Ukraine found itself in the middle of a new political scandal when the George Washington University's Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies released its recent report. In it, the Institute claimed that Ukraine's major military education institute, the National Academy of Ground Forces (NAA) named after Hetman Petro Sagaidachny "became home" for a far-right organization called Centuria.
"The group, led by individuals with ties to Ukraine’s internationally active far-right Azov movement, has attracted multiple members, including current and former officer cadets of the NAA now serving in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Apparent members have appeared in photos giving Nazi salutes and made seemingly extremist statements online", reads the summary.
According to the author of the report, Centuria managed to recruit Ukraine's future military elite at the NAA. Members of the organization also received access to Western military education institutions. One of them reportedly completed an 11-month course of officers training at Sandhurst Royal Military Academy (United Kingdom). Another Centuria member visited the event held by German officers in Dresden in April 2019. Besides, members of Centuria also could learn from US military instructors, as well as cadets from the USA and France.
"The group claims that its members serve as officers in several units of Ukraine’s military. These claims appear credible because of the group’s confirmed presence in the NAA and the fact that some apparent members likely joined Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) units after graduating between 2019 and 2021. Since at least 2019, Centuria has announced several mobilizations, calling on ideologically aligned members of the AFU to seek transfer to specific units where the group’s members serve. To attract new members, the group—via its Telegram channel, which has over 1,200 followers and a dedicated mobilization bot—continues to tout its alleged role in the AFU and access to Western training, military, and exchange programs", reads the story.
The authors of that report also claim that Centuria boasts strong ties with Ukraine's far-right movement Azov. This could be a wake-up call for the USA since Congress restricted the use of American budget funds to provide weapons, training services, or other kinds of assistance for Azov way back in 2018. This provision has been in effect ever since; it's also included in the bill "On State Expenditures" in 2021.
The authors believe that Centuria's access to Western military support via the National Academy of Ground Forces and their further presence in the Armed Forces of Ukraine could be instrumental for Azov. "American lawmakers have repeatedly called on the Department of State to designate Azov as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). In the most recent such call, in April 2021, Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that “the Azov Battalion […] uses the internet to recruit new members and then radicalize them to use violence to pursue its white identity political agenda.” Yet the US and Western governments have not called on the government of Ukraine to sever ties with the Azov movement, and that far-right organization remains integrated into the government of Ukraine via the Azov Regiment", reads the story.
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