Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #1030 Walkin’ the Snake from Ukraine, to the United States and Around the World

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This broad­cast was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

Intro­duc­tion: We have spo­ken repeat­ed­ly about the Nazi tract “Ser­pen­t’s Walk,” in which the Third Reich goes under­ground, buys into the opin­ion-form­ing media and, even­tu­al­ly, takes over.

Hitler, the Third Reich and their actions are glo­ri­fied and memo­ri­al­ized.

Some­thing sim­i­lar is hap­pen­ing today in Ukraine.

In 2015, a book was pub­lished, exam­in­ing the life of Stepan (also translit­er­at­ed as “Stephan”) Ban­dera, the Ukrain­ian fas­cist and Third Reich ally whose polit­i­cal heirs ascend­ed to pow­er in Ukraine through the Maid­an coup. CORRECTION: Mr. Emory, work­ing from mem­o­ry, misiden­ti­fied the pub­li­ca­tion in which Daniel Lazare’s arti­cle  appeared. It was Jacobin Mag­a­zine, not Coun­ter­punch. 

Stephan Ban­dera, head of the OUN/B

We have repeat­ed­ly made the point that the dimen­sions of offi­cial lying in the West were of tru­ly Orwellian proportions–documented World War II his­to­ry was being dis­missed as “Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da” or “Krem­lin pro­pa­gan­da.”

” . . . But thanks to Grze­gorz Rossolinski-Liebe’s Stepan Ban­dera: The Life and After­life of a Ukrain­ian Nation­al­ist, it now seems clear: those ter­ri­ble Rus­sians were right. . . Although Ban­dera and his fol­low­ers would lat­er try to paint the alliance with the Third Reich as no more than ‘tac­ti­cal,’ an attempt to pit one total­i­tar­ian state against anoth­er, it was in fact deep-root­ed and ide­o­log­i­cal. Ban­dera envi­sioned the Ukraine as a clas­sic one-par­ty state with him­self in the role of führer, or provid­nyk, and expect­ed that a new Ukraine would take its place under the Nazi umbrel­la, much as Jozef Tiso’s new fas­cist regime had in Slo­va­kia or Ante Pavelic’s in Croa­t­ia. . . .”

Indeed. This is the point we have been mak­ing for many years.

The Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues its rever­sal of the doc­u­ment­ed his­to­ry of World War II: An exhib­it cel­e­brat­ing “Ukrain­ian inde­pen­dence” rev­els in the OUN/B, Nazi-allied forces that ascend­ed in Ukraine after the Third Reich’s inva­sion of the Sovi­et Union.

” . . . . An exhi­bi­tion inside the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment, the Rada last week glo­ri­fied the lead­ing Ukrain­ian Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors of World War II. . . . ‘The orga­niz­ers of the exhi­bi­tion: All-Ukrain­ian char­i­ta­ble Sobor­nist foun­da­tion, Inter­na­tion­al char­i­ta­ble Jaroslav Stezko foun­da­tion, MP Jury Shuchevich.’ Jaroslav Stezko was leader of Stepan Bandera’s Orga­ni­za­tion of the Ukrain­ian Nation­al­ists (OUN) mil­i­tary brigades from 1968 until his death. A fer­vent Ukrain­ian Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor, in 1941 dur­ing the Nazi Ger­man inva­sion of the Sovi­et Union, he was self-pro­claimed tem­po­rary head of the osten­si­bly inde­pen­dent Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment declared by Stepan Ban­dera. Stet­sko was the head of the Anti-Bol­she­vik Bloc of Nations from the time of its foun­da­tion until 1986, the year of his death. MP Jury Shuchevich is the octo­ge­nar­i­an son of Roman Shuchevich, who was the one of the lead­ers of the infa­mous the SS Nachti­gall bat­tal­ion. SS Cap­tain Roman Shuchevich was award­ed the Nazi Iron Cross for his “exploits” dur­ing the Sec­ond World War in Ukraine and was an Abwehr agent from 1926. ‘The fact that the son of the polit­i­cal leader of the SS Nachti­gall bat­tal­ion and the bear­er of the Nazi Iron Cross is the most respect­ed – accord­ing to Ukrain­ian author­i­ties – mem­ber of their par­lia­ment is telling all by itself,” wrote co-founder and Pres­i­dent of the Rogatchi Foun­da­tion Dr. Inna Rogatchi. . . .”

World War II-era mon­u­ment in mem­o­ry of UPA free­dom fight­ers with inscrip­tion “Glo­ry to Ukraine! Glo­ry to the heroes!”, in place of the Janowa Dolina mas­sacre, Bazal­tove, Ukraine

In addi­tion, the offi­cial salute of the OUN/B is set to become the offi­cial salute of the Ukrain­ian army. ” . . . . ‘Glo­ry to Ukraine! – Glo­ry to the Heroes!’ is a slo­gan of the UPA, the Ukraine Rebel Army who fought on the side of the Nazis. The slo­gans, their ori­gin, and his­to­ry are well known in Ukraine. . . . Present neo-Nazi Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary for­ma­tions estab­lished by order of the Ukrain­ian author­i­ties appro­pri­at­ed the slo­gan from the end of 2013 onward. Now, the Ukrain­ian Nazi collaborator’s greet­ing will become the offi­cial salute in that country’s army. . . .”

Not only has the UPA salute become the offi­cial salute of the Ukrain­ian army, but it has become the offi­cial salute of the police as well. ”  . . . . Also, the law on the Nation­al Police was amend­ed. Accord­ing to it, when the police offi­cers are in line for the greet­ing of the leader or senior offi­cer, when they hear the salute ‘Glo­ry to Ukraine!’ they reply ‘Glo­ry to Heroes’. The same actions take place dur­ing the part­ing. . . .”

C14 cadre

As dis­cussed in FTR #‘s 1004 and 1014, the fas­cist Svo­bo­da Par­ty’s mili­tia, C14, and the Nazi Azov Bat­tal­ion’s Nation­al Druzhy­na mili­tia have been incor­po­rat­ed into the Ukrain­ian police estab­lish­ment. This is not sur­pris­ing since Vadim Troy­an, the for­mer Deputy Com­man­der of the Azov Bat­tal­ion became: head of the Kyiv police, act­ing head of the Nation­al Police and then Deputy Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter to OUN/B acolyte Arsen Avakov, the main patron of the Azov Bat­tal­ion.

Com­bat 14’s Logo.

C14’s police cadre has con­duct­ed anoth­er eth­nic cleans­ing raid against Roma, while receiv­ing favor­able cov­er­age from major Ukrain­ian media: ” . . . . Mem­bers of the neo-Nazi C14 move­ment, togeth­er with the ‘Kyiv Munic­i­pal Watch’ civic orga­ni­za­tion which is led by C14 activist Ser­hiy Bon­dar, have car­ried out anoth­er raid, dri­ving Roma cit­i­zens out of the area around the South­ern Rail­way Sta­tion in Kyiv. The raid does not appear to have been accom­pa­nied by shock­ing images of vio­lence like some five oth­ers this year, but that is the only pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence. What is much more dis­turb­ing is that the action appears to have been with the coop­er­a­tion of the police, and was essen­tial­ly giv­en glow­ing cov­er­age on a nation­al tele­vi­sion news broad­cast. . . . the pre­sen­ter of the fea­ture vir­tu­al­ly par­rots parts of the C14 video, with only two Roma peo­ple dri­ven out shown in a neg­a­tive light. There is one telling detail, name­ly that the tele­vi­sion pro­gram is care­ful­ly not to eth­ni­cal­ly label the peo­ple dri­ven out, with the fea­ture enti­tled: ‘Police and civic activists tried to clean the capital’s sta­tion of thieves’. It does, how­ev­er, show the activists wear­ing cam­ou­flage gear and chevrons clear­ly show­ing the C14 sym­bol, and lit­tle effort would be required to find out how C14 presents its vig­i­lante activ­i­ties, and why this orga­ni­za­tion has gained noto­ri­ety over recent months. . . .”  

Roman Shukhevych in his Nachti­gall Bat­tal­ion Uni­form

Addi­tion­al per­spec­tive on the phys­i­cal, polit­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal real­i­ty under­ly­ing the salute “Glo­ry to Ukraine–Glory to the Heroes” is the slo­gan’s dis­play on a mon­u­ment to the mas­sacre of the 600 res­i­dents of the Pol­ish town of Janowa Dolina by the UPA. ” . . . . On the night of April 22–23 (Good Fri­day), 1943, the Ukraini­ans from the Ukrain­ian Insur­gent Army, togeth­er with local peas­ants, attacked Janowa Dolina. Some 600 peo­ple, includ­ing chil­dren and the elder­ly, were bru­tal­ly mur­dered (see Mas­sacres of Poles in Vol­hy­nia). Most homes were burned to the ground and the set­tle­ment desert­ed. The per­pe­tra­tors, com­mand­ed by Ivan Lytwynchuk (aka Dubowy) exer­cised rare cru­el­ty. Poles, unpre­pared and caught by sur­prise, were hacked to death with axes, burned alive, and impaled (includ­ing chil­dren). The mur­der­ers did not spare any­one, regard­less of age and sex. Ger­man gar­ri­son, num­ber­ing around 100 sol­diers, did not act and remained in its bar­racks. After the first wave of mur­ders, the Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists start­ed search­ing the hos­pi­tal. They car­ried its Ukrain­ian patients away from the build­ing, while Pol­ish patients were burned alive.[2] Dr Alek­sander Baki­nows­ki, togeth­er with his assis­tant Jan Borysow­icz, were hacked to death on the square in front of the hos­pi­tal. In sev­er­al cas­es, Ukraini­ans were mur­dered for try­ing to hide their Pol­ish neigh­bours. Petro Mirchuk, Ukrain­ian his­to­ri­an, count­ed sev­er­al hun­dred mas­sa­cred Poles, with only eight UPA mem­bers killed. . . .”

 To put the salute of the bru­tal mur­der­ers of the res­i­dents of the town on a mon­u­ment com­mem­o­rat­ing the mas­sacre is sur­re­al.

It is stun­ning to take stock of the open cel­e­bra­tion of the OUN/B’s Nazi alliance by the insti­tu­tions of the Maid­an gov­ern­ment, includ­ing cel­e­bra­tions of atroc­i­ties like Janowa Dolina:

  • Babi Yar Mas­sacre

    Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko laid a wreath at the site of the Babi Yar Mas­sacre, hon­or­ing the OUN/B. The Schutz­mannschaft, who did much of the dirty work at Babi Yar, were culled from the ranks of the UPA, the mil­i­tary wing of the OUN/B.

  • The city of Lviv (Lvov) in West­ern Ukraine has estab­lished Skhukhevy­ch­fest, to hon­or Roman Schukhevych, who led the Nachti­gall Bat­tal­ion in their mas­sacre of the Jew­ish cit­i­zens of that city. The “fest” coin­cides with the date of the com­mence­ment of the exe­cu­tion. To get some idea of what they are cel­e­brat­ing, exam­ine this pho­to­graph­ic essay of the pogrom. The OUN/UPA pogromists spe­cial­ized in what were called “street humiliations”–the strip­ping, exhibit­ing and sex­u­al abuse of female vic­tims of the vio­lence. It seems that the #MeToo move­ment missed this one!
  • Ukraine has estab­lished a gov­ern­ment min­istry to stand World War II his­to­ry on its head–the Orwellian-titled Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry.
  • The lus­tra­tion laws for­bid neg­a­tive com­men­tary about the UPA or the OUN/B.

Key Ukrain­ian nation­al secu­ri­ty per­son­nel have giv­en hard proof of their Nazi ori­en­ta­tion, includ­ing:

  • For­mer Ukrain­ian intel­li­gence offi­cer Vasi­ly Vovk, who called for the exter­mi­na­tion of Ukraine’s Jews on his Face­book page. (Vovk was in charge of the “inves­ti­ga­tion” of the down­ing of Malaysian Air­lines flight MH17.)
  • In FTR #1024, we not­ed that Ana­toliy Matios–Ukraine’s top mil­i­tary pros­e­cu­tor and piv­otal­ly involved in the inves­ti­ga­tion of the Maid­an sniper attacks, has man­i­fest­ed Nazi-style anti-Semi­tism.

The pro­gram con­cludes with two items that exem­pli­fy the focus of FTR #1021 Fas­cis­Book: (In Your Face­book, Part 3–part‑3/A Vir­tu­al Panop­ti­con, Part 3.)

Mar­jana Batjuk, post­ed birth­day greet­ings to Adolf Hitler on her Face­book page on April 20 (Hitler’s birth­day). She also taught her stu­dents the Nazi salute and even took some of her stu­dents to meet far right activists who had par­tic­i­pat­ed in a march wear­ing the uni­form of the the 14th Waf­fen Grenadier Divi­sion of the SS. ” . . . A pub­lic school teacher in Ukraine alleged­ly post­ed birth­day greet­ings to Adolf Hitler on Face­book and taught her stu­dents the Nazi salute. Mar­jana Batjuk, who teach­es at a school in Lviv and also is a coun­cil­woman, post­ed her greet­ing on April 20, the Nazi leader’s birth­day . . . . She also took some of her stu­dents to meet far-right activists who over the week­end marched on the city’s streets while wear­ing the uni­form of the 14th Waf­fen Grenadier Divi­sion of the SS, an elite Nazi unite with many eth­nic Ukraini­ans also known as the 1st Gali­cian. . . .”

That was back in April. Flash for­ward to today and we find a sud­den will­ing­ness by Face­book to ban peo­ple for post Nazi con­tent . . . except it’s Eduard Dolin­sky get­ting banned for mak­ing peo­ple aware of the pro-Nazi graf­fi­ti that has become ram­pant in Ukraine: ” . . . . He says that some locals are try­ing to silence him because he is crit­i­cal of the way Ukraine has com­mem­o­rat­ed his­tor­i­cal nation­al­ist fig­ures, ‘which is actu­al­ly deny­ing the Holo­caust and try­ing to white­wash the actions of nation­al­ists dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.’ . . . . Iron­i­cal­ly, the activist oppos­ing anti­semitism is being tar­get­ed by anti­semites who label the anti­se­mit­ic exam­ples he reveals as hate speech. ‘They are specif­i­cal­ly com­plain­ing to Face­book for the con­tent, and they are com­plain­ing that I am vio­lat­ing the rules of Face­book and spread­ing hate speech. So Face­book, as I under­stand [it, doesn’t] look at this; they are ban­ning me and block­ing me and delet­ing these posts.’ . . . .”

Face­book’s pol­i­cy on such issues should be more care­ful­ly scru­ti­nized: ” . . . . Face­book has been under scruti­ny recent­ly for who it bans and why. In July founder Mark Zucker­berg made con­tro­ver­sial remarks appear­ing to accept Holo­caust denial on the site. ‘I find it offen­sive, but at the end of the day, I don’t believe our plat­form should take that down because I think there are things that dif­fer­ent peo­ple get wrong. I don’t think they’re doing it inten­tion­al­ly.’ . . . .”

1. The fun­da­men­tal stand­ing of East­ern Euro­pean his­to­ry on its head con­tin­ues, with a Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment exhi­bi­tion glo­ri­fy­ing the OUN/B and the UPA.

“Exhi­bi­tion in Ukrain­ian Par­lia­ment Glo­ri­fies Nazi Col­lab­o­ra­tors” by Mordechai Sones; IsraelNationalNews.com; 08/07/2018

An exhi­bi­tion inside the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment, the Rada last week glo­ri­fied the lead­ing Ukrain­ian Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors of World War II.Infor­ma­tion on the exhi­bi­tion is avail­able on the Ukraine Parliament’s offi­cial web­site in Ukrain­ian and Russ­ian, but on the Rada’s Eng­lish-lan­guage web­site the infor­ma­tion is absent.

The Ukrain­ian site says, “A spe­cial exhi­bi­tion has been orga­nized in the par­lia­ment of Ukraine in Kiev. The dates of the exhi­bi­tion: July 3- July 6, 2018. The name of the exhi­bi­tion: Cel­e­brat­ing the Restora­tion of the Ukrain­ian State­hood, June 30, 1941–2018.

“The orga­niz­ers of the exhi­bi­tion: All-Ukrain­ian char­i­ta­ble Sobor­nist foun­da­tion, Inter­na­tion­al char­i­ta­ble Jaroslav Stezko foun­da­tion, MP Jury Shuchevich.”

Jaroslav Stezko was leader of Stepan Bandera’s Orga­ni­za­tion of the Ukrain­ian Nation­al­ists (OUN) mil­i­tary brigades from 1968 until his death. A fer­vent Ukrain­ian Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor, in 1941 dur­ing the Nazi Ger­man inva­sion of the Sovi­et Union, he was self-pro­claimed tem­po­rary head of the osten­si­bly inde­pen­dent Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment declared by Stepan Ban­dera. Stet­sko was the head of the Anti-Bol­she­vik Bloc of Nations from the time of its foun­da­tion until 1986, the year of his death.

MP Jury Shuchevich is the octo­ge­nar­i­an son of Roman Shuchevich, who was the one of the lead­ers of the infa­mous the SS Nachti­gall bat­tal­ion. SS Cap­tain Roman Shuchevich was award­ed the Nazi Iron Cross for his “exploits” dur­ing the Sec­ond World War in Ukraine and was an Abwehr agent from 1926.

“The fact that the son of the polit­i­cal leader of the SS Nachti­gall bat­tal­ion and the bear­er of the Nazi Iron Cross is the most respect­ed – accord­ing to Ukrain­ian author­i­ties – mem­ber of their par­lia­ment is telling all by itself,” wrote co-founder and Pres­i­dent of the Rogatchi Foun­da­tion Dr. Inna Rogatchi. “He spent many decades in the Sovi­et Gulag and is clear­ly moti­vat­ed against any­thing Russ­ian – he even added a new Ukrain­ian name to his exist­ing name of Jury. But it’s ridicu­lous to see how a per­son­al vendet­ta has dri­ven the pol­i­cy of a coun­try with a pop­u­la­tion of 45 mil­lion.

“Rec­og­nized in his coun­try as a polit­i­cal heavy-weight, Jury Shuchevich was asked recent­ly by the very pro-gov­ern­men­tal Kyiv Post Eng­lish-lan­guage news­pa­per, ‘is it not too much glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of the Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists, with the his­tor­i­cal­ly known record of their activ­i­ties?’ The senior MP of the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment respond­ed: ‘It’s a very com­pli­cat­ed ques­tion which has to be exam­ined in full detail. But what about those Jews? Those ones who were in Juden­rats, and who were after their own peo­ple in ghet­tos? I saw it with my own eyes. But Jews don’t like to talk about it’.”

The exhi­bi­tion shows blown-up images from pro-Nazi news­pa­pers dat­ed June 1941 herald­ing “the Act of estab­lish­ing the Ukrain­ian state”, after Nazi Ger­many occu­pied Ukraine. There are also enlarged images of doc­u­ments issued by the Ukrain­ian Nazi col­lab­o­rat­ing bod­ies at the time, and large por­traits of the lead­ing Ukrain­ian Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors – Ban­dera, Shuhe­vich, Stezko, and Kono­valetz who all are pre­sent­ed as heroes. The col­ors of the exhi­bi­tion are those of the cur­rent Ukrain­ian flag.

The exhibition’s stand fea­tures the fol­low­ing text from the Act of the Estab­lish­ing of the Ukrain­ian State dat­ed June 30, 1941:

“3. New­ly estab­lished Ukrain­ian State will close­ly co-oper­ate with Nation­al Social­ist Great Ger­many under the lead­er­ship of its Leader Adolf Hitler build­ing the New Order in Europe and the world”.

This text has become the clas­sic doc­u­ment on the Nazi char­ac­ter of Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists and their bod­ies.

Many oth­er doc­u­ments at the exhi­bi­tion open­ly glo­ri­fy Nazism.

At the exhibition’s open­ing, cur­rent lead­ers of Ukraine’s nation­al­is­tic orga­ni­za­tions spoke, along with open­ly pro-Nazi MP Jury Shuchevich, son of the SS cap­tain and the com­man­der of the Nachti­gall divi­sion Roman Shuchevich.

In his open­ing speech, MP Jury Schuchevich said: “The fact of us hav­ing an inde­pen­dence today, in truth, is a huge cor­ner­stone of the edi­fice called today the Ukrain­ian State. That huge cor­ner­stone was laid into this edi­fice by this very strug­gle (of the Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists) and by these very peo­ple (Ukrain­ian Nazi-col­lab­o­ra­tors), and I beseech you all very much to vis­it this exhi­bi­tion which the Con­gress of the Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists is car­ry­ing on in com­mem­o­ra­tion of this date.” In any oth­er offi­cial sources the par­tic­i­pa­tion of the pro-Nazi Ukrain­ian Nation­al­ists Con­gress is not men­tioned.

The offi­cial site of the Ukraine Par­lia­ment said: “In the begin­ning of the Sec­ond World War, OUN under Stepan Bandera’s lead­er­ship start­ed prepar­ing for re-estab­lish­ing Ukraine’s inde­pen­dence. As the Ger­man-Bol­she­vic War (Nazi term for WWII used today by Ukraine’s Par­lia­ment) ignit­ed, mobile OUN groups went to Ukraine to estab­lish there Ukrain­ian pow­er.

“On June 30th, Nachti­gall divi­sion under the com­mand of Roman Shuchevich and OUN group under the com­mand of Jaroslav Stazko entered Lvov with their first aim to announce re-estab­lish­ing Ukrain­ian state­hood. The Act of re-estab­lish­ing Ukrain­ian state­hood declared the inde­pen­dent pol­i­cy of Ukraine. By it, it has been stat­ed to the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty that the Ukrain­ian peo­ple is con­tent nei­ther with an impe­r­i­al occu­pa­tion, nor with a com­mu­nist one … it will con­tin­ue its strug­gle to the end.”

Upon enter­ing Lvov, the Nachti­gall divi­sion and OUN forces ini­ti­at­ed and con­duct­ed the unprece­dent­ed­ly hor­rif­ic mas­sacre of Lvov’s Jews known in his­to­ry as Lvov mas­sacre of June-July, 1941 in which at least sev­en-thou­sand Jews were bar­bar­i­cal­ly mur­dered. The exhi­bi­tion in Ukraine’s Par­lia­ment opened on July 3rd, the peak day of the hor­ren­dous Lvov mas­sacre, the one of the most ter­ri­ble geno­cides of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry.

At the same time, a sim­i­lar exhi­bi­tion called Fight­ers for the Ukrain­ian State opened at the Nation­al His­to­ry of Ukraine Muse­um in Kiev. That exhi­bi­tion was cer­e­mo­ni­al­ly vis­it­ed by Vice Prime Min­is­ter Vyach­eslav Kir­ilenko, as stat­ed on the Ukraine government’s offi­cial web­site, who said: “It’s only rel­a­tive­ly recent­ly when we start­ed to get famil­iar with his­to­ry works, art works cel­e­brat­ing UPA (Ukrain­ian Patri­ot­ic Army, Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors and war crim­i­nals). It was a long way for Ukraine to rec­og­nize UPA, which is our com­mon his­to­ry.”

Dr. Rogatchi respond­ed to the exhi­bi­tion: “Just imag­ine that inside the Bun­destag today there would be a non-crit­i­cal exhi­bi­tion demon­strat­ing in full seri­ous­ness and with pride the Third Reich news­pa­pers from 1941 on col­or­ful big stands with cap­tions com­ment­ing that those slo­gans, poli­cies, events, doc­u­ments, and peo­ple who per­pe­trat­ed them were all ‘assur­ing and strength­en­ing Germany’s Inde­pen­dence and state­hood.

“Imag­ine the same thing at any par­lia­ment of any Euro­pean coun­try or 90% of the coun­tries world-wide, for that mat­ter. Imag­ine this being done at the Unit­ed Nations or UNESCO. They’d be called lunatics, quite cor­rect­ly.

“But this is exact­ly what’s going on today inside the Ukraine Par­lia­ment, and the world’s lead­ers are shy to con­demn. Or per­haps they’re unaware of it. After all, there were ‘just’ three big stands for ‘just’ four days, and the exhi­bi­tion wasn’t pub­lic, it was inside the Par­lia­ment, and one needs jour­nal­ist accred­i­ta­tion to get inside to be hon­ored to view this sheer Nazi salu­ta­tion.

“I’d like to hear the com­ment and reac­tion of Chan­cel­lor Merkel, the big patron of the cur­rent Ukraine and its lead­er­ship to that open glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Hitler and Nazism as dis­played in the par­lia­ment of Ukraine. And I hope the State of Israel won’t tol­er­ate such open dec­la­ra­tion of pro-Nazi sym­pa­thies by the par­lia­ment of Ukraine.

“By orga­niz­ing and exhibit­ing this open glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Nazism, and iden­ti­fy­ing Ukrain­ian state­hood with it as done in this exhi­bi­tion, the Ukrain­ian leg­is­lat­ing body and gov­ern­ment rep­re­sent­ed by its Vice Prime Min­is­ter who vis­it­ed the exhi­bi­tion with a sup­port­ive speech, declared to the world who they are: Fol­low­ers of the Nazis. Peri­od. And they should be treat­ed like that, world-wide and offi­cial­ly. They asked for it them­selves. Nev­er before have the Ukrain­ian pro-Nazis gone that far. When giv­en free reign they enjoy it. And Europe and the rest of the world stay silent, again. Not one or anoth­er Nazi-glo­ri­fy­ing exhi­bi­tion in the mod­ern-day Ukraine, which is a dai­ly real­i­ty there, but Europe’s and the world’s ongo­ing numb­ness regard­ing it is out­ra­geous and intol­er­a­ble,” Rogatchi said.

2.  “Glo­ry to Ukraine! – Glo­ry to the Heroes!”, the same slo­gan used by the UPA, is about to become the offi­cial slo­gan of the Ukrain­ian army.

“Nazi Col­lab­o­ra­tor Greet­ing Becomes Offi­cial Ukraine Army Salute” by Mordechai Sones; IsraelNationalNews.com; 08/16/2018

August 24th, Ukrain­ian Inde­pen­dence Day, will see a cer­e­mo­ny intro­duc­ing the country’s new offi­cial army salute, as pre­scribed by Ukraine’s Pres­i­den­tial decree: Glo­ry to Ukraine! – Glo­ry to the Heroes!“We have con­sult­ed with the Min­is­ter of Defense, Nation­al Secu­ri­ty and Defense Coun­cil, Gov­ern­ment and I have decid­ed that start­ing from August 24 these words will be heard for the first time as part of the offi­cial mil­i­tary parade cer­e­mo­ny on the Inde­pen­dence Day of Ukraine,” Petro Poroshenko was quot­ed say­ing on the Ukraine President’s offi­cial site.

Glo­ry to Ukraine! – Glo­ry to the Heroes! is a slo­gan of the UPA, the Ukraine Rebel Army who fought on the side of the Nazis. The slo­gans, their ori­gin, and his­to­ry are well known in Ukraine, although the President’s web­site does not make men­tion of these. Present neo-Nazi Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary for­ma­tions estab­lished by order of the Ukrain­ian author­i­ties appro­pri­at­ed the slo­gan from the end of 2013 onward. Now, the Ukrain­ian Nazi collaborator’s greet­ing will become the offi­cial salute in that country’s army. . . .

. . . . The Head of State also not­ed the new mil­i­tary greet­ings will be enshrined offi­cial­ly in the doc­u­ments after the begin­ning of the Verk­hov­na Rada‘s reg­u­lar ses­sion and Parliament’s cor­re­spond­ing deci­sion, as it requires changes in par­tic­u­lar to statutes of all Armed Forces of Ukraine troops. But after com­ple­tion of prop­er pro­ce­dures, “these words and this greet­ing will become the offi­cial mil­i­tary greet­ings of the Armed Forces of Ukraine”. . . .

3. It’s offi­cial: Ukraine’s par­lia­ment just approved the bill mak­ing “Glo­ry to Ukraine!” the offi­cial mil­i­tary salute. Also, the law on the the Nation­al Police was also amend­ed to make “Glo­ry to Ukraine!” the offi­cial greet­ing and part­ing for Ukraine’s police offi­cers.:

“Ukraine’s Par­lia­ment Approves “Glo­ry to Ukraine!” New Army Chant”; 112 Inter­na­tion­al; 10/04/2018

The Verk­hov­na Rada of Ukraine adopt­ed the draft law #9036 that pro­vides the imple­men­ta­tion of the mil­i­tary salute “Glo­ry to Ukraine!” and the reply “Glo­ry to Heroes!” at the sec­ond read­ing and gen­er­al­ly. 271 MPs vot­ed in the affir­ma­tive as 112 Ukraine broadcasted.The salute “Glo­ry to Ukraine!” and the reply “Glo­ry to Heroes!” is pro­vid­ed in the drill reg­u­la­tions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

More­over, the rit­u­al of the rais­ing of the state flag of Ukraine was reg­u­lar­ized in the statute of the inter­nal ser­vice of the Armed Forces. Accord­ing to the cur­rent leg­is­la­tion, dur­ing the deliv­ery of the flag, a per­son wel­comes the per­son­nel with its receiv­ing and the sol­diers reply with tripled “Glo­ry”. The law pro­vides that dur­ing the deliv­ery of the flag, a per­son wel­comes the per­son­nel with the words “Glo­ry to Ukraine!” and they reply “Glo­ry to Heroes!”.

Dur­ing the elab­o­ra­tion of the law for the sec­ond read­ing, a word “com­rade” was replaced by “Mr. or Madam” in the statute of the inter­nal ser­vice of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and drills char­ter of the forces.

Also, the law on the Nation­al Police was amend­ed. Accord­ing to it, when the police offi­cers are in line for the greet­ing of the leader or senior offi­cer, when they hear the salute “Glo­ry to Ukraine!” they reply “Glo­ry to Heroes”. The same actions take place dur­ing the part­ing. . . .

4. Addi­tion­al per­spec­tive on the phys­i­cal, polit­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal real­i­ty under­ly­ing the “Glo­ry to Ukraine–Glory to the Heroes” is the slo­gan’s dis­play on a mon­u­ment to the mas­sacre of the 600 res­i­dents of the Pol­ish town of Janowa Dolina by the UPA.

“Janowa Dolina Mas­sacre;” Wikipedia

The Janowa Dolina mas­sacre took place on 23 April 1943 in the vil­lage of Janowa Dolina, (now Bazal­tove, Ukraine) dur­ing occu­pa­tion of Poland in World War II. Before the Nazi-Sovi­et inva­sion of the Pol­ish Sec­ond Repub­lic, Janowa Dolina was a mod­el set­tle­ment built in the Kostopol Coun­ty of the Wołyń Voivode­ship by work­ers of the Pol­ish State Basalt Quar­ry. The town was inhab­it­ed by 2,500 peo­ple. Its name, which trans­lates as the “Jan’s Val­ley” in Pol­ish, came from the Pol­ish king Jan Kaz­imierz, who report­ed­ly hunt­ed in the Vol­hyn­ian forests, and after hunt­ing — rest­ed on the shore of the Horyń (Horyn) Riv­er. The town was destroyed dur­ing World War II by Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists who mur­dered most of its Pol­ish pop­u­la­tion includ­ing women and chil­dren. . . .

. . . . In June 1941, Nazi Ger­many attacked the Sovi­et Union. Janowa Dolina was added to the Reich­skom­mis­sari­at Ukraine. As Vol­hy­nia was the area of activ­i­ty for var­i­ous Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist groups whose aim was to cleanse the land of Poles and Jews, the settlement’s fate was inevitable. On the night of April 22–23 (Good Fri­day), 1943, the Ukraini­ans from the Ukrain­ian Insur­gent Army, togeth­er with local peas­ants, attacked Janowa Dolina. Some 600 peo­ple, includ­ing chil­dren and the elder­ly, were bru­tal­ly mur­dered (see Mas­sacres of Poles in Vol­hy­nia). Most homes were burned to the ground and the set­tle­ment desert­ed.

The per­pe­tra­tors, com­mand­ed by Ivan Lytwynchuk (aka Dubowy) exer­cised rare cru­el­ty. Poles, unpre­pared and caught by sur­prise, were hacked to death with axes, burned alive, and impaled (includ­ing chil­dren). The mur­der­ers did not spare any­one, regard­less of age and sex. Ger­man gar­ri­son, num­ber­ing around 100 sol­diers, did not act and remained in its bar­racks. After the first wave of mur­ders, the Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists start­ed search­ing the hos­pi­tal. They car­ried its Ukrain­ian patients away from the build­ing, while Pol­ish patients were burned alive.[2] Dr Alek­sander Baki­nows­ki, togeth­er with his assis­tant Jan Borysow­icz, were hacked to death on the square in front of the hos­pi­tal. In sev­er­al cas­es, Ukraini­ans were mur­dered for try­ing to hide their Pol­ish neigh­bours. Petro Mirchuk, Ukrain­ian his­to­ri­an, count­ed sev­er­al hun­dred mas­sa­cred Poles, with only eight UPA mem­bers killed. . . .

5. The main­stream­ing of vig­i­lante Nazi groups in Ukraine now includes glow­ing nation­al TV new cov­er­age: A group of C14 mem­bers, along with the ‘Kyiv Munic­i­pal Watch’ orga­ni­za­tion which is led by C14 activist Ser­hiy Bon­dar, car­ried out anoth­er raid on a group of Roma. This time, Roma were dri­ven out of the area around the South­ern Rail­way Sta­tion in Kyiv. Bon­dar post­ed a video of raid on his Face­book page on Octo­ber 24, which he titled “A purge of gyp­sies at the capital’s rail­way sta­tion”.  That same day, the TSN.ua news broad­cast report­ed on the raid, where the news­cast­er vir­tu­al­ly par­rots part of Bondar’s video and nev­er men­tions the eth­nic­i­ty of the tar­gets. The fea­ture is sim­ply titled: ‘Police and civic activists tried to clean the capital’s sta­tion of thieves’:

“Neo-Nazi C14 vig­i­lantes appear to work with Kyiv police in lat­est ‘purge’ of Roma”; Halya Coy­nash; Kharkiv Human Rights Group; 10/25/2018

Mem­bers of the neo-Nazi C14 move­ment, togeth­er with the ‘Kyiv Munic­i­pal Watch’ civic orga­ni­za­tion which is led by C14 activist Ser­hiy Bon­dar, have car­ried out anoth­er raid, dri­ving Roma cit­i­zens out of the area around the South­ern Rail­way Sta­tion in Kyiv. The raid does not appear to have been accom­pa­nied by shock­ing images of vio­lence like some five oth­ers this year, but that is the only pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence. What is much more dis­turb­ing is that the action appears to have been with the coop­er­a­tion of the police, and was essen­tial­ly giv­en glow­ing cov­er­age on a nation­al tele­vi­sion news broad­cast. Bon­dar post­ed a video on his Face­book page on 24 Octo­ber, togeth­er with a cap­tion read­ing (in his words): “A purge of gyp­sies at the capital’s rail­way sta­tion”. He lat­er began back­track­ing, claim­ing that they had not dri­ven any­body away that they had sim­ply post­ed videos “with gyp­sies who rob peo­ple” – as their “eth­nic trade” – and that the police, to their amaze­ment, had done it them­selves.

It is worth not­ing that the above lan­guage, and worse, are used exten­sive­ly by Bon­dar and oth­er C14 activists. This is just one of the rea­sons for con­cern at indi­ca­tions that these far-right vig­i­lantes appear to be work­ing close­ly with the police. That is cer­tain­ly the impres­sion giv­en by the TSN.ua news broad­cast on 24 Octo­ber, which Bon­dar proud­ly post­ed on his FB page. It is small won­der that he was pleased since the pre­sen­ter of the fea­ture vir­tu­al­ly par­rots parts of the C14 video, with only two Roma peo­ple dri­ven out shown in a neg­a­tive light. There is one telling detail, name­ly that the tele­vi­sion pro­gram is care­ful­ly not to eth­ni­cal­ly label the peo­ple dri­ven out, with the fea­ture enti­tled: ‘Police and civic activists tried to clean the capital’s sta­tion of thieves’. It does, how­ev­er, show the activists wear­ing cam­ou­flage gear and chevrons clear­ly show­ing the C14 sym­bol, and lit­tle effort would be required to find out how C14 presents its vig­i­lante activ­i­ties, and why this orga­ni­za­tion has gained noto­ri­ety over recent months.

There may well be a prob­lem with thieves at Kyiv sta­tions, and there is lit­tle sense in clos­ing ones eyes to the fact that some of the Roma who come to Kyiv and live tem­porar­i­ly near the sta­tions are involved in crim­i­nal activ­i­ties. Thieves should undoubt­ed­ly be stopped, but that is the task of the police, not of C14 vig­i­lantes with racist views, a a shock­ing track record and open­ly declared will­ing­ness to cause trou­ble to people’s ‘ene­mies’ for mon­ey.

There have been a min­i­mum of five attacks on Roma camps since April this year; with the last leav­ing one young man dead and a woman and child injured. All of the attacks – at Lysa Hora in Kyiv on 21–22 April; Rudne on 9 May; the Ternopil Oblast on 22 May; at Holosiyiv Park in Kyiv on 7 June and near Lviv on 24 June – seem to have been car­ried out by activists involved in far-right groups. One C14 activist, Ser­hiy Mazur, was recent­ly placed under house arrest over charges relat­ing to the attack on a Roma set­tle­ment on Lysa Hora in Kyiv.

As report­ed, there was effec­tive­ly a pogrom on April 21–22, with fam­i­lies dri­ven out and their makeshift homes burned. All of this was described in detail, albeit with euphemisms, by Mazur on his Face­book page.

The Kyiv police con­tin­ued to down­play this raid by vig­i­lantes with neo-Nazi lean­ings right up until 25 April when the Inter­net pub­li­ca­tion LB.ua post­ed a video show­ing whole fam­i­lies run­ning in ter­ror from young men, many in masks, hurl­ing stones and spray­ing gas can­is­ters in the direc­tion where fam­i­lies with some very small chil­dren were try­ing to take shel­ter. One Roma man can be seen on the video try­ing to use a thin branch in defence, but then real­iz­ing he is out­num­bered and also flee­ing. That evening the Kyiv police final­ly announced that a crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion had been ini­ti­at­ed. Human rights activists are report­ed­ly work­ing to ensure that the police keep their promise and change the clas­si­fi­ca­tion of the crime from ‘hooli­gan­ism’ to that of a hate crime under Arti­cle 161 of the Crim­i­nal Code.

It was notice­able, and wor­ry­ing, that in his report on 19 April, Mazur assert­ed that the C14 activists had first appeared, with an ulti­ma­tum to get out by the fol­low­ing day, togeth­er with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Holosiyiv admin­is­tra­tion. . . .

6. Next is an arti­cle about a Ukrain­ian school teacher in Lviv, Mar­jana Batjuk, who post­ed birth­day greet­ings to Adolf Hitler on her Face­book page on April 20 (Hitler’s birth­day). She also taught her stu­dents the Nazi salute and even took some of her stu­dents to meet far right activists who had par­tic­i­pat­ed in a march wear­ing the uni­form of the the 14th Waf­fen Grenadier Divi­sion of the SS.

Batjuk, who is a mem­ber of Svo­bo­da, lat­er claimed her Face­book account was hacked, but a news orga­ni­za­tion found that she has a his­to­ry of post­ing Nazi imagery on social media net­works.

“Ukrain­ian Teacher Alleged­ly Prais­es Hitler, Per­forms Nazi Salute with Stu­dents” by Cnaan Liphshiz; Jew­ish Tele­graph Agency; 04/23/2018

A pub­lic school teacher in Ukraine alleged­ly post­ed birth­day greet­ings to Adolf Hitler on Face­book and taught her stu­dents the Nazi salute.Mar­jana Batjuk, who teach­es at a school in Lviv and also is a coun­cil­woman, post­ed her greet­ing on April 20, the Nazi leader’s birth­day, Eduard Dolin­sky, direc­tor of the Ukrain­ian Jew­ish Com­mit­tee, told JTA. He called the inci­dent a “scan­dal.”

She also took some of her stu­dents to meet far-right activists who over the week­end marched on the city’s streets while wear­ing the uni­form of the 14th Waf­fen Grenadier Divi­sion of the SS, an elite Nazi unite with many eth­nic Ukraini­ans also known as the 1st Gali­cian.

Dis­play­ing Nazi imagery is ille­gal in Ukraine, but Dolin­sky said law enforce­ment author­i­ties allowed the activists to parade on main streets.

Batjuk had the activists explain about their repli­ca weapons, which they parad­ed ahead of a larg­er event in hon­or of the 1st Gali­cian unit planned for next week in Lviv.

The events hon­or­ing the 1st Gali­cian SS unit in Lviv are not orga­nized by munic­i­pal author­i­ties.

Batjuk, 28, a mem­ber of the far-right Svo­bo­da par­ty, called Hitler “a great man” and quot­ed from his book “Mein Kampf” in her Face­book post, Dolin­sky said.She lat­er claimed that her Face­book account was hacked and delet­ed the post, but the Strana news site found that she had a his­to­ry of post­ing Nazi imagery on social net­works.

She also post­ed pic­tures of chil­dren she said were her stu­dents per­form­ing the Nazi salute with her.

Edu­ca­tion Min­istry offi­cials have start­ed a dis­ci­pli­nary review of her con­duct, the KP news site report­ed.

Sep­a­rate­ly, in the town of Polta­va, in east­ern Ukraine, Dolin­sky said a swasti­ka and the words “heil Hitler” were spray-paint­ed Fri­day on a mon­u­ment for Holo­caust vic­tims of the Holo­caust. The van­dals, who have not been iden­ti­fied, also wrote “Death to the kikes.”

In Odessa, a large graf­fi­ti read­ing “Jews into the sea” was writ­ten on the beach­front wall of a hotel.

“The com­mon fac­tor between all of these inci­dents is gov­ern­ment inac­tion, which ensures they will con­tin­ue hap­pen­ing,” Dolin­sky said.
———-

7.  That was back in April. Flash for­ward to today and we find a sud­den will­ing­ness to ban peo­ple for post Nazi content…except it’s Eduard Dolin­sky get­ting banned for mak­ing peo­ple aware of the pro-Nazi graf­fi­ti that has become ram­pant in Ukraine:

“Jew­ish activist: Face­book banned me for post­ing anti­se­mit­ic graf­fi­ti” by Seth J. Frantz­man; The Jerusalem Post; 08/21/2018

Eduard Dolinksy, a promi­nent Ukrain­ian Jew­ish activist, was banned from post­ing on Face­book Mon­day night for a post about anti­se­mit­ic graf­fi­ti in Odessa. Dolin­sky, the direc­tor of the Ukrain­ian Jew­ish Com­mit­tee, said he was blocked by the social media giant for post­ing a pho­to. “I had post­ed the pho­to which says in Ukrain­ian ‘kill the yid’ about a month ago,” he says. “I use my Face­book account for dis­trib­ut­ing infor­ma­tion about anti­se­mit­ic inci­dents and hate speech and hate crimes in Ukraine.”

Now Dolinsky’s account has dis­abled him from post­ing for thir­ty days, which means media, law enforce­ment and the local com­mu­ni­ty who rely on his social media posts will receive no updates.

Dolin­sky tweet­ed Mon­day that his account had been blocked and sent The Jerusalem Post a screen­shot of the image he post­ed which shows a bad­ly drawn swasti­ka and Ukrain­ian writ­ing. “You recent­ly post­ed some­thing that vio­lates Face­book poli­cies, so you’re tem­porar­i­ly blocked from using this fea­ture,” Face­book informs him when he logs in. “The block will be active for 29 days and 17 hours,” it says. “To keep from get­ting blocked again, please make sure you’ve read and under­stand Facebook’s Com­mu­ni­ty Stan­dards.”

Dolinksy says that he has been tar­get­ed in the past by nation­al­ists and anti-semi­tes who oppose his work. Face­book has banned him tem­porar­i­ly in the past also, but nev­er for thir­ty days. “The last time I was blocked, the media also report­ed this and I felt some relief. 

It was as if they stopped ban­ning me. But now I don’t know – and this has again hap­pened. They are ban­ning the one who is try­ing to fight anti­semitism. They are ban­ning me for the very thing I do.”

Based on Dolinsky’s work the police have opened crim­i­nal files against per­pe­tra­tors of anti­se­mit­ic crimes, in Odessa and oth­er places.

He says that some locals are try­ing to silence him because he is crit­i­cal of the way Ukraine has com­mem­o­rat­ed his­tor­i­cal nation­al­ist fig­ures, “which is actu­al­ly deny­ing the Holo­caust and try­ing to white­wash the actions of nation­al­ists dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.”

Dolinksy has been wide­ly quot­ed, and his work, includ­ing posts on Face­book, has been ref­er­enced by media in the past. “These inci­dents are hap­pen­ing and these crimes and the police should react.

The soci­ety also. But their goal is to cut me off.”

Iron­i­cal­ly, the activist oppos­ing anti­semitism is being tar­get­ed by anti­semites who label the anti­se­mit­ic exam­ples he reveals as hate speech. “They are specif­i­cal­ly com­plain­ing to Face­book for the con­tent, and they are com­plain­ing that I am vio­lat­ing the rules of Face­book and spread­ing hate speech. So Face­book, as I under­stand [it, doesn’t] look at this; they are ban­ning me and block­ing me and delet­ing these posts.”

He says he tried to appeal the ban but has not been suc­cess­ful.

“I use my Face­book exclu­sive­ly for this, so this is my work­ing tool as direc­tor of Ukrain­ian Jew­ish Com­mit­tee.”

Face­book has been under scruti­ny recent­ly for who it bans and why. In July founder Mark Zucker­berg made con­tro­ver­sial remarks appear­ing to accept Holo­caust denial on the site. “I find it offen­sive, but at the end of the day, I don’t believe our plat­form should take that down because I think there are things that dif­fer­ent peo­ple get wrong. I don’t think they’re doing it inten­tion­al­ly.” In late July, Face­book banned US con­spir­a­cy the­o­rist Alex Jones for bul­ly­ing and hate speech.

In a sim­i­lar inci­dent to Dolin­sky, Iran­ian sec­u­lar activist Armin Nav­abi was banned from Face­book for thir­ty days for post­ing the death threats that he receives. “This is ridicu­lous. My account is blocked for 30 days because I post the death threats I’m get­ting? I’m not the one mak­ing the threat!” he tweet­ed.

 

 

Discussion

13 comments for “FTR #1030 Walkin’ the Snake from Ukraine, to the United States and Around the World”

  1. When will you put the down­load ver­sion up?

    Posted by Sue | November 6, 2018, 9:48 pm
  2. @Sue–

    It will be up in about a week.

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | November 6, 2018, 9:50 pm
  3. Here’s a sto­ry that should ham­mers home to Amer­i­cans one of the dan­gers of the sys­tem­at­ic cod­dling of the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­men­t’s embrace of neo-Nazi and fas­cists: The FBI arrest­ed four mem­bers of a Cal­i­for­nia-based neo-Nazi group, Rise Above Move­ment (RAM). They’re charged with a series of vio­lent attacks in Hunt­ing­ton Beach, Berke­ley and San Bernardi­no, Cal­i­for­nia, in 2017. The Hunt­ing­ton Beach ral­ly hap­pened to be a pro-Trump ral­ly. The neo-Nazis were, of course, there in sup­port of Trump.

    Four oth­er mem­bers of RAM were arrest­ed ear­li­er in Octo­ber in con­nec­tion with charges over the dead­ly 2017 Char­lottesville, VA, “Unite the Right” march.
    Here’s where Ukrain­ian neo-Nazi, gov­ern­ment sup­port­ed Ukrain­ian neo-Nazis, come into the sto­ry: accord­ing to the FBI, three of recent­ly arrest­ed RAM mem­ber had trav­eled to Ger­many, Italy, and Ukraine in the spring of this year to cel­e­brate Adolf Hitler’s birth­day. And accord­ing to the FBI, this trip was­n’t just about cel­e­brat­ing Hitler. It was also about net­work with Euro­pean neo-Nazis. And one of those Euro­pean neo-Nazis just hap­pened to be Ole­na Semenya­ka, described as a lead­ing fig­ure with­in the fas­cist, neo-Nazi scene in East­ern Europe and an impor­tant voice with­in the Mil­i­tant Zone and Nation­al Corps orga­ni­za­tions and the Pan-Euro­pean Recon­quista move­ment, all of which have ties to the Azov Bat­tal­ion. Recall that Noa­t­iona Corp (or Nation­al Cor­pus) is the polit­i­cal wing of the Azov Bat­tal­ion.

    Semenya­ka has also act­ed as a spokesper­son for Right Sec­tor. In 2014, Semenya­ka was open­ly invit­ing non-Ukrain­ian neo-Nazis to join Right Sec­tor, declar­ing that “even mod­ern Nazi sym­pa­thiz­ers will find their place in our broad ranks” and that Right Sec­tor’s most impor­tant cur­rent task is to “lib­er­ate” Ukraine “from col­lab­o­ra­tors, sep­a­ratists and mar­i­onettes of Rus­sia and the West.” So just as RAM may have been recruit­ing dur­ing its trip to Europe, you have to won­der if Semenya­ka was try­ing to recruit them too. It’s all one big hor­ri­ble Nazi fam­i­ly.

    And it does­n’t sound like was an unusu­al meet­ing with Amer­i­can neo-Nazis and the Azov Bat­tal­ion: Accord­ing to the FBI, Azov has par­tic­i­pat­ed in train­ing and rad­i­cal­iz­ing U.S.-based white suprema­cist orga­ni­za­tions. You have to won­der how intense to the rad­i­cal­iza­tion must be to rad­i­cal­ize a orga­ni­za­tion that’s already white suprema­cist, but that’s what the FBI describes.

    So if it was­n’t already total­ly obvi­ous to Amer­i­cans that offi­cial embrace of neo-Nazis in Ukraine is a real­ly, real­ly stu­pid­ly dan­ger­ous thing for the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment to sup­port, hope­ful­ly the fact that those Ukrain­ian neo-Nazis are train­ing and fur­ther rad­i­cal­iz­ing US neo-Nazis will help make that clear:

    South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter
    Hate­watch

    Three mem­bers of Rise Above Move­ment arrest­ed in Cal­i­for­nia, fourth sought as fugi­tive turns him­self in

    Brett Bar­rou­quere
    Octo­ber 29, 2018

    The founder of the vio­lent white suprema­cist gang known as the Rise Above Move­ment and two oth­ers trav­eled to Europe to cel­e­brate Adolf Hitler’s birth­day and lat­er met with a para­mil­i­tary chief there, fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors say.

    Robert Run­do, a 28-year-old Hunt­ing­ton Beach, Cal­i­for­nia, res­i­dent, 29-year-old Michael Paul Mis­elis, of Lawn­dale, Cal­i­for­nia, and 25-year-old Ben­jamin Drake Daley of Redon­do Beach went to Ger­many, Italy and Ukraine in spring 2018 not only to cel­e­brate, but also to meet with Euro­pean white suprema­cist groups, pros­e­cu­tors said in a crim­i­nal com­plaint against Run­do unsealed this week.

    FBI agents arrest­ed Run­do on Sun­day at Los Ange­les Inter­na­tion­al Air­port, said Kather­ine Gulot­ta, a spokesman for the agency in Los Ange­les. He had been arrest­ed in Cen­tral Amer­i­ca before being returned to the U.S.

    Two oth­ers, 25-year-old Robert Boman of Tor­rance, Cal­i­for­nia, and 22-year-old Tyler Laube of Redon­do Beach, Cal­i­for­nia, were arrest­ed Wednes­day.

    A fourth RAM mem­ber, 38-year-old Aaron Eason of Anza, Cal­i­for­nia, sur­ren­dered to the FBI over the week­end.

    The four are charged with a series of vio­lent attacks dur­ing events in Hunt­ing­ton Beach, Berke­ley and San Bernardi­no, Cal­i­for­nia, in 2017.

    Pros­e­cu­tors said the four men used the inter­net to coor­di­nate “com­bat train­ing,” recruit mem­bers and orga­nize riots.

    “Every Amer­i­can has the right to peace­ful­ly orga­nize, march and protest in sup­port of their beliefs — but no one has the right to vio­lent­ly assault their polit­i­cal oppo­nents,” U.S. Attor­ney Nick Han­na said in a state­ment.

    The arrests and charges are the sec­ond batch filed this month against mem­bers of RAM, a vio­lent white suprema­cist group that prac­tices mixed mar­tial arts and has been accused of show­ing up for ral­lies pre­pared to attack peo­ple.

    Pros­e­cu­tors in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, charged four oth­er Cal­i­for­nia men with trav­el­ing to that city on Aug. 11–12, 2017, to take part in and attack peo­ple at the “Unite the Right” ral­ly.

    Michael Paul Mis­elis, a 29-year-old Lawn­dale, Cal­i­for­nia, res­i­dent, 34-year-old Thomas Wal­ter Gillen of Redon­do Beach, Cal­i­for­nia, 24-year-old Cole Evan White of Clay­ton, Cal­i­for­nia, and Daley are await­ing a court hear­ing in Vir­ginia. They are also charged with riot­ing and con­spir­a­cy to riot.

    Run­do is the own­er of Right Brand Cloth­ing, which pro­motes white suprema­cist themes and logos. The FBI believes he ran RAM’s now-sus­pend­ed Twit­ter account.

    RAM has been mak­ing entreaties over­seas, includ­ing in Italy, Ger­many and East­ern Europe. The FBI said Run­do, Mis­elis and Daley met with Euro­pean white suprema­cy extrem­ist groups, “includ­ing a group known as White Rex.”

    FBI Spe­cial Agent Scott Bier­wirth, in the crim­i­nal com­plaint unsealed Wednes­day, not­ed that Right Brand Clothing’s Insta­gram page con­tained a pho­to of RAM mem­bers meet­ing with Ole­na Semenya­ka, a lead­ing fig­ure with­in the fas­cist, neo-Nazi scene in East­ern Europe. In Ukraine, Semenya­ka is an impor­tant voice with­in the Mil­i­tant Zone and Nation­al Corps orga­ni­za­tions and the Pan-Euro­pean Recon­quista move­ment, all of which have ties to the noto­ri­ous Azov Bat­tal­ion.

    Bier­wirth said Azov Bat­tal­ion, now a piece of the Ukrain­ian Nation­al Guard, is known for neo-Nazi sym­bol­ism and ide­ol­o­gy and has par­tic­i­pat­ed in train­ing and rad­i­cal­iz­ing U.S.-based white suprema­cist orga­ni­za­tions.

    Run­do was filmed recit­ing the “14 Words” pledge pop­u­lar in white suprema­cist cir­cles.

    “I’m a big sup­port­er of the four­teen, I’ll say that,” Run­do told fel­low RAM mem­bers on the video.

    The riot­ing and con­spir­a­cy charges stem from a “Make Amer­i­ca Great Again” ral­ly on March 25, 2017, in Hunt­ing­ton Beach. The FBI said RAM mem­bers split from the main ral­ly and attacked counter-pro­test­ers, and Run­do, Boman and Laube hit a num­ber of peo­ple, includ­ing two jour­nal­ists.

    Daley, who is not charged in Cal­i­for­nia, was also at the Hunt­ing­ton Beach ral­ly, Bier­wirth not­ed.

    The vio­lence was lat­er cel­e­brat­ed by RAM mem­bers online, not­ed on neo-Nazi web­site the Dai­ly Stormer, and used in solic­i­ta­tion for oth­ers to attend the Berke­ley ral­ly and com­bat train­ing to be held in a park in San Clemente.

    “Front page of the stormer we did it fam,” Daley texted anoth­er RAM mem­ber on March 25, 2017.

    At the Berke­ley ral­ly, on April 17, 2017, Run­do, Boman and Eason attacked mul­ti­ple peo­ple, Bier­wirth wrote. Run­do was lat­er arrest­ed after punch­ing a “defense­less per­son” and a Berke­ley police offi­cer.

    Again, Bier­wirth not­ed, the attacks were cel­e­brat­ed online, with Boman post­ing pho­tos of him­self attack­ing peo­ple and RAM mem­bers tak­ing part in com­bat train­ing.

    Bier­wirth also wrote that Run­do and oth­er RAM mem­bers par­tic­i­pat­ed in an “Anti-Islam­ic Law” ral­ly in San Bernardi­no on June 10, 2017. The ral­ly was part of a nation­wide demon­stra­tion put on by anti-Mus­lim hate group ACT for Amer­i­ca. Accord­ing to Bier­wirth, RAM mem­bers took part in vio­lent attacks at the ACT event.

    ...

    ———-

    “Three mem­bers of Rise Above Move­ment arrest­ed in Cal­i­for­nia, fourth sought as fugi­tive turns him­self in” by Brett Bar­rou­quere; South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter; 10/29/2018

    “Robert Run­do, a 28-year-old Hunt­ing­ton Beach, Cal­i­for­nia, res­i­dent, 29-year-old Michael Paul Mis­elis, of Lawn­dale, Cal­i­for­nia, and 25-year-old Ben­jamin Drake Daley of Redon­do Beach went to Ger­many, Italy and Ukraine in spring 2018 not only to cel­e­brate, but also to meet with Euro­pean white suprema­cist groups, pros­e­cu­tors said in a crim­i­nal com­plaint against Run­do unsealed this week.”

    It’s quite a vaca­tion for a neo-Nazi: cel­e­brat­ing Hitler’s birth­day with Euro­pean neo-Nazis. But RAM’s neo-Nazi net­work­ing was lim­it­ed to these per­son­al meet­ings. Fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors are also charg­ing the four arrest­ed men with using the inter­net to coor­di­nate “com­bat train­ing,” recruit mem­bers and orga­nize riots. Neo-Nazi net­work­ing has a lot of options these days:

    ...
    The four are charged with a series of vio­lent attacks dur­ing events in Hunt­ing­ton Beach, Berke­ley and San Bernardi­no, Cal­i­for­nia, in 2017.

    Pros­e­cu­tors said the four men used the inter­net to coor­di­nate “com­bat train­ing,” recruit mem­bers and orga­nize riots.

    “Every Amer­i­can has the right to peace­ful­ly orga­nize, march and protest in sup­port of their beliefs — but no one has the right to vio­lent­ly assault their polit­i­cal oppo­nents,” U.S. Attor­ney Nick Han­na said in a state­ment.

    ...

    Run­do was filmed recit­ing the “14 Words” pledge pop­u­lar in white suprema­cist cir­cles.

    “I’m a big sup­port­er of the four­teen, I’ll say that,” Run­do told fel­low RAM mem­bers on the video.
    ...

    The charges over the Hunt­ing­ton Beach vio­lence stem from a pro-Trump ral­ly, where these RAM mem­bers split off from the main pro-Trump group and attacked a num­ber of counter-pro­test­ers, includ­ing two jour­nal­ists:

    ...
    The riot­ing and con­spir­a­cy charges stem from a “Make Amer­i­ca Great Again” ral­ly on March 25, 2017, in Hunt­ing­ton Beach. The FBI said RAM mem­bers split from the main ral­ly and attacked counter-pro­test­ers, and Run­do, Boman and Laube hit a num­ber of peo­ple, includ­ing two jour­nal­ists.
    ...

    And this is the sec­ond group of indi­vid­u­als arrest­ed from RAM in Octo­ber. Anoth­er four mem­bers were arrest­ed in con­nec­tion with the Char­lottesville vio­lence last year on charges of riot­ing and con­spir­a­cy to riot. So RAM has clear­ly been doing quite a bit a net­work­ing of late, for­eign and domes­tic:

    ...
    The arrests and charges are the sec­ond batch filed this month against mem­bers of RAM, a vio­lent white suprema­cist group that prac­tices mixed mar­tial arts and has been accused of show­ing up for ral­lies pre­pared to attack peo­ple.

    Pros­e­cu­tors in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, charged four oth­er Cal­i­for­nia men with trav­el­ing to that city on Aug. 11–12, 2017, to take part in and attack peo­ple at the “Unite the Right” ral­ly.

    Michael Paul Mis­elis, a 29-year-old Lawn­dale, Cal­i­for­nia, res­i­dent, 34-year-old Thomas Wal­ter Gillen of Redon­do Beach, Cal­i­for­nia, 24-year-old Cole Evan White of Clay­ton, Cal­i­for­nia, and Daley are await­ing a court hear­ing in Vir­ginia. They are also charged with riot­ing and con­spir­a­cy to riot.
    ...

    But it’s the par­tic­u­lar neo-Nazis that RAM met in Europe that make this such a scan­dalous sto­ry: they met with a lead­ing fig­ure in the Euro­pean neo-Nazi scene who just hap­pens to be an impor­tant voice for Azov’s Nation­al Corps. And accord­ing to the FBI, Azov is known for train­ing and rad­i­cal­iz­ing (fur­ther rad­i­cal­iz­ing) US-based Nazi orga­ni­za­tions:

    ...
    Run­do is the own­er of Right Brand Cloth­ing, which pro­motes white suprema­cist themes and logos. The FBI believes he ran RAM’s now-sus­pend­ed Twit­ter account.

    RAM has been mak­ing entreaties over­seas, includ­ing in Italy, Ger­many and East­ern Europe. The FBI said Run­do, Mis­elis and Daley met with Euro­pean white suprema­cy extrem­ist groups, “includ­ing a group known as White Rex.”

    FBI Spe­cial Agent Scott Bier­wirth, in the crim­i­nal com­plaint unsealed Wednes­day, not­ed that Right Brand Clothing’s Insta­gram page con­tained a pho­to of RAM mem­bers meet­ing with Ole­na Semenya­ka, a lead­ing fig­ure with­in the fas­cist, neo-Nazi scene in East­ern Europe. In Ukraine, Semenya­ka is an impor­tant voice with­in the Mil­i­tant Zone and Nation­al Corps orga­ni­za­tions and the Pan-Euro­pean Recon­quista move­ment, all of which have ties to the noto­ri­ous Azov Bat­tal­ion.

    Bier­wirth said Azov Bat­tal­ion, now a piece of the Ukrain­ian Nation­al Guard, is known for neo-Nazi sym­bol­ism and ide­ol­o­gy and has par­tic­i­pat­ed in train­ing and rad­i­cal­iz­ing U.S.-based white suprema­cist orga­ni­za­tions.
    ...

    “Bier­wirth said Azov Bat­tal­ion, now a piece of the Ukrain­ian Nation­al Guard, is known for neo-Nazi sym­bol­ism and ide­ol­o­gy and has par­tic­i­pat­ed in train­ing and rad­i­cal­iz­ing U.S.-based white suprema­cist orga­ni­za­tions.”

    And that’s what’s so dis­turb­ing about this report. It’s not just that a lead­ing fig­ure in Azov met with these RAM mem­bers dur­ing their ‘Hitler hol­i­day’ in Europe. It’s that this appar­ent­ly isn’t the only US-based neo-Nazi group that Azov has been meet­ing with and train­ing.

    It’s espe­cial­ly dis­turb­ing when you con­sid­er the role the US has played in train­ing Azov. Don’t for­get that it was only March of this year when Con­gress for­mal­ly banned US funds being used to train and equip Azov, sug­gest­ing that there was 3 years when the US was actu­al­ly train­ing and equip­ping Azov since that prac­tice report­ed­ly start­ed in 2015. So it’s entire­ly pos­si­ble that the train­ing RAM or oth­er US neo-Nazi out­fits have received from Azov over the past sev­er­al years has indi­rect­ly came from the US mil­i­tary.

    Of course, giv­en the fact that Azov is now absorbed into the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary, it’s not like the group suf­fers from a lack of sources for mil­i­tary train­ing. Which, again, is why the accep­tance in the West of Ukraine’s embrace of these neo-Nazi is so dan­ger­ous­ly dis­turb­ing: these neo-Nazis aren’t just receiv­ing mil­i­tary train­ing. They’re shar­ing that train­ing. Includ­ing with US neo-Nazis.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 8, 2018, 1:07 pm
  4. Here’s anoth­er sto­ry that involves a dis­turb­ing rela­tion­ship between Ukraine’s state-sanc­tioned neo-Nazis in the police: Katery­na Handzyuk, a Ukrain­ian civic activist known for her crit­i­cism of the police cor­rup­tion, just died sev­er­al months after being attacked with sul­fu­ric acid out­side of her home in July 31st of this year. As the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, it’s just one of numer­ous attacks on Ukraine’s civic activists this year, albeit a par­tic­u­lar­ly grue­some one.

    The attack­er ran away and police ini­tial­ly called the case an act of hooli­gan­ism. Addi­tion­al­ly, Yuriy Lut­senko, Ukraine’s pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al and a pres­i­den­tial appointee, said activists were them­selves part­ly to blame for all of these attacks because they “stir up” an “atmos­phere of total hatred toward the author­i­ties.” Keep in mind that Handzyuk accused a depart­ment head in the Kher­son Region­al Police of demand­ing a 3 per­cent cut from all con­tracts and ten­ders in the region in Sep­tem­ber of 2017. It result­ed in a court case that she won.

    On August 3, author­i­ties arrest­ed an ini­tial sus­pect. But this indi­vid­ual was wide­ly seen as a scape­goat and even­tu­al­ly released on August 22 after he was able to estab­lish an ali­bi which was back up by a Ukrain­ian news­pa­per. By then, there were 5 new sus­pects who hap­pen to be mem­bers of the Ukrain­ian Vol­un­teer Army, a splin­ter fac­tion of Right Sec­tor. Four of these new sus­pects claim that the fifth sus­pect, Ser­hiy Torbin, was the main sus­pect. Torbin was a for­mer offi­cer of Kher­son police.

    So it appears that a group of Right Sec­tor neo-Nazis attacked one of Ukraine’s civic activists who was known for crit­i­ciz­ing Kher­son Region police cor­rup­tion, and the leader of this group was, him­self, a for­mer Kher­son police offi­cer. After the attack, author­i­ties first tried to blame it on hooli­gan­ism while blam­ing the activist com­mu­ni­ty in Ukraine for bring­ing this vio­lence on them­selves. And it was only after an ini­tial scape­goat had their ali­bi ver­i­fied by a local news out­let that author­i­ties arrest­ed the real cul­prits:

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty

    Ukrain­ian Activist Doused With Acid Dies

    By Christo­pher Miller
    Last Updat­ed: Novem­ber 04, 2018 18:23 GMT

    KYIV — Katery­na Handzyuk, a Ukrain­ian civic activist and advis­er to the may­or of the Black Sea port city of Kher­son, has died from wounds she suf­fered from an acid attack three months ago.

    The 33-year-old Handzyuk died on Novem­ber 4 in a Kyiv hos­pi­tal where she was being treat­ed for burns from the attack, col­leagues and offi­cials said.

    Local media sug­gest­ed that Handzyuk’s death was caused by a blood clot.

    Sev­er­al hun­dred sup­port­ers gath­ered around Ukraine’s Inte­ri­or Min­istry build­ing in Kyiv late on Novem­ber 4, demand­ing that those respon­si­ble for her death be brought to jus­tice.

    The activist, who was known for her scathing crit­i­cism of police cor­rup­tion, was doused with sul­fu­ric acid out­side of her Kher­son home on July 31 by an unknown attack­er.

    Her death comes amid a wave of attacks against Ukraine’s civic activists, with rights cam­paign­ers claim­ing law-enforce­ment agen­cies have failed to thor­ough­ly inves­ti­gate the cas­es and may even be com­plic­it in some of the attacks.

    Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko, speak­ing dur­ing his trip in Turkey, expressed his con­do­lences to Handzyuk’s fam­i­ly and called on law-enforce­ment agen­cies to do every­thing in their pow­er to bring her killer to jus­tice.

    Five sus­pects have been detained for their alleged involve­ment in the attack, but there was no infor­ma­tion about its mas­ter­mind.

    “Attacks against civ­il soci­ety activists are unac­cept­able. The per­pe­tra­tors of this vicious crime must be brought to jus­tice,” EU enlarge­ment com­mis­sion­er Johannes Hahn tweet­ed.

    Handzyuk suf­fered severe burns to near­ly 40 per­cent of her body and lost sight in one of her eyes after the acid attack, accord­ing to doc­tors who treat­ed her at a burn cen­ter in the Ukrain­ian cap­i­tal, Kyiv.

    Doc­tors per­formed 11 sur­gi­cal oper­a­tions to try to save her life. From her hos­pi­tal bed, Handzyuk vowed to track down her attack­ers.

    Police ini­tial­ly list­ed the case as hooli­gan­ism but changed it to attempt­ed mur­der com­mit­ted with extreme cru­el­ty after pub­lic out­cry.

    Ukrain­ian law­mak­er Ole­na Sot­nyk on Novem­ber 4 renewed her pre­vi­ous call for a spe­cial inves­tiga­tive com­mit­tee to be formed in par­lia­ment to probe her case.

    Local and inter­na­tion­al civ­il soci­ety groups have record­ed at least 55 unsolved attacks against activists, includ­ing on Handzyuk, since 2017.

    In recent months, pro­test­ers demand­ing a prop­er police response have gath­ered out­side gov­ern­ment build­ings across the coun­try in a cam­paign dubbed “silence kills.”

    Yuriy Lut­senko, Ukraine’s pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al and a pres­i­den­tial appointee, caused uproar after one of the protests in Sep­tem­ber, when he said activists were them­selves part­ly to blame because they “stir up” an “atmos­phere of total hatred toward the author­i­ties.”

    Handzyuk was sting­ing in her crit­i­cism of police cor­rup­tion.

    In Sep­tem­ber 2017, she accused Artem Antoshchuk, a depart­ment head in the Kher­son Region­al Police, of demand­ing a 3 per­cent cut from all con­tracts and ten­ders in the region.

    The accu­sa­tion led to a fierce court bat­tle, which she won.

    Police have arrest­ed five for­mer fight­ers of the Ukrain­ian Vol­un­teer Army, a splin­ter fac­tion of the ultra­na­tion­al­ist Right Sec­tor mili­tia, sus­pect­ed of involve­ment in the attack.

    Four of the men have claimed the fifth, Ser­hiy Torbin, a for­mer offi­cer of Kher­son police, was the main sus­pect.

    Torbin is in the cus­tody of the Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice of Ukraine at a pre­tri­al deten­tion cen­ter in Kyiv, his defense lawyer Yuriy Kha­zov told the Kyiv Post news­pa­per.

    Stills from a CCTV cam­era pub­lished by local media appear to show the alleged attack­er run­ning away from the scene of the crime.

    Six weeks before her death, Handzyuk record­ed a video mes­sage for Hro­madske TV from her hos­pi­tal bed. Wrapped in ban­dages, she said she was cer­tain the attack was meant to kill her.

    “Why do I con­sid­er it to be assas­si­na­tion attempt? Because the acid was poured on my head,” she said. “If some­one want­ed to warn or silence me, they could have tar­get­ed my arms, legs, or face — any­where. But they poured a liter of acid on my head.”

    ...

    ———-

    “Ukrain­ian Activist Doused With Acid Dies” by Christo­pher Miller; Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty; 11/04/2018

    “Her death comes amid a wave of attacks against Ukraine’s civic activists, with rights cam­paign­ers claim­ing law-enforce­ment agen­cies have failed to thor­ough­ly inves­ti­gate the cas­es and may even be com­plic­it in some of the attacks.”

    That’s part of what’s so dis­turb­ing about this attack: it’s not just an attack on Ukraine’s beseiged civic activist com­mu­ni­ty. Ukraine’s author­i­ties appear to, at a min­i­mum, wel­come the attack and might even have been com­plic­it. At a min­i­mum, the ini­tial dec­la­ra­tion of “hooli­gan­ism” appears to be a kind of troll­ish endorse­ment:

    ...
    Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko, speak­ing dur­ing his trip in Turkey, expressed his con­do­lences to Handzyuk’s fam­i­ly and called on law-enforce­ment agen­cies to do every­thing in their pow­er to bring her killer to jus­tice.

    Five sus­pects have been detained for their alleged involve­ment in the attack, but there was no infor­ma­tion about its mas­ter­mind.

    “Attacks against civ­il soci­ety activists are unac­cept­able. The per­pe­tra­tors of this vicious crime must be brought to jus­tice,” EU enlarge­ment com­mis­sion­er Johannes Hahn tweet­ed.

    Handzyuk suf­fered severe burns to near­ly 40 per­cent of her body and lost sight in one of her eyes after the acid attack, accord­ing to doc­tors who treat­ed her at a burn cen­ter in the Ukrain­ian cap­i­tal, Kyiv.

    Doc­tors per­formed 11 sur­gi­cal oper­a­tions to try to save her life. From her hos­pi­tal bed, Handzyuk vowed to track down her attack­ers.

    Police ini­tial­ly list­ed the case as hooli­gan­ism but changed it to attempt­ed mur­der com­mit­ted with extreme cru­el­ty after pub­lic out­cry.

    Ukrain­ian law­mak­er Ole­na Sot­nyk on Novem­ber 4 renewed her pre­vi­ous call for a spe­cial inves­tiga­tive com­mit­tee to be formed in par­lia­ment to probe her case.
    ...

    Yuriy Lut­senko, Ukraine’s pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al, even blamed the activists them­selves for these attacks for ‘stir­ring up’ hatred towards author­i­ties, pre­sum­ably in ref­er­ence to Handzyuk expo­sure of cor­rup­tion in the Kher­son Region­al Police last year:

    ...
    In recent months, pro­test­ers demand­ing a prop­er police response have gath­ered out­side gov­ern­ment build­ings across the coun­try in a cam­paign dubbed “silence kills.”

    Yuriy Lut­senko, Ukraine’s pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al and a pres­i­den­tial appointee, caused uproar after one of the protests in Sep­tem­ber, when he said activists were them­selves part­ly to blame because they “stir up” an “atmos­phere of total hatred toward the author­i­ties.”

    Handzyuk was sting­ing in her crit­i­cism of police cor­rup­tion.

    In Sep­tem­ber 2017, she accused Artem Antoshchuk, a depart­ment head in the Kher­son Region­al Police, of demand­ing a 3 per­cent cut from all con­tracts and ten­ders in the region.

    The accu­sa­tion led to a fierce court bat­tle, which she won.
    ...

    But Lut­senko was also pre­sum­ably excus­ing all the oth­er unsolved attacks Ukrain­ian activists since 2017. At least 55 of them:

    ...
    Local and inter­na­tion­al civ­il soci­ety groups have record­ed at least 55 unsolved attacks against activists, includ­ing on Handzyuk, since 2017.
    ...

    And it was only after the ini­tial scape­goat was release that author­i­ties arrest­ed 5 mem­bers of a Right Sec­tor off­shoot group, one of which was a for­mer Kher­son police offi­cer:

    ...
    Police have arrest­ed five for­mer fight­ers of the Ukrain­ian Vol­un­teer Army, a splin­ter fac­tion of the ultra­na­tion­al­ist Right Sec­tor mili­tia, sus­pect­ed of involve­ment in the attack.

    Four of the men have claimed the fifth, Ser­hiy Torbin, a for­mer offi­cer of Kher­son police, was the main sus­pect.
    ...

    Now here’s an arti­cle that dis­cuss­es the ini­tial scape­goat who was arrest­ed. He had a pret­ty strong ali­bi: he was­n’t in Kher­son at the time of the attack, which was lat­er con­firmed through an inves­ti­ga­tion by the Ukrain­s­ka Prav­da online news­pa­per:

    Kyiv Post

    Death of activist Gandz­iuk shocks nation, pro­test­ers demand prop­er inves­ti­ga­tion (UPDATED; VIDEO)

    By Veroni­ka Melkoze­ro­va, Olga Rudenko.
    Pub­lished Nov. 4. Updat­ed Nov. 4 at 12:47 pm

    Katery­na Gandz­iuk, a civic activist and local coun­cil mem­ber from Kher­son, a city some 550 kilo­me­ters south of Kyiv, died on Nov. 4 in a Kyiv hos­pi­tal. Gandz­iuk, 33, was attacked with acid on July 31, result­ing in severe burns of her head and body.

    The attack is believed to be linked to her activism, includ­ing her efforts to expose cor­rup­tion in Kher­son. It was just one in the series of attacks on activists in Ukraine in 2018. Gandz­iuk became the sym­bol of a protest move­ment against the lack of inves­ti­ga­tion into the attacks on activists.

    Two friends of Gandz­iuk, Kher­son jour­nal­ist Ivan Antypenko and Kyiv lawyer Masi Nayyem, con­firmed to the Kyiv Post Gandz­iuk died but didn’t reveal any detail. The cause of death is yet to be announced.

    An unknown man attacked Gandz­iuk near her home in Kher­son when she was leav­ing for work. He poured an esti­mat­ed one liter of acid into the woman, caus­ing severe burns of 40 per­cent of her body sur­face. She was get­ting treat­ment first in Kher­son and lat­er in Kyiv.

    Gandz­iuk refused to coop­er­ate with Kher­son police, sus­pect­ing they could be con­nect­ed to the attack, but tes­ti­fied to the Kyiv inves­ti­ga­tors. Author­i­ties orig­i­nal­ly clas­si­fied the attack as hooli­gan­ism, but after the pub­lic uproar changed it to “inten­tion­al injury with the pur­pose of intim­i­da­tion” and lat­er to “assas­si­na­tion attempt.” After Gandz­iuk died in hos­pi­tal, the police reclas­si­fied the case into con­tract killing.

    Gandz­iuk was sure that the attack on her was an attempt­ed killing.

    “If they just want­ed to warn me, they would splash some acid on my hands or legs or even into my face. But to splash a lit­ter of bat­tery acid on my head…It was an attempt to kill me,” she told Hro­madske news web­site on Sept. 25.

    Sev­er­al sus­pect­ed per­pe­tra­tors of the attack are in cus­tody, but the inves­ti­ga­tion revealed noth­ing about those who ordered the attack.

    React­ing to the news of Gandziuk’s death, Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko released a state­ment on Nov. 4 call­ing on the law enforce­ment to find and pros­e­cute the killers. The state­ment men­tioned “the killers” but didn’t specif­i­cal­ly demand to find those who ordered the mur­der.

    “We all must help the law enforcers so that the evil is pun­ished,” the state­ment read.

    About 1,000 peo­ple came to the Inte­ri­or Min­istry Head­quar­ters in Kyiv lat­er on Nov. 4 to hold a vig­il and demand a prop­er inves­ti­ga­tion of Gandziuk’s mur­der.

    Despite her severe con­di­tion, Gandz­iuk record­ed a video address on Sept. 26. In the video, she lies on the hos­pi­tal bed, her face cov­ered with burns, and talks about impuni­ty and lack of jus­tice in Ukraine.

    “I know I look bad,” she says, look­ing into the cam­era. “But still not as bad as cur­rent Ukrain­ian jus­tice and rule of law. I’m get­ting treat­ment. But nobody is cur­ing our jus­tice sys­tem.”

    Fol­low­ing it, sev­er­al hun­dred peo­ple protest­ed near the president’s admin­is­tra­tion in Kyiv on Sept. 28 demand­ing that the author­i­ties inves­ti­gate the attacks on Gandz­iuk and oth­er activists.

    ...

    Police arrest­ed a sus­pect in the attack, Myko­la Novikov, on Aug. 3. But he was wide­ly believed to be a scape­goat. His sis­ter said he had an ali­bi since he was not in Kher­son at the time of the attack, which was lat­er con­firmed through an inves­ti­ga­tion by the Ukrain­s­ka Prav­da online news­pa­per. On Aug. 22, police released Novikov.

    By then inves­ti­ga­tors had iden­ti­fied new sus­pects – a group of five peo­ple, all for­mer fight­ers of the Ukrain­ian Vol­un­teer Army, an off­shoot of the nation­al­ist Right Sec­tor group.

    As of Novem­ber, Ser­hiy Torbin, a for­mer offi­cer of Kher­son police, remains the main sus­pect in Gandziuk’s case. Torbin was arrest­ed on Aug. 17 and for a long time, he kept silence. He denied accu­sa­tions dur­ing a court hear­ing on Oct. 17.

    Anoth­er sus­pect, Volodymyr Vasyanovych, claimed in court that Torbin was the orga­niz­er of the attack on Gandz­iuk. Vasyanovych said that he was only a dri­ver – his role was to take four oth­er sus­pects to Kher­son from a vil­lage in Kher­son Oblast the day before the attack. He was put under house arrest.

    Vik­tor Gor­bunov, anoth­er sus­pect who had alleged­ly bought the acid for the attack, was also released under the house arrest on Oct. 16 and has also named Torbin as the orga­niz­er.

    On Oct. 28, Torbin was tak­en from Kher­son to Kyiv and stays in the Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice of Ukraine’s pre-tri­al deten­tion cen­ter, his defense lawyer Yuriy Kha­zov told the Kyiv Post on Nov. 4.

    ———-

    “Death of activist Gandz­iuk shocks nation, pro­test­ers demand prop­er inves­ti­ga­tion (UPDATED; VIDEO)” by Veroni­ka Melkoze­ro­va, Olga Rudenko; Kyiv Post; 11/04/2018

    “Police arrest­ed a sus­pect in the attack, Myko­la Novikov, on Aug. 3. But he was wide­ly believed to be a scape­goat. His sis­ter said he had an ali­bi since he was not in Kher­son at the time of the attack, which was lat­er con­firmed through an inves­ti­ga­tion by the Ukrain­s­ka Prav­da online news­pa­per. On Aug. 22, police released Novikov.”

    So the ini­tial sus­pect, Myko­la Novikov, had an ali­bi, but it was up to a Ukrain­ian news­pa­per to actu­al­ly ver­i­fy that ali­bi.

    And now that the five Right Sec­tor cul­prits have been arrest­ed, sev­er­al of them have basi­cal­ly admit­ted to the attack, while pin­ning the ulti­mate blame on a mem­ber of their group who hap­pens to be a for­mer Kher­son offi­cer:

    ...
    As of Novem­ber, Ser­hiy Torbin, a for­mer offi­cer of Kher­son police, remains the main sus­pect in Gandziuk’s case. Torbin was arrest­ed on Aug. 17 and for a long time, he kept silence. He denied accu­sa­tions dur­ing a court hear­ing on Oct. 17.

    Anoth­er sus­pect, Volodymyr Vasyanovych, claimed in court that Torbin was the orga­niz­er of the attack on Gandz­iuk. Vasyanovych said that he was only a dri­ver – his role was to take four oth­er sus­pects to Kher­son from a vil­lage in Kher­son Oblast the day before the attack. He was put under house arrest.

    Vik­tor Gor­bunov, anoth­er sus­pect who had alleged­ly bought the acid for the attack, was also released under the house arrest on Oct. 16 and has also named Torbin as the orga­niz­er.
    ...

    As we can see, if those jour­nal­ists had­n’t ver­i­fied Myko­la Novikov’s ali­bi, the actu­al per­pe­tra­tors prob­a­bly would have gone free.

    So why did it take jour­nal­ists to ver­i­fy Novikov ali­bi? Well, accord­ing to the fol­low­ing arti­cle from August 14th (two weeks after the attack), the Kher­son police sim­ply did­n’t inter­view peo­ple who claimed to be wit­ness­es back­ing up that ali­bi. And also stalled on hand­ing over doc­u­ments to the SBU after the SBU got involved in the inves­ti­ga­tion:

    The Kharkiv Human Rights Pro­tec­tion Group

    Inves­ti­ga­tion sab­o­taged into sav­age acid attack on civic activist who exposed police cor­rup­tion

    14.08.2018 | Halya Coy­nash

    New and very dis­turb­ing details have emerged regard­ing the police inves­ti­ga­tion into the sav­age acid attack on Katery­na Handz­iuk, an advis­er to the May­or of Kher­son and a civic activist known for her hard-hit­ting crit­i­cism of the police. Not only are the Kher­son police obstruct­ing the inves­ti­ga­tion by the SBU [Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice], but they are also show­ing sus­pi­cious­ly lit­tle inter­est in inter­view­ing peo­ple who can pro­vide their sus­pect­ed assailant with a firm ali­bi for 31 July, when the attack took place.

    As report­ed, 38-year-old Myko­la Novikov was arrest­ed on 3 August and was remand­ed in cus­tody for two months. His sister’s tes­ti­mo­ny that the two had been on hol­i­day at the sea from 27 July through to 1 August was not tak­en into con­sid­er­a­tion by the court on the grounds of the close tie between them. It was, how­ev­er, clear­ly stat­ed at the time that there were oth­er wit­ness­es who could con­firm this ali­bi.

    Since the Kher­son police did not see the need to ques­tion these oth­er wit­ness­es, two well-known jour­nal­ists Maryana Pyet­sukh and Denis Kazan­sky decid­ed to do so them­selves.

    Anna Anton­ishyn and her hus­band, Ser­hiy, are from Lviv, but say that they were on a camp­ing hol­i­day in the Kher­son oblast at the sea with Novikov’s sis­ter, Iry­na, her hus­band and two chil­dren, as well as with Novikov him­self. The two cou­ples know each oth­er through a fatal car crash which killed Antonishyn’s cousin and Iryna’s daugh­ter. Since they say that they knew Novikov, there seems no obvi­ous rea­son for them to try to pro­tect him.

    The vil­lage Pry­morske, where they set up their camp, is about 95 kilo­me­tres from Kher­son where the attack took place. The roads are bad, so it would take at least one and a half hours to reach the scene of the crime from his tent.

    Novikov is emphat­ic that he spent his time in the tent, in the sea or in a café. While Anton­ishyn can­not con­firm what he was doing to the hour, she is adamant that he was there with them, and that she would have noticed any absence longer than half an hour or so. The police did ques­tion the camp­site admin­is­tra­tor and the local café’s bar­man, both of whom could con­firm that Novikov had been there for sev­er­al days, but could not say with any cer­tain­ty whether he had been there on 31 July.

    The two peo­ple who are not relat­ed to Novikov, and who can say with cer­tain­ty that he was with them, have sim­ply not been approached by the police. They are them­selves baf­fled as to why not.

    The sus­pi­cion is that Novikov who, accord­ing to Kazan­sky, has a crim­i­nal record, is seen as a con­ve­nient scape­goat. He also lives close by, although that is, if any­thing, a rea­son to not sus­pect him. The attack was car­ried out in broad day­light, with the assailant seem­ing­ly mak­ing no real attempt to con­ceal his iden­ti­ty.

    Nor is this all. Lawyer Yevhe­nia Zakrevs­ka reports that the Kher­son police are also drag­ging their heels and not pass­ing on their mate­r­i­al to the SBU. The lat­ter ini­ti­at­ed a crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion on 6 August, and have still not received the police file. Since it is now two weeks since the attack, any such delay could seri­ous­ly ham­per their progress.

    Is this what is intend­ed? For the moment, Zakrevs­ka notes, there are real­ly only ‘reports’ from the police via Face­book which can clear­ly not be used by the crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tors.

    Handz­iuk her­self believes that peo­ple from the Kher­son police may be behind the attack on her, and, accord­ing to Kazan­sky, a friend of hers, it is this that she told the Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­er­al Yuri Lut­senko when he vis­it­ed her on 3 August. As report­ed, he wrote that it was after hear­ing her expla­na­tion for the attack that he decid­ed to pass the inves­ti­ga­tion on to the SBU. The lat­ter added the case to the Sin­gle Reg­is­ter of Pre-tri­al Inves­ti­ga­tions with it described as being “over the orga­ni­za­tion of s mur­der attempt, car­ried out with par­tic­u­lar bru­tal­i­ty, against Katery­na Handz­iuk, assis­tant to the May­or of Kher­son, and under­tak­en on the com­mis­sion­ing by police or state agency staff, with the sup­port of sep­a­ratist orga­ni­za­tions in the South of Ukraine, in order to desta­bi­lize the socio-polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in this south­ern region of the coun­try

    Put most blunt­ly, arrest­ing the wrong per­son and hold­ing up the SBU’s inves­ti­ga­tion can only result in those who orga­nized and car­ried out a vicious and poten­tial­ly fatal attack going unpun­ished.

    The attack on 31 July left Handz­iuk with sec­ond and third degree burns over 30% of her upper body. This was the lat­est and most dan­ger­ous of many attacks on civic activists over recent months, and Handziuk’s very pub­lic crit­i­cism of cer­tain peo­ple in or linked with the police made it even more high-pro­file.

    The police ini­tial­ly qual­i­fied the attack as ‘hooli­gan­ism’, how­ev­er that same day, this was changed to ‘caus­ing grave bod­i­ly injuries in order to intim­i­date a per­son’ (Arti­cle 121 § 2 of Ukraine’s Crim­i­nal Code). It soon became clear that Handziuk’s assailant had used a con­cen­trat­ed form of sul­phuric acid, which the police report­ed as being dou­ble the den­si­ty of the acid used in car accu­mu­la­tors. After the foren­sic med­ical assess­ment was made, the inves­ti­ga­tion became one of attempt­ed mur­der.

    On 7 August, the Head of the Nation­al Police, Ser­hiy Knyazev report­ed that they were look­ing for a sec­ond per­son believed to be involved in the attack, pub­lish­ing CCTV footage of the per­son they want to ques­tion. The fol­low­ing day, Knyazev’s deputy, Vyach­eslav Abroskin announced that they had estab­lished the place where the acid was bought. He also pro­duced video footage of the per­son who alleged­ly pur­chased it. He has react­ed defen­sive­ly to the reports link­ing the attack with the police. He writes that none of the peo­ple inves­ti­gat­ing the crime was ever in con­flict with Handz­iuk and also claims, with­out pro­vid­ing any names, that “the per­son who was real­ly in con­flict with her did not and does not now work in any depart­ments of the Nation­al Police in the Kher­son oblast.

    ...

    ———-

    “Inves­ti­ga­tion sab­o­taged into sav­age acid attack on civic activist who exposed police cor­rup­tion” by Halya Coy­nash; The Kharkiv Human Rights Pro­tec­tion Group; 08/14/2018

    “New and very dis­turb­ing details have emerged regard­ing the police inves­ti­ga­tion into the sav­age acid attack on Katery­na Handz­iuk, an advis­er to the May­or of Kher­son and a civic activist known for her hard-hit­ting crit­i­cism of the police. Not only are the Kher­son police obstruct­ing the inves­ti­ga­tion by the SBU [Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice], but they are also show­ing sus­pi­cious­ly lit­tle inter­est in inter­view­ing peo­ple who can pro­vide their sus­pect­ed assailant with a firm ali­bi for 31 July, when the attack took place.”

    This was sit­u­a­tion before the Right Sec­tor sus­pects were found: the Kher­son police weren’t actu­al­ly look­ing into their ini­tial sus­pects ali­bi, nor were they coop­er­at­ing with the SBU. It cer­tain­ly looks like the Kher­son police did­n’t actu­al­ly want to find the real sus­pects:

    ...
    As report­ed, 38-year-old Myko­la Novikov was arrest­ed on 3 August and was remand­ed in cus­tody for two months. His sister’s tes­ti­mo­ny that the two had been on hol­i­day at the sea from 27 July through to 1 August was not tak­en into con­sid­er­a­tion by the court on the grounds of the close tie between them. It was, how­ev­er, clear­ly stat­ed at the time that there were oth­er wit­ness­es who could con­firm this ali­bi.

    Since the Kher­son police did not see the need to ques­tion these oth­er wit­ness­es, two well-known jour­nal­ists Maryana Pyet­sukh and Denis Kazan­sky decid­ed to do so them­selves.
    ...

    At the same time, the police did in fact ques­tion the camp­site admin­is­tra­tor and a bar­man at Novikov had indeed been camp­ing with his sis­ter and anoth­er cou­ple dur­ing the time they claimed he was with them. But these wit­ness­es could­n’t con­firm that Novikov was actu­al­ly there on July 31st, the day of the attack. But the cou­ple that Novikov and his sis­ter were camp­ing with could indeed con­firm that he was with them that day, and yet the police haven’t approached them:

    ...
    Anna Anton­ishyn and her hus­band, Ser­hiy, are from Lviv, but say that they were on a camp­ing hol­i­day in the Kher­son oblast at the sea with Novikov’s sis­ter, Iry­na, her hus­band and two chil­dren, as well as with Novikov him­self. The two cou­ples know each oth­er through a fatal car crash which killed Antonishyn’s cousin and Iryna’s daugh­ter. Since they say that they knew Novikov, there seems no obvi­ous rea­son for them to try to pro­tect him.

    The vil­lage Pry­morske, where they set up their camp, is about 95 kilo­me­tres from Kher­son where the attack took place. The roads are bad, so it would take at least one and a half hours to reach the scene of the crime from his tent.

    Novikov is emphat­ic that he spent his time in the tent, in the sea or in a café. While Anton­ishyn can­not con­firm what he was doing to the hour, she is adamant that he was there with them, and that she would have noticed any absence longer than half an hour or so. The police did ques­tion the camp­site admin­is­tra­tor and the local café’s bar­man, both of whom could con­firm that Novikov had been there for sev­er­al days, but could not say with any cer­tain­ty whether he had been there on 31 July.

    The two peo­ple who are not relat­ed to Novikov, and who can say with cer­tain­ty that he was with them, have sim­ply not been approached by the police. They are them­selves baf­fled as to why not.

    The sus­pi­cion is that Novikov who, accord­ing to Kazan­sky, has a crim­i­nal record, is seen as a con­ve­nient scape­goat. He also lives close by, although that is, if any­thing, a rea­son to not sus­pect him. The attack was car­ried out in broad day­light, with the assailant seem­ing­ly mak­ing no real attempt to con­ceal his iden­ti­ty.
    ...

    In addi­tion, after the SBU start­ed its own inves­ti­ga­tion on August 6th, the Kher­son police still had­n’t giv­en them the police file as of the date of this report (August 14th). It’s an odd delay for such a high pro­file crime:

    ...
    Nor is this all. Lawyer Yevhe­nia Zakrevs­ka reports that the Kher­son police are also drag­ging their heels and not pass­ing on their mate­r­i­al to the SBU. The lat­ter ini­ti­at­ed a crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion on 6 August, and have still not received the police file. Since it is now two weeks since the attack, any such delay could seri­ous­ly ham­per their progress.

    Is this what is intend­ed? For the moment, Zakrevs­ka notes, there are real­ly only ‘reports’ from the police via Face­book which can clear­ly not be used by the crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tors.
    ...

    And when Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­er­al Yuri Lut­senko open the SBU’s inves­ti­ga­tion after meet­ing with Handz­iuk, he appeared to describe the attack as hav­ing tak­en been com­mis­sioned by “by police or state agency staff, with the sup­port of sep­a­ratist orga­ni­za­tions in the South of Ukraine, in order to desta­bi­lize the socio-polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in this south­ern region of the coun­try.” So Lut­senko appeared to be blam­ing in on the police and Ukrain­ian sep­a­ratists:

    ...
    Handz­iuk her­self believes that peo­ple from the Kher­son police may be behind the attack on her, and, accord­ing to Kazan­sky, a friend of hers, it is this that she told the Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­er­al Yuri Lut­senko when he vis­it­ed her on 3 August. As report­ed, he wrote that it was after hear­ing her expla­na­tion for the attack that he decid­ed to pass the inves­ti­ga­tion on to the SBU. The lat­ter added the case to the Sin­gle Reg­is­ter of Pre-tri­al Inves­ti­ga­tions with it described as being “over the orga­ni­za­tion of s mur­der attempt, car­ried out with par­tic­u­lar bru­tal­i­ty, against Katery­na Handz­iuk, assis­tant to the May­or of Kher­son, and under­tak­en on the com­mis­sion­ing by police or state agency staff, with the sup­port of sep­a­ratist orga­ni­za­tions in the South of Ukraine, in order to desta­bi­lize the socio-polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in this south­ern region of the coun­try
    ...

    Keep in mind that Lut­senko was blam­ing “sep­a­ratist orga­ni­za­tions in the South of Ukraine” before the Right Sec­tor sus­pects emerged. Keep in mind that the Kher­son region is adja­cent to Crimea, so that prox­im­i­ty pre­sum­ably had some­thing to do with the ini­tial sus­pi­cions that it was an act of “sep­a­ratist orga­ni­za­tions in the South of Ukraine”. But giv­en that the neo-Nazis groups like Right Sec­tor have been open­ly ter­ror­iz­ing Ukraine’s civic activist com­mu­ni­ty for years, large­ly with impuni­ty, it’s an exam­ple of how the obvi­ous sus­pects in these attacks on Ukraine’s civic activist com­mu­ni­ty are almost reflex­ive­ly pro­tect­ed and cod­dled by Ukraine’s author­i­ties. So while the Kher­son police appeared to be try­ing to pro­tect that actu­al per­pe­tra­tors of this crime, we have to keep in mind that the SBU was also prob­a­bly not very inter­est­ed in dis­cov­er­ing that this was done by Right Sec­tor.

    It’s also worth not­ing that pro­tes­tors have been demand­ing that both Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Arsen Avakov and Lut­senko resign in the wake of Handz­iuk’s death. Recall that Avakov is a patron of the neo-Nazi Azov Bat­tal­ion and is gen­er­al­ly seen as close to the far right. So it’s look­ing like the mur­der of Handz­iuk and sub­se­quent cov­er up attempt is lead­ing to a pub­lic boil­ing point over the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­men­t’s close ties and pro­tec­tion of groups like Right Sec­tor that are ter­ror­iz­ing Ukraine’s civ­il soci­ety. Lut­senko offered his res­ig­na­tion to the par­lia­ment on Novem­ber 6th after mem­bers of par­lia­ment crit­i­cized his office’s inves­ti­ga­tion of the attack on Handz­iuk. The par­lia­ment did­n’t accept his res­ig­na­tion, but did vote to set up a com­mis­sion to inves­ti­gate Lut­senko’s inves­ti­ga­tion of Handz­iuk’s attack. That’s how wild­ly cor­rupt this inves­ti­ga­tion looks: even Ukraine’s par­lia­ment agreed to inves­ti­gate the inves­ti­ga­tion.:

    Kyiv Post

    Lut­senko sub­mits res­ig­na­tion let­ter to Poroshenko

    By Artur Korni­ienko.
    Pub­lished Nov. 7 at 5:54 pm

    Ukraine’s Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­er­al Yuriy Lut­senko for­mal­ly sub­mit­ted a res­ig­na­tion let­ter to the Pres­i­den­tial Admin­is­tra­tion on Nov. 7, accord­ing to his press sec­re­tary Larysa Sarhan.

    “Yes, not long ago today (he) filed a state­ment to the pres­i­dent,” Sarhan told Ukrayin­s­ka Prav­da.

    Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko has not yet com­ment­ed on whether he will accept Lutsenko’s res­ig­na­tion. He is in Helsin­ki, Fin­land, at the sum­mit of the Euro­pean People’s Par­ty, the Euro­pean Union’s largest polit­i­cal par­ty, on a work­ing vis­it until Nov. 8.

    Lut­senko announced his res­ig­na­tion at par­lia­men­tary hear­ings on Nov. 6 after mem­bers of par­lia­ment crit­i­cized his office’s inves­ti­ga­tion of the attack on activist Katery­na Gandz­iuk, who died two days ear­li­er.

    “In order that there are no doubts that nobody clings for pow­er, today I will sub­mit a state­ment of res­ig­na­tion to the pres­i­dent of Ukraine and you should con­sid­er this ques­tion,” Lut­senko told the par­lia­ment.

    Par­lia­ment Speak­er Andriy Paru­biy called a vote on whether the Rada should con­sid­er the gen­er­al prosecutor’s res­ig­na­tion – even though Lut­senko had not then sub­mit­ted an offi­cial let­ter of res­ig­na­tion, as par­lia­men­tary pro­to­col demands.

    Only 38 law­mak­ers vot­ed to con­sid­er Lutsenko’s res­ig­na­tion, with 226 votes need­ed for a vote in par­lia­ment to pass – a pre­dictable out­come in the par­lia­ment con­trolled by the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko, with 135 out of 422 seats, to whom Lut­senko is a firm loy­al­ist.

    Lut­senko staged his res­ig­na­tion as a protest to the deputies’ demand to cre­ate a par­lia­men­tary com­mis­sion on inves­ti­gat­ing Gandziuk’s mur­der. How­ev­er, fol­low­ing the failed vote on Lutsenko’s res­ig­na­tion, the Rada pro­ceed­ed to cre­ate the com­mis­sion.

    Gandz­iuk, a civic activist and local coun­cil mem­ber from Kher­son, a region­al cap­i­tal of 290,000 peo­ple locat­ed 550 kilo­me­ters south of Kyiv, was attacked with acid on July 31. She was hos­pi­tal­ized with severe burns to her head and body and died on Nov 4. Inves­ti­ga­tors have so far failed to iden­ti­fy who may have ordered the attack.

    So far, 84 non-gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing Trans­paren­cy Inter­na­tion­al Ukraine and the Ukrain­ian Helsin­ki Human Rights Union, have signed a state­ment deplor­ing the qual­i­ty of the inves­ti­ga­tion into Gandzuik’s mur­der and demand­ing Lutsenko’s res­ig­na­tion.

    In the state­ment, the gen­er­al pros­e­cu­tor was also crit­i­cized for the state’s fail­ure to solve cas­es of oth­er recent attacks on jour­nal­ists and activists. The most notable cas­es that have gone unsolved dur­ing Lutsenko’s tenure are those of the mass killings of more than 100 peo­ple dur­ing the Euro­Maid­an Rev­o­lu­tion that end­ed Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych’s rule in 2014; the July 2016 car-bomb assas­si­na­tion of Pavlo Sheremet, a renowned jour­nal­ist; and many oth­ers.

    Some cas­es cur­rent­ly in court have dragged on for years, with sus­pects being released or con­vict­ed and sen­tenced to min­i­mal jail terms.

    The case of jour­nal­ist Vyach­eslav Veremiy, who was beat­en and fatal­ly shot on Feb. 19, 2014, after he tried to take a pic­ture of armed men, is still being heard in court. Yuriy Krysin, one of the attack­ers, ini­tial­ly received a four-year sus­pend­ed sen­tence. After a huge pub­lic out­cry, the rul­ing was even­tu­al­ly over­turned, with Krysin receiv­ing a five-year sen­tence. Krysin has appealed against the lat­est sen­tence.

    ...

    ———-

    “Lut­senko sub­mits res­ig­na­tion let­ter to Poroshenko” by Artur Korni­ienko; Kyiv Post; 11/07/2018

    “Lut­senko announced his res­ig­na­tion at par­lia­men­tary hear­ings on Nov. 6 after mem­bers of par­lia­ment crit­i­cized his office’s inves­ti­ga­tion of the attack on activist Katery­na Gandz­iuk, who died two days ear­li­er.”

    Yep, Lut­senko announced his res­ig­na­tion fol­low­ing the crit­i­cism of the Handz­iuk attack inves­ti­ga­tion, although it looks like the res­ig­na­tion offer was pure­ly a show intend­ed to pla­cate those demand­ing a par­lia­men­tary com­mis­sion to inves­ti­gate the mur­der:

    ...
    “In order that there are no doubts that nobody clings for pow­er, today I will sub­mit a state­ment of res­ig­na­tion to the pres­i­dent of Ukraine and you should con­sid­er this ques­tion,” Lut­senko told the par­lia­ment.

    Par­lia­ment Speak­er Andriy Paru­biy called a vote on whether the Rada should con­sid­er the gen­er­al prosecutor’s res­ig­na­tion – even though Lut­senko had not then sub­mit­ted an offi­cial let­ter of res­ig­na­tion, as par­lia­men­tary pro­to­col demands.

    Only 38 law­mak­ers vot­ed to con­sid­er Lutsenko’s res­ig­na­tion, with 226 votes need­ed for a vote in par­lia­ment to pass – a pre­dictable out­come in the par­lia­ment con­trolled by the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko, with 135 out of 422 seats, to whom Lut­senko is a firm loy­al­ist.

    Lut­senko staged his res­ig­na­tion as a protest to the deputies’ demand to cre­ate a par­lia­men­tary com­mis­sion on inves­ti­gat­ing Gandziuk’s mur­der. How­ev­er, fol­low­ing the failed vote on Lutsenko’s res­ig­na­tion, the Rada pro­ceed­ed to cre­ate the com­mis­sion.
    ...

    Also keep in mind that Par­lia­ment Speak­er Andriy Paru­biy is, him­self, a neo-Nazi who actu­al­ly found­ed Ukraine’s Nation­al Social­ist Par­ty in 1991.

    So we have the par­lia­ment stage a kind of sham vote reject­ing Lut­senko’s res­ig­na­tion, but then the par­lia­ment also votes to cre­ate a com­mis­sion inves­ti­gat­ing the attack. It’ll be inter­est­ing to see the qual­i­ty of this com­mis­sion. But giv­en the atten­tion this mur­der is get­ting, the pres­sure is going to be on for the par­lia­ment to pro­duce some sort of results that don’t look like a sham, with 84 NGO sign­ing on state­ment demand­ing Lut­senko’s res­ig­na­tion over the hand­ing of this inves­ti­ga­tion and a host of oth­er inves­ti­ga­tions that have yet to be solved, includ­ing the Maid­an sniper attacks:

    ...
    So far, 84 non-gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing Trans­paren­cy Inter­na­tion­al Ukraine and the Ukrain­ian Helsin­ki Human Rights Union, have signed a state­ment deplor­ing the qual­i­ty of the inves­ti­ga­tion into Gandzuik’s mur­der and demand­ing Lutsenko’s res­ig­na­tion.

    In the state­ment, the gen­er­al pros­e­cu­tor was also crit­i­cized for the state’s fail­ure to solve cas­es of oth­er recent attacks on jour­nal­ists and activists. The most notable cas­es that have gone unsolved dur­ing Lutsenko’s tenure are those of the mass killings of more than 100 peo­ple dur­ing the Euro­Maid­an Rev­o­lu­tion that end­ed Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych’s rule in 2014; the July 2016 car-bomb assas­si­na­tion of Pavlo Sheremet, a renowned jour­nal­ist; and many oth­ers.
    ...

    Don’t for­get that evi­dence strong­ly sug­gests that the sniper attacks were car­ried about by the far right ele­ments of the Maid­an protests. And Lut­senko him­self warned the Ukrain­ian pub­lic in 2016 that they will be shocked when they learn about the peo­ple involved with those attacks hav­ing ties to the Maid­an protests. Also note that the mur­der of Pavlo Sheremet appears to have been an assas­si­na­tion by the SBU. So it’s going to be inter­est­ing to see what, if any­thing, this new par­lia­men­tary com­mis­sion uncov­ers.

    So as we can see, the mur­der of Katery­na Handz­iuk is a par­tic­u­lar­ly grim exam­ple of the extent which Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment has embraced and pro­tect­ed the far right groups ter­ror­iz­ing the coun­try, but still only one of many exam­ples. Which is a par­tic­u­lar­ly grim sit­u­a­tion for Ukraine.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 9, 2018, 4:37 pm
  5. The Asso­ci­at­ed Press has a report on one of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi mil­i­tary train­ing youth camps. In this case it’s a Svo­bo­da youth camp, with kids as young as 8 years old. The chil­dren at the camp are taught nev­er to aim guns at peo­ple, but are also taught that “sep­a­ratists, lit­tle green men, occu­piers from Moscow” aren’t peo­ple so it’s fine to aim at them.

    But the dehu­man­iz­ing pro­pa­gan­da isn’t lim­it­ed to Russ­ian and sep­a­ratists. They are also teach­ing the chil­dren to bat­tle “chal­lenges that could com­plete­ly destroy” Euro­pean civ­i­liza­tion. Chal­lenges like LGBT rights, which they are told are per­ver­sions of “the mod­ern Bol­she­viks who have come to pow­er in Europe”. The arti­cle does­n’t give oth­er exam­ples of these “chal­lenges” to Euro­pean civ­i­liza­tion but giv­en the neo-Nazi ide­ol­o­gy at work here it’s a safe bet that human rights in gen­er­al are seen as a ‘chal­lenge’. So as we can see, these Ukrain­ian chil­dren are being taught that Rus­sians and non-far right Euro­peans are ene­mies of Euro­pean civ­i­liza­tion that these chil­dren must go to war against:

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    Train­ing kids to kill at Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist camp

    By YURAS KARMANAU
    Novem­ber 12, 2018

    KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — The campers, some clad in com­bat fatigues, care­ful­ly aim their assault rifles. Their instruc­tor offers advice: Don’t think of your tar­get as a human being.

    So when these boys and girls shoot, they will shoot to kill.

    Most are in their teens, but some are as young as 8 years old. They are at a sum­mer camp cre­at­ed by one of Ukraine’s rad­i­cal nation­al­ist groups, hid­den in a for­est in the west of the coun­try, that was vis­it­ed by The Asso­ci­at­ed Press. The camp has two pur­pos­es: to train chil­dren to defend their coun­try from Rus­sians and their sym­pa­thiz­ers — and to spread nation­al­ist ide­ol­o­gy.

    “We nev­er aim guns at peo­ple,” instruc­tor Yuri “Chorno­ta” Cherkashin tells them. “But we don’t count sep­a­ratists, lit­tle green men, occu­piers from Moscow, as peo­ple. So we can and should aim at them.”

    The nation­al­ists have been accused of vio­lence and racism, but they have played a cen­tral, vol­un­teer role in Ukraine’s con­flict with Rus­sia — and they have main­tained links with the gov­ern­ment. Ear­li­er this year, the Min­istry of Youth and Sports ear­marked 4 mil­lion hryv­nias (about $150,000) to fund some of the youth camps among the dozens built by the nation­al­ists. The pur­pose, accord­ing to the min­istry, is “nation­al patri­ot­ic edu­ca­tion.”

    Min­istry spokes­woman Natalia Vernig­o­ra said the mon­ey is dis­trib­uted by a pan­el which looks for “signs of xeno­pho­bia and dis­crim­i­na­tion, it doesn’t ana­lyze activ­i­ties of spe­cif­ic groups.”

    Cherkashin is a vet­er­an of the fight against pro-Rus­sia sep­a­ratists in east­ern Ukraine; he was wound­ed in com­bat and lat­er came to lead Sok­il, or Fal­con, the youth wing of the Svo­bo­da par­ty. It is impor­tant, he says, to incul­cate the nation’s youth with nation­al­ist thought, so they can bat­tle Vladimir Putin’s Rus­sia as well as “chal­lenges that could com­plete­ly destroy” Euro­pean civ­i­liza­tion.

    Among those chal­lenges: LGBT rights, which lec­tur­ers denounce as a sign of West­ern deca­dence.

    “You need to be aware of all that,” said instruc­tor Rus­lan Andreiko. “All those gen­der things, all those per­ver­sions of mod­ern Bol­she­viks who have come to pow­er in Europe and now try to make all those LGBT things like gay pride parades part of the edu­ca­tion sys­tem.”

    While some youths dozed off dur­ing lec­tures, oth­ers paid atten­tion. Clear­ly, some were recep­tive.

    Dur­ing a break in train­ing, a teenag­er played a nation­al­ist march on his gui­tar. It was dec­o­rat­ed with a stick­er show­ing white bombs hit­ting a mosque, under the mot­to, “White Europe is Our Goal.”

    Aside from the lec­tures — and songs around the camp­fire — life for the sev­er­al dozen youths at the Svo­bo­da camp was hard.

    Campers were awak­ened in the mid­dle of the night with a blast from a stun grenade. Stum­bling out of their tents, sol­diers in train­ing strug­gled to hold AK-47s that were, in some cas­es, almost as tall as they were. They were required to car­ry the heavy rifles all day, and one of the girls broke down in tears from exhaus­tion.

    ...

    ———-

    “Train­ing kids to kill at Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist camp” by YURAS KARMANAU; Asso­ci­at­ed Press; 11/12/2018

    “The campers, some clad in com­bat fatigues, care­ful­ly aim their assault rifles. Their instruc­tor offers advice: Don’t think of your tar­get as a human being.

    Don’t think of your tar­get as a human being. That’s the kind of train­ing these kids are get­ting. And dehu­man­iz­ing their tar­gets isn’t just a men­tal trick they’re told to employ in order to get over any qualms they might have about shoot­ing some­one. They’re lit­er­al­ly get­ting indoc­tri­nat­ed into far right ide­olo­gies that tell the kids Rus­sians and sep­a­ratists aren’t actu­al­ly human:

    ...
    Most are in their teens, but some are as young as 8 years old. They are at a sum­mer camp cre­at­ed by one of Ukraine’s rad­i­cal nation­al­ist groups, hid­den in a for­est in the west of the coun­try, that was vis­it­ed by The Asso­ci­at­ed Press. The camp has two pur­pos­es: to train chil­dren to defend their coun­try from Rus­sians and their sym­pa­thiz­ers — and to spread nation­al­ist ide­ol­o­gy.

    “We nev­er aim guns at peo­ple,” instruc­tor Yuri “Chorno­ta” Cherkashin tells them. “But we don’t count sep­a­ratists, lit­tle green men, occu­piers from Moscow, as peo­ple. So we can and should aim at them.”
    ...

    But it’s not just the Rus­sians these kids are taught to dehu­man­ize and view as exis­ten­tial threats to Ukraine. Euro­pean human rights, like LGBT rights, are seen as “per­ver­sions of mod­ern Bol­she­viks who have come to pow­er in Europe” that could com­plete­ly destroy Euro­pean civ­i­liza­tion:

    ...
    Cherkashin is a vet­er­an of the fight against pro-Rus­sia sep­a­ratists in east­ern Ukraine; he was wound­ed in com­bat and lat­er came to lead Sok­il, or Fal­con, the youth wing of the Svo­bo­da par­ty. It is impor­tant, he says, to incul­cate the nation’s youth with nation­al­ist thought, so they can bat­tle Vladimir Putin’s Rus­sia as well as “chal­lenges that could com­plete­ly destroy” Euro­pean civ­i­liza­tion.

    Among those chal­lenges: LGBT rights, which lec­tur­ers denounce as a sign of West­ern deca­dence.

    “You need to be aware of all that,” said instruc­tor Rus­lan Andreiko. “All those gen­der things, all those per­ver­sions of mod­ern Bol­she­viks who have come to pow­er in Europe and now try to make all those LGBT things like gay pride parades part of the edu­ca­tion sys­tem.”
    ...

    And not how the teenagers play­ing a gui­tar with a “White Europe is Our Goal” had a stick­er of a bomb hit­ting a mosque. Giv­en the lack of any large scale Mus­lim migra­tion into Ukraine, it high­lights how white suprema­cist nar­ra­tives being fed to these kids are part of a pan-Euro­pean nar­ra­tive. They aren’t just fight­ing for a “White Ukraine”, but a “White Europe”. You have to won­der if this is a reflec­tion of the influ­ence of the non-Ukrain­ian neo-Nazis who have come to Ukraine in recent years to fight in these neo-Nazi ‘vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions’. It also high­lights how the rest of Europe should­n’t expect the con­se­quences of the pro­mo­tion of neo-Nazi ide­olo­gies in Ukraine to stay in Ukraine:

    ...
    Dur­ing a break in train­ing, a teenag­er played a nation­al­ist march on his gui­tar. It was dec­o­rat­ed with a stick­er show­ing white bombs hit­ting a mosque, under the mot­to, “White Europe is Our Goal.”
    ...

    Final­ly, the arti­cle men­tions how Ukraine’s Min­istry of Youth and Sports ear­marked about $150,000 to fund neo-Nazi youth camps that aren’t focused on mil­i­tary train­ing but instead pure­ly pro­mot­ing a ‘nation­al­ist’ neo-Nazi ide­ol­o­gy:

    ...
    The nation­al­ists have been accused of vio­lence and racism, but they have played a cen­tral, vol­un­teer role in Ukraine’s con­flict with Rus­sia — and they have main­tained links with the gov­ern­ment. Ear­li­er this year, the Min­istry of Youth and Sports ear­marked 4 mil­lion hryv­nias (about $150,000) to fund some of the youth camps among the dozens built by the nation­al­ists. The pur­pose, accord­ing to the min­istry, is “nation­al patri­ot­ic edu­ca­tion.”

    Min­istry spokes­woman Natalia Vernig­o­ra said the mon­ey is dis­trib­uted by a pan­el which looks for “signs of xeno­pho­bia and dis­crim­i­na­tion, it doesn’t ana­lyze activ­i­ties of spe­cif­ic groups.”
    ...

    What the arti­cle left out is that one of the groups to get those youth camp funds was C14, the group lit­er­al­ly named after the ’14 words’ white suprema­cist slo­gan mint­ed by Amer­i­can neo-Nazi David Lane. Which, again, high­lights how the strains of neo-Nazi ide­ol­o­gy get­ting aggres­sive­ly pushed onto Ukraine’s youth aren’t far right ide­olo­gies focused only on Ukrain­ian ‘nation­al­ism’. Instead, what we’re see­ing is Ukraine being turned into a hub for the inter­na­tion­al white suprema­cy move­ment. It’s one of the grand ironies of the use of the term ‘nation­al­ism’ these days: it’s almost always used as a euphemism for transna­tion­al move­ment with glob­al ambi­tions. A transna­tion­al move­ment that Europe is going to have to be deal­ing with for decades to come. These neo-Nazi kids are going to grow up and become adult neo-Nazis, after all. Adult neo-Nazis with a “White Europe” goal and mil­i­tary train­ing.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 14, 2018, 4:09 pm
  6. The ques­tion of ‘who start­ed it’ is once again cen­tral to the sit­u­a­tion in Ukraine now that Russ­ian seized three Ukrain­ian ships and Ukraine respond­ed by declar­ing mar­tial law. And while this is wide­ly being report­ed in the West as some sort of planned provo­ca­tion by the Krem­lin, pos­si­bly in antic­i­pa­tion of a new mil­i­tary con­flict, the fol­low­ing analy­sis in bne Intellinews rais­es a num­ber of impor­tant ques­tions of which side ‘start­ed it’.

    As the arti­cle points out, from a polit­i­cal analy­sis stand­point the obvi­ous ben­e­fi­cia­ry of this inci­dent is Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s wild­ly unpop­u­lar pres­i­dent who is fac­ing reelec­tion in March and bad­ly trail­ing his rival, Yulia Tymoshenko. As the arti­cle also points out, boost­ing Poroshenko’s chances makes lit­tle sense from the Krem­lin’s per­spec­tive because they would like­ly pre­fer Yulia Tymoshenko to win instead sim­ply because she would be more like­ly to cut a deal with Krem­lin.

    The arti­cle also makes this impor­tant obser­va­tion about how West­ern gov­ern­ments like­ly view the choice between Tymoshenko and Poroshenko: Tymoshenko has made oppo­si­tion to the IMF’s aus­ter­i­ty demands one of her key pop­u­lar ral­ly­ing cries. In oth­er words, if Tymoshenko wins, the ongo­ing West­ern-backed aus­ter­i­ty poli­cies could be at risk which, in turn, could put Ukraine’s access to IMF cred­it at risk. And if Tyoshenko gets Ukraine kicked off of the IMF’s line of cred­it the only oth­er real­is­tic alter­na­tive cred­i­tor is Ukraine’s tra­di­tion­al cred­i­tor: Rus­sia. So it’s not just the Poroshenko-allied bloc of politi­cians who have a strong incen­tive to see Poroshenko win in the upcom­ing elec­tions. Ukraine’s West­ern allies who have long been push­ing the coun­try to impose harsh aus­ter­i­ty on the pub­lic (under the aus­pices of ‘anti-cor­rup­tion’ cam­paigns) also have a big incen­tive to see Poroshenko defeat Tymoshenko. And that all would make a Krem­lin plot to increase the mil­i­tary ten­sions with Ukraine months before those elec­tions a rather odd and high­ly unstrate­gic move.

    The arti­cle also notes some dis­crep­an­cies with the actu­al audio and video evi­dence of the inci­dent pre­sent­ed by the Ukraini­ans: The 2003 agree­ment Rus­sia and Ukraine signed over the Kersh pas­sage to the Sea of Azov requires that ships coor­di­nate their pas­sage with Russ­ian author­i­ties and take on a pilot to help them nav­i­gate the straits due to the fact that the Kerch straits are full of shal­lows and rocks and dif­fi­cult to nav­i­gate. The right of pas­sage is not auto­mat­ic or guar­an­teed and Ukrain­ian ships are oblig­ed to com­ply with the pro­to­cols. When Ukraine moved mil­i­tary frigates through the Kersh straits back in Sep­tem­ber there was no prob­lem.

    This time, how­ev­er, Rus­sia is claim­ing that the three ships did­n’t hail Kersh port for per­mis­sion and did­n’t respond to hails from the Russ­ian coast­guard when they approached Russ­ian ter­ri­to­r­i­al waters. The Rus­sians fur­ther claim that the ram­ming of the tug boat took place in Rus­si­a’s undis­put­ed ter­ri­to­r­i­al waters on the east­ern side of the straits. The arti­cle notes that there are mul­ti­ple con­flict­ing reports on where the ram­ming took place, but that nav­i­ga­tion records should be able to clear this up because ship loca­tions are care­ful­ly tracked due to the dan­ger­ous nature of the straits.

    The Ukraini­ans have sub­se­quent­ly released audio of the Russ­ian ships talk­ing to each oth­er by radio. The audio depicts pan­icked Russ­ian cap­tains try­ing to decide what to do. Addi­tion­al­ly, the Russ­ian cap­tains describe Russ­ian Prime Min­is­ter Dmit­ry Medvedev as being pan­icked too. “[Russ­ian Prime Min­is­ter Dmit­ry] Medvedev is pan­ick­ing,” claims one of the Rus­sians on the audio, adding, “We should assault them. We have to destroy them,” and “It seems that the pres­i­dent is in con­trol of all of that sh it.” The ref­er­ence to “the pres­i­dent” is pre­sum­ably Putin. So it sounds like both Medvedev and Putin were direct­ly involved in decid­ing the response and it was a some­what pan­icked response. The Russ­ian cap­tains then dis­cuss the arrival of 10 men with “incred­i­ble phys­i­cal skills” with­in the hour, which is in ref­er­ence to the Russ­ian Spe­cial Oper­a­tions troops who actu­al­ly board­ed and seized the Ukrain­ian ships. As the arti­cle points out, if this was indeed a Russ­ian provo­ca­tion it would be sur­pris­ing if the Krem­lin was actu­al­ly pan­ick­ing about it.

    The Ukraini­ans, on the oth­er hand, claim that the Ukrain­ian ships did actu­al­ly hail the Kersh author­i­ties and did ask for per­mis­sion to pass through the strait. So we don’t have a sit­u­a­tion where Rus­sia is assert­ing new pow­ers and author­i­ty over the strait that was­n’t pre­vi­ous­ly agreed to. Instead, it’s a sit­u­a­tion where Rus­sia is claim­ing that the Ukrain­ian ships broke the exist­ing rules and Ukraine is claim­ing the rules were adhered to. One of the sides is sim­ply lying about what hap­pened. Inter­est­ing­ly, as the arti­cle notes, the Ukrain­ian side released audio of the Russ­ian cap­tains speak­ing over the radio, but no audio of the Ukrain­ian cap­tains ask­ing for per­mis­sion. So while there’s no con­clu­sive evi­dence of what exact­ly tran­spired, there should be con­clu­sive evi­dence in the form of radio audio but the Ukrain­ian side has­n’t pre­sent­ed that evi­dence for some rea­son:

    bne Intellinews

    KYIV BLOG: Did Ukraine pro­voke the clash in the Sea of Azov?

    By Ben Aris in Berlin Novem­ber 27, 2018

    I’m going to get into trou­ble ask­ing this ques­tion. The prob­lem is that the whole sit­u­a­tion in the con­flict between Rus­sia and Ukraine has become so emo­tion­al and polarised that even sug­gest­ing Rus­sia is not entire­ly to blame for the flar­ing mil­i­tary ten­sions in the Sea of Azov over the week­end brings down con­dem­na­tion from Ukraine’s sup­port­ers – which include most of the west­ern world.

    But there is a ques­tion that has to be asked: if Rus­sia is to blame then why would Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin give such an obvi­ous polit­i­cal gift to Ukraine’s Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko when he is so obvi­ous­ly in such deep polit­i­cal trou­ble?

    With pres­i­den­tial elec­tions now only four months away, Poroshenko is trail­ing bad­ly in the polls at least 10 per­cent­age points behind his neme­sis oppo­si­tion leader, for­mer prime min­is­ter and head of Batkivshchy­na (Father­land) par­ty Yulia Tymoshenko, and unlike­ly to make it to the sec­ond round after the poll on March 31, 2019, let alone win. Ukraine watch­ers admit that he has failed to deal with cor­rup­tion, failed to solve any of the jour­nal­ist mur­der cas­es, failed to jail any­one respon­si­ble for the deaths dur­ing the Euro­maid­an protests and in gen­er­al failed to deliv­er on the promise of the Rev­o­lu­tion of Dig­ni­ty. Ukraine is now the poor­est coun­try in Europe and recent polls say 85% of the pop­u­la­tion believe the coun­try is going in the wrong direc­tion.

    A sharp mil­i­tary show­down with Rus­sia, a strong­man image of deci­sive action in the face of an exter­nal ene­my, the impo­si­tion of mar­tial law (and the poten­tial abil­i­ty to can­cel the elec­tions at will) and the oppor­tu­ni­ty to wear his mil­i­tary uni­form in pub­lic often is exact­ly what Poroshenko needs to res­cue his cam­paign. Indeed, these were exact­ly the tac­tics Putin used to bol­ster his flag­ging sup­port in 2014 when Rus­sia annexed the Crimea, and lat­er led to a sweep­ing vic­to­ry with a record mar­gin in the Russ­ian pres­i­den­tial elec­tions in March. If Ukraine did­n’t pro­voke this clash then Poroshenko has just had an extra­or­di­nary piece of polit­i­cal luck – and for this rea­son alone the ques­tion must be asked.

    Before I go on let me make it clear that Rus­sia is clear­ly the aggres­sor in Ukraine, that its proxy forces are fight­ing an ille­gal war in Don­bas, that the annex­a­tion of Crimea in 2014 was just that and the Krem­lin is work­ing to under­mine the legit­i­mate gov­ern­ment in Kyiv. None of this is in dis­pute.

    On top of that the author­i­ty the Russ­ian coast­guard had to stop, ram and board Ukraine’s three ships that tried to tra­verse the Kerch Straits on Novem­ber 25 is at best ques­tion­able. The deci­sion to park a con­tain­er ship under the new Kerch bridge amounts to a block­age of Ukraine’s strate­gi­cal­ly impor­tant ports in the Sea of Azov and that is an act of war.

    But none of this means Poroshenko is above manip­u­lat­ing the con­flict for his per­son­al polit­i­cal ben­e­fit. He remains after all a high­ly suc­cess­ful Ukrain­ian oli­garch that became rich in one of the most cor­rupt coun­tries in Europe and was a mem­ber of the klep­to­crat­ic for­mer pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych’s admin­is­tra­tion.

    Safe pas­sage

    The Sea of Azov is not inter­na­tion­al waters (it’s too small to have a patch of shared water in the mid­dle beyond the ter­ri­to­r­i­al waters that stretch 20km from a country’s beach­es) and there is an inter­na­tion­al bor­der between Rus­sia and Ukraine that runs down the mid­dle.

    As the two coun­tries have to co-exist in the sea, Ukraine has guar­an­teed right of pas­sage through the sea to its ports in its ter­ri­to­r­i­al water in the north­west cor­ner of the sea under an agree­ment signed with Rus­sia in 2003.

    The 2003 agree­ment is the key here. The Kerch straits are actu­al­ly dif­fi­cult to nav­i­gate, full of shal­lows and rocks. The pro­to­cols of the agree­ment require ships to check in with the Russ­ian port author­i­ties at Kerch and take on a pilot to help them nav­i­gate the straits. As a result there are reg­u­lar­ly traf­fic jams of ships queu­ing up in the waters on either side of the straits wait­ing to be allowed to pass.

    This is the sec­ond time Ukraine has sent mil­i­tary ships through the straits this year, accord­ing to reports. Some frigates passed the straits in Sep­tem­ber with no prob­lems.

    What went wrong this time, the Russ­ian side claim, is that unlike in Sep­tem­ber the three ships at the week­end – two patrol boats and a tug – did­n’t hail Kerch port for per­mis­sion and did­n’t respond to hails from the Russ­ian coast­guard when they approached Russ­ian ter­ri­to­r­i­al water (on the Russ­ian main­land side of the straits, rather than the dis­put­ed ter­ri­to­r­i­al waters on the Crimean side of the straits). The Ukrain­ian ships con­tin­ued to sail on a course that would have tak­en them through the straits with­out per­mis­sion from the Kerch coast guard.

    The Rus­sians claim that the Ukrain­ian ships entered Russia’s undis­put­ed ter­ri­to­r­i­al waters on the east­ern side of the straits and that is where the ram­ming inci­dent took place. This point is now con­fused as there are mul­ti­ple con­flict­ing reports, some claim­ing the inci­dent hap­pened in inter­na­tion­al waters and oth­ers that it hap­pened in Russia’s waters, but the nav­i­ga­tion records can clear this up; because the pas­sage is dan­ger­ous, ship loca­tions are care­ful­ly tracked.

    While the right of pas­sage for Ukrain­ian ship­ping is guar­an­teed it is not auto­mat­ic. Under the 2003 agree­ment the Rus­sians super­vise the pas­sages and Ukraine is oblig­ed to com­ply with the pro­to­cols, accord­ing to bne IntelliNews sources. This is to avoid ships with­out pilots run­ning aground or col­li­sions between ship­ping pass­ing in and out of the Sea of Azov. No ships are allowed to sim­ply steam through the straits on their own.

    The result was the Russ­ian ships inter­cept­ed the three Ukrain­ian ships and video clear­ly shows one of the Russ­ian ships ram­ming the Ukrain­ian ship. The Ukrain­ian navy sub­se­quent­ly released audio of the cap­tains of the Russ­ian ships talk­ing to each oth­er by radio.

    “[Russ­ian Prime Min­is­ter Dmit­ry] Medvedev is pan­ick­ing,” one oper­a­tor said on the audio, adding, “We should assault them. We have to destroy them,” and “It seems that the pres­i­dent is in con­trol of all of that shit.”

    The oper­a­tors also dis­cuss the arrival of 10 men with “incred­i­ble phys­i­cal skills” with­in the hour, which cor­re­sponds to the arrival of Russ­ian Spe­cial Oper­a­tions, or Spet­snaz, troops who board­ed and seized the Ukrain­ian ships.

    How­ev­er, none of this is incon­sis­tent with stop­ping the Ukrain­ian ships if they were deemed by the Russ­ian author­i­ties to be try­ing to pass through the straits with­out stick­ing to the safe pas­sage pro­to­cols – what the Rus­sians have referred to as “dan­ger­ous manoeu­vres.” If it was designed as a Ukrain­ian provo­ca­tion it would be expect­ed for the Krem­lin to pan­ic and for both the pres­i­dent and prime min­is­ter to become involved. Indeed, if it was a planned act of aggres­sion by the Russ­ian side there would be no pan­ic in the Krem­lin.

    The Ukrain­ian side claim the oppo­site and flat­ly con­tra­dict the Russ­ian ver­sion of the sto­ry. In the state­ment accom­pa­ny­ing the audio file the Ukraini­ans claimed that the Ukrain­ian ves­sels did hail the Kerch author­i­ties and did ask per­mis­sion to pass through the straits.

    “At 03.58 in order to com­ply with inter­na­tion­al ship­ping secu­ri­ty stan­dards Ukrain­ian Navy small armoured artillery boat “Berdyan­sk” con­tact­ed the coast post of Russ­ian FSB AF, mar­itime traf­fic con­trol KERCH and KAVKAZ and informed them about an inten­tion to pass the Kerch Strait. Infor­ma­tion was received, but no response was pro­vid­ed. Nev­er­the­less, on 04.07 nego­ti­a­tions of the port Kerch “BEREG-23” oper­a­tor with the Russ­ian Black Sea Fleet corvette “Suz­dalets” regard­ing the detec­tion of ships of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine were record­ed,” the state­ment said.

    Some­one is lying.

    While the video footage clear­ly show the Russ­ian frigate ram­ming the Ukrain­ian tug, this throws no light on the cru­cial issue of if the Ukrain­ian ships fol­lowed the pro­to­cols to pass though the straits. Ukraine has pro­duced audio of the Russ­ian oper­a­tors talk­ing but point­ed­ly has not pro­vid­ed audio of their own ships ask­ing for per­mis­sion to pass through the straits. What evi­dence there is from the audio tape is incon­clu­sive.

    More damming is the Russ­ian deci­sion to close access to the straits by park­ing a tanker under the bridge and effec­tive­ly clos­ing the straits to traf­fic. Accord­ing to the Ukrain­ian navy state­ment this ship had turned off its Auto­mat­ic Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Sys­tem (AIS) transpon­der that iden­ti­fies it to oth­er ship­ping, which is a breach of mar­itime law and opens Rus­sia up to accu­sa­tions of blockad­ing the straits. (The tanker was removed by the end of the day, else this would be a clear act of war.)

    Mar­tial law

    ...

    The main prob­lem is that Putin, who is wide­ly cred­it­ed with being a “mas­ter tac­ti­cian” (even if he is also thought to be a poor strate­gist) seems to have lost the plot with the Sea of Azov and hand­ed Poroshenko a polit­i­cal gift that amounts to his best chance for get­ting re-elect­ed.

    The ani­mos­i­ty between Putin and Poroshenko is pal­pa­ble when they meet in per­son. And the Kremlin’s best inter­ests are clear­ly served by see­ing Poroshenko lose the elec­tion to Tymoshenko, who is at the end of the day, a deal mak­er.

    As the for­mer a prime min­is­ter, Tymoshenko had a fraught rela­tion­ship with the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund (IMF). She was caught red hand­ed cook­ing Ukraine’s nation­al accounts to pre­tend the bud­get deficit was IMF com­pli­ant when in fact she was spend­ing freely to bol­ster her pop­u­lar sup­port, as bne IntelliNews report­ed at the time. She famous­ly grant­ed the return of Sovi­et-era deposits with Oschad­bank, the for­mer Sovi­et-era sav­ings bank, that were lost dur­ing the hyper­in­fla­tion of the start of the 90s while prime min­is­ter, which cost the state bil­lions of dol­lars, amongst oth­er moves.

    More­over, she is cur­rent­ly cam­paign­ing on what is in effect an anti-IMF plat­form, call­ing the IMF’s demand to hike domes­tic gas tar­iffs — a demand the Poroshenko gov­ern­ment has con­ced­ed to — “eco­nom­ic geno­cide” on Octo­ber 23 and promis­ing to pros­e­cute Poroshenko’s admin­is­tra­tion if she wins the elec­tion.

    If Tymoshenko wins then it is quite pos­si­ble the new $3.9bn Stand By Agree­ment (SBA) agreed with the IMF in Octo­ber will stall again. In that case Tymoshenko will need mon­ey – lots of it. Ukraine has $6bn of pub­lic debt to refi­nance in 2019 and even more in 2020 when the debt restruc­tur­ing deal cut by for­mer finance min­is­ter Natal­ie Jaresko expires. With­out a func­tion­ing IMF deal the pub­lic mar­kets will be closed to Ukraine or exor­bi­tant­ly expen­sive. Ukraine paid through the nose for a $725mn short-term Eurobond Ukraine placed over the sum­mer as a bridge loan while the cur­rent IMF deal was up in the air. That bond was imme­di­ate­ly refi­nanced after a $2bn bond was issued in Sep­tem­ber days after the new IMF deal was announced.

    All this com­bines to sug­gest that Tymoshenko might be will­ing to cut some sort of deal with the Krem­lin in exchange for some sort of cash – improved export access to Rus­sia for exam­ple. Cer­tain­ly the Krem­lin would pre­fer to see any­one in charge of Ukraine oth­er than Poroshenko, so why would Rus­sia gift him a tai­lor-made mil­i­tary cri­sis?

    ———-

    “KYIV BLOG: Did Ukraine pro­voke the clash in the Sea of Azov?” by Ben Aris in Berlin; bne Intellinews; 11/27/2018

    “But there is a ques­tion that has to be asked: if Rus­sia is to blame then why would Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin give such an obvi­ous polit­i­cal gift to Ukraine’s Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko when he is so obvi­ous­ly in such deep polit­i­cal trou­ble?”

    Who ben­e­fits? It’s the big ques­tion loom­ing over all of this. And it’s hard to ignore the polit­i­cal real­i­ty that Petro Poroshenko has ben­e­fit­ed immense­ly at just the right time for his polit­i­cal future. And that obvi­ous ben­e­fit to Ukraine’s pres­i­dent, and the fact that the Krem­lin would like­ly pre­fer Poroshenko’s oppo­nent win in the upcom­ing elec­tions, makes this a high­ly sus­pi­cious inci­dent:

    ...
    With pres­i­den­tial elec­tions now only four months away, Poroshenko is trail­ing bad­ly in the polls at least 10 per­cent­age points behind his neme­sis oppo­si­tion leader, for­mer prime min­is­ter and head of Batkivshchy­na (Father­land) par­ty Yulia Tymoshenko, and unlike­ly to make it to the sec­ond round after the poll on March 31, 2019, let alone win. Ukraine watch­ers admit that he has failed to deal with cor­rup­tion, failed to solve any of the jour­nal­ist mur­der cas­es, failed to jail any­one respon­si­ble for the deaths dur­ing the Euro­maid­an protests and in gen­er­al failed to deliv­er on the promise of the Rev­o­lu­tion of Dig­ni­ty. Ukraine is now the poor­est coun­try in Europe and recent polls say 85% of the pop­u­la­tion believe the coun­try is going in the wrong direc­tion.

    A sharp mil­i­tary show­down with Rus­sia, a strong­man image of deci­sive action in the face of an exter­nal ene­my, the impo­si­tion of mar­tial law (and the poten­tial abil­i­ty to can­cel the elec­tions at will) and the oppor­tu­ni­ty to wear his mil­i­tary uni­form in pub­lic often is exact­ly what Poroshenko needs to res­cue his cam­paign. Indeed, these were exact­ly the tac­tics Putin used to bol­ster his flag­ging sup­port in 2014 when Rus­sia annexed the Crimea, and lat­er led to a sweep­ing vic­to­ry with a record mar­gin in the Russ­ian pres­i­den­tial elec­tions in March. If Ukraine did­n’t pro­voke this clash then Poroshenko has just had an extra­or­di­nary piece of polit­i­cal luck – and for this rea­son alone the ques­tion must be asked.
    ...

    Adding to the sus­pi­cions is the fact that Rus­sia and Ukraine are mak­ing very dif­fer­ent claims about what exact­ly tran­spired. Rus­sia claims that Ukrain­ian ves­sels nev­er hailed the Kerch port for per­mis­sion and did­n’t respond to hails from the Russ­ian coast­guard. The Ukraini­ans are say­ing the oppo­site hap­pened. They hailed the Kerch port as required and asked for per­mis­sion. So some­one is lying:

    ...
    Safe pas­sage

    The Sea of Azov is not inter­na­tion­al waters (it’s too small to have a patch of shared water in the mid­dle beyond the ter­ri­to­r­i­al waters that stretch 20km from a country’s beach­es) and there is an inter­na­tion­al bor­der between Rus­sia and Ukraine that runs down the mid­dle.

    As the two coun­tries have to co-exist in the sea, Ukraine has guar­an­teed right of pas­sage through the sea to its ports in its ter­ri­to­r­i­al water in the north­west cor­ner of the sea under an agree­ment signed with Rus­sia in 2003.

    The 2003 agree­ment is the key here. The Kerch straits are actu­al­ly dif­fi­cult to nav­i­gate, full of shal­lows and rocks. The pro­to­cols of the agree­ment require ships to check in with the Russ­ian port author­i­ties at Kerch and take on a pilot to help them nav­i­gate the straits. As a result there are reg­u­lar­ly traf­fic jams of ships queu­ing up in the waters on either side of the straits wait­ing to be allowed to pass.

    This is the sec­ond time Ukraine has sent mil­i­tary ships through the straits this year, accord­ing to reports. Some frigates passed the straits in Sep­tem­ber with no prob­lems.

    What went wrong this time, the Russ­ian side claim, is that unlike in Sep­tem­ber the three ships at the week­end – two patrol boats and a tug – did­n’t hail Kerch port for per­mis­sion and did­n’t respond to hails from the Russ­ian coast­guard when they approached Russ­ian ter­ri­to­r­i­al water (on the Russ­ian main­land side of the straits, rather than the dis­put­ed ter­ri­to­r­i­al waters on the Crimean side of the straits). The Ukrain­ian ships con­tin­ued to sail on a course that would have tak­en them through the straits with­out per­mis­sion from the Kerch coast guard.

    The Rus­sians claim that the Ukrain­ian ships entered Russia’s undis­put­ed ter­ri­to­r­i­al waters on the east­ern side of the straits and that is where the ram­ming inci­dent took place. This point is now con­fused as there are mul­ti­ple con­flict­ing reports, some claim­ing the inci­dent hap­pened in inter­na­tion­al waters and oth­ers that it hap­pened in Russia’s waters, but the nav­i­ga­tion records can clear this up; because the pas­sage is dan­ger­ous, ship loca­tions are care­ful­ly tracked.

    ...

    The Ukrain­ian side claim the oppo­site and flat­ly con­tra­dict the Russ­ian ver­sion of the sto­ry. In the state­ment accom­pa­ny­ing the audio file the Ukraini­ans claimed that the Ukrain­ian ves­sels did hail the Kerch author­i­ties and did ask per­mis­sion to pass through the straits.

    “At 03.58 in order to com­ply with inter­na­tion­al ship­ping secu­ri­ty stan­dards Ukrain­ian Navy small armoured artillery boat “Berdyan­sk” con­tact­ed the coast post of Russ­ian FSB AF, mar­itime traf­fic con­trol KERCH and KAVKAZ and informed them about an inten­tion to pass the Kerch Strait. Infor­ma­tion was received, but no response was pro­vid­ed. Nev­er­the­less, on 04.07 nego­ti­a­tions of the port Kerch “BEREG-23” oper­a­tor with the Russ­ian Black Sea Fleet corvette “Suz­dalets” regard­ing the detec­tion of ships of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine were record­ed,” the state­ment said.

    Some­one is lying.
    ...

    So who is lying? Well, based on the audio evi­dence the Ukraini­ans pro­vid­ed of the Russ­ian cap­tains it would appear that the Russ­ian side was gen­uine­ly pan­icked, with the pan­ic reach­ing up to Prime Min­is­ter Medvedev. Curi­ous­ly, though, the Ukrain­ian side has­n’t released the audio of its own cap­tains hail­ing the Kerch port. It’s an odd omis­sion giv­en that they already released the audio of the Russ­ian cap­tains and espe­cial­ly giv­en that such audio would con­clu­sive­ly prove what the Ukraini­ans are assert­ing is true:

    ...
    The result was the Russ­ian ships inter­cept­ed the three Ukrain­ian ships and video clear­ly shows one of the Russ­ian ships ram­ming the Ukrain­ian ship. The Ukrain­ian navy sub­se­quent­ly released audio of the cap­tains of the Russ­ian ships talk­ing to each oth­er by radio.

    “[Russ­ian Prime Min­is­ter Dmit­ry] Medvedev is pan­ick­ing,” one oper­a­tor said on the audio, adding, “We should assault them. We have to destroy them,” and “It seems that the pres­i­dent is in con­trol of all of that shit.”

    The oper­a­tors also dis­cuss the arrival of 10 men with “incred­i­ble phys­i­cal skills” with­in the hour, which cor­re­sponds to the arrival of Russ­ian Spe­cial Oper­a­tions, or Spet­snaz, troops who board­ed and seized the Ukrain­ian ships.

    How­ev­er, none of this is incon­sis­tent with stop­ping the Ukrain­ian ships if they were deemed by the Russ­ian author­i­ties to be try­ing to pass through the straits with­out stick­ing to the safe pas­sage pro­to­cols – what the Rus­sians have referred to as “dan­ger­ous manoeu­vres.” If it was designed as a Ukrain­ian provo­ca­tion it would be expect­ed for the Krem­lin to pan­ic and for both the pres­i­dent and prime min­is­ter to become involved. Indeed, if it was a planned act of aggres­sion by the Russ­ian side there would be no pan­ic in the Krem­lin.

    ...

    While the video footage clear­ly show the Russ­ian frigate ram­ming the Ukrain­ian tug, this throws no light on the cru­cial issue of if the Ukrain­ian ships fol­lowed the pro­to­cols to pass though the straits. Ukraine has pro­duced audio of the Russ­ian oper­a­tors talk­ing but point­ed­ly has not pro­vid­ed audio of their own ships ask­ing for per­mis­sion to pass through the straits. What evi­dence there is from the audio tape is incon­clu­sive.

    More damming is the Russ­ian deci­sion to close access to the straits by park­ing a tanker under the bridge and effec­tive­ly clos­ing the straits to traf­fic. Accord­ing to the Ukrain­ian navy state­ment this ship had turned off its Auto­mat­ic Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Sys­tem (AIS) transpon­der that iden­ti­fies it to oth­er ship­ping, which is a breach of mar­itime law and opens Rus­sia up to accu­sa­tions of blockad­ing the straits. (The tanker was removed by the end of the day, else this would be a clear act of war.)
    ...

    And then there’s the fact that this inci­dent is guar­an­teed to bol­ster the chances of Petro Poroshenko lead­ing head­ing into the March elec­tions. And between Poroshenko and Tymoshenko, the Krem­lin would almost cer­tain­ly pre­fer Tymoshenko sim­ply because she might cut a deal and her anti-IMF pos­tur­ing rais­es the pos­si­bil­i­ty that Ukraine will half to go crawl­ing back to Rus­sia for cred­it if the IMF cuts off Ukraine’s cred­it line:

    ...
    Mar­tial law

    ...

    The main prob­lem is that Putin, who is wide­ly cred­it­ed with being a “mas­ter tac­ti­cian” (even if he is also thought to be a poor strate­gist) seems to have lost the plot with the Sea of Azov and hand­ed Poroshenko a polit­i­cal gift that amounts to his best chance for get­ting re-elect­ed.

    The ani­mos­i­ty between Putin and Poroshenko is pal­pa­ble when they meet in per­son. And the Kremlin’s best inter­ests are clear­ly served by see­ing Poroshenko lose the elec­tion to Tymoshenko, who is at the end of the day, a deal mak­er.

    As the for­mer a prime min­is­ter, Tymoshenko had a fraught rela­tion­ship with the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund (IMF). She was caught red hand­ed cook­ing Ukraine’s nation­al accounts to pre­tend the bud­get deficit was IMF com­pli­ant when in fact she was spend­ing freely to bol­ster her pop­u­lar sup­port, as bne IntelliNews report­ed at the time. She famous­ly grant­ed the return of Sovi­et-era deposits with Oschad­bank, the for­mer Sovi­et-era sav­ings bank, that were lost dur­ing the hyper­in­fla­tion of the start of the 90s while prime min­is­ter, which cost the state bil­lions of dol­lars, amongst oth­er moves.

    More­over, she is cur­rent­ly cam­paign­ing on what is in effect an anti-IMF plat­form, call­ing the IMF’s demand to hike domes­tic gas tar­iffs — a demand the Poroshenko gov­ern­ment has con­ced­ed to — “eco­nom­ic geno­cide” on Octo­ber 23 and promis­ing to pros­e­cute Poroshenko’s admin­is­tra­tion if she wins the elec­tion.

    If Tymoshenko wins then it is quite pos­si­ble the new $3.9bn Stand By Agree­ment (SBA) agreed with the IMF in Octo­ber will stall again. In that case Tymoshenko will need mon­ey – lots of it. Ukraine has $6bn of pub­lic debt to refi­nance in 2019 and even more in 2020 when the debt restruc­tur­ing deal cut by for­mer finance min­is­ter Natal­ie Jaresko expires. With­out a func­tion­ing IMF deal the pub­lic mar­kets will be closed to Ukraine or exor­bi­tant­ly expen­sive. Ukraine paid through the nose for a $725mn short-term Eurobond Ukraine placed over the sum­mer as a bridge loan while the cur­rent IMF deal was up in the air. That bond was imme­di­ate­ly refi­nanced after a $2bn bond was issued in Sep­tem­ber days after the new IMF deal was announced.

    All this com­bines to sug­gest that Tymoshenko might be will­ing to cut some sort of deal with the Krem­lin in exchange for some sort of cash – improved export access to Rus­sia for exam­ple. Cer­tain­ly the Krem­lin would pre­fer to see any­one in charge of Ukraine oth­er than Poroshenko, so why would Rus­sia gift him a tai­lor-made mil­i­tary cri­sis?
    ...

    So how much might the IMF and the West fear a Tymoshenko vic­to­ry? Well, as the fol­low­ing arti­cle bne Intellinews from July describes, Tymoshenko has been cam­paign­ing on oppo­si­tion to some of the key IMF demands. Demands like dereg­u­lat­ing land sales so Ukraine’s agri­cul­tur­al sec­tor can be sold off to for­eign investors. Pen­sion cuts demand­ed by the IMF were described as “finan­cial geno­cide” by Tymoshenko last year. And that strat­e­gy of decry­ing the IMF-demand­ed aus­ter­i­ty has pro­pelled Tymoshenko into first place in the polls, which should give the IMF and its West­ern back­ers plen­ty of rea­son to pre­fer Poroshenko over Tymoshenko:

    bne Intellinews

    The irre­press­ible Yulia Tymoshenko’s unend­ing quest for pow­er

    By Sergei Kuznetsov in Kyiv July 3, 2018

    “I will run for the pres­i­den­cy of Ukraine,” the nation’s two-time for­mer prime min­is­ter Yulia Tymoshenko said on June 20. “The pres­i­den­tial post for me is not a game, these are real changes that the coun­try is wait­ing for.”

    The icon­ic face of the Orange rev­o­lu­tion crowned with her dis­tinc­tive Ukrain­ian blond braid wrapped around her head has come back from the polit­i­cal dead. Tymoshenko is the first politi­cian in the war-torn coun­try to offi­cial­ly announce the launch of a cam­paign for the 2019 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.

    Posters have gone up along roads. Polit­i­cal ads are being run on TV. She has even appeared in a cook­ing show as she takes her mes­sage to the peo­ple a lit­tle over nine months ahead of the vote.

    More­over, the head of the Batkivshchy­na (Father­land) par­ty is start­ing her cam­paign as the leader in the opin­ion polls. How­ev­er, her return to the top table of Ukrain­ian pol­i­tics has not been easy.

    In Feb­ru­ary 2014, imme­di­ate­ly after ex-pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych escaped from Kyiv in the wake of Euro­maid­an protests, Tymoshenko was freed from jail, where she had been put by her polit­i­cal Neme­sis and left lan­guish­ing for three years on alleged abuse of pow­er charges for a gas import agree­ment she signed with Rus­sia as the nation’s prime min­is­ter.

    A few hours after being released from prison, the politi­cian was address­ing crowds of anti-Yanukovych pro­test­ers in down­town Kyiv from a wheel­chair because of sev­er back prob­lems, which were the result of a lack of access to qual­i­ty med­ical assis­tance in prison.

    The crowd were recep­tive. They were hap­py to see her out of jail. But they were luke­warm in their enthu­si­asm. It seemed that her time had passed. The peo­ple sup­port­ed her and her part­ner for­mer pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yushchenko dur­ing the Orange rev­o­lu­tion in 2004–2005, but now the peo­ple want­ed fresh faces; a new start. Tymoshenko had already become part of the coun­try’s polit­i­cal old guard.

    This mood was con­firmed lat­er that year, when Tymoshenko was beat­en by anoth­er bit­ter polit­i­cal rival, Petro Poroshenko, in the first round of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, in which she secured less than 13% of the pop­u­lar vote. Dur­ing snap par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in late Octo­ber 2014, Tymoshenko’s par­ty bare­ly scraped over the 5% thresh­old required to secure rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the Verk­hov­na Rada.

    Pop­ulism to the res­cue

    Still it seems that pop­ulist rhetoric can appar­ent­ly work mir­a­cles with polit­i­cal rat­ings and Tymoshenko is a mas­ter of the barbed jibe and an appeal to the people’s gut feel­ings. In recent years, the braid­ed rab­ble-rouser and oth­er mem­bers of her par­ty have used every oppor­tu­ni­ty to denounce unpop­u­lar mea­sures imple­ment­ed by the gov­ern­ment, as part of their promis­es to the nation’s main donor, the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund (IMF) and oth­er back­ers. And the IMF has proven a rich vein of issues for Tymoshenko to mine.

    In April, Tymoshenko promised to reduce util­i­ty tar­iffs for house­holds, and to write off util­i­ty debts for poor peo­ple “imme­di­ate­ly after com­ing to pow­er”. “In order to pay for them, peo­ple will soon have to sell their kid­neys,” she added.

    If she made good on this promise that would be in direct con­tra­dic­tion to the government’s IMF com­mit­ment to raise domes­tic gas prices to mar­ket lev­els – some­thing even Poroshenko’s gov­ern­ment has baulked at thanks to the high polit­i­cal cost. Poroshenko promised to car­ry out the hike, put all the laws in place and then at the last minute as win­ter start­ed failed to imple­ment it ful­ly.

    In late 2017, when the coun­try’s par­lia­ment was dis­cussing the exten­sion of the country’s land mora­to­ri­um, Tymoshenko urged law­mak­ers that “you can sell the land only if there are peas­ants who have mon­ey to buy it, and not a mafia that has mon­ey to buy every­thing from the peas­ants.”

    This is anoth­er item on the IMF’s wish list. The fund is insist­ing that land sales are dereg­u­lat­ed and a mar­ket for land cre­at­ed that should unleash Ukraine’s mas­sive agri­cul­tur­al poten­tial. Experts esti­mate that if land sales were allowed some $1.5bn-$2bn of invest­ment would imme­di­ate­ly flow into Ukraine’s best sec­tor. How­ev­er, for Tymoshenko the “they are lit­er­al­ly sell­ing off our moth­er­land” line was a polit­i­cal gift that she made full use of.

    And it goes on. On pen­sion reform – which was even­tu­al­ly passed in an IMF com­pli­ant form — Tymoshenko described the government’s refusal to index pen­sions and salaries as “finan­cial geno­cide”.

    The last big issue is the cre­ation of an anti-cor­rup­tion court (ACC). This time it is the IMF that has stuck its heels in and de fac­to frozen Ukraine’s bad­ly need­ed $17.5bn stand by pro­gramme until the court is cre­at­ed in a form the fund is hap­py with. A law set­ting up the ACC was passed in June, but a clause that allows appeals to be heard in reg­u­lar (aka cor­rupt) courts has gut the effec­tive­ness of the ACC sys­tem and the IMF is insist­ing the offend­ing clause be removed.

    The price that Poroshenko has had to pay for his con­stant fenc­ing with the IMF and his efforts to get the fund to soft­en its polit­i­cal­ly expen­sive demands is that it cre­at­ed an open­ing into which Tymoshenko has glee­ful­ly leapt.

    Tymoshenko is now the most pop­u­lar can­di­date for the nation’s pres­i­dent, with 22.8% sup­port among decid­ed vot­ers, accord­ing to the lat­est poll con­duct­ed this month by the Kyiv Inter­na­tion­al Insti­tute of Soci­ol­o­gy (KIIS). She is fol­lowed by for­mer defence min­is­ter Ana­toliy Gryt­senko (16%), pop­ulist Oleh Lyashko (13.2%), pro-Russ­ian oppo­si­tion leader Yuriy Boyko (10.6%) and Petro Poroshenko (10.5%).

    “Tymoshenko is pop­u­lar because she is cam­paign­ing hard,” Bal­azs Jara­bik, vis­it­ing schol­ar at the Carnegie Endow­ment for Inter­na­tion­al Peace, tells bne IntelliNews.

    Accord­ing to him, the ex-pre­mier is cov­er­ing all the avail­able media space, tap­ping into anx­i­ety about aus­ter­i­ty and anger with, specif­i­cal­ly, the con­tin­u­ous impuni­ty of the elites. “The lat­ter is more impor­tant even though cor­rup­tion is high­light­ed by the polls,” Jara­bik added.

    “She is also suc­cess­ful because there are no ‘new faces’ with the nec­es­sary name recog­ni­tion in a big coun­try like Ukraine, so she is able to chan­nel part of the votes of those dis­sat­is­fied,” the expert added. “At the same time, her high lev­el of neg­a­tive rat­ing — con­nect­ed to the polit­i­cal bag­gage she car­ries — lim­its her chances and keeps the pres­i­den­tial race wide open.”

    The remark­able thing about the polls is that despite Poroshenko’s obvi­ous fail­ure that sat­is­fies no one — not the IMF nor the vot­ers as no one is get­ting what they want – none of the oth­er can­di­dates have been able to ral­ly the cit­i­zens behind their flag.

    Anoth­er poll from the Sofia Cen­ter of Soci­o­log­i­cal Research in March found that only 1.7% of respon­dents sup­port the state insti­tu­tions, while a mas­sive 78.8% either part­ly or com­plete­ly don’t sup­port the state bod­ies.

    No viable alter­na­tive leader has emerged from this morass. Ukrain­ian vot­ers dis­like all their polit­i­cal lead­ers. Even Tymoshenko’s lead in the polls is sul­lied: not only does she have the most sup­port, she is also sec­ond only to Poroshenko in the “nev­er sup­port under any cir­cum­stances” cat­e­go­ry. That is the para­dox of Ukrain­ian pol­i­tics: Tymoshenko is at the same time the most pop­u­lar and the sec­ond most hat­ed politi­cian in the coun­try.

    Rea­sons to be wor­ried

    If Tymoshenko wins she will find her­self in the same predica­ment. Tymoshenko’s pop­u­lar­ism means she unset­tles the likes of the IMF and oth­er donors, which have helped Ukraine to over­come the eco­nom­ic and finan­cial cri­sis of 2014–2015, as well as the con­se­quences of Rus­si­a’s annex­a­tion of Crimea and the war in the Don­bas region.

    “Nat­u­ral­ly, donors offer a low-key response to Ukrain­ian politi­cians’ attempts to for­mu­late their pro­grammes beyond the IMF frame­work, allud­ing to the refi­nanc­ing of exter­nal debts,” Alexan­der Valchyshen, head of research at Kyiv-based bro­ker­age Invest­ment Cap­i­tal Ukraine (ICU), tells bne IntelliNews. “This rais­es the ques­tion of an ulti­mate lender in for­eign cur­ren­cy if the pri­vate lend­ing mar­ket should be closed.”

    Mean­while, a law­mak­er from Tymoshenko’s par­lia­men­tary fac­tion, Alex­ei Ryabchyn, argues that Batkivschy­na’s leader, a two-time prime min­is­ter of Ukraine, “is per­fect­ly well aware of the way to deal with the IMF while includ­ing the nation­al inter­ests of the state.”

    “The IMF focus­es on a bal­anced bud­get, which depends on the pro­fes­sion­al­ism of the gov­ern­ment team,” Ryabchyn tells bne IntelliNews. “As of today, it is a chal­lenge, because fol­low­ing a 15% slump, the econ­o­my has been grow­ing at a mod­est pace of 2–3%. The gov­ern­ment has made a mess of trans­par­ent pri­va­ti­za­tion and de-off­shoriza­tion of the econ­o­my; there is sig­nif­i­cant capac­i­ty with respect to the inten­si­fi­ca­tion of the fight against cor­rup­tion with­in the cus­toms and tax author­i­ties.”

    The law­mak­er adds that unfor­tu­nate­ly, there is no way of doing with­out the IMF now, but the main rule for the inter­ac­tion with the IMF is to do with­out the IMF as soon as pos­si­ble, mean­ing an oper­a­tional econ­o­my that is self-reliant with­out exter­nal bor­row­ing. “Build­ing such an eco­nom­ic mod­el is what Tymoshenko will be aim­ing at,” Ryabchyn under­lines.

    ...

    ———-

    “The irre­press­ible Yulia Tymoshenko’s unend­ing quest for pow­er” by Sergei Kuznetsov; bne Intellinews; 07/03/2018

    “Still it seems that pop­ulist rhetoric can appar­ent­ly work mir­a­cles with polit­i­cal rat­ings and Tymoshenko is a mas­ter of the barbed jibe and an appeal to the people’s gut feel­ings. In recent years, the braid­ed rab­ble-rouser and oth­er mem­bers of her par­ty have used every oppor­tu­ni­ty to denounce unpop­u­lar mea­sures imple­ment­ed by the gov­ern­ment, as part of their promis­es to the nation’s main donor, the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund (IMF) and oth­er back­ers. And the IMF has proven a rich vein of issues for Tymoshenko to mine.

    Yes, IMF-bash­ing has lit­er­al­ly been the secret to Tymoshenko’s polit­i­cal suc­cess recent years. And it’s not just gener­ic IMF-bash­ing but actu­al bash­ing of the IMF’s spe­cif­ic aus­ter­i­ty and dereg­u­la­tion demands. Like pen­sion cuts and open­ing up Ukraine’s agri­cul­tur­al land to inter­na­tion­al investors:

    ...
    In April, Tymoshenko promised to reduce util­i­ty tar­iffs for house­holds, and to write off util­i­ty debts for poor peo­ple “imme­di­ate­ly after com­ing to pow­er”. “In order to pay for them, peo­ple will soon have to sell their kid­neys,” she added.

    If she made good on this promise that would be in direct con­tra­dic­tion to the government’s IMF com­mit­ment to raise domes­tic gas prices to mar­ket lev­els – some­thing even Poroshenko’s gov­ern­ment has baulked at thanks to the high polit­i­cal cost. Poroshenko promised to car­ry out the hike, put all the laws in place and then at the last minute as win­ter start­ed failed to imple­ment it ful­ly.

    In late 2017, when the coun­try’s par­lia­ment was dis­cussing the exten­sion of the country’s land mora­to­ri­um, Tymoshenko urged law­mak­ers that “you can sell the land only if there are peas­ants who have mon­ey to buy it, and not a mafia that has mon­ey to buy every­thing from the peas­ants.”

    This is anoth­er item on the IMF’s wish list. The fund is insist­ing that land sales are dereg­u­lat­ed and a mar­ket for land cre­at­ed that should unleash Ukraine’s mas­sive agri­cul­tur­al poten­tial. Experts esti­mate that if land sales were allowed some $1.5bn-$2bn of invest­ment would imme­di­ate­ly flow into Ukraine’s best sec­tor. How­ev­er, for Tymoshenko the “they are lit­er­al­ly sell­ing off our moth­er­land” line was a polit­i­cal gift that she made full use of.

    And it goes on. On pen­sion reform – which was even­tu­al­ly passed in an IMF com­pli­ant form — Tymoshenko described the government’s refusal to index pen­sions and salaries as “finan­cial geno­cide”.
    ...

    And these fears that a Tymoshenko vic­to­ry could lead to a con­flict with the IMF “rais­es the ques­tion of an ulti­mate lender in for­eign cur­ren­cy if the pri­vate lend­ing mar­ket should be closed.” In oth­er words, giv­en how Ukraine is basi­cal­ly reliant on the IMF at this point, what’s going to hap­pen if Tymoshenko wins and ulti­mate­ly dri­ves the IMF and inter­na­tion­al cred­i­tors out of Ukraine:

    ...
    Rea­sons to be wor­ried

    If Tymoshenko wins she will find her­self in the same predica­ment. Tymoshenko’s pop­u­lar­ism means she unset­tles the likes of the IMF and oth­er donors, which have helped Ukraine to over­come the eco­nom­ic and finan­cial cri­sis of 2014–2015, as well as the con­se­quences of Rus­si­a’s annex­a­tion of Crimea and the war in the Don­bas region.

    “Nat­u­ral­ly, donors offer a low-key response to Ukrain­ian politi­cians’ attempts to for­mu­late their pro­grammes beyond the IMF frame­work, allud­ing to the refi­nanc­ing of exter­nal debts,” Alexan­der Valchyshen, head of research at Kyiv-based bro­ker­age Invest­ment Cap­i­tal Ukraine (ICU), tells bne IntelliNews. “This rais­es the ques­tion of an ulti­mate lender in for­eign cur­ren­cy if the pri­vate lend­ing mar­ket should be closed.”

    Mean­while, a law­mak­er from Tymoshenko’s par­lia­men­tary fac­tion, Alex­ei Ryabchyn, argues that Batkivschy­na’s leader, a two-time prime min­is­ter of Ukraine, “is per­fect­ly well aware of the way to deal with the IMF while includ­ing the nation­al inter­ests of the state.”

    “The IMF focus­es on a bal­anced bud­get, which depends on the pro­fes­sion­al­ism of the gov­ern­ment team,” Ryabchyn tells bne IntelliNews. “As of today, it is a chal­lenge, because fol­low­ing a 15% slump, the econ­o­my has been grow­ing at a mod­est pace of 2–3%. The gov­ern­ment has made a mess of trans­par­ent pri­va­ti­za­tion and de-off­shoriza­tion of the econ­o­my; there is sig­nif­i­cant capac­i­ty with respect to the inten­si­fi­ca­tion of the fight against cor­rup­tion with­in the cus­toms and tax author­i­ties.”

    The law­mak­er adds that unfor­tu­nate­ly, there is no way of doing with­out the IMF now, but the main rule for the inter­ac­tion with the IMF is to do with­out the IMF as soon as pos­si­ble, mean­ing an oper­a­tional econ­o­my that is self-reliant with­out exter­nal bor­row­ing. “Build­ing such an eco­nom­ic mod­el is what Tymoshenko will be aim­ing at,” Ryabchyn under­lines.
    ...

    And one answer to that ques­tion of “an ulti­mate lender in for­eign cur­ren­cy if the pri­vate lend­ing mar­ket should be closed” is obvi­ous­ly “Rus­sia”. And that, again, is part of why it would be such an odd move by the Krem­lin to inten­tion­al­ly cre­ate this mil­i­tary inci­dent just months before the Ukrain­ian elec­tions when the Krem­lin’s pre­ferred can­di­date is already in the lead.

    At the same time, keep in mind that even if Tymoshenko’s par­ty wins the upcom­ing elec­tions, they’ll almost cer­tain­ly be forced into a gov­ern­ing coali­tion with par­ties like Svo­bo­da, Right Sec­tor, and the Azov Bat­tal­ion. So it’s not like there would nec­es­sar­i­ly be a mas­sive shift in Ukraine’s poli­cies. But dri­ving a wedge between Ukraine and the IMF is still a pret­ty big prize.

    So we’ll see what the ulti­mate fall­out of this is, but as the fol­low­ing inter­view from Sep­tem­ber of the US envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volk­er, makes clear, part of that response is like­ly to includ­ed more mil­i­tary aid for Ukraine in the form of naval mil­i­tary aid:

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty

    More Lethal Weapon­ry Pos­si­ble For Ukraine, U.S. Envoy Tells RFE/RL

    By Christo­pher Miller
    Sep­tem­ber 14, 2018 07:18 GMT

    KYIV – The Unit­ed States is con­sid­er­ing send­ing more lethal weapon­ry to Kyiv to build up its naval and air defens­es, Washington’s spe­cial envoy for Ukraine said, as con­cerns mount that Rus­sia may be step­ping up oper­a­tions in coastal waters.

    In an inter­view with RFE/RL on Sep­tem­ber 13, Kurt Volk­er blamed Rus­sia for fuel­ing the con­flict. He also said that Wash­ing­ton and Moscow still have seri­ous dif­fer­ences over a pos­si­ble Unit­ed Nations peace­keep­ing force that could be deployed to help bring an end to the fight­ing in the east­ern Donet­sk and Luhan­sk regions.

    Volk­er said he thought that Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin was unwill­ing to nego­ti­ate much of any­thing relat­ed to the con­flict at least until after Ukraine’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tions next March, or with “[Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Petro] Poroshenko still in pow­er.”

    Volk­er said he has made sev­er­al over­tures to his Russ­ian coun­ter­part, Vladislav Surkov, since their last meet­ing in Dubai in Jan­u­ary, but he has received no response.

    In Jan­u­ary, Surkov showed inter­est in the idea of a phased deploy­ment of peace­keep­ers, Volk­er said. Since then, how­ev­er, the Rus­sians “have backed away and have some objec­tions.”

    Anoth­er meet­ing is pos­si­ble, he said, but “right now, there is noth­ing sched­uled.”

    Since fight­ing broke out between gov­ern­ment forces and Rus­sia-backed fight­ers in April 2014, more than 10,000 peo­ple have died and more than 1 mil­lion have fled their homes.

    Rus­sia has repeat­ed­ly denied financ­ing and equip­ping the sep­a­ratist forces in Donet­sk and Luhan­sk despite over­whelm­ing evi­dence to the con­trary, insist­ing that the fight­ing was a civ­il, inter­nal con­flict.

    Sea Defense

    In recent months, Rus­sia has stepped up naval oper­a­tions in the shared Sea of Azov, where, Volk­er said, “Ukraini­ans have vir­tu­al­ly no naval capa­bil­i­ty or lim­it­ed capa­bil­i­ty, so [the Rus­sians] feel they can assert dom­i­nance there.”

    Ukraine’s lack of robust naval and air-defense capa­bil­i­ties is a weak­ness Volk­er said Wash­ing­ton looks set on address­ing.

    “I think that’s going to be the focus as we devel­op the next steps in our defense coop­er­a­tion,” he added.

    Inter­na­tion­al nego­tia­tors have twice reached a frame­work for a cease-fire and a road map for peace, known as the Min­sk peace accords. Both have failed to hold.

    That is due in large part to the fact that Rus­sia con­tin­ues to flood the ter­ri­to­ry with fight­ers and arms, Volk­er said.

    In August, mon­i­tors from the Orga­ni­za­tion for Secu­ri­ty and Coop­er­a­tion in Europe doc­u­ment­ed — using drone footage — con­voys of mil­i­tary trucks cross­ing to and from Ukraine and Rus­sia on a dirt road under the cov­er of dark­ness. Ear­li­er this month, the mon­i­tors said anoth­er con­voy had been spot­ted in the area.

    Rus­sia has not respond­ed to accu­sa­tions that it was behind the con­voys.

    Volk­er also crit­i­cized Kyiv, which he said was not doing enough to reach out to Ukraini­ans liv­ing in sep­a­ratist-held ter­ri­to­ries. He said Poroshenko’s gov­ern­ment has also failed to devel­op a rein­te­gra­tion plan for when the con­flict does end.

    Pre­lim­i­nary ideas, he said, “[do not] enjoy strong polit­i­cal back­ing and there is lit­tle empha­sis that this should be a pri­or­i­ty for the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment to fig­ure out how it can reach its own cit­i­zens and be as proac­tive as pos­si­ble in try­ing to make their lives bet­ter.”

    “It’s a shame because those peo­ple [liv­ing in sep­a­ratist-held areas] have gone through a lot. It caus­es them to be very sour on the gov­ern­ment in Kyiv,” he added.

    He high­light­ed the cas­es of elder­ly peo­ple, “peo­ple with the least mobil­i­ty,” and said Kyiv should work with the Red Cross to help get gov­ern­ment pen­sions to those peo­ple.

    ...
    ———–

    “More Lethal Weapon­ry Pos­si­ble For Ukraine, U.S. Envoy Tells RFE/RL” by Christo­pher Miller; Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty; 09/14/2018

    “The Unit­ed States is con­sid­er­ing send­ing more lethal weapon­ry to Kyiv to build up its naval and air defens­es, Washington’s spe­cial envoy for Ukraine said, as con­cerns mount that Rus­sia may be step­ping up oper­a­tions in coastal waters.”

    More lethal mil­i­tary aid for Ukraine. That was what US envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volk­er was pre­dict­ing just a cou­ple of months ago. And Ukraine’s like of naval defense capa­bil­i­ties in the Sea of Azov was the area that Volk­er pre­dict­ed Wash­ing­ton would be focus­ing on next:

    ...
    Sea Defense

    In recent months, Rus­sia has stepped up naval oper­a­tions in the shared Sea of Azov, where, Volk­er said, “Ukraini­ans have vir­tu­al­ly no naval capa­bil­i­ty or lim­it­ed capa­bil­i­ty, so [the Rus­sians] feel they can assert dom­i­nance there.”

    Ukraine’s lack of robust naval and air-defense capa­bil­i­ties is a weak­ness Volk­er said Wash­ing­ton looks set on address­ing.

    “I think that’s going to be the focus as we devel­op the next steps in our defense coop­er­a­tion,” he added.
    ...

    So this naval inci­dent also hap­pens to be the per­fect trig­ger for more US mil­i­tary aid for Ukraine. This time it’s going to be lethal mar­itime naval aid.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 28, 2018, 3:33 pm
  7. Here’s a fol­lowup on the dis­turb­ing recent report about Amer­i­can neo-Nazis in the Rise Above Move­ment (RAM) trav­el­ing to Europe to net­work with Euro­pean neo-Nazis. Recall how one of the groups they met with was the Azov Bat­tal­ion, and how the FBI has accused Azov of rad­i­cal­iz­ing and pro­vid­ing mil­i­tary train­ing to Amer­i­can white suprema­cists. So accord­ing to the fol­low­ing RFE/RL report, it sounds like Azov has ambi­tions that go far beyond train­ing Amer­i­can neo-Nazi. The group wants to cre­ate a coali­tion of Euro­pean neo-Nazi groups, with Azov at its core.

    As Ole­na Semenya­ka, the inter­na­tion­al sec­re­tary for Azov’s polit­i­cal wing, the Nation­al Corps, told RFE/RL, “We think glob­al­ly.” And expand­ing the “Azov move­ment” abroad is one of the group’s goals.

    It also sounds like the train­ing Azov is pro­vid­ing these for­eign neo-Nazi groups goes beyond mil­i­tary train­ing. It also includ­ed train­ing in the pro­pa­gan­da tech­niques used to main­stream Azov, includ­ing set­ting up youth camps. When Amer­i­can neo-Nazi Greg John­son recent­ly gave a speech at an Azov gath­er­ing he declared that, “this is not a speak­ing tour, it’s a lis­ten­ing tour. I real­ly want to learn how maybe we can do things bet­ter in the Unit­ed States and West­ern Europe.” Semenya­ka also assert­ed that when the RAM mem­bers recent­ly vis­it­ed, “they came to learn our ways” and “showed inter­est in learn­ing how to cre­ate youth forces in the ways Azov has.” Semenya­ka denies any mil­i­tary train­ing was pro­vid­ed.

    The arti­cle also points out how Azov has been con­scious­ly attempt­ing to down­play its over neo-Nazism with­out com­pro­mis­ing its core neo-Nazi ideals for the pur­pose of expand­ing its pop­u­lar appeal and bring­ing the move­ment into the main­stream.

    Inter­est­ing­ly, Michael Skillt, the Swedish white nation­al­ist sniper who was one of the first for­eign fight­ers to join Azov, appears to have soured some­what on the group, argu­ing that it should have avoid­ed the over neo-Nazi image and attempt­ed to find com­mon cause with more main­stream right-wing Euro­pean move­ments. We also learn that Skillt is cur­rent­ly run­ning a pri­vate intel­li­gence agency in Kyiv.

    Omi­nous­ly, Semenya­ka asserts that Azov cozy­ing up to Europe’s main­stream con­ser­v­a­tive par­ties is next on Azov’s agen­da, with the plan of turn­ing these main­stream Euro­pean con­ser­v­a­tives into poten­tial sym­pa­thiz­ers for the pur­pose of get­ting Ukraine allowed into the Euro­pean Union. As Semenya­ka puts it, “If crises like Brex­it and the refugee prob­lem con­tin­ue, in this case, part­ner­ships with nation­al­ist groups in Europe can be a kind of plat­form for our entry into the Euro­pean Union.” So Azov clear­ly has big ambi­tions for the main­stream­ing of its move­ment across the West:

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty

    Azov, Ukraine’s Most Promi­nent Ultra­na­tion­al­ist Group, Sets Its Sights On U.S., Europe

    Novem­ber 14, 2018 14:41 GMT
    By Christo­pher Miller

    KYIV — Robert Run­do, the mus­cly leader of a Cal­i­for­nia-based white-suprema­cist group that refers to itself as the “pre­mier MMA (mixed mar­tial arts) club of the Alt-Right,” unleashed a bar­rage of punch­es against his oppo­nent.

    But Run­do, a 28-year-old Hunt­ing­ton Beach res­i­dent who would be charged and arrest­ed in Octo­ber over a series of vio­lent attacks in his home­town, Berke­ley, and San Bernardi­no in 2017, was­n’t fight­ing on Amer­i­can streets.

    It was April 27 and Run­do, whose Rise Above Move­ment (RAM) has been described by ProP­ub­li­ca as “explic­it­ly vio­lent,” was swing­ing gloved fists at a Ukrain­ian con­tender in the caged ring of a fight club asso­ci­at­ed with the far-right ultra­na­tion­al­ist Azov group in Kyiv.

    A video of Run­do’s fight, which was streamed live on Face­book (below), shows that the Amer­i­can lost the bout. But for Run­do, who thanked his hosts with a shout of “Sla­va Ukrayi­ni!” (Glo­ry to Ukraine), it was a vic­to­ry of anoth­er sort: RAM’s out­reach tour, which includ­ed stops in Italy and Ger­many to cel­e­brate Adolf Hitler’s birth­day and spread its alt-right agen­da, brought the two rad­i­cal groups clos­er togeth­er.

    For the Ukraini­ans, too, the ben­e­fits extend­ed out­side the ring. It marked a step toward legit­imiz­ing Azov among its coun­ter­parts in the West and set in motion what appears to be its next project: the expan­sion of its move­ment abroad.

    “We think glob­al­ly,” Ole­na Semenya­ka, the inter­na­tion­al sec­re­tary for Azov’s polit­i­cal wing, the Nation­al Corps, told RFE/RL in an inter­view at one of the group’s Kyiv offices last week.

    The Run­do fight has received fresh scruti­ny fol­low­ing an FBI crim­i­nal com­plaint against him unsealed last month that pre­ced­ed his arrest. In it, Spe­cial Agent Scott Bier­wirth wrote that Azov’s mil­i­tary wing is “believed to have par­tic­i­pat­ed in train­ing and rad­i­cal­iz­ing Unit­ed States-based white suprema­cy orga­ni­za­tions.”

    Wash­ing­ton has armed Ukraine with Javelin anti­tank mis­sile sys­tems and trained its armed forces as they fight Rus­sia-backed sep­a­ratists in the east.

    But it has banned arms from going to Azov mem­bers and for­bid­den them from par­tic­i­pat­ing in U.S.-led mil­i­tary train­ing because of their far-right ide­ol­o­gy.

    It was Azov’s Semenya­ka who host­ed Run­do along with fel­low Amer­i­cans Michael Mis­elis and Ben­jamin Daley, RAM mem­bers who par­tic­i­pat­ed in last year’s “Unite The Right” ral­ly in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, that was the back­drop for the death of 32-year-old coun­ter­pro­test­er Heather Hey­er.

    This month, in Kyiv, she host­ed and trans­lat­ed for Amer­i­can Greg John­son, a white nation­al­ist who edits the web­site Counter-Cur­rents, which the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter describes as “an epi­cen­ter of ‘aca­d­e­m­ic’ white nation­al­ism.”

    Over the past year, she’s made sev­er­al out­reach trips to West­ern Europe to meet with far-right groups and spread Azov’s ultra­na­tion­al­ist mes­sage.

    And when she’s not doing it her­self, Semenya­ka said, that task is some­times giv­en to Denis Nikitin, a promi­nent Russ­ian soc­cer hooli­gan and MMA fight­er who found­ed the white nation­al­ist cloth­ing label White Rex and has a gar­nered a large fol­low­ing across Europe and the Unit­ed States. In Novem­ber 2017, the two trav­eled togeth­er to War­saw and par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Europe Of The Future 2 con­fer­ence orga­nized by Pol­ish white suprema­cist group and “ally” Sztur­mow­cy (Stormtroop­ers), where they were meant to speak along­side Amer­i­can Richard Spencer, Semenya­ka said. But Pol­ish author­i­ties barred Spencer from enter­ing the coun­try and he was unable to attend.

    Often in Kyiv when he’s not trav­el­ing through Europe or vis­it­ing fam­i­ly in Ger­many, Nikitin oper­ates as a sort of unof­fi­cial Azov ambas­sador-at-large and orga­nizes MMA bouts at the Recon­quista Club, the ultra­na­tion­al­ist haunt where Run­do fought. A com­bi­na­tion restau­rant, sports cen­ter, and fight club, Semenya­ka said Run­do and Nikitin met there and “exchanged ideas.”

    In the cur­rent cli­mate, with an appar­ent shift toward nation­al­ism in parts of Europe, “it’s pos­si­ble for far-right lead­ers to come to pow­er now and — we hope — form a coali­tion,” Semenya­ka told RFE/RL. And Azov, she added, “wants a posi­tion at the front of this move­ment.”

    From Bat­tle­field To Polit­i­cal Are­na

    The Azov Bat­tal­ion was formed in May 2014 in response to the Rus­sia-backed sep­a­ratist advance sweep­ing across east­ern Ukraine. Com­prised of vol­un­teers, it has roots in a group of hard-core, far-right soc­cer fans, includ­ing many vio­lent hooli­gans, com­mon­ly known in East­ern Europe as “ultras.”

    With Ukraine’s weak mil­i­tary at the time caught flat-foot­ed, Azov and oth­er such bat­tal­ions did much of the heavy fight­ing in the ear­ly days of the war, which has killed more than 10,300 peo­ple.

    But it was Azov that attract­ed those of far-right per­sua­sion, includ­ing at least three Amer­i­cans and many oth­ers from West­ern nations. One such fight­er was Mikael Skillt, a Swede who trained as a sniper in the Swedish Army and pre­vi­ous­ly described him­self as an “eth­nic nation­al­ist.”

    The Azov Bat­tal­ion flaunts a sym­bol sim­i­lar to that of the for­mer Nazi Wolf­san­gel. (The group claims it is an amal­gam of the let­ters N and I for “nation­al idea.”) It has been accused by inter­na­tion­al human rights groups, such as the Office of the Unit­ed Nations High Com­mis­sion­er for Human Rights (OHCHR), of com­mit­ting and allow­ing seri­ous human rights abus­es, includ­ing tor­ture.

    Fol­low­ing a 2015 deal known as the Min­sk Accords that was meant to be a road map to end the fight­ing but did lit­tle more than turn down the inten­si­ty, the Azov Bat­tal­ion was offi­cial­ly incor­po­rat­ed into Ukraine’s Nation­al Guard and its lead­er­ship shift­ed focus from the bat­tle­field to the polit­i­cal are­na.

    The Azov Nation­al Corps entered the polit­i­cal fray in Octo­ber 2016, appoint­ing bat­tal­ion com­man­der Andriy Bilet­sky to lead it. Bilet­sky was pre­vi­ous­ly tied to oth­er far-right groups and, in 2010, report­ed­ly said that the nation’s mis­sion was to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade...against Semi­te-led Unter­men­schen [sub­hu­mans].”

    The par­ty incor­po­rat­ed two oth­er far-right orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing Patri­ot of Ukraine, which accord­ing to the Kharkiv Human Rights Group “espoused xeno­pho­bic and neo-Nazi ideas and was engaged in vio­lent attacks against migrants, for­eign stu­dents in Kharkiv, and those oppos­ing its views.”

    As RFE/RL report­ed at the time, the Nation­al Corps’ inau­gur­al cer­e­mo­ny arguably had pomp more rem­i­nis­cent of 1930s Ger­many than of post­war democ­ra­cy. It includ­ed nation­al­ist chants, raised fists, and a torch­lit march through cen­tral Kyiv.

    In Jan­u­ary, in anoth­er flashy cer­e­mo­ny, Azov intro­duced a new para­mil­i­tary force that it calls the Nation­al Mili­tia. On a snowy evening, some 600 of most­ly young men in match­ing fatigues marched from Kyiv’s cen­tral Inde­pen­dence Square to a light­ed fortress on a hill­side in the Ukrain­ian cap­i­tal, where they swore an oath to clean the streets of ille­gal alco­hol, drug traf­fick­ers, and ille­gal gam­bling estab­lish­ments.

    While not offi­cial­ly part of the Ukrain­ian Inte­ri­or Min­istry or any oth­er gov­ern­ment body legal­ly autho­rized to enforce the law, the Nation­al Mili­tia has more often than not been allowed to estab­lish what it con­sid­ers “Ukrain­ian order” on the streets of cities across the coun­try. In many cas­es, that has meant attack­ing LGBT events and Romany camps, actions for which mem­bers of the group have not been pros­e­cut­ed.

    Com­bined, these groups are known as the “Azov move­ment,” which includes more than 10,000 active mem­bers, accord­ing to Semenya­ka.

    ‘State With­in The State’

    But Azov’s suc­cess in grow­ing the move­ment so far has not trans­lat­ed into much polit­i­cal suc­cess at home.

    While the par­ty has not yet been test­ed in par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, less than 1 per­cent of eli­gi­ble vot­ers said they would vote for Nation­al Corps or its fel­low far-right group Right Sec­tor, accord­ing to June polling by Kyiv-based Razumkov Cen­ter.

    Those groups did­n’t fare much bet­ter in July, when GFK Ukraine asked whether vot­ers would sup­port an alliance of Nation­al Corps, Right Sec­tor, and a third far-right par­ty, Svo­bo­da, and only 2 per­cent respond­ed pos­i­tive­ly.

    At the same time, how­ev­er, Azov believes its influ­ence has grown. In an Octo­ber 29 post on Face­book, Semenya­ka went so far as to say that “just with­in 4 years, the Azov Move­ment has become a small state in the state.”

    Much of the suc­cess has come from recruit­ing new, most­ly young, mem­bers, who it hopes will come to the polls in next year’s par­lia­men­tary elec­tions.

    Azov has done so with youth camps, includ­ing some that teach chil­dren as young as 9 years old mil­i­tary tac­tics and far-right ide­ol­o­gy, recre­ation cen­ters, lec­ture halls, and far-right edu­ca­tion pro­grams.

    It has also uti­lized the reach of social media, par­tic­u­lar­ly Face­book and Telegram, where the group recruits and pro­motes patri­o­tism, nation­al­ism, and a sport-focused lifestyle. Much of that effort caters to Ukraini­ans com­ing of age in a time of war and as illib­er­al gov­ern­ments rise on the coun­try’s periph­ery, said Ukrain­ian soci­ol­o­gist Anya Hryt­senko, who research­es far-right groups.

    “Azov has made far-right nation­al­ism fash­ion­able, and they have been strate­gic in how they por­tray them­selves, shed­ding the typ­i­cal neo-Nazi trap­pings,” Hryt­senko told RFE/RL. “This has helped them to move from a sub­cul­ture to the main­stream.”

    Explain­ing that strat­e­gy, Semenya­ka, who has been pho­tographed hold­ing a flag with a swasti­ka and mak­ing a Nazi salute, said that “more rad­i­cal” lan­guage was used pre­vi­ous­ly, such as dur­ing the height of the war in 2014, when the Azov Bat­tal­ion need­ed fight­ers, “because it was required by the sit­u­a­tion.”

    Now, she said, the strat­e­gy is to “mod­er­ate” in order to appeal to a broad­er base in Ukraine and abroad. But only to an extent.

    “We are try­ing to become main­stream with­out com­pro­mis­ing some of our core ideas,” she con­tin­ued, adding that “rad­i­cal statements...scare away more of soci­ety.”

    And in its recal­i­bra­tion, Azov is not only think­ing of Ukraini­ans but of like-mind­ed groups abroad. Hence the addi­tion of mem­bers like Semenya­ka and col­lab­o­ra­tion with Nikitin, who lit­er­al­ly speak the lan­guage of their coun­ter­parts abroad.

    “Their Eng­lish has got­ten bet­ter,” Hryt­senko said, refer­ring to Azov mem­bers behind the group’s West­ern out­reach.

    Nikitin, who could not be reached for an inter­view, is a Russ­ian and Ger­man speak­er.

    Anoth­er thing that has helped, Hryt­senko not­ed, is that Ukraine’s break from Rus­sia and move toward the Euro­pean Union has allowed Ukraini­ans visa-free trav­el, mak­ing Azov’s out­reach eas­i­er logis­ti­cal­ly.

    Mak­ing Friends In The West

    In recent months, Semenya­ka and oth­er Azov mem­bers have tak­en advan­tage of that, mak­ing sev­er­al vis­its to EU coun­tries to meet numer­ous Euro­pean coun­ter­parts, accord­ing to inves­ti­ga­tions by RFE/RL and the open-source inves­tiga­tive group Belling­cat.

    Semenya­ka par­tic­i­pat­ed in and blogged about the Young Europe Forum in Dres­den in August along­side far-right sym­pa­thiz­ers from groups in Ger­many, Italy, and Aus­tria. Specif­i­cal­ly, she said she has met with those from groups that Azov con­sid­ers close allies — for instance, Greece’s Gold­en Dawn, Italy’s Cas­a­Pound, Poland’s Sztur­mow­cy, and Ger­many’s Nation­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty and Alter­na­tive For Ger­many.

    Oth­er Azov mem­bers have trav­eled to meet coun­ter­parts in Baltic states and Croa­t­ia, she added.

    ...

    Asked about the FBI alle­ga­tions in the crim­i­nal com­plaint first report­ed by The New York Times — that Azov was “train­ing and rad­i­cal­iz­ing” Amer­i­can far-right groups — she said it was not and dared U.S. author­i­ties to “pro­vide real evi­dence of this.”

    In the case of Run­do, Mis­elis, and Daley, Semenya­ka said, “they came to learn our ways” and “showed inter­est in learn­ing how to cre­ate youth forces in the ways Azov has.”

    On the vis­it, the three Amer­i­cans also attend­ed a con­cert by the white-nation­al­ist met­al band Sokyra Peruna, where con­cert­go­ers made Nazi salutes and waved Nazi flags. They also posed for pho­tographs to pro­mote Run­do’s The Right Brand cloth­ing line at Kyiv’s Inde­pen­dence Square, joined Azov mem­bers at Kyiv’s famous out­door gym, Kachal­ka, for a weight-train­ing ses­sion, and fought at the Recon­quista Club. Run­do even got White Rex’s Viking war­rior logo tat­tooed on his left calf.

    “But there was no mil­i­tary train­ing,” Semenya­ka insist­ed.

    Counter-Cur­rents’ John­son was per­haps the most recent Amer­i­can to ask for Azov’s help. In a rare pub­lic appear­ance, the alt-right ide­o­logue vis­it­ed Kyiv at the invi­ta­tion of Semenya­ka to lec­ture on Octo­ber 16 about his Man­i­festo Of White Nation­al­ism. Semenya­ka trans­lat­ed for John­son, who spoke to a small but crowd­ed room at Azov’s Plomin (Flame) cul­tur­al cen­ter.

    In a video of the event pub­lished on Azov’s Plomin YouTube chan­nel, John­son, whom the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter (SPLC) describes as “one of the lead­ing voic­es of the far-right” and “an inter­na­tion­al fig­ure for white nation­al­ism,” does­n’t hide his motive for the trip: to learn from Ukraine’s ultra­na­tion­al­ists and their suc­cess­es.

    “This is not a speak­ing tour, it’s a lis­ten­ing tour. I real­ly want to learn how maybe we can do things bet­ter in the Unit­ed States and West­ern Europe,” John­son said, lament­ing the state of the alt-right in the Unit­ed States.

    “It was a very, very influ­en­tial and pow­er­ful move­ment for a very short time,” he said of Amer­i­ca’s alt-right move­ment, with­out pro­vid­ing a pre­cise time frame.

    “And at the peak of it, we had a net­work that extend­ed all the way to the office of the pres­i­dent,” he con­tin­ued, in what appeared to be a ref­er­ence to Steve Ban­non, the for­mer White House chief strate­gist and alt-right fig­ure.

    “There were very few degrees of sep­a­ra­tion between peo­ple who were mak­ing ideas...and peo­ple who were in a posi­tion to make polit­i­cal pol­i­cy, and that was total­ly destroyed,” John­son added.

    He praised Ukraine’s far-right groups, who he said were capa­ble of “real street activism.”

    Asso­ci­a­tions Too Much For Some In Azov

    While Azov’s coop­er­a­tion with groups like RAM has been large­ly wel­comed by the group’s mem­bers, some have found it uncom­fort­able.

    Skillt, the Swedish nation­al who fought as a sniper in the Azov Bat­tal­ion, is one of them.

    “I don’t mind [Azov] reach­ing out, but the ones they reach out to... Jesus,” he told RFE/RL, in an allu­sion to RAM. He added that he had recent­ly dis­tanced him­self from Azov because of that asso­ci­a­tion and oth­ers with far-right groups in Europe.

    Skillt, who runs a pri­vate intel­li­gence agency in Kyiv and said his clients “real­ly don’t enjoy bad com­pa­ny,” argued that the group has made a mis­take by not reach­ing out more to right-wing con­ser­v­a­tives who could help with “influ­en­tial con­tacts in Europe [so] you don’t get brand­ed a neo-Nazi.”

    But Semenya­ka described praise of Azov from for­eign ultra­na­tion­al­ist groups who are increas­ing­ly wel­com­ing it as evi­dence that the orga­ni­za­tion is tak­ing the right path. And she said it isn’t about to let up.

    Next, she said, Azov hopes to win over larg­er, more main­stream far-right and pop­ulist West­ern polit­i­cal forces who “can be our poten­tial sym­pa­thiz­ers.”

    “If crises like Brex­it and the refugee prob­lem con­tin­ue, in this case, part­ner­ships with nation­al­ist groups in Europe can be a kind of plat­form for our entry into the Euro­pean Union.”

    ———-

    “Azov, Ukraine’s Most Promi­nent Ultra­na­tion­al­ist Group, Sets Its Sights On U.S., Europe” By Christo­pher Miller; Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty; 11/14/2018

    “For the Ukraini­ans, too, the ben­e­fits extend­ed out­side the ring. It marked a step toward legit­imiz­ing Azov among its coun­ter­parts in the West and set in motion what appears to be its next project: the expan­sion of its move­ment abroad.”

    Yep, the invi­ta­tion of Amer­i­can neo-Nazis was­n’t just an iso­lat­ed dis­turb­ing sto­ry. It’s was a sto­ry about the grow­ing inter­na­tion­al ambi­tions of Azov. As Semenya­ka puts it, “We think glob­al­ly”:

    ...
    “We think glob­al­ly,” Ole­na Semenya­ka, the inter­na­tion­al sec­re­tary for Azov’s polit­i­cal wing, the Nation­al Corps, told RFE/RL in an inter­view at one of the group’s Kyiv offices last week.

    ...

    It was Azov’s Semenya­ka who host­ed Run­do along with fel­low Amer­i­cans Michael Mis­elis and Ben­jamin Daley, RAM mem­bers who par­tic­i­pat­ed in last year’s “Unite The Right” ral­ly in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, that was the back­drop for the death of 32-year-old coun­ter­pro­test­er Heather Hey­er.
    ...

    And those inter­na­tion­al ambi­tions include teach­ing Azov’s inter­na­tion­al neo-Nazi coun­ter­parts the tech­niques the group has used to suc­cess­ful­ly main­stream itself in Ukraine. Tech­niques that Amer­i­can neo-Nazi Greg John­son was keen to learn:

    ...

    This month, in Kyiv, she host­ed and trans­lat­ed for Amer­i­can Greg John­son, a white nation­al­ist who edits the web­site Counter-Cur­rents, which the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter describes as “an epi­cen­ter of ‘aca­d­e­m­ic’ white nation­al­ism.”

    ...

    Counter-Cur­rents’ John­son was per­haps the most recent Amer­i­can to ask for Azov’s help. In a rare pub­lic appear­ance, the alt-right ide­o­logue vis­it­ed Kyiv at the invi­ta­tion of Semenya­ka to lec­ture on Octo­ber 16 about his Man­i­festo Of White Nation­al­ism. Semenya­ka trans­lat­ed for John­son, who spoke to a small but crowd­ed room at Azov’s Plomin (Flame) cul­tur­al cen­ter.

    In a video of the event pub­lished on Azov’s Plomin YouTube chan­nel, John­son, whom the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter (SPLC) describes as “one of the lead­ing voic­es of the far-right” and “an inter­na­tion­al fig­ure for white nation­al­ism,” does­n’t hide his motive for the trip: to learn from Ukraine’s ultra­na­tion­al­ists and their suc­cess­es.

    “This is not a speak­ing tour, it’s a lis­ten­ing tour. I real­ly want to learn how maybe we can do things bet­ter in the Unit­ed States and West­ern Europe,” John­son said, lament­ing the state of the alt-right in the Unit­ed States.
    ...

    And while Semenya­ka insists there was no mil­i­tary train­ing, one of the tech­niques the Amer­i­can neo-Nazis came to learn was the cre­ation of youth forces:

    ...
    Asked about the FBI alle­ga­tions in the crim­i­nal com­plaint first report­ed by The New York Times — that Azov was “train­ing and rad­i­cal­iz­ing” Amer­i­can far-right groups — she said it was not and dared U.S. author­i­ties to “pro­vide real evi­dence of this.”

    In the case of Run­do, Mis­elis, and Daley, Semenya­ka said, “they came to learn our ways” and “showed inter­est in learn­ing how to cre­ate youth forces in the ways Azov has.”

    On the vis­it, the three Amer­i­cans also attend­ed a con­cert by the white-nation­al­ist met­al band Sokyra Peruna, where con­cert­go­ers made Nazi salutes and waved Nazi flags. They also posed for pho­tographs to pro­mote Run­do’s The Right Brand cloth­ing line at Kyiv’s Inde­pen­dence Square, joined Azov mem­bers at Kyiv’s famous out­door gym, Kachal­ka, for a weight-train­ing ses­sion, and fought at the Recon­quista Club. Run­do even got White Rex’s Viking war­rior logo tat­tooed on his left calf.

    “But there was no mil­i­tary train­ing,” Semenya­ka insist­ed.
    ...

    But it’s not just neo-Nazis trav­el­ing to Ukraine to learn Azov’s strate­gies. Azov’s mem­bers are increas­ing­ly trav­el­ing across Europe. As Semenya­ka puts it, “it’s pos­si­ble for far-right lead­ers to come to pow­er now and — we hope — form a coali­tion,” and Azov, “wants a posi­tion at the front of this move­ment.”:

    ...
    Over the past year, she’s made sev­er­al out­reach trips to West­ern Europe to meet with far-right groups and spread Azov’s ultra­na­tion­al­ist mes­sage.

    And when she’s not doing it her­self, Semenya­ka said, that task is some­times giv­en to Denis Nikitin, a promi­nent Russ­ian soc­cer hooli­gan and MMA fight­er who found­ed the white nation­al­ist cloth­ing label White Rex and has a gar­nered a large fol­low­ing across Europe and the Unit­ed States. In Novem­ber 2017, the two trav­eled togeth­er to War­saw and par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Europe Of The Future 2 con­fer­ence orga­nized by Pol­ish white suprema­cist group and “ally” Sztur­mow­cy (Stormtroop­ers), where they were meant to speak along­side Amer­i­can Richard Spencer, Semenya­ka said. But Pol­ish author­i­ties barred Spencer from enter­ing the coun­try and he was unable to attend.

    Often in Kyiv when he’s not trav­el­ing through Europe or vis­it­ing fam­i­ly in Ger­many, Nikitin oper­ates as a sort of unof­fi­cial Azov ambas­sador-at-large and orga­nizes MMA bouts at the Recon­quista Club, the ultra­na­tion­al­ist haunt where Run­do fought. A com­bi­na­tion restau­rant, sports cen­ter, and fight club, Semenya­ka said Run­do and Nikitin met there and “exchanged ideas.”

    In the cur­rent cli­mate, with an appar­ent shift toward nation­al­ism in parts of Europe, “it’s pos­si­ble for far-right lead­ers to come to pow­er now and — we hope — form a coali­tion,” Semenya­ka told RFE/RL. And Azov, she added, “wants a posi­tion at the front of this move­ment.”
    ...

    At the same time Azov is work­ing to form this coali­tion of West­ern neo-Nazi groups, its work­ing to rebrand itself as a more main­stream con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment “with­out com­pro­mis­ing some of our core ideas”:

    ...
    Azov has made far-right nation­al­ism fash­ion­able, and they have been strate­gic in how they por­tray them­selves, shed­ding the typ­i­cal neo-Nazi trap­pings,” Hryt­senko told RFE/RL. “This has helped them to move from a sub­cul­ture to the main­stream.”

    Explain­ing that strat­e­gy, Semenya­ka, who has been pho­tographed hold­ing a flag with a swasti­ka and mak­ing a Nazi salute, said that “more rad­i­cal” lan­guage was used pre­vi­ous­ly, such as dur­ing the height of the war in 2014, when the Azov Bat­tal­ion need­ed fight­ers, “because it was required by the sit­u­a­tion.”

    Now, she said, the strat­e­gy is to “mod­er­ate” in order to appeal to a broad­er base in Ukraine and abroad. But only to an extent.

    “We are try­ing to become main­stream with­out com­pro­mis­ing some of our core ideas,” she con­tin­ued, adding that “rad­i­cal statements...scare away more of soci­ety.”

    And in its recal­i­bra­tion, Azov is not only think­ing of Ukraini­ans but of like-mind­ed groups abroad. Hence the addi­tion of mem­bers like Semenya­ka and col­lab­o­ra­tion with Nikitin, who lit­er­al­ly speak the lan­guage of their coun­ter­parts abroad.

    “Their Eng­lish has got­ten bet­ter,” Hryt­senko said, refer­ring to Azov mem­bers behind the group’s West­ern out­reach.

    Nikitin, who could not be reached for an inter­view, is a Russ­ian and Ger­man speak­er.

    ...

    In recent months, Semenya­ka and oth­er Azov mem­bers have tak­en advan­tage of that, mak­ing sev­er­al vis­its to EU coun­tries to meet numer­ous Euro­pean coun­ter­parts, accord­ing to inves­ti­ga­tions by RFE/RL and the open-source inves­tiga­tive group Belling­cat.

    Semenya­ka par­tic­i­pat­ed in and blogged about the Young Europe Forum in Dres­den in August along­side far-right sym­pa­thiz­ers from groups in Ger­many, Italy, and Aus­tria. Specif­i­cal­ly, she said she has met with those from groups that Azov con­sid­ers close allies — for instance, Greece’s Gold­en Dawn, Italy’s Cas­a­Pound, Poland’s Sztur­mow­cy, and Ger­many’s Nation­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty and Alter­na­tive For Ger­many.

    Oth­er Azov mem­bers have trav­eled to meet coun­ter­parts in Baltic states and Croa­t­ia, she added.
    ...

    Inter­est­ing­ly, Swedish white nation­al­ist sniper, Michael Skillt, argues that Azov has made a mis­take in so open­ly embrac­ing a neo-Nazi ide­ol­o­gy instead of posi­tion­ing itself as a more main­stream ‘pop­ulist’ far right con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment. But Semenya­ka coun­ters that win­ning over the main­stream far right Euro­pean move­ments is next on Azov’s agen­da, with the goal of using the back­ing of these move­ments to get the polit­i­cal sup­port nec­es­sary to win Ukraine’s admis­sion into the Euro­pean Union:

    ...
    Asso­ci­a­tions Too Much For Some In Azov

    While Azov’s coop­er­a­tion with groups like RAM has been large­ly wel­comed by the group’s mem­bers, some have found it uncom­fort­able.

    Skillt, the Swedish nation­al who fought as a sniper in the Azov Bat­tal­ion, is one of them.

    “I don’t mind [Azov] reach­ing out, but the ones they reach out to... Jesus,” he told RFE/RL, in an allu­sion to RAM. He added that he had recent­ly dis­tanced him­self from Azov because of that asso­ci­a­tion and oth­ers with far-right groups in Europe.

    Skillt, who runs a pri­vate intel­li­gence agency in Kyiv and said his clients “real­ly don’t enjoy bad com­pa­ny,” argued that the group has made a mis­take by not reach­ing out more to right-wing con­ser­v­a­tives who could help with “influ­en­tial con­tacts in Europe [so] you don’t get brand­ed a neo-Nazi.”

    But Semenya­ka described praise of Azov from for­eign ultra­na­tion­al­ist groups who are increas­ing­ly wel­com­ing it as evi­dence that the orga­ni­za­tion is tak­ing the right path. And she said it isn’t about to let up.

    Next, she said, Azov hopes to win over larg­er, more main­stream far-right and pop­ulist West­ern polit­i­cal forces who “can be our poten­tial sym­pa­thiz­ers.”

    “If crises like Brex­it and the refugee prob­lem con­tin­ue, in this case, part­ner­ships with nation­al­ist groups in Europe can be a kind of plat­form for our entry into the Euro­pean Union.”
    ...

    So that’s a snap­shot of Azov’s cur­rent ambi­tions and plans to achieve those ambi­tions: net­work with West­ern neo-Nazis while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly work on devel­op­ing a more ‘main­stream’ image that does­n’t scare too many peo­ple. Then net­work with more main­stream far right Euro­pean par­ties. Then use the pop­u­lar sup­port from those more main­stream far right Euro­pean move­ments to get the polit­i­cal sup­port need­ed to admit Ukraine into the Euro­pean Union. So it’s lit­er­al­ly a neo-Nazi plan to uni­fy and pop­u­lar­ize Europe’s neo-Nazis for the pur­pose of get­ting Ukraine into the EU. It’s a pret­ty ambi­tious plan, and based on the wild suc­cess­es of neo-Nazis around the world these days, it’s hard to argue that it’s over­ly ambi­tious.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 12, 2018, 5:00 pm
  8. Here’s the lat­est sad exam­ple of the ongo­ing and wide­spread embrace of Stepan Ban­dera and his fel­low WWII Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors as unim­peach­able nation­al heroes in Ukraine. It also ties in to the acid attack mur­der of Ukrain­ian activist Katery­na Handz­iuk in a rather bizarre way:

    First, recall how the July 31st, 2018, acid attack on Handz­iuk was ini­tial­ly blamed on “hooli­gan­ism” by the Kher­son Region­al police inves­ti­gat­ing the attack. Also recall how Handz­iuk had pre­vi­ous­ly accused a depart­ment head in the Kher­son Region­al Police of demand­ing a 3 per­cent cut from all con­tracts and ten­ders in the region in Sep­tem­ber of 2017. It result­ed in a court case that she won. Then, on August 3rd, an indi­vid­ual, Myko­la Novikov, was arrest­ed as a sus­pect but was wide­ly believed to be a scape­goat. Novikov hahad an ali­bi about his where­abouts the day of the attack but the police in the region of Kher­son did­n’t inves­ti­gate that ali­bi. He was even­tu­al­ly released on August 22, which is after five new sus­pects were arrest­ed. These five indi­vid­u­als were all mem­bers of the the Ukrain­ian Vol­un­teer Army, a splin­ter fac­tion of Right Sec­tor. Four of these new sus­pects claim that the fifth sus­pect, Ser­hiy Torbin, was the main sus­pect. Torbin was a for­mer offi­cer of Kher­son police.

    Flash for­ward to Feb­ru­ary 11th and we have the Pros­e­cu­tor General’s Office of Ukraine nam­ing the head of the Kher­son Region­al Coun­cil, Vla­dyslav Man­her, as a sus­pect in the attack. Man­her is a mem­ber of Yulia Tymoshenko’s par­ty.

    Here’s were it all gets extra weird and sad. On Feb­ru­ary 9th, there was a protest at a cam­paign ral­ly for Yulia Tymoshenko. Dozens of mem­bers of the neo-Nazi group C14 show up at this ral­ly and attempt to unfurl a ban­ner that read “Who Killed Katia Handz­iuk?” At a forum attend­ed by Pres­i­dent Pedro Poroshenko the same day, some­one had his ban­ner with the same slo­gan ripped apart by police. There’s video of this where offi­cers are seen throw­ing some of the neo-Nazis to the ground. One offi­cer is heard shout­ing, “On the ground, Ban­derite!” and that use of “Ban­derite” in a neg­a­tive say sparked a nation­al out­cry. And now the chiefs of police across Ukraine are going on social media and declar­ing them­selves Ban­derites.

    So we have five peo­ple asso­ci­at­ed with a neo-Nazi Right Sec­tor off­shoot charged with the mur­der of Handz­iuk. They appear to have been hired by a cor­rupt mem­ber of the Kher­son region­al police and ques­tions remain about how far up the chain of com­mand the ulti­mate respon­si­bil­i­ty lies for who ordered the attack. Then, months lat­er, as sus­pi­cions fall on the Vla­dyslav Man­her, the head of the Kher­son Region­al Coun­cil, we have mem­bers of a dif­fer­ent neo-Nazi group, C14, show up at a ral­ly demand­ing jus­tice in the inves­ti­ga­tion of Handz­iuk. A police offi­cer is caught on video using “Ben­derite” with neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions and now police across Ukraine are declar­ing them­selves Ban­derites.

    Ok, here’s an arti­cle around the Feb­ru­ary 11th announce­ment by Ukraine’s pros­e­cu­tors that Vla­dyslav Man­her, the head of the Kher­son Region­al Coun­cil, was now a sus­pect in the case. The pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al, Yuriy Lut­senko, also announced that more state and law enforce­ment offi­cials could be impli­cat­ed, although evi­dence is still lack­ing. As one com­men­ta­tor in the arti­cle notes, giv­en how Man­her is coop­er­at­ing, the whole thing has the look of a polit­i­cal arrange­ment, where Man­her acts as the polit­i­cal fall guy to take the polit­i­cal heat off of his par­ty and gets a light pros­e­cu­tion in exchange for accept­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty and avoid­ing the pros­e­cu­tion going fur­ther up the chain:

    bne IntelliNews

    Ukrain­ian region­al coun­cil head named sus­pect in Handz­iuk acid attack mur­der

    By bne IntelliNews Feb­ru­ary 12, 2019

    The Pros­e­cu­tor General’s Office of Ukraine named Vla­dyslav Man­her, the head of the Kher­son Region­al Coun­cil, a sus­pect in the acid attack and mur­der of local civic activist Katery­na Handz­iuk on Feb­ru­ary 11.

    The two crim­i­nal charges involve act­ing as the organ­is­er of a crime and pre­med­i­tat­ed mur­der. Man­her organ­ised the killing, hired the five per­pe­tra­tors and pro­vid­ed the funds, the pros­e­cu­tor general’s report said, accord­ing to the pravda.com.ua news site. Man­her com­mit­ted his crimes moti­vat­ed by his per­son­al ani­mus towards Handz­iuk, who was an activist against ille­gal log­ging in the region, from which his local crim­i­nal syn­di­cate earned ille­gal prof­it, the report said.

    Pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al of Ukraine Yuriy Lut­senko told the press con­fer­ence where the find­ings were announced that more state and law enforce­ment offi­cials could be impli­cat­ed, though evi­dence is still lack­ing. He said no evi­dence has been found link­ing Andriy Hordeyev, the head of the Kher­son region­al admin­is­tra­tion (which is the local rep­re­sen­ta­tive office of the Pres­i­den­tial Admin­is­tra­tion), to the mur­der. At the same time, his deputy Yevhen Ryshchuk took a leave of absence from his post pend­ing the inves­ti­ga­tion. Vik­tor Handz­iuk, the victim’s father, alleged that Man­her, Ryshchuk and Hordeyev were all respon­si­ble for the mur­der and “should dis­ap­pear from the polit­i­cal hori­zon.”

    Numer­ous protests occurred in recent days by activists demand­ing pros­e­cu­tions for Handziuk’s mur­der. Dozens of mem­bers of a nation­al­ist group attempt­ed to protest at a Feb­ru­ary 9 cam­paign ral­ly for can­di­date Yulia Tymoshenko, only to be arrest­ed by police before they could unfurl their ban­ner that read “Who Killed Katia Handz­iuk?” At a forum attend­ed by Pres­i­dent Pedro Poroshenko the same day, an activist had his ban­ner with the same slo­gan ripped apart by police.

    “As cyn­i­cal as it might sound, this has all the signs of a care­ful arrange­ment by author­i­ties to extin­guish an embar­rass­ing scan­dal dur­ing an elec­tion cam­paign. Man­her sub­mit­ted his res­ig­na­tion from the Father­land par­ty the same day of the protests, which doesn’t hap­pen unless there’s pres­sure from above. The par­ty duly agreed to exclude him from its ranks, like­ly allow­ing to him serv­ing as the fall guy for the mur­der since his expul­sion boosts its image among vot­ers. After the pros­e­cu­tor made the alle­ga­tions pub­lic, Man­her told the press he intends to stay in Ukraine and coop­er­ate ful­ly with inves­ti­ga­tors, which is more evi­dence of a polit­i­cal arrange­ment,” Zenon Zawa­da of Con­corde Cap­i­tal said in a note.

    “For the Pres­i­den­tial Admin­is­tra­tion, keep­ing the exposed and vul­ner­a­ble Hordeyev in pow­er is an even greater boon since he will glad­ly ful­fill all orders dur­ing a neck-and-neck elec­tion cam­paign, espe­cial­ly vote manip­u­la­tions. With Man­her coop­er­at­ing with inves­ti­ga­tors, even­tu­al­ly tak­ing the blame and receiv­ing a slap on the wrists (soon­er or lat­er), the Poroshenko admin­is­tra­tion also hopes to sat­is­fy West­ern author­i­ties, who were caught in an awk­ward posi­tion of being pres­sured by NGO employ­ees and activists, many of whom receive West­ern grants, while back­ing the pro-West­ern Poroshenko admin­is­tra­tion,” Zawa­da added.

    “This arrange­ment takes some of the wind out of the activists’ sails, since the estab­lish­ment will argue that one key fig­ure has been “pun­ished”. In exchange for his coop­er­a­tion in remov­ing him­self from the spot­light and tak­ing the blame, Man­her won’t be pros­e­cut­ed or con­vict­ed. In, which case, time will tell whether activists are able to main­tain pres­sure on the Poroshenko admin­is­tra­tion to pur­sue jus­tice to the fullest extent, and whether West­ern author­i­ties will be sat­is­fied with this rather mea­ger con­ces­sion (which is Man­her abdi­cat­ing his polit­i­cal post),” said Zawa­da.

    ...

    ———-

    “Ukrain­ian region­al coun­cil head named sus­pect in Handz­iuk acid attack mur­der” By bne IntelliNews; bne IntelliNews; 02/12/2019

    “The two crim­i­nal charges involve act­ing as the organ­is­er of a crime and pre­med­i­tat­ed mur­der. Man­her organ­ised the killing, hired the five per­pe­tra­tors and pro­vid­ed the funds, the pros­e­cu­tor general’s report said, accord­ing to the pravda.com.ua news site. Man­her com­mit­ted his crimes moti­vat­ed by his per­son­al ani­mus towards Handz­iuk, who was an activist against ille­gal log­ging in the region, from which his local crim­i­nal syn­di­cate earned ille­gal prof­it, the report said.

    The order to mur­der Handz­iuk was dri­ven by Man­her’s per­son­al ani­mus towards her for her activis­m’s dis­rup­tion of his ille­gal log­ging oper­a­tions. That’s the offi­cial expla­na­tion at this point, although the pros­e­cu­tor hint­ed at more state and law enforce­ment offi­cials being impli­cat­ed:

    ...
    Pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al of Ukraine Yuriy Lut­senko told the press con­fer­ence where the find­ings were announced that more state and law enforce­ment offi­cials could be impli­cat­ed, though evi­dence is still lack­ing. He said no evi­dence has been found link­ing Andriy Hordeyev, the head of the Kher­son region­al admin­is­tra­tion (which is the local rep­re­sen­ta­tive office of the Pres­i­den­tial Admin­is­tra­tion), to the mur­der. At the same time, his deputy Yevhen Ryshchuk took a leave of absence from his post pend­ing the inves­ti­ga­tion. Vik­tor Handz­iuk, the victim’s father, alleged that Man­her, Ryshchuk and Hordeyev were all respon­si­ble for the mur­der and “should dis­ap­pear from the polit­i­cal hori­zon.”
    ...

    As one observ­er notes, the fact that Man­her is coop­er­at­ing com­plete­ly gives the whole announce­ment the feel of a polit­i­cal arrange­ment: Man­her takes the blame for a rel­a­tive­ly light pun­ish­ment (and a like­ly end to the inves­ti­ga­tion):

    ...
    As cyn­i­cal as it might sound, this has all the signs of a care­ful arrange­ment by author­i­ties to extin­guish an embar­rass­ing scan­dal dur­ing an elec­tion cam­paign. Man­her sub­mit­ted his res­ig­na­tion from the Father­land par­ty the same day of the protests, which doesn’t hap­pen unless there’s pres­sure from above. The par­ty duly agreed to exclude him from its ranks, like­ly allow­ing to him serv­ing as the fall guy for the mur­der since his expul­sion boosts its image among vot­ers. After the pros­e­cu­tor made the alle­ga­tions pub­lic, Man­her told the press he intends to stay in Ukraine and coop­er­ate ful­ly with inves­ti­ga­tors, which is more evi­dence of a polit­i­cal arrange­ment,” Zenon Zawa­da of Con­corde Cap­i­tal said in a note.

    “For the Pres­i­den­tial Admin­is­tra­tion, keep­ing the exposed and vul­ner­a­ble Hordeyev in pow­er is an even greater boon since he will glad­ly ful­fill all orders dur­ing a neck-and-neck elec­tion cam­paign, espe­cial­ly vote manip­u­la­tions. With Man­her coop­er­at­ing with inves­ti­ga­tors, even­tu­al­ly tak­ing the blame and receiv­ing a slap on the wrists (soon­er or lat­er), the Poroshenko admin­is­tra­tion also hopes to sat­is­fy West­ern author­i­ties, who were caught in an awk­ward posi­tion of being pres­sured by NGO employ­ees and activists, many of whom receive West­ern grants, while back­ing the pro-West­ern Poroshenko admin­is­tra­tion,” Zawa­da added.

    “This arrange­ment takes some of the wind out of the activists’ sails, since the estab­lish­ment will argue that one key fig­ure has been “pun­ished”. In exchange for his coop­er­a­tion in remov­ing him­self from the spot­light and tak­ing the blame, Man­her won’t be pros­e­cut­ed or con­vict­ed. In, which case, time will tell whether activists are able to main­tain pres­sure on the Poroshenko admin­is­tra­tion to pur­sue jus­tice to the fullest extent, and whether West­ern author­i­ties will be sat­is­fied with this rather mea­ger con­ces­sion (which is Man­her abdi­cat­ing his polit­i­cal post),” said Zawa­da.
    ...

    Adding to the polit­i­cal feel of this announce­ment, it hap­pened two days after dozens of C14 mem­bers attend­ed a Yulia Tymoesh­enko ral­ly and attempt­ed to unfurl a “Who Killed Katia Handz­iuk?” ban­ner before police stopped them:

    ...
    Numer­ous protests occurred in recent days by activists demand­ing pros­e­cu­tions for Handziuk’s mur­der. Dozens of mem­bers of a nation­al­ist group attempt­ed to protest at a Feb­ru­ary 9 cam­paign ral­ly for can­di­date Yulia Tymoshenko, only to be arrest­ed by police before they could unfurl their ban­ner that read “Who Killed Katia Handz­iuk?” At a forum attend­ed by Pres­i­dent Pedro Poroshenko the same day, an activist had his ban­ner with the same slo­gan ripped apart by police.
    ...

    And as the fol­low­ing arti­cle trag­i­cal­ly describes, in the days fol­low­ing that police crack­down on the C14 mem­bers, police across Ukraine are declar­ing them­selves Ban­derites in response to the back­lash over an offi­cer call­ing one of the C14 mem­bers “Ban­derite” as an insult:

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty

    ‘Ban­derite’ Rebrand: Ukrain­ian Police Declare Admi­ra­tion For Nazi Col­lab­o­ra­tors To Make A Point

    By Christo­pher Miller
    Feb­ru­ary 11, 2019 17:06 GMT

    KYIV — Across social media, Ukrain­ian police and law enforce­ment offi­cials are apol­o­giz­ing for one offi­cer’s slur aimed at far-right ultra­na­tion­al­ists and mak­ing it known: They, too, are “#Ban­derites.” Or, to be clear, sup­port­ers of mil­i­tant Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists who col­lab­o­rat­ed with the Nazis dur­ing World War II.

    Nation­al Police chief Ser­hiy Knyazev says he is one. So does Inte­ri­or Min­istry and Nation­al Police spokesman Artem Shevchenko. Inte­ri­or Min­istry advis­er Zoryan Shkyryak is, too.

    From the top on down, cops and their boss­es are lin­ing up to air their admi­ra­tion for Stepan Ban­dera, a hero of far-right extrem­ists whose Orga­ni­za­tion of Ukrain­ian Nation­al­ists (OUN) and its mil­i­tary arm, the Ukrain­ian Insur­gent Army (UPA), fought both Sovi­et and Nazi forces dur­ing World War II but also car­ried out mur­der­ous cam­paigns against Poles and Jews.

    The #Iam­a­Ban­derite (#???????????? in Ukrain­ian) hash­tag appeared on Feb­ru­ary 10, a day after a riot-police offi­cer used the deroga­to­ry play on Ban­der­a’s name dur­ing a vio­lent con­fronta­tion with dozens of ultra­na­tion­al­ists at a cam­paign event in Kyiv for pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Yulia Tymoshenko.

    The inter­lop­ers had come to the event to demand jus­tice for an acid attack that killed civic activist Katery­na Handzyuk amid a rash of vio­lence against activists. Car­ry­ing signs that asked, “Who ordered the attack on Handzyuk?” they called for Kher­son region­al-coun­cil head Vla­dyslav Man­her, a recent­ly sus­pend­ed mem­ber of Tymoshenko’s par­ty, to be arrest­ed for his alleged role as its orga­niz­er.

    On Feb­ru­ary 11, two days after the clash, Man­her received an offi­cial notice of sus­pi­cion from Pros­e­cu­tor-Gen­er­al Yuriy Lut­senko.

    Videos of the vio­lence that cir­cu­lat­ed online showed police in riot gear scuf­fling with the group, which includ­ed mem­bers of the far-right C14 orga­ni­za­tion. Some mem­bers of the group, which is said to take its name from a 14-word phrase used by White suprema­cists and has open­ly offered its mem­bers out as paid thugs, were behind vio­lent attacks on Romany camps in Kyiv last year.

    In one video, offi­cers are seen throw­ing some of the far-right pro­test­ers to the ground, and one is heard shout­ing, “On the ground, Ban­derite!”

    Police detained but lat­er report­ed­ly released 18 peo­ple, cit­ing a lack of evi­dence that would jus­ti­fy their con­tin­ued deten­tion.

    But pros­e­cu­tors on Feb­ru­ary 11 said they had opened crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings against the far-right group for hooli­gan­ism, caus­ing bod­i­ly harm, and the seizure of a pub­lic build­ing. Mean­while, an inves­ti­ga­tion was opened against police offi­cers involved for exces­sive use of force.

    #????????????

    But it was­n’t the vio­lence or the mes­sage that caught the pub­lic’s atten­tion. It was the “Ban­derite” slur that sparked an out­pour­ing of crit­i­cism from Ukraini­ans on social media.

    “I per­son­al­ly, as the chief of police in Kyiv, want to apol­o­gize to soci­ety for the actions of this offi­cer,” Andriy Kryshchenko said in a video state­ment post­ed to the Inte­ri­or Min­istry Face­book account on Jan­u­ary 10. “Out of con­vic­tion and because of my under­stand­ing of the his­tor­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in Ukraine, I con­sid­er it unac­cept­able.”

    “Undoubt­ed­ly, this employ­ee will be pun­ished,” the Kyiv chief of police vowed. “In addi­tion, some obscene vocab­u­lary was used. We have to do some­thing about this.”

    With­in hours, the coun­try’s most senior law enforce­ment offi­cials and count­less police offi­cers had embarked on a sort of social-media apol­o­gy tour that saw them align­ing them­selves with the late Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor.

    “I apol­o­gize. I am a Ban­derite, too! Glo­ry to Ukraine!” wrote Knyazev, the chief of the Ukrain­ian Nation­al Police, in a post on his Face­book page that has been shared near­ly 400 times.

    When asked to clar­i­fy whether the hash­tag was meant in earnest or was iron­ic, Shevchenko, the police spokesman, told RFE/RL by phone that it was “both.” He said Shkyryak, the Inte­ri­or Min­istry advis­er, was the man behind the cam­paign. Shkyryak could not imme­di­ate­ly be reached for com­ment.

    But Shkyryak post­ed to Face­book around the same time as Knyazev a pho­to­graph of him­self sit­ting beneath a paint­ing of Ban­dera. “I work in the Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs of Ukraine. This is my office,” he wrote in the cap­tion. “I am also a Ban­derite and I am proud of it! Ban­dera, my hero!”

    He said invok­ing the deroga­to­ry ver­sion of Ban­der­a’s name by an offi­cer in order­ing a sus­pect to the ground was “shame­ful and unac­cept­able!” At the same time, he said he did not sup­port “vio­lent actions” or “attempts to seize state build­ings” by groups who want to “desta­bi­lize, stoke pan­ic and despair in soci­ety.”

    The three offi­cials and many more offi­cers, as well as civil­ian sup­port­ers, joined in the cam­paign using the hash­tag.

    ...

    In a post on Face­book on Feb­ru­ary 10, Eduard Dolin­sky, head of the Ukrain­ian Jew­ish Com­mit­tee, a lead­ing Jew­ish advo­ca­cy group, point­ed out that the dust-up that spawned the hash­tag occurred on the anniver­sary of a mass killing of Poles by Ban­der­a’s UPA.

    “Yes­ter­day, Feb­ru­ary 9, was the anniver­sary of the first mas­sacre of Poles by Ban­derites,” he wrote. “In the vil­lage of Parosl, the UPA cut down more than 150 chil­dren, women, and men.”

    He added: “Today, the police are hold­ing an ‘I am a Ban­derite!’ flash mob. Maybe you’re bet­ter off hold­ing an ‘I am a Pole!’ flash mob.”

    ———-

    “ ‘Ban­derite’ Rebrand: Ukrain­ian Police Declare Admi­ra­tion For Nazi Col­lab­o­ra­tors To Make A Point” by Christo­pher Miller; Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty; 02/11/2019

    “Across social media, Ukrain­ian police and law enforce­ment offi­cials are apol­o­giz­ing for one offi­cer’s slur aimed at far-right ultra­na­tion­al­ists and mak­ing it known: They, too, are “#Ban­derites.” Or, to be clear, sup­port­ers of mil­i­tant Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists who col­lab­o­rat­ed with the Nazis dur­ing World War II.”

    #Ban­derites: a lead­ing can­di­date for worst hash­tag ever giv­en the his­toric and con­tem­po­rary con­text.

    And that meme was embraced across of Ukraine just one day after a riot-police offi­cer was videoed throw­ing a C14 mem­ber to the ground dur­ing their “Who ordered the attack on Handzyuk?” protest at a Tymoshenko ral­ly. That’s how “polit­i­cal­ly incor­rect” it is to any­thing oth­er than glo­ri­fy Ban­dera in Ukraine these days:

    ...
    The #Iam­a­Ban­derite (#???????????? in Ukrain­ian) hash­tag appeared on Feb­ru­ary 10, a day after a riot-police offi­cer used the deroga­to­ry play on Ban­der­a’s name dur­ing a vio­lent con­fronta­tion with dozens of ultra­na­tion­al­ists at a cam­paign event in Kyiv for pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Yulia Tymoshenko.

    The inter­lop­ers had come to the event to demand jus­tice for an acid attack that killed civic activist Katery­na Handzyuk amid a rash of vio­lence against activists. Car­ry­ing signs that asked, “Who ordered the attack on Handzyuk?” they called for Kher­son region­al-coun­cil head Vla­dyslav Man­her, a recent­ly sus­pend­ed mem­ber of Tymoshenko’s par­ty, to be arrest­ed for his alleged role as its orga­niz­er.

    On Feb­ru­ary 11, two days after the clash, Man­her received an offi­cial notice of sus­pi­cion from Pros­e­cu­tor-Gen­er­al Yuriy Lut­senko.

    Videos of the vio­lence that cir­cu­lat­ed online showed police in riot gear scuf­fling with the group, which includ­ed mem­bers of the far-right C14 orga­ni­za­tion. Some mem­bers of the group, which is said to take its name from a 14-word phrase used by White suprema­cists and has open­ly offered its mem­bers out as paid thugs, were behind vio­lent attacks on Romany camps in Kyiv last year.

    In one video, offi­cers are seen throw­ing some of the far-right pro­test­ers to the ground, and one is heard shout­ing, “On the ground, Ban­derite!”

    ...

    But it was­n’t the vio­lence or the mes­sage that caught the pub­lic’s atten­tion. It was the “Ban­derite” slur that sparked an out­pour­ing of crit­i­cism from Ukraini­ans on social media.

    “I per­son­al­ly, as the chief of police in Kyiv, want to apol­o­gize to soci­ety for the actions of this offi­cer,” Andriy Kryshchenko said in a video state­ment post­ed to the Inte­ri­or Min­istry Face­book account on Jan­u­ary 10. “Out of con­vic­tion and because of my under­stand­ing of the his­tor­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in Ukraine, I con­sid­er it unac­cept­able.”

    “Undoubt­ed­ly, this employ­ee will be pun­ished,” the Kyiv chief of police vowed. “In addi­tion, some obscene vocab­u­lary was used. We have to do some­thing about this.”

    With­in hours, the coun­try’s most senior law enforce­ment offi­cials and count­less police offi­cers had embarked on a sort of social-media apol­o­gy tour that saw them align­ing them­selves with the late Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor.

    “I apol­o­gize. I am a Ban­derite, too! Glo­ry to Ukraine!” wrote Knyazev, the chief of the Ukrain­ian Nation­al Police, in a post on his Face­book page that has been shared near­ly 400 times.
    ...

    And while both C14 and Right Sec­tor are no doubt smit­ten with this response, it’s prob­a­bly not the kind of ‘jus­tice’ Katia Handz­iuk would have hoped for if she had­n’t already been mur­dered by a bunch of neo-Nazis-for-hire.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 14, 2019, 12:10 pm
  9. A Kiev shop­ping mall with a stair­case that lights up with LED mes­sages dis­played a rather unwel­com­ing mes­sage on Mon­day: the LED lights dis­played a large Nazi flag at the Horodok(Gorodok) Gallery. The mall is locat­ed on Stephen Ban­dera Avenue, which used to be Moscow Avenue until the name was changed in 2016. Footage of the dis­play was post­ed on social media. And it may not have actu­al­ly intend­ed to be an unwel­com­ing mes­sage because it was dis­played sev­er­al hours before a torch­light parade through Kiev of sev­er­al hun­dred far right ‘nation­al­ists’. What’s the mal­l’s expla­na­tion for this? They claim they were hacked. So the mall on the street named after Ukraine’s most cel­e­brat­ed nation­al hero — who also hap­pened to be a Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor — sud­den­ly shows a Nazi flag hours before a neo-Nazi torch­light parade and the expla­na­tion is a hack­ing. And, sure, it’s pos­si­ble the mal­l’s LED sys­tem was hacked, which would be dis­turb­ing. But it’s also very plau­si­ble there was no hack­ing giv­en the broad­er con­text of the pop­u­lar embrace of Nazism in Ukraine:

    Jew­ish Tele­graph­ic Agency

    Ukrain­ian shop­ping mall fea­tures huge swasti­ka on stair­case

    By Cnaan Liphshiz
    Feb­ru­ary 18, 2019 2:32 pm

    (JTA) — A shop­ping mall in Ukraine that is locat­ed on a street named for a col­lab­o­ra­tor with the Nazis dec­o­rat­ed a stair­case with a large swasti­ka.

    Images and footage from inside the Horodok shop­ping mall on Kiev’s Ban­dera Avenue sur­faced Mon­day on Face­book.

    Kyiv’s shop­ping mall “Gorodok” pic.twitter.com/VzCnEjA2KZ— Eduard Dolin­sky (@edolinsky) Feb­ru­ary 18, 2019

    They show shop­pers climb­ing up and down the stair­case, whose mid­dle-sec­tion stairs fea­ture a large swasti­ka locked in a white rhom­bus encir­cled by red, sim­i­lar to Nazi Germany’s flag. The street where the shop­ping mall is locat­ed is named for Stepan Ban­dera, a Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist who briefly col­lab­o­rat­ed with Nazi Ger­many in its fight against Rus­sia.

    His troops are believed to have killed thou­sands of Jews.

    The street used to be Called Moscow Avenue. It was named for Ban­dera in 2016 despite protests by some Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers and Ukrain­ian Poles, whose com­mu­ni­ty also suf­fered war crimes by Bandera’s troops.

    Accord­ing to Eduard Dolin­sky, the direc­tor of the Ukrain­ian Jew­ish Com­mit­tee, the video was tak­en by a shop­per on Sat­ur­day night, hours before sev­er­al hun­dred nation­al­ists marched through Kiev car­ry­ing torch­es.

    Israeli jour­nal­ist Shi­mon Brin­man lat­er post­ed to Face­book that the mall apol­o­gized for “the sit­u­a­tion that arose” over the week­end in its LED stairs. Accord­ing to mall offi­cials, its com­put­er sys­tem was hacked, allow­ing the attack­ers to dis­play the image. “The admin­is­tra­tion and staff have noth­ing to do with the infor­ma­tion that was placed on the LED lad­der, and in no way sup­ports such actions,” a state­ment from the mall said.

    ...

    ———-

    “Ukrain­ian shop­ping mall fea­tures huge swasti­ka on stair­case” by Cnaan Liphshiz; Jew­ish Tele­graph­ic Agency; 02/18/2019

    “They show shop­pers climb­ing up and down the stair­case, whose mid­dle-sec­tion stairs fea­ture a large swasti­ka locked in a white rhom­bus encir­cled by red, sim­i­lar to Nazi Germany’s flag. The street where the shop­ping mall is locat­ed is named for Stepan Ban­dera, a Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist who briefly col­lab­o­rat­ed with Nazi Ger­many in its fight against Rus­sia.”

    And this large Nazi flag imagery just hap­pened to appear hours before sev­er­al hun­dred nation­al­ists marched through Kiev car­ry­ing torch­es:

    ...
    The street used to be Called Moscow Avenue. It was named for Ban­dera in 2016 despite protests by some Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers and Ukrain­ian Poles, whose com­mu­ni­ty also suf­fered war crimes by Bandera’s troops.

    Accord­ing to Eduard Dolin­sky, the direc­tor of the Ukrain­ian Jew­ish Com­mit­tee, the video was tak­en by a shop­per on Sat­ur­day night, hours before sev­er­al hun­dred nation­al­ists marched through Kiev car­ry­ing torch­es.
    ...

    But the mall offi­cials would like to assure us that they had noth­ing to do with this and were the vic­tims of a hack:

    ...
    Israeli jour­nal­ist Shi­mon Brin­man lat­er post­ed to Face­book that the mall apol­o­gized for “the sit­u­a­tion that arose” over the week­end in its LED stairs. Accord­ing to mall offi­cials, its com­put­er sys­tem was hacked, allow­ing the attack­ers to dis­play the image. “The admin­is­tra­tion and staff have noth­ing to do with the infor­ma­tion that was placed on the LED lad­der, and in no way sup­ports such actions,” a state­ment from the mall said.
    ...

    And as the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, it’s not just the mall offi­cials who are falling back on the “we were hacked” expla­na­tion. Gov­ern­ment offi­cials in Kyiv are also assert­ing that not only was the mal­l’s LED sys­tem hacked, but that Rus­sia did it as part of a Russ­ian hybrid infor­ma­tion war­fare cam­paign. No evi­dence was giv­en for how the gov­ern­ment offi­cials arrived at this con­clu­sion:

    The Jerusalem Post

    Ukraine says Nazi dis­play at mall part of Russ­ian ‘infor­ma­tion war­fare’
    “We regard this out­ra­geous inci­dent with the hack­er attack in the Gorodok Gallery shop­ping mall as part of a hybrid infor­ma­tion war­fare, which Ukraine has faced since 2014.”

    By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
    Feb­ru­ary 20, 2019 14:42

    Days after an LED stair­case in Ukraine was shown dis­play­ing a Nazi Swasti­ka, the gov­ern­ment in Kiev said that the dis­play was part of a Russ­ian “hybrid infor­ma­tion war­fare” cam­paign which the coun­try has been fac­ing since 2014.

    Images and footage from inside the Horodok shop­ping mall on Kiev’s Ban­dera Avenue sur­faced Mon­day on Face­book.

    “The admin­is­tra­tion of the shop­ping cen­ter apol­o­gized for the inci­dent and said that the com­put­er sys­tem was bro­ken [into] by a hack­er attack,” Ukraine’s Ambas­sador to Israel Hen­nadii Nadolenko wrote in a let­ter to The Jerusalem Post.

    “We regard this out­ra­geous inci­dent with the hack­er attack in the Gorodok Gallery shop­ping mall as part of a hybrid infor­ma­tion war­fare, which Ukraine has faced since 2014 and in which the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion uses all pos­si­ble mea­sures of pro­pa­gan­da,” he wrote.

    The footage shows shop­pers climb­ing up and down the stair­case, whose mid­dle-sec­tion stairs fea­ture a large swasti­ka on a red ban­ner, rem­i­nis­cent of Nazi Germany’s flag. The street where the shop­ping mall is locat­ed is named after Stepan Ban­dera, a Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist who briefly col­lab­o­rat­ed with Nazi Ger­many in its fight against Rus­sia.

    Nadolenko said that the Ukrain­ian police are “active­ly look­ing for peo­ple involved in this attack,” which he called “indig­nant.”

    “After all,” he wrote that the “use of Nazi sym­bols is pro­hib­it­ed by the Ukrain­ian leg­is­la­tion.”

    The ambas­sador said that Ukrain­ian secu­ri­ty ser­vices have recent­ly pre­vent­ed Russ­ian attacks on reli­gious places, includ­ing syn­a­gogues. He not­ed that these attacks on Ukrain­ian com­pounds were designed “in order to inflame inter-reli­gious strife.”

    “Ukraine under any cir­cum­stances will not tol­er­ate anti­semitism, xeno­pho­bia and dis­crim­i­na­tion based on race, nation­al or eth­nic back­ground,” he con­clud­ed.

    ...

    ———-

    “Ukraine says Nazi dis­play at mall part of Russ­ian ‘infor­ma­tion war­fare’ ” by JERUSALEM POST STAFF; The Jerusalem Post; 02/20/2019

    “We regard this out­ra­geous inci­dent with the hack­er attack in the Gorodok Gallery shop­ping mall as part of a hybrid infor­ma­tion war­fare, which Ukraine has faced since 2014 and in which the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion uses all pos­si­ble mea­sures of pro­pa­gan­da.”

    This is how wid­ly cyn­i­cal Ukraine’s embrace of neo-Nazi ‘nation­al­ism’ is at this point: the gov­ern­ment embraces neo-Nazi groups like Right Sec­tor, Azov, and C14 at the same time it casts offi­cial­ly enshrines the nation­als’ Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors who car­ried out much of the Holo­caust in Ukraine as nation­al heros. And the cur­rent chair­man of the par­lia­ment is Andriy Paru­biy, the co-founder of Ukraine’s Nation­al Social­ist par­ty. But if a swasti­ka pops up it’s clear­ly Rus­sians hybrid infor­ma­tion war­fare.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 20, 2019, 11:22 am
  10. Here’s an arti­cle about the rise of the far right in Ukraine that does a remark­able job detail­ing the numer­ous and mul­ti-faceted exam­ples of the cap­ture of Ukrain­ian soci­ety and gov­ern­ment by far right forces and ide­olo­gies. The list includes:

    * The ele­va­tion of the neo-Nazi Azov Bat­tal­ion that was for­mal­ly incor­po­rat­ed into Ukraine’s armed forces yet remains a neo-Nazi bat­tal­ion.
    * Azov is now engaged in polic­ing with its Nation­al Druzhi­na street patrol units that have engaged in anti-Roma pogroms
    * Azov’s cam­paign to turn Ukraine into an inter­na­tion­al hub of white suprema­cy
    * Andriy Paru­biy’s role in cre­at­ing Ukraine’s Nazi Par­ty that he con­tin­ues to embrace and that’s rou­tine­ly ignored as he has become the par­lia­ment speak­er
    * The deputy min­is­ter of the Interior—which con­trols the Nation­al Police—is a vet­er­an of Azov, Vadim Troy­an
    * Gov­ern­ment spon­sor­ship of his­tor­i­cal revi­sion­ism and holo­caust denial though agen­cies like Ukrain­ian Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry
    * Torch­light parades are now nor­mal
    * With­in sev­er­al years, an entire gen­er­a­tion will be indoc­tri­nat­ed to wor­ship Holo­caust per­pe­tra­tors as nation­al heroes
    * Books that crit­i­cize the now-glo­ri­fied WWII Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors like Stepan Ban­dera are get­ting banned
    * Pub­lic offi­cials make threats against Ukraine’s Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty with no reper­cus­sions
    * The neo-Nazi C14’s street patrol gangs are both respon­si­ble for anti-Roma pograms and also the recip­i­ent of gov­ern­ment funds to run a chil­dren’s edu­ca­tion­al camp. Last Octo­ber, C14 leader Ser­hiy Bon­dar was wel­comed at Amer­i­ca House Kyiv, a cen­ter run by the US gov­ern­ment
    * It’s open sea­son on the LGBT com­mu­ni­ty and far right groups rou­tine­ly attack LGBT gath­er­ings
    * Ukraine is extreme­ly dan­ger­ous for jour­nal­ists and the gov­ern­ment has sup­port­ed the doxxing and intim­i­da­tion of jour­nal­ist by the far right like Myrovorets group
    * The gov­ern­ment is try­ing to repeal laws pro­tect­ing the many minor­i­ty lan­guages used in Ukraine

    And yet, as the arti­cle notes at the end, its many exam­ples were just a small sam­pling of what has tran­spired in Ukraine since 2014:

    The Nation

    Neo-Nazis and the Far Right Are On the March in Ukraine
    Five years after the Maid­an upris­ing, anti-Semi­tism and fas­cist-inflect­ed ultra­na­tion­al­ism are ram­pant.

    By Lev Golinkin
    Feb­ru­ary 22, 2019

    Five years ago, Ukraine’s Maid­an upris­ing oust­ed Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych, to the cheers and sup­port of the West. Politi­cians and ana­lysts in the Unit­ed States and Europe not only cel­e­brat­ed the upris­ing as a tri­umph of democ­ra­cy, but denied reports of Maidan’s ultra­na­tion­al­ism, smear­ing those who warned about the dark side of the upris­ing as Moscow pup­pets and use­ful idiots. Free­dom was on the march in Ukraine.

    Today, increas­ing reports of far-right vio­lence, ultra­na­tion­al­ism, and ero­sion of basic free­doms are giv­ing the lie to the West’s ini­tial eupho­ria. There are neo-Nazi pogroms against the Roma, ram­pant attacks on fem­i­nists and LGBT groups, book bans, and state-spon­sored glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors.

    These sto­ries of Ukraine’s dark nation­al­ism aren’t com­ing out of Moscow; they’re being filed by West­ern media, includ­ing US-fund­ed Radio Free Europe (RFE); Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tions such as the World Jew­ish Con­gress and the Simon Wiesen­thal Cen­ter; and watch­dogs like Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al, Human Rights Watch, and Free­dom House, which issued a joint report warn­ing that Kiev is los­ing the monop­oly on the use of force in the coun­try as far-right gangs oper­ate with impuni­ty.

    Five years after Maid­an, the bea­con of democ­ra­cy is look­ing more like a torch­light march.

    A neo-Nazi bat­tal­ion in the heart of Europe

    Vol­un­teer Ukrain­ian Unit Includes Nazis.”—USA Today, March 10, 2015

    The DC establishment’s stan­dard defense of Kiev is to point out that Ukraine’s far right has a small­er per­cent­age of seats in the par­lia­ment than their coun­ter­parts in places like France. That’s a spu­ri­ous argu­ment: What Ukraine’s far right lacks in polls num­bers, it makes up for with things Marine Le Pen could only dream of—paramilitary units and free rein on the streets.

    Post-Maid­an Ukraine is the world’s only nation to have a neo-Nazi for­ma­tion in its armed forces. The Azov Bat­tal­ion was ini­tial­ly formed out of the neo-Nazi gang Patri­ot of Ukraine. Andriy Bilet­sky, the gang’s leader who became Azov’s com­man­der, once wrote that Ukraine’s mis­sion is to “lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade…against the Semi­te-led Unter­men­schen.” Bilet­sky is now a deputy in Ukraine’s par­lia­ment.

    In the fall of 2014, Azov—which is accused of human-rights abus­es, includ­ing tor­ture, by Human Rights Watch and the Unit­ed Nations—was incor­po­rat­ed into Ukraine’s Nation­al Guard.

    While the group offi­cial­ly denies any neo-Nazi con­nec­tions, Azov’s nature has been con­firmed by mul­ti­ple West­ern out­lets: The New York Times called the bat­tal­ion “open­ly neo-Nazi,” while USA Today, The Dai­ly Beast, The Tele­graph, and Haaretz doc­u­ment­ed group mem­bers’ pro­cliv­i­ty for swastikas, salutes, and oth­er Nazi sym­bols, and indi­vid­ual fight­ers have also acknowl­edged being neo-Nazis.

    In Jan­u­ary 2018, Azov rolled out its Nation­al Druzhi­na street patrol unit whose mem­bers swore per­son­al feal­ty to Bilet­sky and pledged to “restore Ukrain­ian order” to the streets. The Druzhi­na quick­ly dis­tin­guished itself by car­ry­ing out pogroms against the Roma and LGBT orga­ni­za­tions and storm­ing a munic­i­pal coun­cil. Ear­li­er this year, Kiev announced the storm­ing unit will be mon­i­tor­ing polls in next month’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

    In 2017, Con­gress­man Ro Khan­na led the effort to ban Azov from receiv­ing U.S. arms and train­ing. But the dam­age has already been done: The research group Belling­cat proved that Azov had already received access to Amer­i­can grenade launch­ers, while a Dai­ly Beast inves­ti­ga­tion showed that US train­ers are unable to pre­vent aid from reach­ing white suprema­cists. And Azov itself had proud­ly post­ed a video of the unit wel­com­ing NATO rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

    (Azov isn’t the only far-right for­ma­tion to get West­ern affir­ma­tion. In Decem­ber 2014, Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al accused the Dnipro‑1 bat­tal­ion of poten­tial war crimes, includ­ing “using star­va­tion of civil­ians as a method of war­fare.” Six months lat­er, Sen­a­tor John McCain vis­it­ed and praised the bat­tal­ion.)

    Par­tic­u­lar­ly con­cern­ing is Azov’s cam­paign to trans­form Ukraine into a hub for transna­tion­al white suprema­cy. The unit has recruit­ed neo-Nazis from Ger­many, the UK, Brazil, Swe­den, and Amer­i­ca; last Octo­ber, the FBI arrest­ed four Cal­i­for­nia white suprema­cists who had alleged­ly received train­ing from Azov. This is a clas­sic exam­ple of blow­back: US sup­port of rad­i­cals abroad ric­o­chet­ing to hit Amer­i­ca.

    Far right ties to gov­ern­ment

    Ukrain­ian police declare admi­ra­tion for Nazi collaborators”—RFE, Feb­ru­ary 13, 2019

    Speak­er of Par­lia­ment Andriy Paru­biy cofound­ed and led two neo-Nazi orga­ni­za­tions: the Social-Nation­al Par­ty of Ukraine (lat­er renamed Svo­bo­da), and Patri­ot of Ukraine, whose mem­bers would even­tu­al­ly form the core of Azov.

    Although Paru­biy left the far right in the ear­ly 2000’s, he hasn’t reject­ed his past. When asked about it in a 2016 inter­view, Paru­biy replied that his “val­ues” haven’t changed. Paru­biy, whose auto­bi­og­ra­phy shows him march­ing with the neo-Nazi wolf­san­gel sym­bol used by Aryan Nations, reg­u­lar­ly meets with Wash­ing­ton think tanks and politi­cians; his neo-Nazi back­ground is ignored or out­right denied.

    Even more dis­turb­ing is the far right’s pen­e­tra­tion of law enforce­ment. Short­ly after Maid­an, the US equipped and trained the new­ly found­ed Nation­al Police, in what was intend­ed to be a hall­mark pro­gram but­tress­ing Ukrain­ian democ­ra­cy.

    The deputy min­is­ter of the Interior—which con­trols the Nation­al Police—is Vadim Troy­an, a vet­er­an of Azov and Patri­ot of Ukraine. In 2014, when Troy­an was being con­sid­ered for police chief of Kiev, Ukrain­ian Jew­ish lead­ers were appalled by his neo-Nazi back­ground. Today, he’s deputy of the depart­ment run­ning US-trained law enforce­ment in the entire nation.

    Ear­li­er this month, RFE report­ed on Nation­al Police lead­er­ship admir­ing Stepan Bandera—a Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor and Fas­cist whose troops par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Holocaust—on social media.

    The fact that Ukraine’s police is pep­pered with far-right sup­port­ers explains why neo-Nazis oper­ate with impuni­ty on the streets.

    State-spon­sored glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors

    Ukrain­ian extrem­ists cel­e­brate Ukrain­ian Nazi SS divisions…in the mid­dle of a major Ukrain­ian city”—Anti-Defama­tion League Direc­tor of Euro­pean Affairs, April 28, 2018

    It’s not just the mil­i­tary and street gangs: Ukraine’s far right has suc­cess­ful­ly hijacked the post-Maid­an gov­ern­ment to impose an intol­er­ant and ultra­na­tion­al­ist cul­ture over the land.

    In 2015, the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment passed leg­is­la­tion mak­ing two WWII paramilitaries—the Orga­ni­za­tion of Ukrain­ian Nation­al­ists (OUN) and the Ukrain­ian Insur­gent Army (UPA)—heroes of Ukraine, and made it a crim­i­nal offense to deny their hero­ism. The OUN had col­lab­o­rat­ed with the Nazis and par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Holo­caust, while the UPA slaugh­tered thou­sands of Jews and 70,000–100,000 Poles on their own voli­tion.

    The gov­ern­ment-fund­ed Ukrain­ian Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry is insti­tu­tion­al­iz­ing the white­wash­ing of Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors. Last sum­mer, the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment fea­tured an exhib­it com­mem­o­rat­ing the OUN’s 1941 procla­ma­tion of coop­er­a­tion with the Third Reich (imag­ine the French gov­ern­ment installing an exhib­it cel­e­brat­ing the Vichy state!).

    Torch­light march­es in hon­or of OUN/UPA lead­ers like Roman Shukhevych (a com­man­der in a Third Reich aux­il­iary bat­tal­ion) are a reg­u­lar fea­ture of the new Ukraine. The recu­per­a­tion even extends to SS Galichi­na, a Ukrain­ian divi­sion of the Waf­fen-SS; the direc­tor of the Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry pro­claimed that the SS fight­ers were “war vic­tims.” The government’s embrace of Ban­dera is not only deplorable, but also extreme­ly divi­sive, con­sid­er­ing the OUN/UPA are reviled in east­ern Ukraine.

    Pre­dictably, the cel­e­bra­tion of Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors has accom­pa­nied a rise in out­right anti-Semi­tism.

    Jews Out!” chant­ed thou­sands dur­ing a Jan­u­ary 2017 march hon­or­ing OUN leader Ban­dera. (The next day the police denied hear­ing any­thing anti-Semit­ic.) That sum­mer, a three-day fes­ti­val cel­e­brat­ing the Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor Shukhevych capped off with the fire­bomb­ing of a syn­a­gogue. In Novem­ber 2017, RFE report­ed Nazi salutes as 20,000 marched in hon­or of the UPA. And last April, hun­dreds marched in L’viv with coor­di­nat­ed Nazi salutes hon­or­ing SS Galichi­na; the march was pro­mot­ed by the L’viv region­al gov­ern­ment.

    The Holo­caust revi­sion­ism is a mul­ti-pronged effort, rang­ing from gov­ern­ment-fund­ed sem­i­nars, brochures, and board games, to the pro­lif­er­a­tion of plaques, stat­ues, and streets renamed after butch­ers of Jews, to far-right chil­dren camps, where youth are incul­cat­ed with ultra­na­tion­al­ist ide­ol­o­gy.

    With­in sev­er­al years, an entire gen­er­a­tion will be indoc­tri­nat­ed to wor­ship Holo­caust per­pe­tra­tors as nation­al heroes.

    Book bans

    No state should be allowed to inter­fere in the writ­ing of his­to­ry.”—British his­to­ri­an Antony Beevor, after his award-win­ning book was banned in Ukraine, The Tele­graph, Jan­u­ary 23, 2018

    Ukraine’s State Com­mit­tee for Tele­vi­sion and Radio Broad­cast­ing is enforc­ing the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Ukraine’s new heroes by ban­ning “anti-Ukrain­ian” lit­er­a­ture that goes against the gov­ern­ment nar­ra­tive. This ide­o­log­i­cal cen­sor­ship includes acclaimed books by West­ern authors.

    In Jan­u­ary 2018, Ukraine made inter­na­tion­al head­lines by ban­ning Stal­in­grad by award-win­ning British his­to­ri­an Antony Beevor because of a sin­gle para­graph about a Ukrain­ian unit mas­sacring 90 Jew­ish chil­dren dur­ing World War II. In Decem­ber, Kiev banned The Book Thieves by Swedish author Anders Rydell (which, iron­i­cal­ly, is about the Nazis’ sup­pres­sion of lit­er­a­ture) because he men­tioned troops loy­al to Symon Petliu­ra (an ear­ly 20th-cen­tu­ry nation­al­ist leader) had slaugh­tered Jews.

    This month, the Ukrain­ian embassy in Wash­ing­ton export­ed this intol­er­ance to Amer­i­ca by brazen­ly demand­ing the Unit­ed States ban a Russ­ian movie from Amer­i­can the­aters. Appar­ent­ly, the bil­lions Wash­ing­ton invest­ed in pro­mot­ing democ­ra­cy in Ukraine have failed to teach Kiev basic con­cepts of free speech.

    Anti-Semi­tism

    “I’m telling you one more time—go to hell, kikes. The Ukrain­ian peo­ple have had it to here with you.”—Security ser­vices reserve gen­er­al Vasi­ly Vovk, May 11, 2017

    Unsur­pris­ing­ly, gov­ern­ment-led glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Holo­caust per­pe­tra­tors was a green light for oth­er forms of anti-Semi­tism. The past three years saw an explo­sion of swastikas and SS runes on city streets, death threats, and van­dal­ism of Holo­caust memo­ri­als, Jew­ish cen­ters, ceme­ter­ies, tombs, and places of wor­ship, all of which led Israel to take the unusu­al step of pub­licly urg­ing Kiev to address the epi­dem­ic.

    Pub­lic offi­cials make anti-Semit­ic threats with no reper­cus­sions. These include: a secu­ri­ty ser­vices gen­er­al promis­ing to elim­i­nate the zhi­di (a slur equiv­a­lent to ‘kikes’); a par­lia­ment deputy going off on an anti-Semit­ic rant on tele­vi­sion; a far-right politi­cian lament­ing Hitler didn’t fin­ish off the Jews; and an ultra­na­tion­al­ist leader vow­ing to cleanse Odessa of zhi­di.

    For the first few years after Maid­an, Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tions large­ly refrained from crit­i­ciz­ing Ukraine, per­haps in the hope Kiev would address the issue on its own. But by 2018, the increas­ing fre­quen­cy of anti-Semit­ic inci­dents led Jew­ish groups to break their silence.

    Last year, the Israeli government’s annu­al report on anti-Semi­tism heav­i­ly fea­tured Ukraine, which had more inci­dents than all post-Sovi­et states com­bined. The World Jew­ish Con­gress, the US Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al Muse­um, and 57 mem­bers of the US Con­gress all vocif­er­ous­ly con­demned Kiev’s Nazi glo­ri­fi­ca­tion and the con­comi­tant anti-Semi­tism.

    Ukrain­ian Jew­ish lead­ers are also speak­ing out. In 2017, the direc­tor of one of Ukraine’s largest Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tions pub­lished a New York Times op-ed urg­ing the West to address Kiev’s white­wash­ing. Last year, 41 Ukrain­ian Jew­ish lead­ers denounced the growth of anti-Semi­tism. That’s espe­cial­ly telling, giv­en that many Ukrain­ian Jew­ish lead­ers sup­port­ed the Maid­an upris­ing.

    None of these con­cerns have been addressed in any mean­ing­ful way.

    Roma pogroms

    “‘They want­ed to kill us’: masked neo-fas­cists strike fear into Ukraine’s Roma.” —The Guardian , August 27, 2018

    Ukraine’s far right has resist­ed car­ry­ing out out­right attacks on Jews; oth­er vul­ner­a­ble groups haven’t been so lucky.

    Last spring, a lethal wave of anti-Roma pogroms swept through Ukraine, with at least six attacks in two months. Footage from the pogroms evokes the 1930s: Armed thugs attack women and chil­dren while raz­ing their camps. At least one man was killed, while oth­ers, includ­ing a child, were stabbed.

    Two gangs behind the attacks—C14 and the Nation­al Druzhi­na—felt com­fort­able enough to proud­ly post pogrom videos on social media. That’s not sur­pris­ing, con­sid­er­ing that the Nation­al Druzhi­na is part of Azov, while the neo-Nazi C14 receives gov­ern­ment fund­ing for “edu­ca­tion­al” pro­grams. Last Octo­ber, C14 leader Ser­hiy Bon­dar was wel­comed at Amer­i­ca House Kyiv, a cen­ter run by the US gov­ern­ment.

    Appeals from inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions and the US embassy fell on deaf ears: Months after the Unit­ed Nations demand­ed Kiev end “sys­tem­at­ic per­se­cu­tion” of the Roma, a human-rights group report­ed C14 were alleged­ly intim­i­dat­ing Roma in a joint patrol with the Kiev police.

    LGBT and Women’s‑rights groups

    “‘It’s even worse than before’: How the ‘Rev­o­lu­tion of Dig­ni­ty’ Failed LGBT Ukraini­ans.”—RFE, Novem­ber 21, 2018

    In 2016, after pres­sure from the US Con­gress, the Kiev gov­ern­ment began pro­vid­ing secu­ri­ty for the annu­al Kiev Pride parade. How­ev­er, this increas­ing­ly looks like a Potemkin affair: two hours of pro­tec­tion, with wide­spread attacks on LGBT indi­vid­u­als and gath­er­ings dur­ing the rest of the year. Nation­al­ist groups have tar­get­ed LGBT meet­ings with impuni­ty, going so far as to shut down an event host­ed by Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al as well as assault a West­ern jour­nal­ist at a trans­gen­der rights ral­ly. Women’s‑rights march­es have also been tar­get­ed, includ­ing brazen attacks in March.

    Attacks on press

    “The Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists con­demns a Ukrain­ian law enforce­ment raid at the Kiev offices of Media Hold­ing Vesti…more than a dozen masked offi­cers ripped open doors with crow­bars, seized prop­er­ty, and fired tear gas in the offices.”—The Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists, Feb­ru­ary 9, 2018

    In May 2016, Myrotvorets, an ultra­na­tion­al­ist web­site with links to the gov­ern­ment, pub­lished the per­son­al data of thou­sands of jour­nal­ists who had obtained accred­i­ta­tion from Rus­sia-backed rebels in east­ern Ukraine. Myrotvorets labeled the jour­nal­ists “ter­ror­ist col­lab­o­ra­tors.”

    A gov­ern­ment-tied web­site declar­ing open sea­son on jour­nal­ists would be dan­ger­ous any­where, but it is espe­cial­ly so in Ukraine, which has a dis­turb­ing track record of jour­nal­ist assas­si­na­tions. This includes Oles Buz­i­na, gunned down in 2015, and Pavel Sheremet, assas­si­nat­ed by car bomb a year lat­er.

    The Myrotvorets dox­ing was denounced by West­ern reporters, the Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists, and ambas­sadors from the G7 nations. In response, Kiev offi­cials, includ­ing Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Arsen Avakov, praised the site: “This is your choice to coop­er­ate with occu­py­ing forces,” Avakov told jour­nal­ists, while post­ing “I Sup­port Myrotvorets” on Face­book. Myrotvorets remains oper­a­tional today.

    Last fall brought anoth­er attack on the media, this time using the courts. The Pros­e­cu­tor General’s office was grant­ed a war­rant to seize records of RFE anti-cor­rup­tion reporter Natal­ie Sedlet­s­ka. An RFE spokes­woman warned that Kiev’s actions cre­at­ed “a chill­ing atmos­phere for jour­nal­ists,” while par­lia­ment deputy Mustafa Nayyem called it “an exam­ple of creep­ing dic­ta­tor­ship.”

    Lan­guage laws

    “[Prime Min­is­ter Arseniy Yat­senyuk] also made a per­son­al appeal to Russ­ian-speak­ing Ukraini­ans, pledg­ing to support…a spe­cial sta­tus to the Russ­ian lan­guage.”—US Sec­re­tary of State John Ker­ry, April 24, 2014

    Ukraine is extra­or­di­nar­i­ly mul­ti­lin­gual: In addi­tion to the mil­lions of Russ­ian-speak­ing east­ern Ukraini­ans, there are areas where Hun­gar­i­an, Roman­ian, and oth­er tongues are preva­lent. These lan­guages were pro­tect­ed by a 2012 region­al-lan­guage law.

    The post-Maid­an gov­ern­ment alarmed Russ­ian-speak­ing Ukraini­ans by attempt­ing to annul that law. The US State Depart­ment and Sec­re­tary of State John Ker­ry sought to assuage fears in 2014 by pledg­ing that Kiev would pro­tect the sta­tus of Russ­ian. Those promis­es came to naught.

    A 2017 law man­dat­ed that sec­ondary edu­ca­tion be con­duct­ed strict­ly in Ukrain­ian, which infu­ri­at­ed Hun­gary, Roma­nia, Bul­gar­ia, and Greece. Sev­er­al regions passed leg­is­la­tion ban­ning the use of Russ­ian in pub­lic life. Quo­tas enforce Ukrain­ian usage on TV and radio. (This would be akin to Wash­ing­ton forc­ing Span­ish-lan­guage media to broad­cast most­ly in Eng­lish.)

    And in Feb­ru­ary 2018, Ukraine’s supreme court struck down the 2012 region­al lan­guage law—the one Ker­ry promised east­ern Ukraini­ans would stay in effect.

    Cur­rent­ly, Kiev is prepar­ing to pass a dra­con­ian law that would man­date the use of Ukrain­ian in most aspects of pub­lic life. It’s anoth­er exam­ple of Kiev alien­at­ing mil­lions of its own cit­i­zens, while claim­ing to embrace West­ern val­ues.

    The price of will­ful blind­ness

    These exam­ples are only a tiny frac­tion of Ukraine’s slide toward intol­er­ance, but they should be enough to point out the obvi­ous: Washington’s deci­sion to ignore the pro­lif­er­a­tion of armed neo-Nazi groups in a high­ly unsta­ble nation only led to them gain­ing more pow­er.

    ...

    In essay after essay, DC for­eign-pol­i­cy heads have denied or cel­e­brat­ed the influ­ence of Ukraine’s far right. (Curi­ous­ly, the same ana­lysts vocif­er­ous­ly denounce ris­ing nation­al­ism in Hun­gary, Poland, and Italy as high­ly dan­ger­ous.) Per­haps think-tankers delud­ed them­selves into think­ing Kiev’s far-right phase would tuck­er itself out. More like­ly, they sim­ply embraced DC’s go-to strat­e­gy of “my enemy’s ene­my is my friend.” Either way, the ram­i­fi­ca­tions stretch far beyond Ukraine.

    America’s back­ing of the Maid­an upris­ing, along with the bil­lions DC sinks into post-Maid­an Kiev, make it clear: Start­ing Feb­ru­ary 2014, Ukraine became Washington’s lat­est democ­ra­cy-spread­ing project. What we per­mit in Ukraine sends a green light to oth­ers.

    By tol­er­at­ing neo-Nazi gangs and bat­tal­ions, state-led Holo­caust dis­tor­tion, and attacks on LGBT and the Roma, the Unit­ed States is telling the rest of Europe: “We’re fine with this.” The implications—especially at a time of a glob­al far-right revival—are pro­found­ly dis­turb­ing.

    ———–

    “Neo-Nazis and the Far Right Are On the March in Ukraine” by Lev Golinkin; The Nation; 02/22/2019

    These sto­ries of Ukraine’s dark nation­al­ism aren’t com­ing out of Moscow; they’re being filed by West­ern media, includ­ing US-fund­ed Radio Free Europe (RFE); Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tions such as the World Jew­ish Con­gress and the Simon Wiesen­thal Cen­ter; and watch­dogs like Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al, Human Rights Watch, and Free­dom House, which issued a joint report warn­ing that Kiev is los­ing the monop­oly on the use of force in the coun­try as far-right gangs oper­ate with impuni­ty.”

    Yes, these sto­ries about the cap­ture of Ukraine by the far right aren’t com­ing out of Rus­sia media. This is all based on West­ern reports. Reports that are sub­se­quent­ly large­ly ignored. Like all the reports about how Ukraine’s mil­i­tary has an offi­cial neo-Nazi for­ma­tion: the Azov Bat­tal­ion. Which was actu­al­ly being trained by the US mil­i­tary at one point. And one of the goals of this offi­cial­ly accept­ed mil­i­tary out­fit is to turn Ukraine into an inter­na­tion­al hub of white suprema­cy:

    ...
    A neo-Nazi bat­tal­ion in the heart of Europe

    ...

    The DC establishment’s stan­dard defense of Kiev is to point out that Ukraine’s far right has a small­er per­cent­age of seats in the par­lia­ment than their coun­ter­parts in places like France. That’s a spu­ri­ous argu­ment: What Ukraine’s far right lacks in polls num­bers, it makes up for with things Marine Le Pen could only dream of—paramilitary units and free rein on the streets.

    Post-Maid­an Ukraine is the world’s only nation to have a neo-Nazi for­ma­tion in its armed forces. The Azov Bat­tal­ion was ini­tial­ly formed out of the neo-Nazi gang Patri­ot of Ukraine. Andriy Bilet­sky, the gang’s leader who became Azov’s com­man­der, once wrote that Ukraine’s mis­sion is to “lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade…against the Semi­te-led Unter­men­schen.” Bilet­sky is now a deputy in Ukraine’s par­lia­ment.

    ...

    In Jan­u­ary 2018, Azov rolled out its Nation­al Druzhi­na street patrol unit whose mem­bers swore per­son­al feal­ty to Bilet­sky and pledged to “restore Ukrain­ian order” to the streets. The Druzhi­na quick­ly dis­tin­guished itself by car­ry­ing out pogroms against the Roma and LGBT orga­ni­za­tions and storm­ing a munic­i­pal coun­cil. Ear­li­er this year, Kiev announced the storm­ing unit will be mon­i­tor­ing polls in next month’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

    ...

    Par­tic­u­lar­ly con­cern­ing is Azov’s cam­paign to trans­form Ukraine into a hub for transna­tion­al white suprema­cy. The unit has recruit­ed neo-Nazis from Ger­many, the UK, Brazil, Swe­den, and Amer­i­ca; last Octo­ber, the FBI arrest­ed four Cal­i­for­nia white suprema­cists who had alleged­ly received train­ing from Azov. This is a clas­sic exam­ple of blow­back: US sup­port of rad­i­cals abroad ric­o­chet­ing to hit Amer­i­ca.
    ...

    Then there’s the sto­ry about how the speak­er of Ukraine’s par­lia­ment, Andriy Paru­biy, found­ed and led mul­ti­ple neo-Nazi orga­ni­za­tion and has nev­er renounced his past. On the con­trary, he declared in 2016 that his “val­ues” haven’t changed at all from that past. And this is one of the fig­ures who fre­quent­ly rep­re­sents Ukraine in oth­er gov­ern­ment cap­i­tals. Like Wash­ing­ton DC. And the deputy min­is­ter of the inte­ri­or (which con­trols the Nation­al Police) is Vadim Troy­an, a vet­er­an of the Azov Bat­tal­ion:

    ...
    Far right ties to gov­ern­ment

    ...

    Speak­er of Par­lia­ment Andriy Paru­biy cofound­ed and led two neo-Nazi orga­ni­za­tions: the Social-Nation­al Par­ty of Ukraine (lat­er renamed Svo­bo­da), and Patri­ot of Ukraine, whose mem­bers would even­tu­al­ly form the core of Azov.

    Although Paru­biy left the far right in the ear­ly 2000’s, he hasn’t reject­ed his past. When asked about it in a 2016 inter­view, Paru­biy replied that his “val­ues” haven’t changed. Paru­biy, whose auto­bi­og­ra­phy shows him march­ing with the neo-Nazi wolf­san­gel sym­bol used by Aryan Nations, reg­u­lar­ly meets with Wash­ing­ton think tanks and politi­cians; his neo-Nazi back­ground is ignored or out­right denied.

    Even more dis­turb­ing is the far right’s pen­e­tra­tion of law enforce­ment. Short­ly after Maid­an, the US equipped and trained the new­ly found­ed Nation­al Police, in what was intend­ed to be a hall­mark pro­gram but­tress­ing Ukrain­ian democ­ra­cy.

    The deputy min­is­ter of the Interior—which con­trols the Nation­al Police—is Vadim Troy­an, a vet­er­an of Azov and Patri­ot of Ukraine. In 2014, when Troy­an was being con­sid­ered for police chief of Kiev, Ukrain­ian Jew­ish lead­ers were appalled by his neo-Nazi back­ground. Today, he’s deputy of the depart­ment run­ning US-trained law enforce­ment in the entire nation.
    ...

    And we can’t for­get all of the sto­ries about the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­men­t’s offi­cial glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors and holo­caust denial. Or the fact that far right torch­light parades are reg­u­lar events now and soon there’s going to be an entire gen­er­a­tion of Ukrain­ian chil­dren will have been indoc­tri­nat­ed in this envi­ron­ment:

    ...
    State-spon­sored glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors

    ...

    It’s not just the mil­i­tary and street gangs: Ukraine’s far right has suc­cess­ful­ly hijacked the post-Maid­an gov­ern­ment to impose an intol­er­ant and ultra­na­tion­al­ist cul­ture over the land.

    In 2015, the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment passed leg­is­la­tion mak­ing two WWII paramilitaries—the Orga­ni­za­tion of Ukrain­ian Nation­al­ists (OUN) and the Ukrain­ian Insur­gent Army (UPA)—heroes of Ukraine, and made it a crim­i­nal offense to deny their hero­ism. The OUN had col­lab­o­rat­ed with the Nazis and par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Holo­caust, while the UPA slaugh­tered thou­sands of Jews and 70,000–100,000 Poles on their own voli­tion.

    The gov­ern­ment-fund­ed Ukrain­ian Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry is insti­tu­tion­al­iz­ing the white­wash­ing of Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors. Last sum­mer, the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment fea­tured an exhib­it com­mem­o­rat­ing the OUN’s 1941 procla­ma­tion of coop­er­a­tion with the Third Reich (imag­ine the French gov­ern­ment installing an exhib­it cel­e­brat­ing the Vichy state!).

    Torch­light march­es in hon­or of OUN/UPA lead­ers like Roman Shukhevych (a com­man­der in a Third Reich aux­il­iary bat­tal­ion) are a reg­u­lar fea­ture of the new Ukraine. The recu­per­a­tion even extends to SS Galichi­na, a Ukrain­ian divi­sion of the Waf­fen-SS; the direc­tor of the Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry pro­claimed that the SS fight­ers were “war vic­tims.” The government’s embrace of Ban­dera is not only deplorable, but also extreme­ly divi­sive, con­sid­er­ing the OUN/UPA are reviled in east­ern Ukraine.

    Pre­dictably, the cel­e­bra­tion of Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors has accom­pa­nied a rise in out­right anti-Semi­tism.

    Jews Out!” chant­ed thou­sands dur­ing a Jan­u­ary 2017 march hon­or­ing OUN leader Ban­dera. (The next day the police denied hear­ing any­thing anti-Semit­ic.) That sum­mer, a three-day fes­ti­val cel­e­brat­ing the Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor Shukhevych capped off with the fire­bomb­ing of a syn­a­gogue. In Novem­ber 2017, RFE report­ed Nazi salutes as 20,000 marched in hon­or of the UPA. And last April, hun­dreds marched in L’viv with coor­di­nat­ed Nazi salutes hon­or­ing SS Galichi­na; the march was pro­mot­ed by the L’viv region­al gov­ern­ment.

    The Holo­caust revi­sion­ism is a mul­ti-pronged effort, rang­ing from gov­ern­ment-fund­ed sem­i­nars, brochures, and board games, to the pro­lif­er­a­tion of plaques, stat­ues, and streets renamed after butch­ers of Jews, to far-right chil­dren camps, where youth are incul­cat­ed with ultra­na­tion­al­ist ide­ol­o­gy.

    With­in sev­er­al years, an entire gen­er­a­tion will be indoc­tri­nat­ed to wor­ship Holo­caust per­pe­tra­tors as nation­al heroes.
    ...

    And as part of that offi­cial gov­ern­ment revi­sion­ism and the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of the Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors who car­ried out the Holo­caust in Ukraine, there’s the offi­cial gov­ern­ment book ban­nings of any books that chal­lenge this new offi­cial his­to­ry. Includ­ing the ban­ning of a book about the Nazis’s sup­pres­sion of lit­er­a­ture because it hap­pened to men­tion Symon Petliu­ra role in the slaugh­ter­ing of Jews. Recall how, back in 2016, Ukraine observed a nation­al minute of silence in hon­or of Petliu­ra on the 90th anniver­sary of his assas­si­na­tion:

    ...
    Book bans

    ...

    Ukraine’s State Com­mit­tee for Tele­vi­sion and Radio Broad­cast­ing is enforc­ing the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Ukraine’s new heroes by ban­ning “anti-Ukrain­ian” lit­er­a­ture that goes against the gov­ern­ment nar­ra­tive. This ide­o­log­i­cal cen­sor­ship includes acclaimed books by West­ern authors.

    In Jan­u­ary 2018, Ukraine made inter­na­tion­al head­lines by ban­ning Stal­in­grad by award-win­ning British his­to­ri­an Antony Beevor because of a sin­gle para­graph about a Ukrain­ian unit mas­sacring 90 Jew­ish chil­dren dur­ing World War II. In Decem­ber, Kiev banned The Book Thieves by Swedish author Anders Rydell (which, iron­i­cal­ly, is about the Nazis’ sup­pres­sion of lit­er­a­ture) because he men­tioned troops loy­al to Symon Petliu­ra (an ear­ly 20th-cen­tu­ry nation­al­ist leader) had slaugh­tered Jews.

    This month, the Ukrain­ian embassy in Wash­ing­ton export­ed this intol­er­ance to Amer­i­ca by brazen­ly demand­ing the Unit­ed States ban a Russ­ian movie from Amer­i­can the­aters. Appar­ent­ly, the bil­lions Wash­ing­ton invest­ed in pro­mot­ing democ­ra­cy in Ukraine have failed to teach Kiev basic con­cepts of free speech.
    ...

    Unsur­pris­ing­ly giv­en the polit­i­cal cli­mate, we find Ukrain­ian pub­lic offi­cials, includ­ing secu­ri­ty offi­cials, repeat­ed­ly mak­ing threats against the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty with no reper­cus­sions:

    ...
    Anti-Semi­tism

    ...

    Unsur­pris­ing­ly, gov­ern­ment-led glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Holo­caust per­pe­tra­tors was a green light for oth­er forms of anti-Semi­tism. The past three years saw an explo­sion of swastikas and SS runes on city streets, death threats, and van­dal­ism of Holo­caust memo­ri­als, Jew­ish cen­ters, ceme­ter­ies, tombs, and places of wor­ship, all of which led Israel to take the unusu­al step of pub­licly urg­ing Kiev to address the epi­dem­ic.

    Pub­lic offi­cials make anti-Semit­ic threats with no reper­cus­sions. These include: a secu­ri­ty ser­vices gen­er­al promis­ing to elim­i­nate the zhi­di (a slur equiv­a­lent to ‘kikes’); a par­lia­ment deputy going off on an anti-Semit­ic rant on tele­vi­sion; a far-right politi­cian lament­ing Hitler didn’t fin­ish off the Jews; and an ultra­na­tion­al­ist leader vow­ing to cleanse Odessa of zhi­di.
    ...

    And there’s the attacks on Roma, the press, the LGBT com­mu­ni­ty, and minor­i­ty lan­guages on top of all of that. And as the arti­cle notes at the end, these exam­ples are only a tiny frac­tion of Ukraine’s slide toward intol­er­ance. And as the arti­cle also note, because this is all hap­pen­ing in the con­text of Ukraine as a ‘democ­ra­cy-spread­ing’ project backed by the US , the mes­sage being sent to gov­ern­ments across the globe (and future gov­ern­ments) is that the US is total­ly cool with all of this:

    ...
    The price of will­ful blind­ness

    These exam­ples are only a tiny frac­tion of Ukraine’s slide toward intol­er­ance, but they should be enough to point out the obvi­ous: Washington’s deci­sion to ignore the pro­lif­er­a­tion of armed neo-Nazi groups in a high­ly unsta­ble nation only led to them gain­ing more pow­er.

    ...

    In essay after essay, DC for­eign-pol­i­cy heads have denied or cel­e­brat­ed the influ­ence of Ukraine’s far right. (Curi­ous­ly, the same ana­lysts vocif­er­ous­ly denounce ris­ing nation­al­ism in Hun­gary, Poland, and Italy as high­ly dan­ger­ous.) Per­haps think-tankers delud­ed them­selves into think­ing Kiev’s far-right phase would tuck­er itself out. More like­ly, they sim­ply embraced DC’s go-to strat­e­gy of “my enemy’s ene­my is my friend.” Either way, the ram­i­fi­ca­tions stretch far beyond Ukraine.

    America’s back­ing of the Maid­an upris­ing, along with the bil­lions DC sinks into post-Maid­an Kiev, make it clear: Start­ing Feb­ru­ary 2014, Ukraine became Washington’s lat­est democ­ra­cy-spread­ing project. What we per­mit in Ukraine sends a green light to oth­ers.

    By tol­er­at­ing neo-Nazi gangs and bat­tal­ions, state-led Holo­caust dis­tor­tion, and attacks on LGBT and the Roma, the Unit­ed States is telling the rest of Europe: “We’re fine with this.” The implications—especially at a time of a glob­al far-right revival—are pro­found­ly dis­turb­ing.
    ...

    “By tol­er­at­ing neo-Nazi gangs and bat­tal­ions, state-led Holo­caust dis­tor­tion, and attacks on LGBT and the Roma, the Unit­ed States is telling the rest of Europe: “We’re fine with this.” The implications—especially at a time of a glob­al far-right revival—are pro­found­ly dis­turb­ing.”

    And don’t for­get that is isn’t just the US implic­it­ly telling Europe that “we’re fine with this.” The EU has large­ly been fine with it too. What’s hap­pened in Ukraine real­ly does have the West­’s col­lec­tive stamp of approval. A stamp of approval in the form of a col­lec­tive silence about what has actu­al­ly tran­spired in Ukraine over the last 5 years. In oth­er words, the Ukrain­ian his­tor­i­cal revi­sion­ism tak­ing place today isn’t just tak­ing place in Ukraine and includes the ongo­ing revi­sion of some very recent his­to­ry.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 26, 2019, 5:27 pm
  11. Haaretz had a recent piece on the Azov Bat­tal­ion that high­lights why the white­wash­ing of the nature of this neo-Nazi group is so dan­ger­ous: The Haaretz reporter trav­eled to a buld­ing in Kiev called the Cos­sack House and asked the peo­ple there about how Azov wants to be seen by the world. The inter­view­er spoke with Azov’s inter­na­tion­al sec­re­tary, Ole­na Semenya­ka. Recall how Semenya­ka was pre­vi­ous­ly a spokesper­son for Right Sec­tor and has been described as a lead­ing fig­ure with­in the fas­cist, neo-Nazi scene in East­ern Europe and an impor­tant voice with­in the Mil­i­tant Zone and Nation­al Corps orga­ni­za­tions and the Pan-Euro­pean Recon­quista move­ment. Semenya­ka, of course, insists that Azov is not neo-Nazi at all and is mere­ly “nation­al­ist”. She also claims that instances of Azov mem­bers – includ­ing her­self – giv­ing Hitler salutes and being pic­tured with neo-Nazi imagery aren’t what they seem. Instead, she claims it was just “trolling” in order to counter Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da, an expla­na­tion is itself obvi­ous trolling. When you say some­thing in a man­ner that’s intend­ed to be tak­en seri­ous­ly even though peo­ple can’t pos­si­bly take it seri­ous­ly that’s trolling and that’s exact­ly what Semanya­ka appears to be doing. She also claimed that the use of neo-Nazi or far right imagery by Azov end­ed a while ago which, again, is obvi­ous trolling giv­en that their group’s sym­bol was used by the Waf­fen SS.

    Adding to the troll­ish nature of Semenyaka’s absur­dist denials is the fact that Semenya­ka is sched­uled for mul­ti­ple talks at var­i­ous far right gath­er­ings this year. But Semenyaka’s trolling is also clear­ly intend­ed to be tak­en seri­ous­ly by West­ern audi­ences. And that’s part of why the inter­na­tion­al white­wash­ing of the true nature of Azov is so obscene: It’s treat­ing bla­tant neo-Nazi trolling seri­ous­ly and at face val­ue:

    Haaretz

    Inside the Extrem­ist Group That Dreams of Rul­ing Ukraine

    The Azov move­ment insists it is not neo-Nazi, yet its mem­bers have been cap­tured giv­ing Hitler salutes and being vir­u­lent­ly anti-Semit­ic. A trip to the group’s social cen­ter in Kiev reveals its heart of dark­ness

    Michael Col­borne
    Feb 23, 2019 5:42 PM

    KIEV – You can find it just off Maid­an Neza­lezh­nos­ti, the city’s main square. A for­mer hotel, three sto­ries high, its thick met­al front door embla­zoned with a sym­bol the occu­pants con­tin­ue to deny is the one used by sev­er­al Waf­fen SS divi­sions and U.S. white suprema­cist ter­ror group Aryan Nations (the Wolf­san­gel).

    It’s called Cos­sack House, a social cen­ter for Ukraine’s far-right Azov move­ment.

    Through the cold, dark lob­by is a site “to devel­op your­self,” as the group’s Face­book page declares, “a place where you can express your­self!” There’s a gym, a shop that sells far-right music and cloth­ing, an art stu­dio and even a mas­sage room. Upstairs, over­look­ing a court­yard that hosts con­certs dur­ing less snowy times of year, is a lit­er­a­ture club with a class­room and small library.

    It is here where Haaretz heard first­hand from the movement’s mem­bers about what they’re up to, and how they like – and don’t like – to be dis­cussed.

    “We have always been dis­sat­is­fied by the way West­ern media rep­re­sent our move­ment,” Azov’s inter­na­tion­al sec­re­tary, Ole­na Semenya­ka, tells Haaretz. “They label us as far-right, some­times as a neo-Nazi move­ment,” she says. “Of course that’s a mis­con­cep­tion. We are new nation­al­ists.”

    But these “new nation­al­ists” seem to act an awful lot like the old ones. They con­tin­ue to form inter­na­tion­al con­nec­tions with open anti-Semi­tes and Nazi sym­pa­thiz­ers. They pro­mote and encour­age the works of vir­u­lent­ly anti-Semit­ic Nazi fig­ures. They make Hitler salutes and “Sieg Heil” chants behind closed doors. Mem­bers even muse that some Jews would not be allowed to stay in Ukraine if they ever seized pow­er.

    Take a clos­er look at the Azov move­ment and what it has been doing – and plans to do – in Ukraine and beyond, and it becomes clear: It is much more like the Nazi-friend­ly, bud­ding extrem­ist group its PR-savvy lead­ers are try­ing to con­vince the world it isn’t.

    Hired mus­cle

    The Azov Bat­tal­ion was formed in 2014 in the wake of Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s force­ful annex­a­tion of Crimea and inva­sion of east­ern Ukraine with Russ­ian-led proxy forces. With Ukraine’s army lack­ing fire­pow­er and in tat­ters, Azov quick­ly earned a rep­u­ta­tion as one of the most com­mit­ted fight­ing forces on the Ukrain­ian side. But it also became known as a place where self-described neo-Nazis from home and abroad had been wel­comed into the fold.

    Almost five years on, Azov’s influ­ence in Ukraine has only grown. The orig­i­nal bat­tal­ion is now an offi­cial Ukrain­ian Nation­al Guard for­ma­tion. In 2016, Azov formed a polit­i­cal par­ty, the Nation­al Corps, head­ed by Azov fight­er (and for­mer head of the neo-Nazi Patri­ot of Ukraine orga­ni­za­tion) Andriy Bilet­sky, though the par­ty bare­ly reg­is­ters in polls. And last year, the Azov move­ment made waves with the intro­duc­tion of the Nation­al Mili­tia – a street force that Semenya­ka described as an “affil­i­at­ed para­mil­i­tary struc­ture” in a Jan­u­ary Face­book post.

    The Azov move­ment, observers tell Haaretz, has ben­e­fit­ed from its close rela­tion­ship with Arsen Avakov, the country’s inte­ri­or min­is­ter and arguably Ukraine’s sec­ond-most pow­er­ful man. He has con­nec­tions with Bilet­sky and oth­er Azov fig­ures dat­ing back to his time as region­al gov­er­nor in Kharkiv (Ukraine’s sec­ond-largest city), when Biletsky’s Patri­ot of Ukraine orga­ni­za­tion coop­er­at­ed with the local admin­is­tra­tion, act­ing as mus­cle in busi­ness and polit­i­cal dis­putes.

    When Avakov became inte­ri­or min­is­ter in 2014, he also became Azov’s chief polit­i­cal patron. Under his watch, for­mer Patri­ot of Ukraine asso­ciates have found them­selves in posi­tions of pow­er, like the cur­rent deputy min­is­ter of inter­nal affairs, Vadym Troy­an.

    ...

    But at Cos­sack House, this isn’t the image Azov wants to paint of itself. Semenya­ka describes the move­ment as try­ing to build “a state with­in the state,” pro­vid­ing a num­ber of ser­vices to peo­ple in a coun­try where, plagued by pover­ty and a still-hot war with Rus­sia, the gov­ern­ment isn’t always able to step in.

    So Azov tries to do it all. It pub­lish­es a month­ly news­pa­per, runs children’s camps (some with Ukrain­ian state help), pro­vides ser­vices for vet­er­ans and gen­er­al­ly does every­thing it can to show Ukraini­ans that it is a force for good.

    “It’s a way to over­come this psy­cho­log­i­cal resis­tance to nation­al­ist, far-right ideas” in Ukrain­ian soci­ety, says Semenya­ka.

    But it’s more than that, say some observers. “Azov is try­ing to monop­o­lize the whole nation­al­ist field,” says Volodymyr Ishchenko, a soci­ol­o­gist and lec­tur­er at Kiev Poly­tech­nic Insti­tute.

    “They’re build­ing an all-inclu­sive infra­struc­ture, like in the 1920s and ’30s,” he adds, ref­er­enc­ing the rise of the Nazis in Ger­many.

    That’s exact­ly the image Azov doesn’t want to project. Semenya­ka rejects any sug­ges­tion that Azov has any Nazi-sym­pa­thet­ic lean­ings or that its grow­ing move­ment is a threat to Ukraine’s minori­ties, includ­ing Jews.

    Ser­hiy Zaikovsky, an Azov mem­ber and lit­er­a­ture club orga­niz­er whom Haaretz met along­side Semenya­ka, says the move­ment even has Jew­ish mem­bers. Yet his lit­er­a­ture club fea­tures slick lit­tle post­cards for sale, brand­ed in the club’s black-and-red col­or scheme (Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist col­ors), bear­ing the names and styl­ized por­traits of authors and fig­ures Azov thinks Ukraini­ans – espe­cial­ly young Ukraini­ans – should know more about.

    For exam­ple, there’s Cor­neliu Codreanu, leader of the fas­cist Iron Guard in Roma­nia – whom one his­to­ri­an dubbed “an obses­sive anti-Semi­te” who insti­gat­ed pogroms across Roma­nia in the ’30s. Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, a French fas­cist and Vichy col­lab­o­ra­tor, is there along­side Léon Degrelle, a Bel­gian Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor who escaped the Allies and stayed active in neo-Nazi cir­cles in Franco’s Spain.

    “These are fas­cist icons,” Prof. Matthew Feld­man, direc­tor of the Cen­tre for the Analy­sis of the Rad­i­cal Right, tells Haaretz. “If those draw­ing upon these fig­ures wish to argue they are not Nazi sym­pa­thiz­ers, then they ought not to sym­pa­thize with out­right Nazis. It makes those claims look ridicu­lous,” adds Feld­man, a spe­cial­ist on fas­cist ide­ol­o­gy and the far right in Europe.

    Ques­tion­able friends

    Azov has made some ques­tion­able friends abroad as well. In one of a num­ber of inter­na­tion­al trips this spring, Semenya­ka her­self is sched­uled to appear in March at the far-right Scan­dza Forum in Swe­den along­side fig­ures like Mark Col­lett, a for­mer activist for the neo-Nazi British Nation­al Par­ty who once described him­self on video as a “Nazi sym­pa­thiz­er.” He has also tak­en to YouTube to argue that there’s a Jew­ish con­spir­a­cy to get non-Jew­ish white men addict­ed to pornog­ra­phy.

    A week after the Scan­dza Forum, Semenya­ka is sched­uled to speak along­side Amer­i­can psy­chol­o­gist Kevin Mac­Don­ald, who has described anti-Semi­tism as a “ratio­nal” response to Judaism. The South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter has called him “the neo-Nazi movement’s favorite aca­d­e­m­ic.”

    But these kinds of con­nec­tions aren’t new for Azov. Amer­i­can white nation­al­ist Greg John­son spoke at an Azov con­fer­ence in Kiev last Octo­ber and will also be at the Scan­dza Forum. Back in 2014, he said that “white nation­al­ism is inescapably anti-Semit­ic.” Hen­drik Möbus, founder of the neo-Nazi band Absurd, spoke at anoth­er Azov event in Decem­ber, while Fró­di Mid­jord, a for­mer mem­ber of Swe­den’s Nation­al Social­ist Front, has also spo­ken at Azov con­fer­ences. Mid­jord is also a key orga­niz­er of the Scan­dza Forum.

    Semenya­ka her­self is appear­ing at an event this week­end just out­side of Dres­den – around the time of year neo-Nazis reg­u­lar­ly com­mem­o­rate vic­tims of the Feb­ru­ary 1945 bomb­ings there – host­ed by Germany’s ultra­na­tion­al­ist Nation­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty of Ger­many, along­side a con­cert by a Ger­man neo-Nazi band.

    Even though these friend­ships and con­nec­tions are pub­lic knowl­edge, Semenya­ka rejects accu­sa­tions of neo-Nazism, and even argues that instances of Azov mem­bers – includ­ing her­self – giv­ing Hitler salutes and being pic­tured with neo-Nazi imagery aren’t what they seem.

    She says the use of what she calls “rad­i­cal imagery” in the ear­ly stages of the 2014 war was mere­ly “trolling,” hit­ting back at Rus­sia in response to mes­sages from Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da organs about all Ukraini­ans and their gov­ern­ment being Nazis.

    This isn’t around much any­more, claims Semenya­ka. The use of neo-Nazi or far-right imagery “van­ished quite quick­ly, because when you have a chance to cre­ate his­to­ry your­self, you can­not be just like a bad car­i­ca­ture,” she says.

    But at an Azov-affil­i­at­ed neo-Nazi con­cert in Kiev in Decem­ber – orga­nized by the Mil­i­tant Zone label that has its brick-and-mor­tar store in Azov’s Cos­sack House – the neo-Nazi imagery, car­i­ca­ture or not, was on open dis­play. Haaretz found mul­ti­ple pic­tures and videos online of fans giv­ing Hitler salutes and shout­ing “Sieg Heil” at the con­cert, Many were also wear­ing clothes embla­zoned with far-right imagery, includ­ing swastikas.

    The con­cert fea­tured neo-Nazi bands from across East­ern and West­ern Europe, includ­ing Der Stürmer – whose songs include “Dawn­ing Israel’s Perdi­tion” and “Piles of Pig­heads in the Syn­a­gogue.” It also fea­tured a Russ­ian-Ukrain­ian band head­ed by Alex­ey Lyovkin, a Russ­ian neo-Nazi who came to Ukraine to fight for Azov in 2014.

    “Ukraine is now the only place where ultra-right forces have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get togeth­er,” Lyovkin con­fi­dent­ly told an Ital­ian jour­nal­ist in Jan­u­ary 2018. “I think our move­ment can change the future of Europe.”

    Blam­ing Israel

    The Azov movement’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives also sing a dif­fer­ent tune to their friends than to for­eign jour­nal­ists. Last year, Semenya­ka gave an inter­view to the Nordic Resis­tance Move­ment – a neo-Nazi move­ment now banned in Fin­land – in which she said Israel was respon­si­ble for the refugee influx in Europe and lament­ed that “hav­ing had a minor­i­ty of Jews involved with­in our nation­al­ist polit­i­cal sphere has dam­aged our rep­u­ta­tion.” She also said that if Azov ever came to pow­er, Jews with ties to inter­na­tion­al cap­i­tal “would not be allowed to stay” in Ukraine.

    But there’s no chance of Azov gain­ing pow­er legit­i­mate­ly any­time soon. Nation­al Corps leader Bilet­sky announced in late Jan­u­ary he won’t be run­ning in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion at the end of March; polls sug­gest he would have been lucky to get much more than 1 per­cent if he’d stayed in the race. The par­lia­men­tary elec­tion is in Octo­ber and the Nation­al Corps, despite pledg­ing to focus its ener­gies on that par­tic­u­lar race, is unlike­ly to get near the 5 per­cent thresh­old required to gain rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

    This doesn’t seem to wor­ry Azov. Semenya­ka tells Haaretz it’s OK that this year’s elec­tions won’t see the Nation­al Corps get remote­ly close to sweep­ing into pow­er. “Our par­tic­i­pa­tion in elec­tions is aimed at increas­ing our rec­og­niz­abil­i­ty in soci­ety,” she explains.

    But would Azov even need to do well in an elec­tion to gain con­trol? There’s not about to be dra­mat­ic Azov-led coup d’état in Ukraine (even the most crit­i­cal observers of the country’s far right aren’t con­vinced the move­ment has the resources to make it hap­pen any­time soon). Still, it hasn’t pre­vent­ed Azov’s lead­ing lights from talk­ing a good game to their friends or hid­ing their ambi­tions – real­is­tic or not – to take over Ukraine bit by bit.

    “We are on the march to pow­er,” Semenya­ka bragged to the neo-Nazi Nordic Resis­tance Move­ment last year. “And we will either have to get there by par­lia­ment or by oth­er means.”

    ———

    “Inside the Extrem­ist Group That Dreams of Rul­ing Ukraine” by Michael Col­borne; Haaretz; 02/23/2019

    “Take a clos­er look at the Azov move­ment and what it has been doing – and plans to do – in Ukraine and beyond, and it becomes clear: It is much more like the Nazi-friend­ly, bud­ding extrem­ist group its PR-savvy lead­ers are try­ing to con­vince the world it isn’t.”

    It is what its PR-savvy lead­ers are try­ing to con­vince the world it isn’t. That’s a pret­ty good way to describe the Azov move­ment and is exem­pli­fied by its inter­na­tion­al sec­re­tary, Ole­na Semenya­ka. She claims the group is sim­ply a “new nation­al­ist” move­ment, not a bunch of neo-Nazis. And yet these “new nation­al­ist” sure do act exact­ly like old Nazis, includ­ing Hitler salutes and Seig Heil chants:

    ...
    “We have always been dis­sat­is­fied by the way West­ern media rep­re­sent our move­ment,” Azov’s inter­na­tion­al sec­re­tary, Ole­na Semenya­ka, tells Haaretz. “They label us as far-right, some­times as a neo-Nazi move­ment,” she says. “Of course that’s a mis­con­cep­tion. We are new nation­al­ists.”

    But these “new nation­al­ists” seem to act an awful lot like the old ones. They con­tin­ue to form inter­na­tion­al con­nec­tions with open anti-Semi­tes and Nazi sym­pa­thiz­ers. They pro­mote and encour­age the works of vir­u­lent­ly anti-Semit­ic Nazi fig­ures. They make Hitler salutes and “Sieg Heil” chants behind closed doors. Mem­bers even muse that some Jews would not be allowed to stay in Ukraine if they ever seized pow­er.
    ...

    Semenya­ka even gave an inter­view to a Finnish neo-Nazi move­ment last year where she blamed Israel for Euro­pea’s refugee cri­sis and declared that, if Azov ever came to pow­er, Jews with ties to inter­na­tion­al cap­i­tal “would not be allowed to stay” in Ukraine. This is the woman tasked with con­vinc­ing the world that Azov has noth­ing to do with Nazism:

    ...
    Blam­ing Israel

    The Azov movement’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives also sing a dif­fer­ent tune to their friends than to for­eign jour­nal­ists. Last year, Semenya­ka gave an inter­view to the Nordic Resis­tance Move­ment – a neo-Nazi move­ment now banned in Fin­land – in which she said Israel was respon­si­ble for the refugee influx in Europe and lament­ed that “hav­ing had a minor­i­ty of Jews involved with­in our nation­al­ist polit­i­cal sphere has dam­aged our rep­u­ta­tion.” She also said that if Azov ever came to pow­er, Jews with ties to inter­na­tion­al cap­i­tal “would not be allowed to stay” in Ukraine.
    ...

    But Semenya­ka wants to assure us that the group isn’t anti-Semit­ic or has any neo-Nazi lean­ing at all. And dur­ing this same inter­view with Haaretz, the Azov lit­er­a­ture club orga­niz­er met with the reporter and showed the post­cards the group has for sale. They hap­pen to be post­cards of sig­nif­i­cant Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors:

    ...
    But at Cos­sack House, this isn’t the image Azov wants to paint of itself. Semenya­ka describes the move­ment as try­ing to build “a state with­in the state,” pro­vid­ing a num­ber of ser­vices to peo­ple in a coun­try where, plagued by pover­ty and a still-hot war with Rus­sia, the gov­ern­ment isn’t always able to step in.

    So Azov tries to do it all. It pub­lish­es a month­ly news­pa­per, runs children’s camps (some with Ukrain­ian state help), pro­vides ser­vices for vet­er­ans and gen­er­al­ly does every­thing it can to show Ukraini­ans that it is a force for good.

    “It’s a way to over­come this psy­cho­log­i­cal resis­tance to nation­al­ist, far-right ideas” in Ukrain­ian soci­ety, says Semenya­ka.

    But it’s more than that, say some observers. “Azov is try­ing to monop­o­lize the whole nation­al­ist field,” says Volodymyr Ishchenko, a soci­ol­o­gist and lec­tur­er at Kiev Poly­tech­nic Insti­tute.

    “They’re build­ing an all-inclu­sive infra­struc­ture, like in the 1920s and ’30s,” he adds, ref­er­enc­ing the rise of the Nazis in Ger­many.

    That’s exact­ly the image Azov doesn’t want to project. Semenya­ka rejects any sug­ges­tion that Azov has any Nazi-sym­pa­thet­ic lean­ings or that its grow­ing move­ment is a threat to Ukraine’s minori­ties, includ­ing Jews.

    Ser­hiy Zaikovsky, an Azov mem­ber and lit­er­a­ture club orga­niz­er whom Haaretz met along­side Semenya­ka, says the move­ment even has Jew­ish mem­bers. Yet his lit­er­a­ture club fea­tures slick lit­tle post­cards for sale, brand­ed in the club’s black-and-red col­or scheme (Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist col­ors), bear­ing the names and styl­ized por­traits of authors and fig­ures Azov thinks Ukraini­ans – espe­cial­ly young Ukraini­ans – should know more about.

    For exam­ple, there’s Cor­neliu Codreanu, leader of the fas­cist Iron Guard in Roma­nia – whom one his­to­ri­an dubbed “an obses­sive anti-Semi­te” who insti­gat­ed pogroms across Roma­nia in the ’30s. Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, a French fas­cist and Vichy col­lab­o­ra­tor, is there along­side Léon Degrelle, a Bel­gian Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor who escaped the Allies and stayed active in neo-Nazi cir­cles in Franco’s Spain.

    “These are fas­cist icons,” Prof. Matthew Feld­man, direc­tor of the Cen­tre for the Analy­sis of the Rad­i­cal Right, tells Haaretz. “If those draw­ing upon these fig­ures wish to argue they are not Nazi sym­pa­thiz­ers, then they ought not to sym­pa­thize with out­right Nazis. It makes those claims look ridicu­lous,” adds Feld­man, a spe­cial­ist on fas­cist ide­ol­o­gy and the far right in Europe.
    ...

    Semenya­ka her­self is already sched­uled to speak at a num­ber of far right events this year. But she assured the Haaretz reporter that all of these bla­tant exam­ples of neo-Nazi behav­ior was just trolling and in the past:

    ...
    Ques­tion­able friends

    Azov has made some ques­tion­able friends abroad as well. In one of a num­ber of inter­na­tion­al trips this spring, Semenya­ka her­self is sched­uled to appear in March at the far-right Scan­dza Forum in Swe­den along­side fig­ures like Mark Col­lett, a for­mer activist for the neo-Nazi British Nation­al Par­ty who once described him­self on video as a “Nazi sym­pa­thiz­er.” He has also tak­en to YouTube to argue that there’s a Jew­ish con­spir­a­cy to get non-Jew­ish white men addict­ed to pornog­ra­phy.

    A week after the Scan­dza Forum, Semenya­ka is sched­uled to speak along­side Amer­i­can psy­chol­o­gist Kevin Mac­Don­ald, who has described anti-Semi­tism as a “ratio­nal” response to Judaism. The South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter has called him “the neo-Nazi movement’s favorite aca­d­e­m­ic.”

    But these kinds of con­nec­tions aren’t new for Azov. Amer­i­can white nation­al­ist Greg John­son spoke at an Azov con­fer­ence in Kiev last Octo­ber and will also be at the Scan­dza Forum. Back in 2014, he said that “white nation­al­ism is inescapably anti-Semit­ic.” Hen­drik Möbus, founder of the neo-Nazi band Absurd, spoke at anoth­er Azov event in Decem­ber, while Fró­di Mid­jord, a for­mer mem­ber of Swe­den’s Nation­al Social­ist Front, has also spo­ken at Azov con­fer­ences. Mid­jord is also a key orga­niz­er of the Scan­dza Forum.

    Semenya­ka her­self is appear­ing at an event this week­end just out­side of Dres­den – around the time of year neo-Nazis reg­u­lar­ly com­mem­o­rate vic­tims of the Feb­ru­ary 1945 bomb­ings there – host­ed by Germany’s ultra­na­tion­al­ist Nation­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty of Ger­many, along­side a con­cert by a Ger­man neo-Nazi band.

    Even though these friend­ships and con­nec­tions are pub­lic knowl­edge, Semenya­ka rejects accu­sa­tions of neo-Nazism, and even argues that instances of Azov mem­bers – includ­ing her­self – giv­ing Hitler salutes and being pic­tured with neo-Nazi imagery aren’t what they seem.

    She says the use of what she calls “rad­i­cal imagery” in the ear­ly stages of the 2014 war was mere­ly “trolling,” hit­ting back at Rus­sia in response to mes­sages from Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da organs about all Ukraini­ans and their gov­ern­ment being Nazis.

    This isn’t around much any­more, claims Semenya­ka. The use of neo-Nazi or far-right imagery “van­ished quite quick­ly, because when you have a chance to cre­ate his­to­ry your­self, you can­not be just like a bad car­i­ca­ture,” she says.
    ...

    “She says the use of what she calls “rad­i­cal imagery” in the ear­ly stages of the 2014 war was mere­ly “trolling,” hit­ting back at Rus­sia in response to mes­sages from Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da organs about all Ukraini­ans and their gov­ern­ment being Nazis.”

    That’s some pret­ty top notch trolling: neo-Nazis claim­ing their bla­tant neo-Nazi behav­ior, which is ongo­ing, was actu­al­ly just trolling and in the past.

    But Semenyaka’s troll­ish expla­na­tion isn’t sim­ply intend­ed to be seen as trolling. Yes, it’s clear­ly trolling to inter­na­tion­al far right audi­ences. Real Nazis must find Azov’s pub­lic face a giant hilar­i­ous joke and are no doubt amused to no end when­ev­er Azov is described in the media as sim­ply a ‘nation­al­ist’ group. But this trolling that is in no way going to be tak­en seri­ous­ly by fel­low neo-Nazi is intend­ed to be tak­en com­plete­ly seri­ous­ly by West­ern audi­ences. Azov real­ly does want to trick as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble into think­ing this isn’t a neo-Nazi group but mere­ly a ‘nation­al­ist’ move­ment. So remem­ber, the next time you read about Azov char­ac­ter­ized as mere­ly a ‘nation­al­ist’ move­ment, some­where a Nazi is snick­er­ing.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 6, 2019, 4:11 pm
  12. Check out Ukraine’s new col­lec­tion of poll-watch­ers for the upcom­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tion on March 31st: Azov Bat­tal­ion. Or, rather, Azov’s street vig­i­lante off­shoot, the Nation­al Mili­tia. They’ve seri­ous­ly been grant­ed per­mis­sion by the Cen­tral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion to offi­cial­ly mon­i­tor the elec­tions.

    But the elec­tion com­mis­sion is appar­ent­ly rethink­ing that deci­sion fol­low­ing Nation­al Mili­ti­a’s the threats of vio­lence. Accord­ing to Nation­al Mili­ti­a’s spokesman, Ihor Vdovin, the group will fol­low the instruc­tions of its com­man­der, Ihor Mikhailenko, “if law enforcers turn a blind eye to out­right vio­la­tions and don’t want to doc­u­ment them.” So what were Mikahilenko’s instruc­tions? “If we need to punch some­one in the face in the name of jus­tice, we will do this with­out hes­i­ta­tion.” Yep, the com­man­der of the Nation­al Mili­tia is already open­ly declar­ing that the group’s mem­bers will punch peo­ple if they see elec­tion vio­la­tions. Which is obvi­ous­ly attempt­ed open intim­i­da­tion of the elec­torate. Mem­bers of the Roma or LGBT com­mu­ni­ty are going to be a lot less like­ly to vote if they see one of the peo­ple who pre­vi­ous­ly vio­lent­ly attacked them stand­ing there as a poll mon­i­tor. And that’s all why the elec­tion com­mis­sion is rethink­ing the grant­i­ng of Nation­al Mili­tia this observers sta­tus. Rethink­ing, but not actu­al­ly rescind­ing.

    It’s all a pret­ty big exam­ple of why the rel­a­tive lack of elec­toral suc­cess­es for the Ukrain­ian far right aren’t an accu­rate reflec­tion of the grow­ing pow­er of these groups. For starters, part of the rea­son for the lack of elec­toral suc­cess of the far right par­ties is the suc­cess­ful co-opt­ing of their agen­da by the rest of the more main­stream par­ties. And that main­stream co-opt­ing of the far right includes moves like dep­u­tiz­ing Nation­al Mili­tia and giv­ing them elec­tion observ­er pow­ers. In addi­tion, as the arti­cle notes, while Azov’s polit­i­cal wing, Nation­al Corps, isn’t win­ning over the sup­port of the broad­er elec­torate (polls put Nation­al Corps sup­port at around 1 per­cent), but its slick­ly pro­duced videos are win­ning over grow­ing num­bers of young men to the far right cause. Recall how Nation­al Corps advo­cates that Ukraine rearm itself with nuclear weapons.

    So Azov’s Nation­al Corps may not be win­ning elec­tions, but win­ning elec­tions isn’t real­ly their path to pow­er. Grow­ing in num­bers and rely­ing on a mix of naked shows of force and threats of vio­lence is Azov’s path to pow­er. And that strat­e­gy is clear­ly work­ing, as evi­denced by the fact that they’re cur­rent­ly empow­ered to mon­i­tor elec­tions despite their inabil­i­ty to win them:

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty

    Dep­u­tized As Elec­tion Mon­i­tors, Ukrain­ian Ultra­na­tion­al­ists ‘Ready To Punch’ Vio­la­tors

    March 07, 2019 16:20 GMT
    By Christo­pher Miller

    KYIV — They patrol the streets of the Ukrain­ian cap­i­tal in match­ing urban cam­ou­flage and march in lock­step through Kyiv with torch­es.

    They attack minor­i­ty groups, includ­ing Roma and LGBT peo­ple. And some of them have trained with vis­it­ing Amer­i­can white suprema­cists.

    They are the ultra­na­tion­al­ist Nation­al Mili­tia, street vig­i­lantes with roots in the bat­tle-test­ed Azov Bat­tal­ion that emerged to defend Ukraine against Rus­sia-backed sep­a­ratists but was also accused of pos­si­ble war crimes and neo-Nazi sym­pa­thies.

    Yet despite the con­tro­ver­sy sur­round­ing it, the Nation­al Mili­tia was grant­ed per­mis­sion by the Cen­tral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion to offi­cial­ly mon­i­tor Ukraine’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion on March 31.

    Now the com­mis­sion appears to be rethink­ing that deci­sion after the group’s spokesman warned that its mem­bers will take mat­ters into their own hands and use force in instances where law enforce­ment “fails” to stop elec­tion fraud.

    “If law enforcers turn a blind eye to out­right vio­la­tions and don’t want to doc­u­ment them,” spokesman Ihor Vdovin vowed on March 6, the group will fol­low the instruc­tions of its com­man­der, Ihor Mikhailenko, who wrote on Telegram, “If we need to punch some­one in the face in the name of jus­tice, we will do this with­out hes­i­ta­tion.”

    ‘Only Police Can Use Force’

    That call prompt­ed the elec­tion com­mis­sion to appeal to the Ukrain­ian Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice (SBU) to assess the seri­ous­ness of the threat. And while it did­n’t threat­en to revoke the Nation­al Mili­ti­a’s mon­i­tor­ing author­i­ty, the com­mis­sion said it con­sid­ers vio­lence “inad­mis­si­ble.”

    So far, the SBU has not com­ment­ed on the mat­ter.

    ...

    Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Arsen Avakov was quick to respond, say­ing the right to use force belongs to the police.

    “Nei­ther vol­un­teer squads nor any oth­er orga­ni­za­tion can [use force], and [they] will not deter­mine the sit­u­a­tion by force,” Avakov said in his state­ment. “Only coop­er­a­tion and appeal to the legal forces of law and order are accept­able.”

    He warned that “any attempts to inter­vene in the elec­toral process will be firm­ly and, if nec­es­sary, harsh­ly sup­pressed.”

    But it is unclear whether the pledge to keep the Nation­al Mili­tia and oth­er groups in check will con­vince the inte­ri­or min­is­ter’s crit­ics, who have in the past described Avakov as a “far-right sym­pa­thiz­er” with “close ties” to some of the Azov vet­er­ans and com­man­ders.

    The Nation­al Mili­ti­a’s ranks num­ber in the low thou­sands, nation­al­ly.

    In torch­light march­es and cer­e­monies as recent as March 3 (below), its mem­bers have sworn an oath to cleanse the streets of ille­gal alco­hol, drug traf­fick­ers, and ille­gal gam­bling estab­lish­ments.

    But minor­i­ty groups have seem­ing­ly been a favorite tar­get, and the group appears at times to have act­ed with impuni­ty.

    On June 7, Nation­al Mili­tia mem­bers used axes and ham­mers to destroy a Romany camp in Kyiv’s Holosiyivskiy Park. None of them faced charges for the attack, which sent women and chil­dren scram­bling to escape the vio­lence.

    Under a spe­cial agree­ment with the gov­ern­ment, the Nation­al Mili­tia enjoys many of the same rights as police offi­cers, although its mem­bers may not car­ry arms. Still, the group — which includes sev­er­al open­ly neo-Nazi mem­bers tat­tooed with swastikas and SS bolts — often resorts to vio­lence and has been known to inter­rupt city gov­ern­ment meet­ings to intim­i­date coun­cil mem­bers into sup­port­ing nation­al­ist caus­es.

    Inde­pen­dent polls show only around 1 per­cent of Ukraini­ans sup­port Azov’s polit­i­cal wing, the Nation­al Corps.

    That low lev­el of pub­lic sym­pa­thy is what kept Nation­al Corps law­mak­er and for­mer bat­tal­ion com­man­der Andriy Bilet­sky out of the crowd­ed pres­i­den­tial race this year, accord­ing to Ukrain­ian soci­ol­o­gist Anya Hryt­senko, who research­es far-right groups.

    Instead, Bilet­sky and his par­ty appear focused on try­ing to muster the 5 per­cent sup­port to reach par­lia­ment in elec­tions slat­ed for the fall.

    But while such Azov-relat­ed groups remain gen­er­al­ly unpop­u­lar with vot­ers, their slick­ly pro­duced videos, street fash­ions, and mixed-mar­tial-arts cen­ters have attract­ed a grow­ing young, most­ly male fol­low­ing whose pres­ence on Ukrain­ian streets has rights groups con­cerned.

    In its lat­est show of force on March 3, near­ly 2,000 Nation­al Mili­tia mem­bers in match­ing uni­forms gath­ered in Inde­pen­dence Square in the cap­i­tal. Then, car­ry­ing torch­es down Kyiv’s busiest streets, they forced police to inter­vene to stop traf­fic as they made their way to a fortress on a near­by hill.

    There, as they pound­ed their chests and chant­ed, “Glo­ry to Ukraine! Death to ene­mies,” they demon­strat­ed “what the steel fist of Ukrain­ian nation­al­ism looks like,” in the words of their press ser­vice..

    Address­ing the group from the stage, Bilet­sky called 2019 “the year nation­al­ists must go on the offen­sive.”

    ———-

    “Dep­u­tized As Elec­tion Mon­i­tors, Ukrain­ian Ultra­na­tion­al­ists ‘Ready To Punch’ Vio­la­tors” by Christo­pher Miller; Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty; 03/07/2019

    “Yet despite the con­tro­ver­sy sur­round­ing it, the Nation­al Mili­tia was grant­ed per­mis­sion by the Cen­tral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion to offi­cial­ly mon­i­tor Ukraine’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion on March 31.”

    Yep, despite the con­tro­ver­sy sur­round­ing Nation­al Mili­tia — con­tro­ver­sy like being an open neo-Nazi group that attacks minor­i­ty groups — the group was grant­ed by the Cen­tral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion per­mis­sion to offi­cial­ly mon­i­tor Ukraine’s upcom­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. What could pos­si­bly go wrong? Peo­ple get­ting punched by neo-Nazi elec­tion mon­i­tors, that’s what could go wrong and that’s exact­ly what the spokesman for Nation­al Mili­tia threat­ened his group would do if they wit­nessed elec­tion vio­la­tions that the police aren’t address­ing. At least that’s the planned cov­er sto­ry:

    ...
    Now the com­mis­sion appears to be rethink­ing that deci­sion after the group’s spokesman warned that its mem­bers will take mat­ters into their own hands and use force in instances where law enforce­ment “fails” to stop elec­tion fraud.

    “If law enforcers turn a blind eye to out­right vio­la­tions and don’t want to doc­u­ment them,” spokesman Ihor Vdovin vowed on March 6, the group will fol­low the instruc­tions of its com­man­der, Ihor Mikhailenko, who wrote on Telegram, “If we need to punch some­one in the face in the name of jus­tice, we will do this with­out hes­i­ta­tion.”

    ...

    Under a spe­cial agree­ment with the gov­ern­ment, the Nation­al Mili­tia enjoys many of the same rights as police offi­cers, although its mem­bers may not car­ry arms. Still, the group — which includes sev­er­al open­ly neo-Nazi mem­bers tat­tooed with swastikas and SS bolts — often resorts to vio­lence and has been known to inter­rupt city gov­ern­ment meet­ings to intim­i­date coun­cil mem­bers into sup­port­ing nation­al­ist caus­es.
    ...

    These open threats of vio­lence brought the pre­dictable push­back by Ukraine’s author­i­ties. But it’s the kind of push­back that isn’t expect­ed to go beyond words of con­dem­na­tion, espe­cial­ly giv­en the fact that the inte­ri­or min­is­ter, Arsen Avakov, is known to be far right sym­pa­thiz­er with close ties to Azov. Nation­al Mili­tia will still keep its pow­er:

    ...
    ‘Only Police Can Use Force’

    That call prompt­ed the elec­tion com­mis­sion to appeal to the Ukrain­ian Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice (SBU) to assess the seri­ous­ness of the threat. And while it did­n’t threat­en to revoke the Nation­al Mili­ti­a’s mon­i­tor­ing author­i­ty, the com­mis­sion said it con­sid­ers vio­lence “inad­mis­si­ble.”

    So far, the SBU has not com­ment­ed on the mat­ter.

    ...

    Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Arsen Avakov was quick to respond, say­ing the right to use force belongs to the police.

    “Nei­ther vol­un­teer squads nor any oth­er orga­ni­za­tion can [use force], and [they] will not deter­mine the sit­u­a­tion by force,” Avakov said in his state­ment. “Only coop­er­a­tion and appeal to the legal forces of law and order are accept­able.”

    He warned that “any attempts to inter­vene in the elec­toral process will be firm­ly and, if nec­es­sary, harsh­ly sup­pressed.”

    But it is unclear whether the pledge to keep the Nation­al Mili­tia and oth­er groups in check will con­vince the inte­ri­or min­is­ter’s crit­ics, who have in the past described Avakov as a “far-right sym­pa­thiz­er” with “close ties” to some of the Azov vet­er­ans and com­man­ders.

    The Nation­al Mili­ti­a’s ranks num­ber in the low thou­sands, nation­al­ly.
    ...

    But despite the fact that Azov only gar­ners about 1 per­cent of pop­u­lar sup­port, accord­ing to polls, its mix-mar­tial-arts cen­ters have a grow­ing appeal to Ukraine’s youths. This, in turns, fuels Azov’s torch­light street march­es, like the one on March 3, when 2,000 Nation­al Mili­tia mem­bers marched through the cap­i­tal chant­i­ng “Glo­ry to Ukraine! Death to ene­mies”. It’s Azov’s alter­na­tive path to pow­er:

    ...
    Inde­pen­dent polls show only around 1 per­cent of Ukraini­ans sup­port Azov’s polit­i­cal wing, the Nation­al Corps.

    That low lev­el of pub­lic sym­pa­thy is what kept Nation­al Corps law­mak­er and for­mer bat­tal­ion com­man­der Andriy Bilet­sky out of the crowd­ed pres­i­den­tial race this year, accord­ing to Ukrain­ian soci­ol­o­gist Anya Hryt­senko, who research­es far-right groups.

    Instead, Bilet­sky and his par­ty appear focused on try­ing to muster the 5 per­cent sup­port to reach par­lia­ment in elec­tions slat­ed for the fall.

    But while such Azov-relat­ed groups remain gen­er­al­ly unpop­u­lar with vot­ers, their slick­ly pro­duced videos, street fash­ions, and mixed-mar­tial-arts cen­ters have attract­ed a grow­ing young, most­ly male fol­low­ing whose pres­ence on Ukrain­ian streets has rights groups con­cerned.

    In its lat­est show of force on March 3, near­ly 2,000 Nation­al Mili­tia mem­bers in match­ing uni­forms gath­ered in Inde­pen­dence Square in the cap­i­tal. Then, car­ry­ing torch­es down Kyiv’s busiest streets, they forced police to inter­vene to stop traf­fic as they made their way to a fortress on a near­by hill.

    There, as they pound­ed their chests and chant­ed, “Glo­ry to Ukraine! Death to ene­mies,” they demon­strat­ed “what the steel fist of Ukrain­ian nation­al­ism looks like,” in the words of their press ser­vice..

    Address­ing the group from the stage, Bilet­sky called 2019 “the year nation­al­ists must go on the offen­sive.”
    ...

    So as we can see, while the Ukrain­ian far right has long been threat­en­ing to ‘march on Kiev’ to over­throw the gov­ern­ment and seize pow­er, that’s already sort of hap­pen­ing. But instead of one big march that results in a coup, Ukraine is expe­ri­enc­ing repeat­ed torch­light march­es through Kiev that act as shows of force and implic­it threats of what might hap­pen if Azov isn’t giv­en more pow­er. Ukraine’s democ­ra­cy is effec­tive­ly suf­fer­ing a death by a thou­sand cuts neo-Nazi torch­light march­es.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 12, 2019, 11:22 am
  13. Now that Ukraine has a new pres­i­dent, comedic actor Volodymyr Zelen­skiy who won with 73 per­cent of the vote in the final round of Ukraine’s elec­tion, the big ques­tion about whether or not Zelen­skiy can trans­late that pop­u­lar sup­port into mean­ing­ful reforms looms large. High­ly relat­ed to that ques­tion is what kind of resis­tance Zelen­skiy will face from the rest of the Ukrain­ian estab­lish­ment. High­ly note­wor­thy in the elec­tion results is the fact the high­est lev­els of vot­er turnout were reg­is­tered in Lviv Oblast (67%), which is also the only oblast won by Poroshenko. So Lviv, the heart of cul­tur­al far right push in Ukraine, pre­sum­ably has a con­cen­tra­tion of peo­ple who are high­ly upset with the results of the elec­tion.

    Beyond that, giv­en the num­ber of arti­cles in the West­ern press that have warned about Zelen­skiy being under the influ­ence of the Krem­lin, the ques­tion of whether or not Zelen­skiy’s gov­ern­ment is going to be opposed by West­ern gov­ern­ments who backed Poroshenko also looms large. For exam­ple, For­eign Pol­i­cy pub­lished on April 1st, days before the runoff vote that Zelen­skiy was expect­ed to win at the time, writ­ten by Alexan­der Motyl warn­ing that Zelen­skiy is poised to move Ukraine into the Krem­lin’s orbit. Recall how Motyl is a polit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Rut­gers Uni­ver­si­ty and one of the mem­bers of the Ukrain­ian dias­po­ra that was a big sup­port­er of Volodymyr Via­tro­vy­ch’s gov­ern­ment-backed revi­sion­ist his­to­ry dri­ve.

    And as the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, while domes­tic vot­ers over­whelm­ing­ly sup­port­ed Zelen­skiy across almost the entire coun­try, there was one oth­er major group of vot­ers out­side of Lviv that over­all sup­port­ed Petro Poroshenko: Ukraine’s dias­po­ra:

    Kyiv Post

    Ukraini­ans in Cana­da backed Poroshenko, now wary of Zelen­skiy

    By Ole­na Gon­charo­va.
    Pub­lished April 22. Updat­ed April 22 at 6:31 pm

    EDMONTON, Cana­da– When Tetiana Usenko drove the 300 kilo­me­ters from Cal­gary to Edmon­ton in order to vote in the final round of the Ukrain­ian pres­i­den­tial elec­tions on April 21, she already knew her can­di­date had lost.

    As she drove, comedic actor Volodymyr Zelen­skiy was already cel­e­brat­ing his vic­to­ry at the par­ty head­quar­ters in Kyiv.

    He was about to become Ukraine’s sixth pres­i­dent: with 87 per­cent of the vote count­ed, Zelen­skiy already com­mand­ed 73 per­cent of the vote.

    Incum­bent Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko, mean­while, was fin­ish­ing in a dis­tant sec­ond place with only 24 per­cent of vot­ers back­ing him, accord­ing to the Cen­tral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion, or CEC.

    But it didn’t stop Usenko from mak­ing the lengthy dri­ve.

    “I vot­ed because I had to – it’s impor­tant for me per­son­al­ly,” Usenko told the Kyiv Post at the polling sta­tion in Edmon­ton, one of the 101 polling loca­tions opened at embassies and con­sulates of Ukraine in 72 coun­tries.

    “While I was dri­ving (to Edmon­ton), I was think­ing that we live in a world where it’s so easy to manip­u­late peo­ple,” Usenko said.

    “I’m scared for Ukraine. Even though I live and work in Cana­da at the moment, I want to come back home in the future and that was why I vot­ed for the Euro­pean val­ues – as clichéd as it might sound, but that is true.”

    Despite her per­son­al dis­ap­point­ment, she remains opti­mistic. “When in the next five years peo­ple won­der how they end­ed up with (Zelen­skiy), I be able to say (to) them – ‘I told you so,’” said Usenko, who owns a Ukrain­ian store in Cal­gary. “This is just one lost bat­tle. Vic­to­ry in this war will be in the future, I tru­ly believe in that.”

    Of the 301 Ukraini­ans who vot­ed at the west­ern Cana­da polling sta­tion in Edmon­ton, 208 backed Poroshenko.

    Polling sta­tions were also opened in Ottawa and Toron­to, and the over­all num­ber of Ukrain­ian vot­ers in Cana­da was 1,799.

    Ukraini­ans who live abroad have strong­ly pre­ferred sit­ting Pres­i­dent Poroshenko to a polit­i­cal new­com­er in this pres­i­den­tial elec­tion; some­thing that stands in stark con­trast to the choice of vot­ers resid­ing with­in Ukraine.

    By 8 a.m. Kyiv time on April 22, the Cen­tral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion said it had count­ed 87 per­cent of the bal­lots, with Poroshenko hav­ing won the dias­po­ra but lost all but one Ukrain­ian oblast.

    Around 57,000 Ukraini­ans liv­ing abroad vot­ed in the sec­ond round of the elec­tion on April 21 – rough­ly equiv­a­lent to the pop­u­la­tion of mid-sized cities such as Antrat­syt in Luhan­sk Oblast.

    Ukraini­ans liv­ing abroad have appeared more like­ly to pay clos­er atten­tion to for­eign pol­i­cy, inter­na­tion­al rela­tions and Ukraine’s rep­u­ta­tion among the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty. Vot­ers in Ukraine, on the oth­er hand, have to face an array of inter­nal prob­lems, from util­i­ty bills to bad roads and a strug­gling econ­o­my.

    Now it will be up for a new­ly elect­ed pres­i­dent to address all of those issues for Ukraini­ans at home and away.

    Ukrain­ian stu­dent Vik­to­ria Gry­nenko, cur­rent­ly pur­su­ing a PhD at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Alber­ta, said she antic­i­pat­ed Zelenskiy’s vic­to­ry “but hoped for a mir­a­cle.”

    “What I didn’t expect is such dom­i­nat­ing num­ber (of Zelensky’s) sup­port,” Gry­nenko added.

    “See­ing that in the first round, results were dif­fer­ent in Ukraine and from the for­eign con­stituen­cies, I thought that some­times peo­ple could see the sit­u­a­tion bet­ter not being in the midst of it.”

    She said her main fears now are about the econ­o­my, war, and Ukraine’s inde­pen­dence.

    “I hope in a cou­ple years I can say that I was wrong and these 73 per­cent were right at the elec­tion,” Gry­nenko told the Kyiv Post.

    Accord­ing to Ukraine’s con­sti­tu­tion, Zelen­skiy will be sworn into office by June 2 – no lat­er than 30 days after the offi­cial results are announced by the CEC.

    As pres­i­dent, he will become com­man­der-in-chief of the mil­i­tary and nom­i­nate the defense and for­eign min­is­ters, and the prime min­is­ter, who will have to be approved by par­lia­ment.

    ...

    As with any pres­i­den­cy, Zelen­skiy will ulti­mate­ly be judged on his actions rather than his pledges, which some observers have labelled vague.

    But for plen­ty of Ukraini­ans who are look­ing at their home­land from across the sea, Ukraine’s sixth pres­i­dent has a lot to prove.

    ———-

    “Ukraini­ans in Cana­da backed Poroshenko, now wary of Zelen­skiy” by Ole­na Gon­charo­va; Kyiv Post; 04/22/2019

    “Ukraini­ans who live abroad have strong­ly pre­ferred sit­ting Pres­i­dent Poroshenko to a polit­i­cal new­com­er in this pres­i­den­tial elec­tion; some­thing that stands in stark con­trast to the choice of vot­ers resid­ing with­in Ukraine.”

    As is the case with a num­ber of nation­al dias­po­ras around the world in con­flict-strick­en coun­tries, the Ukrain­ian dias­po­ra and domes­tic vot­ers had a very dif­fer­ent view on the direc­tion the coun­try should go it. Although in terms of raw num­bers only around 57,000 mem­bers of the Ukrain­ian dias­po­ra glob­al­ly who vot­ed in the sec­ond round of the elec­tion (out of 18 mil­lion votes total), so it’s a rel­a­tive­ly tiny per­cent of the over­all vote. But in terms of influ­enc­ing inter­na­tion­al poli­cies towards Ukraine it’s a high­ly influ­en­tial vot­ing bloc:

    ...
    Polling sta­tions were also opened in Ottawa and Toron­to, and the over­all num­ber of Ukrain­ian vot­ers in Cana­da was 1,799.

    ...

    By 8 a.m. Kyiv time on April 22, the Cen­tral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion said it had count­ed 87 per­cent of the bal­lots, with Poroshenko hav­ing won the dias­po­ra but lost all but one Ukrain­ian oblast.

    Around 57,000 Ukraini­ans liv­ing abroad vot­ed in the sec­ond round of the elec­tion on April 21 – rough­ly equiv­a­lent to the pop­u­la­tion of mid-sized cities such as Antrat­syt in Luhan­sk Oblast.
    ...

    So it’s going to be fas­ci­nat­ing to see how the dis­ap­point­ed dias­po­ra and the polit­i­cal influ­ence they have on gov­ern­ments shapes the kinds of inter­na­tion­al pres­sures and expec­ta­tions the incom­ing gov­ern­ment is going to face.

    In tan­gen­tial­ly relat­ed news, remem­ber that sto­ry about how the high school stu­dents in Bara­boo, Wis­con­sin received nation­al atten­tion after they did a group Sieg Heil for their junior prom pic­ture? Well, Eduard Dolin­sky (of Defend­ing His­to­ry) just tweet­ed out a pic­ture of new mon­u­ments erect­ed by the Ukrain­ian Youth Union in sum­mer camp in Bara­boo, Wis­con­sin. They’re mon­u­ments of Simon Petlu­ra, Roman Shukhevych and Stepan Ban­dera. So that gives us an idea of who the local Ukrain­ian dias­po­ra vot­ed for around Bara­boo.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 29, 2019, 10:39 am

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