Azov Brigade Invades London, Greeted as Liberators

Warm Welcome for Neo-Nazi Movement in England

Ukes, Kooks & Spooks
7 min readMay 29, 2024

“We must not believe a single word of Putin’s propaganda about the Azov Brigade,” insisted Boris Johnson, former Prime Minister of the UK, at the Reform Club in London last week, where the “Conservative Friends of Ukraine” (CFU) hosted a fundraiser for this neo-Nazi unit and its “Association of Azovstal Defenders’ Families.” Johnson, president of the CFU, praised Azov’s “gallant soldiers,” and declared that “we rely wholly on heroes such as the people who are here tonight with us from the Azov Brigade,” because there is no path to peace in Ukraine, and the only choice is to achieve “as speedy a Ukrainian victory as possible.”

Western mainstream media outlets have predictably ignored the social media firestorm ignited by the image of Boris Johnson holding the neo-Nazi flag of the Azov Brigade with representatives of this infamous unit from the National Guard of Ukraine. Earlier that day, Conservative leaders of the UK All-Party Parliament Group on Ukraine hosted a “roundtable discussion” with an Azov delegation in the Palace of Westminster, the meeting place of the British Parliament.

The far-right Ukrainian delegation’s recent trip to England came on the heels of a pro-Azov propaganda campaign and the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Azov Battalion, a notorious neo-Nazi militia group. The polished and professionalized but ideologically unreconstructed Azov Brigade (est. 2023), consisting of multiple battalions, constitutes one of the most elite military units in Ukraine and an important component of its most formidable neo-Nazi movement.

The Guardian and The Times helped to pave the way for the Azov Brigade to dispatch some of its unofficial ambassadors to London without significant controversy. In late April, these major British newspapers published a pair of articles whitewashing Azov. “The 5,000-plus strong brigade has shed any far-right associations,” the Guardian reassured its readers, lying to them. According to the Times, the unit “has moved on from its far-right origins, its men say.” Less than a month later, the Azov delegation arrived in London.

In the meantime, observing the 10th anniversary of the Azov unit, the Ukrainian Ministry of Digital Transformation’s English-language “United24 Media” published a video ostensibly debunking “5 Myths about Azov.” To dispel the notion that Azov fighters are antisemitic, United24 Media presented Ruslan Serbov, “one of the most famous Azov fighters of Jewish origin.” Serbov being vaguely “Jew-ish” supposedly disproves the existence of neo-Nazi tendencies in the Azov Brigade. After his release from Russian captivity in 2022, Serbov received medical treatment in Israel, where he promoted a neo-Nazi clothing brand.

The day before meeting Boris Johnson in London, Ruslan Serbov publicly wished a happy birthday to his Hitler-tattooed friend, Oleksandr Kravtsov, the leader of an openly neo-Nazi squad that fought with the Azov Regiment during the 2022 siege of Mariupol. Kravtsov appears on the front cover of Serbov’s memoir, “Balls of Steel,” which the famous “Jew-ish” Azov veteran presented to the former UK Prime Minister about two years after Johnson allegedly blocked peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine and the Mariupol garrison of the Azov Regiment surrendered at the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works.

Azov veteran Ruslan Serbov traveled to London with three women from the Association of Azovstal Defenders’ Families (AADF) and two officers of the Azov Brigade: Lt. Arseniy Fedosiuk and Jr. Sgt. Volodymyr Vernyhora. The latter represented the brigade’s school for “political/ideological officers,” which is named for Mykola Stsiborskyi, a fascist ideologue of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) who “envisioned the state as a ‘natsiokratiia’ or a ‘natiocracy,’ an ethnically defined totalitarianism,” according to historian Per Rudling.

Arseniy Fedosiuk also received medical treatment in Israel, although he has been pictured with individuals making Nazi salutes, and subscribed to neo-Nazi social media pages such as “12 years not a slave,” referring to the dozen years that Adolf Hitler ruled Nazi Germany. Fedosiuk’s wife Yulia, the former staffer of a far-right publishing house affiliated with the Azov movement, is apparently the mastermind of the AADF, which has a figurehead in Kateryna Prokopenko, married to the famous commander of the Azov Brigade.

Arseniy Fedosiuk, Boris Johnson, and Ben Wallace at the CFU event

The CFU fundraiser followed an event in the British Parliament hosted by Bob Seely and John Whittingdale, the Conservative chair and vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ukraine. Another Conservative MP, Victoria Prentis, who serves as the Attorney General for England and Wales, moderated a roundtable discussion with the half-dozen members of the Azov delegation, including Yulia Fedosiuk and Kateryna Prokopenko. Although it’s not clear how many Members of Parliament attended this event, the neo-Nazi Azov movement received a warm welcome in the Palace of Westminster.

Other speakers at the CFU fundraiser at the Reform Club included Ben Wallace, the former Secretary of State for Defense (2019–23); Michael Ashcroft, a billionaire former member of the House of Lords; and MP Jack Lopresti, deputy chairman of the Conservative Party. Wallace thanked Azov for holding out in Mariupol as long as it did, and credited the neo-Nazi unit for enabling NATO countries “to support Ukraine.” In February 2024, Lopresti held a meeting with AADF leader Yulia Fedosiuk during a visit to Ukraine. The other day, she shared an Instagram post from a Meta employee, who congratulated her on “bringing Azov” to London.

(The Azov Brigade was removed from Meta’s list of undesirable organizations over a year ago, thanks to the efforts of the Ukrainian Ministry of Digital Transformation which has increasingly churned out pro-Nazi propaganda. It didn’t hurt that Nick Clegg, Meta’s president for global affairs, served as Deputy Prime Minister of the UK (2010–15) under the Conservative leader, David Cameron.)

The CFU event included a silent auction that featured a Ukrainian flag signed by Azov Brigade commander Denys Prokopenko. Before the war, he was openly associated with the neo-Nazi founder of the Azov Battalion, white supremacist football hooligans, and Azov’s “Borodach Division,” with its symbol of a bearded SS-Totenkopf. The Times, pushing a blatant falsehood, explained that under Prokopenko’s leadership, Azov has “remodelled itself as a multicultural military elite rather than the armed force of a right-wing ideologue.” Prokopenko’s deputy commander Sviatoslav Palamar was a longtime member of “Patriot of Ukraine,” the hardcore neo-Nazi group that formed the Azov Battalion.

“London Supports Ukraine,” an activist network that supported the CFU fundraiser event, said it “was an honor to meet and discuss future lobby campaigns” with the Azov delegation at the Reform Club. Other guests included Sofiia Lapina, head of “UKRAINEPRIDE,” a self-described “propatriotic queer movement,” and Oleksiy Honcharuk, the former Prime Minister of Ukraine (2019–20) turned distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council, who attended a neo-Nazi concert in 2019.

Conservative Friends of Ukraine CEO Maria Tymofienko, an associate research fellow at the British Institute for International and Comparative Law in London, played a key role in securing these propaganda victories for the Azov Brigade. MP Jack Lopresti gave “huge thanks” to Tymofienko for “arranging amazing events like this.”

“Following the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Maria [Tymofienko] was asked by the Conservative Party to set up Conservative Friends of Ukraine,” according to her bio on the CFU website. Yuriy Lysenko, the Representative for Ukraine’s Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights in the UK, says that “Maria has been at the heart of the Conservatives’ support for Ukraine.”

From left to right: Maria Tymofienko, Yulia Fedosiuk, Boris Johnson, Kateryna Prokopenko, others

By 2014, Maria Tymofienko was an assistant to Conservative MP John Whittingdale, and advised the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ukraine that he chaired. That year, Tymofienko founded the “Global Friends of Ukraine” in London, with Whittingdale listed as its sole patron. In 2022 he founded the Conservative Friends of Ukraine and installed Tymofienko as its CEO. Last week he hosted the meeting with the Azov delegation at Westminster Palace.

A couple days before this triumph for Azov, the Ukrainian government-run United24 Media published an article entitled, “Debunking Five Main Myths Surrounding Ukraine’s Legendary Azov Brigade,” and the “Global Friends of Ukraine” hosted a charity screening in London of the award-winning documentary, “20 Days in Mariupol.” Azov Brigade officers Arseniy Fedosiuk and Volodymyr Vernyhora attended this event, which raised money for the Association of Azovstal Defenders’ Families. Azov is curiously absent from “20 Days in Mariupol,” but the film echoes their claim that more than 25,000 civilians died during the siege. Human Rights Watch estimated that 8,000 people lost their lives, “though how many of those were civilians remains unknown.”

The morning after meeting Boris Johnson, the Azov delegation caught an early train to Reuben College at the University of Oxford for an event hosted by the Oxford University Ukrainian Society. Representatives of the most powerful neo-Nazi movement in Ukraine, if not the world, were greeted by Lionel Tarassenko, the president of Reuben College, recently appointed to the House of Lords. The Guardian expects us to believe that Oxford University has become a hotbed of “antisemitism,” but the openly neo-Nazi Azov Brigade, on the other hand, “has shed any far-right associations.”

Reuben College president Lionel Tarassenko with the delegation from the Azov Brigade