The Final Stage of Ukraine’s 2019 Presidential Election: The Battle of Tamed Nazi Groups

Background

On March 10th the Nazi formation “National Corpus” – led by the commander of the punitive “Azov” battalion Andrey Biletsky, who hopes to enter parliament in the October election – held a meeting on the now notoriously known Maidan Square in Kiev, the second such one in the past few weeks. Also at the rally was National Druzhina, which acts like the “military wing” of the “National Corpus”, which is focused more on politics.

They gathered to demand an investigation into the embezzlement in the Ukrainian defence industry, which they attribute to Petro Poroshenko’s environment. This concerns first and foremost the former deputy chairman of the National Security and Defence Council Oleg Gladkovsky, who after the scandal was fired, but no notice of suspicion was handed to him. I.e., by all accounts Bankova Street, which controls the Prosecutor-General’s Office, isn’t in a hurry to throw under the bus its people who may have robbed funds from the defence industry. Otherwise, very serious illegal schemes may then be revealed. If this scandal continues to snowball, Petro Poroshenko has kiss goodbye his chances of victory in the forthcoming presidential election.

What happened

The Nazis announced their rally with the following poster:

“Want to see the robbing pig (Gladkovsky) behind bars? Come to Maidan Square on Saturday!”

According to the correspondents of various Ukrainian media agencies present, about 1,500 “National Corpus” members gathered for the rally. Bizarrely, they also held a posted depicting the Ukrainian poet and alleged symbol of “Ukraine” (in reality he himself wasn’t a nationalist) Taras Shevchenko, who would have turned 205 years old on this day. The speakers at the rally were the leaders of the local cells of “National Corpus”

“We will come to their paid rallies. They will not be able to do anything,” said the head of “National Corpus”, hinting at Poroshenko’s regional trips with a rent-a-crowd brought by buses. “You have a week, until next Saturday, to fulfil our demands,” said Biletsky, addressing Poroshenko.

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Outside the Presidential Administration building clashes between law enforcement officers and “National Corpus” Nazis then began. According to various correspondents on the ground, the column of nationalists immediately started to push the police cordon outside the building, which resulted in tear gas being used. Biletsky then declared that his goons will go to Cherkassy, where Poroshenko is staying on an official visit.

Conclusions

After the rally the journalists from the anti-Poroshenko/pro-Kolomoisky agency “Strana” made the following points:

  • “National Corpus” – the offspring of the “Azov” regiment, which is considered to be close to the Interior Minister Arsen Avakov – for the first time switched to extremely harsh anti-Poroshenko rhetoric. And most importantly, it voiced a program of action, which, when implemented, actually disrupts the presidential election campaign.

  • The nationalists demanded that Poroshenko send Oleg Gladkovsky and his son Igor to jail before next Saturday. Otherwise, they promise to toughen street actions. This condition looks obviously unrealistic, since Gladkovsky is Poroshenko’s old friend. Thus, this ultimatum is likely to fail. So, it was this result that the rally’s organisers were trying to achieve – to have an excuse to deploy protests against the president.

  • Given that all of this happened 3 weeks before the election, the guarantor now has a serious problem. After all, Biletsky hinted that his activists would start hunting Poroshenko down and coming to his “paid meetings”. At the same time, it is only the police – which is under the control of Arsen Avakov, who is clearly not sympathetic towards the president, but who can influence “National Corpus” – who can effectively prevent Biletsky from “taking away the street” from Poroshenko.

  • What can Poroshenko do to repel this? In fact, not much: there are the “titushki” or pocket nationalists from Bratstvo or C14 – if, of course, they want to butt heads with their radical brethren, which is unlikely: this is far more dangerous than the nightmare of journalists or priests being pursued by the SBU. And permanent physical conflicts at rallies make Poroshenko’s idea of ​​electoral trips disguised as official events in the regions meaningless for him.

  • Of course, the threats of “National Corpus” may remain threats and not go any further. But on March 10th they have already started to embody them. There was a clearly wild clash with the National Guard outside Presidential Administration – to show the seriousness of their intentions. And after the event on Bankova Street, the nationalists went to the Cherkassy region, where they hope to “intercept” Poroshenko, who went there on an official visit (more will be reported about this as it develops).

  • According to the rhetoric of the “National Corpus” Party, one can make judgements about the actual split in the nationalist movement before the March election. The brainchild of Biletsky clearly became in opposition to Poroshenko. Given the special relationship of this party to Avakov, an interesting electoral tandem emerges here: a legal forceful resource (police + National Guard) and a street “combat” asset, which already promotes anti-presidential themes. Judging by how the Minister of the Interior started to expose the Grid (voter bribery schemes) of Petro Poroshenko – this union can seriously impede the president during the election. But the scandal in the defence industry is completely ignored by radicals from “C14” and “Bratstvo”, who are usually extremely active on the street. This once again confirms the rumours that these organisations were “tamed” by the SBU and Presidential Administration.

  • It is interesting that neutrality in the corruption scandal is preserved by Svoboda, which has significant street resources. This plays, of course, into the hands of the current president.
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