Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, our media tended to be relatively honest about the neo-Nazio problem in Ukraine. They covered things like the Azov battalion and the role of ultra-nationalist groups in the 2014 coup which overthrew the democratically elected government. Social media, like Twitter and Facebook, banned posts by the Azov battalion because of its neo-Nazi nature, and the US Congress attempted to ban the transfer of US weapons to the Azov battalion for the same reason.
Nowadays it’s a different story. Any talk of the Ukrainian neo-Nazi problem is jumped on. Citing these former stories in your social media posts and you will be accused of being a “Putin puppet.” And there are numerous articles devoted to whitewashing Ukraine. Explaining that the president is Jewish so how can Nazis have any influence, etc., etc. You have probably heard all the excuses.
But the fact remains that ultranationalists, many with neo-Nazi characteristics, have a strong influence in Ukraine. After independence (and to some extent before independence) in 1991, there was a growth in ultranationalist influence. There have been strong moves to rewrite the history of Ukraine and to establish ultranationalist Nazi collaborators as Ukrainian state heroes. Building monuments to them. Naming streets after them. And so on – you get the picture.
The recent photograph of Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, illustrates the neo-Nazi influence in Ukraine. President Zelensky may be a Jew. There may be few evident neo-Nazi political parties elected to the Rada, the parliament. But the growth of ultranationalism means that the neo-Nazi influence is everywhere.
General Zaluzhnyi may not be an open neo-Nazi – but he has been photographed in front of a portrait of Stepan Bandera. Such photographs are common. Local officials and Mayors are photographed in front of such portraits because they are so everywhere in Ukrainian government structures – a bit like the Queen’s portrait in our government departments (or is it King Charles these days?)
And then there are the memorials to these recent heroes who were Nazi collaborators and committed horrible crimes of genocide. I have illustrated some of these before (see Once again, those Russian neo-Nazis – the Wagner group), but the street names in Kiev are surely shameful. The avenues leading up to the Babi Yar memorial are now named after the two most prominent Nazi collaborators during World War Two – Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych.
Unfortunately, these vital details (and there are a lot more) are not talked about these days. Our media no longer discusses the Ukrainian neo-Nazi problem. And I will be accused of being a “Putin puppet” or worse for daring to mention it.