International experts warn on the growing danger of Ukraine’s far-right circles

Reports keep pouring in that the extreme far-right/neo-Nazi ideology is appeased by the political and media circles of Ukrainian society despite all attempts to warn about their danger by reliable research groups.

 

On January 1, 2021 there were rallies and marches held in memory of Stepan Bandera, an ideologist of ultranationalist and military Ukrainian groups which collaborated with the Nazi Germany during WWII. The rallies were held in several cities, according to reports by the Ukrainian media. The tone of their coverage differs greatly, depending on the perception of the authors of the divisive role of Stepan Bandera.

While the Kyiv Time runs its article under the title “Ukrainians march to mark 112th anniversary of the birth of Stepan Badera”, reporting the number of participants to be as many as 1000, more critical journalists claim that just up to 100 participants reached the final spot of the march. Pavel Volkov, who was a political prisoner in Ukraine and was fully acquitted in spring 2020, followed the march from its starting point until the end. He claims that there were just a hundred participants at the end listening to the speeches by the leaders of the Right Sector and Svoboda Party. It is important to mention that the number of participants in such rallies is steadily declining. In contrast, USA today reported in 2014 of up to 15 000 people who marched to mark the 105th birthday of Bandera.

However, the declining number of participants of such torch-lit marches is not an indicator that the political influence of the far-right ideology is decreasing. Harper’s magazine, the oldest general-interest monthly in America, published a super-detailed article about Ukrainian radical nationalist paramilitaries and their role in modern Ukraine. The article states, “Ukraine’s clearest departure from the standard model of European liberalism is its proliferation of armed far-right factions, considered by analysts and ordinary Ukrainians alike to be the secretly funded private armies of the elite oligarch class. They fought in the trenches outside Donetsk and now patrol city streets, enforcing a particular vision of order with the blessing of overstretched and underfunded police departments. In some regions, they serve as official election monitors”.

The Ukrainian media also facilitate an atmosphere of appeasement towards extreme right ideology groups in Ukraine. The prevailing tone of the coverage of any issue related to either far-right ideology now or attempts to revise WWII history are given in favorably. Thus, the TSN TV channel reported on a group of “enthusiasts” who created a copy of a German Junkers-87 aircraft. The TSN channel describes the aircraft as “legendary” and proudly introduces the team who created the aircraft as “dressed in the uniform of German pilots from the period of WWII as well as the plane “adorned with all proper symbols, including a swastika”. The aircraft got Ukrainian registration and is said to be “ready to fly the world”.

Indeed, more European research groups warn about the level of danger such underestimated tendencies represent. Thus, the London-based Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) released the Hatebook report accusing Facebook of facilitating the spread the neo-Nazi ideology. Imran Ahmed, chief executive of CCDH, is also a member of the pilot group for the UK government’s commission on countering extremism. The report indicates that Ukraine is one of the major locations where far-right extremists from various countries get combat experience, via, for instance, the Azov battalion. Times of Israel also refers to the CCDH report with its conclusions of the sales of various merchandise with neo-Nazi symbols which “sales of the merchandise fund two neo-Nazi extreme movements operating from Ukraine”.

Various reliable sources keep reporting on the alarming number of anti-Semitic incidents. Thus, in one of most covered incidents, it was a Ukrainian ultranationalist shouting ‘Jews to the graves,’ as he was toppling the Kiev Hanukkah menorah, Ukrainian and Israeli media report. The man was identified by the Ukrainian media as Andrey Rachok. Rachok posted the video of his actions on Facebook, adding: “How to treat foreigners who are engaged in usurpation of power, occupation of territories, genocide.” As he toppled the large menorah, he shouted: “Power to Ukrainians, Jews to the graves.” It is worth mentioning President Zelensky is a Jew. Joel Lion, the Israeli ambassador to Ukraine, demanded that the authorities of Ukraine should not leave the crime and calls for violence uninvestigated. Ukrainian media reported that the attempt by the SBU (state security service) to officially level charges against the anti-Semite failed as Rachok had pushed them out of the flat shouting “Fight the Jews, not activists”. Rachok’s account on Facebook at the time of this publication remains fully accessible. He uses the account to call on violence against Jews and boasts of staying away from being apprehended by the SBU.

The webpage of the Federation of Jewish Communities of CIS reported the destruction of the old Jewish cemetery located in the city of Huliaipole in the Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine. These reports are also confirmed by several witnesses in Facebook. It is also confirmed by journalists working with the media resources of Zaporizhzhia.