The Pentagon put pressure on Congress to remove an amendment banning funding for the Ukrainian far-right Azov Battalion, which has neo-Nazis fighting among its ranks.
The US$64 billion dollars set aside by Congress to fight “Russian aggression” could end up in the hands of far-right groups like the Azov Battalion, The Nation reports.
In December 2015 U.S. legislators approved the US$1.8 trillion 2016 budget. According to House Speaker Paul J. Ryan, a sum of US$64 billion was passed for “overseas contingency operations,” including assisting “European countries facing Russian aggression.”
It can be safely assumed that Ukraine is one of those European countries and according to the White House, the Eastern European country has already received US$2 billion in loan guarantees plus around US$760 million in what is referred to as “security, programmatic and technical assistance” since February 2014.
The Nation reports that Congressmen John Conyers of Michigan and Ted Yoho of Florida proposed an amendment to the House Defense Appropriations bill (HR 2685) last July, which was unanimously passed and “limits arms, training, and other assistance to the neo-Nazi Ukrainian militia, the Azov Battalion.”
The move came after an Azov battalion member told the Daily Beast about his battalion’s “experience with U.S. trainers and U.S. volunteers … even mentioning U.S. volunteer engineers and medics that are still currently assisting them.”
But by November, after the Pentagon applied pressure, the amendment was removed.
The roots of the defense department’s rejection, it claimed, was that a similar law already existed to prohibit the funding of Azov.
But according to The Nation, this is not true. The Leahy law, as it is known, only applies to organizations which the “Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.”
But given the State Department has not declared it has that information about Azov, and it could still be eligible for funding.
“Even if Azov is already covered by Leahy, then … there was no need to strip it out of final bill,” a congressional source told The Nation.
Neo-Nazism is a growing force in Ukraine, with the ultra-nationalist Svoboda party recently winning 10 percent of the vote in Kiev and finishing second in Lviv.
“The neo-Nazis in Ukraine have switched from polemics and invasion of brains to practice,” the Foreign Ministry’s representative for Human Rights and the Rule of Law, Konstantin Dolgov, told RT in April 2015. “People wearing helmets with Nazi emblems are committing murders there.”