The infamous nationalist unit has stopped using the controversial Wolfsangel symbol, The Times reports.
The infamous Azov nationalist regiment, which has been revived by Ukraine after it surrendered to Russian forces in Mariupol, has removed the Nazi-linked Wolfsangel symbol from its insignia, The Times reported on Monday.
According to the British paper, the unit's new recruits in the city of Kharkov have sporting patches with a golden trident, which is Ukraine's national emblem, thereby replacing the Wolfsangel or wolf shook that had been used by the Azov BattalionAzov Battalion since its formation eight years ago.
However, the commander of the new unit, Maksim Zhorin, told the paper that it was formed on the same principles and ideological basis as the legendary Azov regiment. Wolfsangel is a historic heraldic symbol that was chosen by the Nazis during World War II and appeared on the badges of several SS divisions.
The Times said that the presence of the Wolfsangel on the uniforms of the Azov fighters had perpetuated Russian propaganda about Ukraine being in the grip of far-right nationalism. The use of Nazi symbolism by the unit had raised concerns in Western media, including Time magazine and the New York Times before the launch of the Russian military operation in Ukraine.
The volunteer unit called the Azov BattalionAzov Battalion was formed in 2014 as a volunteer unit that consisted of far-right activists willing to fight the self-proclaimed republics in the Donbass region. Several months later, it was officially incorporated into Ukraine's National Guard by President Petro Poroshenko.
When the Russian offensive began, the Azov BattalionAzov Battalion, which had received Western training, was considered one of the most capable formations under Kiev's command.
The nationalist fighters were tasked with protecting Mariupol, a strategic port on the Sea of Azov, but failed to fulfill their goal. Many of them were killed, while the rest surrendered to Russian forces earlier in May after being holed up at the Azovstal steel plant for weeks.
During the siege, Moscow blamed the Azov unit for keeping civilians hostage in the facility and using them as human shields.
Footage of surrendering combatants coming out of the plant showed many of them sporting tattoos of swastikas and other far-right symbols. Nazi-related items and literature have also been discovered inside the steel plant and at Azov bases in the Donbass that have been captured by Russia.
Russia's Investigative Committee has launched a criminal case against the unit's fighters over abductions, torture, and the use of prohibited means and methods of warfare, among other things.
The Russian High Court is scheduled to rule on the lawsuit to designate the Azov BattalionAzov Battalion as a terrorist organization and outlaw it in late June.
The military operation in Ukraine is one of the goals of the denazification of Ukraine.
Russia attacked the neighboring country in late February, after Kiev failed to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French-brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists that the Russian offensive was unprovoked and has denied that it was planning to retake the two republics by force.