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Was bombing of Mariupol theater staged by Ukrainian Azov extremists to trigger NATO intervention?

Testimony by evacuated Mariupol residents and warnings of a false flag attack undermine the Ukrainian government’s claims about a Russian bombing of a local theater sheltering civilians.
 
by Max Blumenthal 

Part 2 - Azov Battalion fighters grow desperate in Mariupol, plea for Western military intervention

The strategic southeastern port city of Mariupol has been held by the Azov Battalion since 2014. Since its seizure, it has served as a political and military base for the ultra-nationalist paramilitary as it launched assaults on pro-Russian separatists in the breakaway republic of Donetsk.

Gathered from the ranks of extreme right activists that provided protesters with street muscle during the 2013-14 Euromaidan coup, the Azov Battalion has been formally incorporated into the Ukrainian National Guard by the country’s Interior Ministry. It was founded by the openly fascist organizer Andriy Biletsky, who has vowed to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade … against Semite-led Untermenschen.

With the Nazi-inspired Wolfsangel symbol emblazoned on their uniforms and flags, Azov fighters make no secret of their ideological goals. Despite having been identified by the FBI, US Congress, and its own fighters as a neo-Nazi unit, and implicated in an array of sordid human rights violations, Azov has collaborated openly with US and Canadian military trainers.

Having accused Azov of seeking to exterminate the ethnic Russians of Donbas, Putin has marked its base in Mariupol as the front line of his stated campaign to “de-Nazify” Ukraine. Since Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, the city become the site of ferocious urban fighting, with Russian special forces and Donetsk People’s Republic People’s Militia forces waging a block-by-block fight for control as artillery rained down on Azov positions.

On March 7, an Azov Battalion commander named Denis Prokopenko appeared on camera from Mariupol with an urgent message. Published on Azov’s official YouTube channel and delivered in English over the sound of occasional artillery launches, Prokopenko declared that the Russian military was carrying out a “genocide” against the population of Mariupol, which happens to be 40 percent ethnic Russian.

Prokopenko then demanded that Western nations “create a no fly zone over Ukraine support[ed] with the modern weapons.” It was clear from Prokopenko’s plea that Azov’s position was growing more dire by the day.

As Russia’s military rapidly degraded Azov positions throughout the second week of March 2022, Azov soldiers apparently directed elderly civilians as well as women and children into the wardrobe hall of the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theater in Mariupol.

A video filmed inside the dimly lit building on March 11 featured a local man claiming that one thousand civilians were trapped inside and demanding a humanitarian corridor to allow them to escape. Only a small group of civilians could be seen in the video, however.

I’m begging you to stop all this, give us the corridor to get people out, to get out women, kids, the wounded…” a bespectacled narrator (seen below) declared in the video.

Since Russia launched its invasion, Azov Battalion soldiers have been filmed preventing civilians from leaving Mariupol – even forcing men out of their cars and brutally assaulting them while they attempted to break through the paramilitary’s checkpoints. If testimony from many Mariupol residents was to be believed, Azov had used many of them as human shields.

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