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Azov Leader Admits to Ukrainian Use of ‘Blocking Detachments’

State of the Union: The interview gives insight into the Ukrainian armed forces’ tenuous condition.
Azov soldiers
Credit: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

In a June 16 interview with the news channel of Ukraine’s army, Armiya TV, an Azov commander admitted to his unit being used to prevent other Ukrainian units from retreating. 

Dmitry Kukharchuk, the commander of the Second Battalion of Ukraine’s Third Assault Brigade, the current iteration of the neo-Nazi-linked unit, recounts a moment in 2022 when his unit was positioned behind a unit of Ukraine’s territorial defense forces (TRO) to prevent its retreat:


We [Azov] were motivational troops then. We then helped the 110th brigade of the TRO. I can't say anything bad about them, because for a TRO they fought quite well, but, again, as a TRO they had to be motivated. And then my detachment—I was then the commander of a detachment of 500 men—was evenly distributed along a 25-kilometer line….

“Motivational troops” appears to be a euphemism for a “blocking detachment” (also known as “barrier troops”), a unit positioned behind the frontline to prevent retreat. It appears that Azov’s “motivation” existed as an implicit threat, preventing the TRO soldiers from falling back.

The admission comes close on the Biden administration’s decision to allow military aid to go to the Azov unit, which had earlier been banned from receiving aid under the Leahy Law due to its extremist associations.

While rumors have swirled concerning the use of blocking detachments in the ongoing conflict. In 2023, Sputnik, a Russian state-aligned outlet, released drone footage purporting to show Ukrainian barrier troops firing upon Ukrainian soldiers attempting to retreat. The British Defense Ministry has alleged that the Russians have used barrier troops in the conflict to shoot deserters.