Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
The statements made by nationalists – that they want to walk around Kiev on May 9th with portraits of troops from the SS “Galicia” division – provoked a lot of noise. Initially only one action was supposed to take place in Kiev for the 73rd anniversary of the Great Victory – the “Immortal Regiment“, which has taken place on May 9th for several years in a row – people march with portraits of their fathers and grandfathers who fought during the Great Patriotic War.
The march of nationalists with portraits of SS troops can provoke a conflict between the two sides.
The situation was analysed by “Strana”.
There is no unity among nationalists
“In ‘support’ of the vatnik’s propaganda-happening “Immortal Regiment”, we initiate the action ‘Immortal Division’. On the 8th and 9th of May with portraits of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers from the ‘Galicia’ division we must convince vatniks that their regiment isn’t so immortal,” declared the leader of “Bratstvo” Dmitry Korchinsky on his Facebook page.
Three years ago, on the eve of May 9th, on the air of channel “112” he already threatened those who consider Victory Day as a holiday. “In Dagestan, even today, policemen are being killed. How are we any worse? Let’s do it, and in addition, it is interesting! It is our land. You see patriots with weapons, they already exist…,” said Korchinsky.
A year ago Korchinsky on his Facebook page asked police officers to smash up the “Inter” TV channel, which broadcasted a festive marathon on Victory Day.
“On May 9th, I watched the ‘Inter’ TV channel and saw an armed Soviet vatnik on the screen! Dear National police, please storm the ‘Inter’ TV channel, smash up the office and beat up everyone there. They are no less dangerous than the guys at the HQ of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) with who you did what I asked you to do with ‘Inter’,” he wrote.
This year the opinions of nationalists concerning how radically they should act against the “Immortal Regiment” are divided.
“Right Sector” and “Svoboda” in a conversation with “Strana” stated that they don’t support the initiative of “Bratstvo” concerning the SS “Galicia” division, although they will survey the “Immortal Regiment”.
The press secretary of “Right Sector” Artem Skoropadsky called Korchinsky a provoker: “In fact, the day of memory of the ‘Galicia’ division is not on May 8th or 9th (April 28th). If some elderly grandfathers want to lay flowers at monuments on May 9th, please do so. Although I don’t consider this day as a holiday, it would be good to ban altogether. It’s quite another matter if, for example, communists appear with their own symbols or St. George’s Ribbons forbidden in Ukraine. We will be engaged with them. Although this should be the work of law enforcement bodies – this same SBU”.
“Svoboda” are in a similar position
“I think it was irony on the part of Korchinsky. ‘Svoboda’ isn’t a part of ‘Bratstvo’, which in turn doesn’t belong to the nationalist association (“Svoboda”, “National Corpus”, and ‘Right Sector’, which concluded an alliance with each other). On May 8th we will speak about the day of reconciliation and remember all Ukrainians who perished in World War II, and especially those Ukrainians who fought for the independence of Ukraine under the Ukrainian banner,” said the deputy chairman of the “Svoboda“ party, the deputy of the Kiev City Council Yury Sirotyuk to “Strana”.
“Strana” tried to receive a comment from Korchinsky about how he evaluates the accusations of other nationalist forces – that he tries to arrange a provocation for May 9th, but the politician at the time of publication didn’t answer our questions.
At the same time, the Volunteer Rukh of OUN headed by Nikolay Kokhanovsky already announced an event – a “mortal regiment”. As a reminder, in 2017 OUN already tried to prevent the inhabitants of Kiev from carrying out a procession in honor of the Victory Day. However, since the morning the police came into the HQ of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists and blocked the building so that the participants of the event didn’t go outside. The police brought some of the supporters of OUN who showed resistance to the Pechersky district station.
Currently Kokhanovsky submitted an application for the holding of a “public patrol” action in the center of Kiev on Victory Day, with the total number of participants being 84 persons. According to him, the purpose of the action is to not allow the use of communist symbols forbidden in Ukraine – St. George’s Ribbons, red banners, Stalin and Lenin’s portraits – by any participants of the “Immortal Regiment” event.
“We will act quickly and decisively,” it is said in Kokhanovsky’s statement.
Also, according to the sources of “Strana” in nationalist circles, some other radical organisations plan to carry out actions against the “Immortal Regiment” – C14, in particular.
“On May 9th nationalists will take to the streets of Kiev. Although, perhaps, the leaders of their parties won’t officially call for anything, in order to not run into new accusations from the authorities and the West,” said a source among radicals.
“The authorities don’t need provocations”
The experts questioned by “Strana” believe that, despite all the threats to disrupt the Victory Day celebration in Ukraine, the authorities will try to not allow large-scale provocations.
More than 7 months prior to the official start of the presidential electoral campaign, such conflicts in the center of the Ukrainian capital will only bring down the president’s approval rating.
Moreover, despite the State’s policy of abandoning the celebration of Victory Day, May 9th remains an important event for Ukrainians. According to the poll carried out last year by the “Rating” group, more than 80% of Ukrainians honour this holiday and consider it to be important.
Thus, 82% of respondents noted the essential value of the holiday, 9% called it a normal day or a day off, and only 7% called it a remnant of the past.
“We remember that last year Kokhanovsky tried to use this topic for PR purposes, but the police prevented a conflict. It is obvious that this year the authorities aren’t especially interested in shaking the situation. In any opinion polls 80% of Ukrainians consider Victory Day to be a great holiday. That’s why radicals and nationalists can only target an insignificantly small audience. For big politicians, opposing Victory Day is to doom themselves to a lower approval rating. Those who count on a small radical electorate try to do this,” said the political scientist Ruslan Bortnik to “Strana”. “Nevertheless, the risk of provocations is high. After all, what prevents one idiot from putting something in a trash can or another idiot using weapons against the “Immortal Regiment”. Another thing is that these provocations are not in the interests of the authorities today. We understand that there is no unity in the government, that the power wing is shattered between different groups of influence, but neither Poroshenko nor Avakov need problems because of May 9th”.
“It is telling that other nationalists don’t want to go hand in hand with Korchinsky. It even became obvious for other nationalists that Korchinsky – in this situation – is a professional provoker. Coming out with portraits of the ‘Galicia’ division is a purely provocative idea. This is already too much. Attempts to disrupt the event – it is difficult to imagine a bigger gift for Russia. And on May 9th, 2018, such provocations are needed least of all by the authorities. Of course, nationalists actively had a hand in pushing forward the conflict in Ukraine, the line is very close where when crossed a serious conflict can arrive. But it seems to me that rather drastic measures will be taken in order to not cross the line. Especially taking into account the recent letter of the American senators concerning the growth of anti-Semitism in Ukraine and the rigid reaction from the American Embassy towards the anti-Semitic statements of nationalists in Odessa. If in Kiev on May 9th there is a march in support of ‘Galicia’, it can be perceived in the West as an open challenge, which the Ukrainian authorities obviously don’t need now,” said the political scientist Andrey Zolotarev to “Strana”.
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