Azov Renews Recruitment Efforts, Misanthropic Division Promotes Campaign to Foreign Supporters
On August 30th, former commander and current spokesperson of the Azov Movement, Maksym Zhorin, announced on his Telegram channel that Azov is once again bolstering its recruitment efforts and asking that those interested in joining the ideologically motivated units of Azov sign up. “The most popular question in comments and messages is ‘How to become a part of AZOV division? […] The Azov Unit of the Armed Forces of Ukraine needs volunteers. The main thing is motivation, willingness to work hard, and the desire to liberate our land from the occupiers.” The call-to-action says that Azov is prioritizing those with previous combat experience and emphasizes that active-duty military personnel can transfer from their current units in either the Armed Forces (UAF) or Territorial Defense Forces (TDF) of Ukraine.
Zhorin’s Telegram post links to an application via Google Forms. The front page of the application gives a brief history of the unit since the beginning of the February 24th Russian invasion, explaining its newly acquired designation as a Special Security Office of the UAF in March of this year, and its upgrade from a regiment to a brigade in August.
The application asks the basics: name, telephone, email, age, whether the applicant has military experience, and, if yes, where they acquired their experience. This part of the application seems to be specific to Ukrainians or foreign volunteers already enlisted in the UAF/TDF, giving them the option to select from various Ukrainian military or intelligence services in which they have or are currently serving. For those actively serving in the UAF/TDF, the form asks for the applicant’s unit name/number, military occupational specialty, and actual position in their current unit.
It is unclear whether potential foreign volunteers are included in Azov’s latest appeal for recruits. Historically, Azov units have accepted foreign volunteers going back to the movement’s early days of fighting Russian-backed separatists in 2014, and Azov’s first commander Andriy Biletsky claimed at the time that Azov had volunteers “from Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Scandinavia.” Foreigners were encouraged by Azov to volunteer at the outset of the Russian invasion in February.
In a supporting role and unofficial capacity, Misanthropic Division’s Telegram channels, and adjacent European ultra-nationalist groups, promoted Azov’s new recruitment campaign to its largely English-speaking and sizable Western following.
Multiple publications have described the neo-Nazi fighting formation, Misanthropic Division, as Azov’s “militant foreign volunteer wing” or similar. However, as Seth Harp notes in The Intercept, “It may be that the Misanthropic Division is not a real-world unit with a leader and a chain of command so much as a twisted military clique that anyone online can claim.” Harp adds, “I can find no convincing evidence, at the moment, that it is anything more than a toxic Telegram meme popularized by Azov’s most black-pilled fanboys, only a few of whom may really be serving in the unit.” In June, a 32-year-old French volunteer of the International Legion was killed in combat. He wore a Misanthropic Division patch in battle.
Americans have been stopped by US authorities at airports while departing for Ukraine in 2022, both prior to and after the Russian invasion, some of whom intended to join Azov.