Why Azov? Odessa

April 29, 2016

Having outlined over the course of several entries the escalatory and reckless politics of the local political class as the calendar moves ever-onward toward the second anniversary of the 2nd May tragedy in Odessa – entries that by no means mention every incident that has occurred – it appears Kyiv has finally stopped navel gazing and decided that assistance may be indeed wise, and has now offered such preparatory assistance.

“That said, 2015 did not see the local political class so openly manipulating events and forcefully pushing their own personal agendas in such a reckless manner – the tragic events of 2014 however, did.”

Indeed, the National Guard which sits within the Ministry of Interior structure, having first pooh-poohed the Governor’s call for assistance stating it did not get involved in such clearly reckless politically motivated and instigated nonsense, has now decided – or perhaps has been instructed – to send assistance.

As it would be a political disaster for President Poroshenko to watch any events in Odessa spiral out of control having ignored his own appointed Governor’s very public request, what choice did he have?

To be blunt neither the National Guard nor the police should get involved in reckless and politically instigated nonsense – unless the rule of law cannot be upheld in the resulting aftermath, at which point both, depending upon the perceived gravity of disorder have a duty to the State and society (and not necessarily the vested interests of the political class) to keep order within the parameters of the rule of law.

In an attempt to keep track of the law enforcement bodies that will be actively working in Odessa from 30th April, there seems to be approximately 1300 local police officers, 500 National Guard (most of which come from the Azov Regiment) and 1000 drafted in police officers from outside the region.


Naturally there is no such thing as 100% security, be it  3,000 or 30,000 charged with preventing an incident occurring in the city, they cannot be everywhere all the time.  The point is to prevent the most grievous of incidents if possible, and contain the most disorderly if they manifest.

It is to be expected that there will be a zero tolerance approach taken by the authorities deployed to any stupidity – or worse – that occurs.

A reader may rightly ponder whether such attention will be solely focused on the city of Odessa – for there are politicians in the south-west of the oblast recklessly, yet deliberately, stoking the fires of ethnicity for political blackmail purposes to advance their own personal ends (and hoping to be able to keep the genie in the bottle if they get what they want having rubbed it profusely).  That said, those manifestations appear to be manipulated more toward Victory Day on the 9th May.

Such obvious and reckless political stupidity aimed toward 9th May is perhaps a secondary consideration for those looking to prevent lawlessness (or worse) on 2nd May in the city.  A matter of focusing upon one deliberately and recklessly politically induced incendiary date at a time perhaps.  9th May however, is also a date that will have to be well policed in the city too.

The decision to send the Azov Regiment (or several hundred of them) to Odessa is interesting – so much so that having dealt with numerous telephone calls and emails from various embassies in Kyiv regarding the general situation in Odessa over the past week – and notwithstanding a light grilling face to face with Nordic Ambassadors last week too – there have now been specific questions seeking speculative answers as to why Azov.  Why not a different National Guard unit?

Indeed only speculative answers can be offered, for only those that make the decisions can answer what considerations were involved in any final decision.

That it would be Azov was forewarned before any official announcement of any National Guard deployment, or indeed the troops of Azov arriving in Odessa.

So why Azov?

Starting with the obvious, officially, Azov is now called the Special Operations Regiment.  Perhaps it is therefore simply fulfilling the role its name suggests.  Perhaps there are some unstated doubts about the abilities and/or will of the local police to cope – be such doubts misplaced or not.

Perhaps it is the easiest unit to deploy to Odessa?  Mariupol is not that far away, but far enough for a reader to ponder whether there were not closer National Guard units available.

It may be that as Azov being the only unit within the National Guard to have combat experience (not to mention being one of the first units to have key personnel (if not the unit en masse) receive US training (Op Fearless Guardian) when assimilating into the National Guard, having its own tanks and APCs, and being trained as light infantry specialising in tactical interdiction and reconnaissance).   Perhaps the extreme political recklessness of the Odessa political class prompted Kyiv to decide only a National Guard unit with experience of war would suffice.

Indeed it maybe that it was thought that the reputation of Azov would be an additional consideration for any of those tasked with creating disorder – or worse.

It may also be that Azov and its command are seen as the least likely to pay any attention to the whims and laments of the local political class that are responsible for the current situation.  Indeed the perceived ideology that enveloped a percentage of those within Azov when created is hardly attune to that of many of the local political class that have deliberately manipulated and escalated the current situation.

Perhaps the association with Ihor Kolomoisky, an oligarch with some reach into Odessa, was deemed appropriate.

It may also be, as the public tiff involving name calling and flying glasses of water between Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and Governor Saakashvili still remains in the memory, that Mr Avakov in sending Azov to the aid of Governor Saakashvili is to be seen as something akin to offering the proverbial olive branch.

Perhaps it sends an appropriate message to those with provocative self-serving political agendas that despite a clear unwillingness to support Governor Saakashvili is taking on the local vested interests (many of which see some of the cash flows head toward Kyiv), when push comes to shove Kyiv will back him – or perhaps not.

Whatever the case, the Governor has hardly been sent Dad’s Army.

There may be other reasons, or any or all of the above, or any combination thereof, that led to the decision to send Azov.

It rarely pays to speculate (publicly) but having been privately asked to speculate, why not share (some of) those speculations?

Would anybody care to speculate whether Azov will remain until after the 9th May Victory Day events, or whether they will disappear immediately after 2nd May has passed?  As already stated, 9th May may prove to be just as potentially problematic – particularly in the south-west of the oblast.

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