by Matt Agorist, The Free Thought Project:
Defense Department-sponsored “Warrior Games” featured liberal comedian Jon Stewart awarding a member of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi Azov Battalion at Disney World.
This August, during the Department of Defense’s annual Warrior Games at Disney World in Orlando, Florida this August 19-28, liberal comedian Jon Stewart awarded a Ukrainian military veteran named Ihor Halushka the “Heart of the Team” award for “inspiring his team” with his “personal example.”
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Halushka happens to have been a member of the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, which has been armed by the US and integrated into the Ukrainian National Guard. The award-winning ultra-nationalist wore a sleeve over his left arm as he accepted the prize, presumably to cover up his tattoo of the Nazi Sonnenrad, or Black Sun.
The pair are part of a team of forty Ukrainian veterans participating in the Warrior Games. They were joined at the ceremony for this year’s competition by Darius Rucker, the former vocalist for the glorified bar band Hootie & the Blowfish, and liberal comedian Jon Stewart.
During the closing ceremony, Stewart awarded the Azov Battalion’s Halushka with the “Heart of the Team” award. The announcer proclaimed that Ihor “inspires his team with his personal example and his unique sense of humor. Sgt. First Class Ihor Halushka embodies the spirit and determination that is the heart of Team Ukraine.”
Stewart triumphantly bellowed “Ihor!” as the Nazi was presented with his trophy.
Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February of this year, mainstream outlets from the Daily Beast to Vox to Foreign Policy, and even the US government propaganda outlet Voice of America, have each acknowledged the Azov Battalion’s embrace of Nazism. Right Sector group has been similarly identified as a fascist organization. Since the invasion, however, Western corporate media has downplayed the presence of Nazis in the Ukrainian armed forces as groups like Azov have taken on prominent front-line roles.
Reached by phone, Warrior Games communication director Travis Claytor would not tell The Grayzone who covered the travel expenses of Team Ukraine and other foreign competitors. Claytor merely stated that the Department of Defense is “not responsible” for their costs. However, he noted that “the relationship with each team is different.” Ukraine and Canada are the only foreign teams participating in this year’s competition.
While promising this reporter a more complete response by email, Claytor has so far failed to deliver.
A video on the DoD Warrior Games YouTube channel entitled “Family Night at Magic Kingdom” shows some members of Team Ukraine enjoying a night out at the world-famous theme park.
This year’s Warrior Games are taking place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort. Competitions include shooting, wheelchair rugby, cycling, powerlifting, indoor rowing, wheelchair basketball, field, golf, track, swimming, sitting volleyball and archery.
This is the first year Team Ukraine has participated in the Warrior Games. Its athletes came away with at least 18 gold medals.
Ukraine’s team is composed of the same veteran-athletes that participated in the Invictus Games, a similar competition of wounded veterans founded by Prince Harry after the English royal attended the Warrior Games. Ukraine’s Invictus Games team and Warrior Games team are both led by Oksana Gorbach, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Veterans Affairs.
“The organizational team of the Warrior Games in Ukraine includes the Ministry of Veterans Affairs of Ukraine, the Center for Strategic Communications ‘StratCom Ukraine,’ the NGO ‘Invictus Ukraine Games,’ the Strongman Federation of Ukraine, the ‘Come Back Alive,’” the Ministry of Veterans Affairs website states. StratCom Ukraine, like the Ministry of Veterans Affairs, is a governmental body, while the others appear to be Ukrainian NGOs.
As the Grayzone reported, the head of Ukraine’s veterans affairs agency attended a 2019 neo-Nazi black metal concert featuring several antisemitic metal bands, and promoted the event on Facebook.
According to a deleted article from 2017 on an Azov Battalion website, at least three members of the notorious ultranationalist fighting force have participated in the Invictus Games. Because Azov identified the competitors by their call signs, and therefore did not disclose their real names, it is not possible to determine whether they also competed in the 2022 Warrior Games.
While the team page on the Invictus Games website merely states that Ihor Halushka was a member of Ukraine’s National Guard, an expanded bio on the website makes it clear he was a member of Azov.
An unlisted YouTube video by the Invictus Games on YouTube offers a close-up of Halushka working out with Nazi Black Sun symbol tattooed on his left elbow clearly visible. Halushka opted to cover the fascist symbol during photo ops at the Warrior Games.
Halushka has never been shy about his ties to the Azov Battalion. During the Invictus Games this April, he whipped out an Azov flag as he accepted a gold medal, which was hosted in The Hague – where war criminals are normally tried, not awarded. Likewise, in Orlando, Haluskha wore an Azov Battalion t-shirt as he accepted a gold medal for indoor rowing. He was honored days later as the “heart” of his team.