(photo credit: REUTERS)
French police have banned a Ukrainian militia accused of neo-Nazism from holding a recruitment meeting in the city of Nantes this week, after vigorous protests by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Last week the Jewish human rights organization’s international relations director Dr. Shimon Samuels called upon the mayor of Nantes to prevent the gathering by the Ukraine Azov Regiment, which was organized by French far-right activists.
The group, which uses Nazi symbols for its subunits, is one of several independent militias organized to combat pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine, later being integrated into the country’s official security services.
While Canada and the United States have provided training for Ukrainian troops, both countries have refused to work with the unit, which they have described as neo-Nazi.
Following Samuels’s letter and several radio appearances in which he railed against the city, calling it an “outrage that the city that hosts the world forum for human rights every year would now host a neo-Nazi rally,” Johanna Roland announced the decision to ban the event.
“I assure you that no Nantes municipal hall will host this meeting,” Roland wrote Samuels on Wednesday.
“Furthermore, I have requested the prefet (chief of police) of Loire-Atlantique to immediately take every measure to interdict the holding of this reunion on the territory of Nantes.”
As a result, the police have issued an order “prohibiting the meeting organized for Saturday 2016 in Nantes by the White Rebels Crew in the presence of a former volunteer from the Azov Battalion.”
“This has gone much further than Ukraine,” Samuels told The Jerusalem Post, explaining that several French far-right and Nazi organizations were involved in organizing the meeting, and that many of those who had planned to attend the meeting seemed to be extremists turned off by the anti-immigrant National Front party’s attempts to distance itself from its anti-Semitic past.
“They are recruiting, not just possibly for Ukraine,” and it looks like they are trying to enlist people into the “battalion like it was some sort of foreign legion,” Samuels said.
Rina Bassist contributed to this report from Paris.