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US Lifts Long-Standing Ban on Using American Weapons for Azov Brigade


On Monday, May 10, the State Department revealed that the Biden administration would allow the 12th Special Purpose Brigade Azov of the Ukrainian National Guard to use weapons provided by the US.

The decision followed after revising a long-standing policy, the Leahy Law, which prohibits providing the US military aid to foreign units, credibly found to have committed significant human rights violations. This legislation is named after its author, former Senator Patrick Leahy.

“After thorough review, Ukraine’s 12th Special Forces Azov Brigade passed Leahy vetting as carried out by the US Department of State.” The State Department found “no evidence” of such violations, according to the statement.

In 2014, the United States prohibited the Azov Brigade from accessing American weaponry because US officials believed some of its founders allegedly held right-wing nationalist ideologies.

Azov, however, actively pushes back against the narrative used to justify the ban, which is widely considered a disinformation campaign by Russia.

Accusations and disinformation against Azov have been refuted by Ukraine and by the brigade itself, in particular, on the website AZOV CONTRA FAKE.

The State Department spokesperson didn’t specify when the ban was lifted and whether the US weaponry had already reached Azov personnel. Requests for comment from both Azov leadership and the Ukrainian government remained unanswered.

The Azov Brigade, emerged as a symbol of Ukraine’s resilience as they defended the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol during the initial three months of the Russian full-scale invasion. In May 2022, Russian forces seized control of Mariupol, capturing the remaining defenders.

Earlier in April, the leader of Ukraine’s Azov Special Forces Brigade, Commander Denys Prokopenko, has already called upon the reconsideration of the US ban on providing the unit with Western weapons, as the military aid to Ukraine does not reach the country’s Azov Special Forces Brigade due to the ban.

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