Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: How Radicals in Ukraine “Defend” the Populace

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



On Thursday, August 2nd, Ukrainian nationalists seized the building of the Ukrainian National Bar Association (UNBA), having barricaded in the hall the members of the Qualification Disciplinary Commission of the Bar Association. According to the media, the militants of voluntary battalions and radicals took part in the violent capture…

Formally the violent action was organised in support of one of the lawyers (of a militant of theAidar battalion), a lawsuit against who is being considered by the commission. The meeting was disrupted. This is obvious interference in the activities of lawyers.

In this regard, UNBA sent an appeal to the heads of State, ambassadors of the “G7” countries and European Union, and the offices of the Council of Europe and the OSCE concerning the destruction of the constitutional destruction of the constitutional institute of bar in Ukraine via violent actions. According to lawyers, an appeal to law enforcement bodies will also follow, although there isn’t much hope that they will offer their assistance.

These are only little flowers, the berries are yet to come

In this regard it is possible to remember other numerous cases of nationalist radicals (whether it be militants from volunteer battalions or “civil” Nazis) attacking state institutions and offices of public organisations.

In Kherson nationalists (including representatives of National Corpus) staged a riot in the prosecutor’s office, having thrown smoke grenades into the corridors. They demanded an urgent investigation into the attack on the employee of the City Council Ekaterina Gandzyuk, who is “ideologically close” to them. At the same time radicals besieged the building of the National Police too.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if police officers, prosecutors, judges, and SBU employees are killed in broad daylight with impunity, and smashed up State institutions. We are already observing such facts more and more often. These are only little flowers, and berries will soon follow in the autumn,” said former deputy of the Verkhovna Rada Aleksey Zhuravko.

Nationalists regularly put pressure on judges, trying to obtain decisions needed by them (it was like that, for example, during the consideration of the case on the murder of the writer and journalist Oles Buzina), disrupting “wrong”, from their point of view, events. In particular, radicals practically paralysed the work of the Russian center of science and culture in Kiev.

All of this is a daily occurrence in the current Ukraine.

“People’s defenders”

Such actions of radicals enjoy the support of the “patriotic” part of Ukrainian society – let “vata” [a pejorative term for Russians – ed] burn! But nationalists need a wider social base. And here the activists of “National Corpus” already act as “defenders of the people”.

For example, in Cherkassy they supported the fight of a regional energy collective for the payment of their wages, they actively fight against drug use among the youth, illegal deforestation, and against illegal constructions, and participate in solving domestic problems.

National Druzhina controlled by Andrey Biletsky assure that they intend to combat street crime, drug trafficking, and binge drinking in public places. Their aims seem to be clear to all. As a result, many Ukrainians, even apolitical ones, are ready to support nationalist activists.

Leftist slogans of the right

On the eve of elections the right-wing tries to consolidate their forces and resources. In March, 2017 the nationalist “Svoboda”, “Right Sector”, and “National Corpus” parties declared the unification of their efforts for the sake of achieving common goals, having signed in Kiev the “nationalist manifesto”.

As it is said in the document, these political forces work, in particular, for the severance of diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation, returning Ukraine’s nuclear status, securing the right to freely possess weapons, introducing an effective procedure for the impeachment of the president, and for the creation of a united local church with its center in Kiev.

Here there is a calculation on receiving the support of “Ura-patriots” (at the same time, it is clear that a number of stated aims most likely won’t be fulfilled).

But it’s as if some of the bullet points in the nationalists’ program were copied from the left-wing. Thus, the Svoboda party proposes to “forget about the sale of land”, forbid the privatisation of strategic enterprises, return earlier privatised enterprises to State ownership, and to guarantee State control over raw-materials monopolies. There are enough Ukrainians who will support such demands.

After the left flank of Ukrainian politics was crushed in 2014, the right tries to somehow “replace” the same forbidden communists. It is clear that this is being done only for the purpose of receiving additional electoral support.

The “power wing” of the authorities

Pretty often the nationalists sharply criticise the present “corrupt” and “oligarchical” authorities that they themselves imposed on Ukrainians.

But if one dig’s deeper, it is possible to find out that in many cases nationalist radical act almost synchronously with the authorities. Here is just one example: soon after nationalists from “C14” disrupted the congress of the “Rozumna Sila” party, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) carried out searches at the offices of the party and at the houses of party members.

One of the leaders of the nationalist “C14” recognised that the SBU supplies nationalist radicals with information about “separatist” meetings (and in Ukraine “separatists” are declared as all those who don’t approve of the actions of the authorities) and even “call them” when they consider that a threat can arise at a meeting.

As the Ukrainian political scientist Andrey Zolotarev noted on the air of the “Golos stolitsy” radio station, in Ukraine the authorities use nationalists to suppress any opposition. According to the expert, in the upcoming presidential elections a special role will be given to nationalists – the “power wing”, because it is precisely “the factor of force and the factor of the street that will play a huge role during elections”.

In general, it is possible to undoubtedly note that the destruction and prohibition (although illegal according to the Constitution of Ukraine) of the Communist Party of Ukraine has led to the place of the communists, who were earlier defending workers and peasants in the political space of Ukraine, now being occupied by nationalists. They successfully master this space and build a misanthropic political force on the back of ordinary citizens’ discontent with the authorities.

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