They’re the ultra-Nationalist swastika-loving battalion which is openly against the ceasefire agreed with pro-Russian separatists.
Now extremists from the Azov unit, a far-right neo-Nazi militia defending the port city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine, are teaching children as young as six how to fire guns in an attempt to entice them into the country’s bloody conflict.
Disturbing pictures have emerged from a military summer camp held on the outskirts of Kiev which show members of the voluntary group teaching so-called ‘Azovets’ how to behave as young fighters.
The children – which include girls and boys, some as young as six – are seen loading their guns, before taking part in exercises in which they crawl along the ground and fire at the enemy.
The camp comes under the command of Andriy Biletsky, who once admitted that the battalion ‘do not like ceasefire at all’. The Azov men use the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel (Wolf’s Hook) symbol on their banner and several members are white supremacists or anti-Semites.
The conflict broke out in April last year, when separatists rebelled in eastern Ukraine against the rule of Kiev’s new Western-looking government.
Since April 2014, more than 6,500 people have been killed in the war-torn country with experts warning the crisis could carry on for years, despite a peace deal being brokered in the Belarus capital Minsk in February.
Preparation: Young boys prepare their guns at a military youth training camp run by the neo-Nazi brigade fighting pro-Russian separatists
Disturbing: The course, which lasts about one week, is organised by the ultra-Nationalist Azov brigade, which has been openly against the ceasefire agreed in February in Minsk
Lessons: Children, many of whom have parents in the right-wing battalion, attend the court to learn about the military, self-defence and survival skills. The group’s symbol is a black swastika on a yellow background
Volunteers: The children, known as ‘Azovets’, stay in tents before taking part in several different exercises reminiscent of a warzone
Gearing up: One of the young girls at the summer camp, which lasts one week, learns how to load up a weapon during the course
Knotted: Some of the group work with an instructor to learn how to tie a variety of knots in different length ropes
Leader: A young boy is picked out to demonstrate his gun-handling skills as a group of other young children watch on and learn
Studying: The children take part in imaginary drills which reflect real-life situations, including how to crouch down and spot the enemy
Right-wing: The camp comes under the command of Andriy Biletsky, who once admitted that the battalion ‘do not like ceasefire at all’. The Azov men use the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel (Wolf’s Hook) symbol on their banner and several members are white supremacists or anti-Semites
Offensive: A group of young children learn how to hold a shooting pose before pointing their weapons towards an imaginary target
On the mark: The group work with mock weapons and practise how to evade fire from the enemy during one of the sessions
On the attack: A young boy holds a mock weapon and creeps behind a wooden fence as he takes part in drills at the summer camp
Bullseye: The young children are learning how to defend themselves, as the conflict continues around them. It has killed nearly 7,000
Fall in line: The children, most of whom don the required yellow uniform, walk across the camp, ready for a day of military action
Coached: An incredibly young student eyes up the target during practice. He is helped by one of the military volunteers
Crawling to safety: Two young boys crouch down on the ground and wiggle on their fronts towards safety, while holding weapons
Raring to go: One of the students puts on his shoes, ready for the day ahead. The group sleep in tents during the intensive course
Target: This picture shows one of the guns, lined up alongside one of the drawn targets, which the children aim to try and destroy