Ukrainian volunteers with the right-wing paramilitary Azov National Corps with their flags demonstrate their force, during Ukrainian Volunteer Day in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, March 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
The Ukrainian Azov regiment recently paid a visit to Israel, meeting with government representatives and the Israeli Defense Forces to discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to The Jerusalem Post on 20 December.
The delegation, which arrived in Israel on Thursday, was led by Azov officer Ilya Samoilenko, one of the many soldiers who barricaded themselves inside the Azovstal steelworks before surrendering to Russian troops earlier this year.
“The feat of the Mariupol defenders in 2022 shocked the whole world,” said the delegation. “In this fierce resistance to the Russian occupation, various peoples of the world saw parallels with various episodes of their own history, ” Samoilenko stated.
The visit was organized by the Israeli Friends of Ukraine organization with support from the Ukrainian Embassy in Israel and the Nadav Foundation.
🇮🇱 «Азов» в Ізраїлі
Розпочалась робоча поїздка в Ізраїль військовослужбовця полку «Азов» Іллі Самойленка та заступниці голови Асоціації родин захисників «Азовсталі» Юлії Федосюк.
Деталі: https://t.co/fpwrtpT4Sy pic.twitter.com/ooBRFHRnpL
— Асоціація родин захисників «Азовсталі» (@AzovstalFam) December 15, 2022
Anna Zharova, the founder of Israeli Friends of Ukraine, called the delegation’s visit “the organization’s most important project since the beginning of the war.”
While the Azov Battalion, the predecessor of the Azov Regiment, was strongly associated with neo-Nazi and far-right symbolism and ideologies, the Azov regiment insists that it has largely purged these sentiments from the regiment.
Russia has singled out the Azov regiment in its many claims that Ukraine is a “Neo-Nazi State.”
Moscow has also condemned Israel on several occasions “for its support for Ukraine and the Azov regiment.” In May, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova claimed that “Israeli mercenaries were, in fact, neck and neck with Azov militants.” Russian officials have also accused Israel of supporting a “Neo-Nazi Regime” in Kiev.
On the other hand, Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, confirmed during a press conference in Kiev on 26 October that his country began intelligence cooperation with Israel.
During the conference, which was held between the Ukrainian president and his counterpart from Guinea-Bissau, Omar Sissoko Ambalo, Zelensky said: “Intelligence services between the two sides have begun cooperation,” adding that he expects to see “progress in this exchange after a long hiatus.”
“There is a positive trend in relations between Kiev and Tel Aviv after the two sides shared intelligence information, specifically related to Iranian drones used by Russia in the war it is waging against Ukraine,” Zelensky went on to say.
Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, Israel has been attempting to find a balance between supporting the eastern European country and maintaining amicable ties with Moscow.