“Ukrainians Are Waiting for Their Leader”: Radicals Intend to Break Through into Power

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



Several trends are observed on the “right” political flank. The first, unifying one is connected to self-survival. The second one is unexpected: the slogans of parties “shifted to the left” and became, in fact, social ones. Who will battle for the hearts of radical and nationalist mooded voters, and how will they do this?

The experts questioned by “Vesti” assess the current niche of the “right” to be 5-10%. There are a lot of parties in this field – both traditional (“Svoboda”) and rather new and already “dead” projects — National Corpus, Right Sector, Dmitry Yarosh’s Ukrainian Volunteer Army, “Congress” and the “Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists”, Korchinsky’s “Brotherhood”, and even C14, which hasn’t yet formed into a party.

“National Corpus” is the most active, in recent months it has been carrying out mainly humanitarian activities: it carries out “cleaning up” on Khortitsa island in Zaporozhye, “raids against drug promotion” (painting over graffiti advertising groups on the “Telegram” messenger where drugs are distributed). Political actions were less active — these are rallies in Nikolaev and Kiev with the demand of the governor Aleksey Savchenko’s resignation after the suicide of the pilot Vladislav Voloshin who managed Nikolaev airport, plus a joint rally on April 3rd with “Svoboda”, “Right Sector”, and radicals from OUN and C14. The procession was announced as a “rally for a future without oligarchs”, but as a result radicals came to the parliament building (they demanded a meeting with the speaker, but Andrey Parubiy refused under the pretext of conducting a sessional meeting) and to the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra (having involved themselves in a skirmish with its deputy, Lord Pavel).

“But, despite the big niche, only ‘Svoboda’ can break through the 5% threshold in parliamentary elections — the others are marginal and have a rating of 1%,” said the political scientist Ruslan Bortnik.

“This is seen in ‘Svoboda’, and they constantly generate all sorts of unifying processes, understanding that even if it won’t work, the leaders of the ‘right’ will all the same come to ask to be on the list.”

The signing of the “Nationalist Manifesto” between “Svoboda”, “National Corpus”, “Right Sector”, Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, OUN, and C14 exactly a year ago was the loudest unifying message. “This document works, on March 3rd we, in fact, united around the bills of ‘Svoboda’. Everything concerning unification is very difficult: we constantly have to smooth things over, and the ‘test drive’ that now takes place will show whether or not we will go to elections together,” said one of the leaders of ‘National Corpus’, the people’s deputy Oleg Petrenko. “If to be frank, our electoral segment is big, but limited. And separately we will simply disassemble it, and there is no desire for a intra-specific fight: it is the most terrible thing”.


It is curious who will sponsor such a “right-wing fist”. Among the supposed investors of “Svoboda” is Igor Krivetsky – one of the richest people in Western Ukraine. “It’s true, but not completely: cells actively work for us and there are a lot of local elites ready to support the party,” said one of the former people’s deputies from “Svoboda”. Among its deputies at the local level there are a lot of businessmen and “leaders of opinions”. “In fact, this party has both cells and representative offices, and the recognisable face of Oleg Tyagnybok – the others don’t have this,” agrees the expert of the Center of Razumkov Yury Yakimenko.

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Secondly, this is the Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. It is he who is linked to “National Corpus” (as the “godfather” of the “Azov” battalion). But the other day the police searched the premises of the ATEK plant in Kiev, where the recruiting center of “Azov” is located, which became the reason to speak about the difference in opinion with “National Corpus”. “This conflict is because of business interests (the wife of the former people’s deputy from the ‘Bloc of Petro Poroshenko’ Roman Zvarych is allegedly connected to the premises), secondly, National Corpus was shown that a picket against the governor Savchenko is an attempt to be advertised where they weren’t allowed,” said Bortnik to “Vesti”.

According to our information, the governor is supervised by the deputy head of the Presidential Administration Vitaly Kovalchuk, and Avakov had to nip the conflict in the bud. “Relations with Avakov were constructive since 2014, they concerned the ‘Azov’ regiment — one of the most efficient divisions couldn’t be created without ties with the minister. The rest is mythology, and now the relationship is rather negative, especially after events (АТЕК),” stressed Petrenko.

Another thing: at the same event on April 3rd they gave the floor to activists of the “Movement of New Forces”. And Igor Kolomoisky, who has been linked with Saakashvili’s project, has direct interests in the ‘power’ bloc — at the time it was he who controlled 80% of volunteer battalions.


And, lastly, it became a surprise that the ideas professed by nationalists are, in fact, radical socialism. This is actually the fight against oligarchs (the main slogan of the march on April 3rd), the stopping of the privatisation of strategic enterprises and land, luxury tax, and a progressive scale of taxation (who earned more, paid more), and a return to a 8-hour working day (it was cancelled by a new labour code). In addition, the mayor of Konotop, Artem Semenikhin, spoke about “a Putin who comes into Ukraine not only through the Russian language, but also through communal utility bills”.

According to experts, there is nothing surprising here. “A traditional arsenal in their case – security, integration into the EU and NATO, religious and family values – may not work, but the social component makes the ‘right-wing’ and nationalists more interesting. In addition, these ideas were inherent in them, and in conditions where there are almost no ‘left’ forces, they became available for all electoral candidates,” considers Yury Yakimenko.

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According to the scientist, if the “right-wing” parties start using such slogans seriously, there will be a drift “to the left”, and then the competition with “Fatherland”, “Samopomich”, and “Movement of New Forces” will immediately begin. And now they, in fact, need to hold their voters. “As soon as they leave their nationalist-populist niche and will go towards the social subject — they will face the criticism of opponents, and the washing out of the electoral kernel will start, which is too conservative and will leave more for ‘radical’ forces,” considers Bortnik. “In principle the voter is disappointed in nationalists”. It is indicative that it happens against the background of the growth of consciousness and the identification of Ukrainians. “The fact that two processes go in separation from each other is a consequence of the mistrust of society or the negative attitude towards parties in general. Or perhaps people are frightened off by radicalism,” considers Yakimenko.


Sociologists note considerable “right-wing” leaning in many countries. “Here we don’t drop out of global tendencies at all: in the last elections in Hungary Viktor Orbán took 70%, we see the same in the Czech Republic, Italy, Germany, and France. Even Donald Trump’s choice is in many respects dictated by American nationalism,” considers the sociologist, the head of the Transcarpathian institute of political research Viktor Pashchenko. “People wait for a rigid leader and a ‘strong hand’. In Ukraine this is connected with the readiness to sacrifice some freedom for the sake of realising basic safety, after all – there is a war”.

According to the sociologist, in the manner to organise themselves, the “right-wing” forces in Ukraine — leader structures of a “rigid” kind — are very similar to their ideological opponents: “Fatherland” and even “For Life” of Vadim Rabinovich. “This can also be explained by the psychological profile of the voter, who waits for that leader who will solve everything for them, put everyone in jail, and will distribute to everyone. Another thing is that Ukraine is divided ideologically — and so far the West will vote for the ‘right’, and the East will support their complete antithesis,” he concluded.

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