Ukrainian volunteer soldiers have been broadcast on German television wearing helmets with Nazi symbols.

The soldiers, reportedly from the Azov battalion, were shown on German public broadcaster ZDF wearing uniforms decorated with Nazi motifs, including swastikas and lightning bolt-like runic symbols of the SS, a World War II Nazi paramilitary organisation.

The footage was captured by a camera team from Norway's TV2. Oystein Bogen, a foreign affairs correspondent at TV2 told NBC: "We were filming a report about Ukraine's Azov battalion in the eastern city of Urzuf when we came across these soldiers."

A spokesperson for the Azov battalion denied that the force has any fascist tendencies. "We are just Ukrainian nationalists," he said.

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The Azov battalion is one of the more prominent volunteer units fighting pro-Russian separatists in the east of Ukraine, and was established by the Social-National Assembly, an alliance of far-right and nationalist parties.

Neo-nazi accusations

Azov battalion fighters have faced repeated accusations of being neo-Nazis. The force uses the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel (Wolf's Hook) symbol on their banner, and members of the battalion have openly espoused white supremacists and anti-Semitic views.

One battalion fighter named "Phantom", a 23-year-old former lawyer, told The Telegraph last month: "Personally, I'm a Nazi. I don't hate any other nationalities, but I believe each nation should have its own country. We have one idea: to liberate our land from terrorists."

The battalion's commander Andriy Biletsky, a former history student and amateur boxer, also commented: "The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the white races of the world in a final crusade for their survival. A crusade against the Semite-led untermenschen [sub-humans]."

Pro-government Russian media have repeatedly focused on Ukraine's far-right nationalist elements in an effort to discredit President Petro Poroshenko's pro-Western government.

Ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine have also cited Kiev's alleged Nazism as a reason to fight to break away from Ukraine.