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FTR #818 Can You Put Lipstick on a Nazi? (Part 3): Update on Ukraine and Timeline of Ukrainian Fascism

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Azov battalion's insignia

Introduction: Continuing analysis of the recent Ukrainian elections, this broadcast further develops the so-called “moderate” forces’ incorporation of explicit Nazi and fascist elements, as well as their adoption of policy advocated by the extremists.

Exemplary of this dynamic is the issue of “lustration laws.”  Ostensibly designed to fight the endemic corruption that has plagued Ukraine since it gained independence, the laws actually appear to be part of the ongoing purge of politicians sympathetic to Russia and are in violation of principles of law.

To generate momentum for the lustration laws, president Poroshenko selected a recipient of funding from Pierre Omidyar. Svitlana Zalishchuk is now a member of parliament, having forged political dialogue between the “moderate” parties and the fascist parties such as Svoboda and the Radical Party.

At least two members of the Nazi Azov Battalion have been elected to parliament, including its founder Andriy Biletsky.

The deputy commander of the Azov Battalion has been appointed chief of police of Kiev. With a veteran of a Nazi combat unit supervising the constabulary of that nation’s capital, democratic process may very well be further imperiled.

(We have covered the ascension of the OUN/B heirs in the Ukraine in a number of programs: FTR #’s 777778779780781782, 783784794800, 803, 804, 808, 811, 817.)

Insignia on Azov soldiers' helmets

Program Highlights Include: The role of Svoboda member and former defense minister Andriy Parubiy as an adviser to Poroshenko; Poroshenko’s comemoration of October 14 (anniversary of the founding of the OUN-UPA) as a Ukrainian holiday; an overview of the political evolution of the OUN/B heirs that have come to power in Ukraine; review of other Nazi and fascist elements that serve in an advisory role in the ranks of the “moderate” forces in Ukraine; discussion of the spin placed by Western media on the Nazi and fascist presence within the Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk blocs; the Azov Battalion membership of a key Vitali Klitschko ally (Klitshko is an important member of Poroshenko’s Bloc); Azov associate and Yatsenyuk functionary Tetyana Chornovol’s head of Poroshenko’s “anti-corruption” task force–a position that places her in the forefront of the “lustration law” milieu.

1.  It turns out one of the key fig­ures in the Poroshenko admin­is­tra­tion, who was also heav­ily backed by Pierre Omidyar’s pro-Maidan out­fits, was the per­son in charge of push­ing the lus­tra­tion laws. Of particular significance is the fact that Svitlana Zalischuk, the recipient of Omidyar’s funding, was a key player in coordinating the activities of the so-called “respectable,” “moderate” pro-EU political cadre with the overtly fascist parties such as Svoboda and the Radical Party.

“Omidyar-Funded Can­di­date Takes Seat in New Ukraine Parliament” by Mark AmesPando Daily; 10/30/2014.

Ukraine just held its first post-revolution par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, and amid all of the oli­garchs, EU enthu­si­asts, neo-Nazisnepo­tism babies, and death squad com­man­ders, there is one newly-elected parliamentarian’s name that stands out for her con­nec­tion to Sil­i­con Val­ley: Svit­lana Zal­ishchuk, from the bil­lion­aire president’s Poroshenko Bloc party.

Zal­ishchuk was given a choice spot on the president’s party list, at num­ber 18, ensur­ing her a seat in the new Rada. And she owes her rise to power to another oli­garch besides Ukraine’s pres­i­dent — Pierre Omid­yar, whose fund­ing with USAID helped top­ple the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment. Zalishchuk’s pro-Maidan rev­o­lu­tion out­fits were directly funded by Omidyar.

Ear­lier this year, Pando exposed how eBay bil­lion­aire and Inter­cept pub­lisher Pierre Omid­yar co-funded with USAID Zalishchuk’s web of non­govern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions — New Cit­i­zenChesnoCen­ter UAAccord­ing to the Finan­cial Times, New Cit­i­zen, which received hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars from Omid­yar, “played a big role in get­ting the [Maidan] protest up and run­ning” in Novem­ber 2013. Omid­yar Network’s web­site fea­tures Zalishchuk’s pho­to­graph on its page describ­ing its invest­ment in New Cit­i­zen. Zal­ishchuk was brought into the NGOs by her long­time men­tor, Oleh Rybachuk, a for­mer deputy prime min­ster who led the last failed effort to inte­grate Ukraine into the EU and NATO.

Zalishchuk’s pho­tos also grace the Poroshenko Bloc’s web­site and twit­ter feed, as she emerged as one of the pres­i­den­tial party’s lead­ing spokesper­sons. The Poroshenko Bloc is named after Ukraine’s pro-Western pres­i­dent, Petro Poroshenko, a bil­lion­aire with a lock on Ukraine’s con­fec­tionary indus­try, as well as own­ing a national TV sta­tion and other prized assets. He came to power this year thanks to the rev­o­lu­tion orig­i­nally orga­nized by Zalishchuk’s Omidyar-funded NGOs, and has rewarded her with a seat in the Rada.

The president’s party tasked Zalushchik with pub­licly sell­ing the highly con­tro­ver­sial new “lus­tra­tion law” — essen­tially a legal­ized witch-hunt law first pro­posed by the neo-fascist Svo­boda Party ear­lier this year, and sub­se­quently denounced by Ukraine’s pros­e­cu­tor gen­eral and by Human Rights Watch, which described a draft of the law as “arbi­trary and overly broad and fail(s) to respect human rights prin­ci­ples,” warn­ing it “may set the stage for unlaw­ful mass arbi­trary polit­i­cal exclusion.”

The lus­tra­tion law was passed under a wave of neo-Nazi vio­lence, in which mem­bers of par­lia­ment and oth­ers set to be tar­geted for purges were forcibly thrown into trash dumps.

Zal­ishchuk, how­ever, praised the lus­tra­tion law, claim­ing that the legal­ized purges would “give Ukraine a chance at a new life.”

Shortly before the elec­tions, on Octo­ber 17, Zal­ishchuk used her Omidyar-funded out­fit, “Chesno,”to orga­nize a round­table with lead­ers of pro-EU and neo-fascist par­ties. It was called “Par­lia­ment for Reform”and it brought together lead­ers from eight par­ties,includ­ing Zalishchuk’s “Poroshenko Bloc” (she served as both NGO orga­nizer and as pro-Poroshenko party can­di­date), the prime minister’s “People’s Party” and lead­ers from two unabashedly neo-Nazi par­ties: Svo­boda, and the Rad­i­cal Party of Oleh Lyashko, who was denounced by Amnesty Inter­na­tional for post­ing YouTube videos of him­self inter­ro­gat­ing naked and hooded pro-Russian sep­a­ratist pris­on­ers. Lyashko’s cam­paign posters fea­tured him impal­ing a car­i­ca­tured Jew­ish oli­garch on a Ukrain­ian trident.

Mean­while, Zalishchuk’s boss, Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko, has led a bloody war against pro-Russian sep­a­ratists in the east of the coun­try that left at least 3700 dead in a half year of fight­ing. Human Rights Watch recently accused Poroshenko’s forces of “indis­crim­i­nate” use of clus­ter bombs in heav­ily pop­u­lated areas, that “may amount to war crimes.” Poroshenko’s forces include neo-Nazi death squads like the noto­ri­ous Azov battalion.

Last month, Poroshenko fur­ther cemented his ties to the extreme right by hail­ing Ukraine’s wartime Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors, the vio­lently anti-Semitic UPA, as “heroes.” The fas­cist UPA par­tic­i­pated in the Holo­caust, and were respon­si­ble for killing tens of thou­sands of Jews and eth­nic Poles in their bid to cre­ate an eth­ni­cally pure Ukraine. Many UPA mem­bers filled the ranks of the Nazi SS “Gali­cia” Divi­sion. The neo-Nazi Right Sek­tor, which spear­headed the vio­lent later stages of the Maidan rev­o­lu­tion, sees itself as the UPA’s con­tem­po­rary suc­ces­sors; Right Sektor’s leader, Dmitry Yarosh, believes that any “eth­nic minor­ity that pre­vents us from being mas­ters in our own land” is an “enemy.” Yarosh was just elected to the new parliament.

This week, Omidyar Network’s “investment lead” for Ukraine, Stephen King, accepted an award for Omidyar Network’s role in a major new USAID-backed project, Global Impact Investing Network. . . .

2. The Kiev gov­ern­ment just passed a law ostensibly intended to purge the gov­ern­ment of its past cor­rupt­ing influ­ences. The so-called “lustration laws” actually appear to be a thin legal veneer for a wholesale purge of any Ukrainian civil servants in any way linked to Russia. The lustration laws are the statutes that Omidyar’s proptege Zalischuk has been empowered to garnish with a veneer of respectability and legality.

“Ukraine Could Sack up to Mil­lion Offi­cials with Ties to Russ­ian Past” by Dmitry Zaks [AFP]; Yahoo News; 10/09/2014.

Ukraine’s pres­i­dent approved a dis­puted anti-graft mea­sure on Thurs­day that could see up to a mil­lion civil ser­vants with alleged links to past Soviet or pro-Russian gov­ern­ments imme­di­ately sacked.

The so-called “lus­tra­tion law” fol­lows the exam­ple of other east­ern Euro­pean nations that broke free of decades of Moscow’s dom­i­na­tion at the end of the Cold War.

It was also a ral­ly­ing cry of the protests that con­vulsed Kiev last win­ter and led to the ouster of pro-Russian pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych and a secre­tive band of Ukrain­ian tycoons.

The law removes any­one who held a fed­eral or regional gov­ern­ment posi­tion for more than a year under Yanukovych, who is now in self-imposed exile in Russia.

It also sets up a spe­cial com­mis­sion to inves­ti­gate judges and law enforce­ment agents sus­pected of liv­ing lav­ish lifestyles on hum­ble gov­ern­ment wages.

Another pro­vi­sion pre­vents any­one unable to explain their sources of income or assets from hold­ing office for five to 10 years.

Law­mak­ers’ ini­tial fail­ure to adopt the leg­is­la­tion last month sparked vio­lent protests out­side par­lia­ment that engulfed the build­ing in the black smoke of burn­ing tyres and brought riot police out on the streets.

The bill itself says it was drafted to help “restore trust in the author­i­ties and cre­ate a new sys­tem of gov­ern­ment that cor­re­sponds to Euro­pean standards”.

“This is a his­toric day for Ukraine,” Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko posted on his Face­book account.

“The state machine will be cleansed. Glory to Ukraine!”

– Way to set­tle scores? –

But the leg­is­la­tion has been bit­terly fought by law­mak­ers rep­re­sent­ing Russian-speaking east­ern regions — the power­base of the for­mer regime and now par­tially con­trolled by sep­a­ratist rebels.

Its legal­ity has also been ques­tioned by the Coun­cil of Europe and busi­ness lead­ers who fear it will lead to a dam­ag­ing exo­dus of com­pe­tent bureaucrats.

Even the president’s own spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive on children’s issues com­plained that it “vio­lates basic rights and free­doms of cit­i­zens, is anti-constitutional and does not cor­re­spond to Euro­pean judi­cial pro­ce­dures or standards.”

“It pro­vides a way to set­tle scores with your (polit­i­cal) oppo­nents,” children’s ombuds­man Yuriy Pavlenko wrote on his Face­book account.

Other clauses in the law bar any­one found guilty of back­ing sep­a­ratist causes and any­one who worked as a pros­e­cu­tor or held a top office when state agents shot dead nearly 100 pro­test­ers dur­ing the Kiev unrest.

The com­mis­sion can addi­tion­ally probe civil ser­vants’ links to the Soviet-era secret ser­vice and Com­mu­nist Party.

The mea­sures have already prompted the res­ig­na­tion of two top finance and econ­omy min­istry offi­cials who are respected by the busi­ness com­mu­nity but were hired dur­ing Yanukovych’s 2010–2014 presidency.

A suc­ces­sion of recent gov­ern­ments have been riven by squab­bles and busi­ness clan rival­ries that stalled the adop­tion of cru­cial eco­nomic restruc­tur­ing mea­sures and left the coun­try nearly bank­rupt and depen­dent on for­eign help.

Yanukovych and his allies were accused of per­se­cut­ing their pre­de­ces­sors and jail­ing for­mer prime min­is­ter Yulia Tymoshenko for polit­i­cal reasons.

3.  Parliament’s failure to enact the lustration laws sparked vio­lent protests out­side par­lia­ment that “engulfed the build­ing in the black smoke of burn­ing tyres and brought riot police out on the streets”.  These protests were staged by “usual suspects”–Pravy Sektor, Svoboda et al. Again, Zalishchuck is basically Poroshenko’s legal and parliamentary running dog for the legislation favored by the OUN/B heirs. Here’s a bit more on those protests:

“Watch Angry Ukrain­ian Pro­test­ers Throw a Politi­cian in the Dump­ster” by Sarah Kaufman; Voca­tive; 9/16/2014.

 It’s been a hell of a year for Ukraine. Months of fiery protest, the over­throw of a pres­i­dent, a Russ­ian inva­sion and even a war.

But despite a cease-fire that’s in effect, there’s no sign that things are set­tling down. On Tues­day, some activists of the extrem­ist pro-Ukrainian party Avtomaidan threw a Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment mem­ber in a metal trash can, doused him with an unknown liq­uid and threat­ened to light him on fire. It was all part of a demon­stra­tion out­side par­lia­ment in which hun­dreds of mem­bers of the far-right par­ties of Ukraine—Right Sec­tor, Avtomaidan and Volya—demanded the pas­sage of law on some­thing called “lustration.”

Lus­tra­tion in Ukraine means cleans­ing the gov­ern­ment from its past by screen­ing offi­cials and often pun­ish­ing them for involve­ment in a past regime. Pun­ish­ments can include stigma­ti­za­tion or removal from office. The point of lus­tra­tion for many Ukraini­ans is to ensure the cor­rup­tion that was so preva­lent in the regime of Vik­tor Yanukovich, who was forced from office ear­lier this year, is erad­i­cated. (The law passed, but it’s unclear what the net effect will be for mem­bers of parliament.)

The YouTube video shows Vitaliy Stanislavovich Zhu­ravskiy, a Ukrain­ian MP since 1998 with no party affil­i­a­tion, lying in a dump­ster while a pro­tester force­fully holds his head down. Demon­stra­tors push and shove the dump­ster in every direc­tion until the cops grab Zhuravskiy’s hands and pull him out. In the back­ground, demon­stra­tors are burn­ing tires and shov­ing police officers.

4. More depth on the nature of the “new” political makeup of the Ukrainian government is provided by German-Foreign-Policy.com. Note that the “moderate” Yatsenyuk’s party has Andriy Biletsky, founder of the Azov Battalion as an adviser. Poroshenko has Svoboda member Oleg Makhnitsky as an adviser, as well as Roman Svarych, the personal secretary to Jaroslav Stetsko.

“Nationalist Upsurge”; german-foreign-policy.com;  10/24/2014.

The election campaign, ending this week in today’s pro-Western Ukraine, is characterized by extremist nationalism. According to opinion polls, the party of the politician, who had promoted himself using videos of his violations of the human rights of alleged pro-Russian separatists, is set to become second in Sunday’s elections. Considering the civil war’s nationalist upsurge, other parties have begun accepting militiamen into their ranks. The commander of the fascist Asov Battalion, for example, is a member of the “military council” of Prime Minister Arseniy Jazenjuk’s party. Last week, Asov Battalion militia members participated in the violent attacks on the Ukrainian parliament. During the election campaign, it was alleged that Kiev’s troops had used internationally banned cluster munitions in the Donetsk region. New social cuts are anticipated – regardless of the winner of the elections – to pay for the essential supplies of Russian gas. Berlin and the EU, whose hegemonic sphere Ukraine joined this year, are refusing to give Kiev additional material assistance. Aside from these issues, the former Polish foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, admitted that he had completely invented the serious allegations he made against the Russian president. German media have widely reported on these allegations.

Summary Execution

The election campaign in today’s pro-Western Ukraine has been shaped, to a growing extent, by extremist nationalism. Opinion polls predict the victory of the “Petro Poroshenko Bloc,” whose top candidate, Vitali Klitschko, had been systematically groomed by the CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation.[1] For months already, pollsters have been unanimously predicting that Oleh Lyashko’s “Radical Party” will come in second. With his violations of the human rights of alleged pro-Russian separatists, (german-foreign-policy.com reported [2]) Lyashko seems to attract a significant number of potentially fascist voters. Most recently, he aroused attention, when, in a TV talk show, he presented a prisoner – whom he claimed was a Russian soldier.[3] Lyashko also announced that, in the future, he will have captured separatists summarily executed. Polls give Lyashko more than ten percent of the vote. The Svoboda Party, which, up to now, had been the strongest force within the fascist spectrum, is expected to lose so many votes to Lyashko’s party that it will have to worry about whether it will achieve the 5% hurdle or have to depend on direct mandates. Svoboda may also lose votes to the “Right Sector,” which hardly has a chance of winning seats in the Verkhovna Rada.

“Crusade Against Untermenschen”

Beyond the spectrum of overtly fascist parties, particularly the “People’s Front” – the party of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who had been put in power by the West – is campaigning with well-known rightwing extremists. Tetiana Chornovol, the former press secretary of the fascist UNA-UNSO organization, who, in the meantime has joined the Asov Battalion, is the second candidate on the ballot of the “People’s Front.” The “People’s Front” has also established a “Military Council” to profit from the country’s nationalist war frenzy. The “Military Council” also includes Asov Battalion commander Andriy Biletsky. Biletsky once declared, “the historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival,” in “a crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.”[4] His Asov Battalion had participated in the violent attacks on the Ukrainian parliament. These attacks began October 14, when the majority of the deputies rejected the motion for declaring October 14 an official holiday. The Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), which had also committed massacres on more then 90,000 Christian and Jewish Poles, was founded October 14, 1942.

Cluster Munitions

During the election campaign, there were also serious allegations raised against the government. According to recent reports – including those by western human rights organizations – Kiev government forces, particularly fascist militias, are committing serious human rights violations in the civil war in eastern Ukraine. It has also been reported that government units have used internationally banned cluster munitions in the Donetsk region. Cluster munitions are particularly dangerous to civilians. To date, 114 countries have signed the treaty banning cluster munitions. The Ukraine has not joined the treaty even after the pro-western coup in Kiev. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), there is strong evidence of Kiev’s government forces having used cluster munitions in attacks in early October – at the time, the ceasefire was already in effect. According to HRW, at least six people have been killed and dozens wounded by these internationally banned munitions. The real number of victims is probably higher, according to the human rights organization.[5]

Verge of Collapse

For the period following the elections, regardless of election results, there are already indications of new social cutbacks. Economically, Ukraine is on the verge of collapse. This year’s economic performance will shrink by up to ten percent, correspondents report. The budget could reach a deficit of more than seven percent of the gross domestic product. Since the beginning of the year, the Ukrainian currency, the hryvna, has lost well over half of its value vis à vis the US dollar, causing the price of imported goods to soar. In addition, the costs of energy have also been rising; inflation is running at around twelve percent. No one expects the US $17 billion in IMF bailouts – up to 2016 – to suffice.[6] Therefore, now that Kiev has joined the Western hegemonic sphere of influence, it is insisting on financial support from Berlin and the EU. The German government is only willing to participate in limited financing. At best, a limited share of the costs for Russian gas deliveries to Ukraine could be covered, according to the EU’s Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger’s entourage. The Ukrainian government must revise its budget. This implies wide-ranging social cuts. The fact that no final agreement has been reached with Russia on the supply of natural gas is advantageous to President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The absolutely essential agreement and, with it, also the debate on more cuts, are, therefore, postponed until after elections.

Lies

Recent German media reports have demonstrated to what extent the western “freedom” PR campaign, even beyond the Ukrainian election campaign, is resorting to obvious lies for their power struggle with Russia. Last weekend, Radoslaw Sikorski, until recently, as Poland’s Foreign Minister, one of the EU’s most involved politicians in the Ukrainian conflict, was quoted claiming that in February 2008, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, proposed to him and the Polish Prime Minister, at the time, Donald Tusk, that Ukraine be divided up between Poland and Russia. “Tusk, fortunately, did not answer. He knew that the room was bugged,” claimed Sikorski. By Wednesday, it was claimed that the “suspicion” of Russia currently pursuing “an old plan of conquest,” has now “been further reinforced” by Sikorski’s declaration.[7] However, by then, Sikorski already had had to admit that, contrary to his earlier allegations, he had not even been present at the said meeting. He had been told that “a similar” statement had been made. He has now also admitted that the meeting in question had not even taken place.[8] This incident is but one in a long line of absurdities being propagated by western political PR and media. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[9])

Other reports and background information on Germany’s policy toward Ukraine can be found here: The Kiev Escalation StrategyThe Free WorldA Fatal Taboo ViolationThe Europeanization of UkraineCrisis of Legitimacy“Fascist Freedom Fighters”The Restoration of the Oligarchs (IV), Second-Class StakeholdersUkrainian PatriotsUkrainian ManeuversA Lesson Learned and Under Tutelage.

[1] See Our Man in Kiev.
[2] See Radikalisierung im Parlament.
[3] Benjamin Bidder: Rechter Politiker Ljaschko: Der Mann, der die Ukraine aufhetzt. www.spiegel.de 22.10.2014.
[4] Ukraine crisis: the neo-Nazi brigade fighting pro-Russian separatists. www.telegraph.co.uk 11.08.2014.
[5] Ukraine: Widespread Use of Cluster Munitions. www.hrw.org 20.10.2014.
[6] Matthias Benz: Ein Land im Stresszustand. www.nzz.de 22.10.2014.
[7] Konrad Schuller: Ein schlechter Scherz? Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 22.10.2014.
[8] Sikorski entschuldigt sich. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 23.10.2014.
[9] See “Moskaus Drang nach Westen”.

 

5. Poroshenko made October 14 a national holiday, honoring the founding of the OUN-UPA.

6a. It appears that Azov Battalion commander Andriy Biletsky was elected to Parliament as well.

“A Biletsky, Neo-Nazi, Azov Reg Commander, Social Nationalist A Leader Elected with Support from Popular Front”;  Ukraine Antifa Twitterfeed; 10/26/2014.

6b. Deputy com­man­der of the Azov Bat­tal­ion, Vadim Troyan, just become Kiev’s chief of police (Google trans­lated):

“Avakov Appointed Chief of Police of Kiev Region Zamkom­bata ‘Azov’ “; 10/31/2014.

Ukrain­ian Inte­rior Min­is­ter Arsen Avakov appointed chief of Research Affairs in Kyiv oblast party ATO, deputy bat­tal­ion com­man­der “Azov” Vadim Troyan.

He announced from the stage of the Cen­ter of Cul­ture and Arts of Ukraine Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs on Fri­day, Oct. 31, trans­mits “Ukrinform”.

“I have an order that has appointed Lieu­tenant Colonel Vadim Troyan depart­men­tal head of the Kiev region, and I hope that the patri­ots who proved his loy­alty in bat­tle coun­tries that are com­pe­tent, able, together with the old experts to form qual­i­ta­tively new mili­tia, which we expect,” — said the Minister.

Avakov added that Troyan is a grad­u­ate of the Police Acad­emy, has expe­ri­ence, trust him, because he is well estab­lished in the ATO. “It frees Mar­i­upol with” Azov “, fought under Ilo­vaiskaya, par­tic­i­pated in the bat­tles of Shi­rokino. We trust him. And today, the deci­sion of the min­is­ter, he’s a police chief of Kiev region “- said the head of the Inte­rior Ministry.

In reply, Vadim Troyan assured that the Ukraini­ans will not let such a respon­si­ble posi­tion. “When I was study­ing, I dreamed of chang­ing the sys­tem and the fight against crime, to help the peo­ple of Ukraine. I think that this case is that God has given me — the bat­tal­ion, the min­istry and the peo­ple — I will not fail, “- he said.

6c. Azov Battalion member Igor Mosiychuk has been elected to parliament on the Radical Party ticket.

“Igor Mosiychuk, Nazi, Azov Regiment, Social-Nationalist Assembly, elected to Ukraine Parliament, Radical Party”; Ukraine Antifa Twitterfeed; 10/26/2014.

6d. Another Azov veteran (killed in action in August) was a close ally of Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko, who is a key member of Poroshenko’s political party. His widow, also an Azov associate and a member of Yatsenyuk’s Military Council, was head of the “anti-corruption” task force. This places her prominently in the “lustration law” milieu!

“Husband of Kiev Revolution Hero Killed in Battle” by Christopher Miller; Mashable.com; 8/10/2014.

A close ally of Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko and the husband of prominent journalist-turned-activist Tetyana Chornovol, was killed in action in the country’s conflict-torn east on Sunday.

Mykola Berezovy, 37, was fighting with the “Azov” battalion, a group of volunteer fighters under the control of the Interior Ministry, against Russian-backed rebels in the town of Ilovaisk some 30 miles southeast of the separatist stronghold of Donetsk when he was fatally wounded by a sniper’s bullet, said Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. . . .

. . . . Under the new government, Chornovol was appointed to lead Ukraine’s anti-corruption task force. . . .

. . . . Berezovy, the former head of Klitschko’s Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR) party in in what is now rebel-occupied Horlivka, Donetsk region, bled out while waiting for a medical assistance to arrive at the scene. . . . .

7.  An article about Ukraine further develops the presence of Nazis and fascists in the so-called “moderate” political elements in Ukraine. The spin is interesting. Critics from the pro-EU faction are criticizing this as giving credence to what Putin is saying. The fact is that Putin has been making those statements because the pro-OUN/B heirs in Ukraine are, in fact, Nazis and fascists!

“Ukraine’s President Wowed Congress, But His Party Has a Dark Side” by Anna Nemtsova; The Daily Beast; 9/19/2014.

Activists and opponents warn that Poroshenko’s embrace of ultra-rightists plays into the hands of Vladimir Putin.

Experts who monitor ultra-right-wing groups and hate crimes have sent an open letter asking Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a key Poroshenko supporter, to exclude several Ukrainian nationalist leaders from his newly founded People’s Front party. These activists reminded Yatsenyuk and Poroshenko that some of the public figures appointed as the party candidates for the upcoming October parliamentary elections are openly anti-Semitic and are not known to have renounced their views. They promote radical Ukrainian nationalism, racism and neo-Nazi ideology—the heady brew of loathsome doctrines that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his backers have warned about since the February change of power in Kiev.

In photographs of the recent party congress, Yatsenyuk and former acting President Alexander Turchnov stood shoulder to shoulder with Andrei Biletsky, a leader in the far-right Patriots of Ukraine and the Social-Nationalist Assembly.

These groups are known for brawling, attacking public figures, and various hate crimes. Before the Russian-backed rebellion in eastern Ukraine most were regarded as little more than hooligans. But in the face of Russia’s threats, Biletsky and other far-right figures have been transformed from fringe personalities into national heroes.

The volunteer battalion Biletsky serves with, Azov, counts a few hundred armed militants. “We don’t deny that a majority of our guys are Ukrainian patriots,” Biletsky said in a recent interview, published on Azov’s Facebook page. Western volunteers also supported Biletsky, he said: “Brits, Italians, Swedes, Russians, Belarusians, some Greeks, Croats and Poles. Foreigners are our elite forces.” The battalion’s symbol is a modified swastika, although for the record the group denies it is Nazi-inspired.

The more moderate opposition has criticized Poroshenko for seeming to welcome the “Nazi” partners while using them as cannon fodder in the war against Moscow and pro-Russian separatists.

In a recent interview with The Daily Beast in Kiev, Grigory Nemira, head of the European integration committee in the Ukraine parliament and a close ally of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, said that Poroshenko preferred to delegate the responsibility for what happened on the front lines to volunteer commanders and not the defense ministry.

“The president still has not appointed a chief of staff for the armed forces,” said Nemira. “He has not admitted we are in a state of war, preferring to throw the battalions like Azov into the most dangerous combat zones, where authorities would not have the courage to send regular troops.”

The price these supposedly heroic battalion commanders demanded for their combat roles is representation in parliament. Russian forces have killed dozens of volunteer soldiers in recent battles, Biletsky said earlier this month, and “those who made a major sacrifice deserve to be represented in power.” His battalion fighters, some wearing undisguised swastika tattoos, often express anti-Semitic views. But that did not stop hundreds of Ukrainians from pushing “like” under Facebook photographs of Biletsky and his men.

The “Military Council” of the People’s Front welcomed a commander of the Dnper-1 Battalion, Yuri Birch. Andriy Parubiy, a co-founder of Patriots of Ukraine back in the 1990s, also has found a role in the pro-Poroshenko camp. [Parubiy is from Svoboda and was Defense Minister through much of the early part of 2014.] He and a few other activists were tried for beating demonstrators in Lviv on November 7, 1997. During the February uprising on Maidan square, he worked closely with far-right groups as a commander of the Maidan self-defense troops. Last year, Patriots of Ukraine supporters and Biletsky were accused of attempting to kill journalist Sergei Kolesnik. He was detained but never convicted. Other supporters of the organization were jailed in 2011 for preparing a terrorist act. . . . .

8. The program concludes with a synoptic overview of the historical evolution of the OUN/B milieu that came to power in the wake of the Maidan coup. (We have covered the ascension of the OUN/B heirs in the Ukraine in a number of programs: FTR #’s 777778779780781782, 783784794800, 803, 804, 808, 811, 817.)

  • Ukrainian fascists working for the Third Reich were active in the U.S. during World War II.
  • Under Stephan Bandera and Jaroslav Stetsko, the OUN/B were military and political allies of the Third Reich during the war. They explicitly endorsed the ideology and ethnic cleansing of Nazi Germany and implemented it against Jews, Poles and Russians during the war.
  • The OUN-UPA–the military wing of the OUN/B–prosecuted a guerilla war in Ukraine, beginning during World War II itself and continuing until 1952 with the active assistance of Frank Wisner’s Office of Policy Coordination.
  • The OUN/B became the dominant element of the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations, a renaming of the Committee of Subjugated Nations formed by Adolph Hitler in 1943. Jaroslav Stetsko headed the group, with his widow Slava Stetsko assuming the post after her husband’s death in 1986.
  • The Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations became a key component of the World Anti-Communist League, which figured prominently in U.S. covert operations and foreign policy during the Cold War. WACL was deeply involved in the support for the Contra guerillas in Nicaragua.
  • The ABN and the OUN/B also figure in the assassination of President Kennedy.
  • The guerilla warfare in Ukraine was part of the Crusade For Freedom, a covert operation that had a powerful domestic component. Thousands of Nazi and fascist collaborators, including OUN/B operatives, were imported into the United States to become a critical element of the Republican Party. The CFF was the creation of Allen Dulles and was overseen by Richard Nixon. The chief spokesperson for it was Ronald Reagan. William Casey handled the State Department machinations to bring these operatives into the United States. George Herbert Walker Bush installed the Nazis as a permanent wing of the Republican Party when he served as chairman of the Republican National Committee.
  • Ronald Reagan’s election saw the CFF milieu institutionalized. Reagan (CFF spokesman) was President; George H.W. Bush was Vice President (he made the Nazis a permanent element of the GOP); William Casey, who was Reagan’s campaign manager, became head of the CIA (Casey handled the State Department machinations to bring the Nazis into the U.S.)
  • Reagan’s Deputy Director of Public Liaison was Ykaterina Chumachenko, a key OUN/B operative. OUN/B member Lev Dobriansky became Reagan’s Ambassador to the Bahamas, while his daughter Paula was placed on Reagan’s National Security Council. Later, Paula Dobriansky became an Deputy Secretary of State under George W. Bush, in charge of the Tibet desk.
  • Roman Svarych served as Jaroslav Stetsko’s personal secretary during the 1980’s.
  • The Reagan administration implemented “liberation ideology”–a Nazi political warfare strategy–to help break up the U.S.S.R.
  • The Free Congress Foundation played a key role in the political infiltration and indoctrination of the former Warsaw Pact countries and the Soviet Union itself. The head of its operations there was Laszlo Pasztor, a Hungarian Arrow Cross veteran who was a key ABN agent after the war. Pasztor headed up the GOP’s Nazi wing. Nazi and fascist elements tracking back to World War II were projected into territories where the FCF was active. They took root there and have provided momentum and ideological support for the OUN/B heirs in Ukraine. OUN/B forces were a major element of the FCF’s activities in the former Soviet Bloc.
  • After Ukraine gained its independence after the dissolution of the U.S.S.R., Roman Svarych and Slava Stetsko formed the Ukrainian National Congress, which became a pivotal element in post-Cold War Ukrainian governance. Svarych served as justice minister under Victor Yuschenko and in both of Yulia Timoshenko’s administrations. Svarych is an adviser to Petro Poroshenko.
  • Ykaterina Chumachenko married Victor Yuschenko and became first lady of Ukraine. Yuschenko implemented an Orwellian re-write of Ukrainian World War II history, lionizing the OUN/B and paving the way for the ascension of Svoboda and related elements. Both Stephan Bandera and Roman Shukheyvych (head of the OUN-UPA) were name heroes of the Ukraine by Yuschenko.
  • Svoboda head Oleh Tyhanybok was honored by veterans of the 14th Waffen SS division in 2010. Svoboda returned the honor in 2013 in Lvov.
  • The Maidan coup occurs in late 2013 and early 2014, with Svoboda and Pravy Sektor, as well as other OUN/B heir playing a prominent role in the coup, as well as gaining several critical cabinet appointments in the provisional government. A street in the Lvov district was name in honor of the Nachtigall Battalion (Einsatzgruppe Nachtigall), that liquidated the Jewish population of Lvov, as well as many of its Polish residents. Roman Shukheyvych commanded the unit.
  • As the Ukrainian civil war developed, people from OUN/B successors such as the Azov Battalion, Svoboda, Pravy Sektor, the Radical Party, the UNA-UNSO are incorporated into the so-called “moderate” political groupings.

Discussion

10 comments for “FTR #818 Can You Put Lipstick on a Nazi? (Part 3): Update on Ukraine and Timeline of Ukrainian Fascism”

  1. Vice has a new report on the reported use of incendiary weapons on civilians areas in eastern Ukraine. Their conclusion: such weapons were used, but it wasn’t banned white phosphorous but instead a type of barely regulated incendiary weapon developed by the Soviet military that can be legally be used against enemy forces even if they are “in close proximity to concentrations of non-combatants” according to Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCCW). But use in such circumstance is only allowed if it’s fire from a surface-to-surface missile and not and air-to-surface missile. The article also points out that the missile launchers used in this instance are older systems not known for their accuracy. So it’s possible that incendiaries weapons were used against civilian populations by the Kiev forces legally, but only due to a horrible loophole:

    Vice News
    ‘A Rain of Fire’: Ukrainian Forces Used Little-Known Soviet-Era Incendiary Weapons to Attack Iloviask

    By Harriet Salem

    November 13, 2014 | 12:19 pm

    Iloviask was once a sleepy small town in eastern Ukraine, but by mid August this year war was knocking at the door as fierce fights between pro-Russia rebels and Ukrainian forces raged through surrounding villages and countryside. The distant explosions which illuminated the night sky on August 14, however, looked nothing like the grad rocket and mortar fire that the locals had come to recognize.

    At first, the town’s residents thought the Ukrainians were just celebrating a victory. “It seemed like they were setting off fireworks after retaking a nearby village from the militia,” 52-year-old Elena Sychova, the caretaker at school 14, told VICE News. “But then we realized it wasn’t stopping. It was getting closer and closer to us. It was like a rain of fire.”

    A subsequent investigation by VICE News, including an independent expert analysis of retrieved rocket remnants by Armament Research Services (ARES), showed that the “fireworks” were in fact thousands of incendiary elements cascading out of a Soviet-era 9M22S rocket in mid-flight.

    Up to 40 9M22S rockets can be fired in approximately 20 seconds by the 9K51(aka BM-21 ) “Grad” Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS). Ignited at the point of ejection, the 180 hexagonal-shaped shells packed into the rocket’s 9N510 warhead each contain a thermite-like substance and burn furiously as they plummet to the ground.

    Although the elements are small — 1.02 x 1.65 inches or 2.6 x 4.2cm — they reach a blazing temperature. Most thermite compositions ignite at temperatures in excess of 3,992 degrees Fahrenheit (2,200 degrees Celsius). The heat is sufficient to reduce the outer ML-5 magnesium alloy casing to ash.

    The night of August 14, around 10pm, local residents across Iloviask — which at the time was under rebel control — report hearing a number of unusual-sounding explosions in quick succession and what appeared to be giant “fireworks” coming from the south-west.

    Alexander, a 44-year-old security guard, was about to go to bed when he heard the rapid series of booms. “It seemed far away, so I didn’t worry. My wife and kids were already living in the bomb shelter under the cultural center at this time, but I stayed here to protect the house,” he told VICE News.

    But by the time Alexander reached his back gate the “massive fireworks” he at first saw out the window had turned into “balls of fire falling from the sky.” The ground in his backyard soon began burning. “In the first moment I thought to lay on the floor but then I realized if one hit me I would be burned to the bone, so I ran back inside,” he said.

    Alexander and other residents of Komsomolskaya Street said that five to ten minutes after the “fire” stopped falling, the roofs of buildings also started catching alight. “On this street we were lucky we had a big tank of water in one of the neighbor’s gardens so we worked together using buckets to put out the fires,” Alexander told VICE News. “They started firing Grad rockets shortly after, while we were still putting out the fires. Bombardment was near constant at this point. We managed to save four houses on this street but one burned down. After this fire attack I’d had enough. I took my stuff and moved to the bomb shelter at about 4:30am that morning.”

    That night at least eight houses were completely destroyed and dozens more damaged by the “fire” that fell from the sky.

    In all the locations where buildings were identified by locals as starting to burn in the minutes after the attack, VICE News found telltale charred hexagonal remnants nearby and multiple sites of small patches of charred earth around the area of the primary fire.

    The very nature of incendiary attacks typically makes identification of the weapons used exceptionally difficult. Most vital evidence, including the munitions remnants, is normally destroyed or damaged beyond recognition in the blazes that follow.

    In the case of Iloviask, however, video footage filmed on the night of the attack from outside the nearby village of Zelene — provided to VICE News by a local resident — alongside multiple eyewitnesses testimonies, gave unique clues that allowed for the identification of the likely firing position approximately 11 miles (18.1 kilometers) south-west of the town.

    Overlooking the vast stretches of the region’s mostly flat landscape, around one mile short of the 9M22S’s maximum range from Iloviask, VICE News found an abandoned Ukrainian hilltop camp. Here, buried under leaves and amid the deserted trenches, litter of bullet casings, and scattered ammunition boxes, was vital evidence tying the site to the attack on Iloviask, including charred earth, intact hexagonal elements, and several remnants from unexploded and misfired rockets.

    When analyzed by ARES experts, the components were matched to the unusual and distinctive remnants of the type of weapon found by VICE News in Iloviask, making the windy hilltop spot the most likely origin for the “rain of fire” over the nearby town.

    Documented use of fire-starting weapons in Ukraine dates back to fighting in Sloviansk in June. However little empirical research has been done into the types of munitions that may have been used. At the time of the first attacks, Russian media widely, and erroneously, reported the weapon was “white phosphorus-based.”

    Famously used by the US in Vietnam and Israel in Gaza, white phosphorus has attracted international condemnation for its indiscriminate nature and well-known deadly and poisonous effects, making its alleged use by Ukrainian forces in Donbas an easy propaganda point-scorer for Russia.

    However, expert analysis of video from several incendiary attacks filmed in eastern Ukraine, including the footage obtained by VICE News of the attacks on Iloviask, has concluded that the weapon in use is not consistent with the accounts in the Russian media. “White phosphorus is typically characterized by a significant, ongoing output of brilliant white smoke, which is absent in these cases, suggesting it is more likely an incendiary or pyrotechnic,” ARES’s director and incendiary weapon researcher, N.R Jenzen-Jones, told VICE News.

    In comparison to many white phosphorous munitions, little is known about the 9M22S rocket and the 9N510 warhead. According to insider source information provided to ARES, the only prior confirmed use of the rocket is in Soviet-era wars in Afghanistan, but the weapon is also suspected to have featured in more recent conflicts including in Libya and Chechnya.

    Developed and produced in the secretive arms programs of the Soviet Union, where incendiary weapons continued to be a mainstay long after they had fallen out of favor with Western armies, the 9M22S/9N510 and other munitions of that era have remained largely shrouded in mystery, even to the expert community.

    “Many of these weapons developed under the Soviet Union we know little to nothing about,” Mark Hiznay, a senior arms researcher with Human Rights Watch (HRW), told VICE News. “Now after years gathering dust in stockpiles they’re popping up, in Libya, in Syria and, of course, in Ukraine which has its own stockpiles, and we have to try and figure out exactly what’s going on and how they work,” added Hiznay, who has conducted field research in eastern Ukraine’s battlefields and other conflict zones.

    One thing experts can say for sure, however, is that the 9M22S/9N510 can start deadly blazes in a matter of minutes. “These types of weapons are designed to set fire to targets of military importance and are typically employed against infrastructure such as ammunition and fuel dumps, although they have also been employed in the anti-personnel role. When fired into any infrastructure, including built-up residential areas, if a sufficient quantity of flammable material is present, there is the potential for a fire to start. The higher the density of incendiary elements, the greater that chance typically is,” Jenzen-Jones explained.

    Incendiary weapons have long been used on the world’s battlefields. The use of fire-tipped arrows was documented as far back as 500BC in the first-ever known military manual, The Art of War. Since then almost every fighting force, from the Spartans to the Soviets, has used fire warfare.

    Indeed, one of the factors that has made the use of incendiary weapons so persistent and valuable throughout history is not only fire’s ability to cause death and widespread damage, but also its capacity to incite fear and reduce morale, not only in armies but also among local populations deemed hostile to the attacking force. One such example of specifically targeting civilian areas with incendiary weapons is the firebombing of German cities by Britain and the US during World War II.

    Yet, despite the widely acknowledged ability of incendiary weapons to kill, terrorize, seriously injure, cause psychological trauma, and devastate infrastructure, they remain among the most poorly regulated category of arms under international laws of war.

    Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCCW), which 108 states including both Russia and Ukraine are party to, is the main legal framework governing the use of incendiary warfare. It proscribes targeting civilians with weapons that have a primary function of starting fires. However, while the legislation also prohibits the use of air-to-surface incendiary munitions against military targets if they are in close proximity to concentrations of non-combatants, it does allow the use of surface-to-surface incendiary munitions, such as the 9M22S/9N510, in such circumstances.

    Speaking by telephone from Geneva where he is lobbying on behalf of HRW to increase the scope of international regulation of incendiary weapons, Hiznay, who has visited the site in Iloviask, told VICE News that not only in Iloviask but in countless conflict zones across the world, from being caught in the crossfire.

    “The international community needs to take action because existing laws are not adequate… The facts on the ground belie theoretical claims of (the Ukrainian) government. There was no clear military objective (to the attack in Iloviask), we saw civilian houses burned. Any military advantage perceived as being gained by using these weapons is outweighed by the humanitarian consequences,” he added.

    Jenzen-Jones of ARES said there is also a need to pay greater attention to the outdated delivery systems being used to launch weapons such as 9M22S. While many surface-to-surface munitions are more accurate than air-to-surface munitions, there are exceptions to the rule and the 9M22S/9N510 — an unguided rocket delivered by an outdated 9K51 MLRS system — is a case in point, he explained.

    “Like many older MLRS systems, the 9K51 is not an especially accurate weapon,” he said. “It is designed to bring maximum force to bear on area targets, saturating an area with a rocket barrage. It is not designed for accurately engaging point targets in the same way that many modern systems are. The 9M22S is a free flight (unguided) rocket, and considerably less accurate than the precision guided munitions we would expect many modern militaries to employ when engaging military targets in built-up, civilian areas.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 15, 2014, 5:55 pm
  2. Here’s an article that points towards a rather jarring aspect of a rivalry between President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Yatseniuk: There appears to be a conflict over which one of them gets to choose who heads the interior ministry. Why? Because that’s where the National Guard and “volunteer battalions” are controlled. So there appears to be a power struggle over control of the “volunteer battalions“. That’s, um, more than a little ominous:

    Ukraine leader, under pressure from West, pledges new government soon

    By Richard Balmforth

    KIEV Mon Nov 24, 2014 12:16pm EST

    (Reuters) – Ukraine will take the first steps this week towards forming a new government, President Petro Poroshenko said on Monday, seeking to assuage concern among his Western allies that the delay is holding up reform and imperiling Western assistance.

    The U.S. and other Western governments are criticizing Kiev’s tardiness in putting together a government following October elections – with suspicions that the delay is due to rivalry between Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk over control of key portfolios.

    “We hope that the process (of forming a government) will begin this week,” Poroshenko said at a news conference with visiting Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, apparently referring to the first session of the new parliament on Thursday.

    Separately, Poroshenko also announced that Lithuania would provide Ukraine with some military aid to help Kiev in its fight against pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.

    “We have agreed on supplies of concrete elements of concrete armaments for the Ukrainian armed forces. This is real help,” Poroshenko said standing alongside Grybauskaite.

    It was not clear, however, if Lithuania was following fellow NATO member the United States in providing non-lethal military equipment or whether it was supplying weaponry – something NATO countries have so far been reluctant to do in case arming a non-member prompts a conflict with Russia.

    Asked whether Ukraine would seek to join NATO, Poroshenko held out the prospect of a referendum in several years’ time, but said attempts to join now would cause “more harm than good”.

    Before the confrontation with Russia, Ukrainians showed little interest in joining NATO, and the country’s constitution specifies a “non-bloc”, unaligned status.

    But since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March and Moscow’s open backing for the pro-Russian rebellions, popular support for joining the Alliance has shot up.

    Last week, U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden became the latest Western politician to express concern at Kiev’s slowness in forming a new government team, without which new International Monetary Fund credits and other Western assistance cannot be released.

    “Form a new government as quickly as possible. It should be done in days not weeks,” Biden said in Kiev. He said a new government was vitally needed to form stronger democratic institutions, enhance integration with Europe and fight “the cancer of corruption”.

    Poroshenko, elected in May after “Euromaidan” street protests overthrew Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich, did not volunteer any explanation for the delay in forming a government which may now emerge early next week.

    But commentators say Poroshenko wants his candidate in the sensitive post of interior minister – though filling this post falls within the prerogative of the Prime Minister rather than that of the President.

    With the country at war, this would give Poroshenko, rather than Yatseniuk, control over a post which directs the National Guard and volunteer battalions fighting alongside government forces against the separatists.

    Yatseniuk, however, is said to be insisting that he keep the right to appoint the post, and keep his man Arsen Avakov in situ.

    Yatseniuk has steadily taken on the role of a hawk in Poroshenko’s administration with strongly-worded attacks on Russia and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

    This contrasts with the smoother, more pragmatic style of Poroshenko who is insisting that there can be no military solution to the conflict and stresses the validity of the Sept. 5 peace deal even though both sides accuse the other of violating it.

    Poroshenko, a confectionery tycoon who was elected by a landslide last May, was on the receiving end of public anger for the first time last Friday when he was heckled by a crowd of aggrieved relatives as he paid his respects to the 100 or so people killed in the “Euromaidan” upheaval.

    They complained he had not fulfilled a pledge to make their dead kinsmen national heroes – something which brings financial benefits to the families. Poroshenko stepped away and later returned to announce that he would fulfill his promise after all.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 24, 2014, 1:07 pm
  3. “The effects of the war in east Ukraine were visible in the makeup of the Rada. Instead of police, fighters from several volunteer battalions in shabby uniforms guarded the perimeter, while inside more than a dozen men in fatigues walked the corridors as newly elected MPs.Welcome to Ukrain’s new parliament:

    The Guardian
    Ukraine’s new parliament sits for first time
    War in east of country visible in makeup of Rada, with dozens of men in fatigues walking the corridors as newly elected MPs

    Oksana Grytsenko in Kiev and Shaun Walker

    Thursday 27 November 2014 13.41 EST

    Paramilitary commanders in fatigues, investigative journalists and a fighter pilot absent because she is in a Russian jail are among the members of Ukraine’s new parliament, which sat for the first time on Thursday, reflecting how much the country has changed this year and the formidable challenges it still faces.

    The parliament is the result of the first parliamentary elections since the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych by the Euromaidan protest movement in February. But 27 of its seats remain empty, a sign of the territory lost since the revolution – Crimea annexed by Russia, and parts of the east under the control of Moscow-backed separatists.

    As well as activists from Euromaidan and commanders who have led the fight against separatists in the east, the parliament also contains a number of far-right figures, including Dmytro Yarosh, leader of the Right Sector movement, and Andriy Biletsky, who leads the Azov battalion, a volunteer grouping known for its Nazi symbols and far-right ideology.

    President Petro Poroshenko said that by electing a new parliament Ukraine would have completed a “total reboot of power”. More than half of the MPs are new to politics, only two of six parties elected existed a year ago and there is no Communist party representation for the first time.

    Poroshenko told the Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, the country would always have to sleep “with a revolver under the pillow” given the threat from the east. He spoke by phone with Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, officials in Moscow and Kiev said. Poroshenko’s press service described the call as “constructive”. Kiev accuses Moscow of giving logistical and military support to the rebels it is fighting in the east.

    Poroshenko put on a show of unity with the prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, at the opening of parliament on Thursday. Rivalry between the two men has alarmed western politicians who are keen to see a strong government in Kiev that is able to tackle the myriad of economic and political reforms required.

    The effects of the war in east Ukraine were visible in the makeup of the Rada. Instead of police, fighters from several volunteer battalions in shabby uniforms guarded the perimeter, while inside more than a dozen men in fatigues walked the corridors as newly elected MPs. Fighter pilot Nadiya Savchenko, elected as part of a party list, was absent. She is in jail in Russia accused of the death of a Russian journalist. Kiev says she was illegally seized by Russian forces inside Ukraine and dragged across the border.

    In a parliament that has long been known for altercations and fistfights, there were fears that the new set of MPs could prove more unruly than ever, especially after the commanders of two volunteer battalions active in the east had promised to solve their personal differences “like men” inside parliament.

    But Semen Semenchenko, commander of the Donbas battalion, said it was “not the right time or place” to settle his conflict with the commander of the Aidar battalion. Semenchenko told the Guardian his two main priorities were the fight against Russian forces in the east and the fight against corruption.

    “Previous parliaments could not achieve this, but I am determined that this old system will not defeat us,” he said.

    As we can see, these volunteer battalions have apparently replaced the police as the new parliamentary security service while at the same time the commanders of the Donbas battalion and the Aidar battalion (now both MPs) are clearly at odds with each other. It’s a reminder of the perilous risks associated with elevating obviously metally disturbed individuals into positions of authority. It’s also a reminder of just how much power these “volunteer battalions” have acquired since a revolution that’s not even a year old.

    And here’s a reminder that the powerful business interests that created and financed these battalions are likely to apply pressures on squabbling “volunteer battalion” MPs in order to create a unified front. After all, those “volunteer battalions” aren’t free, and the businessmen that pay for them aren’t doing this without ambitions of their own: “Alexander and his colleagues are looking to battalion commanders who have been elected to the new parliament to start forming a voting bloc to force through change. They are talking about setting up a parallel defense ministry in the form of an NGO to provide greater command-and-control structure to the militias”:

    The Daily Beast
    Ukraine Militias Warn of Anti-Kiev Coup
    The men behind Ukraine’s nationalist militias are looking to replace the fumbling government in Kiev one way or another.

    Jamie Detmer

    11.28.14

    KIEV, Ukraine—The burly man with the close-cropped silver hair and his two companions ask not to be identified too closely when they talk to me in some dowdy offices near an ancient monastery overlooking the Dnieper River. They want to be described as “patriotic businessmen,” they say, and one of them, whom we’ll call Alexander, is a very, very rich patriotic businessman.

    They have been funding Ukrainian self-defense militias formed in response to what they see as the ineffectiveness of the Ukraine Armed Forces in the face of pro-Moscow separatists and Russian troops in the country’s southeast. And they suggest something worse than incompetence is at work there. The word “betrayal” often plays on their lips. They predict the government of President Petro Poroshenko may not last another three months. “That’s optimistic,” says Alexander.

    Alexander and his friends point to continued military hardware exports—sometimes transferred via Moscow-ally Belarus—sent from some of Ukraine’s 134 state-owned defense enterprises to Russia, which has long been the Ukraine arms industry’s biggest customer.

    The trade flouts a March 2014 prohibition on all exports of weaponry and military equipment to Moscow. Poroshenko reinforced that ban in June with a presidential decree, but Alexander and other businessmen contacted by The Daily Beast say enterprises are still disobeying the order. Some are doing so because there’s money to be made and recession is hitting this key sector; others because executives and workers in the defense plants, mostly located in the east and the south of Ukraine, are sympathetic to Russia.

    Earlier this month, nationalist businessmen alerted Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to the imminent shipment of key components for military radar systems mounted on Russian Shilka self-propelled anti-aircraft guns. Yatsenyuk blocked the shipment from Kiev’s Arsenal arms factory.

    Winter clothing for the 15,000 or so volunteers in 37 pro-unity militias is uppermost on the minds of their patrons—the temperatures here are turning sub-zero now and the first snow of winter flecked Ukraine’s capital this week. Down in the southeast, militiamen and many Ukrainian regulars are still in lightweight camouflage—the best off are the separatists and the Russian “volunteers” backing them up who sport new insulated winter outfits.

    Ukraine’s national security spokesman, Andriy Lysenko, later told me when I brought up the issue of the patchy winter clothing distribution, “as far as I know the Ministry of Defense has dispatched warm clothing, although not everyone has received theirs yet.” On the militiamen, he says there are no plans to help them with equipment. “They provide their own assistance and we are grateful to them for this.”

    Gratitude isn’t what volunteers in the so-called territorial defense battalions want from Kiev. They want more determination from authorities, a greater sense of direction, and they need more equipment.

    And their suspicions make them see betrayal at every turn, even when incompetence may be the cause of a particular problem. They are suspicious, for instance, that American non-lethal aid is being sold to the separatists, after spotting separatist fighters with U.S.-supplied Meal Ready-to-Eat rations, although these could easily have been looted.

    Alexander and his colleagues are looking to battalion commanders who have been elected to the new parliament to start forming a voting bloc to force through change. They are talking about setting up a parallel defense ministry in the form of an NGO to provide greater command-and-control structure to the militias. But in the end there is no substitute for government when it comes to war fighting.

    “Poroshenko said in the summer that he needed a new parliament and government to get things moving,” says Alexander. “Well we have a new parliament and there are no excuses left,” he says darkly.

    What happens come the winter, if Kiev has been unable to overcome the insurgency, is anyone’s guess. A Kiev-based senior Western diplomat here discounts the likelihood of some kind of uprising by frustrated volunteer battalions, saying that is something Kremlin propagandists like to forecast. “That would fit into the Kremlin narrative,” says the diplomat. “Russia never got it that the Maidan uprising was a truly popular rebellion by ordinary people who just had had enough of Yanukovich and felt angry and humiliated.”

    “I can’t see hundreds of thousands of ordinary people coming out on the streets of Kiev like they did for the Maidan uprising, if the battalions descended on the capital,” he says. “Is it possible there could be trouble from the volunteers? I don’t know. I hate to make predictions here: No one saw Maidan happening.”

    “A parallel defense ministry in the form of an NGO”. Oh great.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 28, 2014, 4:30 pm
  4. Following the anti-Russian “lustration” laws, check out Petro Poroshenko’s latest scheme: change the citizenship laws to allow select foreigners to get fast-tracked citizenship in order to allow them to hold cabinet positions. It sounds like he’s also considering just allowing foreigners to fill those posts without the citizenship requirement. Given the penchant for the “volunteer battalions” to hint at coups in Kiev, you have to wonder how Ukraine’s far right is going to react to this idea. Especially since Poroshenko’s administration has already hired a recruitment firm:

    Kyiv Post
    Poroshenko wants to see foreigners heading ‘Ukraine’s FBI,’ fill Cabinet positions

    Nov. 27, 2014, 3:44 p.m. |
    by Katya Gorchinskaya,

    President Petro Poroshenko asked the new parliament to amend legislation to allow foreigners to take top jobs in the nation, including head of the Anti-Corruption Bureau.

    “I have a concrete suggestion to all who is involved, according to procedure spelled out in law, to the appointment of this extremely important institution. I suggest inviting to this job a person from outside of Ukraine,” Poroshenko told the new parliament on Thursday, the day of its opening.

    “Thus we will have an advantage – an absence of connections in the Ukrainian political elite,” Poroshenko explained.

    The Anti-Corruption Bureau is yet to be created, and is supposed to fight top-level corruption. It has already been dubbed “Ukraine’s FBI,” and the process of its creation is closely watched by Ukraine’s foreign creditors and local business community.

    Moreover, Poroshenko said he wanted to amend the law to allow foreigners to take other top jobs, or simplify the procedure for granting Ukrainian citizenship to foreigners.

    “My idea is, by changing the law, to allow foreigners into state service, including government seats, or extend the list of persons the president can grant Ukrainian citizenship, through fast tracking,” Poroshenko said.

    Poroshenko’s administration hired an international recruiting company, Korn Ferry, and its local branch WE Partners, to identify candidates for the next government. They approached foreigners in Ukraine and abroad. They are American, Lithuanian and Georgian nationals, according to Insider.ua, a Ukrainian site that specializes in political news.

    Currently, the law has a limited list of reasons to gain Ukrainian citizenship. It can happen through birth, adoption or in cases when at least of the parents has such citizenship. Foreigners wishing to gain Ukrainian citizenship have to give up their original passports.

    Poroshenko implied in his speech that there may be people who are prepared to consider such an option. “The decisive steps of such foreigners, which will be prepared to turn down their own citizenship and accept a Ukrainian citizenship, will be a confirmation of their decisiveness of the intentions of our potential partners and candidates,” he said.

    Poroshenko’s suggestion to appoint foreigners was met with some skepticism in the session hall, which the president also noted: “I can see that not everyone in this hall likes this idea.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 29, 2014, 12:18 pm
  5. The Kiev Oblast’s new chief of police Vadym Troyan, formerly a deputy commander of the Azov battalion, wishes people wouldn’t see him as a Nazi and instead focus on his positive, anti-corruption agenda. He also denies any connections to right-wing extremist organizations, says that the Azov battalion was tolerant, and generally sees extremist right-wing groups as marginalized and a fear primarily stirred up by Russian propaganda meant to turn international sentiment against Ukraine. That’s uplifting…the new chief of police for the Kiev region declares cracking down on corruption as his top priority while clearly demonstrating his belief that everyone around him is blind, deaf, and dumb:

    Kyiv Post
    Former Azov Battalion leader works to clean up Kyiv regional police, his
    Dec. 3, 2014, 2:40 p.m.
    by Ian Bateson

    In one week at the end of October Vadym Troyan went from being the deputy commander of a right-wing volunteer battalion fighting in Ukraine’s east to chief of police for the Kyiv Oblast.

    Foreign media portrayed the man as a neo-Nazi taking a major job in the police, but he has remained largely unaware his poor image abroad because since the beginning of November he has been traveling around his new jurisdiction and speaking to police officers.

    In one of the first interviews with the media, he told the Kyiv Post that his message to police officers on the ground has been this: “If you humiliate people or steal from them I will personally arrest you.”

    Troyan says he has made the fight against corruption in the police a personal priority. Coming back from the front, he aims to bring the ingenuity and dedication that has defined Ukraine’s non-government initiatives since the start of the EuroMaidan a year ago.

    He admits though that until salaries are raised for police officers it will be difficult to stamp out corruption completely. A police officer in the war zone who spoke to the Kyiv Post recently said he made Hr 2,000 ($125) per month. He is employed by a special organized crime fighting unit.

    Those traveling with Troyan say that his youth, he is 35, and candor about the problems police officers face, along with his athletic stature make a strong impression the officers. One of Troyan’s aides said young police officers in the field are used to people who are old and out of touch.

    Most of the media coverage of Troyan since he was appointed chief of police, however, has not focused on what he wants to change in the police but his links to right-wing organizations.

    “A right-wing extremist made police chief in Kyiv” read the headline of an article in the German paper Die Welt from Nov. 12. Russian state media, which regularly paints Ukraine as a country run by right-wing extremists, also seized on Troyan’s appointment as evidence of Ukraine’s supposed extremism.

    From May until October Troyan was the deputy commander of the Azov Battalion, which is particularly active in the defense of the city of Mariupol in the southern part of the Donetsk Oblast. The battalion uses a symbol similar to the Wolfsangel, which has its roots in German coats of arms and has been used by Nazi military units and neo-Nazi organizations. Members of the organization, however, state that their symbol has a different history and represents the Ukrainian words for “united nation.”

    The timing of Troyan’s appointment placed his links to right-wing organizations in focus. On Oct. 29 Kyiv’s historic Zhovten cinema was devastated by fire while a film being shown as part of an LGBT film festival was being shown. On Oct. 31 a group of men in camouflage attempted to force their way into a screening of another LGBT film being shown as part of the festival but were stopped by police. The organizers said the men were wearing insignia of the far-right group Pravy Sektor, though the group denied any involvement. It is still unclear whether the acts were attacks on the festival or an attempt to clear the cinema for a real-estate projects.

    On Oct. 31 the day of the second attack Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov announced that Troyan would become the new chief of police of Kyiv Oblast. Troyan says the appointment happened after he travelled to Kyiv to lobby to be made chief of police of Donetsk Oblast and they offered him Kyiv Oblast instead. Critics, however, saw the move as one of support for right-wing groups and feared selective justice.

    As head of Kyiv region police Troyan has no jurisdiction over the city of Kyiv, but when asked by the Kyiv Post if he would have any issues protecting people at a similar LGBT film festival he said he would not. “I would ensure order,” he added.

    Troyan denies connection to right-wing extremist organizations and says that the Azov battalion was tolerant and there “it didn’t matter what religion you were or what language you spoke.”

    He generally sees extremist right-wing groups as marginalized and a fear primarily stirred up by Russian propaganda meant to turn international sentiment against Ukraine.

    “We don’t have skinheads,” he said asking whether anyone had seen any in Ukraine over the past five years.

    Not everyone agrees with his evaluation. Holya Coynash of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group calls appointing Troyan police chief an “awful” move. She says Troyan has been linked to neo-Nazi groups such as the Patriots of Ukraine in the past. She does not think the move is indicative of boarder right-wing sympathies in the government but says it is a careful balancing act in Ukraine currently to criticize right-wing groups because Russia uses any such critiques for its propaganda purposes.

    Troyan denies his decision to join the Azov battalion had anything to do with a political ideology. He says he was active in the EuroMaidan protests in Kyiv until the founder of the Azov Battalion, Andriy Biletsky, who he knew from his time at the Ministry of Internal Affairs academy in Kharkiv, asked him to join. Biletsky was a leader of the Patriot of Ukraine and Social Nationalist Assembly.

    For now, Troyan’s priorities as new police chief fit well with those of the Ukrainian government. After Poroshenko proposed allowing foreign citizens to serve in the Ukrainian cabinet former Georgian Interior Minister Eka Zguladze has become a candidate for the position of deputy minister of the interior. One of Georgia still most positively seen reforms was a reform of the police that began with a mass firing. One year since the Maidan protests began Ukraine still lacks signature reforms to define its new government.

    Troyan says he is dedicated to changing the image and content of the police. “No one has the right to insult anyone else.”

    “One of Georgia still most positively seen reforms was a reform of the police that began with a mass firing. One year since the Maidan protests began Ukraine still lacks signature reforms to define its new government.” So it sounds like a mass police firing is probably in the works. Say hello to Ukraine’s future police force.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 4, 2014, 3:18 pm
  6. Democracy continues to blossom in the new Ukraine:

    The Associate Press
    Ukraine’s Justice Ministry Bars Communists From Elections

    JULY 24, 2015, 8:10 A.M. E.D.T.

    KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s justice ministry has barred three Communist parties from running in the upcoming local elections, citing recent legislation.

    Ukrainian news agencies on Friday quoted Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko as saying that the three parties will be barred from the October elections. The minister also pledged to file a lawsuit to ban the three organizations.

    The Communist party has been an important force in Ukraine, polling 13 percent in the 2012 parliamentary election, but its popularity plummeted over its support for ex-President Viktor Yunukovych. In last year’s parliamentary election the Communist Party of Ukraine garnered less than 4 percent of the vote.

    Ukraine passed several laws in April banning the use of symbols from the Soviet years and denouncing Communist ideology.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 24, 2015, 5:04 pm
  7. Over 100 police were injure and one killed in Kiev during a protest led by armed Svoboda and Right Sector members that turned violent. Right after the parliament passed a preliminary vote to overhaul the constitution to allow for greater decentralization, including potentially granting the rebel regions greater autonomy as part of the peace-process, someone threw a grenade at the cops guarding the parliament:

    The Daily Beast
    Kiev Grenade Kills Riot Police as Divided Ukraine OKs Minsk Ceasefire
    Outside, a bomb thrown from a right-wing mob leaves a riot cop dead and dozens severely injured. Inside, a bitter parliament cries treachery, but votes to approve the Minsk ceasefire.

    Anna Nemtsova

    08.31.1511:43 AM ET

    Violence, blood, riots, and the rhetoric of betrayal returned to the heart of Ukraine on Monday.

    Early in the day, activists from the right-wing opposition, random citizens, far-right Svoboda party members, and Right Sector militants blocked the streets of Kiev and the square around the nation’s parliament to protest constitutional changes being discussed inside. While lawmakers voted on a decentralization bill, in accordance with February’s Minsk ceasefire agreement, tensions boiled over both inside the parliament and out on the capital’s streets. Clashes, including a grenade attack on parliament itself, resulted in at least one death, dozens of severely injured police, and hundreds of casualties. A government official later said a detained suspect was a Svoboda member, and identified the dead policeman as a 25-year-old national guardsman.

    Protest leaders echoed the heart of the conflict inside parliament, between Ukrainian politicians supporting the ceasefire deal with Moscow and those who opposed giving any authority to rebel governments. At the head of the lines, the Right Sector, a militant movement that called for a third revolution at a big gathering last month on Kiev’s main Maidan Square that included armed protesters among the 1,000 or so demonstrators.

    On Monday, even more armed people were on the streets. As their representatives in parliament warned decentralizing the state would allow pro-Russian separatist groups to gain power, aggressive men in black masks in the front rows of protests outside Verkhovna Rada—Ukraine’s state parliament, known as the Rada—pushed police and tossed smoke grenades.

    Inside, tensions peaked at 11 a.m., when 50 lawmakers blocked the speaker’s tribune from delaying the time for the vote. Both sides accused each other of being pro-Russian and living with a Soviet mentality. Radical Party deputies drummed with plastic bottles, thumping their shaming of the country’s leadership. Party members screamed that Europe betrayed Ukraine, “as they did during Hitler’s times” and even brought up Vladimir Lenin’s quotes to castigate the pro-presidential parties. Ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said the bill was “neither a road to peace, nor to decentralization.” Tymoshenko opposed the measure, which was submitted by President Petro Poroshenko early this summer. “Our job is to bring the peace negotiation back on the right track by our ‘No’ vote—that would give us peace and not an illusion of peace.”

    Even one of the most liberal parties, Samopovich, did not support the vote. Leader Oleg Berezyuk called the bill “a rape of the constitution” and a “betrayal of national interests.” No deputy from Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna party voted in support of decentralization. But the bill was approved by majority of the parliament: Of 368 lawmakers, 265 supported the bill at Monday’s session.

    Moments later, a loud blast was heard outside, and black smoke crawled up the parliament wall. Someone had thrown a grenade at the thick throng of riot police. Bleeding and limping, dozens of cops rescued each other from the bloody scene. On Facebook, Anton Herashchenko, adviser to the interior minister, wrote that it was a combat grenade and that as many as 30 servicemen were severely wounded. Heavy lines of police struggled to push protesters back, away from Rada, as the square sank into smoke and tear gas.

    By 4 p.m., the number of injured increased to 100 police, Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko told local TV reporters. “According to my information, some people died in clashes outside Rada,” the mayor said. By early evening, government officials counted 122 among the wound.

    Karen Madoian, of the EU project Support to Justice Sector Reforms in Ukraine, told The Daily Beast that Poroshenko’s bill was far from ideal, but Ukraine had no other option, as it was obliged to amend its constitution as part of the Minsk ceasefire. “Otherwise, we would not be backed by the West,” Madoian said. “I think Poroshenko has demonstrated to the Western partners that the majority in the parliament is under control. But I really doubt he will be able to get the majority vote of 300 MPs next time. Today, it was just a preliminary voting.”

    That gives us an idea of the levels of resistance to any sort of decentralization as part of the peace process. But as the article below points out, recent polls have also shown the majority of Ukrainians do actually support the decentralization process. At the same time, anxiety over granting the rebel regions “special” status remain, with many questioning whether or not doing so in effect signals the west has already lost the civil war.

    So, putting aside neo-Nazi groups lik Svoboda and Right Sector who appear to oppose anything other than complete military liquidation of the rebels, it’s looking like most people in Ukraine do indeed want decentralization, but not necessarily extra-decentralization for the east:

    The Christian Science Monitor
    Amid violence in Kiev, Ukraine tries to find a ‘decentralized’ peace

    Ukraine’s parliament took a first step toward granting powers to rebel regions. But deadly clashes in the capital show the depth of resistance to such changes.
    By Fred Weir, Correspondent August 31, 2015

    Moscow — In what was the worst violence to hit Kiev since last year’s Maidan Revolution, fighting between right-wing protesters and police left at least one officer dead and around 100 injured, four critically, outside Ukraine’s parliament Monday.

    But the more lasting confrontation may prove to be inside the parliament.

    Even as protesters, some armed with grenades and firearms, attempted to break in to the building, legislators passed a set of constitutional reforms that would grant “special status” to rebel republics in eastern Ukraine. The bill’s passage marked a first step in Kiev’s compliance with the Minsk-II agreement, sponsored by both the European Union and Moscow.

    But protesters, led by the right-wing Svoboda and Radical parties, say the package of "decentralization" reforms, which still require another vote at the end of the year for final passage, are a surrender to the Russia-backed rebels in Ukraine’s east. The reforms’ supporters counter that they are necessary to move ahead on Minsk’s tenuous road map for peace and reintegration.

    The basic reform, in the works for more than a year, aims to address many of the causes of last year’s revolution by streamlining Ukraine’s over-centralized government to delegate appropriate powers to regions and local communities. Polls show this plan, based on Poland’s model of governance, enjoys widespread support around the country.

    But opponents of the bill, which passed its first reading Monday with support from 265 lawmakers, are incensed by provisions that would grant temporary autonomy to the rebel republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. Many fear that step will eventually harden into permanent independence. The bill will need a constitutional majority of 300 votes to pass in its second and final reading slated for December.

    “The storm in society is mostly over the issue of special status for [the rebel zones]. This bill is like a candy that’s fine – except for a couple of noxious chemicals that it’s laced with,” says Sergei Gaiday, an independent political expert in Kiev, and opponent of the bill.

    “The president claims there’s not really any special status, but in fact there is. If they’re going to change the Constitution to do this, why not grant special status to all Ukrainian regions? Why is Donbass so special? The question many people are asking is: Does this mean we have lost the war?”

    Decentralization vs. federalization

    Under the Minsk agreement, Ukraine is required to pass a set of constitutional changes that grant greater autonomy to its regions, allow the rebel republics to hold separate elections on the territory they control, end the year-old economic blockade of the rebel territories, and begin talks aimed at reintegration. The rebels, while retaining special powers that include the right to form their own militia and appoint administrators, would return to Ukrainian rule and hand back the Russian-Ukrainian border to Kiev’s control.

    But there is a fundamental disagreement over the nature of a “decentralized” Ukraine. In Kiev, the reform is viewed as handing down only those powers that concern local government, while retaining military, foreign policy, and overall economic control.

    Moscow has argued that Ukraine needs a "federalized" system that allows regions to go their own way on issues like language and cross-border economic associations – which would effectively give them a veto over major initiatives like joining NATO or the EU. Rebel leaders in Donetsk and Luhansk have offered  their own version of constitutional change that differs sharply from Kiev’s.

    Olexander Chernenko, a Rada deputy with President Poroshenko’s bloc, says he voted for the decentralization bill Monday because he regards it as Ukraine’s most basic reform, and stalling could be disastrous.

    “If we didn’t pass it today, it would be postponed” beyond the year-end deadline for meeting the Minsk requirements, he says. “Some political forces are using this for their own purposes in advance of [October regional] elections.”

    Ukraine, divided

    But others warn that, while decentralization may be needed, the political and economic situation in the country is too unstable to carry it out effectively.

    “It’s a very risky path,” says Vladimir Panchenko, an expert with the International Center of Political Studies in Kiev. “People fear that separatists in the east will be legitimized, and that they might get elected into local legislatures and councils. There’s a lot of scope for provocations and escalation of tensions.”

    The most comprehensive poll on Ukrainian public opinion, conducted by the International Republican Institute in July, found majority support in all regions of the country for the idea of transferring more rights from central to local authorities. On the other hand, it also found that solid majorities support the idea of Ukraine remaining a “unitary” state, which would seem to rule out the Russia-sponsored idea of “federalization.”

    “The storm in society is mostly over the issue of special status for [the rebel zones]. This bill is like a candy that’s fine – except for a couple of noxious chemicals that it’s laced with”.
    That appears to be a common sentiment, which raises a number of questions about how the peace process moves forward because if the “noxious chemicals” include things like:

    “People fear that separatists in the east will be legitimized, and that they might get elected into local legislatures and councils. There’s a lot of scope for provocations and escalation of tensions.”

    it’s not really clear what’s going to get the rebel leaders to agree to a settlement. Isn’t legitimizing the separatists as fellow Ukrainians sort of a basic starting point? Or is that no longer an option?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 31, 2015, 2:20 pm
  8. With the death toll from the grenade attack against the police in Kiev during the Svoboda-led protests now rising to three dead, it’s worth noting that Svoboda leader Oleh Tyahnybok was front and center at the protests. It’s also worth noting that both Svoboda and Right Sector are blaming the government for the attack:

    Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty
    Kyiv Violence Steps Up Pressure To Reject Ultranationalists

    By Robert Coalson

    September 01, 2015

    The bloodshed during violent clashes between security forces and radical Ukrainian nationalists on August 31 has cast a stark light on a long-standing problem confronting the government in Kyiv.

    No longer can the post-Maidan government of President Petro Poroshenko deny it has a problem with a small but dangerous ultranationalist contingent that has served as a useful ally in the past, but that also has repeatedly shown a willingness to use violence to push its own agenda.

    Three National Guardsmen were killed and more than 90 injured by a grenade that was thrown during a violent protest by ultranationalists led by the Svoboda party outside the country’s parliament. Svoboda was protesting legislation that would grant more autonomy for separatist-held territory in the east in accord with the Minsk agreements on regulating the conflict with the Russia-backed rebels.

    Even as the wounded were being taken away, an unrepentant spokesman for the radical Right Sector party was quick to blame Poroshenko for the tragedy.

    “I say that today we saw that Poroshenko has shed this blood,” Right Sector spokesman Artem Skoropadskiy told 112 Ukraine TV on August 31. “This is exactly the same thing that happened during the regime of [former President Viktor] Yanukovych — the use of force, the violent dispersal of peaceful protests, beating the opposition, and so on.”

    The Svoboda party also issued a statement saying, “the responsibility for the attack near the parliament…lies with the current government.” Svoboda said the explosion at the protest was “a preplanned provocation against Ukrainian patriots.”

    ‘Stab In The Back’

    For the government, the violence at the gates of the parliament is a symbolic challenge by political forces that came to the fore as a result of their muscular defense of the EuroMaidan protests that drove Yanukovych from power in February 2014 and their aggressive fighting against the separatists in eastern Ukraine. In addition, the government has welcomed the unifying backing of nationalists in the face of the threat from neighboring Russia and Kremlin rhetoric aimed at undermining Ukrainian statehood.

    Nonetheless, voters soundly rejected the ultranationalists during the May 2014 presidential election and the November 2014 parliamentary elections.

    Poroshenko said the violence was “a stab in the back” for the entire country. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk was even more explicit.

    “The cynicism of this crime lies in the fact that while the Russian Federation and its bandits are trying and failing to destroy the Ukrainian state on the eastern front, the so-called pro-Ukrainian political forces are trying to open another front in the heart of the country,” Yatsenyuk said.

    Both pledged to prosecute the perpetrators to the full extent of the law, and 18 people, including the alleged grenade thrower, have been arrested. But that, critics say, will not be enough to respond to the ultranationalist threat.

    Fork In The Road

    It’s a systemic challenge, says parliament deputy Serhiy Leshchenko of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, the president’s party. “The radicalization of society is inevitable in a climate of corrupt government and a lack of decisive reforms,” he said on September 1. “Our radicalization is intensified by our total militarization.”

    Leshchenko recalled a litany of incidents tied to ultranationalists that have gone unpunished, from a grenade attack on a gay-pride event in June to a grenade-launcher attack in July in the western Transcarpathia Province to the beating last year of the head of the UT-1 state television channel by Svoboda party lawmakers.

    In the wake of the August 31 violence, Leshchenko urged Right Sector to distance itself from Svoboda and commit itself to the country’s peaceful political transformation.

    “With Svoboda driving itself to self-annihilation, [Right Sector] could get a chance to turn themselves toward the path of civilized development followed by their political wing,” Leshchenko said.

    Popular blogger Oleksiy Bratushchak emphasized that the far right’s Maidan record did not give them a free pass to use such violence.

    “This was a terrorist act,” he wrote on the Ukrayinska Pravda website. “Those who threw this grenade and injured people are terrorists. No matter what they did yesterday, today they are terrorists. And together with his comrades-in-arms, he belongs to a terrorist organization.”

    Bratushchak noted that the leaders of the Svoboda, Right Sector, and Radical parties called on the public to come to the parliament and then “inflamed the situation.” He compared the leaders to the “snow at the very top of the mountain” that produced a devastating avalanche.

    Video from the August 31 demonstration clearly shows Svoboda party leader Oleh Tyahnybok pushing against police officers while shouting profanity at them.

    Note how Svoboda appears to be taking the brunt of the blame for the attack, with Right Sector even being given some sort of “come into the light” offer by a member of the Poroshenko Bloc:


    It’s a systemic challenge, says parliament deputy Serhiy Leshchenko of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, the president’s party. “The radicalization of society is inevitable in a climate of corrupt government and a lack of decisive reforms,” he said on September 1. “Our radicalization is intensified by our total militarization.”

    Leshchenko recalled a litany of incidents tied to ultranationalists that have gone unpunished, from a grenade attack on a gay-pride event in June to a grenade-launcher attack in July in the western Transcarpathia Province to the beating last year of the head of the UT-1 state television channel by Svoboda party lawmakers.

    In the wake of the August 31 violence, Leshchenko urged Right Sector to distance itself from Svoboda and commit itself to the country’s peaceful political transformation.

    “With Svoboda driving itself to self-annihilation, [Right Sector] could get a chance to turn themselves toward the path of civilized development followed by their political wing,” Leshchenko said.

    Oh, how the mighty have fallen…even lower…lower than seemed possible: it looks like this grenade attack may have knocked Svoboda below Right Sector in terms of political respectability. If that’s not the political equivalent of hitting rock bottom, there is no rock bottom.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 1, 2015, 12:37 pm
  9. It will be a great day for Ukraine when stories like this are once again surprising:

    The Jerusalem Post

    Ukrainian legislator toasts Adolf Hitler

    By SAM SOKOL
    Sun, 27 Dec 2015, 05:51 AM

    A video of a Ukrainian opposition lawmaker saluting Adolf Hitler made its way online this weekend, only days after his country’s President apologized for Ukrainian collaborators’ role in the Holocaust during a state visit to Israel.

    In the video, Artyom Vitko, the former commander of the government backed Luhansk-1 Battalion and now a member of the Radical Party of Oleh Lyashko, can be seen sitting in the back of a car wearing camouflage fatigues and singing along to a song by a Russian neo-Nazi band extolling the virtues of the Nazi dictator.

    “Adolf Hitler, together with us, Adolf Hitler, in each of us, and an eagle with iron wings will help us at the right time,” Vitko sang, saluting the camera with his water bottle as the car’s sound system blared “Heil Hitler.”

    Vitko’s pro-Nazi sentiments emerged immediately on the heels of party leader Oleh Lyashko denunciation of President Petro Poroshenko for for his recent comments apologizing or Ukrainian complicity in the Holocaust.

    Speaking before the Knesset last week, Poroshenko said that “we must remember the negative events in history, in which collaborators helped the Nazis with the Final Solution.”

    “When Ukraine was established [in 1991], we asked for forgiveness, and I am doing it now, in the Knesset, before the children and grandchildren of the victims of the Holocaust… I am doing it before all citizens of Israel,” he added.

    “This kind of humiliation of Ukrainians has not been recorded in our history yet. During a visit to Israel, President Poroshenko apologized for the ‘Ukrainian participation in the Holocaust,’” Lyashko posted on Facebook on Thursday.

    “This is exactly situation if we would accuse Georgians and Jews in the Holodomor, appealing to the atrocities of Dzhugashvili, Beria, Kaganovich, etc,” he said, referring to a massive famine that resulted from the forced collectivization of farms in the Soviet Union during the 1930s.

    The Holodomor, as it is known in Ukraine, killed millions and is seen by many in that country as a genocide on par with the Holocaust.

    “The Knesset has not recognized the Holodomor as the genocide of the Ukrainian people. That is a goal for Ukrainian authorities visiting the Holy Land rather than belittling Ukrainians [and] proclaiming inferiority of his people on the international level,” Lyashko added.

    “I would say that this is the reason Poroshenko is President and not Lyashko. Lyashko is a populist only saying what he thinks people want to hear,” said Ukrainian Chief Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich.

    The Jewish community, Bleich said, disagrees with the populist politician’s definition of humiliation, seeing disgrace as when “one cannot face up to history.”

    “Pride is to look back, and learn from mistakes. No one accused the Ukrainian people of causing or creating the Holocaust. However, the fact is that there were Ukrainians who participated in the murder and persecution of Jews. They are worthy of condemnation.”

    “The sight of a member of the Ukrainian Parliament singing a song praising Hitler, underscores the extremely deep problem in today’s Ukrainian democracy regarding the ongoing efforts in that country (and elsewhere throughout post-Communist Eastern Europe, especially in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Hungary) to rewrite the narrative of World War II and the Holocaust,” said Dr. Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

    “The fact that the Ukrainian authorities honor groups which actively participated in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust and glorify their leaders sends a message that delegitimizes the accurate historical narrative, and paves the way for disgusting scenes like this one. The Ukrainian leadership should not feign surprise or astonishment, they’re the ones at least partially responsible.”

    Earlier this year Ukraine’s parliament has extended official recognition to a nationalist militia that collaborated with the Germans during the Second World War.

    However, many Ukrainian Jews have appeared rather sanguine, explaining that they believe that such moves are more likely the result of a need to build up a national ethos and raise up heroes during a time of conflict rather than a celebration of such figures’ anti-Semitic attitudes. Despite that, such moves have been widely panned by Jewish organizations worried about the long term effects of the glorification of anti-Semites.

    Asked about the decision to honor such groups, President Poroshenko told the Post that the government was paying tribute to those who fought for national independence.

    “Let’s not try to find the black cat in the black room, especially if there is nothing there,” he said

    “This kind of humiliation of Ukrainians has not been recorded in our history yet. During a visit to Israel, President Poroshenko apologized for the ‘Ukrainian participation in the Holocaust,’”
    So according to Radical Party leader Oleg Lyashko, when Poroshenko did that standard thing that leaders do and issued an apology for a past horror, it was the greatest humiliation in Ukraine’s history. It’s almost as if Lyashko takes it personally. Of course, since this is the same guy who featured a campaign poster depicting a caricatured Jewish oligarch getting impaled on a trident and whose fellow party member sings tributes to Hitler, he presumably does take it rather personally.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 27, 2015, 3:50 pm
  10. Ukraine’s bizarre experiment in importing foreigners to run its government (under the theory that non-Ukrainians would be better at rooting out corruption) took another blow recently. Mikheil Saakashvili resigned as governor of Odessa, citing central-government obstruction of his anti-corruption campaign:

    The New York Times

    Mikheil Saakashvili Resigns Post in Ukraine, Citing Corruption

    By IVAN NECHEPURENKO
    NOV. 7, 2016

    MOSCOW — Mikheil Saakashvili, a former president of Georgia who was brought into the Ukraine government to set an example of transparency and clean government, resigned on Monday and accused Ukraine’s president of supporting corruption.

    Mr. Saakashvili, who was appointed governor of the Black Sea region of Odessa by President Petro O. Poroshenko in May 2015, said he was leaving because of the central government’s unrelenting obstruction of his efforts to root out graft.

    “The president personally supports two clans,” Mr. Saakashvili told a group of journalists. “Odessa can only develop once Kiev will be freed from these bribe takers, who directly patronize organized crime and lawlessness.”

    In a terse statement, Mr. Poroshenko’s office said it would accept Mr. Saakashvili’s resignation once it had been submitted by the cabinet.

    In Odessa, Mr. Saakashvili and a team of young reformists tried to tackle the acceptance of bribes in the corruption-plagued customs service and to make government services more responsive and transparent.

    Yet, government officials in Kiev thwarted those efforts, Mr. Saakashvili said, because they interfered with the various enrichment schemes that allowed many of them to amass fortunes.

    Mr. Saakashvili said his plan to open a new customs service center in Odessa was undone when the money allocated for its refurbishment was stolen.

    Mr. Saakashvili, a bitter opponent of Russia and its president, Vladimir V. Putin, was one of several foreign politicians and specialists who were brought to Ukraine after the 2014 pro-Western revolution to start a broad modernization of the country.

    But there was always deep skepticism about whether Ukraine was capable of such a transformation, and many of those figures have since become disillusioned and resigned. In February, the economy minister, Aivaras Abromavicius stepped down, saying that he did not want to act as a “smoke screen” for corruption. The American-born finance minister, Natalie A. Jaresko, left the Ukrainian government in April.

    Taming corruption was widely seen as crucial for proving the legitimacy of Ukraine’s pro-Western leadership, especially in contrast with Mr. Putin’s Russia.

    In October, Mr. Saakashvili’s political party in Georgia suffered a painful defeat in parliamentary elections, ending the prospect of his return to that country, where he faces multiple charges that he says are politically motivated.

    Standing in front of Odessa’s seaport, Mr. Saakashvili signaled that he would continue to be involved in Ukrainian politics. One of his allies, Ukraine’s former deputy prosecutor David Sakvarelidze, recently started a new political party that cites Mr. Saakashvili as its “ideologist.”

    “Standing in front of Odessa’s seaport, Mr. Saakashvili signaled that he would continue to be involved in Ukrainian politics. One of his allies, Ukraine’s former deputy prosecutor David Sakvarelidze, recently started a new political party that cites Mr. Saakashvili as its “ideologist.””

    So he’s stepping down, but not leaving Ukrainian politics. We’ll see what the future holds for Mikheil’s career as an anti-corruption reformer, but since he can’t return to Georgia without facing prosecution over corruption, residents of Williamsburg, Brooklyn shouldn’t super surprised if a hipster you looks just like Saakashvili returns to their streets in coming years.

    But that wasn’t the only recent instance of Ukraine’s imported anti-corruption figures resigning in apparent disgust. Two other Georgians just resigned, including Ukraine’s national chief of police:

    New Europe Online

    Two reformers quit Ukraine

    By NEOnline | TB
    Published 10:04 November 15, 2016
    Updated 10:04 November 15, 2016

    The resignation of Ukraine’s police chief and a customs officer on November 13 is that latest twist in the country’s exodus of reformist officials.

    As reported by the Reuters news agency, Police chief Kthatia Dekanoidze, a Georgian who was appointed on the strength of her reforms as a minister in Tbilisi, said political meddling in appointments had thwarted her efforts to bring meaningful change.

    Yulia Marushevska, a 27-year-old who was appointed in 2015 to end rampant bribe-taking at the Odessa port customs, also resigned, accusing the government and her boss of blocking her reforms.

    The two resignations on November 13 come just days after former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili quit as governor of the Odessa region, accusing President Petro Poroshenko of blocking his efforts to fight graft.

    Meanwhile, the Interfax Ukraine news agency reported that Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov thanked Dekanoidze for her work and said Vadim Troyan would fulfill the duties of the head of Ukraine’s National Police. Troyan is first deputy head of Ukraine’s National Police.

    “Meanwhile, the Interfax Ukraine news agency reported that Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov thanked Dekanoidze for her work and said Vadim Troyan would fulfill the duties of the head of Ukraine’s National Police. Troyan is first deputy head of Ukraine’s National Police.”

    Yes, it’s out with Dekanoidze and in with Troyan as the head of the national police. And yes, that’s Vadim Troyan, the former deputy commander of the neo-Nazi Azov Batallion, who is now the acting chief of Ukraine’s National Police. So the individual Ukraine brought in to clean up corruption in the national police force got replaced with a neo-Nazi. It’s a reminder that Ukraine’s anti-corruption reform, which is basically anti-fascist reform since we’re talking about an entrenched oligarchy, could probably benefit from a hefty dose of anti-neo-Nazi reforms too.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 16, 2016, 7:22 pm

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