According to a Reuters journalist in the courtroom, Russia’s highest court labeled Ukraine’s Azov Regiment as a terrorist organisation on Tuesday, clearing the path for captured troops to be convicted under severe anti-terror legislation and imprisoned for up to 20 years.

The Azov Regiment, with far-right and ultra-nationalist origins, has been one of Ukraine’s most visible military forces battling Russia in eastern Ukraine. It began as a paramilitary force battling pro-Russian separatists in 2014 before being absorbed into Ukraine’s national guard.

The Azov Regiment stated in a Telegram message that Russia was searching for fresh reasons for war crimes and encouraged the US State Department to classify Russia as a terrorist state.

“After the public execution of prisoners of war from the ‘Azov’ regiment in Olenivka, Russia is looking for new excuses and explanations for its war crimes,” the unit said in the post, referring to last week’s explosion at a site holding Ukrainian POWs, which Moscow claims killed more than 50 people. Ukraine and Russia have both accused one other for the explosion. 

Russia has often referenced Azov to bolster its claim that Ukraine is under the influence of “fascists” The Russian official media has equated Azov soldiers to Nazis from World War II, whose defeat by the Soviet Union is still a vital component of Russian national character.

Previously located in Mariupol, an eastern Ukrainian port city, many of the regiment’s soldiers were taken by Russian troops after the city surrendered in May following a nearly three-month siege.

According to officials of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Russian-backed organization that claims Mariupol as part of its territory, seized Azov Regiment members might face the death sentence under the rules of the self-proclaimed republic.

In a Twitter message last week, Russia’s embassy in London said the kidnapped Azov troops “deserve a humiliating death”

Source: Reuters

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