A delegation from Kiev's ultranationalist Azov unit has received heroes' welcome in London
© Telegram / Embassy of the Russian Federation in London
A delegation from Kiev's ultranationalist Azov unit has received heroes' welcome in London this week

Applause given by the British MPs to the members of the notorious Ukrainian ultranationalist 'Azov' unit this week was nothing but a "grotesque spectacle" performed in "poor taste," the Russian embassy in London said on Thursday.

The Russian diplomats were responding to an event, which saw three Azov members visiting London and speaking before a group of parliamentarians at what the unit itself called a "roundtable." The unit, which is banned in Russia as an extremist organization, posted photos of the meeting on its X (formerly Twitter) account, thanking the sponsors of their parliamentary visit.

The event, they said, was chaired by Victoria Prentis MP, attorney general of England and Wales. The Azov statement also specifically thanked Sir John Whittingdale, former minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure; and Bob Seely MP, chair of the UK-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group. All three parliamentarians mentioned by name are members of the Conservative Party.

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was also photographed with the Azov members while holding an Azov banner featuring the Wolfsangel symbol once used by the Waffen-SS Division Das Reich and several Wehrmacht units during WWII. A video that has been circulating on social media shows Johnson urging London to send more weapons and money to Kiev.

In its Thursday, the Russian embassy stated that Azov had gained "worldwide notoriety both for its widespread use of fascist Wolfsangel insignia and despicable war crimes against civilians."

The unit that is currently officially named the 12th Special Forces Brigade Azov of the Ukrainian National Guard was originally a militia set up by the notorious neo-Nazi Andrey Biletsky after the 2014 US-backed coup in Kiev. It was integrated in the Ukrainian National Guard later the same year.

Biletsky was widely recognized as a white supremacist and neo-Nazi before 'Azov' was whitewashed by Western media after the February 2022 escalation of hostilities with Russia. In 2021, TIME magazine described his 'Patriot of Ukraine' organization as a "neo-Nazi terrorist group," whose "manifesto seemed to pluck its narrative straight from Nazi ideology." It was this group that would morph into the "Azov volunteer battalion" in 2014.

The battalion founder himself told TIME back in 2014 that hand-picked the symbols of Azov because they had been "used by Germans" in WWII. The man vanished from the public eye in 2019 but re-appeared again in 2023 when he was seen meeting Ukraine's leader, Vladimir Zelensky.

The unit has been accused by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the UN of multiple human rights abuses, including rape and torture of civilians. In 2018, the US Congress approved a ban on providing funding to the Azov unit due to its neo-Nazi nature.

In 2016, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) issued a lengthy report on war crimes committed by the Ukrainian military and security forces in Donbass. The document mentions then 'Azov' battalion on multiple occasions in context of what was described as "beastly torture" of prisoners, including civilians.