Zelensky delivered a live speech to the Greek parliament in which he played a pre-recorded clip from two members of the Azov Battalion. He also compared the actions of Azov members in Mariupol to the 300 Spartans.
Leaders from the conservative New Democracy, the left-wing populist SYRIZA, and the socialist KINAL denounced Zelensky’s use of Azov fighters. This includes former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, of the New Democracy. Alexis Tsipras, leader of SYRIZA called it a “historical shame” for the Greek parliament. They demanded to know if the speaker had pre-knowledge that Azov members would be used.
Government spokesman Yiannis Oikonomou called the inclusion of Azov “misguided and ill-advised,” but also attacked Alexis Tsipras for his comments. He said Tsipras was capitalizing on Zelensky’s actions to “indirectly justify the Russian invasion.”
Mariupol, a city named after a version of the Greek language, is home to many Pontic Greeks. Many view the Azov Battalion, permanently stationed in the city since 2014 with police powers, as a punitive occupying force.
Residents of Mariupol are widely accusing Azov of committing atrocities against the civilian population since the start of the Russian invasion. Greece is perhaps the only western nation where allegations of Ukrainian atrocities in Mariupol have received substantial coverage in the mainstream media.
Greece previously sent four cargo planes of weapons to Ukraine, which sparked large protests in Greece. Much of the Greek population opposes any involvement and wants to remain neutral. Yesterday, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland arrived in Greece to ask for more weapons and greater sanctions against Russia. Nuland was in Cyprus today to ask for weapons and sanctions. Nuland has played a leading role in US foreign policy in Ukraine for over eight years. After the 2014 Maidan Revolution in Ukraine, a phone call was leaked in which Nuland was giving a thumbs up or thumbs down to members of the new (unelected) interim Ukrainian government.