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Ukraine war – a failure of honest diplomacy and reason

People should think for themselves. Peter Hitchens says “Not since the wild frenzy after the death of Princess Diana have I ever met such a wave of ignorant sentiment. Nobody knows anything about Ukraine. Everyone has ferocious opinions about it.” See “Can anyone explain to me why this was called evacuation and not surrender?

I am amazed this article by Viktor Yanukovych has had so little publicity. It’s by the fourth President of Ukraine, who was overthrown in a coup in 2014. It contains a succinct summarily of the problems which led up to the coup, and to the current war Ukraine-Russia war.  Yet it has only become available because it was posted on Facebook by Yanukovych’s lawyer. It saw a brief comment from a Polish news outlet (the ex-president did refer to Poland’s interest in territory in western Ukraine) – but that is all I can find.

The article is On the Verge . . .  The Fate of Statehood of Ukraine is Being decided now

I followed developments in Ukraine during the crisis in 2013/2014. In my mind Ukrainians had to choose between two different futures:

  1. Their role as a bridge between West and East. At that time, I thought a future Ukrainian membership of the EU would be consistent with that role.
  2. A hostile frontier between West and East with the promise of eventual NATO membership for Ukraine

Of course, underlying these two alternatives were the basic ethnic differences in Ukraine with the rise of Ukrainian nationalist forces in the west and the large numbers of ethnic Russians in the East. The crisis partly reflected this ethnic conflict.

Yanukovych writes:

“The nationalist forces demanded creation of a mono-ethnic state, from a diverse country, whose indigenous people, due to historical circumstances, belonged to different cultures and ethnic groups. This was a breeding ground for accumulation of internal political contradictions, which ultimately resulted in the political crisis of 2014.”

That programme for a mono-ethic state seems so stupid in this modern day and age. Many countries accommodate diverse populations through sensible language laws and political and regional representation. But this was prevented in Ukraine because of the ascendency, and dominance after the coup, of ultranationalist forces.

Failure of diplomacy and political reason

  1. In February 2014 the European Union helped broker an agreement on settlement of political crisis in Ukraine. This was signed on 21 February 2014 by the President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych and the leaders of the parliamentary opposition. It provided for constitutional reform, early presidential election, handing in of illegal weapons and a move away from the confrontation between the government forces and demonstrators. It seemed to be a good start, but it was rejected by the ultranationalist forces which controlled the demonstrations. They carried out a coup – with the support of the US which was clearly opposed to the agreement.
  2. Later, in an attempt to stop the civil war that resulted from the coup, the Normandy Countries (France, Germany and Russia) brokered agreements for a ceasefire, control of arms in the region and a political settlement based on elections, recognition of a degree of autonomy and constitutional changes. These were the Minsk Agreements which were signed by the Ukrainian president and by leaders of the break-away regions.But they have never been carried out – despite the current president Volodymyr Zelenskyy standing on a peace platform and receiving overwhelming electoral support in the 2019 presidential elections (he received 73 per cent of the vote in the run-off to Poroshenko’s 25 per cent).

    The fact that ultranationalist forces were able to prevent any progress in the Minsk agreements or the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the war zone shows they had overwhelming influence despite their apparent poor election results.

  3.  The Minsk Agreements had broad international support – they were endorsed by the UN Security Council (of which New Zealand was a member at the time). Despite this, western politicians simply gave lip service to them and, in effect, supported the Ukrainian refusal to carry them out. This represents a huge diplomatic failure by mainly western countries, and they must bear responsibility for the current war which the agreements could have prevented.

    If the Minsk Agreements had been carried out Ukraine’s territorial integrity would have been preserved. That is no longer possible.

Rational advice from high-ranking diplomats and experts

Referring to Henry Kissinger’s recent comments on the Ukraine-Russia war Yanukovych writes in his article:

“But Mr. Kissinger only repeated the thoughts he expressed long before 20122. The former US National Security Advisor and Secretary of State during the presidencies of Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon told me at the time that, based on political realities, he saw no alternative for Ukraine’s role as a bridge between Russia and the West. Attempts to change the status quo would inevitably lead to a conflict with Russia, which potentially carried very serious consequences not only for Ukraine, but for Europe as well.”

These warnings had also been voiced by many academic experts on Russia and Ukraine. One would have thought, then, that there would have been serious diplomatic moves to overcome the serious security problems in Europe caused by the lapse and withdrawal from important arms control and similar security treaties.

But again, diplomacy failed the world. The Russian Federation did make public proposals for the settlement of these problems, but they were not taken seriously by diplomats in NATO and the US. Nor were the Russian warnings that refusal of serious negotiation would lead to Russia taking their own unilateral steps of a “technical-military” nature.

Failure of diplomacy or pursuance of geopolitical interests?

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the current war was motivated by geopolitical interests. Refusal to carry out agreements reflected the interests of the USA and NATO as well as the nationalist Ukrainian groups. The refusal to carry out serious European security negotiations served the interests of European and US leaders who have promoted hostile policies to the Russian Federation for some time and had been responsible for the withdrawal from previous arms control agreements.

Certainly, the more vocal western opinion formers on social media, people like Bill Browder, Anne Applebaum, Michael McFaul, Anders Åslund, etc., simply could not hold back. They are salivating because all their dreams had come true. The Russian invasion of Ukraine meant that governments would now carry out the extreme economic warfare measure they had been advocating for years. They believe the economic and military war would precipitate regime change in the Russian Federation – even leading to the breakup of that country

In recent years I have lamented the absence of any genuine peace movement anymore. I also lament the lack of rational and honest diplomacy in today’s world – and that is dangerous. In the 1980s we were seriously concerned about the nuclear arms race. The peace movement was large. But there were also sensible political leaders in the East and West who did sit down and negotiate sensible arms control measures.

It would be a lot better today if we had a mass peace movement of people who could think for themselves rather than succumb to the current approved group thinking. It would also be better if we had rational political leaders prepared to negotiate security and arms control treaties rather than seeking to impose their own geopolitical aims on the world.

British volunteer soldier in Ukraine speaks up

I posted a video of UK soldier Aiden Aslin’s the testimony my article British volunteer soldier in Ukraine tells his story

Unfortunately, YouTube censored that video and it is no longer available. A pity as I found his story interesting. The guy is articulate. What he says makes sense and his experience is important.

Aslin was fighting with Ukrainian forces in Mariupol and surrendered to the armed forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), one of Russia’s allies in this war. He is now a prisoner of war in the DPR.

I was surprised today to see he has sufficient freedom to start a YouTube channel. Only two posts so fact – and they are very brief. But he appears healthy, has put on weight, and remains articulate. He welcomes questions and appears to have the freedom to operate an email account.

Definitely, a YouTube channel to keep an eye on. Check it out at Aiden Aslin 

What about those Russian neo-Nazis?

Some defenders of Ukrainian neo-Nazis claim Nashi is a Russian neo-Nazi group or at least links the Kremlin to a neo-Nazi subculture. Image credit: Wikipedia

Moving on in my critique of the article mentioned in the first post of this series (see Confusion about neo-Nazis in Ukraine-Russia war). Peter Ballie cited the article as some sort of proof that there are:

“neo-Nazi groups operating, not in Ukraine, but in Russia. Fully aided and abetted by Putin, to quash democratic dissent to his rule and provide an excuse for autocratic extension of power.”

Peter accepts there are neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine – or at least has not criticised my coverage of that aspect in my first and second posts (see Neo-Nazis in Ukraine – stages of denial).

He also accepts my general assessment of the conversation article. I wrote that the author used “naive arguments” in his dismissal of evidence for neo-Nazis in Ukraine and this “destroys his credibility right at the start. His motive is obviously to deny the presence and influence of neo-Nazis in Ukraine and to divert attention from the real facts.”

If I am misrepresenting Peter, I hope he comments here to straighten things out. (I am simply interpreting his comments made in another forum).

Now, getting on to what Peter describes as the “central theme” of the article he promoted – the presence of neo-Nazi groups in Russia which are “fully aided and abetted by Putin.” (For reference this is the article by Robert Horvath, Putin’s fascists: the Russian state’s long history of cultivating homegrown neo-Nazis).

Are the neo-Nazi groups in Russia?

Of course they are. There are neo-Nazi groups are in most countries – including New Zealand as we are painfully aware. The Russian Federation is a multi-ethnic country with large numbers of immigrants so it’s hardly surprising that there are groups espousing ideas of ethnic supremacy, hostility to immigrants, hostility to Russian minority ethnic groups and hostility of members of minority ethnic groups against the ethnic Russia majority. If you don’t believe this familiarise yourself with what happened in the Beslan school siege.

No one denies this fact. There is a concise comment by President Putin about this – unfortunately, with the current censorship, I cannot find it. But perhaps readers will accept this comment by Sergei Ivanov, Chief of Staff of Putin’s Presidential Executive Office given in an interview to Russia Today TV Channel. Answering a question about the defeat of Hitler’s Germany and the growing neo-Nazi movement in Europe Ivanov said:

“Well, it’s different in different countries. Let’s put it this way. In Baltic states, in Ukraine now you can see openly Nazi marches. With torches, with Nazi symbols, they are open. And we are very much concerned that local governments do nothing to prevent it. There is also some rise of neo-Nazism in European countries, which you have already mentioned. And I have to be objective, there is some neo-Nazi movement – it’s not very popular, but it exists – in Russia. [My emphasis] And we are very strict in both legal forms of fighting it, and also moral forms. Because if the bulk of Russians knew what Nazism was, what an inhuman ideology it was, it’s like a medical shot, if I may put it that way, to prevent the Nazi ideas or Nazi ideology from spreading. So it’s very important from the point of view of true history and from the point of view of everyone knowing what happened 70 years ago.”

Not as concise as Putin’s statement but it will suffice.

So, Russia does have neo-Nazis. Peter is correct with that part of his assertion, but it is as trivial as saying we have neo-Nazis in New Zealand. Maybe Peter  disagrees with Ivanov that they are not popular and are treated strictly – he is welcome to debate this with some evidence. So far, what is the evidence for Peter’s claim that the Russian neo-Nazi groups are “fully aided and abetted by Putin.”

He doesn’t give any and simply cites the Robert Horvath article as “evidence.” Let’s see what this says and what evidence it presents.

The only groups Robert Horvath really mentions, and Wikipedia provides information on, are Nashi and Born

“Nashi” or “Ours”

According to Wikipedia, this group used to be “a political youth movement in Russia which declared itself to be a democratic, anti-fascist, anti-“oligarchic-capitalist” movement. It appears to have been pro-Putin, or pro-Kremlin, electorally and has been compared with the Soviet Komsomol. Russian electoral politics are complex, but the leader of Nashi formed a political party in 2012 and its chairman was elected to the Duma that year. In principle that party would have been in opposition to the Party which supported Putin for president.

Nashi was dissolved in 2019.

I am sure that Nashi had all sorts of scandals, typical of such youth organisations, and had relationships with politicians – but a neo-Nazi group? I think not.

Mind you, the author Robert Horvath seems to get around this by claiming, without evidence, that Nashi and similar groups were bridges between the Kremlin and some undefined “neo-Nazi subculture.”  That claim is not convincing – it might conclude with Horvath’s biases, but it is evidence-free.

BORN – Fighting organization of Russian nationalists

Wikipedia describes BORN as:

“a group of right-wing radical Russian nationalists , also known as a neo-Nazi group. The gang members were charged with a series of murders and attempted murders. In 2011, one of the leaders and founders of the organization, Nikita Tikhonov, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova , and his cohabitant Evgenia Khasis received 18 years in prison. In April 2015, Maxim Baklagin and Vyacheslav Isaev were sentenced to life imprisonment, Mikhail Volkov was sentenced to 24 years in prison. In July 2015, the founder of the organization, Ilya Goryachev , was sentenced to life imprisonment for organizing a gang, five murders, and illegal arms trafficking. The existence of BORN as an organized criminal group is questioned by the defendants’ lawyers.”

A nasty group but no evidence that it is “fully aided and abetted by Putin.” Far from it if their leaders are in prison.

Horvath makes vague but unsubstantiated allegations of links of BORN with politicians. But simply citing a TV discussion programme involving a range of people from different backgrounds and organisations is not evidence of a link. And certainly not evidence that BORN was “fully aided and abetted by Putin.”

The sort of evidence presented by Robert Horvath in his article is, in my experience, typical of comparable articles I have read that claim the Russian Federation has a huge problem with neo-Nazis. Misrepresenting existing or liquidated mainstream groups like Nashi, mentioning real neo-Nazi groups which are illegal, referring to members who are currently in prison for crimes, etc., is not evidence for such a claim.

So, yes, there are neo-Nazi groups in Russia – as there are in many countries. But no there is no evidence they are “aided and abetted by Putin.” 

Comparing Ukraine and Russia regarding neo-Nazis

The difference between Ukraine and Russia on this question is obvious from these two photographs taken of regular public manifestations regarding Nazis.

Kiev 2022

Activists of various nationalist parties carry torches during a rally in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022. Image credit: The Times of Israel: Hundreds of Ukrainian nationalists march in honor of Nazi collaborator.

Euromaidan press said this about the equivalent 2018 demonstration:

“a relatively peaceful march to commemorate the UPA, Ukraine’s WWII-era Insurgent Army, was held in Kyiv, where roughly 15,000 nationalists, according to the police, marched through the Ukrainian capital. Apart from veterans of the Donbas war, many Ukrainian right-wing parties took part, among them: Right Sector, Svoboda, National Corps (founded on the base of the Azov regiment and civic movements surrounding it), Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, activists of C14 and others. However, not only Ukrainian parties took part: German media noted the participation of Junge Nationalisten, the youth wing of the most radical extreme-right Germany party NPD, which is usually described as Neonazi, in the mix”

Moscow, May 9, 2022

I am not aware of any corresponding regular neo-Nazi marches in Russia, although there appear to have been some occasions of their participation in, or conflict with the organisers of, patriotic marches. But this event is relevant. It occurred in Moscow on Victory Day this year.

Image credit: Valeriy Sharifulin/TASS

Tass said in ‘Immortal Regiment’ march breaks record in Moscow with over 1mln participants – police:

The ‘Immortal Regiment’ march is an annual event held throughout Russia and in other countries. The event is dedicated to the victory in the Great Patriotic War (or WWII) that claimed lives of about 28 million Soviet people, both soldiers and civilians. During the march, people carry portraits of their relatives who fought or died during the war.

These photos illustrate the difference between Ukraine and the Russian Federation as far as neo-Nazis are concerned.

In summary, my response to Peter Baillie’s claim is – yes there are neo-Nazis in Russia, but they are not parading in annual street demonstrations, do not have influence in the government and do not have armed militia groups suppressing ethnic minorities.

Peter’s assertion and the claims made by Robert Horvath are simply attempting to divert attention away from the real problem Ukraine has with neo-Nazis. That is also a problem for the rest of the world as the US is very influential and if we remember that the US and Ukraine are the only countries refusing to condemn the glorification of Nazis in the regular UN General Assembly vote on this topic.

A Lesson – citation is not evidence

The main lesson from this discussion is “reader beware.” There is just so much fake information out there – disinformation. We are in the middle of an extreme information war. So, one should read articles like this critically and intelligently. Determine if the stories are credible, if there is evidence presented, and what part bias and wishful thinking are involved.

But a second reason for readers to beware is our own prejudices and wishful thinking. Don’t simply seize on articles that confirm your bias and present them as “proof”. Importantly don’t simply rely on citation of cited articles as some sort of proof. Unfortunately, people who naively rely on citation often have not properly read the article they cite or made a proper judgement of its credibility. When pressed for proper evidence those people often retreat from discussion of the issues.

Peter could have made a better case if he had discussed information he had or thought he had, instead of simply citing an article as evidence. But he can move on and present proper information in the discussion below

Neo-Nazis in Ukraine – stages of denial

Some people are still in the denial stage regarding the presence and role of neo-Nazis in Ukraine. OK, I can understand how people who don’t know the history behind this current war and are influenced by the wartime campaigns of virtue-signalling may hold to this denial stage. It’s not easy to accept you may be supporting neo-Nazis and it is easy to just reject any evidence you come across as “Russian propaganda” or disinformation.  This denial is helped by widespread censorship – including self-censorship.

Hell, even someone as influential as Micael McFaul who should know better embarrassed himself with this tweet.

I suppose he relies on censorship to hide the truth but even he must see the widespread use of swastikas in the body tattoos of soldiers in the Azov and similar battalions revealed in the recent massive surrender of 2500 Ukrainian troops in Mariupol.

Some of the body tattoos on Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered in the final stages of the Mariupol battle this month.

Many people have gone on from outright denial but are still at the bargaining stage – they accept there are neo-Nazis in Ukraine but attempt to explain it away by claiming the tattoos are harmless, only used to scare Russian soldiers, etc., etc. But I came across a novel explanation in response to my last post – blaming Ukrainian neo-Nazis on Putin. This is the “Putin did it” part of the bargaining stage of denial.

Putin did it

Peter, who asked me to analyse the Conversation article I am discussing in this series of posts appears to accept my arguments so far but comments:

“You chose to focus on neo-nazi ties to Ukraine, as if they weren’t formed while Ukraine had a puppet ruler appointed with the approval of Putin.”

Peter really needs to read up on the history of the revival of ultranationalism/neo-Nazism in Ukraine after independence. Here are a few quotes from a very reputable source:

Rudling, P. A. (2107). The OUN, the UPA and the Holocaust: A Study in the Manufacturing of Historical Myths. The Carl Beck Papers in Russian & East European Studies, 2107.

“During the past decade, particularly under the presidency of the third Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko (2005–2010) there have been repeated attempts to turn the leading figures of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and its armed wing, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) into national heroes. As these fascist organizations collaborated with the Nazi Germany, carried out ethnic cleansing and mass murder on a massive scale, they are problematic symbols for an aspiring democracy with the stated ambition to join the European Union.”

One can go further back than that president but Viktor Yushchenko is considered anti-Russian and represented that side of the electoral conflict between Ukrainian non-Russians and Ukrainian-Russians (who generally supported Victor Yanukovych who defeated Yulia Tymoshenko in the 2010 presidential elections, where Yushchenko lost at the run-off stage).

“By turning Bandera, Shukhevych, the OUN(b), and the UPA into official heroes and denying their murders, Yushchenko’s legitimizing historians helped cement a stereotypical identification of Ukrainians with banderivty. Many Poles hold “Ukrainians” collectively responsible for the crimes of the UPA. Ironically, some of the historical interpretations of his successor Viktor Yanukovych and his electorate in the east and south of the country are more in line with the rest of Europe than those Yushchenko, who describes his political orientation as oriented toward the West.”

So, Peter’s naive denial simply holds no water at all. Yanukovych was the democratically elected fourth president of independent Ukraine until he was overthrown in an ultranationalist/neo-Nazi coup supported by the USA. And no, Putin didn’t appoint him, and he was not a Russian puppet. While standing for good relations with the Russian Federation his own policies often differed from those of Russia. (He was, for example, a critic of the return of Crimea to Russia in 2014).

I gather Peter is critical of voters in the east of Ukraine, mainly ethnic Russian Ukrainians, but these were the people who opposed neo-Nazism after the 2014 coup and routinely celebrated the defeat of Hitler’s armies every May 9 – Victory day.

Further:

“As one of his final acts in office, Yushchenko officially designated Stepan Bandera as a Hero of Ukraine, in a polarizing and much-criticized move. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress, of which both OUN wings and veteran organizations of the UPA and the Waffen- SS Galizien are members, enthusiastically endorsed Yushchenko’s decree and called “upon the Government of Canada to make changes to Canada’s War Veterans Allowance Act by expanding eligibility to include designated resistance groups such as OUN-UPA.” Under
Yanukovych, a sharp reversal in the field of memory management followed. Yushchenko’s posthumous designation of Bandera and Shukhevych as national heroes was declared illegal by the courts, and the order was recalled.”

And there is more.

Simply – one should look at the evidence and stop making unsupported declarations based on personal political bias or wishful thinking.

 

Confusion about neo-Nazis in Ukraine-Russia war

This post is a response to a request from Peter Baillie. I don’t know him from Adam and I suspect he was attempting sarcasm but I offered to give him a response. I would welcome any comments or discussion he could add – but that is up to him.

Here’s a link to the article Peter mentions.

Let’s start at the beginning of that article because these few sentences allow us to assess the purpose of that article and its quality.

The author, Robert Horvath, says:

“Many commentators have already debunked Russian President Vladimir Putin’s absurd claim to be waging war to “de-nazify” Ukraine.

Some have pointed out the far right received only 2% of the vote in Ukraine’s 2019 parliamentary elections, far less than in most of Europe. Others have drawn attention to Ukraine’s Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and the efforts of the Ukrainian state to protect minorities like Crimean Tatars and LGBTQ+ people, who are subject to brutal persecution in Russia.”

This is a give-away. The fact that Ukrainian President Zelensky is a Jew and the low electoral support for carefully selected political parties are common arguments used by those who wish to deny the presence and influence of neo-Nazis in Ukraine. Reality is so much more complicated than this and use of such naive arguments by this author, who is a Senior Lecturer at La Trobe University, in my mind destroys his credibility right at the start. His motive is obviously to deny the presence and influence of neo-Nazis in Ukraine and to divert attention from the real facts.

A simple appreciation of the problem with neo-Nazis in Ukraine was given by Zelensky himself, before he became president, and I analysed some of those comments in Neo-Nazis in Ukraine. Comedians are often more truthful than politicians.

There so just so much evidence for what has happened with the revival of ultranationalism in Ukraine and its neo-Nazi character. It’s not hard to find in-depth media reports (although these have disappeared since the current war started) or academic studies of the problem. But here I will just repeat material very recently tweeted by Russians With Attitude (@RWApodcast) who I follow and have found accurate and relatively objective in their war coverage. This is a thread about the history of the neo-Nazi Azov groups which are in the news lately with the massive surrender in Mariupol – see https://twitter.com/RWApodcast/status/1528023220225466374


The roots of “Azov” can be found in the Neonazi soccer hooligan scene of Kharkov. Andrei Biletsky was the central figure of the nascent movement for the longest time. A Kharkov native, he joined numerous nationalist organizations, e.g. the Lvov-based “Tryzub”

He also actively supported the Kharkov cell of the “Social-National Party of Ukraine” (nowadays “Svoboda”). In 2006, Biletsky founded “Patriot of Ukraine”, a nationalist organization that engaged in street violence & even terrorism.

Biletsky’s patron during this period was Arsen Avakov, Armenian-Ukrainian “entrepreneur” & politician. In 2005-2010, Avakov was the governor of Kharkov oblast. During this period, “Patriot of Ukraine” was unofficially deputized by Kharkov police.

Biletsky’s gang helped the police patrol the streets for illegal immigrants, & also to combat illegal businesses. Aside from their political activities, they serves as enforcers for Avakov’s “business ventures”. That’s how they reached a significant level of political protection.

Avakov, of course, also became Minister of the Interior after the Euromaidan coup d’etat; their fruitful relationship continued. Russian Neonazi Sergei Korotkikh aka “Botsman” is a personal friend of Avakov’s son. Botsman also leads a separate Azov unit, the “Botsman Boys”.

Then Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (R) meets Belarusian-born Sergei Korotkikh, a member of Ukraine’s Azov regiment, on Dec. 5, 2014. See https://www.kyivpost.com/ukraine-politics/video-footage-controversial-neo-nazi-from-azov-agreed-to-cooperate-with-russia-law-enforcement.html

In 2011, Biletsky and several of his comrades were arrested for organized robbery; in early 2014, Avakov became Minister of the Interior & had them released from prison. Even before that, Biletsky’s “Patriot of Ukraine” had joined the Euromaidan protests & the “Right Sector”.

Biletsky’s men took part in the civil strife that followed the Euromaidan coup d’etat. Then known as “Little black men from Kharkov”, they published threatening video messages to the Russian population; they rode around the country & engaged in political violence.

They came to Odessa & participated in the May 2nd massacre; they attacked Anti-Maidan protests in Kharkov or straight up had pro-Russian acvitists “disappeared” with the help of Ukrainian security services.

This is a long introduction, but it’s important. Soon after, the civil strife turned into civil war. The Euromaidan government in Kiev realized that Ukraine doesn’t have an army. Its elite military units were getting humiliated by coal miner militias in Donbass.

That’s when, under the patronage of Avakov, the “Volunteer Battalions” were created. Azov, Aidar, Donbas, Tornado, Dnipro — these & many other Ministry of the Interior formations are infamous for their horrifying reign of terror in Eastern Ukraine.

Some documentary reports of neo-Nazi crimes

These are images posted in the tweets

Entry into Mariupol

Azov’s only “battle” in this period occurred when they entered Mariupol after the Kremlin had forced the Donetsk Militia to retreat from the city. They started looting, raping, shooting random civilians, kidnapping, torturing & murdering pro-Russian activists, etc.

Aside from that, Azov’s involvement in the Donbass War was minimal. The places where they were stationed (Shirokino, Zolotoye, Mariupol) saw (almost) no fighting. This, however, didn’t stop Azov from becoming famous. They ran the secret black site prison in Mariupol with the SBU.

Azov transformed from a hooligan militia into a proper military unit with generous funding provided by Ukrainian oligarchs — not just Avakov, but also Kolomoyskyi & Akhmetov. “Patriot of Ukraine” became the “National Corps”, Azov’s political arm.

Not a mere political party, Azov’s “civilian” organizations engaged in paramilitary training for radicals, children’s education, charity, literature & many other things. They built a whole business empire ranging from publishing houses & tattoo parlors to brothels & drug dealing.

Peacetime Azov was involved in high-profile expropriations & hostile takeovers. Biletsky became a Member of Parliament. There were rumors that they tried to buy an island in Latin America. With political protection, mob ties & US sponsors they became a “state within the state”.

After Biletsky’s departure into politics, the nobody Prokopenko was left in charge of the military unit. He became recognizable to the general public only when he refused to salute Zelensky at an awarding ceremony (a fashionable trend among the Ukrainian military at that time).

Mariupol became Azov’s headquarters — a Russian-speaking (e.g. enemy) city given to them as a feudal fief. The city housed the headquarters and one of the regiment’s battalions. Other battalions, including the most numerous, were established in Kharkov & Dnepropetrovsk.

The leaders & iconic figures of the movement are concentrated in Kiev. Now, the regiment’s headquarters & Mariupol branch have been destroyed. Azov has been replenished with numerous supporters from the civilian corps & their own mobilization reserve.

An Azov franchise is currently being formed in Kiev; the Kharkov branch (“Kraken” & “Freikorps”) was the one responsible for videos of Russian prisoners of war getting executed. Azov’s political arm, the “National Corps”, has established a military dictatorship in Kharkov.

Thus, Azov is neither just a “Nazi militia” or a “regular military unit” — they’re a large & successful political movement with deep ties to the government in Kiev, to organized crime, to domestic & foreign intelligence services & to extremist organizations all over the world.


These three videos also give a brief history of the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion. Produced by Vasily Prozorov who was employed by Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) From 1999 to 2018.

Note: This is of course just the beginning to an analysis of the article mentioned by Peter Baillie. I am happy to continue the analysis and respond to criticism of this post if Peter wishes to engage.

I am grateful to Russians With Attitude (@RWApodcast) for this outline and encourage any interested reader to follow them for their valuable in formation.

 

 

 

 

Neo-Nazis in Ukraine. Comedians are often more truthful than politicians.

Israeli news media and politicians often complain about the activity of neo-Nazis in Ukraine. “Activists and supporters of Ukrainian nationalist parties hold torches as they take part in a rally to mark the 112th birth anniversary of Stepan Bandera, in Kyiv, Ukraine, January 1, 2021. Credit: Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

The recent very undiplomatic statements by Russia’s top diplomat, Sergey Lavrov, created a bit of a media storm. But the beat up over these statements obscures the real issues. Ukraine does have a problem with neo-Nazis. These neo-Nazis have a lot of influence in the Ukrainian military. Consequently, they receive arms and training from NATO countries – mainly the USA. Cooperation with this military means cooperation with neo-Nazis.

No surprise that in the current war hysteria there is an attempt to deny the existence and influence of these Ukrainian neo-Nazis. Specifically, Foreign Minister Lavrov was reacting to one of these attempts, the argument about Ukrainian president Zelensky “How can there be Nazism in Ukraine if he is a Jew?”

Lavrov’s interviewer from the Italian television network, Mediaset, expressed this argument with the question:

“He (Zelensky) believes denazification doesn’t make any sense. He is a Jew. The Nazis, Azov – there are very few of them (several thousand). Vladimir Zelensky refutes your view of the situation.”

Perhaps it’s worth looking at what Zelensky has said about this problem in the past. And I refer to Zelensky the comedian – not Zelensky the politician. We all know politicians tell lies as part of their job – perhaps comedians can be more truthful

This video clip from one of Zelensky’s stand-up performances in 2014 is a good summary of the situation.  (Sorry about posting this as a tweet – it is a real problem directly including videos now because of YouTube censorship).

Zelensky is reading a fictional letter from someone serving in one of the ultranationalist military brigades:

He says things are better because he is “in the ranks of the Banderites.”

The Banderites are the ultra-right, ultranationalist, neo-Nazi groups which were converted into national guard battalions during the civil war after the 2014 coup. Stepan Bandera has been promoted to a national hero in Ukraine since independence. He was one of the leaders of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army which cooperated with the German Nazis in the second world war, which was responsible for the massacre of Poles, Jews, Russians, and others at the time and before the war.

Per Anders Rudling, a historian specializing in the areas of nationalism, wrote in The OUN, the UPA and the Holocaust: A Study in the Manufacturing of Historical Myths:”

“During the past decade, particularly under the presidency of the third Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko (2005–2010) there have been repeated attempts to turn the leading figures of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and its armed wing, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) into national heroes. As these fascist organizations collaborated with the Nazi Germany, carried out ethnic cleansing and mass murder on a massive scale, they are problematic symbols for an aspiring democracy with the stated ambition to join the European Union.”

He adds “My salary is small but that is not a problem since we are allowed to take money and property from then Russians.”

Examples of vigilante justice in Ukraine are common. Often victims are accused of looting or similar but may be guilty of being Roma or Russian speakers.

The revival of neo-Nazi Ukrainian heroes together with the involvement of thugs, football hooligans, etc., has produced brutish behaviour in Ukrainian society. During the leadup to the 2014 coup these thugs intimidated elected councils and businesses. They often beat up politicians they disliked. They will tie people they consider criminals (e.g. looters) or pro-Russian to lampposts to be abused by passers-by.

The ultranationalists often intimidate people as part of their campaign against the use of the Russian language.

“Earlier the same applied to the Jews. But then the main Bandera man Kolomoyski prohibited it.”

Ihor Kolomoyskyi is one of the richest oligarchs in Ukraine and helped to get Zelensky elected. He is also a funder of one of some of the neo-Nazi military groups. Kolomovski is also a Jew.

This underlines the point that neo-Nazis are not about attacking Jews – they have moved on. In Ukraine, they attack other minorities, the Roma for example, but their main concern is with the largest ethnic minority – Russians. Their attacks range from bullying over language, kidnap and even murder of officials they consider “pro-Russian,” to their involvement in the war against Russian speaking separatists since 2014.

“I am learning English to forget Russian with the help of American mercenaries; they’re all over the place.”

The USA has been involved in Ukraine ever since independence in the early 90s. They have been happy to support the anti-Russian prejudices promoted by Banderites and the evidence is that the USA was involved in the anti-democratic coup in February 2014.

“Our president, the most important one Barack Obama, has promised that we will join NATO soon, as an American henchman of course.”

Interesting aside there. Ukraine was never a serious candidate for NATO membership but was in fact incorporated into NATO in all but name. NATO training, arms supplies and intelligence. In the current war, one can say the aim of the Americans is to fight to the last Ukrainian in their attempt to destroy Russia.

“If you can please send me Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf.” They are sold out here.”

The Ukrainian translation of the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto amongst other neo-Nazi material promoted by the Azov movement in Ukraine. Image credit “The Russians and Ukrainians Translating the Christchurch Shooter’s Manifesto

The capture of headquarters occupied by neo-Nazi groups like the Azov Battalion, Aidar Batallion, Right Sector, etc., reveals that these groups are reading classical fascist literature.

Interestingly, the manifesto of the Christchurch terrorist, Tarrant, while banned in New Zealand, was translated into eastern European languages and is used by groups like the Azov Battalion. During the shooting, Tarrant wore a flak jacket with a symbol commonly used by the Azov Battalion which even the New York Times describes as “a Ukrainian neo-Nazi paramilitary organization.”

Of course, things are not simple. More can be said about the overwhelming support Zelensky received in his election because of his support for peace and the steps outlined in the Minsk Agreements. How the ultranationalist/neo-Fascist groups and their allies demonstrated against his peace policies, threatened his presidency – even his life, and his eventual back down as shown by the fact that Ukraine never carried out their obligations under the Minsk agreements.

But I think those people who wish to support Ukraine in this war should be aware of the role of neo-Nazis.  Supporters of Ukraine who attempt to deny the existence of the neo-Nazis, or downplay their importance, are simply making excuses for the fact that they are effectively supporting a disreputable movement.

Ukraine – a beginner’s guide

The Author of this Dorset Eye article, Ukraine – a beginner’s guide, says:

“In 2014, the journalist and writer John Pilger wrote an article for The Guardian newspaper entitled ‘In Ukraine the US is dragging us towards war with Russia’.[i] Eight years later, in 2022, this prediction came true when Russia invaded Ukraine. Readers should be aware that I am anti-war, and therefore not in favour of any country invading any other. This article is to help readers understand why Russia invaded Ukraine.

A peaceful outcome is possible if negotiators from the US, Ukraine, Europe (particularly Germany and France) and Russia are able to sit down and agree a solution. Negotiations have to deal with two sets of connected problems. The first is about how different regions in Ukraine are governed. The second is about the role that Ukraine plays internationally.  “

I have watched Ukraine closely since 2013/2014 (the democratically elected government was overthrown in a coup in February 2014) and think the author is completely correct. One cannot understand the current war unless one understands the problems Ukraine has with ethnic differences and what this means for local government and language/cultural rights. We also need to acknowledge the rise of extreme and often violent ultranationalism and the way Ukraine has been used in the geopolitical struggle between the USA and the Russian Federation.

I think the article is a little bit simplistic – but certainly not as simplistic and biased as the information our mainstream media subjects us to.

There is just so much ignorance about this war, the reason for it and the lead up to it. We are bombarded with so much biased and fake news and disinformation. But this article provides a good introduction (and it is well referenced) for anyone wishing to understand what is really going on.

 

Why the silence on censorship?

2022 is turning out to be a crap year – George Orwell would have been shocked. I guess reality is always different to predictions.

Wars, economic and financial mayhem, and widespread censorship are now our lot. And on top of the censorship, there is disinformation and fake news. How does the intelligent reader deal with disinformation if their access to a range of news sources is prevented by censorship?

However, what I find disturbing in all this is the lack of protest against censorship and disinformation. People seem to just lap it up. Perhaps it’s just an extreme case of confirmation bias fed by years of demonisation.

And it simply is not justified by a distant war. Russia and Ukraine as the warring nations can justify repression and censorship at home – but we can’t. We are not at war (at least formally – perhaps they haven’t told us yet).

Anyway, the censorship and disinformation started well before the war broke out. It seems to be part of reality now and the disgusting thing is people seem to accept it.

What happened to all our liberal values which we claimed were an overwhelming justification for our form of society?

We should take Asimov’s advice and actively search out the information denied to us by censorship. It may be the only information worth reading.

 

Everything You Know About Ukraine Is WRONG

Obviously not true for everyone. But it is amazing how many people take up a strong, emotional stance on the war in Ukraine despite being completely ignorant about what has been happening there.

This short video does a great job of condensing the history of Ukraine – and presents it in a humorous way,

History was never this amusing at school.

Some sense on the Russia-Ukraine war

It’s a truism that the first casualty in war is the truth. But a close second is rational thought. We face this now where partisanship, wishful thinking and disinformation dominate what we read about the Ukraine-Russia war in our media.

So, it is refreshing to come across an informed and reasoned discussion of the situation. In this video, Aaron Maté interviews Richar Saska about the current situation, the lead up to the war, the resulting repression in Russia and Ukraine and the prospects for a final resolution of the war. He makes interesting comments on Ukrainian President Zelensky – impressive as a comedian and actor but an absolute disaster as a statesman.

Aaron Maté’s podcasts, videos and articles are always informed and interesting. This is no exception and once again he is interviewing a real expert on this subject.

Professor Richard Sakwa is a specialist on Russian and European politics at the University of Kent, He has written extensively on Ukraine and its problems and the nature of the Ukraine-Russia conflict. I can highly recommend his book Frontline Ukraine, which was written soon after the 2014 coup which overthrew the democratically elected government in Kiev.

I note that Richard Sakwa has a new book out Deception: Russiagate and the New Cold War which looks very interesting. Like a lot of academic books, it is expensive so I will keep an eye on its availability at local libraries.

Russiagate created so much confusion and there are very few proper analyses of what happened during that period. What motivated it and what the real aims of the media hysteria were.

I look forward to tracking this book down and reading it.