Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Ukraine: The Kiev Government and National Revolution.

"When we set off to Maidan we did not go to fight, but that's what life threw up, that's what fate decreed for us...A lot of people on Maidan still think that they need to protect Kiev … we are calling on all these people, especially young men, to join our [volunteer] battalions and go to where there are currently real barricades."-Andriy Parubiy

The overthrow of President Yanukovych in February 2014 was termed a 'revolution'. If so, as with most revolutions, it has been hijacked by radicals. With far right paramilitaries providing the muscle on the streets of Kiev to take over key buildings and drive out the elected incumbent, Kiev is now seeking to deploy them in the east.

The head of Ukraine's armed forces, Andrei Parubiy, is an ultra nationalist radical. Concern that the 'activists' could get 'bored' with the inaction in the capital and cause trouble has led Parubiy, who was a leader of the paramilitaries who helped oust Yanukoych, to coopt the paramilitaries as part of Ukraine's regular armed forces.

Already Kiev had reintroduced conscription in order to try and deal with the threat of Donetsk breaking away after 'terrorists' copied the actions of Right Sector and activists in Kiev by taking over buildings in eastern cities, proclaiming the Donetsk People's Republic and carrying out a hurried referendum.

Though Parubiy left the the Social-National Party of Ukraine, which he founded in 1991 together with Oleh Tyahnybok ( now leader of Svoboda ) he has been a member of other far right political organisations and retained his close links to paramilitary Ukrainian nationalists despite being elected in 2012 as a member for the Fatherland Party.

Parubiy 's use of volunteer units is consistent with Svoboda's aim of a 'national revolution' based on the ideology of UPA, the Ukrainian nationalist formation that collaborated with Nazi Germany. One reason for this deployment, apart from the need to deal with eastern separatists and federalists, is to give the hard men on the streets of Kiev some action.

The Kiev government is clearly concerned that the far right nationalists they used to oust Yanukovych could turn on them if they remain 'bored' in Maidan. After the killing of the leading Right Sector paramilitary Oleksandr Muzychko in March 2014, Right Sector foot soldiers threatened the Rada and to get revenge on the Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.

With eastern separatists gaining ground and the annexation of Crimea, the growing polarisation of Ukraine between the east and west could lead to Svoboda making gains in the May 25 elections or the other parties in government making deals with ultra nationalists in order to mobilise them against pro-Russian militants.

The Kiev government has sought to coopt radical far right Ukrainian nationalist from the outset of the February uprising, one in which the Euromaidan protests were to be taken over by Right Sector and Svoboda as part of their war against the 'Russian-Jewish mafia elites' dominating Ukraine since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

This position was made clear by Dmytro Yarosh, leader of Right Sector, who has a position next to Parubiy as Deputy Secretary of National Security when he commented, 'Russia has pursued a systematic, targeted policy of subjugation toward Ukraine...So of course we will prepare for a conflict with them'. 

Even if  most in  the Ukrainian cabinet are members of Tymoshenko's Fatherland Party are not actual fascists, they have been content to play the nationalist card to shore up their popularity. After all, Tymoshenko's party was deeply unpopular in Ukraine in 2010 when it was voted out in favour of Yanukovych.

The use of volunteer units of Ukrainian far right nationalists is a clear sign of Kiev's desperation. Regular units have failed to stem the paramilitary separatists in Donestsk and Kiev is hoping to fend off the destabilising effects of having the paramilitaries roaming around in the capital where they could challenge a weak government.

The calculation is that the violence would be localised in the east and not return to Kiev as this has become a pathological struggle between Kiev and the Kremlin in which the stakes have been steadily ratcheted up in the run up to Ukraine's elections. But by using paramilitaries, Kiev is set to drive eastern Ukrainians closer to the rebels.

Already, Right Sector paramilitaries have been active in the violence in Mariupol and Krasnoarmeisk. Volunteer units of Ukrainian nationalists are bound to conjure up memories of those who collaborated with Hitler in World War Two and confirm Russian propaganda about the February uprising being a 'fascist coup'.

In this light, Western diplomats and statesmen have ceaselessly blundered in underestimating the national revolutionary dynamic at work. Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague, on visiting Kiev claimed "The idea that some extremists have taken over here is far, far wide of the mark". The problem is that it is not.

Despite Paribuy's attempt to reinvent himself as a responsible mainstream politician in the Fatherland Party, he retains his links to the Ukrainian far right paramilitaries he forged throughout the 1990s and 2000s, groups like the SNPU, the Patriot of Ukraine which have a Wolfsangel-type logo and held rallies under torchlight.

The fact that a politician with clear neo-Nazi sympathies is head of Ukraine's armed forces should be reason enough for the Western Powers to publicly distance themselves from the Kiev government. No doubt EU leader and US officials hope the May 25 elections could bring about a better government but there is no guarantee of that.

For over a decade, the Western politicians have been prepared to turn a blind eye to the presence and potential power of the Ukrainian far right, being prepared to see them as assets in the struggle to mobilise Ukrainians to throw off rulers who leaned more towards Moscow than London, Berlin and Washington.

Unfortunately, the economic crisis and the unpopularity of Tymoshenko's Fatherland Party, which in government was loathed by many for its venality and corruption, has created the space for far right Ukrainian nationalism to become more mainstream and for Ukraine's disintegration to accelerate through civil war.

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