In early January torch marches were held in Kiev and a number of other cities of Ukraine in honour of the birthday of the idol of local nationalists Stepan Bandera. This caused sharp resentment from Israel, as well as neighbouring Poland, whose Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Bartosz Cichocki, publicly expressed concern about what had happened. On January 8th the Ambassador was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and his attention was drawn to the “counterproductive public discussion on internal issues of Ukrainian politics”. Meanwhile, Ukrainian nationalists openly declare their plans to integrate with other Eastern European states, including Poland. In addition, a Latvian website, which had previously specialised in the harassment of the Russian opposition in the country, published a big article dedicated to the strong ties of Latvian and Ukrainian right-wing radicals. It turned out that they have a lot in common – they and others see themselves as participants in a “reconquista” designed to free Europe from the power of the “decadence” that engulfed it. It also turns out that Ukrainian nationalists are simultaneously actively establishing ties with like-minded people from Germany, Poland, and Croatia. According to experts, the rapid growth of neo-Nazism in modern Europe has already become a steady trend. The details are below.
Their own people
As a matter of fact, the close ties between Ukrainian and Latvian neo-Nazis did not constitute a secret. For example, the Russian-language press reported that in September 2018 the Embassy of Ukraine in Latvia organised and held several events with the participation of members of the ultra-right party “Svoboda” and “National Corpus“, which stems from the “Azov” regiment. Guests from Kiev attended a number of events in Latvia and spoke at the Ukrainian Embassy in Riga. The meeting was addressed by the member of the “Svoboda” Political Council and Deputy Chairman of the Kiev Regional Council Yury Noevy, and member of the Council of the National Corps Elena Semenyaka. Among other guests there were the chargé d’affaires of Ukraine in Latvia Alisa Podolyak and the chairwoman of the Latvian Society for Support of Ukraine Tatiyana Lazda, who was engaged in coordinating the visit of “Svoboda” and “National Corpus” members.
A similar event took place in the People’s House of the Latvian city of Bauska. Here Ukrainian Nazis were welcomed by the deputy of the local self-government Raitis Ābelnieks, who is part of the Latvian “National Alliance“. In the central hall of this institution, an improvised memorial decorated with embroidered towels was decorated – it was dedicated to four citizens of Latvia who joined Ukrainian volunteer battalions and died in the ATO (it is worth noting that serving as a part of the Donbass militia is criminalised in Latvia). Hung around were the flags of the notorious volunteer Ukrainian corps “Right Sector“. “The host side is the Latvian ultra-right from ‘National Alliance’, which is a part of the ruling coalition and interested in radical anti-Russian projects. Ukrainian neo-Nazis, who were brought to imbue the ‘Latvian spirit’ not only in ethnographic “duty” places, but also in the Saeima, were indirectly used for propaganda among the Latvian electorate on the eve of the October parliamentary election,” said Vladimir Simindey, head of research programs of the Historical Memory Foundation.
Among those who attended the reception in Bauska was the Chairman of the Society of General Pēteris Radziņš, Major Agris Purviņš, who had previously commanded the 54th Engineering and Technical Battalion of the Latvian paramilitary National Guard group. The Secretary General of “National Alliance”, Raivis Zeltīts, and a deputy from this party, Edvīns Šnore, notorious for comparing Russians living in Latvia to lice, were also present. During the joint speech with Semenyaka, Ābelnieks stressed that Ukrainian and Latvian fighters for the “national idea” have a common view of the world.
Deputy Chairman of the Committee on International Affairs of the “Rodina” party Vladimir Laktyushin points out that Ukrainian Nazis are systematically building relations with the power structures of the Baltic states, choosing organisations of a “militia” nature that are close to them in terms of spirit and format.
“In the summer of 2017, ‘Azov’ reported that members of ‘National Corpus’ went to Estonia to share their experience with the local Ministry of Internal Affairs and ‘Estonian Defence League’, participating even in joint road patrols with them. Almost synchronously with this, representatives of ‘National Corpus’ held an event in Warsaw with the participation of the head of the ‘Academic Legions’ – quite numerous paramilitary groups cooperating with the Polish Ministry of Defence, up to and including participation in army manoeuvres. In 2018, a series of visits of delegations of the ‘Azov’ party to Lithuania and reciprocal visits of commanders of ‘Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union’ to Ukraine took place,” informed Laktyushin.
Earlier, when the Latvian semi-official press wrote about such facts, they presented them in an apologetic spirit, like saying: fighters for Ukraine’s independence from “aggressive Russia” arrived. And suddenly the widely known Baltic Center for Investigative Journalism “Re:Baltica” (among those who sponsored this organisation there is George Soros‘ Open Society Foundation) published a damning article about the ties between Ukrainian and Latvian radicals! In order to understand the degree of cognitive dissonance of the readers of the website, it should be explained that one of the main topics that “Re:Baltica” specialises in is the defamation of representatives of the Russian opposition of Latvia who are constantly accused of having “ties with the Kremlin”. The nature and content of many articles leave no doubt that this collective of “independent journalists” cooperates with the security services of Latvia, which use it as a “leaking hole”. And suddenly this “hole” played actually on the side of the notorious “Kremlin propaganda”!
What exactly does “Re:Baltica” write about? According to an article published by the resource, the head of the Latvian “National Alliance” Raivis Zeltīts believes that over time the European Union “will collapse into several regional blocs with the formal preservation of unity”. One of these blocs, called “Intermarium“, is grouped around Poland. Then Russia will disintegrate, and Western Europe will be captured by Islamists. And only “Intermarium”, which extends from the Crimean beaches to the Gulf of Riga, will remain standing as an unbreakable stronghold of European civilisation and the centre of a new formation that Zeltīts calls Europe of Nations. Not only standing, but also expanding to the east at the expense of the collapsed Russia, writes “Re:Baltica”. Zeltīts outlined this prediction on the “New Nationalism” website, which positions itself as a “national conservative” publication for the “free-thinking people of the Intermarium region”.
“Re:Baltica” found out that in addition to Zeltīts himself, his “National Alliance” colleague Dace Kalnina, as well as the aforementioned Elena Semenyaka, are authors of the website “New Nationalism”. Ukrainian extremists from “National Corpus” and “Azov” are convinced supporters of “Intermarium”. “Our idea is that we are not East and not West, we are Intermarium, Balto-Black Sea commonality,” said the leader of Ukrainian Nazis Andrey Biletsky in an interview with “Fokus” magazine in 2016. The program of the “National Corpus” headed by him states that instead of joining the European Union, Ukraine should become “the basis of a Balto-Black Sea alliance of new European unity”.
Thanks to friends from the Latvian “National Alliance”, “Azov” members gained access to the HQ of the Latvian Army, military bases, and the parliament of the country. Raivis Dzintars, co-chairman of “National Alliance”, told the journalist of “Re:Baltica” that his party members had been in contact with “Azov” members as private individuals and that Zeltīts’ geopolitical views did not characterise the politics and ideological attitudes of the entire party. In his opinion, “Azov” members, apparently, “saved Latvia from a Russian invasion, stopping the enemy near Mariupol“. The only representative of “National Alliance” in direct contact with “Azov” who agreed to speak with “Re:Baltica” said that he does not share the extremist component of the ideology of his Ukrainian friends, but he considers an interracial war in the future in Europe quite likely.
The aforementioned Agris Purviņš also repeatedly came to Ukraine. Once again, it should be specified that Purviņš is not the last person to be in the “National Guard”, a paramilitary formation in the ranks of volunteers (National Guardsmen), from among the citizens of Latvia, learning military skills in their free time from their main work. Now there are 8,300 people in the National Guard, and the Latvian authorities plan to increase their number in the coming years to 10,000-12,000. Recently, Latvian Defence Minister Artis Pabriks said that “the role of National Guardsmen in Latvian defence is growing and in the future the Ministry plans to transfer to them more serious equipment”. For example, armoured vehicles that have so far only been with the national Armed Forces.
In search of adherents
A separate question: Why did “Re:Baltica” publish such a controversial article? Until a certain moment, the interests of Latvian right-wing radicals and the state coincided. The state was diligently engaged in the persecution of the Russian language and destroyed Russian-speaking education – with the full approval and direct participation of radicals. But further interests started to diverge. The bulk of Latvia’s ruling elite is entirely tied to the “big brother” represented by NATO, the United States, and the EU, to be a cog in the huge machine of “transatlantic solidarity”. And then some nationalists dream of some “Intermarum”, about a “war of races”, about the “reconquest of Europe”. That’s why they decided to rein them in. At first – relatively softly. Nevertheless, the article made Latvian nationalists furious, and they demanded to deport from Latvia one of the co-authors of the text – the native of Russia Leonid Ragozin.
With the representatives of which other countries do they try to build cooperation with the Ukrainian “Azov”? Political scientist Vladislav Maltsev, author of the book “The Phenomenon of Azov” (2017) and the report “International Contacts of the Azov Regiment” (2019), told “Izvestiya” that over the past few years “National Corpus”, which is the political wing of the “Azov movement”, has moved from interaction with marginal right-wing radical groups of Western and Eastern Europe to working with parliamentary political parties or at least political projects and individual politicians close to this . According to the expert, cooperation is carried out within the framework of the initiative “Intermarium”, which was launched in 2016 by “National Corpus”, which stipulates the gradual creation of a military-economic bloc of Eastern European countries around Ukraine, which would be a counterbalance to both Russia and the unpopular among nationalists European Union.
Maltsev notes that in Germany the priority partner of “National Corpus” is “Young Nationalists” – the youth wing of the National Democratic Party of Germany (Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands, NPD).
“NPD for all the half a century of its existence has never been represented In the Bundestag, but in the last two decades it has regularly successfully contested Landtag elections in the lands of East Germany, and in 2014 it managed to hold one deputy to the European Parliament. The International Secretary of ‘National Corpus’ Elena Semenyaka took part in the Pan-European Congress ‘REgeneration.EUROPA’, held by ‘Young Nationalists’ on May 11th-12th 2018 in the city of Riesa near Dresden. In turn, representatives of ‘Young Nationalists’ visited the march in honour of the anniversary of the establishment of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army that took place on October 14th 2018 in Kiev,” explains Vladislav Maltsev.
In neighboring Poland, according to the specialist, the main partner of “National Corpus” so far is the local “Association of Academic Legions”.
“Academic Legions (Legia Akademicka) are established at universities and train students as junior reserve officers (with training taking place during holidays in military schools and units) and participate in manoeuvres with the Polish Armed Forces. In particular, the Vice-President of the Association Damian Duda participated in the second and third conferences on the creation of ‘Intermarium’, held by ‘National Corpus’ in Kiev on April 27th 2017 and October 13th 2018, respectively. And in the second of them Duda sat on the presidium,” said the analyst.
He especially notes that representatives of ‘National Corpus” and “UNA-UNSO” spoke at the conference “Fragments of the Empire”, held on November 25th-26th 2017 in the Column Hall of the Polish Sejm. The co-organiser of the conference was the deputy from the ruling Polish party “Law and Justice” and Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Sejm Małgorzata Gosiewskа, who is also an expert of the Office of the President of Poland. In 2019 Gosiewskа was elected Deputy Speaker of the Polish Sejm. However, there is no information about direct cooperation between “National Corpus” and Gosiewski.
In February 2019, it was mentioned on “Azov” Internet resources that the Polish side invited representatives of the “National Corpus” and the “Azov” regiment to a forum in Lublin. Maltsev cites another similar event. In early March 2019 the commander of “National Druzhina” (affiliated with the “National Corpus” party as the combat wing of the latter), former “Azov” commander Igor Mikhailenko, in a conversation with a journalist of the “Babel” website, mentioned: “I have experience in creating voluntary formations and countering hybrid war, I sometimes give paid consultations. Abroad they are very expensive. Soon I have to go to Poland to present there my vision of the new territorial defence of Ukraine.”
Another country that the Ukrainian ultra-right is trying to build cooperation with is Croatia. So far, however, this process has been complicated by the fact that Croatian radical nationalists are in crisis and their parties are not represented in Parliament. On December 9th 2017 Elena Semenyaka met with independent nationalist deputy and retired General Željko Glasnović at a conference organised at the Catholic University (Zagreb). Glasnović was elected to the Croatian Parliament on October 14th 2016. He was nominated in a single-mandate district as an independent candidate, but with the support of the “Movement” Coalition (POMAK) established by the Croatian ultra-right.
It is also worth noting that the presence of the Croatian “Azov” militant Denis Sheler in the election headquarters of Ruža Tomašić, who was successfully re-elected in May 2019 to the European Parliament from the “Croatian Conservative Party”. In July 2019 this MEP’s assistant published on Facebook a photo of a T-shirt with the symbols of “Azov” and an “Azov” propaganda brochure.
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