Note: This is part of a series. You can read part onepart two, and part three here.

Those in the Azov Battalion are commonly known as the “Little Black Men,” a title bestowed upon them predominately by Russian and Ukrainian news sources in response to the battalion wearing an all-black uniform from early in their history. The title was further invoked as a haphazard correlation to Russia’s “Little Green Men” of Crimea.

Realistically, the Little Black Men are just people; they are volunteers from diverse professional backgrounds and ages who are volunteering for what they believe is the best course of action for Ukraine. The general composition of the battalion stems from members of the Social-National Assembly (SNA), Patriots of Ukraine (PU), Ultras United soccer (football) program from Dynamo and Kiev, and various others who flooded the ranks after Euromaidan, to include many of their associates and fellow activists.

Others have come from the pro-Russian separatist-occupied Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Luhansk. There are also volunteers who have travelled from former Soviet satellites such as Belarus and Georgia. The recruits that make up the Azov Battalion vary widely in their ages and backgrounds, from teenagers to those in their late ’50s, from store clerks to politicians. There is also a growing number of women from primarily pan-Slavic nations serving in the ranks of Azov.

Volunteers from Azov Battalion bound to cover while taking fire in Skrykone. Video courtesy of author.

Even though Azov draws from a wide variety of nationalities and backgrounds, it continues to gain support and trust from Kiev. Colonel Oleksiy Nozdrachov, a member of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Services, recently defended Battalion of Territorial Defense (BTD) Azov’s volunteers, telling USA Today,

“They are volunteers who decided to sacrifice their lives to the country [Ukraine],” Nozdrachov said. “They are tough and fierce in battle, and stand and fight and won’t give up soil.”

The respect and admiration held by Kiev toward the BTDs has been growing with the latter’s successes and the patriotism demonstrated by the volunteers themselves, which is repairing the strained relationship between Kiev and BTDs such as Azov and Donbass.