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For The Record  

FTR #1096 Fascism: 2019 World Tour, Part 6 (Azov on Our Mind, Part 2)

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

Intro­duc­tion: We have cov­ered the ori­gin, activ­i­ties and expan­sion of the Ukrain­ian Nazi Azov Bat­tal­ion in numer­ous pro­grams. Part of the Ukrainain armed forces, this Nazi unit:

  1. Has spawned a civ­il mili­tia which achieved police pow­ers in many Ukrain­ian cities. . . . . But Ukraine observers and rights groups are sound­ing the alarm, because this was not a typ­i­cal com­mence­ment, and the men are not police offi­cers. They are far-right ultra­na­tion­al­ists from the Azov move­ment, a con­tro­ver­sial group with a mil­i­tary wing that has open­ly accept­ed self-avowed neo-Nazis, and a civ­il and polit­i­cal fac­tion that has demon­strat­ed intol­er­ance toward minor­i­ty groups. . . .”
  2. Has as its spokesman Roman Zvarych. In the 1980’s, Zvarych was the per­son­al sec­re­tary to Jaroslav Stet­zko, the wartime head of the Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tionist gov­ern­ment in Ukraine. Stet­zko imple­ment­ed Nazi eth­nic cleans­ing in Ukraine dur­ing World War II.
  3. Wields influ­ence with in the Min­istry of the Inte­ri­or through Vadim Troy­an, the for­mer deputy com­man­der of Azov who is now deputy min­is­ter of the inte­ri­or. ” . . . . The deputy min­is­ter of the Interior—which con­trols the Nation­al Police—is Vadim Troy­an, a vet­er­an of Azov and Patri­ot of Ukraine. . . .  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. . . .”
  4. Com­bat hel­mets of the Azov Bat­tal­ion.

    Gets arms and train­ing from the U.S., despite offi­cial restric­tions on such activ­i­ty. ” . . . . 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. . . .”

  5. Is ful­fill­ing their strat­e­gy of net­work­ing with Nazi and fas­cist ele­ments abroad, includ­ing the U.S. ” . . . . 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. . . . .”
  6. Is net­work­ing with mem­bers of a group called RAM, some of whom were arrest­ed by the FBI upon their return from Europe. vio­lence.
  7. Is uti­liz­ing Ukraine’s visa-free sta­tus with the EU to net­work with oth­er Euro­pean fas­cist groups. ” . . . . ‘Their Eng­lish has got­ten bet­ter,’ Hryt­senko said, refer­ring to Azov mem­bers behind the group’s West­ern out­reach. . . . . 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. . . . .”
  8. Is look­ing to con­nect with more “respectable” Euro­pean right-wing groups than they have in the past, this as a pos­si­ble vehi­cle for Ukraine’s entry into the EU. ” . . . . Skillt, the Swedish nation­al who fought as a sniper in the Azov Bat­tal­ion, is one of them [crit­ics]. ‘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.’ . . . ”
  9. Azov Bat­tal­ion Spin Off Nation­al Mili­tia, served as elec­tion mon­i­tors in Ukraine.

    Was award­ed the job of elec­tion mon­i­tor­ing by the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment in their recent elec­tions. ” . . . . 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. . . .”

In this pro­gram, we note the oper­a­tions and posi­tion­ing of the Azov milieu both in Ukraine and glob­al­ly.

Azov is among the fas­cist ele­ments oppos­ing Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent Volodomyr Zelen­sky’s efforts at bro­ker­ing a piece with sep­a­ratists in the eth­ni­cal­ly Russ­ian East­ern provinces of Ukraine. Amidst angry street demon­stra­tions against the peace plan with the sep­a­ratists, Zelen­sky met with some of the fas­cist groups, who have threat­ened to over­throw Zelen­sky if he goes for­ward with the peace plan. The fas­cists enjoy the sup­port of for­mer pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko.

Ukrain­ian Prime Min­is­ter Hon­charuk and Min­is­ter of Vet­er­ans Affairs Oksana Kolia­ga attend­ed an event orga­nized by ele­ments asso­ci­at­ed with C14 (the street mili­tia of Svo­bo­da) and Azov. Fea­tur­ing Sokyra Pekurna–a Nazi met­al band–the ral­ly rep­re­sent­ed a fur­ther main­stream­ing of the OUN/B suc­ces­sor orga­ni­za­tions in Ukraine. The OUN/B suc­ces­sor orga­ni­za­tions wield con­sid­er­able influ­ence with­in the Ukrain­ian vet­er­ans’ milieu.

Fur­ther com­pli­cat­ing the issue is the fact that the Azov Bat­tal­ion has tak­en up posi­tions in the town of Zolo­toe, at the front of the ongo­ing war. They have said that they will not with­draw, a threat which, if borne out, will tor­pe­do the peace process.

Con­clud­ing the broad­cast, we “dol­ly [the cam­era] out” and begin an in-depth exam­i­na­tion of the Azov inter­na­tion­al milieu. Embrac­ing “lone wolf” fas­cists around the world, as well as net­work­ing with fas­cist orga­ni­za­tions and com­bat­ants who have joined the war in Ukraine’s East­ern provinces, Azov is reca­pit­u­lat­ing the “Inter­mar­i­um” con­cept, mint­ed by Pol­ish head of state Josef Pil­sud­s­ki in the peri­od between the World Wars. Work­ing with Croa­t­ians aligned with the “Neo-Ustachi’ milieu we have cov­ered in many past pro­grams, Azov is seek­ing to devel­op a nascent East­ern and Cen­tral Euro­pean alliance of fas­cist and reac­tionary ele­ments.

Of par­tic­u­lar inter­est is the sig­nif­i­cance of the Ukrain­ian and Croa­t­ian fas­cist alliance, which will be explored at greater length in future pro­grams.

Oth­er pro­grams high­light­ing the return of the Ustachi to pow­er in the “new” Croa­t­ia include: FTR #‘s 49, 154, 766, 901.

1a. Attempts by the new pres­i­dent of Ukraine to effect a peace agree­ment with the eth­nic Russ­ian provinces that have engaged in civ­il war in an attempt to secede from Ukraine have been met by protests from the nation’s fas­cist milieu, who enjoy the sup­port of for­mer pres­i­dent Poroshenko.

They have threat­ened to over­throw Zelen­sky’s gov­ern­ment if the break­away provinces are giv­en semi-autonomous sta­tus.

“Far right and nation­al­ists march in Kyiv to oppose east Ukraine peace plan” by Andrew Roth, The Guardian, 10/14/2019.

Thou­sands of peo­ple have joined a march through Kyiv led by far right groups and nation­al­ist par­ties to protest against changes to a peace plan for east Ukraine that they have called a “capit­u­la­tion” to Rus­sia.

Police deployed around Ukraine’s cap­i­tal closed off sev­er­al major avenues for the demon­stra­tions, as the Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent, Volodymyr Zelen­skiy, urged par­tic­i­pants to avoid vio­lence. He also warned that images from the protests could be used by Russ­ian state media to dis­cred­it Ukraine.

The protests are part of a back­lash against Zelenskiy’s poli­cies on the war against Russ­ian-backed sep­a­ratists in east Ukraine. This month, the pres­i­dent approved a plan that would allow elec­tions in sep­a­ratist-held Ukraine and then grant spe­cial sta­tus to the region on the con­di­tion the vote was seen as free and fair.

Zelen­skiy main­tains a 70% approval rat­ing but recent polling showed a major­i­ty of Ukraini­ans opposed giv­ing spe­cial sta­tus to the regions held by sep­a­ratists. Dur­ing a 14-hour press con­fer­ence last week, Zelen­skiy said end­ing the war was the most impor­tant mis­sion of his pres­i­den­cy and that he would have to meet with Vladimir Putin to achieve that goal.

But his state­ments have sparked anger among for­mer fight­ers and have been crit­i­cised by mem­bers of the oppo­si­tion. One vet­er­an on Mon­day called it a “betray­al”. Yevhen Pylypenko, one of sev­er­al men wear­ing fatigues on their way to a protest near a stat­ue of the 19th-cen­tu­ry Ukrain­ian writer Taras Shevchenko, said the plan was a step towards “for­giv­ing the peo­ple who fought against us. I think that’s unfor­giv­able.”

The for­mer Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko has also opposed the plan, which would amend the stalled Min­skagree­ment nego­ti­at­ed under his pres­i­den­cy.

“We will nev­er agree to that,” Poroshenko, now the leader of the Euro­pean Sol­i­dar­i­ty par­ty, said last week. “We feel sol­i­dar­i­ty with the present actions and calls heard from among vet­er­ans and we will not allow the ruin of the Ukrain­ian state.”

Zelen­skiy has sought a com­pro­mise with nation­al­ist groups, and report­ed­ly met last week with the lead­ers of vet­er­ans’ organ­i­sa­tions, as well as promi­nent far-right lead­ers.

Many are con­tro­ver­sial. On Sun­day night, the Ukrain­ian prime min­is­ter, Olek­siy Hon­charuk, spoke at a ral­ly in sup­port of vet­er­ans report­ed­ly organ­ised by Andriy Medved­ko, a promi­nent mem­ber of the rad­i­cal nation­al­ist organ­i­sa­tion S14. Sokyra Peruna, a white-nation­al­ist met­al band whose sup­port­ers have made Nazi salutes at their con­certs, also played at the bar where the event was held.

Hon­charuk on Mon­day con­firmed he spoke at the event to sup­port vet­er­ans but said he was not famil­iar with the band, say­ing he did not endorse any “hate-filled ide­ol­o­gy – nei­ther Nazism, nor fas­cism, nor com­mu­nism”.

1b. Ukrain­ian Prime Min­is­ter Hon­charuk and Min­is­ter of Vet­er­ans Affairs Oksana Kolia­ga attend­ed an event orga­nized by ele­ments asso­ci­at­ed with C14 (the street mili­tia of Svo­bo­da) and Azov. Fea­tur­ing Sokyra Pekurna–a Nazi met­al band–the ral­ly rep­re­sent­ed a fur­ther main­stream­ing of the OUN/B suc­ces­sor orga­ni­za­tions in Ukraine. The OUN/B suc­ces­sor orga­ni­za­tions wield con­sid­er­able influ­ence with­in the Ukrain­ian vet­er­ans’ milieu.

“How to Main­stream Neo-Nazis: A Les­son from Ukraine’s New Gov­ern­ment” [Belling­cat]; Belling­cat; 10/21/2019.

On Octo­ber 13, pho­tographs start­ed cir­cu­lat­ing across social media show­ing a man resem­bling Ukrain­ian Prime Min­is­ter Olek­siy Hon­charuk on stage at the “Vet­er­ans Strong” con­cert event in Kyiv. This was, how­ev­er, no ordi­nary con­cert — it was orga­nized by a far-right fig­ure accused of mur­der, and head­lined by a neo-Nazi band. 

As lat­er posts through­out the evening would show, includ­ing the prime minister’s own post on Face­book the next day, the politi­cian did indeed attend and take the stage at an event orga­nized by Ukrain­ian far-right groups. The Prime Min­is­ter wasn’t the only cab­i­net mem­ber from Ukraine’s new gov­ern­ment to be there — the Min­is­ter of Vet­er­an Affairs, Oksana Koli­a­da, joined Prime Min­is­ter Hon­charuk at the con­cert, and even pro­mot­ed the event in a Face­book post (archive) the day before it took place.

In the week fol­low­ing the event, Hon­charuk has defend­ed his appear­ance at the “Vet­er­ans Strong” con­cert, and has not issued an apol­o­gy or expressed regret. In his Face­book post, Hon­charuk com­plained about “some media out­lets putting forth ambigu­ous the­ses” and that “politi­ciza­tion” of the event was “absolute­ly inap­pro­pri­ate.” He added that he didn’t sup­port any “hate­ful ide­olo­gies, whether Nazism, fas­cism or com­mu­nism.” In fur­ther com­ments at a cab­i­net brief­ing, Hon­charuk added that “many peo­ple” are try­ing to “split [our] soci­ety.” “They can make any of you into a Nazi fas­cist,” he said.

The episode is a fur­ther exam­ple of how Ukraine’s far-right con­tin­ues to be nor­mal­ized by top lead­ers in the coun­try. Not only are Ukraine’s top min­is­ters attend­ing events orga­nized by far-right fig­ures, they have also had a lit­er­al seat at the table with Zelen­skyy dis­cussing his plans for de-esca­lat­ing the war in east­ern Ukraine. Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, far-right orga­ni­za­tions across Ukraine have tak­en the lead in orga­niz­ing “No capit­u­la­tion!” protests against Zelenskyy’s soon-to-be-launched talks with Rus­sia, thus wield­ing an out sized lev­el of influ­ence in Ukrain­ian soci­ety despite the fact that Ukrain­ian far-right orga­ni­za­tions lack any pop­u­lar or elec­toral sup­port.

Who Were The Organizers?

The dri­ving force behind the “Vet­er­ans Strong” par­ty was Andriy Medved­ko, a lead­ing mem­ber of the neo-Nazi C14 orga­ni­za­tion . Medved­ko leads the “Union of Vet­er­ans of the War With Rus­sia” (Спілка ветеранів війни з Росією), a group affil­i­at­ed with C14. 

Medved­ko is one of two men charged with the mur­der of pro-Russ­ian reporter Oles Buzy­na in 2015. The tri­al start­ed almost two years ago and legal pro­ceed­ings con­tin­ue to be under pres­sure and scruti­ny from far-right groups,

As we revealed in our pre­vi­ous inves­ti­ga­tion in July 2019, Medved­ko has been linked to an infor­mal C14-linked vig­i­lante group, “Knights of the City” (Лицарі Міста), report­ed­ly involved with inci­dents of vio­lence aimed at those it deems to be “addicts or alco­holics.”

As dis­cussed in our inves­ti­ga­tion of C14 , the orga­ni­za­tion host­ed a foot­ball tour­na­ment in 2011 “for white chil­dren only” that includ­ed the white suprema­cist “14 words” slo­gan at the bot­tom of the post, which is also an ele­ment of the name of the orga­ni­za­tion itself. Accord­ing to Vyach­eslav Likhachev, a researcher of the far-right, this post was writ­ten by Medved­ko him­self.

Medvedko’s role in orga­niz­ing the Octo­ber 13 event was acknowl­edged by mul­ti­ple indi­vid­u­als on social media. C14 leader Yevhen Karas acknowl­edged Medvedko’s role in a Telegram post, while also not­ing that Prime Min­is­ter Hon­charuk was in atten­dance. C14 seemed pleas­ant­ly sur­prised to have Hon­charuk there: “The Prime Min­is­ter has come to the vet­er­ans par­ty,” C14’s Ser­hiy Bon­dar post­ed on Face­book with the ‘scream’ emo­ji. 

In a now-delet­ed reply to a Face­book post, Medved­ko made his appre­ci­a­tion of the head­lin­ers, Sokyra Peruna (“Perun’s Axe”), clear. In a response to a video of the band’s per­for­mance, Medved­ko post­ed “88”, neo-Nazi code for “Heil Hitler.” This com­ment was made after Medved­ko post­ed a pho­to of Ukraine’s Prime Min­is­ter in atten­dance.

Who Was Playing At The Event?

The head­lin­ing band at the event was Sokyra Peruna, led by Arseniy Bilo­dub (born Kli­machev), a man with a long his­to­ry with Ukraine’s neo-Nazi scene. While two oth­er bands played at the event — Komu Vnyz, a band that has played along­side Sokyra Peruna in the past, and FRAM, a main­stream band — it was clear well before­hand that Sokyra Peruna was the main event, as even the event’s Face­book page fea­tures Bilo­dub.

Bilo­dub has been a fix­ture of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi scene since the 1990s. Along with fronting Sokyra Peruna, Bilo­dub runs the neo-Nazi fash­ion label Sva­s­tone, whose clothes are a com­mon sight at any far-right gath­er­ing in Ukraine. The cloth­ing sold by Sva­s­tone does not pre­tend to be any­thing oth­er than white suprema­cist, as seen in the “White Baby — The Future of Our Race” shirt below (with a dual brass knuck­les – paci­fi­er graph­ic), sell­ing for $9.

Ear­li­er this year, Bilo­dub orga­nized the “Fortress Europe” con­cert in Kyiv, a con­cert that fea­tured mul­ti­ple neo-Nazi bands includ­ing Amer­i­can band Blue Eyed Dev­ils, whose for­mer gui­tar play­er mur­dered six peo­ple in a 2012 hate crime. 

In his Face­book post the day after the event, PM Hon­charuk said he had nev­er heard of Sokyra Peruna and didn’t know who would be play­ing at the event. More­over, he added that it wasn’t in his posi­tion as prime min­is­ter “to dic­tate to our vet­er­ans what songs they should sing.”

Look­ing at what Sokyra Peruna has released over the years, there’s no short­age of songs from the band’s back cat­a­logue that Hon­charuk would prob­a­bly pre­fer them not to sing. One of the songs is “Six Mil­lion Words of Lies,” a song that exhorts lis­ten­ers to deny the Holo­caust and adds that “the time of reck­on­ing, a holy war is com­ing.” Anoth­er song is called “ZOG­land” — a ref­er­ence to the “Zion­ist Occu­pa­tion Gov­ern­ment”, an anti-Semit­ic con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry — in which Bilo­dub laments that peo­ple have for­got­ten the “14 Words,” a noto­ri­ous neo-Nazi slo­gan that, as men­tioned above, con­cert orga­niz­er Andriy Medved­ko is famil­iar with as well.  

“Who is guilty, who sold Ukraine? / Jews are walk­ing in the streets / writ­ing laws / rul­ing the state,” Bilo­dub sings in “ZOG­land.” This line becomes par­tic­u­lar­ly offen­sive line when con­sid­er­ing how Ukraine’s Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skyy is Jew­ish.

Oth­er lines sung by Sokyra Peruna’s Bilo­dub are no less objec­tion­able: “For­est and fields where Aryans lived / now are Jew­ish, we can’t that for­give (sic)” and “you act like a n*, you dress like a mon­key / you’ll eat bananas and climb palm trees / are you a white per­son? it’s a dis­grace / the race war will begin with you.”

It should there­fore come as lit­tle sur­prise that Nazi salutes are a com­mon sight at Sokyra Peruna con­certs.

And Sokyra Peruna’s set? More Nazi salutes, all a short walk from Maid­an on a Sat­ur­day night. pic.twitter.com/tugOAuf9my

— Michael Col­borne (@ColborneMichael) Sep­tem­ber 14, 2019

At a Sep­tem­ber con­cert in cen­tral Kyiv, Sokyra Peruna fans give Nazi salutes to Sokyra Peruna front-man Arseniy Bilo­dub on stage (Insta­gram)

All Part Of A Trend

The appear­ances by Prime Min­is­ter Olek­siy Hon­charuk and fel­low cab­i­net min­is­ter Oksana Koli­a­da at an event orga­nized and head­lined by known far-right fig­ures are not iso­lat­ed inci­dents. As Ukraine’s war with Russ­ian and Russ­ian-led forces enters its sixth year, Ukraine’s far-right con­tin­ues to hijack the under­stand­ably emo­tion­al­ly-charged issue of vet­er­ans fight­ing in east­ern Ukraine to spread their own intol­er­ant rhetoric.

Anoth­er exam­ple of this trend was on dis­play in ear­ly Octo­ber at a meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skyy, when mem­bers of the far-right (includ­ing C14 leader Yevhen Karas) were invit­ed to offer their per­spec­tive on the war in east­ern Ukraine. Azov was also present, being the largest far-right group in Ukraine that also has a reg­i­ment in Ukraine’s Nation­al Guard.

“Yes­ter­day I met with vet­er­ans,” Zelen­skyy said in ear­ly Octo­ber, “Nation­al Corps [the Azov movement’s polit­i­cal par­ty], Azov, every­one else.” A pho­to from the meet­ing shows mul­ti­ple far-right fig­ures in atten­dance, includ­ing C14’s Yevhen Karas and Dmytro Sha­tro­vskyi, head of the Azov-linked “Vet­er­ans Broth­er­hood.”  

Meet­ing with vet­er­ans of the ongo­ing war in east­ern Ukraine is, of course, not only legit­i­mate, but nec­es­sary for Pres­i­dent Zelen­skyy. This is espe­cial­ly true when con­sid­er­ing the con­tro­ver­sy over the so-called “Stein­meier for­mu­la.” How­ev­er, why does Zelen­skyy meet with mul­ti­ple rep­re­sen­ta­tives of far-right groups — and, more­over, speak of them sim­ply as “vet­er­ans,” dis­count­ing the vast major­i­ty of Ukraine’s vet­er­ans who have no involve­ment in extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions? Why are there mul­ti­ple mem­bers of far-right groups, includ­ing peo­ple who are open­ly neo-Nazi, on Ukraine’s Min­istry of Vet­er­ans Affairs pub­lic over­sight coun­cil? Despite the fact that these far-right orga­ni­za­tions have neg­li­gi­ble pop­u­lar sup­port and vir­tu­al­ly nonex­is­tent elec­toral pow­er, they are over-rep­re­sent­ed among vet­er­ans’ rights groups, includ­ing in meet­ings direct­ly with Ukraine’s Pres­i­dent. As the vet­er­ans’ con­cert shows, these issues are symp­toms of a much larg­er prob­lem relat­ing to the far-right’s exploita­tion of vet­er­ans’ issues as they con­tin­ue to have suc­cess main­stream­ing them­selves in Ukrain­ian pol­i­tics and soci­ety.

1c. Fur­ther com­pli­cat­ing the issue is the fact that the Azov Bat­tal­ion has tak­en up posi­tions in the town of Zolo­toe, at the front of the ongo­ing war. They have said that they will not with­draw, a threat which, if borne out, will tor­pe­do the peace process.

“Ukraine: Zelenskiy’s Peace Effort Encoun­ters Resis­tance” by Strat­for World­view, Strat­for World­view, 10/08/2019

Ukraine has been try­ing to resume nego­ti­a­tions to resolve the con­flict in east­ern Ukraine and imple­ment a pro­posed polit­i­cal set­tle­ment. The with­draw­al of forces from the con­tact line is one of the first steps on the road map to peace, but this step has proven a dif­fi­cult one to take.

Devel­op­ments con­tin­ue to mud­dy progress toward resum­ing the so-called Nor­mandy For­mat to try to set­tle the con­flict in Ukraine. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the sep­a­ratist Luhan­sk People’s Repub­lic informed observers with the Orga­ni­za­tion for Secu­ri­ty and Co-oper­a­tion in Europe that the group would be ready to begin with­draw­ing its forces on Oct. 9. The date was delayed two days when Ukraine post­poned the pull­out of some of its own forces because of artillery fire between both sides in the con­flict in east­ern Ukraine. At the same time, the Azov Bat­tal­ion — a right-wing, pro-Ukrain­ian para­mil­i­tary group — announced on Oct. 7 that it was tak­ing up posi­tions in Zolo­toe, a vil­lage on the line of con­tact. Ukrain­ian forces would like­ly have to leave Zolo­toe as part of a with­draw­al, but the Azov Battalion’s leader has said his forces will not aban­don the vil­lage.

Why It Mat­ters

Despite Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s desire to work with Rus­sia to resolve the con­flict in east­ern Ukraine, there are many obsta­cles on the path to peace. The hin­drances include not only the full imple­men­ta­tion of a polit­i­cal set­tle­ment under the 2015 Min­sk agree­ment and relat­ed Stein­meier for­mu­la, but also the ini­tial tac­ti­cal step of paci­fy­ing the front lines in east­ern Ukraine. Attempts to sab­o­tage Zelenskiy’s efforts by para­mil­i­tary groups that oppose his approach could pre­vent sep­a­ratist forces from rec­i­p­ro­cat­ing a with­draw­al by Ukrain­ian armed forces, should Ukrain­ian forces indeed ini­ti­ate a pull­out.

Back­ground

The bat­tle­field isn’t the only place where Zelen­skiy is fac­ing resis­tance to his agen­da. About 10,000 Ukraini­ans ral­lied in Kyiv on Oct. 6 against the president’s appar­ent sup­port for the so-called Stein­meier for­mu­la, which would grant spe­cial sta­tus to the sep­a­ratist region of Don­bas and stip­u­late the with­draw­al of Ukrain­ian forces from the con­tact line in Don­bas. Pop­u­lar resis­tance will lim­it Zelenskiy’s efforts to resolve the Ukrain­ian con­flict and may force him to stand firm on the with­draw­al of Russ­ian forces from east­ern Ukraine, the return of the Ukrain­ian-Russ­ian bor­der to Ukrain­ian con­trol and oth­er demands that could doom nego­ti­a­tions to fail­ure.

———-

“Ukraine: Zelenskiy’s Peace Effort Encoun­ters Resis­tance” by Strat­for World­view, Strat­for World­view, 10/08/2019

2. Con­clud­ing the broad­cast, we “dol­ly [the cam­era] out” and begin an in-depth exam­i­na­tion of the Azov inter­na­tion­al milieu. Embrac­ing “lone wolf” fas­cists around the world, as well as net­work­ing with fas­cist orga­ni­za­tions and com­bat­ants who have joined the war in Ukraine’s East­ern provinces, Azov is reca­pit­u­lat­ing the “Inter­mar­i­um” con­cept, mint­ed by Pol­ish head of state Josef Pil­sud­s­ki in the peri­od between the World Wars. Work­ing with Croa­t­ians aligned with the “Neo-Ustachi’ milieu we have cov­ered in many past pro­grams, Azov is seek­ing to devel­op a nascent East­ern and Cen­tral Euro­pean alliance of fas­cist and reac­tionary ele­ments.

Of par­tic­u­lar inter­est is the sig­nif­i­cance of the Ukrain­ian and Croa­t­ian fas­cist alliance, which will be explored at greater length in future pro­grams.

Oth­er pro­grams high­light­ing the return of the Ustachi to pow­er in the “new” Croa­t­ia include: FTR #‘s 49, 154, 766, 901.

A thought: will the Azov for­eign legion might be inte­grat­ed into a future all-EU armed forces?

“Croa­t­ia Key to Ukrain­ian Far-Right’s Inter­na­tion­al Ambi­tions” by Michael Col­borne; Balkan Insight; 07/18/2019.

A far-right mil­i­tant move­ment in Ukraine is forg­ing ties with like-mind­ed politi­cians and war vet­er­ans in Euro­pean Union mem­ber Croa­t­ia, a BIRN inves­ti­ga­tion reveals.

Chain-smok­ing in a Zagreb cafe, 43-year-old Denis Sel­er would hard­ly stand out were it not for the word AZOV embla­zoned in Cyril­lic on the front of his grey sweater.

Sel­er is a native of the Croa­t­ian cap­i­tal and a vet­er­an of the 1991–95 Croa­t­ian war. But his sweater spoke to a more recent fight, and to Seler’s endur­ing alle­giance to a far-right mil­i­tant move­ment with Europe-wide ambi­tions.

In 2014 and 2015, Sel­er was among 20–30 Croa­t­ians who fought as part of the Azov vol­un­teer bat­tal­ion against Russ­ian-backed rebels in east­ern Ukraine, in a war that has killed some 13,000 and rum­bles on today despite an offi­cial cease­fire.

From the Balka­ns, Serb fight­ers sided with the rebels out of feal­ty to Serbia’s fel­low Ortho­dox ally Rus­sia, while Croa­t­ian nation­al­ists like Sel­er found com­mon cause with the far-right ele­ments of Ukraine’s resis­tance against Moscow.

But while the war in Ukraine’s steel and coal belt bor­der­ing Rus­sia may have set­tled into a tense stale­mate, Azov is build­ing in momen­tum, forg­ing ties with far-right extrem­ists beyond Ukraine’s bor­ders.

And Croa­t­ia, the newest mem­ber of the Euro­pean Union and a coun­try where con­ser­v­a­tive cur­rents are strong, is emerg­ing as a key stag­ing ground, accord­ing to the find­ings of a BIRN inves­ti­ga­tion.

Azov’s polit­i­cal wing is forg­ing ties with a right-wing Croa­t­ian polit­i­cal bloc that made a strong show­ing in Euro­pean elec­tions in May, and the Ukrain­ian move­ment will hold a con­fer­ence in Zagreb in Sep­tem­ber at which it may unveil plans for a ‘For­eign Legion’ of far-right sym­pa­this­ers, built with the help of a Croa­t­ian war vet­er­an.

“The Azov move­ment is grow­ing. And they’re grow­ing up fast,” said Sel­er.

Back in 2014, Sel­er described the war in Ukraine as part of a “strug­gle for the white Euro­pean race, its cul­ture and his­to­ry.”

Five years on, Azov’s ambi­tions have found fer­tile soil in Croa­t­ia, where Sel­er said the move­ment would fur­ther its dream of build­ing “a Europe of the nations”.

WWII revi­sion­ism

In 2014, after pop­u­lar protests brought down Ukraine’s then pro-Russ­ian pres­i­dent, the country’s army found itself help­less against a Russ­ian move to annex Crimea and foment war in the east­ern Don­bass region.

Vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions rushed to the country’s defence, among them Azov. The unit soon earned a rep­u­ta­tion as one of the most bat­tle-com­mit­ted, but also for its open-door pol­i­cy to unabashed neo-Nazis.

Far-right groups in Ukraine grew in promi­nence with their role in the over­throw of Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych, arm­ing bar­ri­cades in the caul­dron of Kyiv’s Maid­an Neza­lezh­nos­ti, Inde­pen­dence Square, dur­ing months of freez­ing cold and final­ly fatal con­fronta­tion with police.

Five years on, the bat­tal­ion is now for­mal­ly known as the Azov Reg­i­ment and is part of Ukraine’s Nation­al Guard, a gen­darmerie-type force that reports to the inte­ri­or min­istry. It also has a polit­i­cal wing, the Nation­al Corps, a para­mil­i­tary unit called the Nation­al Mili­tia, a Youth Corps, sports bar, gym­na­si­ums and a ‘social cen­tre’ known as Cos­sack House just off the Maid­an. The polit­i­cal wing is polling below the thresh­old to enter par­lia­ment in par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in July.

In Ukraine, the far-right takes much of its inspi­ra­tion from Stepan Ban­dera, com­man­der of the under­ground Organ­i­sa­tion of Ukrain­ian Nation­al­ists, OUN, dur­ing World War Two. Many Ukraini­ans see the OUN as heroes who defend­ed Ukrain­ian inde­pen­dence, down­play­ing what a num­ber of lead­ing his­to­ri­ans of the Holo­caust argue was the group’s fas­cist ten­den­cies and the role of some OUN mem­bers in aid­ing the Nazi killing of Jews.

Like­wise, Croa­t­ia is grap­pling with WWII revi­sion­ism that has moved from the polit­i­cal fringes to the main­stream, ques­tion­ing the crimes com­mit­ted under fas­cist lead­ers of a short-lived inde­pen­dent Croa­t­ian state that was a pup­pet of Nazi Ger­many.

Nation­al­ists from both Croa­t­ia and Ukraine see much in com­mon in their coun­tries’ recent his­to­ries. For them, Croatia’s fight for inde­pen­dence in the ear­ly 1990s against Serb rebels backed by its larg­er neigh­bour Ser­bia has echoes in the ongo­ing fight against Russ­ian-backed forces in east­ern Ukraine.

“On a more sen­ti­men­tal, sub­con­scious lev­el for Croats, Ukraine is a friend,” said Tomis­lav Sunic, a Croa­t­ian-Amer­i­can writer described as the ‘intel­lec­tu­al guru’ of the Croa­t­ian far-right.

‘Between the seas’

Under Ole­na Semenya­ka, ‘inter­na­tion­al sec­re­tary’ of the Nation­al Corps, Azov has staged a num­ber of gath­er­ings and con­fer­ences and devel­oped rela­tion­ships and con­nec­tions with far-right groups across Europe, includ­ing the neo-Nazi Nation­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, NDP, in Ger­many and the neo-fas­cist Cas­a­Pound move­ment in Italy.

In March this year, the Soufan Group, a New York-based organ­i­sa­tion that con­ducts secu­ri­ty analy­sis, described Azov as “a crit­i­cal node in the transna­tion­al right-wing vio­lent extrem­ist (RWE) net­work.”

Azov hosts an annu­al ‘Paneu­ropa’ con­fer­ence for allies from west­ern Europe as well as an annu­al ‘Inter­mar­i­um’ con­fer­ence aimed at cen­tral and east­ern Europe, main­ly those coun­tries that were once behind the Iron Cur­tain or part of social­ist Yugoslavia.

In Sep­tem­ber, Azov is tak­ing the Inter­mar­i­um con­fer­ence on the road for the first time, to Seler’s Zagreb.

Inter­mar­i­um, or ‘between the seas’, is a region­al secu­ri­ty con­cept first tout­ed by Poland’s post-World War One leader Jozef Pil­sud­s­ki in the ear­ly 1930s.

Kyiv-based researcher Alexan­dra Wishart said Azov had giv­en the idea new life, pro­mot­ing it as a “spring­board” to build an east Euro­pean con­fed­er­a­tion of right-wing nation­al­ist “eth­no-states” free from what Azov per­ceives as the ‘cul­tur­al Marx­ism’ of the EU and the ‘neo-Bol­she­vism’ of Rus­sia.

Wishart, a grad­u­ate stu­dent at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Glas­gow and Nation­al Uni­ver­si­ty of Kyiv-Mohy­la Acad­e­my, said Croa­t­ia was cen­tral to Azov’s plans.

“Croa­t­ia is a key play­er with­in the Balka­ns and cen­tral enough to help neu­tral­ize Russ­ian or EU influ­ence there,” said Wishart, who attend­ed the Octo­ber 2018 Inter­mar­i­um con­fer­ence in Kyiv as an observ­er.

Sel­er con­firmed Zagreb would host the con­fer­ence, bring­ing togeth­er del­e­gates from Ukraine, Poland, the Baltic states, Nor­way, Den­mark and Swe­den, he said.

It will be a chance to cement devel­op­ing ties between Azov and the Croa­t­ian Sov­er­eign­tists, an alliance of far-right par­ties which came a sur­prise third in Croa­t­ia in Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions in May with 8.5 per cent of the vote. The alliance has one MP in the Croa­t­ian par­lia­ment but is polling at almost six per cent with par­lia­men­tary elec­tions due next year.

The alliance’s sole MEP is Ruza Toma­sic, a for­mer police offi­cer who left social­ist Yugoslavia for Cana­da aged 15 and recent­ly made head­lines in Croa­t­ia when pho­tographs were pub­lished show­ing her in fas­cist uni­form while liv­ing in Cana­da and appar­ent­ly glo­ri­fy­ing Croa­t­ian WWII fas­cist leader Ante Pavel­ic. Toma­sic told a Croa­t­ian jour­nal­ist that she was “not ashamed” of this, but that she “[did] not stand by some of those things today.”

In a Jan­u­ary social media post, an account run by Semenya­ka said that “the coali­tion of Croa­t­ian nation­al­ist par­ties is tak­ing shape side by side with the progress in the prepa­ra­tion for the next Inter­mar­i­um con­fer­ence by Croa­t­ian and Ukrain­ian enthu­si­asts.”

Sel­er said the guest of hon­our would be Andriy Bilet­sky, leader of Azov’s polit­i­cal wing, Nation­al Corps, and an MP in the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment, which he entered in 2014 as an inde­pen­dent. Semenya­ka did not con­firm the vis­it.

Azov allies in Croa­t­ian ‘Sov­er­eign­tists’

Bilet­sky pre­vi­ous­ly head­ed the open­ly neo-Nazi Patri­ot of Ukraine organ­i­sa­tion and spent 28 months in prison on attempt­ed mur­der charges. Nev­er tried, he was released and the charges were dropped under a par­lia­ment decree on ‘polit­i­cal pris­on­ers’ in 2014 fol­low­ing the rev­o­lu­tion on the Maid­an.

Bilet­sky has made the Inter­mar­i­um con­cept part of the ‘offi­cial geopo­lit­i­cal doc­trine’ of the Nation­al Corps.

Sel­er said the pur­pose of Biletsky’s vis­it was to meet rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Croatia’s right-wing, par­tic­u­lar­ly mem­bers of the Sov­er­eign­tists.

Toma­sic ini­tial­ly said she was unaware of any planned vis­it from Bilet­sky but then appeared to con­tra­dict her­self and told BIRN that a Croa­t­ian man, whose name she did not recall, had approached her regard­ing a planned vis­it to Zagreb by Bilet­sky that would include a meet­ing with Toma­sic and oth­er Sov­er­eign­tist politi­cians.

“I said fine, I’m will­ing to talk to any­body,” Toma­sic said, but denied hav­ing any­thing to do with organ­is­ing the trip or the Inter­mar­i­um con­fer­ence.

Some Sov­er­eign­tists, how­ev­er, are less coy about their rela­tion­ship with Azov.

Sunic, a far-right author and trans­la­tor who ran unsuc­cess­ful­ly for the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment on behalf of the Sov­er­eign­tists, told BIRN he plans to attend the Inter­mar­i­um con­fer­ence and that he is in reg­u­lar com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Semenya­ka.

Denis Bevan­da, sec­re­tary gen­er­al of the Croa­t­ian Con­ser­v­a­tive Par­ty, one of the main par­ties with­in the Sov­er­eign­tists, shared a pho­to on Insta­gram ear­li­er this year of him­self along­side Sel­er.

The post referred to the Azov Bat­tal­ion in Eng­lish and Ukrain­ian and declared ‘Sla­va Ukrayi­ni!’ or ‘Long live Ukraine!’ – the bat­tle cry of the OUN dur­ing WWII and of pro­test­ers dur­ing the 2014 rev­o­lu­tion, and now an offi­cial greet­ing of the Ukrain­ian army.

Croa­t­ian-French nation­al­ist author Jure Vujic, sev­enth on the Sov­er­eign­tists’ par­ty list for the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, par­tic­i­pat­ed in a con­fer­ence in Zagreb in Decem­ber 2017 co-host­ed by Semenya­ka and Leo Mar­ic of Croa­t­ian iden­ti­tar­i­an group Gen­eraci­ja Obnove (“Gen­er­a­tion Renew­al”)

Croatia’s ‘Zulu’ pledges help

The head­line announce­ment of the Sep­tem­ber con­fer­ence, how­ev­er, will like­ly be the cre­ation of what Azov calls its For­eign Legion. While details remain vague, Azov, in its social media posts, has sug­gest­ed such a force would facil­i­tate for­eign­ers wish­ing to join its fight in east­ern Ukraine.

BIRN has dis­cov­ered that in Feb­ru­ary last year, a user of the voice and text app Dis­cord, which has invite-only chat rooms and became pop­u­lar with white suprema­cists and neo-Nazis before the app was hit by a series of leaks, wrote that Azov “will have the for­eign legion set up with­in the next 18 months or so.”

BIRN scoured hun­dreds of thou­sands of leaked Dis­cord mes­sages and found no short­age of Azov devo­tees. One user on the white suprema­cist site Storm­front mused that “the Nation­al Social­ist rev­o­lu­tion” may begin in Ukraine.

The fol­low­ing month, March 2018, in an inter­view with a mem­ber of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resis­tance Move­ment, Semenya­ka said the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment was hin­der­ing Azov efforts to bring in for­eign recruits for the war against the Russ­ian-backed rebels. “But in the future we hope to cre­ate a for­eign legion. There we could announce loud and clear when we seek vol­un­teers.”

Semenya­ka, after ini­tial­ly reply­ing to a request for com­ment, did not reply to fur­ther com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Almost exact­ly 18 months on, the unit may be about to take shape – in Zagreb.

Bruno Zor­i­ca, a retired Croa­t­ian army offi­cer and for­mer mem­ber of the French For­eign Legion, has been repeat­ed­ly men­tioned in Azov social media posts as a key fig­ure in the unit’s cre­ation.

Known by his nom de guerre Zulu, Zor­i­ca com­mand­ed the Frankopan Bat­tal­ion, a spe­cial forces unit of the Croa­t­ian army, dur­ing the country’s war against Bel­grade-backed Serb rebels as the social­ist Yugoslav fed­er­a­tion dis­in­te­grat­ed in the ear­ly 1990s.

With oth­er vet­er­ans of the French For­eign Legion, Zor­i­ca trained Croa­t­ian army recruits dur­ing the war, telling the Wash­ing­ton Post in 1991: “We teach these recruits war is not Ram­bo movies… My peo­ple have a much low­er casu­al­ty rate in fight­ing than the oth­ers. They know when to fight and when to dig in.”

In 2001, Zor­i­ca was arrest­ed in a police oper­a­tion against a sus­pect­ed arms smug­gling ring. While there is no record of Zor­i­ca ever being charged or con­vict­ed of any crime, media reports at the time said the for­mer Legion­naire was sus­pect­ed of head­ing up an arms smug­gling ring that alleged­ly trans­port­ed the equiv­a­lent of more than one mil­lion euros of arms from Croa­t­ia into the Euro­pean Union, espe­cial­ly France.

Azov social media accounts have said Zor­i­ca has “promised to assist the devel­op­ment of the Ukrain­ian For­eign Legion” and that “coop­er­a­tion is promised to reach [a] new lev­el.”

After ini­tial­ly agree­ing to speak to BIRN, Zor­i­ca post­poned a planned inter­view then failed to show up and even­tu­al­ly stopped com­mu­ni­cat­ing.

In Octo­ber 2018, Zor­i­ca spoke at the last Inter­mar­i­um con­fer­ence in Kyiv, say­ing he was in “close com­mu­ni­ca­tion” with the head of Azov’s mil­i­tary school. “We are ready to share our expe­ri­ence and knowl­edge with the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary,” he said.

 

 

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