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For The Record  

FTR #916 Update on Fascism in Ukraine

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

Symon Petliura

Symon Petliura

Introduction: Continuing coverage of the re-emergence of fascism in Ukraine, this program highlights the Orwellian aspects of governance in Ukraine and the coverage of events there by the world’s media. Ukraine recently held a nation-wide minute of silence for Symon Petliura (as with other Ukrainian names, the spelling of his name is subject to varying transliteration.) In the immediate post-World War I period, Petliura’s armies butchered some 50,000 Jews.

Also stunning, though predictable under the circumstances, is the Poroshenko government’s renaming of streets for Nazi collaborators Stephan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych. This has received scant, and altogether slanted coverage in the West, with Bandera’s well-documented alliance with Hitler being nuanced as “Kremlin propaganda.”

Looming large in the background of the wholesale revisionism going on in Ukraine are the activities of Volodomyr Viatrovych and his “Institute of National Memory.”

One of the perceived journalistic counter-weights to the rampant anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi revisionism dominating Ukraine is the Jewish heritage of the new prime minister Volodymir Groysman. We note that Groysman’s law degree was from MAUP university, the wellspring of Ukrainian anti-Semitism and an institution that featured David Duke as a faculty member.

Next, we examine some of the “shared values” that the Ukrainian government has with the West. Much has been made of this illusory resonance in the wake of the Maidan coup.

In addition to barring U.N. observers from investigating torture that was apparently committed in Ukraine’s civil war, a website closely connected to the government has published the names and addresses of journalists who reported from the ethnic-Russian rebel-held East. Those journalists were branded as “terrorists,” a label that should be alarming in light of the murder of a journalist who had been sympathetic to the cause of the rebels.

Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, recently-resigned head of Ukrainian intelligence under Yuschenko and Poroshenko

Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, recently-resigned head of Ukrainian intelligence under Yuschenko and Poroshenko

Turning to the subject of the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-17, we note that observers are viewing much of the evidence in the case with a jaundiced eye, because of the fact that the SBU (Ukrainian intelligence) was run by Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, closely allied with Pravy Sektor (Right Sector), one of the OUN/B heirs that assumed power after the Maidan coup. This taints the investigation, in the eyes of many.

The New York Times continues its grotesquely slanted coverage of the downing of MH-17, publishing an apparently fraudulent story about alleged Russian falsification of Buk missile launchers in Ukraine. The Dutch intelligence service noted that only the Ukrainian military–not the ethnic Russian rebels in the East–possessed missiles capable of shooting down the plane.

The program concludes with updates on the punisher battalions. These fascist fighting formations are actually used by the Ukrainian government to circumvent the Minsk II accords.

We end the program with a very revealing story. Claiming that Congressman John Convers (D-MI) is a “Kremlin dupe” for portraying the openly Nazi Azov Battalion as fascist, we note that the official spokesman for the Azov Battalion is Roman Zvarych. Zvarych was the personal secretary for Jaroslav Stetsko in the early 1980s. Stetsko was the head of Ukraine’s World War II collaborationist government and the architect of bloody Nazi-style ethnic cleansing programs in Ukraine.

Program Highlights Include:

  • Former SBU head Nalyvaichenko’s trafficking in stolen art.
  • Review of Svarych’s prominent role in post Cold War Ukraine.
  • An unsuccessful attempt to re-brand the Babi Yar Ravine–site of a major World War II massacre–as a non-specific memorial to human suffering.
  • Review of the Orwellian re-writing of Ukrainian World War II history by Volodomyr Viatrovych.

1. Ukraine observed a minute of silence in honor of Symon Petliura, whose troops killed 50,00 Jews in the immediate post World War I period.

“Ukraine Hon­ors Nation­al­ist whose Troops Killed 50,000 Jews” [Jewish Telegraphic Agency]; Times of Israel; 5/31/2016.

Coun­try for the first time observes a minute of silence in mem­ory of Symon Petliura, a 1920s states­man killed by a Russia-born Jew

Amid a divi­sive debate in Ukraine on state hon­ors for nation­al­ists viewed as respon­si­ble for anti-Semitic pogroms, the coun­try for the first time observed a minute of silence in mem­ory of Symon Petliura, a 1920s states­man blamed for the mur­der of 50,000 Jew­ish compatriots. 

The minute was observed on May 25, the 90th anniver­sary of Petliura’s assas­si­na­tion in Paris. National tele­vi­sion chan­nels inter­rupted their pro­grams and broad­cast the image of a burn­ing can­dle for 60 sec­onds, Ukraine’s Fed­eral News Agency reported.

A French court acquit­ted Sholom Schwartzbard, a Russia-born Jew, of the mur­der even though he admit­ted to it after the court found that Petliura had been involved in, or knew of, pogroms by mem­bers of his mili­tia fight­ing for Ukrain­ian inde­pen­dence from Rus­sia in the years 1917–1921. Fif­teen of Schwartzbard’s rel­a­tives per­ished in the pogroms.

Sep­a­rately, the direc­tor of Ukraine’s Insti­tute of National Remem­brance, Vladimir Vya­tro­vich, said in a state­ment on Mon­day that Kiev will soon name a street for two other Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists — Stepan Ban­dera and Roman Shukhevych — who are widely believed to be respon­si­ble for lethal vio­lence against Jews. . . .

2a. Notice the wording of this article about the renaming of a street in honor of Stephan Bandera. The story presents Bandera’s well-documented collaboration with the Third Reich is an oblique, almost speculative context!

“Kiev Renames Moscow Avenue after Russian Hate Figure” by Dmitry Zaks [Agence France Presse]; Yahoo News; 7/07/2016.

Ukraine’s capital Kiev on Thursday renamed its Soviet-era Moscow Avenue after a Russian hate figure accused by the Kremlin of siding with the Nazis during World War II.

Kiev’s local council decided that one of the bustling city’s main northern arteries will now honour Ukrainian nationalist Stepan Bandera. . . .

. . . . Moscow accuses Bandera and his OUN fighters of siding with the Nazis once they invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.

Historians think Bandera believed that Hitler would grant Ukraine independence or at least partial autonomy once the Nazis conquered Moscow.

Bandera declared independence days after the Nazis moved into Ukraine — a decision that proved nearly fatal because the German Gestapo almost immediately detained him and put him in a concentration camp.

He was released once it became clear that the Nazi were going to lose World War II. . . .

2b. International outcry has rolled back plans to skew the history of the Babi Yar massacre during World War II. A famous Holocaust mass killing, the Babi Yar massacre was to be mis-represented

“Ukraine Backtracks on Babi Yar Plans Amid Plans of Holocaust Revisionism” by Sam Sokol; The Jerusalem Post; 02/08/2016.

The Ukrainian government is facing allegations of historical revisionism after announcing plans to revamp the Babi Yar massacre site to turn it into a generic symbol of human suffering rather than a quintessential emblem of the Holocaust.

In preparation for September’s 75th anniversary of the massacre at the ravine in Kiev where more than 33,000 Jews were murdered in a two-day period in 1941, a government- backed design competition invited architectural proposals to resolve what it sees as a “problem” of a “discrepancy between the world’s view and Jewry’s exclusive view of Babi Yar as a symbol of the Holocaust.” . . .

 

3. A degree of official “celebration/relief” has been expressed over the naming of Petro Poroshenko’s protege Volodymir Groysman as Prime Minister of Ukraine. Part of the official sigh of relief concerns the fact that Groysman is Jewish, as is Poroshenko.

Poroshenko’s  Jewish affiliation has done nothing to attenuate his collaboration with the OUN/B heirs who came to power in Ukraine.

In addition to being a crony of Poroshenko, Groysman has a “law degree” from MAUP. In addition to being a diploma mill, of sorts, MAUP is the point of origin of the bulk of anti-Semitic literature in Ukraine. Among its faculty members is David Duke. Former president Viktor Yuschenko was on its board of directors.

“New Wunderkind Ukrainian PM Has Some Skeletons in His Closet” by Mikhail Klikushin; The Observer; 4/21/2016.

Last week’s resignation of Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk and seemingly unexpected promotion of the Speaker of the Parliament Volodymir Groysman to lead the Cabinet puzzled only those who do not closely follow Ukrainian politics.

Right after his candidacy was announced, the persona of Mr. Groysman—who is virtually unknown outside of Ukraine—got under the magnifying glass the country’s friends and foes. And the more observers dug into his past, the less hopeful they were about “the path of change” that the Maidan revolution had tried to put the country on.

In May of 2014, right before the first post-Maidan presidential elections in Ukraine, Germany’s DerSpiegel magazine wrote that those wanting to understand Petro Poroshenko should visit Vinnitsa, a provincial capital of 370,000 inhabitants, 124 miles from Kiev.

Vinnitsa is a hub of the chocolate business of the Ukrainian President, and he used to represent the town in the Supreme Rada, the Ukrainian parliament. Here, the Ukrainian billionaire president has two ROSHEN candy factories, the back-bone of his chocolate empire. Vinnitsa is his home turf.

Mr. Groysman, 38, was born and raised in Vinnitsa. Fifteen years ago, he was taken under Mr. Poroshenko’s protective wing, and on multiple occasions proved himself the loyal vicegerent of the powerful oligarch. They’ve had a long history together—and shared political and economic interests in their shared hometown of Vinnitsa. . . .

. . . . In 2003, a coveted diploma of a lawyer from the so-called Inter-Regional Academy of Personnel Management (MAUP) appeared in the portfolio of the ambitious Vinnitsa politician.  After Mr. Groysman’s recent appointment to the position of the Prime Minister, Vitaly Kupriy, the Ukrainian Parliament deputy, accused him of buying his lawyer’s diploma for “lard.” (The expression comes from a Ukrainian village folk character coming to Kiev with his backpack full of home-salted lard hoping with this simple-minded bribe to get accepted into the university.)

“Judging by the documents, Groysman studied at the Academy only for 1.5 years [instead of usual 4-5]. This doesn’t look right. It looks like [his diploma] was bought for ‘lard’,” he said.

As far as his formal education is concerned—it doesn’t really matter if Mr. Groysman ever stepped into the doors of this “Academy” with or without lard—the institution’s reputation is highly bizarre. In 2005, for example, MAUP became world-famous for inviting American Ku Klux Klansman David Duke to give lectures there; Mr. Duke later received his PhD degree in history from this “Academy.” . . . .

. . . . Since 2011, the biggest dancing waters show in Europe, with installed fountains that shoot water 229 feet into the air, is in Vinnitsa. It is called Fountain Roshen on Roshen quay, named after Petro Poroshenko’s candy conglomerate. The artificial water geysers are accompanied by a music-and-laser show that resemble the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Tourists from all over Ukraine come to see what is considered one of the 10 most impressive water shows in the world. It was built by a German company and cost 1.5 million euros, which was was donated by Petro Poroshenko.

4. Note that Groysman’s apparently bogus law degree came from MAUP University, an epicenter of Ukrainian anti-Semitism. Note, also, that the above-mentioned Viktor Yuschenko was on its board of directors

Organized Anti-Semitism in Contemporary Ukraine: Structure, Influence and Ideology” by Pers Anders Rudling; Canadian Slavonic Papers; Vol. 48, No. 1/2 (March-June 2006): pp. 81-118.

ABSTRACT: In the wake of the Orange Revolution, Ukraine has witnessed a substantial growth in organized anti-Semitism. Central to this development is an organization, known as the Interregional Academy of Human Resources, better known by its Ukrainian acronym MAUP. It operates a well-connected political network that reaches the very top of the Ukrainian society. MAUP is the largest private university in Ukraine, with 57,000 students at 24 regional campuses. MAUP is connected to the KKK; David Duke is teaching courses in history and international relations at the university. Funded by Saudi Arabia, Libya and Iran, MAUP’s printing house publishes about 85% of the anti-Semitic literature in Ukraine. Until very recently, Ukrainian President Yushchenko and Foreign Minister Tarasiuk served on its board; former President Kravchuk still does. This paper is a study of anti-Semitism in Ukraine, of its intellectual roots, influence and strength. It traces the Soviet, Christian, German and racist political traditions and outlines the political ambitions of organized anti-Semitism in post-Orange Revolution Ukraine.

5. Where there’s smoke, there’s prob­a­bly fire.  Or maybe tor­ture:

“UN Tor­ture Pre­ven­tion Body Sus­pends Ukraine Visit Cit­ing Obstruction;” ohchr.org; 5/25/2016.

The United Nations Sub­com­mit­tee on Pre­ven­tion of Tor­ture (SPT) has sus­pended its visit to Ukraine after being denied access to places in sev­eral parts of the coun­try where it sus­pects peo­ple are being deprived of their lib­erty by the Secu­rity Ser­vice of Ukraine, the SBU.

“This denial of access is in breach of Ukraine’s oblig­a­tions as a State party to the Optional Pro­to­col to the Con­ven­tion against Tor­ture. It has meant that we have not been able to visit some places where we have heard numer­ous and seri­ous alle­ga­tions that peo­ple have been detained and where tor­ture or ill-treatment may have occurred,” said Sir Mal­colm Evans, head of the four-member delegation.

The del­e­ga­tion con­cluded that the integrity of the visit, which began on 19 May and was due to end on 26 May, had been com­pro­mised to such an extent that it had to be sus­pended as the SPT man­date could not be fully car­ried out.

Under the Optional Pro­to­col (OPCAT), the SPT is man­dated to visit all States par­ties and can make unan­nounced vis­its to any places of deten­tion. This is only the sec­ond time the SPT has halted a mis­sion – such sus­pen­sions are made in cases where a lack of coop­er­a­tion by the State party pre­vents the SPT from ful­fill­ing its OPCAT-mandated duties.

“The SPT expects Ukraine to abide by its inter­na­tional oblig­a­tions under the Optional Pro­to­col, which it rat­i­fied in 2006. We also hope that the Gov­ern­ment of Ukraine will enter into a con­struc­tive dia­logue with us to enable the SPT to resume its visit in the near future and so work together to estab­lish effec­tive safe­guards against the risk of tor­ture and ill-treatment in places where peo­ple are deprived of their lib­erty,” said Sir Malcolm.

The focus of the SPT’s visit was to eval­u­ate how its rec­om­men­da­tions made after its first visit in 2011 had been imple­mented. The work of the SPT, which is com­posed of inde­pen­dent experts, is guided by the prin­ci­ples of con­fi­den­tial­ity and cooperation.

6a. Valentyn Nalyvaichenko–the Pravy Sektor-linked former chief of the Ukrainian intelligence service–appears to have skewed the evidence in the shoot-down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17. Not surprisingly,  Nalyvaichenko has been implicated in the smuggling of antiquities.

“Dutch Newspaper: Corruption in Ukrainian Secret Service Taints MH17 Investigation”  by Jolande van der Graaf [De Telgraaf]; The New Cold War: Ukraine and Beyond; 12/15/2015.

The reliability of evidence in the investigation of the crash last year of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine is at issue because of the sinister role of the Ukrainian secret service SBU in corruption and crime scandals.

Criminal law experts predict problems for criminal proceedings against the murderers of the passengers who died in the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 now that it appears that everything is false with the intelligence work that delivered all kinds of material evidence. The Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) is set to ask questions about this in today’s parliamentary session.

“The ‘noise’ is guaranteed to play a role in any legal case,” said law professor Theo de Roos. “That goes for the defense but also for the judges who will examine evidence very critically. The public prosecution department should be looking now rather than later at the integrity of the evidence.”

It was the SBU that provided the wiretapped telephone conversations between pro-Russian [sic] rebels in the war zone just before and after the Malaysian Airlines Boeing was shot down from the sky. The Ukrainian security forces had also a big role in securing human remains, debris and rocket parts in the disaster area.

But the same SBU also appears in numerous criminal affairs. Several informants in the scandal of the paintings stolen from the West Frisian Museum in Hoorn, Holland in 2005 indicate former SBU head Valentyn Nalyvaichenko of this year is a mastermind in the stolen art trade. Nalyvaichenko was fired in June of this year.

Last year, the name of the former SBU chief was linked to large-scale smuggling of antiques discovered by Finnish police.

The ongoing investigation into corrupt Limburg policeman Mark M is also linked to Ukraine. A justice in Brabant recently requested assistance from Kiev. According to investigation sources, Mark M. kept a network in Ukraine of ‘gangsters and members of the secret service’. This past summer alone, 22 members of the SBU disappeared behind bars because of corruption and criminal practices.

Great risks

The CDA calls the SBU scandals a great risk for the criminal investigation into the MH17 case and wants documents and explanations from Justice Minister Ard van der Steur.

“There is little actual evidence [in the investigation],” says Christian Democrat parliamentarian Pieter Omtzigt. “What there is may have been compromised to some extent. The evidence was collected way too late at the scene of the crash and now appears to have been collected by dishonest people.”

The CDA wants to know why satellite and radar data of Ukrainians, Russians and Americans is lacking from the report of the Dutch Safety Board into the crash of the MH17. “It appears this has still not been discussed with Ukrainian air traffic control.”

Dutch police say cooperation with Ukrainian researchers is “good” and all the submitted evidence “has been critically examined”. Professor of international law Geert-Jan Knoops, however, feels that more research into the reliability of evidence is needed.

“The prosecution has the duty to exclude any evidence in a scenario where evidence has been tampered with. That means, for example, it must closely examine how the SBU selected wir4tapped phone calls and who was involved in that selection.”

6b. In a story on his Consortium News website, Robert Parry has noted that The New York Times published a blatant forgery purporting to demonstrate that Russia had altered a photograph showing Ukrainian disposition of BUK missile batteries. The same article notes that the Dutch intelligence service stated that the only anti-aircraft missiles capable of bringing down MH-17 belonged to the Ukrainian government.

” ‘Fraud’ Alleged in NYT’s MH-17 Report” by Robert Parry; Consortium News; 7/19/2016.

Forensic experts are challenging an amateur report – touted in The New York Times – that claimed Russia faked satellite imagery of Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile batteries in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, the day that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot out of the sky killing 298 people.

In a Twitter exchange, Dr. Neal Krawetz, founder of the FotoForensics digital image analytical tool, wrote: “‘Bad analysis’ is an understatement. This ‘report’ is outright fraud.”

Another computer imaging expert, Masami Kuramoto, wrote, “This is either amateur hour or supposed to deceive audiences without tech background,” to which Krawetz responded: “Why ‘or’? Amateur hour AND deceptive.”

On Saturday, The New York Times, which usually disdains Internet reports even from qualified experts, chose to highlight the report by arms control researchers at armscontrolwonk.com who appear to have little expertise in the field of forensic photographic analysis.

The Times article suggested that the Russians were falsely claiming that the Ukrainian military had Buk missile systems in eastern Ukraine on the day that MH-17 was shot down. But the presence of Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile batteries in the area has been confirmed by Western intelligence, including a report issued last October on the findings of the Dutch intelligence agency which had access to NATO’s satellite and other data collection.

Indeed, the Netherlands’ Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) concluded that the only anti-aircraft weapons in eastern Ukraine capable of bringing down MH-17 at 33,000 feet belonged to the Ukrainian government, not the ethnic Russian rebels. MIVD made that assessment in the context of explaining why commercial aircraft continued to fly over the eastern Ukrainian battle zone in summer 2014. (The MH-17 flight had originated in Amsterdam and carried many Dutch citizens, explaining why the Netherlands took the lead in the investigation.)

MIVD said that based on “state secret” information, it was known that Ukraine possessed some older but “powerful anti-aircraft systems” and “a number of these systems were located in the eastern part of the country.” MIVD added that the rebels lacked that capacity:

“Prior to the crash, the MIVD knew that, in addition to light aircraft artillery, the Separatists also possessed short-range portable air defence systems (man-portable air-defence systems; MANPADS) and that they possibly possessed short-range vehicle-borne air-defence systems. Both types of systems are considered surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). Due to their limited range they do not constitute a danger to civil aviation at cruising altitude.”

I know that I have cited this section of the Dutch report before but I repeat it because The New York Times, The Washington Post and other leading U.S. news organizations have ignored these findings, presumably because they don’t advance the desired propaganda theme blaming the Russians for the tragedy. . . . .

7. New York Times journalist Andrew E. Kramer was listed as a “terrorist” journalist by the government of Ukraine, presumably for reporting on the civil war in Ukraine, presumably for reporting on events in the Russian separatist areas.

“Branded a ‘Terrorist’ for Reporting Two Sides of Ukraine’s War” by Andrew E. Kramer; The New York Times; 6/05/2016.

I have had guns pointed at me, slept in a shipping container and walked past the corpses of shelling victims since the separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine began two years ago. But I had never been blacklisted as a terrorist before.

So when my name recently appeared on a “terrorist” list of journalists published by a website with close ties to the Ukrainian government, I viewed it with a mix of trepidation and sarcasm.

Trepidation because it suggested powerful people in Ukraine, a democracy that aspires to the free flow of information, were going after me and others on the list for simply doing our jobs: reporting both sides of the war, including the pro-Russian rebel side.

And sarcasm because, this being Ukraine, the list was not likely to have much credibility elsewhere. I have not, for example, had any trouble flying after appearing on what may be the world’s first list of terrorist journalists.

It is also not a secret that I and other reporters have reported from rebel territory; our publications and broadcast outlets regularly use our names and note where we are.

The list, published by a Ukrainian nationalist website called Myrotvorets, or the Peacemaker, appeared to have been born out of a simmering frustration.

Hard-liners in Ukraine have been furious at the foreign press for some time now, arguing that any coverage of the rebels from their home base in the east played into Russia’s powerful propaganda machine. Russia has portrayed residents in the breakaway regions as victims of an unjustified Ukrainian military assault by a Western-backed “fascist” government in Kiev.

The list is a compilation of reporters and others who applied for press passes to work in territory controlled by the Donetsk People’s Republic, Ukraine’s main enemy in the two-year-old war in the east. Applying for accreditation from Russian-backed rebels, according to the website, was enough to be branded a “terrorist accomplice.” . . . .

. . . . Groups supporting journalists quickly condemned the publication of the names — and in some cases home addresses — for seeming to invite violence against reporters.

A pro-Russian commentator living in Kiev, Oles Buzina, whose home address was publicized in a Myrotvorets post last year, was shot and killed on a street not far from his home days later.

But this time, the site was publishing names and contact details for 5,412 journalists, drivers, fixers, soundmen and translators. Not all of us can be rubbed out. . . .

8a. Vice News has a new piece of reporting from Donetsk about the experiences of some of the foreign mercenaries who have joined up with a Right Sector battalion. As the article makes clear, one of the aspects of Right Sector that the Kiev government finds most useful in the current situation where the Minsk II agreement is supposed to minimize hostilitiesw is that the “out of control” volunteer battalions like Right Sector are basically allowed to violate the Minsk II agreement as much as they want. The government just has to make sure the battalions are able to illegally acquire weapons and operate with impunity.

Another thing the article makes clear is that, like most articles that talk about Right Sector’s ideology and ambitions, once Right Sector is done fighting in the Donbas, they’re still planning on marching on Kiev:

“Why American Right-Wingers Are Going to War in Ukraine” by Alexander Clapp; Vice News; 6/20/2016.

When Ben Fischer stepped out of his jeep at the barracks of the Voloveka Tactical Group, in Donetsk, Ukraine, last May, he was a mercenary arriving to work on his third continent in as many years. The scene at the headquarters of a rogue unit within the rogue Ukrainian nationalist group known as Right Sector wavered between utter chaos and manic discipline. Stray dogs powdered with anthracitic dust ambled around anti-tank obstacles. Anti-aircraft artillery bristled from the beds of rusted-out pickup trucks. Some groups of Ukrainians were cleaning weaponry. Others were chopping wood. Others were doing push-ups. Many were drunk. A great red banner hung along the side of the barracks facing east: DEATH TO YOU KREMLIN INVADERS.

In a barren plain of coal pits and black sludge, Fischer found what he had come for: an experience full of violence and adventure. What the Islamic State is for disenchanted young Westerners of an Islamist bent, Right Sector has become for young Europeans and American right-wingers with an antique passion for nationalism—any nationalism except for Russia’s, that is. Right Sector is committed to ejecting Russian separatists from Ukrainian soil. Only three months before Fischer arrived at the Voloveka barracks, Ukraine, Russia, and Western leaders had signed a ceasefire agreement known as Minsk II. Major engagements had become rare. European officials had begun making routine inspections of frontline equipment. But a shadow conflict still churned onward in the East, one that Kiev covertly outsourced to the very nationalist groups it once publicly disavowed. The Voloveka, a Right Sector contingent consisting of 27 men, had established a forward base six miles from the border of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. By the time Fischer arrived, it had become an anarchic force that answered to no authority but itself.

Fischer has a wiry black beard he twirls with calloused fingertips. Two swords tattooed on his right shoulder converge at a battle helmet. MOLON LABE—ancient Greek for “Come and take them,” King Leonidas’s reply to the Persian demand for the Spartan weapons at Thermopylae—is emblazoned on his right forearm. His mother, a Tunisian, emigrated to Austria 30 years ago, where she met his father, an engineer, in a skiing village outside Innsbruck. Fischer was sent off to a vocational school in Bregenz at 14. His junior year, he forged his parents’ signatures in order to enlist early in the Austrian Armed Forces. “Austrians lead indoor lives,” he told me. “It’s the indoor life of the postman, or the mayor, or the teacher. Arguments are indoors. Feelings are indoors. And the one thing I knew, from very early on, was that I couldn’t be indoors.” The Austrian army did not give Fischer his interesting life. For six months, he drove a van around Prishtina, where his comrades gave out food packages and taught Kosovars how to hold guns. Fischer decided to take an indefinite sick leave; six months later, he was on the Red Sea, where he’d found work running security detail on a container ship. On his first stop in Mogadishu, port authorities disbanded his unlicensed crew. With a small layoff payment, he bought a ticket to Marseille, where the French Foreign Legion turned him down. The next months, he worked as a bouncer in Vienna.

In September 2014, Fischer took the train from Vienna to Kiev, where the Ukrainian army was leading major offensives to reclaim the Donbas. At Maidan Square, he found a recruiter for Azov, a white-supremacist battalion and one of the few volunteer militias then accepting foreign volunteers. Almost as soon as he entered, an Azov commander who thought he looked too Arab threw him out. Fischer transferred to the Donbas Battalion—”a bunch of alcoholics and PTSDs”—but saw little fighting when he bussed out to Donetsk; the first Minsk Protocol, which brokered a ceasefire, was signed just two days after he arrived.

Looking for his next move, Fischer used Facebook to contact an American who had joined the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq. A Dutch-Kurdish motorcycle gang eventually brought the two to the front lines near Kirkuk, where they saw spurts of action against ISIS. “I liked the Kurds and respect their fight, but those people have a problem: They’re convinced everyone is out to betray them,” he said. The Kurds did everything they could to break up groups of foreign fighters, to get non-practicing Muslims to pray with them, to pry foreign volunteers away from their smartphones. Fischer’s commander was “brainwashed.” An interview he gave to a local news channel made its way to Austrian television, and his parents sent him alarmed emails, which he ignored. One night, in an encampment near Mosul, an American Black Hawk helicopter landed. A soldier emerged and told the Kurds to disband foreigners from their ranks or risk losing American cooperation. Compared with the others, the foreigners were much more active on social media. They risked spilling operational secrets and increasing tensions with Turkey.

Back in Austria, Fischer learned that he had been put on a terror watch list for having fought with Kurdish guerrillas associated with the PKK. The government told him to stay in the country, but he left for Tunisia, where his mother’s family still lived. “There’s no war in Tunisia,” he said. “Nobody fu cks with you. You can relax.” In Sousse, he received a Facebook message from Alex Kirschbaum, an Austrian army comrade he hadn’t seen since Kosovo. “Alex wrote me saying that he’d just deserted the army,” Fischer said. “He couldn’t stand Austria anymore. He was going to Ukraine.” The next day, Fischer began making his way back to Kiev. “You start out on this life out of a kind of pride, refusing to be like your peers,” he told me. “But you stick with it because there comes a time when you can’t turn back and accept that the only possible existence is a civilian one.”

Kirschbaum greeted Fischer when he arrived at the barracks. “Sure, we’d been friends in Austria, had gone for beers together, but to see him out here, in the middle of fu cking Donetsk—wow,” Kirschbaum said. Kirschbaum has a slim build and a scraggy black beard. His eyes are dark brown chestnuts that glower passionately whenever he discusses weaponry. For Kirschbaum and Fischer both, Ukraine became an outlet for nationalism that they consider in desperately short supply elsewhere in Europe. “In Austria, our counterfascism units are larger than our counterterrorism ones,” Kirschbaum told me. Austria, he said, was a “neutered” nation. The only nationalists it produced were soccer hooligans and Eurovision fanatics. But the Right Sectorites didn’t watch soccer or Eurovision. In that convenient formulation of genuine patriots and nationalist extremists, they claimed to despise their government but love their country. Neither Fischer nor Kirschbaum remarked how strange it was that they had effectively transferred their national passion from one nation to another.

According to Right Sector, the Maidan revolution remains unfinished. It’s illegal for the group to use guns, but the Voloveka and units like it will not lay them down until Ukraine is a sovereign state. By this, the men mean a Ukraine that’s completely independent from both Russia—a “Putinist empire”—and the European Union—land of “liberal homo-dictatorships.” “The world must know that Ukraine is not its to use,” Prut, a Right Sector commander in Mukachevo, told me. (The Ukrainian fighters in the Voloveka are known exclusively by their noms de guerre.) For their model Ukraine, some Right Sectorites point to the centuries of rugged Cossack rule. Others cite the West Ukrainian People’s Republic carved out by Stepan Bandera, the hero of the Ukrainian resistance against the Soviets. Bandera’s brief collaboration with the Nazis has led some members of Right Sector to meld their nationalism with a thin understanding of Nazism. Several I met did the Sieg Heil and praised Hitler. A few admitted that they did this because they knew Putin hated it, and they were willing to go to any length to aggravate him.

The Right Sectorites claim to be fighting on behalf of a vast and ignorant Ukrainian population that will welcome liberation when it comes but who lack the courage to achieve it. The organization coalesced in early 2014 out of a handful of far-right political parties and Maidan self-defense units. It claims to be neither racist nor xenophobic because it understands Ukrainian nationalism in “civic, not ethnic terms.” Government institutions should be strong. National borders must be upheld. Those who think in like-minded ways, even if not Ukrainian, are encouraged to join. Dmitry Yarosh, Right Sector’s founder, is a former foreign-language teacher from central Ukraine. Nearly half of all members identify as Russian speakers.

Right Sector is a ramshackle organization. None of its more than 10,000 members carries a party ID, attends regular meetings, or recruits in any systematic way. Right Sector’s politically minded members strain to control its military branch of perhaps 3,000 fighters. Most have spent weeks training at Right Sector camps, where they are taught the rudiments of street fighting and get bused to demonstrations against the Kiev government, Russian national holidays, and gays. Right Sector fighters fall into 26 divisions. One is assigned to each Ukrainian oblast or province; two additional battalions stand guard on the front lines. None takes orders from a centralized command. They rarely exchange weaponry or government contacts.

Two years of infighting and government crackdown have fragmented Right Sector further into dozens of small units, most of which operate with little awareness of one another. The Voloveka Tactical Group—named after a Right Sectorite who was killed by a land mine in Donetsk—was one of these. At war with eastern Ukraine, Kiev, and a half of Right Sector that submitted to government oversight last November, its fighters lived in a cement-block building that had housed coal miners before the war. The men of the Voloveka arrived one day last autumn and evicted them at gunpoint. They dug a moat around the building’s perimeter and a pit for holding captives. They erected a barbed-wire fence. They laid land mines and anti-tank obstacles in the vegetable gardens. On the roof, they mounted black and red flags, the symbol of Ukrainian resistance under German occupation, and upside-down Ukrainian flags, the standard symbol of the briefly realized 1918 Independent Republic of Ukraine. At one point, they confiscated a yellow bus from the local elementary school to make weekly trips to the front lines, where the Right Sectorites spent several days firing RPGs at the separatist-held Donetsk airport. On the small dirt road leading to the barracks were two wooden guard towers. A guard was kept at all hours. The residents of Novogrodovka, the closest village, were known to be in regular communication with battalions in the Donbas. An attack could be expected anytime.

Command of the Voloveka fell to Simeon, the first civilian to steal a machine gun from a police officer at the Maidan and fire back. He was a household name in Ukraine and a legend within Right Sector. After Maidan, he’d survived the disastrous encirclement of the Ukrainian army at Ilovaisk. He’d been among the kyborgs, the vastly outnumbered Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers, including Right Sector members, who defended Donetsk airport from rebel besiegers in the days before Minsk II was signed. Simeon was an artist with a weapon called the TOW, a missile latched to a two-mile-long wire that he guided into enemy territory with a pair of small steering wheels. In late 2015, the Ukrainian state declared him a terrorist. His face was put on notice boards throughout Kiev. The Right Sectorites had converted his home in Ivano-Frankivsk into an armory. They placed Claymore mines on the underside of his porch, and they instructed his teenage son to activate the devices if the police arrived.

Simeon’s presence in the barracks was outsized. His drinking sessions began shortly after he emerged each morning from his drab cement room, decorated with a few family photos and several Russian army helmets on the walls. “Brothers!” he would cry in a faux-American accent. He possessed no civilian clothes; his fatigues had become so matted with dried mud and engine grease they had hardened into the consistency of cardboard. For Simeon, the war in Donetsk was less about fighting the Russians than it was about proving something to Ukrainians back in Kiev. “Sixty percent of Ukraine wants to join Europe,” he told me one night while he was on guard duty. The occasional crack of artillery came from the east. “Their biggest concern is whether or not their WiFi works. Another twenty percent, well, these are pro-Russian trash. To them, the Soviet Union was a good thing. These types aren’t as big a problem as you might think. They can be killed. We in Right Sector are part of that remaining twenty percent that believes we have to take matters into our own hands in Ukraine. We can only fix our country when we fix ourselves individually.”

Despite Simeon’s admonishment of the lack of commitment among his countrymen to the cause of their nation, most Ukrainians in the Voloveka did not have a strong grasp of Right Sector’s politics. Many had been declared terrorists by the state and stayed in the Voloveka barracks mostly out of a refusal to face trial in Kiev. Colibian, the assistant commander, was the only Ukrainian making significant sacrifices to be in Novogrodovka; in Kiev, he owned a car dealership.

Lunch in the Voloveka usually consisted of fist-size chunks of raw pig fat. Potatoes were served for dinner; body bags of them lay in a heap below a stairwell. Every provision—coats, gauze, jugs of water—came from volunteers in Kiev or was “requisitioned” from locals. Stolen coal and wood were mixed with trash in a furnace that spewed thick clouds of poisonous exhaust. It settled on the skin in mole-like clumps. The Voloveka paid for its cigarettes and internet by baking this coal-trash concoction into bricks and selling them throughout the rest of Ukraine.

Every human impulse was exaggerated in the Voloveka. When keys were misplaced, doors were blown in with TNT. Walnuts were cracked open with grenades. Stray cats chased one another down the hallways of the barracks, most of which were lined with 60-pound bombs typically used for destroying bridges. The Right Sectorites liked to evict the cats by throwing them from the second-floor balcony with the motion of a shot-putter. They fell to the earth with a terrifying cry. A few weeks before I’d arrived, a Ukrainian named Geronimo beheaded a cat after he caught it peeing on his bed. Fearing a PTSD outbreak, Simeon attempted—unsuccessfully—to take away everyone’s guns. The Voloveka also had a dog, Fly, whose original owner had died from the blast of a land mine. Fly trembled in strange, berserk motions every time a soldier cocked a gun.

The members of the Voloveka frequently boasted that they possessed enough explosives to eradicate a small Ukrainian oblast. The battalion had smuggled in all of it—the six armor-plated trucks, the helmets and medical kits, the hundreds of boxes of ammunition—tirelessly, illegally, from every reach of Ukraine. The men used donations from the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada “for medical supplies” to purchase Kalashnikovs off Chechen arms dealers in Vienna, which were smuggled through the Carpathian Mountains by members of the Voloveka who caravanned out to western Ukraine every few months in battalion pickup trucks. They also claimed many guns off dead separatists. One afternoon, Fischer took me to the company armory—six windowless nooks on the second floor. The air was heavy with the waft of cat urine. Anti-aircraft missiles and RPGs lay haphazardly stacked everywhere like planks of wood. Fischer grabbed two rusty black mortars out of a moldy cardboard box. “A war museum in Lviv gave these to us,” he said, flipping them lightly between his palms. “Red Army issues from the Second World War. A lot of Ukrainian battlefield reenactors admire the work we’re doing out here. They send us these antiques all the time,” he said, tossing them back into the box. “The only problem with them is that they can easily detonate if you drive over a bump too quickly in the bus.”

At any moment the SBU—the Security Service of Ukraine—could have come and arrested every member of the Voloveka, whose presence on the front lines was illegal. But the Right Sectorites assured me this would never happen. When they needed help pursuing trucks they suspected of smuggling supplies into Donetsk, the SBU called the barracks for reinforcements. Most of the oblast was pro-Russian, so to help give the impression of occupation, local authorities encouraged Right Sector to drive its vehicles slowly through nearby villages and walk their streets with glocks in hand. (Though the residents of Novogrodovka despised Right Sector, they weren’t too proud to come to the barracks at night begging for food, which was always given. The drunk ones often fell into the moat.)

The Ukrainian army was also technically obliged to arrest Right Sector members on sight at the front lines, but it didn’t. During the night, officers sympathetic to Right Sector’s cause filled the Voloveka’s school bus with rockets and other large-caliber guns forbidden by European monitors. Right Sector was the Ukrainian army’s way of getting around Minsk II while still hitting back at separatists who refused to allow international organizations anywhere near their trenches: Right Sector, Ukraine told inspectors, was out of its control. The local police also wouldn’t arrest any members of the Voloveka, to whom they outsourced their terrorism. Of course, when asked about their connection with Right Sector, Ukraine’s SBU, army, and police vigorously disavow it. But what I saw on the front lines was nothing short of active cooperation. The fighters of the Voloveka, for their part, were contemptuous of any cooperation with Kiev. But the fight could only turn against Ukraine once the more immediate threat in the Donbas had been destroyed.

Several weeks before I visited the Voloveka, a man had been picked up wandering the streets of Novogrodovka at night, drunk. Police confiscated his phone and found photos of him posing in front of Donetsk tanks on VK, a popular social network among Russian speakers. They brought him to the Right Sectorites, who locked him in a standing-room-only shower stall. The lights stayed on for a week. They beat him with a sock stuffed with sharpened rocks. They stripped him of his clothes and made him clean the barracks on his knees. An interrogation session involving repeated threats of deportation to Guantánamo Bay revealed only that the man came from a local village and apparently knew nothing about rebel troop movements. After a week, the police picked him back up and brought him to Kiev—presumably for a jail sentence, though no one could tell me what actually happened to him. “It is a pity to have to beat these people,” Kirschbaum said. “But I’d have more sympathy for them if we got any sort of similar treatment in Donetsk. Right Sector members captured there get their noses and ears cut off.”

A loud noise shook the front entrance of the barracks one night. It was followed by a string of murderous groans. “Separatists!” someone screamed. Fischer extinguished a cigarette, then whipped an RPG off the wall and slung it on his right shoulder in a single uninterrupted motion. Lang burst out of the room with a pair of grenades cocked in his hands. Out in the hallway, a dozen startled Ukrainians stood in a heavily armed throng. One was peering through a sniper scope.

At the doorway, as a haze of grenade smoke slowly dissipated away, we saw Simeon lying in a lake of bubbling blood. Purple-black strings—his intestines—were on the walls. A de-fingered palm of a left hand teetered off a nearby pile of tires. Exiting the barracks for Novogrodovka, where he planned to toss a few grenades in the town square to celebrate the two-year anniversary of his entry in the war, Simeon had slipped on the staircase and accidently detonated himself. Turning his head toward us, he let out a few last breaths, then died.

The next night, we held a funeral for Simeon. His mother, son, and wife arrived by car from Ivano-Frankivsk. Two Right Sectorites briskly escorted them to a side door, away from the entranceway in which Simeon had been dematerialized. “Two land mines exploded under Simeon as he charged toward the Donetsk airport,” Colibian, who had been declared the Voloveka’s new commander that morning, told Simeon’s family. They cried. “After this, it took machine-gun fire to bring him down. We recovered him, brought him back to our trench. He was still breathing. He refused to die.” Colibian placed his right hand on the shoulder of Simeon’s mother. Most of the onlooking Right Sectorites were drunk. What remained of Simeon’s trunk of vodka had been finished off that afternoon.

8b. It is not surprising that Kristofer Harrison (the author of an apologia for the Nazi Azov Battalion in Ukraine) is a former Defense Department and State Department advisor to George W. Bush. Noteworthy in his propaganda piece dismissing Representative John Conyers (D-MI) as “the Kremlin’s Man in Congress” and discounting anyone else discussing the ascension of the OUN/B fascists in Ukraine in a similar vein is the identity of his source for assurances that Azov is not a Nazi unit.The Azov’s spokesman is Roman Zvarych, the personal secretary to Jaroslav Stetsko in the 1980’s. Stetsko was the head of the World War II OUN/B government that collaborated with the Nazis!

After emigrating to Ukraine in the early ’90’s Zvarych and forming the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists with Slava Stetsko (Jaroslav’s widow) Zvarych became: Justice Minister (the equivalent of Attorney General of the United States) under the governments of Viktor Yuschenko and both Yulia Timoshenko governments. He has been serving as an adviser to president Poroshenko.

(It is impossible within the scope of this post to cover our voluminous coverage of the Ukraine crisis. Previous programs on the subject include: FTR #‘s 777778779780781782783784794, 800803804, 808811817818824826

829832833837849850853857860872875876877893907, 911Listeners/readers are encouraged to examine these programs and/or their descriptions in detail, in order to flesh out their understanding.)

“Putin’s Man in Congress” by Kristofer Harrison; The Huffington Post; 8/7/2015.

. . . .The Azov’s spokesman, Roman Zvarych, told me that the battalion has a selective screening program that accepts only 50 out of almost 300 recruits each month. He says they have a thorough background check and reject members for various reasons, including having fascist leanings. . . .

. . . . Rep. Conyers played an important role in helping the Russian Nazi meme evolve from the stuff of conspiracy theorists, kooks and fellow-travelers into something the mainstream press happily prints. Rep. Conyers took to the floor of the House to submit his amendment and label the unit, “The repulsive Neo-Nazi Azov Battalion.” From there, the Daily Beast ran a story titled “Is America Training Neonazis in Ukraine?” using Conyers’ bill as factual support. The day after the amendment’s passage, Leonoid Bershidsky ran a Bloomberg View article titled “Ukraine’s Neo-Nazis Won’t Get U.S. Money.” Even the Canadians have been affected. On June 16th, the National Post ran a story titled “Fears that Canadian Mission in Ukraine May Unintentionally Help Neonazi Groups.”. . . .

 

Discussion

7 comments for “FTR #916 Update on Fascism in Ukraine”

  1. Here’s an exceptionally disturbing story come out of Ukraine: In response to the murder of a child that’s been blamed on a Roma resident in a small village in Odessa, the locals formed an angry mob, started destroying the homes of the dozen or so Roma families in village and forced them all to flee for their lives. It’s extra disturbing since the local authorities are helping with the forced relocation:

    Euronews

    Roma forced to flee violent mob in Ukraine village

    28/08/2016
    last updated: 28/08/2016

    In Ukraine, around a dozen Roma families have reportedly been forced to flee for their lives after locals in a small village in the region of Odessa turned violent.

    Amateur footage taken at the scene appeared to show an angry mob destroying dwellings occupied by the Roma.

    The unrest apparently erupted following the rape and murder of 8-year-old local girl.

    ‘‘They’ve been here three years, three years. And this is what happens. The Roma don’t give a dam about the local population, who’ve been living here for 200 years. Our children are bullied at school, people are being hassled in the street, and there are criminal rackets, stealing from properties,’‘ one villager said.

    Police say a 22-year-old Roma man from the village has been arrested in connection with the young girl’s killing.

    The authorities say they have struck a deal with the Roma families to leave the village and resettle elsewhere in the area.

    “The authorities say they have struck a deal with the Roma families to leave the village and resettle elsewhere in the area.”

    So local authorities appear to be ok with the village residents using murder charges against a single Roma individual as a pretext to run a dozen Roma families violently run out of town. That’s a disturbing response to a disturbing crime. Especially since the local authorities behind this village’s act of ethnic cleansing include Odessa’s governor, Mikheil Saakashvili:

    BBC

    Ukraine moves Roma families amid village’s rage at murder

    8/29/2016

    Ukrainian officials have decided to move dozens of Roma (Gypsies) out of a village after their ethnic Ukrainian neighbours attacked their homes.

    The violence erupted on Saturday in Loshchynivka, in the Odessa region, shortly after the body of a nine-year-old girl was found. Police said there were signs she had been raped.

    A 21-year-old Roma man is in custody, suspected of having murdered her.

    Odessa governor Mikheil Saakashvili said he shared the locals’ outrage.

    In a video message on Facebook (in Russian) he said “anti-social elements” were involved in “massive drug-dealing” in Loshchynivka.

    Ukrainian police say the situation is now under control in the village, after extra police were sent there.

    On Saturday, a crowd of furious villagers set a Roma house ablaze and smashed up others, breaking windows. The Roma residents managed to flee before the violence, and none were hurt, reports say.

    YouTube clips uploaded by Irina Zolotaryova appear to show the attacks on property in the village.

    Roma community help

    The head of Izmayil district, where the village lies, said buses were ready to move the Roma families out on Monday. More than 50 Roma live there, Valentyna Stoykova told the news channel 112 Ukrayina.

    She said the Roma would be re-housed.

    “They themselves understand that they cannot continue living in the village. And our task is to keep them safe,” Ms Stoykova said.

    Only two of the Roma families living there owned their homes, she said, the other six families were renting.

    The European Roma Rights Centre has documented previous cases of Roma being targeted in Ukraine and living in extreme poverty there.

    More than 70% of Europe’s Roma are poor and marginalised, and discrimination against them is rife.

    “In a video message on Facebook (in Russian) he said “anti-social elements” were involved in “massive drug-dealing” in Loshchynivka.”

    And what was Odessa governor Mikheil Saakashvili response to all this? Condoning it and piling on by calling the Roma a bunch of anti-social elements and drug dealers.

    So that just happened.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 29, 2016, 12:54 pm
  2. Here’s a story with chilling similarities to the arson attack in Odessa: A Ukrainian TV station, Inter TV, was set on fire in Kiev after someone threw a smoke bomb into the building at the end of a protest against the station over its ‘pro-Russian’ coverage. The protestors clearly weren’t very apologetic over setting the building on fire and causing multiple injuries to the occupants inside since there were more protestors outside holding signs saying things like “Burn, Inter, Burn” the next day

    Ukraine Today

    Poroshenko comments on Inter TV channel arson attack

    Ukraine’s president warns that aggressor-state is trying to destabilize the country

    Petro Poroshenko, the President of Ukraine, condemned an arson attack on Ukrainian Inter TV station as an attempt to destabilize the country, and ordered the Prosecutor General’s Office to conduct a thorough probe into the incident.

    On September 4, TV Inter’s news department office was set on fire, nobody was seriously hurt but several people were treated for smoke inhalation and another one suffered a broken leg.

    “It is unacceptable that somebody breaks into the building and commits an arson attack. I am confident that this situation has nothing to do with patriots. Today, it is even more harmful for Ukraine than any contacts with provocateurs,” Poroshenko noted.

    US diplomatic mission in Ukraine has also condemned the attack, urging authorities to conduct a thorough investigation:

    The president has also instructed the Interior Minister to make every effort to ensure law and order on the streets of Kyiv and throughout Ukraine.

    “At the same time, a scenario of the aggressor-state when certain media funded by Russia are trying to destabilize the domestic political situation in Ukraine is also unacceptable. However, the response to that must be absolutely legal,” the president said.

    On Monday several dozens of protesters gathered outside the channel’s head office to rally against its activities.

    Police presence was high as demonstrators labelled Inter’s staff “Kremlin’s agents.”

    The station is widely regarded by many Ukrainians as being pro-Russian. Posters reading “Burn, Inter, Burn” and “Inter Out” were seen on the protective fencing, set by police.

    “”It is unacceptable that somebody breaks into the building and commits an arson attack. I am confident that this situation has nothing to do with patriots. Today, it is even more harmful for Ukraine than any contacts with provocateurs,”Poroshenko noted.”

    Well, it’s nice to hear that Poroskenko isn’t openly endorsing the torching of media outlets that rub the far-right the wrong way. But while it may or may not be the case that “this situation has nothing to do with patriots”, as the article below describes it’s also a situation that has nothing to do with the government trying to change the situation:

    Foreign Policy

    Live by the Pen, Die by the Sword

    The war against journalists in Ukraine is getting bloody.

    By Ian Bateson
    September 6, 2016

    On the morning of July 20, the idyllic calm of Kiev’s leafy center was shattered. A bomb planted beneath award-winning journalist Pavel Sheremet’s red Subaru exploded, killing him instantly and raining down fiery debris on the quiet boulevard. Triggered by remote control, the assassination was intentionally visible, loud, and meant to send a message. What made the loss so hard for Kiev’s journalist community was that the 44-year-old Sheremet had survived the intimidation and censorship that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, moving from his native Belarus to Russia and finally to Ukraine, fleeing authoritarian presidents who aimed to control the press to secure their own political stability. Sheremet’s death has made many in the media fear that Ukraine has returned to its darker days of journalism.

    Whether or not Sheremet’s killing was meant to send a message, the authorities’ response has sent its own. Knowing Ukraine’s miserable record for investigating violence against journalists, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko quickly announced that U.S. investigators from the FBI would also be joining the case. But in the months since Poroshenko’s announcement, the investigation has stalled or never started in the first place — to date, there have been no arrests, and no suspects have been identified. Even a statement by the prosecutor-general noting that the first deputy head of the national police had Sheremet under surveillance before the killing was not enough to impel the official to return early from his vacation to answer questions.

    Sheremet’s murder is an unpleasant reminder that Ukraine is fighting another war beyond the ongoing conflict with pro-Russian separatists, one where journalism has become a new and dangerous front. The fight against institutionalized corruption that drove the Maidan protests in the winter of 2014 rages on — and journalists have become a major target. The Institute of Mass Information (IMI), a Kiev-based nongovernmental organization, has recorded 113 criminal offenses against reporters so far in 2016.

    This new violence, as well as the government’s lack of response, is reminiscent of the intimidation and censorship that the media faced under the regimes of former Presidents Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yanukovych. The most infamous murder in Ukraine’s media history came in 2000, when Georgiy Gongadze, the founder of the country’s premiere investigative publication Ukrayinska Pravda, was abducted and later decapitated. At a time of increasing media repression under then-President Kuchma, Gongadze was investigating the leader’s links to corrupt businesses and, prior to his abduction, had said he was being harassed by the country’s security services. Recordings of Kuchma, publicly released in November 2000 by opposition politician Oleksandr Moroz, which were passed on from one of the president’s bodyguards, caught Kuchma ordering the killing of Gongadze in coded language. In the years that followed, successive investigations have failed to prove in court who ordered the murder, despite the recordings. Every year on Sept. 16, the day Gongadze was abducted, Ukrainian journalists march down Kiev’s main boulevard holding aloft the images of killed journalists. This year, Sheremet will be added to the list.

    The recent backsliding on press freedom has been fueled in large part by the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine, where reporting on the conflict has brushed up against rising nationalism in the country. In May, Myrotvorets, or “Peacemaker,” a Ukrainian website that claims to reveal information about the “enemies of Ukraine” and is strongly suspected of having government links, published the names, employers, email addresses, and phone numbers of more than 4,000 local and international journalists who had obtained press credentials from separatists to cover the war in the east. Myrotvorets labeled thousands of journalists, the majority of them Ukrainian or from Western countries, accomplices to terrorism, making their contact information freely available to the public and open for harassment. Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, promoted the list of names on social media. Amid international criticism, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov defended his department’s actions on Facebook, saying that Myrotvorets was an ally and more important to him than complaining “liberal separatists.”

    The leak and official response were a major step backward for Ukraine and its government, still struggling to live up to the lofty popular expectations of reform following the Maidan protests that ousted Yanukovych. After weeks of outcry from journalists and mounting international pressure on Kiev, Poroshenko finally condemned the Myrotvorets leak. But even in that brief moment of hope, there were signs that Ukrainian leaders failed to understand what journalism is and why it’s necessary. In the same statement, Poroshenko called on journalists not to write negative articles about Ukraine.

    Emboldened by the lack of official response, another leak soon followed that contained journalists’ correspondences with an official from separatist-held Donetsk who was responsible for evaluating requests for accreditation and scans of their passports. Since the original leak of information in May, media freedom in Ukraine has continued to erode. Poroshenko’s statement was doubtlessly an attempt to hedge international criticism and growing domestic sentiment that journalists were somehow working against Ukraine. But, in practice, the compromise meant that in the months after no legal action followed the condemnation of the list and attacks against reporters have become more frequent.

    This capped off what had already been a troubling summer for journalists in Ukraine. A day before Sheremet was murdered, Maria Rydvan, who works for Forbes’s Ukrainian outlet, was stabbed multiple times, and days later journalist Sergey Golovnev was followed on the street and beaten. In July, Hromadske TV was the victim of a pro-government troll attack seeking to tar the independent television station as a traitor for its critical coverage of nationalist groups. Foreign journalists who have criticized the deterioration of the media environment have also come under fire, like Russian journalist Anna Nemtsova, who received threats after writing a series of articles for the Daily Beast in July and August. On September 4 the studio of Inter TV, owned by Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash and considered by many Ukrainians to provide pro-Russian coverage, caught fire in a potential arson incident during a protest against the channel. Though it is unclear whether these events represent an organized campaign, they are a threat to governmental reform and transparency in Ukraine.

    In recent months, a common topic of conversation with journalists in Kiev has been the failure of police investigations to stop menacing intimidation. As always, it is the local journalists who face the most harassment and are the most vulnerable. After Ukrainian journalist Kristina Berdynskykh published an article on the business interests of a member of parliament from Yanukovych’s former party, she began receiving death threats. Berdynskykh went public with the threats on Facebook and spent hours in police stations providing evidence and filling out forms, but months later the investigations have failed to yield any results. Russian-born journalist Katerina Sergatskova received a phone call threatening the life of her infant after her name — and phone number — were included on the first list released by Myrotverets. She also received threats over Facebook against her life, but after informing a police officer investigating the Myrotvorets leak, she says no action has been taken.

    Despite the innate danger of working in this tense environment, the journalist community in Ukraine was initially divided on how to react. To be a journalist is to deal with a certain amount of harassment, especially if you write about politically charged topics while the country remains on a war footing. Some felt that though they may receive threats, the likelihood of anyone following through was slim. But the murder of Sheremet has changed this calculus.

    What has become clear is that government officials can’t — or won’t — protect journalists. Tetiana Popova, Ukraine’s deputy minister of information policy, resigned on Aug. 3, over what she said was the government’s failure to take threats against journalists seriously. “I personally went to [the] national police and gave some information to [the] investigator from [the] national police, but nothing happened,” she said in an interview with Hromadske TV, referring to the information she gave police after receiving threats for defending journalists publicly following the Myrotvorets leak. According to Popova, almost all the cases involving threats against journalists and their defenders aren’t being investigated properly, including her own.

    Beyond the inadequate response from authorities, there is also increasing evidence that forces in the Ukrainian government are working to intimidate the media. The International Federation of Journalists has said state security services are believed to have “close links” with the elements responsible for the Myrotvorets leak. Oksana Romanyuk, the director of IMI and the Ukrainian representative for the press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders, sees Myrotvorets as an outgrowth of an earlier pro-government “internet army” project, which was composed of volunteers originally organized by the Ministry of Information in 2015 to counter Russian propaganda online. There is currently not enough evidence to prove that Myrotvorets or those behind the troll attack on Hromadske TV are directly linked to Kiev, but there is growing concern among journalists and watchdog organizations that government forces could be using such outsourced operations to try to silence critics while dodging culpability.

    “What has become clear is that government officials can’t — or won’t — protect journalists. Tetiana Popova, Ukraine’s deputy minister of information policy, resigned on Aug. 3, over what she said was the government’s failure to take threats against journalists seriously. “I personally went to [the] national police and gave some information to [the] investigator from [the] national police, but nothing happened,” she said in an interview with Hromadske TV, referring to the information she gave police after receiving threats for defending journalists publicly following the Myrotvorets leak. According to Popova, almost all the cases involving threats against journalists and their defenders aren’t being investigated properly, including her own.”

    That’s right, Tetiana Popova, the former deputy minister of information policy, resigned last month after receiving threats for publicly defending journalists who were receiving threats. And so far none of the threats, including the threats to Popova, are being properly investigated.

    It seems like the Ukrainian government’s quiet announcement that its open season on journalists should be a bigger story, Maybe not in Ukraine for obvious reasons. But how about everywhere else? Is this another story for the Ukraine memory hole?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 8, 2016, 1:36 pm
  3. Here’s an article about the anti-Roma pogram that was just implemented by a small village and apparently approved of by the rest of the government. The article was written by a journalist who traveled to that region and queried the locals about their views of the Roma. It turns out almost everyone he talked to hate the Roma with a passion. And, lo and behold, it also turns out most of them had little to no actual contact with their fellow Roma citizens, at least no knowingly since many Roma hide their ethnicity due to rampant job discrimination, and instead most of locals simply parroted the anti-Roma lessons they were taught as children. Anti-Roma Lessons that are even found in Ukrainian textbooks. Also, the Azov Battalion is already joining in on creating a climate of fear and intimidation. So, yeah, it’s a pretty depressing article and one that demonstrates the kind of populist bigotry-on-autopilot that really does not bode well for the Ukrainian people, Roma or otherwise:

    open-democracy
    Russia and Beyond

    Old hatreds rekindled in Ukraine

    Maxim Tucker
    12 September 2016

    The murder of a young girl in a Ukrainian village has led to the expulsion of local Roma families. In the aftermath, observers are asking whether Roma have a place in today’s Ukraine.

    A barbie doll in a plastic case marks the patch of earth where her body was found. In the village square a hundred metres away, police loiter with Kalashnikovs, sheltering from the evening sun in a shady treeline. A cottage across from them stands abandoned, windows smashed, walls charred. The flames that consumed the house’s insides have reached out and licked black patterns on its white paint.

    For two hundred years, Loshchynivka has been a quiet place to live. Flung out in the westernmost reaches of the Odessa region, southern Ukraine, the village is closer to Moldova and Romania than to the seat of its regional government. Farming dominates village life. Births, marriages and harvests mark its high points, funerals its low ones. Its 1,300 inhabitants – ethnic Bulgarians, Ukrainians, Russians and Roma – all share the same steady, predictable rural cycle. A cycle shattered by the murder of nine-year-old Angelina Moiseyenko on 27 August.

    The savage nature of Angelina’s killing stunned the settlement’s close community. A local goat herder discovered her small body stripped, bruised and bloodied. She had been stabbed repeatedly with a screwdriver.

    “It was even worse than brutal – stab wounds and sticks penetrating everywhere they could,” said Viktor Paskalov, the village chief. “She was raped. The worst crime we’ve ever had.”

    When her younger brother’s testimony led officers to her suspected killer, 21 year-old Mykhail Chebotar, a half-Roma, half-Bulgarian man who had grown up with the girl’s stepfather, the villagers could not contain their fury. Thirsting to avenge a senseless, loathsome crime, they committed one of their own.

    Watch this video of the attack on Roma homes in Loshchynivka, 27 August.

    Although Chebotar was immediately detained, a mob of around 300 men and teenage boys charged through the tiny village, seeking out the homes of five ethnic Roma families.

    “They gathered at five and by eight they started smashing up our houses and shouting,” said Zinaida Damaskina, a 30 year-old Roma woman forced to flee with her two young sons. “What did we have to wait for? When they will kill us? So we didn’t take anything. We didn’t have a choice. We could only run.”

    The assailants, predominantly ethnic Bulgarians, overlooked the suspect’s mixed heritage in their eagerness to blame the crime on bad blood. They even overlooked the suspect’s family home and his relatives. Instead, the mob chased out unrelated Roma families, many with small children of their own. They hurled rocks, kicked in doors and set homes ablaze. A handful of uniformed police officers watched on, failing to stop the pogrom.

    After the Roma had been hounded out, the village council passed a resolution attempting to legitimise the violence by formally expelling them. It organised buses to ferry them out to Izmail, the nearest town.

    Old hatreds, new sparks

    A picturesque city of some 72,000 people, Izmail perches on the last Ukrainian curve of the Danube river, flanked by the wild woodlands of Romania. The city’s once important port terminal is now a rusting Soviet relic, but the town retains a large and lively market.

    Many of the region’s Roma sell clothes and vegetables there, so I stopped by a stall and asked a middle-aged Ukrainian woman where I might find Roma from Loshchynivka. After giving me directions, she offered me her unsolicited opinion of her fellow market vendors: “They should all be castrated, the gypsy bastards.”

    The woman’s vitriol highlighted how events at Loshchynivka are only the latest symptom of a deep-rooted national disease, now metastasising at an alarming rate. Roma rights groups fear the murder has unleashed a fresh wave of violence and prejudice across the country.

    “A TV poll showed that 65% of Ukrainians supported the pogroms against Roma in Loshchynivka,” said Zemfira Kondur, Vice-President of the Roma Women’s Fund Chirikli. “Far-right groups are using that and we’re afraid that we will have more cases of hate attacks against Roma in different areas.”

    In the wake of the village’s expulsion of its Roma, the Azov battalion, an influential nationalist group which has units fighting in eastern Ukraine, issued an inflammatory statement supporting the move. The statement branded Loschynivka’s Roma an “ethnic mafia” led by “Gypsy Barons”. It falsely claimed they ran drug laboratories in the village and were guilty of “robberies, physical violence, intimidation and drug trafficking.”

    Days later, in Uzhgorod, a town 600km northwest of Loshchynivka, a group of gun-wielding young men assaulted a Roma family, firing shots and beating them. Suspecting ultranationalist motives, one of their victims told his attackers that he had recently returned from the front. They left abruptly. The family said they had no idea who they were or what had provoked the violence.

    “Tensions between Roma families and local Ukrainians were already high in many places, but after Loshchynivka, those tensions increased,” Kondur explained. “There were already several cases of conflict and it’s getting worse.”

    Racism against Roma, or antiziganism, is one of Europe’s enduring and virulent ethnic hatreds. Successive emperors of the Holy Roman Empire ordered all “gypsies” to be put to death upon discovery during the 18th century.

    Hitler’s genocidal slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Roma in the 20th century still generates far less research and recognition than the Holocaust. Estimates of the dead range from to 220,000 to 1.5 million. Even today, antiziganism goes largely unchallenged by the societies and governments of central and eastern Europe.

    Across the continent’s eastern swathe, prejudice is ingrained from an early age. Parents routinely warn their children to beware of Roma, lest they take them away and force them to beg. That warning is reproduced in Ukrainian school textbooks.

    Many eastern Europeans (inside and outside the EU) are unabashed in their negative opinions of Roma. Even those who are well-educated, progressive and well aware that racism is unacceptable.

    “I am pretty racist when it comes to them. They are uneducated people, bad, only looking to cheat, to steal, to make easy money,” a 24 year-old Romanian IT consultant confided to me.

    “They are filthy, impressively lazy, reproduce from a very young age just to drain the social system, very rarely get jobs,” a western-educated Bulgarian added.

    Such unpalatable views were echoed by strangers during my journey south from Kiev and across the Odessa region, as well as Ukrainian friends and colleagues I had considered liberal.

    “Criminal elements”

    Ukraine’s last census, in 2001, counted some 40,000 Roma in Ukraine. Roma organisations say the count failed to include thousands of undocumented groups and the current figure is closer to 250,000.

    Most of these groups are concentrated in western and southern Ukraine after thousands of Roma fled fighting and persecution in areas of eastern Ukraine occupied by rebel and Russian forces. Without documents, many are unable to access the assistance that displaced Ukrainians are entitled to (though don’t always receive) after leaving behind their homes and livelihoods.

    Since Loshchynivka, perceptions of Roma criminality have been reinforced by Ukrainian media and politicians. Most coverage of the pogrom was sympathetic to the aggressors, focusing on the allegations of drugs trafficking and petty crime as justification for the violence.

    Comments by Odessa’s regional governor, Mikheil Saakashvili, appeared to support that narrative. “I fully share the outrage of the residents of Loshchynivka,” Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia, told reporters after Angelina’s funeral. “There was a real den of iniquity, there is massive drug-dealing in which the anti-social elements that live there are engaged. We should have fundamentally dealt with this problem earlier — and now it’s simply obligatory.”

    However, when I met with Odessa region’s police chief Giorgi Lortkipanidze, he dismissed the idea of a criminal core in the village. “In the past year, there were 28 criminal cases in Loshchynivka and only one involved Roma. There were absolutely no drug crimes in the village,” Lortkipanidze told me.

    “I stayed there for three days and no one said they had faced Roma criminality and had called the police about this. We went with those people who alleged there was a drugs factory, searched the area and no drugs were found.

    “I’m a policeman, I always check facts before speaking,” he added. “Mr. Saakashvili is a politician, he hears the public mood and then makes statements.”

    Subsequent police raids on drug factories in Izmail and villages around Loshchynivka have confused the issue, turning up automatic weapons and huge hauls of narcotics. The raids have been used to support Saakashvili’s statement, without making clear that none of the drugs or weapons were found in Loshchynivka or in houses occupied by Roma.

    When I questioned Saakashvili about his earlier comments, he told me that by “criminal elements” he had not been referring to Roma and that his words had been misinterpreted. “I absolutely strongly condemn the attacks on Roma in Loshchynivka,” he said. “We will not allow any forceful relocation of people.”

    Success stories

    Sat at a leafy park café in Izmail, I was waiting to meet two members of the local Roma community when a young Roma boy, no more than ten years old, approached my table.

    He asked me what I was doing in Izmail. I asked him if he knew what had happened in Loshchynivka and if he had relatives there. He had heard they were chased out for killing a girl, he said. Unfazed, the boy got straight to the point. “Give me money,” he smiled with an ear-to-ear grin. I asked where his parents were. “I do what I want,” he smiled wider still. “Give me that camera,” he demanded, eyeing it greedily. I laughed him off.

    Similar scenes are played out in towns and cities across Ukraine every day. Dozens of Ukrainians have told me personal stories of being harassed or robbed by people they believed to be Roma. For many of them, it was the only time they had knowingly interacted with a community which they had been warned away from as children. Had they been sat in the café instead of me, they would have no idea that two Roma men were working hard across the street in a plumbing shop, their ethnicity kept secret in order to find employment.

    “If they know that a person is Roma, they won’t give him a job,” said Vladimir Kundadar, president of Izmail’s Roma council. “There are many smart, well-educated Roma, but to achieve something they have to hide that they are Roma, don’t show people that they are in touch with other Roma.”

    In rural areas, where the vast majority of Roma live, the difficulty in finding a job can be overcome by growing their own produce and selling it at a local market. In fact, although the ethnicity of a Roma criminal may be more visible to a victim, there are no statistics to indicate they are more likely to commit crime than other ethnicities. A 2013 study published by the Kharkiv Institute of Social Research actually found that the rate of crime committed by Roma in rural areas of Ukraine was 2.5 times less than that of wider Ukrainian society.

    In urban areas however, begging or crime may become the only alternative to starvation. Access to education and encouragement, Roma activists insist, is the key to preventing this.

    “Two years ago I was robbed by poor Roma near a shop. They knew I was Roma too, but they didn’t care,” said Volodymr Kondur, head of the Odessa Roma human rights center. “After that I could have said they are a bad people and I will not help them anymore. But I didn’t.

    “You need to understand that these people need attention to get out of economic and psychological difficulties. Show them that there are other opportunities.”

    One of the key tasks for activists is to promote Roma success stories inside and outside Roma communities, breaking down stereotypes and preventing the most impoverished families from falling into them. They want to show that there are successful Roma writers, mechanics, merchants, students, scientists and sportsmen across the country.

    It’s not easy. In the week after the murder, a social media campaign was launched featuring photos of well-groomed young Roma holding placards saying “I am not a criminal” It received almost no coverage in Ukrainian media.

    Breaking the cycle

    Despite a government action plan, there is no real state support for Roma efforts. “There are three staff members within the Ministry of Culture responsible for implementing the ‘Strategy on Protection and Integration of Roma Minority into Ukrainian Society by 2020’, but they have no budget,” explains Yana Salakhova, a specialist on counteracting racism and xenophobia at the International Organization for Migration.

    Indeed, Ukraine’s insane level of bureaucracy and failure to make good on its constitutional promise of free state healthcare and education keeps many Roma locked in a cycle of poverty and vulnerability.

    Enrolling children in a state kindergarten requires documentation and cash for bribes that Roma families, often on the move, are unlikely to have. Once at school, Roma children can be placed in segregated classes or entirely separate institutions with lower standards.

    Doctors, paid a dire wage by the state and desperately short of medical supplies, may refuse to treat Roma under the assumption that they can’t pay the going rate for what should be a free procedure.

    “I was in a small village near Kirovograd with a Roma woman, who told me she was pregnant, went to the hospital and the doctors refused to help her deliver, because they were concerned she wouldn’t have enough money to pay for her caesarean,” said Chirikli’s Zemfira Kondur. “By the time they agreed to do it, the baby was in a coma.”

    “Most of these groups are concentrated in western and southern Ukraine after thousands of Roma fled fighting and persecution in areas of eastern Ukraine occupied by rebel and Russian forces. Without documents, many are unable to access the assistance that displaced Ukrainians are entitled to (though don’t always receive) after leaving behind their homes and livelihoods.

    That’s something important to keep in mind in all this: Whatever anti-Roma sentiments existed before the war were bound to get significantly worse after the conflict broke out and sent thousands of people fleeing. And as we just saw, the pre-war anti-Roma sentiment was already pretty damn appalling. The fact that the underlying theme of Ukraine’s civil war is basically ethno-nationalism doesn’t help.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 14, 2016, 6:15 pm
  4. Oh great, look who started a new political party: the Avoz Battalion:

    Kyiv Post

    Nationalist Azov Battalion starts political party

    By Bermet Talant.
    Published Oct. 15. Updated Oct. 15 at 6:41 pm

    The death penalty for corruption, the expansion of presidential power, and the severance of diplomatic relations with Russia – these are just a few of the policies proposed by the National Corps, a newly established right-wing political party created by the Azov Battalion.

    The battalion, a Ukrainian National Guard unit often described as supporting neo-Nazi ideology and accused of human rights violations, presented its new political party and its rather radical statute on Oct. 14.

    The political convention in Kyiv gathered around 292 delegates from all regions of Ukraine. Azov’s commander, Andriy Biletsky, was unanimously elected as the party leader for a four-year term.

    “We will be different from other parties. Everyone will see it in 3-4 months. We won’t be a party for TV debates. We want to work on real projects and implement them ourselves, be it in the environment, or security, or extremely important issues of the moment,” said Biletsky in interview with Hromadske Radio.

    The National Corps backs constitutional changes, including the expansion of presidential powers by granting the president the authorities both of commander-in-chief and head of the government. The party also wants to start a public debate on the restoration of the death penalty for treason, and for embezzlement by top-ranking public officials.

    Moreover, the party wants Ukraine to rearm itself with nuclear weapons, and nationalize companies that were public property in 1991 when Ukraine gained independence.

    In foreign policy, the National Corps supports the severance of diplomatic relations with Russia until its forces leave Crimea and the Donbas, and Moscow pays war reparation. In the meantime, Ukraine should focus on developing comprehensive cooperation with the Baltic and Black sea states.

    Finally, the National Corps called for citizens to have the right to armed self-defense, which became a matter of debate in Ukraine in 2015.

    Azov’s nationalist convention culminated with the Nation March in the evening, which it organized together with the Right Sector, another far-right organization.

    An estimated 5,000 people walked with torches and flags from the Mother Homeland monument to St. Sofia Square chanting “Death to the enemies!” and “Glory to Ukraine, glory to the heroes!”

    “I joined the march because I believe in a free Ukraine,” said one young man wearing a face mask with the yellow and blue emblem of Azov Battalion, which resembles a Wolfsangel, a symbol associated with Nazism. “We have friends and relatives who fought or fight in the east. Our ancestors were Cossacks and also defended our homeland. We must never forget them.”

    “Moreover, the party wants Ukraine to rearm itself with nuclear weapons, and nationalize companies that were public property in 1991 when Ukraine gained independence.”

    Azov wants nukes. Imagine that. It raises a question that would be rather fascinating in the context of the US election and Donald Trump’s casual embrace of both nuclear proliferation and far-right extremism: Would Trump support the idea of Ukraine arming itself with nukes? How about if Azov is running the government at the time? They’re kind of like an extra-militant Alt-Right movement, so Trump would presumably have at least somewhat fond feelings towards them. Would Azov in charge make him more or less inclined to support nukes for Ukraine? Hopefully we’ll never see a situation where Trump and Azov both ascend to positions of power and never really get an answer to these questions, but it would be interesting to get an answer from Trump about that anyway.

    So is this the path forward for Azov? Politics? No more threats to “march on Kiev”? Or is this just a phase:

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

    Right-Wing Azov Battalion Enters Ukraine’s Political Arena

    October 14, 2016

    KYIV — Ukraine’s far-right Azov Battalion has officially created a political party.

    Greeted by chants of “Death to enemies!” at an inaugural party congress in Kyiv on October 14, Azov’s new political head, Nazar Kravchenko, told some 300 attendees, many in military fatigues, that the party would work to defend Ukraine against Russian aggression.

    The gathering coincided with traditional nationalist events marking the creation of the controversial World War II-era Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and to celebrate Ukrainian Cossacks.

    Credited with recapturing the strategic port city of Mariupol from Russia-backed separatists in 2014, Azov is a former volunteer militia now included in the National Guard.

    Due to members’ far-right ideology and militancy, detractors believe the fighting force might also pose a threat to President Petro Poroshenko and the stability of the state.

    Kravchenko told the Hromadske news site he hopes forming a party will give Azov greater political influence.

    “There are several ways of coming to power, but we are trying something through elections, but we have all sorts of possibilities,” he said.

    Azov’s symbol is similar to the Nazi Wolfsangel but the group claims it is comprised of the letters N and I, meaning “national idea.”

    Human rights organizations have accused the Azov Battalion of torture.

    “There are several ways of coming to power, but we are trying something through elections, but we have all sorts of possibilities”.

    Huh, it sounds like Azov has a kind of “vote for us or we’re taking power anyway” implicit platform. It would be interesting to hear Trump’s opinion on that too.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 20, 2016, 2:37 pm
  5. Here’s something worth watching: With the big questions over what the US’s position is going to be regarding its relationship with both Russia and, in turn, its relationship with Ukraine and the ongoing civil war, it’s worth noting that Canada recently appointed Chrystia Freeland, and staunchly anti-Russian MP with Ukrainian roots. And while that would suggest that Canada is going to be maintaining the position it held regarding Ukraine and Russia that it held in the pre-Trump era, that hasn’t quelled Canadian concerns in Kiev (although it looks like Canada is going to be renewing its Ukrainian military aid):

    The Globe and Mail

    Canada set to renew Ukraine military training mission amid Trump fears

    Robert Fife And Mark MacKinnon

    Ottawa and Kiev — The Globe and Mail

    Published Monday, Feb. 20, 2017 11:57AM EST
    Last updated Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017 7:19AM EST

    Canada is set to renew a military mission training Ukrainian troops to confront Russia-backed separatists in the east of Ukraine, despite concerns in Kiev over delays in announcing the extension of the program.

    The Trudeau cabinet has not yet announced the extension of the two-year-old non-combat mission, dubbed Operation Unifier, which expires on March 31. The silence has sparked worries in Kiev, where the Ukrainian government is anxious for Western reassurance following the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has expressed interest in striking some kind of bargain with Russian President Vladimir Putin that could include lowering U.S. sanctions imposed over Moscow’s role in Ukraine.

    “The longer it takes to [extend] the mission, the more our concern is rising,” Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, Vadym Prystaiko, told The Globe and Mail in an interview at his office in Kiev.

    But a senior Canadian government official said Ukraine didn’t need to worry about the future of Operation Unifier, which has seen a rotating contingent of 200 Canadian troops train more than 3,100 Ukrainian soldiers since arriving in the country two years ago.

    “Canada understands that Ukraine, and everybody who is a stakeholder and supporter, really wants mission renewal,” the senior official said. “There is nothing unique about going through a mission renewal process and there is absolutely nothing unique about how this one is being done. It is a routine renewal from a government that has been making positive signs.”

    Mr. Prystaiko said Ukraine was broadly concerned by the Liberal government’s efforts to rebuild relations between Ottawa and Moscow, which were in a deep freeze under former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, who famously told Mr. Putin to his face that he needed to “get out of Ukraine.”

    The efforts of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to restart contacts with Russia via forums such as the Arctic Council have rung alarm bells in Kiev, which is concerned that Canada’s previously unwavering support for Ukraine may be weakening.

    “Each and every thing – even if it’s not connected [to the war in Ukraine] – will be used by Russia back home to say, ‘Look, these bloody Westerners, they realize they were wrong, they are looking for ways to reconnect with us,’” Mr. Prystaiko said.

    But the senior Canadian government official noted that as recently as Friday, Chief of the Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance reiterated Canada’s support for Ukraine at a conference in Ottawa. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has also repeatedly expressed Canada’s support for Ukraine, as has Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

    Ms. Freeland, in particular, is seen in Kiev and Moscow as a staunch backer of Ukraine, having opposed many of her predecessor Stéphane Dion’s efforts to reach out to Russia during his 14-month stint as foreign minister. Ms. Freeland is among 13 Canadians who are barred from entering Russia under sanctions imposed by Moscow in retaliation for Canada’s own measures targeting Russian and Ukrainian politicians over the annexation of Crimea and the war in Ukraine’s Donbass.

    Canada, Britain and the United States have had military trainers in Ukraine since the summer of 2015, arriving one year after Moscow – furious over a pro-Western revolution in Kiev – annexed the Crimean Peninsula and helped stir up a separatist insurgency in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

    “The efforts of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to restart contacts with Russia via forums such as the Arctic Council have rung alarm bells in Kiev, which is concerned that Canada’s previously unwavering support for Ukraine may be weakening.”

    Will a thaw in relations between Ottawa and Moscow chill Canada’s unwavering support for the Kiev government in Ukraine’s civil war? That’s the question Kiev appears to be asking with increasing angst, although the appointment of Chrystia Freeland seems like a pretty strong signal that Canada’s foreign ministry, at a minimum, is going to be very uninterested in any thawing of Canadian/Russian relations:

    Consortium News

    A Nazi Skeleton in the Family Closet

    Exclusive: Canada’s fiercely anti-Russian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland says her Ukrainian grandfather struggled “to return freedom and democracy to Ukraine,” but she leaves out that he was a Nazi propagandist justifying the slaughter of Jews, writes Arina Tsukanova.

    By Arina Tsukanova
    February 27, 2017

    On Jan. 10, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau replaced Foreign Minister Stephane Dion with Chrystia Freeland, a former journalist proud of her Ukrainian roots and well-known for her hostility toward Russia. At the time, a big question in Ottawa was why. Some analysts believed that Trudeau’s decision may have started when it still seemed likely that Hillary Clinton would become the new U.S. president and a tough line against Moscow was expected in Washington.

    However, by the time the switch was made, Donald Trump was on his way into the White House and Trudeau’s choice meant that Canada was allying itself more with the mounting hostility toward Russia inside the European Union than with President Trump’s hopes for a more cooperative relationship with the Kremlin. With Freeland running Canada’s Foreign Ministry, the chance for a shared view between Ottawa and Washington suddenly seemed remote.

    People who have followed Freeland’s career were aware that her idée fixe for decades has been that Ukraine must be ripped out of the Russian sphere of influence. Her views fit with the intense Ukrainian nationalism of her maternal grandparents who immigrated to Canada after World War II and whom she has portrayed as victims of Josef Stalin and the Red Army.

    So, Freeland celebrated the Soviet collapse in 1991, which enabled Ukraine to gain its independence. Freeland, then in her early 20s, was working in Kiev as a stringer for The Financial Times and The Washington Post, shining with delight over the emergence of a “New Ukraine.”

    By the next decade, working as the U.S. managing editor of The Financial Times, she proudly interviewed then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who had won control as a result of the 2004 “Orange Revolution.” In her approach to journalism, Freeland made clear her commitment to foment Ukrainian-Russian tensions in any possible way. Indeed, during her journalistic career, which ended in 2013 when she won a seat in Canada’s parliament, Freeland remained fiercely anti-Russian.

    In 2014, Yushchenko’s rival Viktor Yanukovych was Ukraine’s elected president while Canadian MP Freeland urged on the “Euro-Maidan” protests against Yanukovych and his desire to maintain friendly relations with Moscow. On Jan. 27, 2014, as the protests grew more violent with ultra-nationalist street fighters moving to the forefront and firebombing police, Freeland visited Kiev and published an op-ed in The Globe and Mail blaming the violence on Yanukovych.

    “Democratic values are rarely challenged as directly as they are being today in Ukraine,” Freeland wrote, arguing that the protesters, not the elected president, represented democracy and the rule of law. “Their victory will be a victory for us all; their defeat will weaken democracy far from the Euromaidan. We are all Ukrainians now. Let’s do what we can — which is a lot — to support them.”

    Ukraine’s ‘Regime Change’

    Freeland’s op-ed appeared at about the same time as her ideological ally, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, was caught on an insecure phone line discussing with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt who the new leaders of Ukraine should be. “Yats is the guy,” Nuland said about Arseniy Yatsenyuk while dismissing the E.U.’s less aggressive approach to the crisis with the pithy remark, “Fu ck the E.U.” Nuland and Pyatt then pondered how to “glue this thing” and “midwife this thing.”

    Several weeks later, on Feb. 20, a mysterious sniper shot both police and protesters, touching off a day of bloody mayhem. On Feb. 22, armed rioters seized government buildings and forced Yanukovych to flee for his life. He was then impeached without the constitutional rules being followed. Yatsenyuk became prime minister, and Western governments quickly pronounced the new regime “legitimate.”

    The new xenophobic regime in Kiev – bristling with hostility toward ethnic Russian Ukrainians – did not embarrass Freeland. As Canada’s newly appointed minister of international trade, Freeland met frequently with Ukrainian officials, more so than with many of Canada’s leading trade partners.

    But the more troubling question is whether Freeland’s devotion to Ukrainian nationalism is rooted not in her commitment to the “rule of law” or “democratic values” or even the well-being of the Ukrainian people whose living standards have declined sharply since the Feb. 22, 2014 putsch (amid continued government corruption), but in her devotion to her Ukrainian grandparents whom she still views as victims of Stalin and the Red Army.

    Last Aug. 24, reflecting on so-called Black Ribbon Day, which lumps together the crimes of Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler (with Stalin getting top billing), she wrote on Twitter, “Thinking of my grandparents Mykhailo & Aleksandra Chomiak on Black Ribbon Day. They were forever grateful to Canada for giving them refuge and they worked hard to return freedom and democracy to Ukraine. I am proud to honour their memory today.”

    In her autobiography, Freeland presents her grandparents in the following way: “My maternal grandparents fled western Ukraine after Hitler and Stalin signed their non-aggression pact in 1939. They never dared to go back, but they stayed in close touch with their brothers and sisters and their families, who remained behind.”

    According to Freeland, her grandfather Mykhailo Chomiak was “a lawyer and journalist before the Second World War, but they [her grandparents] knew the Soviets would invade western Ukraine (and) fled.” After the war, her mother was born in a refugee camp in Germany before the family immigrated to western Canada, Freeland wrote.

    Freeland’s grandfather was allegedly able to get a visa only thanks to his sister who had crossed the ocean before the war. The family story told by Freeland portrays her grandparents as World War II victims, but that is not the real or full story.

    Chrystia Freeland’s dark family secret is that her grandfather, Mykhailo Chomiak, faithfully served Nazi Germany right up to its surrender, and Chomiak’s family only moved to Canada after the Third Reich was defeated by the Soviet Union’s Red Army and its allies – the U.S. and Great Britain.

    Mykhailo Chomiak was not a victim of the war – he was on the side of the German aggressors who collaborated with Ukrainian nationalists in killing Russians, Jews, Poles and other minorities. Former journalist Freeland chose to whitewash her family history to leave out her grandfather’s service to Adolf Hitler. Of course, if she had told the truth, she might never have achieved a successful political career in Canada. Her fierce hostility toward Russia also might be viewed in a different light.

    Freeland’s Grandfather

    According to Canadian sources, Chomiak graduated from Lviv University in western Ukraine with a Master’s Degree in Law and Political Science. He began a career with the Galician newspaper Dilo (Action), published in Lviv. After the start of World War II, the Nazi administration appointed Chomiak to be editor of the newspaper Krakivski Visti (News of Krakow).

    So the truth appears to be that Chomiak moved from Ukraine to Nazi-occupied Poland in order to work for the Third Reich under the command of Governor-General Hans Frank, the man who organized the Holocaust in Poland. Chomiak’s work was directly supervised by Emil Gassner, the head of the press department in the Polish General Government.

    Mikhailo Chomiak comfortably settled his family into a former Jewish (or Aryanized) apartment in Krakow. The editorial offices for Krakivski Visti also were taken from a Jewish owner, Krakow’s Polish-language Jewish newspaper Nowy Dziennik. Its editor at the time was forced to flee Krakow for Lviv, where he was captured following the occupation of Galicia and sent to the Belzec extermination camp, where he was murdered along with 600,000 other Jews.

    So, it appears Freeland’s grandfather – rather than being a helpless victim – was given a prestigious job to spread Nazi propaganda, praising Hitler from a publishing house stolen from Jews and given to Ukrainians who shared the values of Nazism.

    On April 24, 1940, Krakivski Visti published a full-page panegyric to Adolf Hitler dedicated to his 51st birthday (four days earlier). Chomiak also hailed Governor-General Hans Frank: “The Ukrainian population were overjoyed to see the establishment of fair German authority, the bearer of which is you, Sir Governor-General. The Ukrainian people expressed this joy not only through the flowers they threw to the German troops entering the region, but also through the sacrifices of blood required to fight Polish usurpers.” (Because of Frank’s role in the Holocaust, the Nuremberg Tribunal found him guilty of crimes against humanity and executed him.)

    Beyond extolling Hitler and his henchmen, Chomiak rejoiced over Nazi military victories, including the terror bombings of Great Britain. While praising the Third Reich, Krakivski Visti was also under orders by the German authorities to stir up hatred against the Jewish population. Editorial selections from Chomiak’s newspaper can be found in Holocaust museums around the world, such as the one in Los Angeles, California.

    The Nov. 6, 1941 issue of Krakivski Visti ecstatically describes how much better Kiev is without Jews. “There is not a single one left in Kiev today, while there were 350,000 under the Bolsheviks,” the newspaper wrote, gloating that the Jews “got their comeuppance.”

    That “comeuppance” refers to the mass shooting of Kiev’s Jewish population at Babi Yar. In just two days, Sept. 29-30, 1941, a total of 33,771 people were murdered, a figure that does not include children younger than three years old. There were more shootings in October, and by early November, Krakivski Visti was enthusing over a city where the Jewish population had “disappeared” making Kiev “beautiful, glorious.” Chomiak’s editorials also described a Poland “infected by Jews.”

    According to John-Paul Himka, a Canadian historian of Ukrainian origin, Krakivski Visti stirred up emotions against Jews, creating an atmosphere conducive to mass murder. In 2008, the Institute of Historical Research at Lviv National University published a paper co-authored by Himka entitled “What Was the Attitude of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists toward the Jews?” The paper states that, by order of the German authorities, Krakivski Visti published a series of articles between June and September 1943 under the title “Yids in Ukraine” that were written in an extremely anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi vein. The Canadian historian writes that Jews were portrayed as criminals, while Ukrainians were portrayed as victims.

    Refuge in Canada

    As the war turned against the Nazis and the Red Army advanced across Ukraine and Poland, Nazi propagandist Emil Gassner took Mykhailo Chomiak in 1944 to Vienna where Krakivski Visti continued to publish. As the Third Reich crumbled, Chomiak left with the retreating German Army and surrendered to the Americans in Bavaria, where he was placed with his family in a special U.S. military intelligence facility in Bad Wörishofen, a cluster of hotels situated 78 kilometers from Munich in the foothills of the Alps.

    The Chomiak family was given accommodations, living expenses and health care. In her biography, Freeland refers to it only as “a refugee camp.” In September 1946, Mikhailo Chomiak’s daughter Halyna was born in that spa town. In May 1948, the facility was closed and Chomiak, the former Nazi editor, departed for Canada.

    While it is true that the sins of a grandfather should not be visited on his descendants, Freeland should not have misled the public on history of such importance, especially when her deceptions also concealed how she partly developed her world view. The family’s deep hostility toward Russia appears to have been passed down from Mikhailo Chomiak’s generation to his granddaughter Chrystia Freeland.

    “People who have followed Freeland’s career were aware that her idée fixe for decades has been that Ukraine must be ripped out of the Russian sphere of influence. Her views fit with the intense Ukrainian nationalism of her maternal grandparents who immigrated to Canada after World War II and whom she has portrayed as victims of Josef Stalin and the Red Army.”

    Yep, Canada’s new foreign minister’s grandparents were not just refugees from Ukraine in WWII, but her grandfather was deeply connected to the kinds of Ukrainian pro-Nazi nationalist groups that continued to exist and now make up a significant segment of the contemporary Ukrainian far-right neo-Nazi/ultranationalist scene. It appears that she was raised with a deeply anti-Russian sentiment passed down from her family’s experiences that she continues to hold today. So while we don’t know yet what the overall Canadian government’s position is going to be going forward on the question of whether or not to thaw relations with Moscow and/or continue to provide military training for Kiev, it’s pretty clear what the foreign ministry’s stance is going to be.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 1, 2017, 9:08 pm
  6. Check out the latest attempt by Volodomyr Viatrovych and Ukraine’s Institute of National Memory to purify Ukraine of any memories that might portray “nationalist” groups like the UPA as a bunch of Nazi collaborators: Ukraine is investigating a 94-year-old Jewish WWII hero over the death of a UPA propagandist/Nazi collaborator back in 1952 while he was working for the NKVD at the recommendation of Viatrovych as part of a package of new decommunisation laws:

    The Guardian

    Ukraine investigates 94-year-old Jewish veteran over nationalist’s death in 1952

    Soviet army veteran Boris Steckler faces murder inquiry over his role in death of Ukrainian insurgent and could be jailed

    Alec Luhn in Moscow

    Wednesday 3 May 2017 04.49 EDT
    Last modified on Wednesday 3 May 2017 10.54 EDT

    Ukraine’s prosecutor general has opened a murder investigation against a 94-year-old Jewish Red Army veteran over the 1952 killing of a nationalist insurgent who has been accused of collaborating with Nazis.

    The prosecutor general opened the investigation into the “intentional killing of two or more people on the territory of Rivne region in March 1952 by members of the administration of the state security ministry”, according to a copy of a letter posted on the website of the National Human Rights Centre, an organisation which has assisted nationalists facing prosecution.

    The website said the case was that of Nil Khasevych, a member of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UIA) who, along with two other fighters, was killed by Soviet security forces in a standoff at that place and time.

    Khasevych has been accused of collaborating with the Nazis during the second world war. The National Human Rights Centre website called him an “independence fighter” and said the prosecution of his killer would give “appropriate legal appraisal to the crimes of the communist epoch”.

    The operation that killed Khasevych was headed by Boris Steckler, now a 94-year-old Jewish veteran who was decorated numerous times for bravery in the war and later served in the KGB.

    Steckler confirmed in a 2013 interview that he had directed the mission against Khasevych, but claimed the insurgent had shot himself before Soviet soldiers threw grenades into the bunker where he was hiding. They had given him a chance to surrender, Steckler said.

    Last year, the head of the Ukrainian government’s National Memory Institute, Volodymyr Vyatrovych, asked the state security service to open its files on Steckler under a new package of decommunisation laws introduced to parliament.

    In addition to opening the archives, the laws made it a criminal offence to question the actions of the UIA and another nationalist group, a move condemned by international scholars as an attack on free speech. Steckler appealed to a Rivne court to block access to the files.

    A trained artist, Khasevych was known for creating patriotic images and printing anti-Soviet literature for the UIA, a group of nationalist fighters who on some occasions collaborated with the Nazis and took part in genocide of Jews and Poles.

    According to a passage attributed to Steckler in the 1985 book Chekists Talk, Khasevych was appointed as a local judge by the invading German forces and sentenced Ukrainians who resisted the occupation to punishment or execution.

    But Khasevych and other wartime insurgents have been increasingly celebrated as early freedom fighters after nationalists played a key role in the street demonstrations that brought a pro-western government to power in Kiev in 2014.

    Eduard Dolinsky, director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, called the murder investigation an “injustice” and said Khasevych’s actions, not Steckler’s, should be condemned. “He was an active fighter when they destroyed Jews and Poles,” Dolinsky said. “It’s the Ukrainian Insurgent Army that committed a war crime.”

    Although cases more than 15 years old are not typically prosecuted, a court can make an exception if the crime is serious enough to bring a lifetime sentence, according to lawyer Markiyan Halabala. That means Steckler could be sent to prison, but Halabala said that outcome was unlikely in this case, which would be the first of its kind in Ukraine.

    “Last year, the head of the Ukrainian government’s National Memory Institute, Volodymyr Vyatrovych, asked the state security service to open its files on Steckler under a new package of decommunisation laws introduced to parliament.”

    And that’s a snapshot of the kind of madness unleashed in Ukraine these days: Anyone associated with the Soviet era has become so officially reviled, and Nazi collaborators have become so officially revered, that the state is opening up 65 year old cases of Soviet agents killing ‘nationalist’ like Khasevych and prosecuting a 94-year-old Jewish WWII hero because he was in the KGB. At the behest of the National Memory Institute:


    The prosecutor general opened the investigation into the “intentional killing of two or more people on the territory of Rivne region in March 1952 by members of the administration of the state security ministry”, according to a copy of a letter posted on the website of the National Human Rights Centre, an organisation which has assisted nationalists facing prosecution.

    The website said the case was that of Nil Khasevych, a member of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UIA) who, along with two other fighters, was killed by Soviet security forces in a standoff at that place and time.

    Khasevych has been accused of collaborating with the Nazis during the second world war. The National Human Rights Centre website called him an “independence fighter” and said the prosecution of his killer would give “appropriate legal appraisal to the crimes of the communist epoch”.

    But don’t assume that “decommunisation” is just going to lead investigations of Soviety-era incidents. As the following interview grimly describes, everyone is a potential target in Ukraine. And “decommunisation”, or simply being associated with anything ‘Russian’ at all, is enough to bring violence or worse:

    Political Critique

    Nowadays, Everyone Is a Potential Target in Ukraine

    We spoke to journalist Aliona Liasheva about the recent attacks and the situation of left-wing activists in Ukraine.

    Veronika Pehe and Tom Rowley
    May 3, 2017

    On 20 April, activist Stas Serhijenko was brutally attacked and stabbed near his home in Kiev. He suffered serious wounds and was taken to hospital. This incident was only one of a series of violent attacks on left-wing activists and institutions. But as Aliona Liasheva explains, it is not only those associated with the left who have become the victims of attacks, anyone who is seen as challenging mainstream pro-Ukrainian and pro-war views can easily become subject to repressions of different sorts.

    VP: On April 20, activist Stas Serhienko was stabbed near his home in Kyiv. Who was behind the attack?

    AL: It is difficult to be completely sure. The police only started working on the case three days after the attack. But we can make some basic assumptions. For one, Stas was not robbed. The people who attacked him filmed the incident. Stas had received a lot of threats before. It makes sense to assume this was an attack from a far-right group. The leader of one such group called C14, which has been active since the 2010s, published a blog post in one of the mainstream Ukrainian media, in which he approved of the attack. It’s quite likely the attackers were associated with this or a similar group, but Stas didn’t recognize any of them.

    TR: Has Stas suffered attacks before?

    AL: Yes, he was beaten after the 1 May demonstration in 2016, and he identified the attackers as members of Azov. He was also threatened at another anti-fascist demonstration last year, so this attack was not unprecedented. But the latest incident was certainly one of the most horrible we’ve seen for a long time in Kyiv.

    VP: Several other violent incidents have also occurred in the past weeks and months. Recently, an exhibition of artist Davyd Chychkan at the Visual Culture Research Centre was vandalized. In February, activist Taras Bohay was attacked in Lviv. Are these attacks connected in any way? Are the same people behind them?

    It’s hard to say for sure whether these incidents are connected, but it’s clear that part of the far right are going wild right now. These are people who did not make it either into mainstream politics or other state structures, such as the police. They are not controlled by any institution and I can only hope the attacks are not systematically organized. The difficulty in assessing the situation is also a result of these attacks often being “covered” by the police.

    VP: So what is the role of the police? Are they making any efforts to investigate?

    The rather half-hearted investigations into these crimes could be explained by the fact that the police are completely disorganized, or that they do actually have an interest in covering up these incidents. There have been cases when they simply stopped the investigation. What’s important to highlight is that attacks on activists like Stas are a small part of a bigger process. For instance, media are being attacked. Take the case of Inter, a TV channel, which was accused of being pro-Russian in September 2016. It was not attacked by the state, but by a group of thugs who set the station building on fire.

    TR: There are signs that far-right groups and other actors, such as oligarch groups or elements of law enforcement, link up at points where they can be of mutual benefit. How do you see these interests aligning?

    AL: I completely agree that there are a whole host of different groups and interests involved. The situation certainly changed after Maidan. In the past three years, we have witnessed an increase in far-right violence, though of course it’s not something completely new. These far-right groups existed already before Maidan and were also financed by oligarchs in certain cases. They were also very much associated with the Dynamo Kyiv football team. During the Maidan, these groups were instrumentalized by the elites, part of them are now in the volunteer battalions of the army. Others, especially leading figures, received positions in the police and secret police institutions. The head of the police has far-right connections. Those who were beating LGBT people on the streets are now sitting in offices. And those who didn’t get a position in the army or security services are now out and about and ready to spark violence at any point.

    VP: Who or what exactly are the targets of far-right attacks?

    AL: Attacks on media and activists are just a small part of what’s going on, because in general there’s a broad nationalist consensus in the country. Its main criteria are being anti-Russian and pro-war. By anti-Russian, I don’t just mean being critical towards Putin’s politics, but rather a general Russophobic attitude, which hates everything connected to Russia, including its language, though one half of Ukrainians speak Russian as their mother tongue. This consensus also dictates that if you want to be part of the nation, you have to be militaristic, support the army and far-right battalions no matter what sort of war crimes they are committing. The moment you break this consensus in public, you pay for it.

    VP: Does this mean that those who break this consensus are automatically defined as being on the left?

    AL: No. Usually they are labelled as being pro-Russian or pro-Soviet. Of course, some of those who criticize this consensus do so from leftist positions, like researchers, journalists, or activists. But there are also some nationalist journalists doing the same. Take the case of Ruslan Kotsaba, whose views are far away from the left – for example, he is openly anti-Semitic. He published a video blog in which he said he didn’t want to be drafted into the army, because the Ukrainian army is defending the interests of oligarchs. He was arrested for that, sentenced to three years in prison and later released. It also affects people who have pro-Russian views. This was the case of Oles’ Buzina, the journalist who was shot dead in 2015. It is still not clear who did it, but there are reasons to believe that right-wing groups were involved. Or take the radio station Vesti. It published a range of different opinions, from pro-Ukrainian pieces to positions slightly sympathetic to the current direction of Russian politics. They lost their broadcast license in March this year.

    TR: The different elements of the attacks against particular people or institutions connected to Russia are part of the “hybrid war” discourse, where everything is securitized and everyone is seen as a potential threat. It doesn’t matter if you say something against the consensus in public or are engaged in activism outside permitted frames, if you are a platform hosting someone with views outside the mainstream — potentially, this can be perceived as a threat to national unity and sovereignty, a source of defeat or treachery. Nowadays, it feels like everyone is an amateur detective.

    Absolutely. If you want to find something to compromise someone, you will. And this also affects people who are not directly involved in politics. Take the example of the music band ONUKA. The leader of the band has mild patriotic political opinions. One of their tracks was sold to a Russian filmmaking company. Because of that, the band was accused of being separatist by another artist and this accusation was quickly spread around social networks. It’s an example of how these repressions have no logic.

    VP: Which makes everyone into a target, because anyone can be labelled as disrupting the national(ist) consensus.

    Exactly. For example, Stas is a very obvious target for the far right. He has left-wing views and doesn’t hide it, he supports LGBT and minority rights. He doesn’t fit into this consensus at all, yet there are also people very close to this consensus, like this musician, who has nothing to do with politics, but whom these repressive processes affect nevertheless. This doesn’t concern just explicit attacks of the right, but also the state policy of decommunization. The recent decommunization laws are very contradictory. Street names have been changed, but also books, activities and organizations have been banned. Basically, the definitions are so broad, that if you really want to, you will find a reason to put anyone in prison. As Tom said, everyone is a detective.

    TR: A classic instance of this took place in May last year, when a group of hackers released the personal information of roughly 7,000 people who work in the media and more or less accused them of state treason. Ukraine’s liberal commentariat was generally in favour.

    AL: And indeed, the debate that was sparked on the internet after the attack on Stas shows that people really believe that being a communist is reason enough to be stabbed. For example, on the informal social network page of his university, people were literally saying with a lot of sarcasm that this is what he deserves as a “commie”. Disgusting, really. Many felt the need to discuss Stas’s political beliefs and evaluate if they are good or bad. And if they’re bad… Well, then the attack was basically justified in their view. But of course, many people also reacted from a human rights perspective and condemned this act of violence, even if they themselves do not support left-wing views.

    VP: What is the mood among activists in Ukraine at the moment? What kind of impact are these attacks having?

    AL: As I said, it’s hardly all that new. We have been aware of the ongoing violence and the danger it poses for a long time. In general, left-wing activists understand the fact that any article they publish in a journal might be a reason for being attacked. Many activists have internalized a code of security rules, like hiding their real names, the place they live, extra internet security, being very careful at demonstrations. At every rally, there’s a plan of how to get to where the event is taking place and how to leave. It’s become an everyday practice, you don’t really notice it anymore. But I won’t hide that I am scared.

    “AL: Attacks on media and activists are just a small part of what’s going on, because in general there’s a broad nationalist consensus in the country. Its main criteria are being anti-Russian and pro-war. By anti-Russian, I don’t just mean being critical towards Putin’s politics, but rather a general Russophobic attitude, which hates everything connected to Russia, including its language, though one half of Ukrainians speak Russian as their mother tongue. This consensus also dictates that if you want to be part of the nation, you have to be militaristic, support the army and far-right battalions no matter what sort of war crimes they are committing. The moment you break this consensus in public, you pay for it.”

    The language that half or Ukrainians speak as their mother tongue is considered anti-Ukrainian these days. But Nazis are awesome. That’s the kind of damage Ukraine’s civil war has done to the nation’s collective psyche. And things like the “decommunisation” laws have become the tools through which that psychic damage manifests:


    Exactly. For example, Stas is a very obvious target for the far right. He has left-wing views and doesn’t hide it, he supports LGBT and minority rights. He doesn’t fit into this consensus at all, yet there are also people very close to this consensus, like this musician, who has nothing to do with politics, but whom these repressive processes affect nevertheless. This doesn’t concern just explicit attacks of the right, but also the state policy of decommunization. The recent decommunization laws are very contradictory. Street names have been changed, but also books, activities and organizations have been banned. Basically, the definitions are so broad, that if you really want to, you will find a reason to put anyone in prison. As Tom said, everyone is a detective.

    “Basically, the definitions are so broad, that if you really want to, you will find a reason to put anyone in prison. As Tom said, everyone is a detective.”

    The vigilante ‘justice’ dealt out by far-right ‘nationalist’ neo-Nazi groups like the Azov battalion is just one element of the vigilante ‘justice’ being dealt out in Ukraine today. There’s also the state-backed vigilante justice that comes from having vaguely defined law that basically outlaws all things Russian in a nation where almost everyone has some sort of tie to something Russian.

    Everyone’s a potential target in that kind of situation. Well, almost everyone. The openly neo-Nazi ‘nationalists’ definitely aren’t targets.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 3, 2017, 8:21 pm
  7. While it’s unclear if this is news anymore, since the world doesn’t appear to really care about Ukraine’s high-level neo-Nazi infestation, but it looks like Vasily Vovk – a senior officer in the SBU and the former head of the SBU’s investigative unit and the head of the SBU’s investigation into the MH17 probejust called for the destruction of Ukraine’s Jews on his Facebook page:

    The Jewish Chronicle

    Ukrainian general calls for destruction of Jews

    “I’m telling you one more time – go to hell, kikes”, wrote senior officer affiliated to the intelligence services

    Sam Sokol
    May 11, 2017

    In the latest of a series of highly public antisemitic statements by prominent figures in Ukraine, a retired Ukrainian general affiliated with the country’s intelligence services this week called for the destruction of his country’s Jewish community.

    In a post since deleted from Facebook, Vasily Vovk – a general who holds a senior reserve rank with the Security Service of Ukraine, the local successor to the KGB – wrote that Jews “aren’t Ukrainians and I will destroy you along with [Ukrainian oligarch and Jewish lawmaker Vadim] Rabinovych. I’m telling you one more time – go to hell, zhidi [kikes], the Ukrainian people have had it to here with you.”

    “Ukraine must be governed by Ukrainians,” he wrote.

    Meanwhile, Ukrainian war hero-turned-lawmaker Nadiya Savchenko came under fire in March after saying during a television interview that Jews held disproportionate control over the levers of power in Ukraine.

    More recently, opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko was forced to apologise after being filmed laughing at an antisemitic comedy act at a gathering of her Fatherland party, and Volodymyr Viatrovych, director of the state-run Institution for National Memory accused Jewish activist Eduard Dolinsky of fabricating antisemitic incidents for money.

    Viatrovych is also running a public awareness campaign whitewashing the participation of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), a Ukrainian nationalist militia, in the Holocaust.

    In 2015 the Ukrainian parliament passed a law prohibiting the denigration of the UPA and other groups which fought for the country’s independence.

    Earlier this month, Ukraine made waves internationally when it announced it was opening a murder investigation into the killing of a member of UPA by a ninety four year old Jewish ex-KGB agent in the early 1950s. Ukraine has not prosecuted any of its citizens for war crimes against Jews since the country gained its independence following the breakup of the Soviet Union.

    Asked for comment regarding the latest incident of antisemitic rhetoric, the Ukrainian Embassy in Tel Aviv said it “regrets about the fact that General of the Security service of Ukraine left a highly provocative post of anti-Semitic character on his facebook page” but did not indicate if Vovk would be disciplined.

    “In a post since deleted from Facebook, Vasily Vovk – a general who holds a senior reserve rank with the Security Service of Ukraine, the local successor to the KGB – wrote that Jews “aren’t Ukrainians and I will destroy you along with [Ukrainian oligarch and Jewish lawmaker Vadim] Rabinovych. I’m telling you one more time – go to hell, zhidi [kikes], the Ukrainian people have had it to here with you.””

    So it sounds like we can add “public threats of a new Holocaust by senior secret police leadership” to the list of neo-Nazi activities by Ukrainian officials.

    What’s next? How about the discovery that the SBU was probably behind the killing of an investigative journalist who had reported on how militia commanders were evading punishment for their crimes shortly before his car was blown up. It’s not as overtly neo-Nazi-ish as a public threat of a new Holocaust, but still in keeping with the theme:

    The Guardian

    Ukraine spy agency ‘may have seen planting of bomb that killed journalist’

    New film suggests an intelligence services agent was present when device was hidden under Pavel Sheremet’s car last July

    Alec Luhn in Moscow
    Wednesday 10 May 2017 13.14 EDT
    Last modified on Wednesday 10 May 2017 17.43 EDT

    A new documentary film alleges that Ukraine’s spy agency may have witnessed the planting of a car bomb that killed a prominent journalist last July in Kiev.

    Pavel Sheremet had just left his home in the Ukrainian capital and was driving to work when his car exploded. The murder was the most high-profile assassination of a reporter in the country since the beheading in 2000 of the investigative reporter Georgiy Gongadze.

    Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, had said it was a “matter of honour” that Sheremet’s case be promptly solved. He called for a transparent investigation by police and the security services. However, 10 months later no one has been arrested.

    The film, Killing Pavel, suggests that an agent working for Ukraine’s intelligence services was present when the explosive device was hidden under the journalist’s car. The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and Slidstvo.info released the documentary on Wednesday, when it was screened on Ukrainian TV.

    Investigators have said Sheremet was killed by a remotely detonated explosive device, most likely in retribution for his investigative work in Ukraine and other places. The journalist supported the pro-western uprising in 2014 that saw Viktor Yanukovych flee to Russia, but had also been bitingly critical of Ukraine’s new authorities.

    Surveillance camera footage published by the media and police revealed that an unknown man and a woman approached Sheremet’s Subaru car on the street the night before the blast. The woman is seen kneeling beside the parked car on the driver’s side.

    The makers of Killing Pavel tracked down new surveillance footage not found by police. It gives fresh details of the apparent killers, who returned to the scene the next morning shortly before Sheremet got into his doomed vehicle.

    The footage reveals several suspicious men who arrived in the street that night. They appeared to be carrying out surveillance. They were still there when the man and the woman went past and allegedly fixed the bomb. The Bellingcat citizen journalist group managed to identify their car – a grey Skoda – and its registration.

    The investigative reporters subsequently tracked down one of the men and identified him as Igor Ustimenko. Ustimenko admitted being in the area that night and said he had been hired as a private investigator to keep watch on someone’s children. He denied seeing the bombers and said police had not contacted him.

    The reporters then spoke to a government source. He confirmed that Ustimenko had been working since 2014 for Ukraine’s SBU secret intelligence service. Ustimenko declined to comment further. The film also presented evidence suggesting that Sheremet was under surveillance in the weeks before his murder.

    Ukraine’s interior minister, Arsen Avakov, has denied the government carried this out. A ministry spokesman declined to comment on the film. The security service did not immediately respond.

    “The government of Ukraine repeatedly promised to find Pavel’s killer but it’s clear they didn’t do too much,” said Drew Sullivan, editor of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. “Now we have to consider the possibility that someone in government played a role in the murder.”

    A pioneering television journalist in his native Belarus, Sheremet was forced to move to Russia after he was arrested in 1997 while reporting on border smuggling. His cameraman on that story, Dmitry Zavadsky, was kidnapped and killed in Belarus in 2000. Sheremet later moved to Ukraine, where he was a well-known journalist with his own radio show.

    In his last blogpost for the Ukrainian Pravda newspaper, Sheremet said some militia commanders and veterans of the conflict with pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine had escaped punishment for other crimes. Sheremet’s partner, Olena Prytula, co-founded the paper with Gongadze, whose brutal murder ignited national outrage.

    The killing caused a major scandal, and American FBI specialists were brought in to help identify the explosives. The United Nations deputy high commissioner for human rights, Kate Gilmore, said Sheremet’s murder would be a “test of the ability and willingness of Ukraine’s institutions to investigate assaults on media freedom”.

    In his last blogpost for the Ukrainian Pravda newspaper, Sheremet said some militia commanders and veterans of the conflict with pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine had escaped punishment for other crimes. Sheremet’s partner, Olena Prytula, co-founded the paper with Gongadze, whose brutal murder ignited national outrage.”

    The last blogpost before he was blown up was about militia commanders (likely neo-Nazi militia commanders) escaping their crimes, and the next thing you know his car is blown up. Apparently by SBU agents:


    The makers of Killing Pavel tracked down new surveillance footage not found by police. It gives fresh details of the apparent killers, who returned to the scene the next morning shortly before Sheremet got into his doomed vehicle.

    The footage reveals several suspicious men who arrived in the street that night. They appeared to be carrying out surveillance. They were still there when the man and the woman went past and allegedly fixed the bomb. The Bellingcat citizen journalist group managed to identify their car – a grey Skoda – and its registration.

    The investigative reporters subsequently tracked down one of the men and identified him as Igor Ustimenko. Ustimenko admitted being in the area that night and said he had been hired as a private investigator to keep watch on someone’s children. He denied seeing the bombers and said police had not contacted him.

    The reporters then spoke to a government source. He confirmed that Ustimenko had been working since 2014 for Ukraine’s SBU secret intelligence service. Ustimenko declined to comment further. The film also presented evidence suggesting that Sheremet was under surveillance in the weeks before his murder.

    Well, now we get to see if this documentary reopens the investigation. At least it doesn’t appear that Vasily Vovk is still in charge of the SBU’s investigations so that’s nice, although that just leaves him more time to plot the destruction of Ukraine’s Jews so, yeah, it’s not a great situation.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 15, 2017, 3:00 pm

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