. The group's commander, Andriy Biletskiy, was quoted by the BBC in September 2014 condemning the first cease-fire in Minsk; he commented, "if it was a tactical move there is nothing wrong with it... if it's an attempt to reach an agreement concerning Ukrainian soil with separatists then obviously it's a betrayal."
Earlier this week, members of the regiment, which has sluggishly denied its association with outright fascism and Nazism, was caught in a 'training' dance featuring Nazi salutes.
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