KYIV -- Ukraine's far-right Azov Battalion has officially created a political party.
Greeted by chants of "Death to enemies!" at an inaugural party congress in Kyiv on October 14, Azov's new political head, Nazar Kravchenko, told some 300 attendees, many in military fatigues, that the party would work to defend Ukraine against Russian aggression.
The gathering coincided with traditional nationalist events marking the creation of the controversial World War II-era Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and to celebrate Ukrainian Cossacks.
It also marks the second annual Day of Defenders, a holiday established following Russia's seizure of Crimea and interference in eastern Ukraine, where a war has killed more than 9,600 people since April 2014.
Credited with recapturing the strategic port city of Mariupol from Russia-backed separatists in 2014, Azov is a former volunteer militia now included in the National Guard.
Due to members' far-right ideology and militancy, detractors believe the fighting force might also pose a threat to President Petro Poroshenko and the stability of the state.
Kravchenko told the Hromadske news site he hopes forming a party will give Azov greater political influence.
"There are several ways of coming to power, but we are trying something through elections, but we have all sorts of possibilities," he said.
Azov's symbol is similar to the Nazi Wolfsangel but the group claims it is comprised of the letters N and I, meaning "national idea."
Human rights organizations have accused the Azov Battalion of torture.