On Monday the 173rd Airborne Brigade begins collaborating with ill-trained troops in Ukraine under the banner of Fearless Guardian, billed as an international military exercise.
The United States military is “conducting classes on war-fighting functions” as “part of our ongoing efforts to help sustain Ukraine’s defense and internal security operations,” the Pentagon explained last week when U.S. troops arrived from Italy.
The 173rd Airborne Brigade will work with Ukrainian National Guard battalions.
“American commandos, numbering 290, will come to Yavoriv training ground, Lviv region, on April 20. This is where a long-term military exercise of 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team of the U.S. Army and combat units of the National Guard will be held,” Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced on his Facebook page in late March.
The exercise was agreed upon in meetings between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden’s son, Hunter, leads the legal team of Burisma Holdings, the largest natural gas producer in Ukraine.
Elements of National Guard Accused of War Crimes
The former president of Ukraine, Aleksandr Turchinov, established the Guard in March, 2014 after the Maidan coup supported by the U.S. State Department in February overthrew the elected leader of the country.
Ukrainian historian Vladimir Skachko has characterized the National Guard as the “legalization of neo-Nazi and neo-fascist batons” who are used to antagonize the Russian speaking population.
Soon after the coup, ultra nationalist paramilitary forces were merged with a reorganized National Guard. Andriy Parubiy, who founded the Social-National Party of Ukraine in 1991, said his Maidan “self-defense forces” would be sent to participate in an “anti-terrorist operation” targeting Ukrainians in the east of the country opposed to the Kiev regime.
Other ultra nationalist groups, including Patriot of Ukraine, Right Sector and White Hammer, are included in the conflict.
Patrick Martin writes “that the paramilitary units, most of them created by billionaire oligarchs who financed and recruited fascist and neo-Nazi volunteers, may be used for suppression of popular protests within the government-controlled portion of Ukraine, in addition to joining the battle lines in eastern Ukraine if fighting breaks out again with pro-Russian separatists.”
The Azov Battalion will presumably work with the 173rd Airborne Brigade during the exercises. The battalion, funded by oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi, reports directly to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and is a member of the National Guard. Described as “far-right” by Reuters, the battalion holds a fascist, ultra nationalist ideology and openly uses Nazi symbols and emblems.
The Russian government has issued an arrest warrant for Kolomoyskyi, accusing him of war crimes.
Amnesty International claims Azov and other nationalist paramilitary groups are guilty of war crimes. Members of the Aidar battalion backed by Kolomoyskyi “have been involved in widespread abuses, including abductions, unlawful detention, ill-treatment, theft, extortion, and possible executions,” Amnesty said last September.
Newsweek characterized the alleged abuse as “ISIS-style” war crimes after Kiev-based news network Pravilnoe TV talked to the mother of a victim in Donetsk who said she had received her son’s head in a wooden box in the post.