A US Army veteran who has returned to Ukraine to take on Vladimir Putin has been slammed online for posing with a soldier who appeared to be wearing a Nazi patch on his uniform.
Former US Army staff sergeant James Vasquez, 47, sold everything he owned and returned to the war-torn country after finding out his wife had left him.
He originally arrived in Ukraine in early April to fight against Putin's invaders and returned in July.
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Vasquez, who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, often encounters volunteers as he makes his way around Ukraine – and documents on his Twitter how he donates equipment to them.
On Monday, August 29, he posted a tweet saying how he ran into a group of Ukrainians that he donated supplies to before he found himself coming under fire from people online.
Some Twitter users took umbrage with a patch on one of the recipient's arms, which was apparently a Nazi symbol.
Vasquez deleted the original picture and re-uploaded it with the soldier's face and arm obscured, but one person commented that the patch was that of the Dirlewanger Brigade – a group made up of convicts who were part of the SS.
Reacting to the criticism, the contractor from Connecticut pleaded for people to stop giving him "guff" about "unsavoury patches".
He wrote: "I just want everyone to know I’m not savvy on foreign patches, all I do is help. Don’t give me guff please if I’m ignorant to unsavory patches.
"If anything that should show I’m not involved in any nefarious behavior because why would I put that out otherwise?"
He had earlier claimed that the patch was "not a Nazi thing" until his followers corrected him.
"I have seen the patch comments, it is a war trophy he’s wearing, not a Nazi thing," he said.
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First deployed during the Polish resistance during WW2, the Dirlewanger Brigade consisted of convicted criminals and the criminally-insane, who were not expected by Nazi Germany to survive their service with the unit.
During its operations, the notoriously-brutal unit participated in the mass murder of civilians and in other war crimes in German-occupied Eastern Europe.
It was named after the "most evil man" in the SS, WW1 veteran and convicted criminal Oskar Dirlewanger.
He was considered an amoral violent alcoholic who was claimed to have possessed a sadistic sexual orientation and a barbaric nature.
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