Punishers Of “Black Corps”: How Nazis Fought Against The “Russian Spring” in Donbass

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



As it became known from the press service of the Prosecutor General, the commander of the “Azov” battalion Andrey Biletsky was summoned as a witness for interrogation in the case of the seizure of the Lugansk Regional State Administration on April 7th, 2014. It would seem that Biletsky, who acting in Kiev and Kharkov with his ultra-right fighters, could be a witness to the events in Lugansk? It turns out that he could be. Moreover, it was precisely at this time that the ground was laid for cooperation between “Azov” with the party “Svoboda” and “Right Sector”, which now, after a joint march on February 22nd, was preparing the signing of the common “Manifesto of Ukrainian nationalists”.

In the autumn of 2014, describing to the media about the activities of his units, Biletsky spoke about how before their inclusion in the ranks of the Interior Ministry (which occurred on May 5th, 2014) the military formations of the future Azov members carried out military actions in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions.

“In Kiev there were many patriots who started to help with bullet-proof vests, uniforms, helmets, balaclavas, transport. At this time it was difficult with weapons. There were a few guys who had their own registered shotguns. But it was only 5-6 guns for 60-70 people of our unit. The spine was made by natives of Eastern Ukraine,” remembered Biletsky. “And it also then that the meme “black little men” appeared… We started our actions in Lugansk, Kharkov, Berdyansk, Donetsk region — we were all over Eastern Ukraine, trying to suppress this wave of separatism. And it was this that was the embryo of the ‘Azov’ battalion.


“The public who gather for (pro-Russian) activities, is caught in advance, and ‘preventive conversations’ are held with them – no one is going anywhere. We carried out three to four detentions. The information that a hundred ‘black men’ came to Kharkov, who carried out harshly reprisals against separatists, was very quickly spread among them,” said back then the press secretary of the bloc “Right sector — Vostok” Igor Mosiychuk, a prominent member of the Social-National Assembly.

In comments given to the newspaper “Vesti”, Mosiychuk explained that hundreds of militants in black uniforms arrived in Kharkov on 18th April, 2014. Advisor to the Interior Minister Anton Gerashchenko recalled on 6th May, 2015, that the militants of Biletsky arrived in Kharkov even earlier — on the 13th and 20th April, in order to put an end to attempts of Moscow to “explode the situation in Kharkov”.

And it is also he who gave impetus to one of the raids, which, according to Biletsky, his militants carried out around the same time in Lugansk, Berdyansk (Zaporizhia region) and Donetsk region.

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“At the end of April I was addressed by Andrey Biletsky and also Oleg Odnorozhenko (one of the ideologists of the Social-National Assembly, and later Deputy commander of the ‘Azov’ battalion for educational work) with the idea to organize the ‘eviction’ of separatists who seized and held for several weeks the City Council of Mariupol,” summarized Gerashchenko. “This assault was held on 24th April… I had the role of coordinating the allowing of passage to guys who were arriving in Mariupol from all over Ukraine.”

The story of the assault of the unknown people can be found in Mariupol media for the specified date.

“According to verified reports, the assault began at about 03:20, and the group of people in civilian clothes with masks on their faces broke into the building, armed with bats, from 30 to 35 people, and started beating the activists of the DPR,” reported, for example, “Mariupol news”.

“A part of those on-duty in the City Council was beaten and locked in the staff room, located in the lobby of the city hall. One of the defenders of the City Council had a broken leg, others with injuries of varying severity. The attackers were breaching the doors in the premises and chased people on the different floors. Part of the DPR representatives barricaded themselves on the floors of the building. After this, police officers came to the city hall, and the attackers left by car. At the moment there are reports that there were three cars, among which, according to the people from the City Council, were Kiev licence plates.”

Here are such feats. A local resident in a programme aired on the heels of the events by Russian TV channels mentions that the attackers had with them iron bars and even a dog, with which they beat the supporters of the People’s Republic, and herded them into rooms of the building.

“There was such a transition period, the so-called black corps. We also called this the ‘iron bar troops’,” said the press-Secretary of “Azov” Stepan Bayda on 23rd August, 2015, on the TV channel “112”.

The name “black corps”, which was later recorded also in “Azov” as the informal name of this unit, clearly referenced the same SS newspaper Das Schwarze Korps.

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In an another interview, given on 30th May, 2015, to the UkrLife TV channel, Bayda mentioned that “many of those who are currently in the regiment took part in the events that occured in March (2014) in Donetsk, Kharkov, Odessa, and in Lugansk”.

The branches of the Social-National Assembly in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, including the regional centres of these regions, openly acted from the end of the 2000’s. The ranks of the local social-nationalists joined as members of the then existing groups of nationalists and skinheads, as well as right-wing fanatics of local football clubs of different levels. On the banners of the latter already then the runic symbol “wolfangel” appeared with the emblems of a number of SS divisions, which became, in 1991, the symbols of the Social-National party of Ukraine (which became “Svoboda” in 2004), and then the Social-National Assembly of Biletsky, and of the battalion (and later regiment) “Azov” created by Biletsky also.

It should be noted that in the spring of 2014, Donetsk right-wing radicals merged into the ranks of the military formations, whose name also referenced the Nazi “security forces” (Schutzstaffel, SS).

“March, 2014… In the evenings near the secondary school № 5 (in Donetsk) a group of young people start to gather,” recalled on 18th September, 2015, on the website “Ukrainian truth” a member of this formation Bogdan Chaban, who later became a member of the saboteur group acting in the DPR “Ravliki”.

“Initially, this movement was formed on the platform of ultras (football) and Euromaidan protesters. Later they were joined by active guys from ‘Svoboda’… Initially, this movement was engaged in ‘catching’ separatist patrols and conducting with them explanatory work (like the ‘black little men’ in Kharkov). After the death on March 13th of Dmitry Cherniavsky (leader of the Donetsk branch of ‘Svoboda’) the vector of actions changed, it became more radical. It is precisely this group of guys who… on 24th April, liberated the Mariupol City Council.”

More detailed information about this is contained in the biography of the Donetsk activist of “Svoboda” Igor Kanakov, published on one of the nationalist websites.

“Kanakov joined the ranks of the Donetsk city organization ‘Svoboda’ during Maidan. He initially showed himself as an active ‘Svoboda’ member and ideological nationalist,” it is said in the text of the biography.

“On March 13th, 2014, he was among the guards of the rally ‘Donetsk is Ukraine!’ in the central square of the city. After the death of his comrade Dmitry Chernyavsky, Kanakov was actively involved in the creation of the security battalion ‘Donetsk’, the mobilization headquarters of which were located in the office of the Donetsk city organization ‘Svoboda’. Local Svoboda members enrolled ultras and other patriotic citizens.”

It further explains that Kanakov (who led in March, 2014, the branch of “Svoboda” in the Leninsky district of Donetsk) and his comrades not only protected pro-Ukrainian rallies in Donetsk, for example, the meeting of 17th April, 2014, “Donbass is Ukraine!”, but also participated in the aforementioned punisher raid in Mariupol: “On 24th April, 2014, Igor Kanakov together with colleagues from Donetsk ‘Svoboda’ participated in the liberation of the building of the Mariupol City Council from pro-Russian elements. The operation was prepared in secret and held overnight.”

Thus, already at this time, the militants of Biletsky undertook their punisher raids against Donetsk people side by side with local activists of the party of Tyagnibok.

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In the summer of 2014 Kanakov fought in the volunteer battalion “Shakhtersk”, where, in July, 2014, the militants of “Bratstvo” of Dmitry Korchinsky moved from “Azov”. In September 2014, “Shakhtersk” was disbanded for looting, Kanakov was transferred as a medic to the battalion “Donbass” and tried to be elected, unsuccessfully, in October, 2014, to the Verkhovna Rada from the party “Svoboda”, and in December, 2014, joined the regiment of the Interior Ministry “Dnepr-1” in his special fifth unit “Donetsk” – made from the natives of this region. The unit, according to its commander, operated in the area of Mariupol, where the Kanakov began to recruit people into the ranks of “Svoboda” and created the armed unit “Carpathian Sich”.

Other activists of the “security battalion” of Donetsk, mostly from the ranks of ultras, found themselves mostly in the ranks of “Azov”.

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