Azov Brigade
© AFP / Roman PilipeyAzov Brigade
Washington's decision to greenlight the use of US-supplied weapons by Kiev's notorious Azov Brigade is a desperate move that only reinforces Russia's claim that it is fighting neo-Nazism in Ukraine, Michael Maloof, a former senior security policy analyst at the US Department of Defense, has told RT.

On Monday, the US State Department scrapped a ban on deliveries of arms to the Azov Brigade, which had been imposed by Congress in 2018 over the unit's ties to neo-Nazism. According to the agency, a recent review has found "no evidence" of the military formation being in violation of the Leahy Law, which prohibits Washington from aiding foreign security force units that violate human rights with impunity.

"Clearly, the Azov group didn't go from sinners to saints overnight," Maloof said in an interview on Tuesday. "There still is a list of atrocities that they had committed, human rights abuses... you still see them marching around as a group with their symbols, with their camaraderie and their discipline in support of fascism."

This change of stance on the Azov Brigade by Washington means "you no longer can really believe anything the State Department says, let alone the intelligence community," he stressed.

According to the former Pentagon official, the US move is "a sign of desperation" and a belated attempt to "bolster morale" among Ukrainians amid Russian gains on the front line this year.

"I question the rationale of wanting to continue to support a Nazi outfit like this because the war is basically lost already. To support the Azov just adds fuel to the fire... and reinforces and bolsters Russia's point of view that this is about fighting Nazism in Ukraine," he said.

Maloof noted that the Azov fighters "haven't really performed" in combat; they were defeated by Russian forces in the battle for Mariupol early in the conflict. It is unlikely that they would do any better if they are armed with American weapons, he believes.

The lifting of the ban by the US is "an effort to just prick the Russians because of their adamant opposition to Nazism," which wouldn't lead to any changes on the battlefield, the former Pentagon official stressed.

Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that Moscow's attitude towards Washington giving weapons to "ultra-nationalist armed units" like the Azov Brigade was "extremely negative." The US wants to "suppress" Russia so much that it is ready to go as far as to begin "flirting with neo-Nazis," he said.