A member of the Mariupol-based Azov Battalion, a volunteer military unit in the Ukrainian National Guard which is known for, among other things, its questionable use of imagery and rhetoric associated with the Third Reich, has addressed the Greek Parliament, prompting censure from opposition parties across the Left-Right spectrum.
The address, delivered via video message by a fighter claiming to be of ethnic Greek origin, came on Thursday after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky—also via video message—spoke to members of the Greek Parliament, urging lawmakers to pressure Brussels to adopt stricter sanctions against Moscow, Proto Thema reports.
While most members from the ruling liberal-conservative party New Democracy (EPP), along with those from the main opposition parties—SYRIZA (Left), Movement for Change (SD), and MeRA25 (Left)—were in attendance for all three addresses, the messages delivered by the two Azov fighters prompted SYRIZA MPs Nikos Filis, Thodoris Dritas, and Yannis Giolas to walk out of the chamber.
The parliamentary groups from the Communist Party of Greece (NI) and the national-conservative Greek Solution (ECR) were notably absent, apparently having boycotted the parliamentary session altogether. Following the session’s conclusion, opposition parties were quick to condemn the presence of the Azov fighters in Parliament.
“The legitimization of the Nazis is an indelible image of shame from the Greek Parliament ND, SYRIZA and KINAL have allowed the cradle of democracy to be turned into a defender of Nazi atrocities, on the black anniversary of 81 years since the Nazi attack on Greece,” said Kyriakos Velopoulos, the leader of the national-conservative Greek Solution party.
Alexis Tsipras, the leader of SYRIZA, was among the first to censure Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, along with his ruling party, for allowing members of Ukraine’s Azov Battalion to address the lawmaking chamber, calling what was allowed to occur a “historic shame” from the country.
“The speech of members of the neo-Nazi Azov Order in the Greek Parliament is a provocation,” Tsipras began. “Full responsibility lies with the prime minister. He spoke of a historic day but it is a historic shame. Solidarity with the Ukrainian people is a given, but the Nazis cannot have their say in Parliament.”
Yanis Varoufakis, the leader of The European Realistic Disobedience Front (MeRA25), also took to social media to condemn the Ukrainian leader for speaking alongside the Asov fighters, writing: “Zelensky chose to stand next to a neo-Nazi during the video-talk to our Parliament. He must be condemned on two grounds: 1. Normalizing Nazism 2. Supporting Putin’s claim that the Ukrainian resistance is Nazism.”
“Volodymyr Zelenski insulted the Greek Parliament by giving the floor to a fighter belonging to the Order of Azov,” Varoufakis added.
Varoufakis, despite his harsh criticism leveled against Zelensky and the Parliament’s speaker, did, however, defend the sanctity of parliament, saying: Our Parliament did not invite a Nazi. It invited the President of Ukraine. It was the President of Ukraine who brought along the Nazi. And, yes, it was our Parliament’s Speaker who, by failing to intervene, failed to defend our Parliament.”
Andreas Loverdos, the leader of the center-left Movement for Change (KINAL), expressed astonishment that Zelensky—during his speech where he noted the shared historical experiences that bring Ukraine and Greece together—failed to mention the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, which resulted in some 6,000 casualties.
“I underline the fact that President Zelenski made no reference to Cyprus and brought us two people, one of whom spoke on behalf of the Order of Azov, but I am countering this to say the basic point: today in the Greek Parliament a voice of national sovereignty, national independence was heard”, noted Andreas Loverdos of Kinal,” Loverdos wrote.
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) expressed similar views regarding the presence of Asov members in the Greek Parliament.
“Shame and shame today in #Parliament and #Zelenski’s speech, with the parties of the NATO arc applauding the Nazis of the Azov battalion because that is what NATO directives and commitments require. Absolute vindication for the attitude of the KKE!” the Press Office of the KKE Central Committee wrote on Twitter.