Following a statement by a soldier of the far-right militant Azov Battalion during a conversation between the Greek Parliament and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday, a handful of Greek legislators voiced anger. During his speech, Zelensky praised Greece for the sanctions it has placed on Russia and asked for additional aid, urging the Greeks to use their clout in the EU to help rescue “our common history” in Mariupol, Ukraine’s port city. But, following the initial portion of his speech, Zelensky added two statements from alleged Ukrainian-Greek combatants, one of whom claimed to be a soldier of the infamous Azov Battalion, in an obvious attempt to highlight the two countries relations.
After the meeting, government spokesperson Giannis Oikonomou tweeted: “Including a message from an Azov Battalion member was improper and unacceptable.” The presence of the neo-Nazi combatant was met with intense resistance from SYRIZA, Greece’s major opposition party, with many members allegedly storming out amid his address. “The statement in the Greek Parliament by members of the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion is a test. The prime minister has all responsibility for this. He mentioned that it was a historic day, but it was also a historic travesty. It goes without saying that we stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. However, Nazis are not allowed to speak in parliament,” according to SYRIZA president Alexis Tsipras.
“Today, we listened with respect and solidarity to Mr. Zelensky, Ukraine’s democratically elected President, who is resisting Russia’s aggression and for whom we offer our support,” said Olga Gerovasili, SYRIZA’s parliamentary group secretary. “However, it is unacceptable that today, alongside President Zelensky, a member of the Azov Battalion addressed the Greek Parliament,” she continued, adding that SYRIZA would ask parliament for a formal reason as to why an Azov Battalion fighter was included in this conversation and whether anyone was cognizant of his participation ahead of time, terming it “a big mistake.”
The combatant being discussed had identified himself as Michael and stated that he is an ethnically Greek who’d been born in Mariupol and that he is currently fighting with the Azov Battalion to protect the country from “Russian Nazis,” adding that his grandpa had battled against the Nazis during World War II. The Greek Parliament stated it was only alerted of the two expatriates’ remarks 10 minutes prior to Zelensky’s address and that it was not given any more details.