Pro-Russian Fighter With Nazi Patches Gets Medal for Killing 'Nazis'

The claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin is seeking the "denazification" of Ukraine clashed with reality after video showed a pro-Russian soldier wearing neo-Nazi symbols while being awarded a medal for fighting in the city of Mariupol.

Putin and the Kremlin have pushed propaganda to justify the invasion of Ukraine by claiming the government in Kyiv is run by Nazis, despite Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky being Jewish. The claims have been rejected by Zelensky and the international community.

Moscow has also inflated the role in Ukraine's military of the Azov Battalion, a far-right paramilitary group in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol.

Video shared by Storyful shows a soldier, named as Lieutenant Roman Vorobyov from the "Somalia" motorized rifle battalion, receiving the "St. George's Cross II" award while wearing far-right insignia.

Receiving the award on Sunday from Denis Pushilin, who is the Putin-sponsored head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, two patches are visible on Vorobyov's right arm.

One is a modified version of a skull-and-crossbones emblem used by Nazi Germany's 3rd SS Panzer Division Totenkopf, an elite division of the Waffen-SS. The other is the Valknut, or Odin's knot, which is a symbol of interlocking triangles from Norse mythology commonly used by neo-Nazis.

Pushilin posted the video of him presenting the award on his Telegram channel and said that a unit led by Vorobyov and another lieutenant, Andrey Nikulin, had killed "more than 40 militants."

He said that awards were given to fighters who had "especially distinguished themselves" in Mariupol.

Leader of the "Somalia" battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Timur Kurilkin, received the "Hero of the DPR" award. Pushilin wrote that under his leadership the unit was under heavy enemy fire in residential areas but destroyed 45 units "and more than 250 Nazis."

Addressing the camera, Kurilkin spoke of how "we were engaged in cleaning Mariupol from fascist reptiles," that the city was "everything for us" and that "we will make it to the end."

Humanitarian corridors in Ukraine were due to open on Tuesday, including from Mariupol, where a Red Cross team has been released after being detained by police.

In March, Zelensky warned that Putin's "laughable" claims that the government in Kyiv was full of neo-Nazis showed that "he might be capable of very horrendous steps because that would mean that this is not a game for him."

"If he sees signs of neo-Nazis in our country, then many questions emerge about what else he is capable of doing," Zelensky said on March 20.

Newsweek has contacted the Russian defense ministry for comment.

Mariupol destroyed
A view of a theater damaged during fighting in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol on April 4, 2022. Video has shown a pro-Russian soldier wearing neo-Nazi insignia receiving a medal for his role in fighting in the city. Alexei Alexandrov/Associated Press