KYIV—When Deputy Secretary of State George Kent spoke at the U.S. House of Representatives impeachment hearings this week, he painted a powerful picture of Ukrainian bravery in the face of Russian aggression.

In 2014, when “Russia invaded Ukraine” and occupied 7 percent of its territory, Ukraine’s state institutions were “on the verge of collapse,” he said. But “Ukrainian civil society answered the challenge. They formed volunteer battalions of citizens, including technology professionals and medics. They crowd-sourced funding for their own weapons, body armor, and supplies. They were the 21st century Ukrainian equivalent of our own Minutemen in 1776, buying time for the regular army to reconstitute.”

But Kent most likely did not have in mind the most famous—and infamous—of those volunteer units, the Azov Battalion, which 40 members of Congress have asked the State Department to designate as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Some of its members are neo-Nazis, white supremacists and avowed anti-Semites.

Are the Azov fighters, in fact, “Minutemen” or monsters, freedom fighters or terrorists? Or in some cases both?

Angry demonstrations here in Kyiv about those congressional efforts to get Azov declared an “FTO” suggest just how complicated and treacherous the political and military landscape has become in this nation fighting for survival.

It is another factor—along with the extortionate, allegedly impeachable games played by the Trump administration—weakening the position of President Volodymyr Zelinsky as he struggles to achieve an equitable peace with Putin.

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SOURCEThe Daily Beast

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