Wife of Azov Commander Hailed in West is Pictured Giving Nazi Salute
19:59 GMT 16.05.2022 (Updated: 15:19 GMT 28.05.2023)
© AP Photo / Alessandra Tarantino / Kateryna Prokopenko, wife of Denys Prokopenko, commander of the Azov regiment (right) and Yulia Fedosiuk, wife of Arseny Fedosiuk, another member of Azov regimentKateryna Prokopenko, wife of Denys Prokopenko, commander of the Azov regiment (right) and Yulia Fedosiuk, wife of Arseny Fedosiuk, another member of Azov regiment
© AP Photo / Alessandra Tarantino / Kateryna Prokopenko, wife of Denys Prokopenko, commander of the Azov regiment (right) and Yulia Fedosiuk, wife of Arseny Fedosiuk, another member of Azov regiment
Azov, the neo-Nazi regiment whose insignia includes the Wolfsangel and Black Sun symbols used by the Waffen SS, was brought into the Ukrainian armed forces after the 2014 Maidan Square coup. But now the militants are trapped in a steel plant in the newly-liberated Donbass city of Mariupol.
The wife of a Ukrainian Azov Battalion commander trapped in the Donbass city of Mariupol has been exposed as a neo-Nazi in images discovered online.
Kateryna Prokopenko, the wife of Lieutenant Colonel Denis Prokopenko now trapped in the bowels of the ruined Azovstal steel mill complex in the port city, has been on a tour of European capitals with three other women whose husbands are under his command.
Kharkov-based Chilean-American YouTuber Gonzalo Lira, who was recently abducted and held incommunicado for six days by the Ukrainian SBU secret police, tweeted a montage of images.
He claimed the women posing in front of Nazi flags and in a Swastika t-shirt, giving the Nazi salute and brandishing a machine gun, was none other than Prokopenko — and added a link to a puff-piece about her in the British Daily Telegraph newspaper below to prove his point.
Another user replied with photo, captioned with Prokopenko's name, of three young women lined up and giving the Nazi salute.
© @grimelshauzen/TwitterTweeted image allegedly of Kateryna Prokopenko, wife of Azov Battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Denis Prokopenko, giving the Nazi salute.
Tweeted image allegedly of Kateryna Prokopenko, wife of Azov Battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Denis Prokopenko, giving the Nazi salute.
Azov, a fascist regiment whose insignia includes the same Wolfsangel and Sonnenrad or Black Sun symbols as some Waffen SS units during the Second World War, was incorporated into the Ukrainian military after the 2014 Maidan Square coup which was supported by the US and European Union (EU).
"Our husbands are simple people, patriots, not Neo Nazis," claimed Yuliia Fedosiuk, wife of Arseniy Fedosiuk, to the Telegraph. "They love their country and fight for our common values."
But she admitted that Azov had been at war with the Russian-backed Donbass republics for eight years.
"For many Ukrainians, it was ‘wow’ the war has started," said Fedosiuk. "But we have been fighting that war since 2014," she added, calling the Russian special military operation launched on February 24 merely "an escalation."
In an ominous echo of the 'stab in the back' narrative used by Adolf Hitler's Nazis to explain Germany's defeat in the First World War, she accused other Ukrainians of betraying their menfolk.
"The Azov were ready to be surrounded but hoped Ukrainian armed forces in cities close to Mariupol would stand firm. That didn’t happen," Fedosiuk said. "They let the Russian army grab the cities around Mariupol."
She called Volodymyr Baranyuk, commander of the Ukrainian 36th Marine Brigade that surrendered to Russian and Donetsk Peoples in Mariupol, a "traitor" who she claimed "had close contacts with Russians" before his surrounded unit gave up after a failed attempt to break out of the encirclement.
Prokopenko and Fedosiuk travelled to Rome last week to meet Pope Francis and beg him to intervene with Russian President Vladimir Putin to let the defeated radicals go free.
"He said he wanted to prepare a [humanitarian] corridor for Azovstal, but Putin doesn’t want to let [the soldiers] go," Fedosiuk said.
But on Monday the Russian Ministry of Defence announced that Azov had agreed to surrender its wounded members to be treated at an army field hospital in the Donetsk People's Republic.
Kiev has made desperate attempts to evacuate its militants from Azovstal over the past month, including several suicidal helicopter flights into heavily-defended Russian-controlled airspace and a failed bid to use a tanker ship to break the naval blockade. Meanwhile French President Emmanuel Macron has begged Putin to allow the extremists safe passage to Ukrainian-held territory or to a third country.
That has fuelled speculation that several high-ranking military officers from NATO countries are trapped in the Azovstal catacombs with the gunmen.