“Political life in Ukraine is boiling, and the street has long been an integral part of it. And the niche of the main actors in street politics since 2014 has been firmly captured by representatives of ultra-right organisations. Or, as they are commonly called in the media, ‘activists’,” writes the journalist of the publication “Political Criticism” Sergey Movchan.
Almost every day we read about how “activists” for some reason interfered, about something they didn’t allow someone to do, about whom they had a scuffle with, after which the police detain the “activists”, of course illegally, and then other “activists” demand their immediate release and an investigation into attacks on them. Of course, such social activity of concerned citizens requires a lot of time, which is incompatible with working from 9 to 6. This means financial support. And where can the principled fighters against western liberalism and “grant-receiving” organisations get it from? This is where the state comes to the rescue.
In June 2018, Public Radio published information about the allocation of more than one million hryvnia to two nationalist organisations. The money was received by the “Svoboda“-linked Golosyivska Kryvka (760,000 hryvnia) and the ultra-right from “C14” (440,000 hryvnia). The information appeared a month and a half after the Romani pogrom organised by “C14” in Kiev at Lysaya Gora, so resonance was not avoided. However, as the Chairman of the Commission Nikolay Lyakhovich explained, officials only check the content of projects, and not the activities or ideology of organisations, so this did not entail any consequences. It was not possible to find out back then another thing — the true scale of financing for the ultra-right from the budget.
In 2019, Bellingcat wrote about 845,000 hryvnia allocated to ultra-right organisations, but this investigation did not cause any previous resonance. And in January 2020, blogger Anatoly Shary spoke about the funds allocated for “C14” in 2019 and 2020 in two stories. For obvious reasons, they were disseminated only by his supporters, and his opponents ignored them. Meanwhile, money continued to be allocated, and the amount of funding for the projects of “C14” and its satellites reached six figures.
It is really not easy to calculate how much money from the state or city budgets was spent on the activities of radical nationalist organisations. Lists of winners of grant programs are scattered on the websites of ministries, city, regional or district administrations and are abound with organisations with a ultra-right past. Therefore, we will focus only on the most well-known right-wing radical group – “C14”.
We can learn about the sources of funding for “C14” from the interview of their leader. According to Evgeny Karas, there are three such sources: “donations” from supporters, donations from companies, and support for businessmen from among the ATO veterans, whose names or firms Evgeny is not ready to give because of possible reprisals against benefactors. In truth, these three sources resemble one thing – individual tranfers that cannot be traced. But sometimes the head of “C14” remembers the fourth way to replenish the organisational budget: “We will win a lot of state and non-state competitions.” And by saying “a lot”, Karas is indeed lying.
Let’s clarify who these “we” are. Members of the group try not to use their main brand “C14” in such sensitive things as grants. Projects for competitions are submitted by “C14” satellites founded by the same people — the organisations “Union of Veterans of the War Against Russia”, “Educational Assembly”, “Ukrainian Military Victory”, and “National Centre for Human Rights Protection”. Sometimes money is asked for the maternal “SICH-C14”. And if the money was not given by one ministry, it can be obtained from another. In addition to state programs, there are also city programs. Therefore, in order to provide Kiev with the services of the “activists” of “C14”, there is the additionally created “Kiev Union of Veterans of the War Against Russia”.
2018: Legal awareness, board games, psychological help
What useful things do nationalists do? In the already mentioned 2018, the Ministry of Youth and Sports supported four projects of organisations related to “C14”. Three of them for a total amount of 440,000 hryvnia went to the “Educational Assembly”. For this money, people associated with an organisation that regularly commits illegal actions has to tell young people about legal awareness as a guarantee of state security, explain the importance of national-patriotic education, and create a board game based on “Cold Yar”. “Monopoly” was the result.
100,000 hryvnia of the ministry was received directly by the NGO “SICH-C14” for holding the all-Ukrainian camp “Yastreb-2018”.
But this is not all that the “C14” satellites could expect in 2018. The State Service for Veterans and Participants of the ATO allocated 767,386 hryvnia for the project “Veterans Support Service”, presented by the “Union of Veterans of the War Against Russia”. And the Kiev City State Administration, in the framework of the program “Public perspective: transparent government and active community“, supported the “Union” for another 197,400 hryvnia for the project “New Profession of a Veteran”. “Educational Assembly” received 198,700 hryvnia from the city.
2019: Kayaks, Scorpion, Babchenko
2019 was also a productive year for “C14”. In addition to the 13 attacks and confrontations registered by the “Marker” monitoring group in 2019, the organisation’s satellites managed to receive a considerable amount of budget funds. Thus, from the Ministry of veterans Affairs, the “Union of Veterans of the War Against Russia” received 897,680 hryvnia. For this money, within the framework of the project “Guardians of Veterans’ Rights”, it was planned to hold 4 seminars for 160 participants of the ATO. And from colleagues from “SICH-C14”, the “Union” actually inherited another project — the “Yastreb” tent camp. The Ministry of Youth and Sports allocated 90,000 hryvnia for it. Apparently, the Ministry decided that the “Union” will cope with the camp better than last year’s organisers, and even take 10,000 hryvnia less for it.
In addition to the “Union of Veterans of the War Against Russia“, there is a local, Kiev version — “Kiev Union of Veterans of the War Against Russia“. It is extremely successful in implementing the projects of the Kiev City Administration and the Kiev Regional State Administration. For the project “Health of Veterans”, the “Kiev Union” in 2018 received 177,400 hryvnia, and in 2019 – 124,090 hryvnia. For this money, “C14” members had to organise free rides for participants of the ATO on kayaks and stand up paddle boards. The organisation received another 80,000 hryvnia in 2019 for the tent camp “Young Defender”.
The Ministry of Youth and Sports supported “Educational Assembly”, in 2019, with 442 664 hryvnia. As part of the “Sustainability League” project, well-known journalists such as Arkady Babchenko and Roman Skrypin, Mikhail Makaruk, a representative of “Inform Napalm”, or Aleksey Arestovich, a military observer, were supposed to train participants in critical thinking. And for 272,664 hryvnia, “teachers” were going to develop “computer fun as a way of realising the achievements of the Ukrainian nation”. Unfortunately, we did not manage to play this game, or find out whether someone managed to play it to the end and realise the achievements of the Ukrainian people. Reports about the implementation of projects are not posted on the Ministry’s website, and the site of the “Assembly” is also silent about its contribution to the domestic GameDev.
Human rights activists from “C14” are engaged in “human rights” activities for budgetary funds on behalf of another organisation – the “National Center for Human Rights”, headed by one of the key suspects in the murder of Oles Buzina, Denis Polishchuk. The Ministry of Youth and Sports agreed that national-patriotic education is the basis of civil liberties and issued 135,000 hryvnia for a project with the appropriate name. At the same time, the development of legal awareness of citizens was supported by the Kiev City State Administration for 197,660 hryvnia – and the Youth Policy Department of the Kiev Regional State Administration – for 83,000 hryvnia.
2020: Fundraising, development center, “I’m proud of Ukrainians”
It’s already 2020, in the President’s Office the indicatively patriotic Poroshenko was replaced by Zelensky, and in the country there is supposedly “revenge of pro-Russian forces”. But this does not prevent the bureaucratic system from operating as usual and continuing to give money to the ultra-right. According to information from Bellingcat, with Oksana Kolyada taking over as head of the Ministry of Veterans in August 2019, the situation even worsened. International investigators have said that the Ministry was actually “captured” by right-wing radicals.
It is not surprising that in 2020, various “C14” satellites received 1,310,000 hryvnia from the Ministry of Veterans alone. This year, for 350,000 hryvnia, “Educational Assembly” will teach media literacy veterans, public campaigns, and fundraising. There is no reason to doubt the extremely high competence of the “Assembly” in the last paragraph. However, it is not entirely clear why, according to the documents, this project is carried out as “sports and rehabilitation activities”. The “Union of Veterans of the War Against Russia” will receive 600,000 hryvnia from the Ministry for the Development of the Veterans Development Center. And 360,000 hryvnia was allocated to “Ukrainian Military Honour”, headed by Andrey Medvedko, for the project “Life After the War”.
Traditionally, the Ministry of Youth and Sports has not spared money to support “C14”. The Ministry allocated almost 300,000 hryvnia for two projects of “Educational Assembly”. As part of one of them, for 120,000 hryvnia, grantees promise to do something that will never lose its relevance in Ukraine — to hold the all-Ukrainian campaign “I’m Proud of Ukrainians”. Another 140,674 hryvnia was received by the “National Center for Legal Protection” for the development of “young patriotic societies”, and the “Union of Veterans of the War Against Russia” this year will hold the traditional tent camp “Yastreb 2020” for 90,000 hryvnia.
The Department of Youth Policy and National Patriotic Education of the Kiev Regional State Administration will allocate a little more than 80,000 hryvnia to the “National Center for Human Rights Protection” and the “Kiev Union” in 2020. And the Kiev City State Administration will continue to support the project “Health of Veterans“: 182,610 hryvnia was allocated for organising kayaks and stand up paddle boards for the “Kiev Union”.
Of course, each of the above amounts of funding may not seem so large. However, if we remember that all projects are performed by the same people, the total figure does not seem small. From 2018 to 2020, the structures around “C14” received more than 6 million hryvnia from the state.
It cannot be ruled out that the above sources of financing are not enough for “C14”. So, in 2017, for 183,505 hryvnia, “Educational Assembly” was supported by the Department of Education in the Goloseevsky district of Kiev, with which “C14” has a long and good relationship. Therefore, the final amount may be much higher.
It would be unfair to say that budget money simply flows from the accounts of the state or city to the bank cards of nationalists. After all, the latter undertake the implementation of certain projects within the framework of state programs, upon completion of which they must report to the grantee. But if we consider the activity of the “C14” satellites in the fight for state or municipal money, the list of performers is limited to a few people, and taking into account the extreme breadth of their competencies — from psychological rehabilitation to the development of board games — it is not surprising that such work sometimes fails. And the organisations’ reports are no longer as impressive as their applications.
In 2018, the “Union of Veterans of the War Against Russia”, headed by Andrey Medvedko, successfully implemented the Veterans Support Service project. The application says that the state is able to provide psychological assistance to only 42% of veterans, so members of the “Union” took up the task of helping in such a really important and delicate matter, with the help of domestic developments. Nationalists undertook to treat PTSD and socialise veterans with the help of Ukrainian know-how in the field of psychology – biosuggestive therapy, which the BBC and Channel 5 even wrote about.
Biosuggestive therapy, which in publications is also called the “silent treatment”, is the development of the Ukrainian psychologist Aleksandr Strazhny. As is said in his book: “It [the method] involves a combination of verbal and nonverbal suggestion in a light trance state. The prefix ‘bio’ means that during a therapy session there is not only suggestion, but also other factors: the transmission of meta information to the patient (client) through a certain resolving voice; contact of the therapist’s palm with the client; in the case of group therapy — induction of the client team members, etc”. Everyone can familiarise themselves with the biosuggestive method of Aleksandr Strazhny. The treatment sessions are outlined on Youtube. Absolutely gratuitously.
The “Union” project provided for 4 training sessions for 50 people each, 25 of which were veterans and another 25 were psychologists. But only a few people are present in the Channel 5 video – mostly members of “C14” itself. It is their heads that the psychologist Andrey Poltavtsev touches, apparently removing PTSD after another “educational action”. In other photos or video reports from events, it’s not possible to find even half of the declared participants. At one of the training sessions, the psychologist touches the heads of women – there are no more than 15 in the hall. But this did not prevent the “Union” from reporting about the successful completion of the project, and the state — to accept this report, according to which the project was visited by 100 veterans and 100 psychologists.
A similar story is repeated in the next project of the “Union” – “Guardians of the Rights of Veterans”. Four declared seminars in different cities of the country were to be attended by 40 people. But in the photo, they are usually from 15 to 20. Sometimes this is mentioned in the interim reports of events, and subsequently the “guardians of rights” forget the fact that the full house was not observed. And we see, a round number of “40”, which in the final report on the implementation of the project, turns into 60 visitors. The plan is fulfilled and exceeded!
No less interesting is the story of the project “Health of Veterans”. It would seem that the idea of giving people who have passed through war the opportunity to swim free of charge on kayaks and stand up paddle boards is quite correct. However, if we look at the 2020 application for funding the project, we can see a few strange things. The application is accompanied by a list of 20 people who regularly use the program. And in it we find already familiar names. 10 people out of 20 are members of “C14” and related organisations. A few more are activists of projects close to “C14”. On the other hand, there are no violations here, because most of the members of “C14” are also technically veterans. Therefore, taking money from the city to go for a ride that is gratuitous for yourself and friends, and even get paid for it, seems like a really good business plan.
The plan becomes even more beautiful when the money for the services provided will also remain in a large ultra-right family. The range of performers of projects of organisations affiliated with “C14” is limited to a very small number of individual entrepreneurs. And, perhaps, the most notable here is the sole proprietorship of Evgeniya Nera, which provided catering services, provided projects with office supplies, and produced printing products for the “Union of Veterans of the War Against Russia“, “National Center for Legal Protection”, and “Educational Assembly” for a total of about 300,000 hryvnia. This product appears in many reports as one of the criteria for successful project implementation. The lucky winner of the tenders has been closely associated with “C14” for many years, it is easy to check this by visiting her Facebook page — Evgeniya Garay. And her sister, Anisya Kolesnikova (Garay), was directly involved in attacks on rallies for LGBT rights and members of a left-wing student union.
It is also worth looking at the report from the “Young Defender” tent camp, organised by the “Kiev Union of Veterans of the War Against Russia“. It seems that the Department of Youth Policy and National Patriotic Education of the Kiev Regional State Administration counted on 40 participants. But this is a case when one would rather be glad for discrepancies in the numbers. After all, the fewer guys with dummy AKs and in t-shirts of the ultra-right “SvaStone“ brand run through the woods, the better.
What to add?
Funding even one ultra-right organisation involved in street violence for 6000000 hryvnia already seems like a wake-up call. But the problem goes deeper. After all, “C14” is not the only recipient of budget funds. Every year, dozens of right-wing organisations of varying degrees of radicalism apply and receive hundreds of thousands of hryvnia to work with veterans or young people. Among them, “Svoboda”, which, through the brands “Golosyivska Kryvka” or “Sokol“, receives several million annually to organise its festivals, as well as projects to work with young people from “Azov“. And even the “School of Ukrainian Girls” from the organisation “Ukrainian Student”, whose members participated in the disruption of the rally against violence and sexism in the Kiev-Mogyla Academy.
Why did this happen? Perhaps the problem lies in the personnel plane, where decisions are made. After all, like in the Ministry of Veterans, Bellingcat found a powerful right-wing lobby in the Ministry of Youth and Sports – the head of the Department of National Patriotic Education Nikolay Lyakhovich, a former member of UNA-UNSO and a veteran of the “Azov” battalion. Lyakhovich himself states “Ukrainian values” as one of the main criteria for supporting projects, whatever that means.
The problem may be more systemic but it is not limited to individuals. After all, even the replacement of officials will not change the concept of national-patriotic education, which they act in accordance with. And although, as was noted in the report of the “Insight” human rights organisation, the strategy and concept of national patriotic education do not contain discriminatory norms and even declare “humanism, democracy, and tolerance”; they repeat the thesis about the lack of “spiritual and moral values”. This means that a whole queue of nationalists, traditionalists, and ultra-rightists, who are ready to overcome this spiritual and moral decline by resolutely promoting “healthy” conservative [in a Banderist sense – ed] values, is being formed for grants. Is this why we can see an increase in street violence committed by teenagers full of ideals of the greatness of the nation?
After all, it is important to understand that state or municipal grants are only one source of income for ultra-right organisations. Often they aren’t even the main source. Paramilitary structures based on “C14” – “Municipal Guard” and “Municipal Security” – at the expense of the city budget patrol Kiev, participate in the seizure of cinemas or “fight” with the “homeless” and “Gypsies” at the railway station. In 2019 alone, 21 million hryvnia was allocated in the capital’s budget for the activities of “Municipal Security”. Other ultra-right groups have set up their own security firms, moonlighting as building guards or, conversely, raiding. One of the main “Azov” members with a KGB background and the lucky owner of a personal plane – Sergey Korotkov – from 2015 to 2017 headed the Department of Protection of Objects of Strategic Importance in the Department of the State Security Service under the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine. Therefore, the state remains one of the most important sources of funding for ultra-right organisations, the true extent of which remains to be determined.
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