Fact Check: NO Evidence Cross On Ukrainian Military Vehicle Glorifies Nazis


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Fact Check: NO Evidence Cross On Ukrainian Military Vehicle Glorifies Nazis Ukraine Symbol

Does a social-media video show a Ukrainian military vehicle sporting a Nazi cross on its door, underscoring Russian accusations that Ukraine sympathizes with the Third Reich? There is no evidence that the cross has any such intent. It does bear a likeness to the Balkenkreuz, a symbol used by the German military during World War II, and commentators acknowledge that some present-day Ukrainian soldiers have an affinity for such insignia. It also resembles the Order of Knights -- the iron cross awarded to Ukrainians who fought for independence from the Soviet Union in 1917-21 - a version of which became an official emblem of a Ukrainian military unit in 2019.

The claim appeared in a Hungarian-language video (archived here) on TikTok on June 25, 2023. It shows a man in Ukrainian military fatigues getting behind the wheel of a vehicle bearing a Nazi-style cross. The caption, translated by Lead Stories, read:

An average military leader in democratic Ukraine.

The implication was not lost on one viewer, who commented "the nazi ukrainian,😡😡😡".

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2023-07-04 at 8.43.20.png

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Tue Jul 4 06:43:20 2023 UTC)

The decal on the vehicle indeed recalls the Balkenkreuz, the "bar cross" that Germany emblazoned on airplanes and other war vehicles:

Screen Shot 2023-07-04 at 9.46.43.png

(Source: Luftarchiv.de screenshot taken on Tue Jul 4 07:46:43 2023 UTC)

The Russian Embassy in London pointed out the similarity between the Balkenkreuz and the emblem appearing on Ukrainian military vehicles in a tweet dated September 17, 2022. It asked, "Has the #Ukraine military stopped hiding and just accepted its true #Nazi nature?" -- reinforcing the Kremlin trope that Ukraine is run by neo-Nazis.

Screen Shot 2023-07-04 at 9.57.57.png

(Source: Twitter screenshot taken on Tue Jul 4 07:57:57 2023 UTC)

The Russian Embassy's claim ignores the fact that Ukrainians used a nearly identical emblem, the Order of Knights -- Iron Cross of the Army of the Ukrainian National Republic, to decorate pro-independence soldiers who battled Soviet Bolsheviks and the Russian White Army during the First Winter Campaign from December 6, 1919, to May 6, 1920.

Screen Shot 2023-07-04 at 10.07.35.png

(Source: Ukrainianmuseumlibrary.org screenshot taken on Tue Jul 4 08:07:35 2023 UTC)

In 2019, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry approved a similar cross as an insignia of the 28th Separate Mechanized Brigade, which has been battling Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine since 2014, fact checker Snopes reported on June 28, 2023.

The cross is nonetheless controversial, even in Ukrainian circles. Military affairs reporter Illia Ponomarenko called such insignia "reminders of some of history's worst crimes against humanity" in a commentary that appeared in the Kyiv Independent on May 26, 2023:

Seeing these symbols on soldiers is always distressing, to say the least. While these soldiers do not represent a widespread practice in the Ukrainian military, the use of these symbols nonetheless discredits Ukraine and scares away some potential supporters worldwide.

Czech news portal Novinky asked Nadiia Malovana, an official at the Ukrainian Embassy in Prague, to comment on photos showing Ukrainian tanks bearing what appeared to be the Balkenkreuz. In an article published on March 15, 2023, she replied:

We received information that the crosses were drawn by one soldier, who did it without the consent of the leadership. (Translation by Google Translate.)

Malovana sent photos proving that the crosses had been removed from the tanks Novinky inquired about, the news portal said.


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