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Japan’s intelligence agency removes characterization of Azov Battalion as “neo-Nazi” group

  • April 20, 2022
  • JMH Summary

The evening tabloid Nikkan Gendai reported that the Public Security Intelligence Agency (PSIA) has removed from its annual document on global terrorism a reference to Ukraine’s far-right all-volunteer infantry military unit Azov Battalion. The deletion was apparently in response to a tweet posted by the Russian Embassy in Tokyo in early April saying that Japan’s intelligence agency has acknowledged that the Azov Battalion is a neo-Nazi group. In the web version of the document, entitled “Outline of International Terrorism 2021,” the agency had written that “neo-Nazi agents formed the Azov Battalion.” This description was removed on April 8, with the agency explaining: “The document was a compilation of open source information collected from articles and research papers published by domestic and foreign media outlets and think tanks…. The description did not reflect the independent analysis of the agency. The description should not be construed to mean that the agency viewed the group as a neo-Nazi organization.” The tabloid speculated that the PSIA hastily deleted the reference to avoid calling attention to Moscow’s narrative that the Japanese government also regards the Azov Battalion as a neo-Nazi group and hence endorses Russia’s war aimed at “denazifing” Ukraine. According to the report, the Russian side reacted sharply to the removal of the reference, with its Foreign Ministry spokesperson commenting several days later: “Regrettably, Japan has taken a spot at the front of the Russophobia queue.”

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