The Supreme Court of Russia recognized the Ukrainian Azov Regiment as a terrorist organization banning it from the territory of Russia, said Russian state-owned media RIA Novosti.
The court ruled that the decision regarding Azov "shall be subject to execution without delay, and without waiting for it to come into force."
According to Russian media TASS, the court announced only the resolutive part of the decision, so the reasons for the decision are unknown. The decision has not yet entered into force, and it can be appealed to the Court of Appeal.
The prosecutor's office considered the lawsuit without the Regiment's representatives. Most of the meetings took place behind closed doors, and only the questioning of witnesses was broadcasted to journalists.
According to Russian legislation, members of an organization that the court has recognized as terrorists face criminal liability. The founders and commanders of the Regiment face from 15 to 20 years in prison with a fine of up to 1 million rubles. And ordinary participants can face imprisonment from 5 to 10 years with a fine of up to 500,000 rubles. Those who voluntarily stopped participating in the organization's activities before the start of the investigation are released from criminal liability.
Azov Regiment reaction
The Azov Regiment says that the decision of the Russian court shows that Russia is looking for new excuses for its war crimes.
"After the public execution of prisoners of war of the Azov Regiment in Olenivka, Russia is looking for new excuses and explanations for its war crimes... An underempire that threatens to destroy the world with nuclear weapons every day, whose president blew up the houses of its own citizens, suffocated its own and Syrian women and children with poisonous gas, deserves a kick in the teeth once and for all," the Azov statement says.
Azov also calls on the US State Department and authorized bodies of other states to recognize Russia as a terrorist state.
Back in May, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation announced that it was asking the court to recognize the Ukrainian Azov Regiment as a terrorist organization. Russia's authorities started considering this move after the Ukrainian defenders of Azovstal (including some of the Azov Regiment members) received an order to save the lives of the personnel. The service members were captured by the Russian forces on the condition that they would be exchanged later. The first exchange of Mariupol defenders took place in June.
The decision of the Russian court appeared a few days after the Russian occupiers set off an explosion in the occupied Olenivka in the premises where there were Ukrainian prisoners of war, including Azov members were detained. More than 50 Ukrainians died. However, Ukraine still has not received confirmed lists of the dead and wounded. Also, Russia does not allow experts from the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross to the site of the tragedy.
The founder and former commander of the Azov Regiment, Andrii Biletskyi, announced a hunt for everyone involved in the murder of Azov members who were detained in prison in the occupied Olenivka.