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US lifts weapons ban on Ukrainian military unit – The Washington Post

World

US President Joe Biden’s administration will allow a Ukrainian military unit with a checkered past to use US weaponry, the State Department said Monday, having lifted a ban imposed years ago amid concerns in Washington about the group’s origins, The Washington Post reports.

According to the report, the Azov Brigade, known for its tenacious but ultimately unsuccessful defense of the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol early in Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, is regarded as a particularly effective fighting force. But it was barred about a decade ago from using American arms because US officials determined that some of its founders espoused racist, xenophobic and ultranationalist views, and UN human rights officials accused the group of humanitarian violations.

Now the brigade, a one-time volunteer militia absorbed into the Ukrainian National Guard in 2015, will have access to the same US military assistance as any other unit.

“After thorough review, Ukraine’s 12th Special Forces Azov Brigade passed Leahy vetting as carried out by the U.S. Department of State,” The Washington Posts reports, citing a statement by the State Department, referring to the “Leahy Law” that prevents US military assistance from going to foreign units credibly found to have committed major human rights violations.

The State Department found “no evidence” of such violations, its statement says.

A State Department spokesman declined to say when the ban was lifted and whether U.S. weaponry had already reached Azov personnel. Neither Azov leadership nor the Ukrainian government responded to requests for comment, the report adds.

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