Ukrainian Nazis
A man holds a sign during a ceremony commemorating the 69th anniversary of the end of World War II at an Allied Forces cemetery in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, May 9, 2014. Reuters/Alexandros Avramidis

A German television station Monday night showed video of Ukrainian volunteer soldiers with Nazi symbols, which are outlawed in Germany, on their helmets. One soldier was seen with a Nazi swastika on his helmet and another had the distinctive lightning bolt-like runic symbol of the SS, which carried out the Holocaust and many other atrocities under Hitler.

The soldiers depicted are reportedly part of the Azov battalion, a volunteer force with a strong nationalist base. Oysten Bogen, a correspondent for Norway’s TV2, which shot the piece, said he asked a spokesman if there were any fascist elements in the volunteer forces just prior to taping the men and the spokesman replied: “Absolutely not, we are just Ukrainian nationalists.”

Pro-government Russian media repeatedly have focused on Ukraine’s far right nationalism as a means of discrediting President Petro Poroshenko’s pro-European government and European integration supporters, known as the Euromaidan movement. Many ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine have cited what they call Kiev's Nazism as a reason to take up arms and fight to break from Ukraine.

See a full list of Ukraine's volunteer battalions here.

The Azov battalion is one of the more prominent volunteer units fighting separatist rebels in the east. It was founded by the Social-National Assembly, an alliance of far right and nationalist parties. Many Azov battalion members are openly nationalist and have been accused of being neo-Nazi, but most deny their ideology is fascist. The Azov battalion flag prominently displays a symbol resembling the Wolfsangel, or Wolf’s Hook, a prominent symbol within Nazism.