The Ukrainian Azov regiment defended the port city of Mariupol. Now the Russian judiciary classifies them as a terrorist organization. Prisoners of war face long prison sentences, possibly even death. Regiment officials accuse Russia of justifying killing their soldiers.
Russia's Supreme Court has declared the Ukrainian Azov regiment, which for weeks defended the port city of Mariupol, which fell in mid-May, a "terrorist organization". The court in Moscow granted a corresponding application by the General Prosecutor's Office. The classification is important because members of the Azov regiment are in Russian captivity and could therefore be sentenced under Russian law.
However, it is also possible that the Azov fighters and other captured Ukrainians will be put on trial by the self-proclaimed authorities in the eastern Ukrainian separatist region of Donetsk. There, the Moscow-backed rulers have reintroduced the death penalty.
The nationalist regiment has repeatedly served as justification for Moscow's more than five-month-long war of aggression and for claims that it is supposedly "ridding" Ukraine of "fascists." In fact, international experts largely agree that nationalists and right-wing extremists make up only a fraction of Ukraine's fighters.
Representatives of the Azov regiment reacted to the classification with the accusation that Russia was trying to justify the killing of the prisoners of war in Olenivka. When a prison facility near Olenivka in the separatist area was shelled last week, more than 50 Ukrainians who were held there as prisoners of war were killed. Many of the dead belonged to the Azov regiment. Kyiv and Moscow blame each other for the shelling.