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For The Record  

FTR #959 Update on the New Cold War and the Nazification of Ukraine

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

Svoboda leader Oleh Tiahnybok salutes.

Svoboda leader Oleh Tiahnybok salutes.

Stephan Bandera, head of the OUN/B

Stephan Bandera, head of the OUN/B

Introduction: In a long series of programs and posts over the last four years, we have chronicled the re-institution of the OUN/B World War II-era fascists as the foundational element of the Ukrainian government. Of particular significance in that regard is the Nazification of the Ukrainian intelligence service, the SBU.

Among the recent developments in the operations of the OUN/B-related elements in Ukraine is the posting of a call for the eradication of Ukraine’s Jews.

The call for a new Holocaust in Ukraine was made by Vasily Vovk – a senior officer in the SBU, former head of the SBU’s investigative unit and head of the SBU’s investigation into the MH17 probe. (Vovk’s pronouncement casts further doubt over the MH17 investigation.)

Pravy Sektor associate Valentyn Nalyvaichenko had been the head of the SBU (Ukrainian intelligence service) since the Maidan Coup, up until his ouster in June of 2015. Not surprisingly, he had operated the organization along the lines of the OUN/B. Previously, he had served in that same capacity under Viktor Yuschenko, seeing the outfit as a vehicle for rewriting Ukraine’s history in accordance with the historical revisionism favored by the OUN/B.

Very close to Pravy Sektor head Dymitro Yarosh, Nalyvaichenko employed Yarosh while serving in the Ukrainian parliament.  Yarosh claims that the two collaborated on “anti-terrorist” operations conducted against ethnic Russians.

The SBU is also implicated in the bombing assassination of journalist Pavel Sheremet.

Next, we cover 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 (the military wing of the OUN/B) 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.

Viatrovych heads the institute for National Memory, the Ukrainian government agency that is implementing the total perversion of Ukraine’s World War II history. The excesses of his department are being created under the aegis of “decommunisation.”

“Decommunisation” isn’t just going to cover 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.

We then highlight an article about the anti-Roma pogrom 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. Almost everyone he talked to hate the Roma with a passion. It also turns out most of them had little to no actual contact with their fellow Roma citizens, at least not knowingly since many Roma hide their ethnicity due to rampant job discrimination.

Emblem of the Ukrainian Azov Battalion

Emblem of the Ukrainian Azov Battalion

Most locals simply parroted the anti-Roma lessons they were taught as children. Anti-Roma Lessons that are even found in Ukrainian textbooks. It comes as no surprise that the Azov Battalion is joining in on creating a climate of fear and intimidation.

These developments, too, recapitulate Ukraine’s Nazi past. “. . . .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. . . .”

Next, we note that Ukraine is set to be the world’s third largest food exporter some time in the next decade due to its incredibly productive arable land. This is undoubtedly a major factor in the push to incorporate Ukraine into the Western sphere of influence.

“ . . . . Ukraine sold $7.6 billion of bulk farm commodities worldwide in 2015, quintupling its revenue from a decade earlier and topping Russia, its closest rival on world markets. By the mid-2020s, “Ukraine will be No.3, after the U.S. and Brazil,” in food production worldwide, says Martin Schuldt, the top representative in Ukraine for Cargill, the world’s largest grain trader. The company, headquartered in Minnetonka, Minn., saw its sunflower-seed processing plant in the Donetsk region overrun by separatists in 2014; it still can’t regain access to the facility. Nonetheless, the company is investing $100 million in a new grain terminal in Ukraine. Bunge, the world’s biggest soy processor, opened a port this year at a ceremony with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko—another vote of confidence in the country. . . . .”

We then turn to the subject of the high-profile hacks:

Those “Russian government hackers” really need a OPSEC refresher course. The hacked documents in the ‘Macron hack’ not only contained Cyrillic text in the metadata, but also contained the name of the last person to modify the documents. And that name, “Roshka Georgiy Petrovichan”, is an employee at Evrika, a large IT company that does work for the Russian government, including the FSB.

Also found in the metadata is the email of the person who uploaded the files to “archive.org”, and that email address, frankmacher1@gmx.de, is registered with a German free webmail provider used previously in 2016 phishing attacks against the CDU in Germany that have been attributed to APT28. It would appear that the ‘Russian hackers’ not only left clues suggesting it was Russian hackers behind the hack, but they decided name names this time. Their own names.

Not surprisingly, given the fascist nature of WikiLeaks, they concluded that Russia was behind the hacks. (For more on the fascist nature of WikiLeaks, see FTR #’s 724, 725, 732, 745, 755, 917.)

In related news, a group of cybersecurity researchers studying the Macron hack has concluded that the modified documents were doctored by someone associated with The Daily Stormer neo-Nazi website and Andrew “the weev” Auernheimer.

Auerenheimer was a guest at Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras’s party celebrating their receipt of the Polk award.

“ ‘We strongly believe that the fake offshore documents were created by someone with control of the Daily Stormer server,” said Tord Lundström, a computer forensics investigator at Virtualroad.org.’ . . .”

Who is in control of the Daily Stormer? Well, its public face and publisher is Andrew Anglin. But look who the site is registered to: Andrew Auernheimer, who apparently resided in Ukraine as of the start of this year:

The analysis from the web-security firm Virtualroad.org. indicates that someone associated with the Daily Stormer modified those faked documents. Like, perhaps a highly skilled neo-Nazi hacker like “the weev”.

Based on an analysis of how the document dump unfolded it’s looking like the inexplicably self-incriminating ‘Russian hackers’ may have been a bunch of American neo-Nazis. Imagine that.

Program Highlights Include:

  1. The Ukrainian Azov Battalion’s creation of a political party.
  2. The musings by that party’s spokesperson about the possible use of force to boost the party to power.
  3. Review of the so-called “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine as the precursor to the Maidan covert operation.
  4. Review of the history of the Nazification of the SBU.

1. In a long series of programs and posts over the last four years, we have chronicled the re-institution of the OUN/B World War II-era fascists as the foundational element of the Ukrainian government. Of particular significance in that regard is the Nazification of the Ukrainian intelligence service, the SBU.

Among the recent developments in the operations of the OUN/B-related elements in Ukraine is the posting of a call for the eradication of Ukraine’s Jews.

Pravy Sektor associate Valentyn Nalyvaichenko had been the head of the SBU (Ukrainian intelligence service) since the Maidan Coup, up until his ouster in June of 2015. Not surprisingly, he had operated the organization along the lines of the OUN/B. Previously, he had served in that same capacity under Viktor Yuschenko, seeing the outfit as a vehicle for rewriting Ukraine’s history in accordance with the historical revisionism favored by the OUN/B.

Very close to Pravy Sektor head Dymitro Yarosh, Nalyvaichenko employed Yarosh while serving in the Ukrainian parliament.  Yarosh claims that the two collaborated on “anti-terrorist” operations conducted against ethnic Russians.

“Ukrainian General Calls for Destruction of Jews” by Sam Sokol; The Jewish Chronicle; 5/11/2017.

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

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. . . .

2. The call for a new Holocaust in Ukraine was made by Vasily Vovk – a senior officer in the SBU, former head of the SBU’s investigative unit and head of the SBU’s investigation into the MH17 probe. (Vovk’s pronouncement casts further doubt over the MH17 investigation.)

“MH17 Investigators Reveal an Exhaust of a Russian-built BUK Missile Was Found at the Crash Site” by Charles Miranda; news.au.com; 6/7/2016.

. . . . Ahead of its release Ukraine’s former top SBU security services official Vasyl Vovk, who until June last year was the country’s chief investigator on the multinational probe, said he knew who was responsible but conceded it was not conclusive.

“I am confident that this missile system was delivered from the territory of the Russian Federation with a high-skilled crew — most likely a crew of well-trained officers, of course from Russian territory,” he said. . . .

3. The SBU appears to have been involved with 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.

Ukraine Spy Agency ‘May Have Seen Planting of Bomb that Killed Journalist’” by Alec Luhn; The Guardian; 5/10/2017.

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

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”. . . .

4a. Pravy Sektor associate Valentyn Nalyvaichenko had been the head of the SBU (Ukrainian intelligence service) since the Maidan Coup, up until his ouster in June of 2015. Not surprisingly, he had operated the organization along the lines of the OUN/B.

Previously, he had served in that same capacity under Viktor Yuschenko, seeing the outfit as a vehicle for rewriting Ukraine’s history in accordance with the historical revisionism favored by the OUN/B.

Very close to Pravy Sektor head Dymitro Yarosh, Nalyvaichenko employed Yarosh while serving in the Ukrainian parliament.  Yarosh claims that the two collaborated on “anti-terrorist” operations conducted against ethnic Russians.

Bear in mind that the SBU has been the “cognitive window” through which the events in Ukraine have been processed.

 “The Return of the Ukrainian Far Right: The Case of VO Svoboda,” by Per Anders Rudling;  Analyzing Fascist Discourse: European Fascism in Talk and Text edited by Ruth Wodak and John E. Richardson;  Routledge [London and New York] 2013; pp. 228-255, more.

. . . A reconstructed historical memory is created as ‘true memory’ and then contrasted with ‘false Soviet history’ ”(Jilge, 2007:104–105). Thus, Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, SBU director under Yushchenko, described the task of his agency as being to disseminate “the historical truth of the past of the Ukrainian people,” to “liberate Ukrainian history from lies and falsifications and to work with truthful documents only” (Jilge, 2008:179). Ignoring the OUN’s antisemitism, denying its participation in anti- Jewish violence, and overlooking its fascist ideology, Nalyvaichenko and his agency presented the OUN as democrats, pluralists, even righteous rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust. . . .

4b. Nalyvaichenko’s SBU has manifested a fundamentally revisionist stance with regard to the OUN/B’s World War II genocidal attacks on ethnic Poles in Ukraine–a bloody campaign that claimed up to 100,000 lives.

Poland Stretches Out Its Hands to the Freedom Fighters” by Rob Slane; The Blogmire; 4/11/2015.

. . . . Unfortunately, the Ukrainian authorities show no signs whatsoever that they are about to abandon their admiration of those responsible for these horrific crimes. To the contrary, they seem to be intent on admiring them all the more, as the SBU head Valentyn Nalyvaichenko’s recent words indicate: “SBU does not need to invent anything extra — it is important to build on the traditions and approaches of the OUN-UPA security service. It [the OUN-UPA security service] worked against the aggressor during the temporary occupation of the territory, it had a patriotic upbringing, used a counterintelligence unit, and had relied on the peaceful Ukrainian population using its support.” . . . .

4c. Very close to Pravy Sektor head Dymitro Yarosh, Nalyvaichenko employed Yarosh while serving in the Ukrainian parliament.  Yarosh claims that the two collaborated on “anti-terrorist” operations conducted against ethnic Russians.

Bear in mind that the SBU has been the “cognitive window” through which the events in Ukraine have been processed.

“Yarosh Comments on Dismissal of His ‘Friend’ Nalyvaichenko;” EurAsia Daily; 6/25/2015. 

The leader of the Right Sector extremist group Dmytro Yarosh believes that the dismissal of Chief of the Security Service Valentyn Nalyvaichenko was illogical and untimely. He writes in Facebook that Nalyvaichenko is his friend, who has raised the Security Service from zero and has neutralized lots of terrorist threats all over the country. “I know what I am talking about as my Right Sector was involved in many of his special operations against Russian terrorists,” Yarosh said. . . . . . In the past Yarosh was Nalyvaichenko’s advisor.

4d. Exemplary of the Nazification of Ukraine is the elevation of Pravy Sektor’s Yarosh to being an advisor to the chief of the Ukrainian general staff.

” . . . . Yarosh is now a member of parliament and an advisor to the chief of general staff of the Ukrainian army. In other words, Yarosh has been legitimized by the political establishment. . . .”

“Switching Spymasters Amid War Is Risky” by Brian Mefford; Atlantic Council; 6/18/2015.

Valentin Nalyvaichenko, head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), is in trouble again. On June 15, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he was “unsatisfied” with Nalyvaichenko’s work. Three days later, Ukraine’s parliament dismissed him. . . . . . . . Poroshenko Bloc MP Serhiy Leshchenko released a document confirming old rumors that Right Sector’s Dmitro Yarosh worked for Nalyvaichenko when he was a member of parliament from 2012 to 2014. While the connection between the two raises some questions about the events of Euromaidan and the origins of Right Sector, this attack alone wasn’t enough to discredit Nalyvychenko. Yarosh is now a member of parliament and an advisor to the chief of general staff of the Ukrainian army. In other words, Yarosh has been legitimized by the political establishment. . . .

4e. Next, we cover 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 (the military wing of the OUN/B) 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.

“Ukraine Investigates 94-year-old Jewish Veteran over Nationalist’s Death in 1952” by Alec Luhn; The Guardian; 5/3/2017.

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

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”.

5. “Decommunisation” isn’t just going to cover 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.

Nowadays, Everyone Is a Potential Target in Ukraine” by Veronika Pehe and Tom Rowley; Political Critique; 5/3/2017.

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

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 releasedthe 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.

Helmets of the Ukrainian Azov battalion: Your tax dollars at work

Helmets of the Ukrainian Azov battalion: Your tax dollars at work (the unit is receiving financing and training from the Pentagon.)

6. We then highlight an article about the anti-Roma pogrom 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. Almost everyone he talked to hate the Roma with a passion. It also turns out most of them had little to no actual contact with their fellow Roma citizens, at least not knowingly since many Roma hide their ethnicity due to rampant job discrimination.

Most locals simply parroted the anti-Roma lessons they were taught as children. Anti-Roma Lessons that are even found in Ukrainian textbooks.

It comes as no surprise that the Azov Battalion is joining in on creating a climate of fear and intimidation.

These developments, too, recapitulate Ukraine’s Nazi past. “. . . .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. . . .”

“Old Hatreds Rekindled in Ukraine” by Maxim Tucker; open-democracy/russia and beyond; 9/18/2016.

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 pollshowed 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 statementsupporting 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 themSuspecting 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.”

Helmets of the Ukrainian Azov battalion: Your tax dollars at work

Helmets of the Ukrainian Azov battalion: Your tax dollars at work

7a. The Avoz Battalion has started a new polititcal party.

“Nationalist Azov Battalion Starts Political Party” by Bermet Talant; Kyiv Post; 10/15/2016.

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.”

7b. Is electoral politics the path forward for Azov? Politics? Or do they have something more direct in mind?

” . . . . [Nazar] 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. . . .”

“Right-Wing Azov Battalion Enters Ukraine’s Political Arena”; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; 10/14/2016.

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.

8. Next, we note that Ukraine is set to be the world’s third largest food exporter some time in the next decade due to its incredibly productive arable land. This is undoubtedly a major factor in the push to incorporate Ukraine into the Western sphere of influence.

“ . . . . Ukraine sold $7.6 billion of bulk farm commodities worldwide in 2015, quintupling its revenue from a decade earlier and topping Russia, its closest rival on world markets. By the mid-2020s, “Ukraine will be No.3, after the U.S. and Brazil,” in food production worldwide, says Martin Schuldt, the top representative in Ukraine for Cargill, the world’s largest grain trader. The company, headquartered in Minnetonka, Minn., saw its sunflower-seed processing plant in the Donetsk region overrun by separatists in 2014; it still can’t regain access to the facility. Nonetheless, the company is investing $100 million in a new grain terminal in Ukraine. Bunge, the world’s biggest soy processor, opened a port this year at a ceremony with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko—another vote of confidence in the country. . . . .”

“That Boom You Hear Is Ukraine’s Agriculture” by Alan Bjerga and Volodymyr Verbyany; Bloomberg Businessweek; 10/13/2016.

With the conflict frozen, money is flowing to modernize farms

Ihor Makarevych bumps along the pitted roads to his fields, talking about warfare and his crops. When conflict broke out in eastern Ukraine in 2014, helicopter-launched heat flares scorched his land. Later, 19 of his employees were conscripted into the army. “There were nine road checkpoints installed by Ukrainian soldiers near our farmlands,” says the 52-year-old, who was an officer in the Soviet Army in the 1980s.

Makarevych is chief executive officer of Agrofirma Podolivska, which manages farmland in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, to the north bordering Russia and to the east, the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, partly controlled by separatists. Despite that proximity, when he arrives at his fields, the war seems far away. Semi-automated New Holland and John Deere combines are starting to harvest corn and sunflowers, following choreography developed by Kharkiv-based coders. Farmers check moisture levels on monitors inside their cabs, while deep-yellow grain is cut against a blue sky, the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

The corn and sunflowers will make their way to the ports of Odessa and Mykolayiv for export, sold to Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, and other multinationals as part of the stream of grain and oilseeds that makes Ukraine the world’s fifth-biggest seller of wheat and other grains. Companies are betting that global appetites will increasingly rely on Black Sea soil even as obstacles to growth remain. “Ukraine is a big answer to the question of how you feed the world,” says Steve Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador there who’s now with the Brookings Institution. “But it’s a complex place to do business.”

The country’s agricultural superpowers start with its soil, called chernozem, or “black earth.” High in humus and natural fertilizers, it’s celebrated by agrarians for its fertility. “In Iowa, good black soil may be a foot deep,” Pifer says. “In Ukraine, it’s three or four feet deep.” Proximity to the European Union, Middle East, Russia, and Africa provides natural markets. So does suspicion of genetically modified crops. Ukraine’s non-GMO corn varieties have made it China’s No.1 source, helping to turn the former Soviet breadbasket into a global player.

Ukraine sold $7.6 billion of bulk farm commodities worldwide in 2015, quintupling its revenue from a decade earlier and topping Russia, its closest rival on world markets. By the mid-2020s, “Ukraine will be No.3, after the U.S. and Brazil,” in food production worldwide, says Martin Schuldt, the top representative in Ukraine for Cargill, the world’s largest grain trader. The company, headquartered in Minnetonka, Minn., saw its sunflower-seed processing plant in the Donetsk region overrun by separatists in 2014; it still can’t regain access to the facility. Nonetheless, the company is investing $100 million in a new grain terminal in Ukraine. Bunge, the world’s biggest soy processor, opened a port this year at a ceremony with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko—another vote of confidence in the country.

Conflict in what’s broadly referred to as the Donbas pretty much hasn’t spilled over to the rest of the country, says John Shmorhun, CEO of AgroGeneration, a company in the portfolio of SigmaBleyzer Investment Group, a global private equity firm based in Houston. AgroGeneration owns Agrofirma Podolivska, which cultivates part of the 120,000 hectares (296,500 acres) of land it operates in Ukraine. It would like to have more land. “I know that if I take someone else’s land, I can double, triple the yield,” says Shmorhun, a Ukrainian American and ex-U.S. fighter pilot who led Ukraine operations for DuPont before moving to AgroGeneration.

About 1 in every 6 acres of agricultural land in Ukraine isn’t being farmed. Of land in production, Shmorhun says only about a quarter is reaching yields on the level of those in the developed world, because of lower-quality seeds, fertilizers, and equipment. “It’s a huge upside. It’s mind-boggling,” he says. Despite occasional saber rattling, the country is stable, he says. “The way I look at the war today, there is a conflict zone. You draw a line around it.”

Land reform in the years immediately after Ukrainian independence in 1991 left title to much of the farmland in the hands of former Soviet farmworkers and their descendants, along with the government. Legally, no one can sell it—companies such as AgroGeneration have grown by signing long-term leases with owners for parcels as small as 5 acres. But the uncertainty of land titles has deterred investors and kept farmers from expanding, says Pifer, the former U.S. diplomat.

“Lack of cheap funding is a big obstacle,” Shmorhun says. “If you want to get higher quality, you must invest in infrastructure, including roads, grain elevators, dryers, storage.” Average long-term borrowing costs exceed 20 percent for loans in hryvnia and 7 percent for loans in foreign currencies—at 26 to the dollar, the hryvnia is one of the world’s weakest currencies—making investments from any but the best-capitalized enterprises rare. “Without a mortgage market, farmers can’t finance better seeds or machinery,” Shmorhun says. That leaves the bulk of farmland to be tilled and harvested with 20th century, and in some cases 19th century, technology. Given the outmoded farm technology used by most, it’s remarkable Ukraine produces as much as it does.

Poroshenko supports creating a market for farmland, but the Parliament regularly extends the ban on selling agricultural property. Earlier in October, legislators backed a bill prolonging the moratorium through 2018, but the president has yet to sign it. The fear is that large Ukrainian companies and foreign investors will gobble up the land and displace small farmers.

9. Those “Russian government hackers” really need a OPSEC refresher course. The hacked documents in the ‘Macron hack’ not only contained Cyrillic text in the metadata, but also contained the name of the last person to modify the documents. And that name, “Roshka Georgiy Petrovichan”, is an employee at Evrika, a large IT company that does work for the Russian government, including the FSB.

Also found in the metadata is the email of the person who uploaded the files to “archive.org”, and that email address, frankmacher1@gmx.de, is registered with a German free webmail provider used previously in 2016 phishing attacks against the CDU in Germany that have been attributed to APT28. It would appear that the ‘Russian hackers’ not only left clues suggesting it was Russian hackers behind the hack, but they decided name names this time. Their own names.

Not surprisingly, given the fascist nature of WikiLeaks, they concluded that Russia was behind the hacks. (For more on the fascist nature of WikiLeaks, see FTR #’s 724, 725, 732, 745, 755, 917.)

“Evidence Suggests Russia Behind Hack of French President-Elect” by Sean Gallagher; Ars Technica; 5/8/2017.

Russian security firms’ metadata found in files, according to WikiLeaks and others.

Late on May 5 as the two final candidates for the French presidency were about to enter a press blackout in advance of the May 7 election, nine gigabytes of data allegedly from the campaign of Emmanuel Macron were posted on the Internet in torrents and archives. The files, which were initially distributed via links posted on 4Chan and then by WikiLeaks, had forensic metadata suggesting that Russians were behind the breach—and that a Russian government contract employee may have falsified some of the dumped documents.

Even WikiLeaks, which initially publicized the breach and defended its integrity on the organization’s Twitter account, has since acknowledged that some of the metadata pointed directly to a Russian company with ties to the government:

#MacronLeaks: name of employee for Russian govt security contractor Evrika appears 9 times in metadata for “xls_cendric.rar” leak archive pic.twitter.com/jyhlmldlbL— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 6, 2017

Evrika (“Eureka”) ZAO is a large information technology company in St. Petersburg that does some work for the Russian government, and the group includes the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) among its acknowledged customers (as noted in this job listing). The company is a systems integrator, and it builds its own computer equipment and provides “integrated information security systems.” The metadata in some Microsoft Office files shows the last person to have edited the files to be “Roshka Georgiy Petrovich,” a current or former Evrika ZAO employee.

According to a Trend Micro report on April 25, the Macron campaign was targeted by the Pawn Storm threat group (also known as “Fancy Bear” or APT28) in a March 15 “phishing” campaign using the domain onedrive-en-marche.fr. The domain was registered by a “Johny Pinch” using a Mail.com webmail address. The same threat group’s infrastructure and malware was found to be used in the breach of the Democratic National Committee in 2016, in the phishing attack targeting members of the presidential campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and in a number of other campaigns against political targets in the US and Germany over the past year.

The metadata attached to the upload of the Macron files also includes some identifying data with an e-mail address for the person uploading the content to archive.org:

Well this is fun pic.twitter.com/oXsH83snCS— Pwn All The Things (@pwnallthethings) May 6, 2017

The e-mail address of the uploader, frankmacher1@gmx.de, is registered with a German free webmail provider used previously in 2016 Pawn Storm / APT28 phishing attacks against the Christian Democratic Union, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s political party.

The involvement of APT28, the editing of some documents leaked by someone using a Russian version of Microsoft Office, and the attempt to spread the data through amplification in social media channels such as 4Chan, Twitter, and Facebook—where a number of new accounts posted links to the data—are all characteristics of the information operations seen during the 2016 US presidential campaign.

10. In related news, a group of cybersecurity researchers studying the Macron hack has concluded that the modified documents were doctored by someone associated with The Daily Stormer neo-Nazi website and Andrew “the weev” Auernheimer.

Auerenheimer was a guest at Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras’s party celebrating their receipt of the Polk award.

“ ‘We strongly believe that the fake offshore documents were created by someone with control of the Daily Stormer server,” said Tord Lundström, a computer forensics investigator at Virtualroad.org.’ . . .”

Who is in control of the Daily Stormer? Well, its public face and publisher is Andrew Anglin. But look who the site is registered to: Andrew Auernheimer, who apparently resided in Ukraine as of the start of this year:

The analysis from the web-security firm Virtualroad.org. indicates that someone associated with the Daily Stormer modified those faked documents. Like, perhaps a highly skilled neo-Nazi hacker like “the weev”.

Based on an analysis of how the document dump unfolded it’s looking like the inexplicably self-incriminating ‘Russian hackers’ may have been a bunch of American neo-Nazis. Imagine that.

“U.S. Hacker Linked to Fake Macron Documents, Says Cybersecurity Firm” by David Gauthier-Villars; The Wall Street Journal; 5/16/2017.

Ties between an American’s neo-Nazi website and an internet campaign to smear Macron before French election are found

A group of cybersecurity experts has unearthed ties between an American hacker who maintains a neo-Nazi website and an internet campaign to smear Emmanuel Macron days before he was elected president of France.

Shortly after an anonymous user of the 4chan.org discussion forum posted fake documents purporting to show Mr. Macron had set up an undisclosed shell company in the Caribbean, the user directed people to visit nouveaumartel.com for updates on the French election.

That website, according to research by web-security provider Virtualroad.org, is registered by “Weevlos,” a known online alias of Andrew Auernheimer, an American hacker who gained notoriety three years ago when a U.S. appeals court vacated his conviction for computer fraud. The site also is hosted by a server in Latvia that hosts the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi news site that identifies its administrator as “Weev,” another online alias of Mr. Aeurnheimer, Virtualroad.org says.

“We strongly believe that the fake offshore documents were created by someone with control of the Daily Stormer server,” said Tord Lundström, a computer forensics investigator at Virtualroad.org.

Through Tor Ekeland, the lawyer who represented him in the computer-fraud case in the U.S., Mr. Auernheimer said he “doesn’t have anything to say.”

A French security official said a probe into the fake documents was looking into the role of far-right and neo-Nazi groups but declined to comment on the alleged role of Mr. Auernheimer.

In the run-up to the French election, cybersecurity agencies warned Mr. Macron’s aides that Russian hackers were targeting his presidential campaign, according to people familiar with the matter. On May 5, nine gigabytes of campaign documents and emails were dumped on the internet. The Macron campaign and French authorities have stopped short of pinning blame for the hack on the Kremlin.

Intelligence and cybersecurity investigators examining the flurry of social-media activity leading up to the hack followed a trail of computer code they say leads back to the American far-right.

Contacted by email over the weekend, the publisher of the Daily Stormer, Andrew Anglin, said he and Mr. Auernheimer had used their news site to write about the fake documents because “We follow 4chan closely and have a more modern editorial process than most sites.”

When asked if he or Mr. Auernheimer were behind the fake documents, Mr. Anglin stopped replying.

Mr. Auernheimer was sentenced to 41 months in prison by a U.S. court in late 2012 for obtaining the personal data of thousands of iPad users through an AT&T website. In April 2014, an appeals court vacated his conviction on the grounds that the venue of the trial, in New Jersey, was improper.

Asked if Mr. Auernheimer resided in Ukraine, as a January post on a personal blog indicates, his lawyer said: “I think this is about right.”

The day after the data dump, French security officials summoned their U.S. counterparts stationed in Paris to formally request a probe of the role American far-right websites might have played in disseminating the stolen data, according to a Western security official. A U.S. security official had no comment.

Mounir Mahjoubi, who was in charge of computer security for Mr. Macron’s campaign said far-right groups, or “an international collective of conservatives,” may have coordinated to disrupt the French election.

“We will take time to do analysis, to deconstruct who really runs these groups,” Mr. Mahjoubi told French radio last week. He couldn’t be reached for comment.

French prosecutors have launched formal probes into both the fake documents and the data dump.

The phony documents intended to smear Mr. Macron were posted to 4chan.org twice by an anonymous user, first on May 3 and again on May 5 using higher-resolution files.

Soon after the second post, several 4chan.org users in the same online conversation below the post appeared to congratulate Mr. Auernheimer.

“Weev… you’re doing the lord’s work,” wrote one of the anonymous users.


That website, according to research by web-security provider Virtualroad.org, is registered by “Weevlos,” a known online alias of Andrew Auernheimer, an American hacker who gained notoriety three years ago when a U.S. appeals court vacated his conviction for computer fraud. The site also is hosted by a server in Latvia that hosts the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi news site that identifies its administrator as “Weev,” another online alias of Mr. Aeurnheimer, Virtualroad.org says.

When asked if he or Mr. Auernheimer were behind the fake documents, Mr. Anglin stopped replying.

Asked if Mr. Auernheimer resided in Ukraine, as a January post on a personal blog indicates, his lawyer said: “I think this is about right.”

 

 

Discussion

9 comments for “FTR #959 Update on the New Cold War and the Nazification of Ukraine”

  1. Joshua Cohen, a former U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) project officer involved in managing economic reform projects in the former Soviet Union has a piece in the Washington Post about the growing threat of the far-right and neo-Nazis in Ukraine (it’s a little ironic). It’s a decent overview as far is giving a summary of the growing threat the far-right poses to Ukraine’s government and society and makes the important point about dangers of these groups operating with impunity following one violent act after another.

    And yet the piece contains this curious paragraph:

    To be clear, Russian propaganda about Ukraine being overrun by Nazis or fascists is false. Far-right parties such as Svoboda or Right Sector draw little support from Ukrainians.

    And that’s followed by a description of how the the Interior Ministry is run by a guy who sponsors the Azov Battalion and his deputy minister is a neo-Nazi. Better late than never:

    The Washington Post

    Ukraine’s ultra-right militias are challenging the government to a showdown

    By Joshua Cohen
    June 15, 2017 at 6:00 AM

    Josh Cohen is a former U.S. Agency for International Development project officer involved in managing economic reform projects in the former Soviet Union.

    As Ukraine’s fight against Russian-supported separatists continues, Kiev faces another threat to its long-term sovereignty: powerful right-wing ultranationalist groups. These groups are not shy about using violence to achieve their goals, which are certainly at odds with the tolerant Western-oriented democracy Kiev ostensibly seeks to become.

    The recent brutal stabbing of a left-wing anti-war activist named Stas Serhiyenko illustrates the threat posed by these extremists. Serhiyenko and his fellow activists believe the perpetrators belonged to the neo-Nazi group C14 (whose name comes from a 14-word phrase used by white supremacists). The attack took place on the anniversary of Hitler’s birthday, and C14’s leader published a statement that celebrated Serhiyenko’s stabbing immediately afterward.

    The attack on Serhiyenko is just the tip of the iceberg. More recently C14 beat up a socialist politician while other ultranationalist thugs stormed the Lviv and Kiev City Councils. Far-right and neo-Nazi groups have also assaulted or disrupted art exhibitions, anti-fascist demonstrations, a “Ukrainians Choose Peace” event, LGBT events, a social center, media organizations, court proceedings and a Victory Day march celebrating the anniversary of the end of World War II.

    According to a study from activist organization Institute Respublica, the problem is not only the frequency of far-right violence, but the fact that perpetrators enjoy widespread impunity. It’s not hard to understand why Kiev seems reluctant to confront these violent groups. For one thing, far-right paramilitary groups played an important role early in the war against Russian-supported separatists. Kiev also fears these violent groups could turn on the government itself — something they’ve done before and continue to threaten to do.

    To be clear, Russian propaganda about Ukraine being overrun by Nazis or fascists is false. Far-right parties such as Svoboda or Right Sector draw little support from Ukrainians.

    Even so, the threat cannot be dismissed out of hand. If authorities don’t end the far right’s impunity, it risks further emboldening them, argues Krasimir Yankov, a researcher with Amnesty International in Kiev. Indeed, the brazen willingness of Vita Zaverukha – a renowned neo-Nazi out on bail and under house arrest after killing two police officers — to post pictures of herself after storming a popular Kiev restaurant with 50 other nationalists demonstrates the far right’s confidence in their immunity from government prosecution.

    It’s not too late for the government to take steps to reassert control over the rule of law. First, authorities should enact a “zero-tolerance” policy on far-right violence. President Petro Poroshenko should order key law enforcement agencies — the Interior Ministry, the National Police of Ukraine, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and the Prosecutor Generals’ Office (PGO) — to make stopping far-right activity a top priority.

    The legal basis for prosecuting extremist vigilantism certainly exists. The Criminal Code of Ukraine specifically outlaws violence against peaceful assemblies. The police need to start enforcing this law.

    Most importantly, the government must also break any connections between law enforcement agencies and far-right organizations. The clearest example of this problem lies in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which is headed by Arsen Avakov. Avakov has a long-standing relationship with the Azov Battalion, a paramilitary group that uses the SS symbol as its insignia and which, with several others, was integrated into the army or National Guard at the beginning of the war in the East. Critics have accused Avakov of using members of the group to threaten an opposition media outlet. As at least one commentator has pointed out, using the National Guard to combat ultranationalist violence is likely to prove difficult if far-right groups have become part of the Guard itself.

    Avakov’s Deputy Minister Vadym Troyan was a member of the neo-Nazi Patriot of Ukraine (PU) paramilitary organization, while current Ministry of Interior official Ilya Kiva – a former member of the far-right Right Sector party whose Instagram feed is populated with images of former Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini – has called for gays “to be put to death.” And Avakov himself used the PU to promote his business and political interests while serving as a governor in eastern Ukraine, and as interior minister formed and armed the extremist Azov battalion led by Andriy Biletsky, a man nicknamed the “White Chief” who called for a crusade against “Semite-led sub-humanity.”

    Such officials have no place in a government based on the rule of law; they should go. More broadly, the government should also make sure that every police officer receives human rights training focused on improving the policing and prosecution of hate crimes. Those demonstrating signs of extremist ties or sympathies should be excluded.

    In one notorious incident, media captured images of swastika-tattooed thugs — who police claimed were only job applicants wanting to have “fun” — giving the Nazi salute in a police building in Kiev. This cannot be allowed to go on, and it’s just as important for Ukrainian democracy to cleanse extremists from law enforcement as it is to remove corrupt officials from former president Viktor Yanukovych’s regime under Ukraine’s “lustration” policy.

    ———-

    “Ukraine’s ultra-right militias are challenging the government to a showdown” by Joshua Cohen; The Washington Post; 06/15/2017

    “According to a study from activist organization Institute Respublica, the problem is not only the frequency of far-right violence, but the fact that perpetrators enjoy widespread impunity. It’s not hard to understand why Kiev seems reluctant to confront these violent groups. For one thing, far-right paramilitary groups played an important role early in the war against Russian-supported separatists. Kiev also fears these violent groups could turn on the government itself — something they’ve done before and continue to threaten to do.”

    Far-right violence enjoying impunity. Yeah, that sounds like a pretty good sign that Ukraine is “being overrun by Nazis or fascists.” Isn’t that almost the definition of being overrun by Nazis and fascists? It seems like it.

    But otherwise, it was a decent summary of the situation. Kind of like the piece Cohen wrote last year:

    Foreign Policy

    Report
    The Historian Whitewashing Ukraine’s Past

    Volodymyr Viatrovych is erasing the country’s racist and bloody history — stripping pogroms and ethnic cleansing from the official archives.

    By Josh Cohen
    May 2, 2016

    When it comes to politics and history, an accurate memory can be a dangerous thing.

    In Ukraine, as the country struggles with its identity, that’s doubly true. While Ukrainian political parties try to push the country toward Europe or Russia, a young, rising Ukrainian historian named Volodymyr Viatrovych has placed himself at the center of that fight. Advocating a nationalist, revisionist history that glorifies the country’s move to independence — and purges bloody and opportunistic chapters — Viatrovych has attempted to redraft the country’s modern history to whitewash Ukrainian nationalist groups’ involvement in the Holocaust and mass ethnic cleansing of Poles during World War II. And right now, he’s winning.

    In May 2015, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a law that mandated the transfer of the country’s complete set of archives, from the “Soviet organs of repression,” such as the KGB and its decedent, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), to a government organization called the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory. Run by the young scholar — and charged with “implementation of state policy in the field of restoration and preservation of national memory of the Ukrainian people” — the institute received millions of documents, including information on political dissidents, propaganda campaigns against religion, the activities of Ukrainian nationalist organizations, KGB espionage and counter-espionage activities, and criminal cases connected to the Stalinist purges. Under the archives law, one of four “memory laws” written by Viatrovych, the institute’s anodyne-sounding mandate is merely a cover to present a biased and one-sided view of modern Ukrainian history — and one that could shape the country’s path forward.

    The controversy centers on a telling of World War II history that amplifies Soviet crimes and glorifies Ukrainian nationalist fighters while dismissing the vital part they played in ethnic cleansing of Poles and Jews from 1941 to 1945 after the Nazi invasion of the former Soviet Union. Viatrovych’s vision of history instead tells the story of partisan guerrillas who waged a brave battle for Ukrainian independence against overwhelming Soviet power. It also sends a message to those who do not identify with the country’s ethno-nationalist mythmakers — such as the many Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine who still celebrate the heroism of the Red Army during World War II — that they’re on the outside. And more pointedly, scholars now fear that they risk reprisal for not toeing the official line — or calling Viatrovych on his historical distortions. Under Viatrovych’s reign, the country could be headed for a new, and frightening, era of censorship.

    Although events of 75 years ago may seem like settled history, they are very much a part of the information war raging between Russia and Ukraine.

    The revisionism focuses on two Ukrainian nationalist groups: the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), which fought to establish an independent Ukraine. During the war, these groups killed tens of thousands of Jews and carried out a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing that killed as many as 100,000 Poles. Created in 1929 to free Ukraine from Soviet control, the OUN embraced the notion of an ethnically pure Ukrainian nation. When the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, the OUN and its charismatic leader, Stepan Bandera, embraced the invasion as a step toward Ukrainian independence. Its members carried out a pogrom in Lviv that killed 5,000 Jews, and OUN militias played a major role in violence against the Jewish population in western Ukraine that claimed the lives of up to 35,000 Jews.

    Hitler was not interested in granting Ukraine independence, however. By 1943 the OUN violently seized control of the UPA and declared itself opposed to both the Germans, then in retreat, and the oncoming Soviets. Many UPA troops had already assisted the Nazis as Ukrainian Auxiliary Police in the extermination of hundreds and thousands of Jews in western Ukraine in 1941 and 1942, and they now became foot soldiers in another round of ethnic cleansing in western Ukraine in 1943 to 1944, this time directed primarily against Poles. When the Soviets were closing in 1944, the OUN resumed cooperation with the Germans and continued to fight the Soviets into the 1950s, before finally being crushed by the Red Army.

    This legacy of sacrifice against the Soviets continues to prompt many Ukrainian nationalists to view Bandera and the OUN-UPA as heroes whose valor kept the dream of Ukrainian statehood alive.

    Now, as Ukraine seeks to free itself from Russia’s grip, Ukrainian nationalists are providing the Kremlin’s propaganda machine fodder to support the claim that post-revolutionary Ukraine is overrun by fascists and neo-Nazis.. The new law, which promises that people who “publicly exhibit a disrespectful attitude” toward these groups or “deny the legitimacy” of Ukraine’s 20th century struggle for independence will be prosecuted (though no punishment is specified) also means that independent Ukraine is being partially built on a falsified narrative of the Holocaust.

    ———-

    “The Historian Whitewashing Ukraine’s Past” by Josh Cohen; Foreign Policy; 05/02/2016

    Now, as Ukraine seeks to free itself from Russia’s grip, Ukrainian nationalists are providing the Kremlin’s propaganda machine fodder to support the claim that post-revolutionary Ukraine is overrun by fascists and neo-Nazis.. The new law, which promises that people who “publicly exhibit a disrespectful attitude” toward these groups or “deny the legitimacy” of Ukraine’s 20th century struggle for independence will be prosecuted (though no punishment is specified) also means that independent Ukraine is being partially built on a falsified narrative of the Holocaust.”

    There’s go those pesky “Ukrainian nationalists” giving the Kremlin free propaganda points again…by officially rewriting history with a pro-fascist/Holocaust denying slant under a 2015 law that explicitly gave the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory the power to do such rewrites. How unhelpful of them to damage Ukraine’s image like that. Good thing they don’t have any real power or else people might get the wrong idea. *phew*!.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 15, 2017, 2:46 pm
  2. Here’s a story about clusterf*ck of significant Ukrainian dates that ends the way one should expect at this point: it turns out June 30th is a pretty awkward anniversary of sorts for Ukraine. It was on June 30, 1941, when the OUN-B announced an independent Ukrainian state in the city of Lviv. That same day marked the start of the Lviv Pograms that led to the death of thousands of Jews. And June 30th also turns out to be the birthday of Roman Shukhevych, commander of the Nachtigall Battalion that carried out the mass killings. All of which means that any sort of historic celebration on June 30th in Lviv would be a pretty openly hostile act towards Ukraine’s Jewish community, and especially Lviv’s. Especially if it included a celebration of Shukhevych.

    So, of course, the city of Lviv is starting “Shukhevychfest” to be held in Lviv on June 30th:

    Jewish Telegraph Agency

    Ukraine city to hold festival in honor of Nazi collaborator whose troops killed Jews

    June 28, 2017 7:05am

    (JTA) — The Ukrainian city of Lviv will hold a festival celebrating a Nazi collaborator on the anniversary of a major pogrom against the city’s Jews.

    Shukhevychfest, an event named for Roman Shukhevych featuring music and theater shows, will be held Friday.

    Eduard Dolinsky, the director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, in a statement called the event “disgraceful.”

    On June 30, 1941, Ukrainian troops, including militiamen loyal to Shukhevych’s, began a series of pogroms against Jews, which they perpetrated under the auspices of the German army, according to Yale University history professor Timothy Snyder and other scholars. They murdered approximately 6,000 Jews in those pogroms.

    The day of the festival is the 110th birthday of Shukhevych, a leader of the OUN-B nationalist group and later of the UPA insurgency militia, which collaborated with the Nazis against the Soviet Union before it turned against the Nazis.

    Shukhevychfest is part of a series of gestures honoring nationalists in Ukraine following the 2014 revolution, in which nationalists played a leading role. They brought down the government of President Viktor Yanukovuch, whose critics said was a corrupt Russian stooge.

    On June 13, a Kiev administrative court partially upheld a motion by parties opposed to the veneration of Shukhevych in the city and suspended the renaming of a street after Shukhevych. The city council approved the renaming earlier this month.

    In a related debate, the director of Ukraine’s Institute of National Remembrance, Vladimir Vyatrovich,, who recently described Shukhevych as an “eminent personality,” last month defended the displaying in public of the symbol of the Galician SS division. Responsible for countless murders of Jews, Nazi Germany’s most elite unit was comprised of Ukrainian volunteers.

    Displaying Nazi symbols is illegal in Ukraine but the Galician SS division’s symbol is “in accordance with the current legislation of Ukraine,” Vyatrovich said.


    ———-

    “Ukraine city to hold festival in honor of Nazi collaborator whose troops killed Jews”; Jewish Telegraph Agency; 06/28/2017

    “The Ukrainian city of Lviv will hold a festival celebrating a Nazi collaborator on the anniversary of a major pogrom against the city’s Jews

    As the saying goes, timing is everything:


    On June 30, 1941, Ukrainian troops, including militiamen loyal to Shukhevych’s, began a series of pogroms against Jews, which they perpetrated under the auspices of the German army, according to Yale University history professor Timothy Snyder and other scholars. They murdered approximately 6,000 Jews in those pogroms.

    The day of the festival is the 110th birthday of Shukhevych, a leader of the OUN-B nationalist group and later of the UPA insurgency militia, which collaborated with the Nazis against the Soviet Union before it turned against the Nazis.

    And note that, while June 30th has obvious and horrible neo-Nazi connotations in the city of Lviv which are even more horrible now that its being celebrated, that date was also declared a “Global Day of Remembrance” for David Lane following his death in 2007, including marches in Ukraine:

    CounterPunch

    Fascist Formations in Ukraine

    by Peter Lee
    March 13, 2015

    The Guardian published an adulatory feature on “The Women Fighting on the Frontline in Ukraine”.

    One of the women profiled was “Anaconda”, fighting in the Aidar Battalion bankrolled by Igor Kolomoisky:

    Anaconda was given her nickname by a unit commander, in a joking reference to her stature and power. The baby-faced 19-year-old says that her mother is very worried about her and phones several times a day, sometimes even during combat. She says it is better to always answer, as her mother will not stop calling until she picks up.

    “In the very beginning my mother kept saying that the war is not for girls,” Anaconda says. “But now she has to put up with my choice. My dad would have come to the front himself, but his health does not allow him to move. He is proud of me now.”

    Anaconda was photographed in combat dress resolutely holding an assault rifle in front of a rather decrepit van.

    The caption read:

    “Anaconda says she is being treated well by the men in her battalion, but is hoping that the war will end soon.”

    As reported by the gadfly site OffGuardian, several readers posted critical observations on the van’s insignia in the comments section of the piece. One, “bananasandsocks”, wrote: “We learn from Wikipedia that the image on the door is the “semi-official” insignia of the 36th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS…” and also pointed out the neo-Nazi significance of the number “1488”.

    “bananasandsocks” seemingly temperate comment was removed by the Guardian for violating its community standards, as were several others, apparently as examples of “persistent misrepresentation of the Guardian and our journalists”.

    But then the Guardian thought better of it. While not reinstating the critical comments, it quietly deleted the original caption to the photo of Anaconda and replaced it with:

    Anaconda alongside a van displaying the neo-Nazi symbol 1488. The volunteer brigade is known for its far-right links.

    Problem solved? Maybe not. Maybe it’s more like “Problem dodged”. Specifically, the problem of the pervasive participation of “ultra-right” paramilitary elements in Kyiv military operations, which even intrudes upon the Guardian’s efforts to put a liberal-friendly feminist sheen on the debacle of the recent ATO in eastern Ukraine.

    As to “1488”, I’ll reproduce the Wikipedia entry:

    The Fourteen Words is a phrase used predominantly by white nationalists. It most commonly refers to a 14-word slogan: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.” It can also refer to another 14-word slogan: “Because the beauty of the White Aryan woman must not perish from the earth.”

    Both slogans were coined by David Lane, convicted terrorist and member of the white separatist organization The Order. The first slogan was inspired by a statement, 88 words in length, from Volume 1, Chapter 8 of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf:

    Neo-Nazis often combine the number 14 with 88, as in “14/88? or “1488”. The 8s stand for the eighth letter of the alphabet (H), with “HH” standing for “Heil Hitler”.

    Lane died in prison in 2007 while serving a 190 year sentence for, among other things, the murder of Denver radio talk show host Alan Berg. David Lane has considerable stature within global white nationalist/neo-Nazi/fascist circles as one of the American Aryan movement’s premier badasses (in addition involvement in to the Berg murder—in which he denied involvement—and a string of bank robberies to finance the movement—also denied, Lane achieved a certain martyr’s stature for enduring almost two decades in Federal detention, frequently in the notorious Communications Management Units).

    And David Lane was a big deal for the “ultra-right” & fascists in Ukraine, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center:

    Lane’s death touched off paeans from racists around the country and abroad. June 30 was designated a “Global Day of Remembrance,” with demonstrations held in at least five U.S. cities as well as England, Germany, Russia and the Ukraine.


    Judging by this video, the march/memorial on the first anniversary of his death, in 2008, organized by the Ukrainian National Socialist Party in Kyiv, was well enough attended to merit a police presence of several dozen officers. The sountrack to the clip, by the way, is an elegy to David Lane performed by Ukraine’s premier white nationalist metal band at the time, Sokyra Peruna.

    There is a photograph of a shield inscribed “1488” at Maidan.

    [see photo of ‘1488’ shield being used by Maidan protestor]

    More significantly, perhaps, the name of the armed wing of the Svoboda Party, C14, apparently invokes Lane’s “14 words” .

    It should be said that Lane’s views, including those that inspired the 1488 tag, are esoteric even within the fascist/Neo-Nazi/white supremacist world he inhabited.

    In a letter from prison, Lane wrote:

    You know that the three greatest movements of the last 2,000 years have been Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Judaism allowed Jews to conquer and rule the world. I believe only a religious fervor can save our kind now. The 14 Words must be a divine command of Nature’s God whom we call Wotan Allfather.

    As the 666 man, and the Joseph Smith of Wotanism my rewards will be zero. Death in prison, scorn from those with no vision, and hate from the stupid goyim and their kosher masters. But sometimes a man is condemned to a higher cause. And cheerfulness in adversity is still a virtue. Take care. 14 – 88

    Lane composed his “88 Precepts” to instruct believers in the ways of white nationalism. While apparently riffing off the 88 word Mein Kampf passage and “88=HH=Heil Hitler”, it also refers to Lane’s numerological/messianic preoccupations.

    Ukrainian fascists’ admiration for Lane is a reflection of the pervasiveness of indigenous Ukrainian fascism, which looks for models and partners internationally while drawing plenty of strength and inspiration from its own profoundly deep historical and ideological local roots.

    As I wrote in a piece for CounterPunch, Ukrainian fascism seems almost inevitable:

    Ukrainian fascism is more durable and vital than most. It was forged in the most adverse conditions imaginable, in the furnace of Stalinism, under the reign of Hitler, and amid Poland’s effort to destroy Ukrainian nationality.

    Ukrainian nationalism was under ferocious attack between the two world wars. The USSR occupied the eastern half of Ukraine, subjected it to collectivization under Stalin, and committed repression and enabled a famine that killed millions. At first, the Soviets sought to co-opt Ukrainian nationalism by supporting Ukrainian cultural expression while repressing Ukrainian political aspirations; USSR nationalities policies were “nationalist in expression and socialist in essence”. Then, in 1937 Stalin obliterated the native Ukrainian cultural and communist apparatus in a thoroughgoing purge and implemented Russified central control through his bespoke instrument, Nikita Khrushchev.

    Meanwhile, the western part of the Ukraine was under the thumb of the Polish Republic, which was trying to entrench its rule before either the Germans or the Russians got around to destroying it again. This translated into a concerted Polish political, security, cultural, and demographic push into Ukrainian Galicia. The Polish government displaced Ukrainian intellectuals and farmers, attacked their culture and religion (including seizure of Orthodox churches and conversion into Roman Catholic edifices), marginalized the Ukrainians in their own homeland, and suppressed Ukrainian independence activists (like Bandera, who spent the years 1933 to 1939 in Poland’s Wronki Prison after trying to assassinate Poland’s Minister of the Interior).

    Ukrainian nationalists, therefore, were unable to ride communism or bourgeois democracy into power. Communism was a tool of Soviet expansionism, not class empowerment, and Polish democracy offered no protection for Ukrainian minority rights or political expression, let alone a Ukrainian state.

    Ukrainian nationalists turned largely toward fascism, specifically toward a concept of “integral nationalism” that, in the absence of an acceptable national government, manifested itself in a national will residing in the spirit of its adherents, not expressed by the state or restrained by its laws, but embodied by a charismatic leader and exercised through his organization, whose legitimacy supersedes that of the state and whose commitment to violence makes it a law unto itself.

    It’s not just a matter of historical sentiment or inclination. Ukraine’s contemporary fascists share a direct bloodline with the fascists of the Soviet era, especially in the matter of Roman Shukhevych, the commander of Ukrainian nationalist forces fighting with the Nazis during World War II and also responsible for horrific atrocities while attempting to cleanse Galicia of Poles in the service of Ukrainian independence. From my CounterPunch article:

    In February 2014, the New York Times’ Andrew Higgins penned a rather embarrassing passage that valorized the occupation of Lviv—the Galician city at the heart of Ukrainian fascism, the old stomping grounds of Roman Shukhevych and the Nachtigall battlaion, and also Simon Wiesnthal’s home town—by anti-Yanyukovich forces in January 2014:

    Some of the president’s longtime opponents here have taken an increasingly radical line.

    Offering inspiration and advice has been Yuriy Shukhevych, a blind veteran nationalist who spent 31 years in Soviet prisons and labor camps and whose father, Roman, led the Ukrainian Insurgent Army against Polish and then Soviet rule.

    Mr. Shukhevych, 80, who lost his sight during his time in the Soviet gulag, helped guide the formation of Right Sector, an unruly organization whose fighters now man barricades around Independence Square, the epicenter of the protest movement in Kiev.

    Yuriy Shukhevych’s role in modern Ukrainian fascism is not simply that of an inspirational figurehead and reminder of his father’s anti-Soviet heroics for proud Ukrainian nationalists. He is a core figure in the emergence of the key Ukrainian fascist formation, Pravy Sektor and its paramilitary.

    And Pravy Sektor’s paramilitary, the UNA-UNSO, is not an “unruly” collection of weekend-warrior-wannabes, as Mr. Higgins might believe.

    UNA-UNSO was formed during the turmoil of the early 1990s, largely by ethnic Ukrainian veterans of the Soviet Union’s bitter war in Afghanistan. From the first, the UNA-UNSO has shown a taste for foreign adventures, sending detachments to Moscow in 1990 to oppose the Communist coup against Yeltsin, and to Lithuania in 1991. With apparently very good reason, the Russians have also accused UNA-UNSO fighters of participating on the anti-Russian side in Georgia and Chechnya.

    After formal Ukrainian independence, the militia elected Yuriy Shukhevych—the son of OUN-B commander Roman Shukhevych– as its leader and set up a political arm, which later became Pravy Sektor.

    There’s plenty of indigenous fascism to go around. Interviews with Ukrainian ultra-rights reveal a welter of views befitting the country’s fraught and contested status in central Europe, ranging from “autonomous nationalists” (whose demeanour and tactics mirror on the right mirror those of European anarchists on the left); ultras who emerged from the football club wars; and determinedly theoretical scientific fascists. The common thread of the diverse and syncretic Ukrainian fascist movement is the conviction that the survival of the Ukrainian people is under threat from a multitude of forces and mechanisms (Russians, Jews, the EU, democracy, capitalism, communism etc.), and can only be assured by autonomous armed force under charismatic leadership; and yes, apparently a shared belief that Adolf Hitler showed how it could and should be done.

    Rooting fascism out of Ukraine’s cultural, social, and political matrix is going to take a lot of work. Unfortunately, the opposite is going on right now.

    ———-

    “Fascist Formations in Ukraine” by Peter Lee; CounterPunch; 03/13/2015

    “Lane’s death touched off paeans from racists around the country and abroad. June 30 was designated a “Global Day of Remembrance,” with demonstrations held in at least five U.S. cities as well as England, Germany, Russia and the Ukraine.”

    Yep, June 30th was designated a “Global Day of Remembrance” by neo-Nazis in honor of David Lane, the guy who came who turned the numbers 14 and 88 into neo-Nazi code. Code embraced by Ukraine’s neo-Nazi militias:


    Judging by this video, the march/memorial on the first anniversary of his death, in 2008, organized by the Ukrainian National Socialist Party in Kyiv, was well enough attended to merit a police presence of several dozen officers. The sountrack to the clip, by the way, is an elegy to David Lane performed by Ukraine’s premier white nationalist metal band at the time, Sokyra Peruna.

    There is a photograph of a shield inscribed “1488” at Maidan.

    [see photo of ‘1488’ shield being used by Maidan protestor]

    More significantly, perhaps, the name of the armed wing of the Svoboda Party, C14, apparently invokes Lane’s “14 words” .

    And it’s the sone of Roman Shukhevych who helped form contemporary neo-Nazi outfits like Pravy Sektor:


    In February 2014, the New York Times’ Andrew Higgins penned a rather embarrassing passage that valorized the occupation of Lviv—the Galician city at the heart of Ukrainian fascism, the old stomping grounds of Roman Shukhevych and the Nachtigall battlaion, and also Simon Wiesnthal’s home town—by anti-Yanyukovich forces in January 2014:

    Some of the president’s longtime opponents here have taken an increasingly radical line.

    Offering inspiration and advice has been Yuriy Shukhevych, a blind veteran nationalist who spent 31 years in Soviet prisons and labor camps and whose father, Roman, led the Ukrainian Insurgent Army against Polish and then Soviet rule.

    Mr. Shukhevych, 80, who lost his sight during his time in the Soviet gulag, helped guide the formation of Right Sector, an unruly organization whose fighters now man barricades around Independence Square, the epicenter of the protest movement in Kiev.

    Yuriy Shukhevych’s role in modern Ukrainian fascism is not simply that of an inspirational figurehead and reminder of his father’s anti-Soviet heroics for proud Ukrainian nationalists. He is a core figure in the emergence of the key Ukrainian fascist formation, Pravy Sektor and its paramilitary.

    And now, in Lviv, June 30th is a celebration of the birthday of the guy who carried out a Pogrom against the cities Jews on that very day. On top of being ‘David Lane’ day or whatever the neo-Nazis have declared June 30th to be.

    So if you happen to be in Lviv on June 30th, try not to get too festive. Unless you’re a neo-Nazi, in which case you clearly have plenty to celebrate.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 28, 2017, 2:00 pm
  3. Here’s an update on how “Shukhevychfest”, the new June 30th festival in the city of Lvov (Lviv) ostensibly intended to celebrate the birthday of Roman Shukhevych – the commander of the Nachtigall Battalion – but also overlaps with the June 30th, 1941 OUN-B declaration of an independent Ukrainian state in Lvov and the June 30th, 1941 start of the Lvov pogrom against the city’s Jewish carried carried out by Shukhevych’s Nachtigall Battalion – went for the Lvov’s Jewish communtiy: Shukhevychfest went about as well as could be expected, which is to say it didn’t go well at all:

    The Times of Israel

    Firebomb hurled at Ukrainian synagogue
    Separately, unidentified individuals scrawl anti-Semitic slogans on a Jewish community building, also in Lviv

    By JTA July 4, 2017, 1:28 pm

    Unidentified individuals hurled a firebomb at a synagogue in Lviv and, in a separate incident, wrote anti-Semitic slogans on another Jewish community building in the western Ukrainian city.

    The incident involving a firebomb occurred on June 30 but was discovered only Monday, according to the Strana news site. The perpetrators may have aimed the firebomb at a window of the synagogue on Mikhovsky Street but missed it, hitting the building facade, the director of the Chesed-Arieh Jewish group, Ada Dianova, told Strana.

    The contents of the firebomb fell to the foot of the building and burned there, resulting in no damage to the interior, she added. No one was hurt in the incident.

    The anti-Semitic slogans painted on a former building of the community on Sholem Aleichem Street included the words” “Down with Jewish power” and: “Jews, remember July 1,” an apparent reference to a pogrom that took place in Lviv on that date in 1941.

    In recent days, Jewish groups in Ukraine and abroad protested the municipality’s sponsoring of a celebration of Roman Shukhevych, a collaborator with the Nazis whose troops perpetrated the July 1 pogroms.

    Shortly before the celebration, titled Shukhevychfest and held on the nationalist’s 110th birthday, city officials in Lviv published online security camera footage of vandals painting Nazi symbols on a Holocaust memorial in a bid to identify them.

    ———-

    “Firebomb hurled at Ukrainian synagogue” by JTA; The Times of Israel; 07/04/2017

    “Shortly before the celebration, titled Shukhevychfest and held on the nationalist’s 110th birthday, city officials in Lviv published online security camera footage of vandals painting Nazi symbols on a Holocaust memorial in a bid to identify them.”

    Yes, in addition to the June 30th firebombing a synagogue, authorities had to release footage of people vandalizing a local Holocaust memorial days before a local festival celebrated the local leader of the Holocaust on the anniversary of the declaration of an independent Ukrainian state by the group that waged that Holocaust across the country. Hopefully someday the city of Lvov will be able to declare independence from a local identity that feels the need to engage in such celebrations.

    And since Shukhevychfest represents a broader movement within Ukraine to impose a particular far-right Ukrainian nationalist identity across ALL of Ukraine, and not just Lvov, let’s hope all of Ukraine manages to declare independence from the same cultural straightjacket strangling Lvov:

    The Nation

    The Real Ukrainian Solution Is Federalism

    Why is the mere discussion of federalism often equated with treason?

    By Nicolai N. Petro
    June 30, 2017

    This week the city council of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, along with the Memorial Museum of Totalitarian Regimes and several other prominent organizations, will sponsor “ShukhevychFest”—a celebration of the 110th anniversary of the birth of Roman Shukhevych, the last commander of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA in Ukrainian).

    By unfortunate coincidence this festival begins on June 30, the very date in 1941 that the Nazi armed forces, with the assistance of Ukrainian manned “Nightingale” battalion of German military intelligence, carried out a pogrom that killed at least 4,000 Jews and others in the city of Lviv. It will end, also by coincidence, two days later, on the date that the German military high command ordered an end to the bloodbath.

    Judging by its Facebook page, however, the festival will not be mentioning any of this. Instead, it will focus on the lesser known aspects of Shukhevych’s life—his family, his successes as a musician, sportsman, and businessman.

    It is unfortunate that Shukhevych’s history is being presented without serious discussion of his leadership of an auxiliary police battalion (Schutzmannschaft Battalion 201) that was specifically tasked by the Germans with pacifying the rural population of modern day Belarus and assisting in the extermination of the local Jewish population. Noted Polish-German historian Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe writes that Shukhevych himself “was fully involved in the mass violence carried out against the Polish populations in Volhynia, and ordered that the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Polish civilians be extended into in eastern Galicia.” Such a whitewashing of history is unlikely to lead to the “healthy patriotism” that the organizers say they are trying to produce through “#ShukhevychFest.”

    But perhaps even more important is what this macabre event tells us about the prospects for unifying Ukrainian society.

    As anyone who has ever visited Lviv can attest, events glorifying those who collaborated with the Nazis are deemed perfectly normal there. They are even widely commercialized. On the other hand, as anyone who has ever spent any time in eastern and southern Ukraine can tell you, glorifying the same people there would be met with outrage. Its organizers would be unlikely to get off the stage unharmed.

    How does one stitch together a society with such disparate views of its history, heroes and culture?

    One tried and true solution is federalism. The adoption of broad autonomy within a constitutional framework, which is the only thing that federalism actually demands, has been applied successfully in dozens of countries, some even more fractured than Ukraine. So why is the mere discussion of federalism often equated with treason in today’s Ukraine?

    One obvious answer is that hardcore Ukrainian nationalists have so little confidence in their ability to win over the population that they see local cultural autonomy as a direct path to secession. They assume that national unity can guaranteed only if a homogeneous national culture is imposed. Luckily for them, such an ethnically based Ukrainian national identity has a significant base of support in the westernmost region of Ukraine, and they see their task as exporting this truncated version of Ukrainian identity to the rest of Ukraine, and even beyond its borders.

    But history proves these pessimists are wrong. In 2012, after years of rancorous debate at the national level, the Ukrainian parliament adopted a language law that allowed regions where at least 10 percent speak a second language to adopt that language for official use. Almost overnight it was adopted by 13 of 27 regions. Rather than leading to separatism, however, it made ethnic minorities finally feel welcome in a more culturally pluralistic Ukraine.

    Contrast this with the divisive impact that recent legislation on forced Ukrainianization has had. The renaming of streets and cities, often against the wishes of the local population, the proposed constraints on the public use of Russian, quotas on Russian language use in the media, and the rewriting of the country’s history have all raised anxieties not only among the Russian-speaking half of the population but now also among the Polish, Romanians and Hungarian minorities in Ukraine.

    ———

    “The Real Ukrainian Solution Is Federalism” by Nicolai N. Petro; The Nation; 06/30/2017

    One obvious answer is that hardcore Ukrainian nationalists have so little confidence in their ability to win over the population that they see local cultural autonomy as a direct path to secession. They assume that national unity can guaranteed only if a homogeneous national culture is imposed. Luckily for them, such an ethnically based Ukrainian national identity has a significant base of support in the westernmost region of Ukraine, and they see their task as exporting this truncated version of Ukrainian identity to the rest of Ukraine, and even beyond its borders

    Keep in mind that federalizing Ukraine is an extremely complicated endeavor with a number of potential pitfalls. Resources need to be shared between wealthier and poorer regions and you’d still have to worry about regions embracing a far-right nationalist identity even more fully. Still, in terms of cultural federal, if the alternative is to have a hyper-nationalist white-power-inspired ethno-nationalism imposed on all of Ukraine, a federalist approach to cultural autonomy is clearly a preferable solution. Especially when you consider that the drive to create a homogeneous ethno-nationalist anti-Russian far-right identity across Ukraine is one of the primary factors driving the ongoing divisions and fueling the civil war.

    Independence from far-right ethno-nationalism imposed on everyone. It’s the independence day celebration Ukraine desperately needs.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 4, 2017, 1:16 pm
  4. As the US and Russian ramp up their diplomatic tit-for-tat responses to the ongoing tensions that magically weren’t diffused by having Trump in the White House, here’s a look at one of areas of opportunity created by these tensions: It’s a great opportunity to sell the White House on the idea of arming Ukraine:

    The Wall Street Journal

    Pentagon Offers Plan to Arm Ukraine
    U.S. officials say proposal, which needs White House approval, is meant to deter Moscow aggression

    By Julian E. Barnes in London,
    Laurence Norman in Brussels and
    Felicia Schwartz in Washington
    July 31, 2017 1:05 p.m. ET

    The U.S. Pentagon and State Department have devised plans to supply Ukraine with antitank missiles and other weaponry and are seeking White House approval, U.S. officials said, as Kiev battles Russia-backed separatists and ties between Moscow and Washington fray.

    American military officials and diplomats say the arms, which they characterized as defensive, are meant to deter aggressive actions by Moscow, which the U.S. and others say has provided tanks and other sophisticated armaments as well as military advisers to rebels fighting the Kiev government.

    Since Russia invaded and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and then began supporting Russian-speaking insurgents in the country’s east, Washington, wary of escalating the conflict, has largely limited its support for Kiev’s military to so-called non-lethal aid and training.

    A senior administration official said there has been no decision on the armaments proposal and it wasn’t discussed at a high-level White House meeting on Russia last week. The official said President Donald Trump hasn’t been briefed on the plan and his position isn’t known.

    Some U.S. and Ukrainian officials said they expect it could be months before the White House makes a final determination.

    Any decision to provide arms to Ukraine would come against a backdrop of severely deteriorating relations between Washington and Moscow. Russia said it would expel hundreds of American diplomats after the U.S. Congress last week approved new economic sanctions on Russia.

    A Pentagon spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Michelle L. Baldanza, said the U.S. has not “ruled out the option” of providing “lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine.” U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis has endorsed the plan, according to U.S. officials.

    A State Department spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

    When the Obama administration considered supplying arms to Ukraine, it faced considerable opposition from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other allied leaders and instead provided Kiev with short-range radar, night-vision goggles and other equipment.

    Germany and France remain deeply skeptical about providing arms to Ukraine, fearing that such moves would raise tensions and deepen the conflict there. But U.S. officials said they expect allies, possibly including the U.K., Canada, Poland and Lithuania to be open to increased military support.

    “It is really important we don’t inflame the situation,” said British National Security Adviser Mark Sedwell. “There has been quite a lot of agitation from across the border in the east.”

    Roughly 10,000 people have died in the Ukraine conflict since 2014, according to the United Nations. Russian support for the rebels was thrown into sharp relief when a Malaysian passenger jet was shot down in July 2014 by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile, according to international investigators.

    U.S. officials say they worry that the conflict has intensified, with a rising number of cease-fire violations as progress on peace efforts has faltered.

    “The level of violence is up a bit of late,” said Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the top U.S. and NATO military commander. “The Russians provide equipment, some of their most modern equipment, and they provide proxy forces with advisers.”

    Russian officials have long denied supporting separatists and criticized Western efforts to train the Ukrainian military. Russian officials have said in recent days that any U.S. move to send weapons to Ukraine would further impair peace efforts.

    Under the Pentagon and State Department proposal, the U.S. would provide anti-tank weapons, most likely Javelin missiles, as well as possibly anti-aircraft weapons, in addition to other arms. Ukraine has long sought Javelins to counter Russian-made armored vehicles in rebel-held areas.

    U.S. officials, however, said the plan would be to deploy the anti-tank missiles with Ukrainian troops stationed away from the front lines of the conflict —part of an effort by policy makers to limit the risks of escalation and defuse criticism that the moves could encourage offensive action by Kiev.

    Javelin missiles and launchers are lightweight and usually carried by two-man teams, so they are highly mobile.

    Should Ukraine use the weapons improperly, Washington could decide to withdraw its support or technical assistance.

    Kurt Volker, named U.S. special representative for Ukraine in July, met European officials last week and said a decision to provide “defensive weapons” was likely but not imminent, according to people involved in the discussions.

    Officials said Mr. Volker believes there is a narrow window for progress in Ukraine over the next months before Russia’s presidential elections, due in March 2018, but that a change in the situation can only be brought by raising the costs for Moscow of continued intervention in Ukraine.

    In public comments, Mr. Volker has played down the notion that supplying weapons to Ukraine would escalate the conflict with Russia.

    A senior Ukrainian official said Monday that the fact of the Pentagon’s proposal could help persuade Russia to scale back actions in Ukraine’s east. The official also said it was widely accepted in Kiev that any advanced weapons from the U.S. would be used only in an “emergency” and not during regular combat with separatist forces.

    U.S. and European officials are divided on how Moscow would respond to new arms shipments. Some believe it would push Moscow back to the bargaining table and others think it would prompt the Russian military to escalate the situation further.

    But with violence rising in Ukraine and separatists making moves such as declaring their own government for the country, some Western officials think there is little to lose by trying to increase pressure.

    But broader cooperation has become deeply complicated by Congressional investigations into Moscow’s interference in the U.S.’s 2016 presidential election and alleged Russian contacts with the Trump campaign.

    ———-

    “Pentagon Offers Plan to Arm Ukraine” by Julian E. Barnes in London, Laurence Norman in Brussels and Felicia Schwartz; The Wall Street Journal; 07/31/2017

    Any decision to provide arms to Ukraine would come against a backdrop of severely deteriorating relations between Washington and Moscow. Russia said it would expel hundreds of American diplomats after the U.S. Congress last week approved new economic sanctions on Russia.”

    Yep, the worse relations get between the US and Russian governments, the better relations get between the US government and anyone who has an agenda that involves ramping up tensions with Russia like an agenda to arm Ukraine with lethal military hardware. And while Trump himself appears to be unaware if this Pentagon proposal, Defense Secretary James Mattis has already endorsed the plan:


    A senior administration official said there has been no decision on the armaments proposal and it wasn’t discussed at a high-level White House meeting on Russia last week. The official said President Donald Trump hasn’t been briefed on the plan and his position isn’t known.

    Some U.S. and Ukrainian officials said they expect it could be months before the White House makes a final determination.

    A Pentagon spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Michelle L. Baldanza, said the U.S. has not “ruled out the option” of providing “lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine.” U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis has endorsed the plan, according to U.S. officials.

    And, as part of the sales pitch for the plan, we’re told that the lethal military hardware definitely isn’t going to be used on the front lines and won’t be used for any offensive action by Kiev, and if they’re abused by Ukraine’s forces the Pentagon’s support might be removed. That appears to be the Pentagon’s plan and according to U.S. special representative for Ukraine some sort of “defensive weapons” plan is expected to be approved at some point:


    U.S. officials, however, said the plan would be to deploy the anti-tank missiles with Ukrainian troops stationed away from the front lines of the conflict —part of an effort by policy makers to limit the risks of escalation and defuse criticism that the moves could encourage offensive action by Kiev.

    Javelin missiles and launchers are lightweight and usually carried by two-man teams, so they are highly mobile.

    Should Ukraine use the weapons improperly, Washington could decide to withdraw its support or technical assistance.

    Kurt Volker, named U.S. special representative for Ukraine in July, met European officials last week and said a decision to provide “defensive weapons” was likely but not imminent, according to people involved in the discussions.

    Officials said Mr. Volker believes there is a narrow window for progress in Ukraine over the next months before Russia’s presidential elections, due in March 2018, but that a change in the situation can only be brought by raising the costs for Moscow of continued intervention in Ukraine.

    In public comments, Mr. Volker has played down the notion that supplying weapons to Ukraine would escalate the conflict with Russia.

    And the plan doesn’t just include weapons like anti-tank Javelin missiles, but also, perhaps, anti-aircraft weapons:


    Under the Pentagon and State Department proposal, the U.S. would provide anti-tank weapons, most likely Javelin missiles, as well as possibly anti-aircraft weapons, in addition to other arms. Ukraine has long sought Javelins to counter Russian-made armored vehicles in rebel-held areas.

    So, you know, let’s hope none of those defensive anti-aircraft weapons and up getting misused as a result of this plan. A plan that President Trump reportedly isn’t aware of yet. But he presumably will be soon, right when tensions with Russia are really ramping up and Trump is looking for a tough-looking response.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 31, 2017, 1:21 pm
  5. Here’s an update from last week on the Pentagon’s proposal to arm Ukraine with an array of “defensive” weapons, including anti-tank Javelin missiles: The proposal is at the White House and according to one observer they “see the fingerprints of Secretary of Defense Mattis all over it.” Trump’s position on the plan is still unclear. Also unclear is whether or not it will be clear at all that the plan was approved even if that happens. Why? Because it’s yet to be determined if the plan would involve the US directly supplying the hardware and people to train Ukraine’s forces or if this will be done through “an intermediary”. So it’s sound like this proxy-conflict with Russia might get another proxy:

    NBC News

    Pentagon Asks White House to Give Lethal Weapons to Ukraine

    by Courtney Kube, Robert Windrem and Abigail Williams
    Aug 4 2017, 11:05 am ET

    WASHINGTON — A recommendation to send high-tech tank-killing weapons to Ukraine to help in its fight against Russia is now at the White House, according to three U.S. officials.

    The officials said a proposed aid package includes Javelin anti-tank missiles with an estimated cost of about $50 million.

    “It is the right move and I see the fingerprints of Secretary of Defense Mattis all over it,” said Ret. Adm. James Stavridis, former commander of NATO and an NBC News analyst.

    “This is a very logical and sensible move which will increase deterrence — because it will place doubt in the minds of Russian aggressors in terms of their use of offensive weapons systems.”

    Russia invaded and annexed the Crimea in 2014 and continues to support pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. The proposal for providing weapons to Ukraine comes amid tension between the White House and Congress over how to respond to Russian interference in the 2016 election, and an investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. President Trump signed a bill imposing sanctions on Russia for its cyberhacking and its actions in Ukraine but complained that it harmed relations.

    While the three officials said no final decision has been made on providing the weapons, they agreed that the Pentagon is in favor of the move.

    A Pentagon spokesperson would not confirm the details of the package, saying only, “we haven’t ruled anything out.”

    Still undecided, said the three officials, is whether the U.S. would provide the Javelins through an intermediary and whether U.S. service members would train the Ukrainian military on how to operate them.

    The most common Russian tank is the T-90, according to Loren Thompson, chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, a conservative think tank. The Javelin attacks tanks from above, one of the most vulnerable spots of the tank, he explained, adding that other shoulder-fired weapons like an RPG could not take out a Russian tank.

    Thompson warned that providing lethal weapons to Ukraine — a country “on Russia’s doorstep” — is not without peril for the U.S. “What would we think if the Russians were arming Mexico?” he asked. “This could potentially spark a wider war.”

    Former Acting CIA Director John McLaughlin, an NBC News analyst, said that the Russians had “earned” the U.S. aid to Ukraine, “but will see it as an escalation even though it poses no immediate danger to their forces given the disposition of the two sides and the nature of the current skirmishing.”

    “The U.S. should portray this as an enhancement of Ukrainian defensive capabilities, and part of the deal with Kiev should be that they not use the Javelins to provoke fighting but instead hold onto them for a contingency in which Russia actually uses armor to extend its invasion — which it has not been doing lately.”

    ———-

    “Pentagon Asks White House to Give Lethal Weapons to Ukraine” by Courtney Kube, Robert Windrem and Abigail Williams; NBC News; 08/04/2017

    “Still undecided, said the three officials, is whether the U.S. would provide the Javelins through an intermediary and whether U.S. service members would train the Ukrainian military on how to operate them.”

    So get ready for reports about a country that’s not the US suddenly supplying Ukraine with a bunch of Javelin missiles and who knows what else. Proxy, or not, things appear to be heating up in this conflict, which is probably why so many are warning about ensuring that these weapons stay far away from the front lines in Eastern Ukraine:


    The most common Russian tank is the T-90, according to Loren Thompson, chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, a conservative think tank. The Javelin attacks tanks from above, one of the most vulnerable spots of the tank, he explained, adding that other shoulder-fired weapons like an RPG could not take out a Russian tank.

    Thompson warned that providing lethal weapons to Ukraine — a country “on Russia’s doorstep” — is not without peril for the U.S. “What would we think if the Russians were arming Mexico?” he asked. “This could potentially spark a wider war.”

    Former Acting CIA Director John McLaughlin, an NBC News analyst, said that the Russians had “earned” the U.S. aid to Ukraine, “but will see it as an escalation even though it poses no immediate danger to their forces given the disposition of the two sides and the nature of the current skirmishing.”

    “The U.S. should portray this as an enhancement of Ukrainian defensive capabilities, and part of the deal with Kiev should be that they not use the Javelins to provoke fighting but instead hold onto them for a contingency in which Russia actually uses armor to extend its invasion — which it has not been doing lately.”

    “The U.S. should portray this as an enhancement of Ukrainian defensive capabilities, and part of the deal with Kiev should be that they not use the Javelins to provoke fighting but instead hold onto them for a contingency in which Russia actually uses armor to extend its invasion — which it has not been doing lately.”

    That’s seems like a pretty good recommendation if the Trump administration wants to avoid a Ukrainian arms race with Russia: Javelin missile – and who knows what else – exclusively for the defense of Kyiv and the rest of Ukraine and NOT for use on the front-lines. And as we saw in the earlier reports on this plan, keeping the weapons away from the front lines is indeed the what US planners have in mind.

    But as Andriy Parubiy, the found of the neo-Nazi party that eventually become Svoboda and currently the speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament, indicated back in June when he addressed parliament during press conference, those plans to keep weapons like Javelin missiles away from the front lines aren’t the plans Parubiy has in mind:

    Kyiv Post

    NBC: Pentagon asks the White House to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine

    By Veronika Melkozerova.
    Published Aug. 5. Updated Aug. 5 at 5:02 pm

    The Pentagon has sent a recommendation to provide Ukraine with high-tech, anti-tank weapons to the White House, the NBC News reported on Aug.4, referring to its own sources among the U.S officials.

    The proposed aid includes Javelin missiles with an estimated cost of around $50 million.

    While a Pentagon spokesperson didn’t confirm the information to NBC, the American TV station’s sources said that indeed no decision has been made yet but Pentagon is in favor of the move.

    “It is the right move and I see the fingerprints of Secretary of Defense (James) Mattis all over it,” Retired Admiral James Stavridis, a former commander of NATO and NBC News analyst said.

    Mattis expressed full support for Ukraine and supported the preservation of sanctions against Russia as an aggressor country during a meeting with Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko in June in Washington.

    The Presidential Administration press service has reported that Poroshenko and Mattis discussed the reinforcement of defense potential of Ukraine and the further development of strategic partnership with the U.S in the defense sector.

    “Ukraine needs the lethal weapons from U.S. to bring peace to our eastern borders,” Andriy Parubiy, the speaker of Ukrainian Parliament told during the press conference on June 27.

    “Russian army tank forces played a key part in Ukraine’s defeat in the fight for Debaltseve (a town in Donetsk Oblast) in 2015,” Parubiy said. “The anti-tank Javelin missiles would help the Ukrainian army to stop the Russian forces attack.”

    Parubiy said that Ukrainian army has already got many non-lethal weapons from the U.S: radars, telecommunication devices, armored cars and much more.

    But Ukraine still needs the U.S lethal weapons due to the Russian-backed separatist’s constant Minsk Agreement violations and attacks with the heavy weapons involvement.

    A surge in fighting in several hotspots in Ukraine’s Donbas over the last three weeks – from Krymske village in Luhansk Oblast to Avdiyivka and Kransohorivka cities in Donetsk Oblast – cost Ukrainian army at least 17 soldiers killed and 96 wounded, according to a Kyiv Post count based on information from the military, volunteers and local media reports.

    “This is a technically decided question. We have the total support of the both parties of the U.S Parliament, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Paul Ryan confirmed that to me during our conversation,” Parubiy said.

    Moreover, Parubiy claimed, there is even the list of weapons that the U.S could provide to Ukraine. “This depends on U.S political will. The U.S didn’t refuse to give us the lethal weapons as it was a year ago. So I hope, this question would be solved until the end of 2017,” Parubiy said.

    ———-

    “NBC: Pentagon asks the White House to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine” by Veronika Melkozerova; Kyiv Post; 08/05/2017

    ““Ukraine needs the lethal weapons from U.S. to bring peace to our eastern borders,” Andriy Parubiy, the speaker of Ukrainian Parliament told during the press conference on June 27.”

    Lethal weapons from the US to “bring peace to our eastern borders”. That sure sounds like a plan to “bring peace” by using those lethal weapons against the rebels. Especially when Parubiy says those weapons are needed to the “the Russian-backed separatist’s constant Minsk Agreement violations and attacks with the heavy weapons involvement”. Because it’s not like those Minsk Agreement violations are happening in Kyiv. They’re happening on the front lines. So when Parubiy talks about the need to use those weapons “due to the Russian-backed separatist’s constant Minsk Agreement violations,” he’s talking about using them on the front lines:


    “Russian army tank forces played a key part in Ukraine’s defeat in the fight for Debaltseve (a town in Donetsk Oblast) in 2015,” Parubiy said. The anti-tank Javelin missiles would help the Ukrainian army to stop the Russian forces attack.”

    Parubiy said that Ukrainian army has already got many non-lethal weapons from the U.S: radars, telecommunication devices, armored cars and much more.

    But Ukraine still needs the U.S lethal weapons due to the Russian-backed separatist’s constant Minsk Agreement violations and attacks with the heavy weapons involvement.

    “But Ukraine still needs the U.S lethal weapons due to the Russian-backed separatist’s constant Minsk Agreement violations and attacks with the heavy weapons involvement”

    That’s the update on the status of the looming Ukrainian arms race: the US is planning sending weapons to Ukraine, possibly through a proxy, for the expressed purpose of NOT using them on the front lines. And the people receiving those weapons have already said how they need them for use on the front lines. This should turn out well.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 10, 2017, 1:34 pm
  6. One of the more interest aspects of the growing picture emerging of the Ukrainian figures associated with the Trump Organization’s attorney Michael Cohen and Andreii Artemenko – the Ukrainian MP who concocted the ‘peace plan’ proposal with Cohen and Felix Sater that included toppling Petro Poroshenko on corruption charges and replacing him with Artemenko – is how Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Topolov appears to be both a close associate with Andreii Artemenko and the President of Ukraine. Topolov was the business partner of Alex Oronov, another Ukrainian oligarch, in an ethanol plant that Michael Cohen helped raise funds for at one point, and Oronov was reportedly the middle-man that put Cohen in touch with Artemenko.

    First not that it’s not quite clear from reports which Ukrainian president Topolov is close to: former president Viktor Yushchenko, who made Topolov the coal minister in 2005, or current president Petro Poroshenko. But either way, Poroshenko and Yushchenko are close allies. Yushchenko is godgather to Poroshenko’s children. So when Andreii Artemenko plotted to oust Poroshenko he was plotting to oust someone that, on some level, you might expect him to not be particularly opposed to just based on personal contact.

    At the same time, we can’t forget about Artemenko’s close ties to Right Sector/Pravy Sektor and the Radical Party, two far-right parties that would be happy to see Poroshenko get replaced with a far-right figure. Artemenko appears to have a rather conflicted personal history when it comes to his relationship with President Poroshenko, which also raises the question of what role Viktor Topolov might have played in the ‘dump-Poroshenko peace plan’.

    So with all that in mind, note the other former close Poroshenko ally who is now talking about marching on Kiev to oust Poroshenko: with the backing of Yulia Tymoshenko and Lviv’s mayor Andriy Sadovyi, Mikhail Saakashvili wants to return to Ukraine to oust Poroshenko:

    Deutsche Welle

    Mikhail Saakashvili plans march on Kyiv

    Christian Trippe
    September 10, 2017

    Ukrainian public enemy no. 1 wants to stir up the country’s political system: Mikhail Saakashvili, former Georgian president and ex-governor of Odessa, plans a spectacular return to Kyiv — at all costs.

    If political nervousness could be measured objectively, the appropriate anxiety meters would show strong reactions in Kyiv these days. Based in the Polish capital, Warsaw, Mikhail Saakashvili is preparing his return to Ukraine. Saakashvili, the man without passport, political archenemy of President Petro Poroshenko, intends to cross the border at Krakovets checkpoint, come noon on Sunday, September 10. “I’ll go through to the end, until victory. But it won’t be my own victory, but that of the people over oligarchy,” Saakashvili said belligerently during a televised interview, simultaneously designating the political objectives for his return.

    The Ukrainian government, however, wants to prevent Saakashvili from re-entering Ukrainian territory at all costs. The border crossing, located approximately an hour’s drive from Lviv, has been bolstered with additional guard personnel by the border service. According to Oleh Slobodyan, a spokesman for the Ukrainian border guards, even “reserves” were mobilized – evidently in order to secure the green border as well. Local media report that brand-new barbed wire has been rolled out in order to seal off back roads in the border area. It’s as if Ukraine was expecting an invasion, this time from the west; as if the challenge was to fend off an enemy of the state.

    Political career with comedowns

    Saakashvili is known as a colorful political figure. He may well be the only stateless former head of state who has had each of his two citizenships revoked. His career has seen both dizzying heights and sudden downfalls. In 2003, he became president of the Republic of Georgia at the age of 36. Saakashvili reformed the country in the southern Caucasus at breakneck speed, turning the successor state to the Soviet Union into what could be called a neo-liberal model country. Yet as he pursued his agenda, his governance became increasingly authoritarian. In 2008, he got himself entangled in a war with Russia, as a result of which two separatist Georgian regions, Abkhazia and south Ossetia, were occupied by Russian troops.

    Firstly, Saakashvili was removed from power in Tbilisi in 2013. Two years later, he was even stripped of his home country’s citizenship. In May 2015, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko appointed him governor of the southern Ukrainian port city Odessa, which had gained notoriety for being a hub of corruption and crime. Saakashvili’s Ukrainian statehood was fast-tracked. His assignment was to clean up Odessa, and he failed. At the beginning of 2017 he turned up in Kyiv, founded a small liberal party (“Movement of New Forces”) and was very outspoken about his far-reaching political ambitions.

    Stripping of citizenship far-fetched

    At the end of July – at that time Saakashvili was visiting the US, the country in which he had studied law – the Ukrainian government revoked his citizenship in a surprise move. Even his opponents believe that the government’s justification is rather spurious: When he received Ukrainian statehood, Saakashvili had allegedly concealed the fact that he was under investigation by Georgian authorities. This, however, had been covered by all the newspapers at the time.

    The ambitious Saakashvili, who many say has the demeanor of an egomaniac, apparently can count on more supporters in Ukrainian politics than had been expected. Yulia Tymoshenko, likewise well-known as a politician with a checkered past – a former PM, then a prominent political prisoner, now busy as a populist opposition politician – cited “filthy politics” affecting Saakashvili. His expatriation, initiated by president Poroshenko, “discredits Ukraine in the eyes of the whole world.” But for Tymoshenko, accusing words are not enough.

    Showdown in the border area

    She is determined to travel to Krakovets on Sunday, accompanied by a group of some 30 members of the Ukrainian parliament (Rada), in order to welcome Saakashvili there. The ex-governor draws supporters from various political parties. The popular mayor of Lviv and chairman of the party Samopomich (Self-Reliance), Andriy Sadovyi, has also pledged support for Saakashvili. On the other hand, there have been reactions of fierce rejection: right-wing populist Oleh Lyashko openly calls for violence against Saakashvili if he dares to cross the “holy” Ukrainian border.

    Observers in Kyiv now ask themselves whether Saakashvili will even be able to enter the country. Or will he be turned away? If he succeeds to enter Ukraine, will he be arrested and extradited to Georgia, where the ex-president is wanted by the courts over alleged abuse of power? Kyiv has already received an extradition request from Tbilisi, which the ministry of justice has under review. Or will Saakashvili, aided by his supporters, be able to avoid detention? “People want to help me, because I want to help them. I put a lot of hope into Ukrainians. Together, we will defeat the mafia,” Saakashvili says, prior to the showdown at the Polish-Ukrainian border crossing.

    ———-

    “Mikhail Saakashvili plans march on Kyiv” by Christian Trippe; Deutsche Welle; 09/10/2017

    “The ambitious Saakashvili, who many say has the demeanor of an egomaniac, apparently can count on more supporters in Ukrainian politics than had been expected. Yulia Tymoshenko, likewise well-known as a politician with a checkered past – a former PM, then a prominent political prisoner, now busy as a populist opposition politician – cited “filthy politics” affecting Saakashvili. His expatriation, initiated by president Poroshenko, “discredits Ukraine in the eyes of the whole world.” But for Tymoshenko, accusing words are not enough.”

    Mikhail Saakashvili wants to return to Ukraine to lead an anti-Poroshenko, and he appears to have a surprising number allies. Including the mayor of Lviv:


    She is determined to travel to Krakovets on Sunday, accompanied by a group of some 30 members of the Ukrainian parliament (Rada), in order to welcome Saakashvili there. The ex-governor draws supporters from various political parties. The popular mayor of Lviv and chairman of the party Samopomich (Self-Reliance), Andriy Sadovyi, has also pledged support for Saakashvili. On the other hand, there have been reactions of fierce rejection: right-wing populist Oleh Lyashko openly calls for violence against Saakashvili if he dares to cross the “holy” Ukrainian border.

    So will Saakashvili succeed in at least the first phase of his plans? Getting back into Ukraine? Yep, he succeeded. With the help of thousands of supported who literally broke through a blockade at the Polish border:

    Deutsche Welle

    Mikhail Saakashvili’s return may spell trouble for Ukraine’s Poroshenko

    Roman Goncharenko, Oleksandr Holubov
    September 11, 2017

    The expatriated opposition polititian’s return to Ukraine has placed the fragile political stability under severe pressure. His conflict with President Poroshenko is escalating.

    It was a border transgression, quite literally. Although his Ukrainian citizenship was revoked, the prominent opposition politician and former Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili, crossed the Polish border at Shehyni on Sunday and returned to Ukraine.

    The circumstances were astonishing, even for a country like Ukraine, whose recent history is rich in scurrilous political incidents. Initially, the 49-year-old former governor of Odessa oblast attempted to enter the country by train, accompanied by a crowd of journalists. The Ukrainian train was stopped in Poland and the politician was requested to disembark. Saakashvili then traveled by bus to another border crossing, where his well-muscled supporters literally carried him over the border him over the border. The Ukrainian border guards appeared to be helpless.

    When friends become enemies

    This incident is a provisional peak in the conflict between Saakashvili and President Petro Poroshenko. It shows how, as is so often the case in Ukrainian politics, friends can become enemies.

    Poroshenko and Saakashvili know each other from their university years in Kyiv. During the 2004 “Orange Revolution” Saakashvili, as president of Georgia, supported the pro-Western Ukrainian election winner, Victor Yushchenko, who was a close associate of Poroshenko. Later, Saakashvili’s successful reforms made his country into a role model for many Ukrainians.

    After the change of power in Kyiv in 2014, Ukraine attempted an experiment and called on a number of politicians from Georgia to form the government. In 2015, Poroshenko named Saakashvili governor of the Black Sea region Odessa. But Kyiv’s much anticipated “miracle of Odessa” failed to materialize. Saakashvili stirred up Ukrainain politics, above all with verbal attacks. He initially brought serious corruption allegations against then-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and later against Poroshenko himself. In November 2016 Saakashvili handed in his resignation.

    Fear of extradition to Georgia

    In July, Poroshenko surprisingly revoked Saakashvili’s Ukrainian citizenship, which he himself had earlier conferred. The president justified this on the grounds that Saakashvili had not disclosed that there were criminal proceedings against him in Georgia. Saakashvili’s Georgian citizenship had already been revoked in 2015. In Georgia there are currently four criminal proceedings against Saakashvili, including abuse of office. He could be facing 11 years in jail. He has denied all allegations, calling it politically motivated justice. Now, Ukraine could hand Saakashvili over to Georgia. Poroshenko suggested this on Monday in his first statement after Saakashvili’s controversial return.

    During his border crossing, Saakashvili was accompanied by the former prime minister and opposition politician, Yulia Tymoshenko. She is demanding early elections and evidently hopes she will be able to count on Saakashvili’s help in the campaign against her archrival Poroshenko. Moreover, Saakashvili was received by the mayor of the western Ukrainian town of Lviv, Andriy Sadovyi, whose party “Self Reliance” is also in opposition. And not least, Saakashvili wants to defend himself in court against his deprivation of citizenship.

    An alliance against Poroshenko?

    Now in Ukraine speculation is rife about a possible alliance against Poroshenko, which other opposition politicians and parties could join. Tymoshenko, who is just behind Poroshenko is the polls, has suggested such an alliance.

    In Lviv he announced he would be going on an “auto tour” through Ukraine. His party, “Movement of New Forces,” has, until now, been in a low one-digit range in the polls. “Saakashvili used to be much more popular, his recent polling results have fallen dramatically,” says sociologist Irina Bekeshkina.

    The head of the “Democratic Initiatives” foundation, Bekeshkina believes that having his citizenship revoked has been a gift for Saakashvili’s image cultivation. She thinks that Saakashvili could theoretically be a driving force to help other parties. Nevertheless, Bekeshkina points out that Saakashvili is most interested in his own party.

    Severe image loss

    Critics are accusing both Poroshenko and Saakashvili of playing dangerous power games, which are putting Ukraine’s already fragile domestic political situation at risk. Many, mostly in the social media, appeared shocked and disgusted by the pictures from the border – especially considering the ongoing trench warfare in eastern Ukraine.

    “Saakashvili is fighting for his comeback,” says DW political expert, Oleksiy Haran of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. “But he is fighting for himself and not for Ukraine.” According to Haran, the incident at the border was destabilizing to the degree that one could consider it a provocation. The border proved to be completely unguarded against the sudden rush of pseudo-patriots, resulting in a “devastating” image loss.

    So far the EU has reacted cautiously to the events around Saakashvili’s return. “These are internal issues in Ukraine. Few western politicians want to get involved in these quarrels,” Gustav Gressel, of the Brussels think tank European Council on Foreign Relations, told DW. The expert called the legal proceedings in Georgia “purely political” and also criticized Saakashvili’s expatriation from Ukraine. “European countries don’t do these things,” said Gressel. “In the past this used to be done solely by communist regimes in Eastern Europe as a way of getting rid of dissidents.”

    ———-

    “Mikhail Saakashvili’s return may spell trouble for Ukraine’s Poroshenko” by Roman Goncharenko, Oleksandr Holubov; Deutsche Welle; 09/11/2017

    “The circumstances were astonishing, even for a country like Ukraine, whose recent history is rich in scurrilous political incidents. Initially, the 49-year-old former governor of Odessa oblast attempted to enter the country by train, accompanied by a crowd of journalists. The Ukrainian train was stopped in Poland and the politician was requested to disembark. Saakashvili then traveled by bus to another border crossing, where his well-muscled supporters literally carried him over the border him over the border. The Ukrainian border guards appeared to be helpless.

    Yep, Mikhail Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia and former governor of Odessa, literally rammed his way through a blockade of border guards into Ukraine for the stated goal of leading an anti-Poroshenko political movement. And it was just two years ago when Poroshenko named Saakashvili governor or Odessa. Oh how times change:


    When friends become enemies

    This incident is a provisional peak in the conflict between Saakashvili and President Petro Poroshenko. It shows how, as is so often the case in Ukrainian politics, friends can become enemies.

    Poroshenko and Saakashvili know each other from their university years in Kyiv. During the 2004 “Orange Revolution” Saakashvili, as president of Georgia, supported the pro-Western Ukrainian election winner, Victor Yushchenko, who was a close associate of Poroshenko. Later, Saakashvili’s successful reforms made his country into a role model for many Ukrainians.

    After the change of power in Kyiv in 2014, Ukraine attempted an experiment and called on a number of politicians from Georgia to form the government. In 2015, Poroshenko named Saakashvili governor of the Black Sea region Odessa. But Kyiv’s much anticipated “miracle of Odessa” failed to materialize. Saakashvili stirred up Ukrainain politics, above all with verbal attacks. He initially brought serious corruption allegations against then-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and later against Poroshenko himself. In November 2016 Saakashvili handed in his resignation.

    And while Porkoshenko and Saakashvili might no longer be friends, that hasn’t stopped Saakashvili from acquiring lots of other friends in Ukraine’s anti-Poroshenko political scene and now there’s speculation that Saakashvili is going to join a growing anti-Poroshenko alliance:


    During his border crossing, Saakashvili was accompanied by the former prime minister and opposition politician, Yulia Tymoshenko. She is demanding early elections and evidently hopes she will be able to count on Saakashvili’s help in the campaign against her archrival Poroshenko. Moreover, Saakashvili was received by the mayor of the western Ukrainian town of Lviv, Andriy Sadovyi, whose party “Self Reliance” is also in opposition. And not least, Saakashvili wants to defend himself in court against his deprivation of citizenship.

    An alliance against Poroshenko?

    Now in Ukraine speculation is rife about a possible alliance against Poroshenko, which other opposition politicians and parties could join. Tymoshenko, who is just behind Poroshenko is the polls, has suggested such an alliance.

    But it is difficult to say what the consequences of the illegal border crossing will be for Saakashvili. Poroshenko has promised there will be legal consequences for everyone involved. It is unclear whether Saakashvili will be able to mobilize supporters should he be allowed to stay in Ukraine.

    In Lviv he announced he would be going on an “auto tour” through Ukraine. His party, “Movement of New Forces,” has, until now, been in a low one-digit range in the polls. “Saakashvili used to be much more popular, his recent polling results have fallen dramatically,” says sociologist Irina Bekeshkina.

    The head of the “Democratic Initiatives” foundation, Bekeshkina believes that having his citizenship revoked has been a gift for Saakashvili’s image cultivation. She thinks that Saakashvili could theoretically be a driving force to help other parties. Nevertheless, Bekeshkina points out that Saakashvili is most interested in his own party.

    “Now in Ukraine speculation is rife about a possible alliance against Poroshenko, which other opposition politicians and parties could join. Tymoshenko, who is just behind Poroshenko is the polls, has suggested such an alliance.”

    It’s all a reminder that plans to get Petro Poroshenko thrown out of office over corruption charges aren’t limited to a politician like Andreii Artemenko with far-right party ties. There’s a whole circus of Ukrainian figures trying to make that happen. And the wannabe ring-leader of that circus, Mikhail Saakashvili, just broke into the country to lead that effort despite being a long-time friend of Poroshenko and someone to whom Poroshenko granted citizenship and installed as governor of Odessa just a couple years ago.

    It’s a reminder that Andreii Artemenko’s anti-Poroshenko ‘peace plan’ might have had a surprising amount of support. At least the part of about removing Poroshenko under a cloud of scandal.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 12, 2017, 1:32 pm
  7. It looks like Ukrainian authorities decided to go easier on Mikheil Saakashvili over his decision to literally force his way back into the country: A Ukrainian court fined Saakashvili $130 for the border crossing. And that appears to be the extent of it. Thus, the Saakashvili traveling circus (which appears to be trying to foment a new Maidan revolution scenario) goes on:

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

    Ringside With Saakashvili’s Traveling Political Circus

    September 22, 2017 20:01 GMT

    Christopher Miller

    DNIPRO/ZAPORIZHZHYA, Ukraine — If politics is a circus, then Mikheil Saakashvili is a ringmaster.

    It’s a sweltering 33 degrees Celsius on an Indian summer evening in Dnipro and the former Georgian president turned shamed former Ukrainian regional governor is again playing the role of political outsider fighting for the common man. He is in his element as he berates political foes, extols his own virtues, and pontificates in general to a crowd of rowdy supporters watched over by helpless local police who appear to see him as a confounding nuisance.

    One of the greatest showmen of post-communist European politics, Saakashvili has perfected this routine over the course of many years of politicking. There’s the glad-handing of supporters and the receiving of kisses from fawning elderly women; the cheeky grin that betrays a belief he has outmaneuvered his enemies; and the open-hand wave, with his arm extended high in the air in triumph, his eyes glowing with undisguised pride the whole time.

    Standing more than 1.8 meters tall and boasting a hulking frame, Saakashvili naturally commands attention in a crowd. He gets more of it here in delivering his demands, in Russian, to his former ally President Petro Poroshenko, who just months ago stripped Saakashvili of his citizenship after having played a huge role in bringing him on board to help forge Ukraine’s post-Euromaidan future as governor of Odesa Oblast.

    The spurned Saakashvili refers to the authorities in Kyiv collectively as “hucksters” with “less power” than the previous government of ex-President Viktor Yanukovych, who was run out of the country by the 2014 uprising. The underlying message: Change your ways or prepare to be overthrown.

    ‘Poroshenko Out!’.

    Saakashvili’s speech as he stumps for his new opposition party verge on a call for a new revolution, but he’s careful not to go so far. He says a better idea is to create a “calm force of the people” that will push authorities to implement reforms and a group of “300 Spartans” who will ensure these reforms go through in parliament.

    The crowd of supporters indicates they’re on board with shouts of “Poroshenko out!” and “Corruptioneers to jail!” They are mostly working class, middle-aged, and they refer to him as Misha, the diminutive of Mikheil. “Misha! Misha! Misha!” they chant when he delivers a good line. They all seem to begin their sentences with “Our Misha” when asked about him.

    One of them is Alina Borysivna, a pensioner who is not necessarily a fan of Saakashvili’s politics but dislikes the current central government and adores Georgian men. She says Saakashvili is “very handsome” and would prefer him over the current national leadership.

    Not everyone here is an admirer. Konstantin, a middle-aged man who elbows his way to the front of the crowd for a prime spot to shoot video of the event, says he’ll post a clip of the rally on YouTube. He hopes it will rack up thousands of views and earn him $100 or more, equal to roughly half of his monthly salary. Saakashvili, he explains, has the potential to bring him good money. “It’s a circus,” he says of Saakashvili’s recent national tour.

    In some ways, it does appear to be. As Saakashvili speaks, carnival music bellows from a turning carousel nearby, and circling the rally are three colorful clowns teetering on stilts. Nobody seems to know what their purpose is or where they came from, and they won’t say. But some point to the Dnipro mayor, Borys Filatov, as being behind their presence.

    ‘Mentally Ill’

    Ahead of Saakashvili’s arrival in Dnipro, Filatov, a fiery politician who is no fan of Saakashvili, posted to his personal Facebook page a signed order temporarily suspending a city ban on traveling circuses, just for Saakashvili. The order, which delved into the absurd and serves as an example of the carnival Ukrainian politics has become since Euromaidan, was also published on the official site of the Dnipro City Council.

    “I order the relevant [municipal] services to ensure the disinfection of the territory and the hygiene of the [Saakashvili] event,” said the mayor of the southeastern city formerly known as Dnipropetrovsk and nicknamed “rocket city” for its contribution to the Soviet Union’s space program. “I allocate additional janitors and specialists of the communal enterprise ‘Zoocontrol’ to catch stray animals for sterilization.”

    “I ask all local audiences not to offend the artists. Be lenient to the mentally ill,” he continued. “Let the circus remain a circus.”

    Saakashvili was quick to respond, publishing on his Facebook page a "letter of gratitude" in which he claimed to have been coordinating with an actual circus to bring along, adding that he’d make sure a slot was left open for Filatov himself to perform as part of a “troupe of meathead bastards.” Alas, Saakashvili arrived only with a small army of beefy, bearded bodyguards to escort him.

    Saakashvili’s Dnipro visit came almost two months after the loss of his Ukrainian citizenship while abroad effectively barred his return and prevented him from trying to make a run at political office in his once-adopted country.

    But no ban or border in Ukraine has managed to stop the Saakashvili show.

    On Sunday, September 10, at a western border crossing near Poland, border guards linked arms to form a human wall in an attempt to keep out Saakashvili, who had been plotting his return in Warsaw. He proved too strong for them, breaking through with the help of a rowdy group of supporters, and stepped back on Ukrainian soil. Ukrainian authorities say his entrance was illegal and claimed that 13 police officers and nine border guards were hurt amid the chaos at the border.

    “The people took me by the hand and returned me to Ukraine. It was the decision of the people,” Saakashvili told reporters, adding that Ukrainian law allowed for such an entrance under the circumstances.

    His case was heard at a district court in the western Lviv region. It resumed on September 22 but Saakashvili did not attend. In his absence, he was found guilty of illegally crossing the state border and ordered to pay a fine of 3,400 hryvnia (about $130) along with a court fee of 320 hryvnias (about $12). The circus traveled on.

    Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, said at the Yalta European Strategy (YES) conference in Kyiv on the weekend of September 16-17 that Saakashvili would not be arrested or extradited to Georgia, where he is wanted, in part, on corruption charges from the time he served as president there between 2004 and 2013. Saakashvili says the extradition request is politically motivated.

    The YES conference buzzed with rumors of Saakashvili possibly gate-crashing the event. Alas, he never showed, opting instead to wait until September 19, while Poroshenko was visiting the United Nations General Assembly and unable to stop him.

    No Plan In Sight

    Before he headed east, Saakashvili traveled to western cities like Lviv and Chernivtsi. In each place, he’s turned out noisy crowds of hundreds. He has no stated plans to stop soon, and has given no indication that he has a real plan at all. It seems he’s winging it.

    “I will travel a lot. I don’t have a passport so I cannot fly on a plane,” Saakashvili said in Kyiv. “I will travel by car, by stagecoach, I’ll hitchhike — but I will reach every Ukrainian.”

    Ukrainian and foreign media have been gripped by the drama, speculating what Saakashivili might be up to — a run at the presidency? From the look on his face, that’s exactly how Saakashvili likes it.

    “Clearly Misha Saakashvili is not going to disappear behind enemy lines. He will exhaust this incident for every molecule of PR he can before the effect fades and new headlining-grabbing stunts are required,” wrote the pseudonymous Odesa-based political and civil society consultant Nikolai Holmov, who blogs at Odessatalk.

    It’s also exactly what Poroshenko, a former university classmate turned Saakashvili foe, doesn’t want from the man who had managed reforms as Georgia’s president.

    But Poroshenko has only himself to blame for Saakashvili’s recent headline-grabbing act, many observers say.

    “He might have faded away,” Thomas de Waal, a senior fellow at Carnegie Europe, wrote of the embattled politician. “But Poroshenko then handed Saakashvili another chance to win the limelight by rashly depriving him of his Ukrainian citizenship on dubious grounds.”

    “The decision suggests a man who has decided to start to neutralize the opposition, but may have reenergized it instead,” de Waal said of the Ukrainian president’s approach.

    Indeed, Saakashvili and his political party — Movement of New Forces, formed shortly after he resigned as governor of the Odesa region — has suffered in the polls here, hovering around a miserable 1-2 percent in nearly every recent survey. That wouldn’t be enough to garner any seats in parliament if the elections were to be held now.

    While there’s no indication those numbers are going up due to recent events, there’s also no doubt Saakashvili is banking on his road show to boost his appeal.

    At the close of the hour-long Dnipro rally, Saakashvili posed for selfies with teens and pensioners alike before boarding a city bus and making his exit. Once aboard, he befriended a pensioner named Lyubov Danilivna, who invited him to her home for tea. The video of the meeting was immediately posted to Saakashvili’s Facebook page, where he boasts nearly 1 million followers, and his YouTube account, which has another 42,000. On Twitter, more than 262,000 users are following him.

    Saakashvili has used social media to his advantage. When he posts photos and videos, they often go viral on the Ukrainian Internet. The video of him boarding the Dnipro bus and going home with Lyubov had been viewed more than 227,000 times on Facebook and more than 70,000 times on YouTube at the time of this story’s publication.

    After Dnipro, Saakashvili was heading an hour south to industrial Zaporizhzhya, where he hoped to keep his momentum going.

    Ahead of his appearance, however, posters reading “The clown has arrived” had been hung on light posts and walls throughout the city. They showed a photoshopped image of Saakashvili dressed as a clown in a psychedelic wig and matching costume. A message on the posters read: “Meet the famous Georgian political clown in your city. A favorite of protesters, of trash, and fools.”

    ‘You’re Being Robbed’

    Standing atop a leopard-patterned soapbox, Saakashvili starts his speech by telling a group of some 400 people that he’s the guy who can raise their quality of life. Butter and milk; soap and mortgages; and rent and utilities are all too expensive, he says, and it’s the government’s fault.

    “You’re being robbed,” he says. He says Ukraine will be lost for good to powerful oligarchs and life for ordinary citizens will get worse, unless they throw their full support behind him.

    Before departing, Saakashvili tells the crowd in Zaporizhzhya, he’ll join a rally in Kyiv on October 17th, when opposition parties and civil society activists will gather to demand immediate action on anticorruption reforms and the removal of lawmakers’ immunity from prosecution. He asks for their support.

    “We have to bring order. We must express our demands to the authorities or the group of people who call themselves the authorities, but in reality, they are ordinary hucksters,” Saakashvili says. And with that, he disappears into a shiny, silver SUV with Georgian plates.

    ———-

    “Ringside With Saakashvili’s Traveling Political Circus” by Christopher Miller; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; 09/22/2017

    Saakashvili has used social media to his advantage. When he posts photos and videos, they often go viral on the Ukrainian Internet. The video of him boarding the Dnipro bus and going home with Lyubov had been viewed more than 227,000 times on Facebook and more than 70,000 times on YouTube at the time of this story’s publication.”

    The guy knows how to put on a show, whether it’s a literal traveling political circus or a social media show. And yet he doesn’t actually appear to be all that popular:


    But Poroshenko has only himself to blame for Saakashvili’s recent headline-grabbing act, many observers say.

    “He might have faded away,” Thomas de Waal, a senior fellow at Carnegie Europe, wrote of the embattled politician. “But Poroshenko then handed Saakashvili another chance to win the limelight by rashly depriving him of his Ukrainian citizenship on dubious grounds.”

    “The decision suggests a man who has decided to start to neutralize the opposition, but may have reenergized it instead,” de Waal said of the Ukrainian president’s approach.

    Indeed, Saakashvili and his political party — Movement of New Forces, formed shortly after he resigned as governor of the Odesa region — has suffered in the polls here, hovering around a miserable 1-2 percent in nearly every recent survey. That wouldn’t be enough to garner any seats in parliament if the elections were to be held now.

    While there’s no indication those numbers are going up due to recent events, there’s also no doubt Saakashvili is banking on his road show to boost his appeal.

    1-2 percent in polls. It’s not exactly Maidan-caliber public support. Still, the circus continues and it’s a circus with a message “the corrupt establishment must go, or else!” Or else what? Or else Ukraine will continue to break up, according to Saakashvili. That’s what Saakashvili is now predicting: more separatist regions if Ukraine doesn’t fix its corruption problem. And the only thing that can prevent such a scenario is massive economic growth, according to Saakashvili. Double digit growth. If Ukraine can achieve that massive economic growth the separatist regions will be so wowed that they’ll voluntarily choose to rejoin the country and peace will return. That’s Saakashvili’s message, along with the message that he’s not at all interested in running for office again. He’s going to be focused on consolidating the political opposition instead:

    The Telegraph

    Ukraine will break up unless government fights corruption, Saakashvili warns

    Matthew Day, in Warsaw

    24 September 2017 • 7:29pm

    Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president who went on to become a leading Ukrainian politician, has warned Ukraine “will continue to break up” unless the government improves the economy and reins in the scourge of corruption that has blighted the country since independence.

    Made stateless after Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s president, rescinded his Ukrainian citizenship in July the 49-year-old Saakashvili made a dramatic to return to Ukraine earlier this month when a crowd of supporters broke through police lines on the Ukrainian-Polish border and swept him back into the country illegally.

    Now back in his adopted home despite his lack of a Ukrainian passport he is travelling around the country, determined to be a thorn in the flesh of a government he feels has done too little to tackle corruption and improve the economy.

    Without reform, he says, the government risks failing to hold a country together that has already lost control of territory to Russian-backed separatist in the east.

    “If Ukraine doesn’t change it will continue to break up,” he told The Telegraph. “You go to the east and you see whole cities that no longer trade with Russia and are really in a desperate situation. They don’t have any prospects and there is no light at the end of the tunnel for them.

    “If you keep economic growth as it is now, if you keep corruption as it now then Ukraine is going to lose further territories in the east and the south because people will be simply fed up,” he continued.

    Mr Saakashvili also confirmed that he no longer seeks political office in Ukraine, saying that he only wanted to unite the opposition and find new political leaders.

    “I don’t want any position—president or prime minister,” he said. “Doing that gives me the chance to bring the opposition together because they don’t see me as a competitor.

    “I want to consolidate the opposition, and, anyway, at the moment I’m not even a citizen of Ukraine.”

    His decision to spurn the calling of high-office is another twist in the story of a politician who rose to prominence on the world stage, first as a reforming Georgian leader and then as the country’s defiant president during its war with Russia in 2008.

    But he suffered a dramatic fall from grace after Georgian authorities accused him of abuse-of-office charges. A wanted man back home he moved to Ukraine and became Odessa governor in 2015 before quitting, claiming Mr Poroshenko was failing to push through the reforms needed to breathe life into an economy shackled by red-tape and corruption.

    “The only chance Ukraine has is to have double-digit economic growth, and this will show the east and the south of the country, and the whole of Ukraine, that there is a future,” he told The Telegraph. “What the government is doing now is not enough.”

    So far the government has appeared, publically at least, indifferent to Mr Saakashvili’s presence in Ukraine despite its efforts to keep him out of the country.

    ———-

    “Ukraine will break up unless government fights corruption, Saakashvili warns” by Matthew Day; The Telegraph; 09/24/2017

    “Without reform, he says, the government risks failing to hold a country together that has already lost control of territory to Russian-backed separatist in the east.”

    If Saakashvili’s anti-corruption (really, anti-Poroshenko) campaign fails, Ukraine will break up further. It’s quite a way to up the ante in Saakashvili’s rhetoric. And the chance is for double-digit economic growth:


    “If Ukraine doesn’t change it will continue to break up,” he told The Telegraph. “You go to the east and you see whole cities that no longer trade with Russia and are really in a desperate situation. They don’t have any prospects and there is no light at the end of the tunnel for them.

    “If you keep economic growth as it is now, if you keep corruption as it now then Ukraine is going to lose further territories in the east and the south because people will be simply fed up,” he continued.

    “The only chance Ukraine has is to have double-digit economic growth, and this will show the east and the south of the country, and the whole of Ukraine, that there is a future,” he told The Telegraph. “What the government is doing now is not enough.”

    That message is now Mikheil Saakashvili’s mission in life. Because he’s not running for office anymore. Now it’s just about consolidating the opposition:


    “I don’t want any position—president or prime minister,” he said. “Doing that gives me the chance to bring the opposition together because they don’t see me as a competitor.

    “I want to consolidate the opposition, and, anyway, at the moment I’m not even a citizen of Ukraine.”

    And let’s not forget which prominent opposition figure traveled with Saakashvili from Poland to the Ukrainian-Poland border: Yulia Tymoshenko. And, of course, there’s also the opposition in the form of the far-right parties like Right Sector/Pravy Sektor and the figures like Andreii Artemenko who tried to peddle a ‘peace plan’ that involved ousting Poroshenko on corruption charges. So we probably shouldn’t be surprised if Saakashvili tries to unite the neo-Nazi far-right branch of the opposition like Right Sector with Tymoshenko’s faction? Especially given the presence of Right Sector members at a Saakashvili rally in Kiev back in November where he declared his lack of confidence in the government. But for now Saakashvili appears to be focusing his message on vague complains about corruption and the need for massive economic growth, which could be an indication that he has plans but doesn’t want to reveal them yet or might simply reflect that he has no plans and is just making things up as he goes along. We’ll have to wait and see. And watch the circus.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 26, 2017, 1:15 pm
  8. October 14th, “Defender of Ukraine Day”, just came and went in Ukraine. That’s the day to celebrate the founding of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) army that became an official public holiday a few years ago in response to the conflict with Russia. Last year’s march saw the formation of the Azov Battalion’s new political party, the National Corp party. So what did this year bring? Well, there wasn’t a new party formed, but Svoboda (the Freedom Party), Right Sector, and National Corp did manage to get 20,000 people to march through Kiev:

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

    Nationalists Mark 75th Anniversary Of Ukrainian Insurgent Army

    October 14, 2017 19:08 GMT

    Thousands of Ukrainian nationalists have marched through the capital, Kyiv, to mark the 75th anniversary of the creation of the controversial Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).

    March organizers said as many as 20,000 people participated in the October 14 march, which was supported by the right-wing Freedom, Right Sector, and National Corp political parties.

    Some 5,000 police were on hand to keep order. Journalists reported seeing some marchers giving Nazi salutes.

    Since 2015, the October 14 anniversary has been marked as the Defender of Ukraine Day public holiday.

    The UPA was founded in western Ukraine during the Nazi occupation of the country in World War II and fought against both the Nazis and the Soviet Red Army. Its fighters carried out vicious acts of ethnic cleansing in which tens of thousands of ethnic Poles in the region were killed.

    ———-

    “Nationalists Mark 75th Anniversary Of Ukrainian Insurgent Army”; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; 10/14/2017

    “Some 5,000 police were on hand to keep order. Journalists reported seeing some marchers giving Nazi salutes.

    Yeah, when Ukraine’s three biggest neo-Nazi parties arrange a march of 20,000 people to celebrate a group like the UPA, which was operating as an arm of the Waffen SS and enthusiastically carrying out ethnic cleansing in anticipation of setting up its own ethno-nationalist state, there’s probably going to be some Nazi salutes. It’s to be expected.

    But it’s worth noting that this year’s Defender of Ukraine Day wasn’t exclusively about celebrating the WWII-era far right. Symon Petliura, who led the slaughter of 50,000 Jews following WWI, got a new statue in his honor. Next to a synagogue that is still in operation:

    Jewish Telegraph Agency

    Ukraine honors nationalist leader blamed for Jewish pogroms

    October 16, 2017 2:20pm

    (JTA) — Ukraine unveiled a statue for a nationalist leader who guided a regime that killed tens of thousands of Jews in pogroms during the Russian Revolution.

    The memorial for Symon Petliura was unveiled Saturday in Vinnitsa, a city in the western part of the nation, on Defender of Ukraine Day, a national holiday, the RT news site reported. It is located in an area once known as Yerusalimka, or Jerusalem, and located next to a small synagogue that is still in operation.

    The statue, which RT calls the first official monument to Petliura, though there is a bust of the early 20th-century leader in the capital, shows him sitting on a bench with a map of the country in his hands.

    During Petliura’s time as head of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, 35,000 to 50,000 Jews were killed in a series of pogroms between 1918 and 1921.

    Petliura was killed in 1926 by a Ukrainian-born Jewish watchmaker, Sholom Schwartzbard, who was acquitted by a French court that ruled he was acting in the heat of the moment after 15 of his relatives were killed in the pogroms.

    ———-

    “Ukraine honors nationalist leader blamed for Jewish pogroms”; Jewish Telegraph Agency; 10/16/2017

    The memorial for Symon Petliura was unveiled Saturday in Vinnitsa, a city in the western part of the nation, on Defender of Ukraine Day, a national holiday, the RT news site reported. It is located in an area once known as Yerusalimka, or Jerusalem, and located next to a small synagogue that is still in operation.”

    So that also happened on Defender of Ukraine Day.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 17, 2017, 3:02 pm
  9. Not surprisingly, now that Ukraine decided to formally honor Symon Petliura, whose troops killed tens of thousands of Jewish civilians in pogroms following WWI, with a statue not far from a synagogue a number of Ukrainian Jews are raising their voices in protest.

    And, of course, the far right is protesting those protests. For example, check out the response from a Svoboda regional leader. It’s also not a surprising response, at least it’s not surprising as long as you are expecting Svoboda’s leaders to act like the Nazis they are:

    Defending History

    Regional Leader of Ukraine’s Svoboda Party Threatens Jews who Disagree with a Public Monument for Pogrom-meister Petliura

    23 October 2017

    UKRAINE | ANTISEMITISM | FREE SPEECH | GLORIFICATION OF CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY

    As reported last week, in connection with a protest from the World Jewish Congress, authorities in Ukraine recently inaugurated a statue to Symon Petliura in the city of Vinnitsa. Petliura (1879—1926) was a Ukrainian whose troops killed tens of thousands of Jewish civilians in a devastating series of pogroms in Ukraine during the Russian Revolution and the civil war that followed it.

    Not surprisingly, quite a few Ukrainian Jews objected to the Petliura statue, especially as it was erected within a short distance of a still functioning Jewish synagogue. While it seems perfectly reasonable that many Jews might have an issue with a statue to Petliura, not everyone appreciated Ukrainian Jews’ expressing their objections.

    In a Facebook rant, a regional leader of the extremist Svoboda party, whose leader was once photographed making the Nazi salute, issued a bloodcurdling Facebook threat to Ukraine’s Jews, telling them to fall in line or face the consequences. Below is the Svoboda leader’s post in English translation with our comments, followed by a screen-shot of the original. Jewish activists plan to complain to the police, but given recent precedent it is considered doubtful that any serious action will be taken.

    Translation of the Svoboda post with commentary added in square brackets [ ]:

    Again, these people are interfering with our country!!! “Peacefully coexisted” — Is that when they organized the Holodomor?!!! [the charge that “the Jews” caused the early 1930s Holodomor famine in Ukraine is a recurring antisemitic trope in Ukraine]. And now Israel won’t acknowledge the massive killing of Ukrainians [in the Holodomor] as genocide!???

    “The only time we comfortably coexisted with kikes is in Kolivshina [an 18th century pogrom in which Ukrainians butchered Jews — he is saying that this massacre was the only time Ukrainians and Jews coexisted happily].

    “I hope Ukrainians will remember who is in charge of their land, and put all minorities in their place!!! Do not tell us how to live and to whom to put up monuments in our land. Do not tell us which language to speak and in which language to educate our children!!! We are Ukrainians! That’s all you need to know — you are guests. If you want to live next to us, then get used to our rules; if not, go to your places [go to other nations], or else you’ll be punished.

    [see screenshot of Facebook post]

    ———-

    “Regional Leader of Ukraine’s Svoboda Party Threatens Jews who Disagree with a Public Monument for Pogrom-meister Petliura”; Defending History; 10/23/2017

    ““I hope Ukrainians will remember who is in charge of their land, and put all minorities in their place!!! Do not tell us how to live and to whom to put up monuments in our land. Do not tell us which language to speak and in which language to educate our children!!! We are Ukrainians! That’s all you need to know — you are guests. If you want to live next to us, then get used to our rules; if not, go to your places [go to other nations], or else you’ll be punished.””

    Don’t complain about the statues glorifying the guy who led anti-Jewish pogroms or you’ll be driven out of the country or face other forms of punishment. Spoken like a true Nazi.

    It’s a reminder that all of these acts to commemorate whitewash butchers, like having an official moment of silence on national TV to commemorate the 90th anniversary of Petliura’s assassination, aren’t just distorting the memory of what these people did in the past. It’s also normalizing what they did in the past so it can happen again.

    So don’t forget, the whitewashing of history in Ukraine isn’t just happening out a spirit of hyper-nationalism in the midst of a civil war. It’s being pushed by groups like Svoboda that are direct descendants of the organization that actually executed the history that’s currently being whitewashed and who now want a Ukrainian public brainwashed enough to repeat the this history in the future.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 23, 2017, 2:55 pm

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