Russian President Putin has claimed that he ordered the invasion of Ukraine to “denazify” its government, while Western officials, such as former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul, have called this pure propaganda, insisting, “There are no Nazis in Ukraine.”
In the context of the Russian invasion, the post-2014 Ukrainian government’s problematic relations with extreme right-wing groups and neo-Nazi parties has become an incendiary element on both sides of the propaganda war, with Russia exaggerating it as a pretext for war and the West trying to sweep it under the carpet.
The reality behind the propaganda is that the West and its Ukrainian allies have opportunistically exploited and empowered the extreme right in Ukraine, first to pull off the 2014 coup and then by redirecting it to fight separatists in Eastern Ukraine. And far from “denazifying” Ukraine, the Russian invasion is likely to further empower Ukrainian and international neo-Nazis, as it attracts fighters from around the world and provides them with weapons, military training and the combat experience that many of them are hungry for. 1
The paragraphs above form the introduction to a comprehensive and insightful piece written by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies entitled “How the U.S. Has Empowered and Armed Neo-Nazis in Ukraine” published by Counterpunch on Friday 11th.
I will return to the conclusion of the article below but also encourage readers to follow the link to read it in full.
In the summer of 2019, TIME Correspondent, Simon Shuster travelled to Ukraine to investigate the white supremacist militias that are recruiting people to join their fight:
Embedded below is a speech made by Yevhen Karas, the leader of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi faction and youth wing C14 that he delivered on February 5th about a fortnight ahead of the Russian invasion.
Sat beside an effigy of notorious Nazi collaborator and war criminal Stepan Bandera, Karas brazenly dispels many of the narratives promoted by the mainstream media, European Union and US State Department claiming amongst other things that Ukraine is being armed as pawns of the West in order to destabilise Russia because “we have fun killing and we have fun fighting”:
“LGBT and foreign embassies say ‘there were not many Nazis at Maidan, maybe about 10 percent of real ideological ones,’” Karas remarked. “If not for those eight percent [of neo-Nazis] the effectiveness [of the Maidan coup] would have dropped by 90 percent.”
The 2014 Maidan “Revolution of Dignity” would have been a “gay parade” if not for the instrumental role of neo-Nazis, he proclaimed.
Karas went on to opine that the West armed Ukrainian ultra-nationalists because “we have fun killing.” He also fantasized about the balkanization of Russia, declaring that it should be broken up into “five different” countries.
During the Maidan “Revolution of Dignity” that ousted Ukraine’s elected president in 2014, C14 activists took over Kiev’s city hall and plastered its walls with neo-Nazi insignia before taking shelter in the Canadian embassy.
As the former youth wing of the ultra-nationalist Svoboda Party, C14 appears to draw its name from the infamous 14 words of US neo-Nazi leader David Lane: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”
By offering to carry out acts of spectacular violence on behalf of anyone willing to pay, the hooligans have fostered a cozy relationship with various governing bodies and powerful elites across Ukraine. 2
The extracts above are taken from a recent Grayzone article which also reminds us of events that took place in early 2018 after Karas’ C14 gang signed an agreement with Kiev’s city government to patrol its streets. Months later it began a campaign of pogroms against Romani camps:
A March 2018 report by Reuters stated that “C14 and Kiev’s city government recently signed an agreement allowing C14 to establish a ‘municipal guard’ to patrol the streets,” effectively giving them the sanction of the state to carry out pogroms.
As The Grayzone reported, C14 led raid to “purge” Romani from Kiev’s railway station in collaboration with the Kiev police.
Not only was this activity sanctioned by the Kiev city government, the US government itself saw little problem with it, hosting [C14 activist Serhiy] Bondar at an official US government institution in Kiev where he bragged about the pogroms. C14 continued to receive state funding throughout 2018 for “national-patriotic education.”
Karas has claimed that the Ukrainian Security Serves would “pass on” information regarding pro-separatist rallies “not only [to] us, but also Azov, the Right Sector and so on.”
“In general, deputies of all factions, the National Guard, the Security Service of Ukraine and the Ministry of Internal Affairs work for us. You can joke like that,” Karas said.
Click here to read the full article entitled “How Ukraine’s Jewish president Zelensky made peace with neo-Nazi paramilitaries on front lines of war with Russia” written by Alexander Rubinstein and Max Blumenthal published on March 4th by The Grayzone.
Eight years ago as the ugly truth about the Maidan slowly began to emerge even BBC Newsnight featured a handful of reports on the rise and influence of the “ultranationalists” including this segment (currently still available on Youtube) in which reporter Gabriel Gatehouse investigates the tightening links between the new Ukrainian government and neo-Nazis:
Halfway into his report, Gatehouse actually interviews Yevhen Karas about the role of his C14 movement when visiting its new base which had been the former headquarters of the Communist Party, but that had since been occupied by the far-right. Following the coup, the political party Svoboda, which is affiliated with C14, actually controlled four ministries in the new government including the Ministry of Defense. Two of its MPs had also been photographed brandishing well-known Nazi paraphernalia [5:00 mins into the report].
Karas told Gatehouse:
“Our general mission is to totally ruin chains that connect our country with the imperial power from the past.”
Gatehouse then prompts him: “… and that being Russia?”
Yes, said Karas, “Weaken the Russians – not only Russia, Soviet Union.”
“Are you a Nazi?” Gatehouse asks directly. No, Karas replies smiling, “I don’t think I’m a Nazi – I’m a Ukrainian nationalist.”
Gatehouse prompts again: “And what does that mean?”
Karas continues: “The main confrontation is about that some ethnic groups have control: many business structures; some economics and political forces.”
Gatehouse again: “Which ethnic groups?”
Karas: “Russians and Jews. And it may be some non-Ukrainian group control a huge percent of some economic or political power.”
Finally, Gabriel Gatehouse rounds off the Newsnight report essentially confirming the opinion of Yevhen Karas with respect to the pivotal role played by neo-Nazis in the success of the coup:
“It’s clear that it was the radical groups who kept up the pressure on Viktor Yanukovych and many of them feel that this really is their victory – the question is how much power will that give the far-right in the new Ukraine.” [from 5:35 mins]
He adds: “With their anti-Russian rhetoric, events in Crimea will almost certainly play into the hands of the nationalists. No one knows exactly how strong they are in terms of numbers, but the influence of the far-right in Ukraine is growing.”
Eighteen months on, Gabriel Gatehouse then presented a follow-up BBC Newsnight report from Ukraine featuring arguably the most extreme “ultranationalist” group Pravyi Sektor (or Right Sector) as they marched on Kiev with neo-Nazi banners and chants of “Glory to Ukraine!”
At one point a commander of the Right Sector militia tells him: “I know the Chief of General Staff and all the armed forces, apart from a few generals; in principle they support us. The army will never go against us.” [from 7:00 mins]
Towards the end of his report, Gatehouse inspects a Right Sector banner which bears the Wolfsangel insignia saying “That’s a Nazi symbol, isn’t it?”
No, Dmytro Semen tells him disingenuously, “It means ‘idea of the Nation’, it’s not Nazi.” [from 7:35 mins]
As Gatehouse also acknowledges: “The revolution which is known here as Maidan overthrew the government and then set this country hurtling towards war. Just as it did during Maidan, the Right Sector has played a key role in the fighting in the east. Its members are more motivated than Ukraine’s conscripted regular army and the government relies on them to bolster their strength. Now they’re flexing their muscles.” [from 2:15 mins]
In April 2018, BBC Newsnight correspondent Jonah Fisher also reported on the increasing visibility of far-right groups in Ukraine. The National Militia brown shirts patrolling the streets and smashing up the premises of local businesses shouting “Glory to Ukraine”. Fisher acknowledges:
“The National Militia tell us they’re working alongside the police, but they have also on several occasions fought them. Here they brawled and used pepper spray on officers as they tried and failed to pressure a judge into keeping an allegedly corrupt politician in custody.”
“The National Militia are part of a group called Azov. Initially a volunteer military battalion, it has well established links to the far-right. Its founder this man Andriy Biletsky has in the past expressed racist and antisemitic views, and its logo [the Wolfsangel and Black Sun] has clear Nazi overtones.” [from 3:50 mins]
Vyacheslav Likhachev of the National Minority Rights Monitoring Group tells Jonah Fisher sardonically: “My favourite quote from Andriy Biletsky is that: ‘the destiny of the Ukrainian nation is to be in a vanguard in holy war of white people against under-humans [i.e., untermenschen] led by semites.’” [from 4:25 mins]
Fisher then explains that Biletsky “now denies he ever said that, but as this oath-making ceremony shows he’s not running away from the dubious imagery.”
Continuing: “Azov has now started a political party as well as launching the National Militia. The toxic racism has in public, at least, been replaced by patriotic nationalism.”
Speaking with leader of the National Militia, Ihor Mykhailenko, Fisher asks: “Do you now reject those values that you had in the past?”
Mykhailenko replies: “It’s been a long time, a lot has changed in Ukraine. We have always declared our lawful demand and desire that the country is governed by indigenous people.” [from 5:00 mins]
Deputy of Cherkasy City Hall, Olesksander Radutskyi, who has witnessed the takeover of his own council assembly by a gang of National Militia thugs, tells Fisher: “Cherkasy is now a training ground for a military coup in Ukraine.”
He continues: “This sort of thing can’t exist in Ukraine without the Interior Ministry’s approval. If [Arsen] Avakov decided that the National Militia with their balaclavas and uniforms shouldn’t exist, then it wouldn’t exist.” [from 6:45 mins]
Fisher points out that “Ukraine’s ambitious Interior Minister… links to the Azov group are well known. He’s put their fighters on the payroll of his ministry and appointed one of their commanders, Vadim Troyan, as his deputy.”
He continues: “The National Militia may well be the extreme right’s first move ahead of Ukraine’s elections next year, but it’s the uncertainty over who’s behind them that’s worrying people. Confidence in politicians and the police here is low, and for whatever reason the National Militia appear to have been given the nod to act outside the law.
Deputy of Cherkasy City Hall, Olesksander Radutskyi tells Fisher:
“History is repeating itself. If we look what happened in Germany when fascism was just rising up in the 1930s. That’s what I would compare this to.” [from 9:35 mins]
And Fisher concludes the report saying: “It’s an apocalyptic warning but, it’s a reminder that four years after Ukraine turned away from Russia towards Europe the struggle for its soul is far from over.”
Here’s a report by Vice International released in May 2018 with the description: “In 2014, Ukraine was under siege and the military was unprepared. Desperate, the government urged anyone to get to the front and fight the Russian-backed separatists. As the war drags on, Ukraine claims their military is now in control and the volunteers have all been disbanded. But we tracked down some rogue volunteers still out there fighting, not prepared to hand over their weapons anytime soon.”
What the description above and the report curiously fails to mention is that these “rogue militia” and “volunteer brigades” are actually Right Sector neo-Nazis. The reporter, Ben Makuch, somehow manages to skirt around this issue entirely, even while showing fighters who are openly flaunting their “Blood and Soil” red and white flags and banners. Moreover, Oleksandr Turchynov who is interviewed close to the beginning of the film is a bit more than just “a controversial guy” who served as acting Ukrainian Prime Minister (2010) and then Chairman of the Verkhova Rada (Ukrainian parliament) in 2014 under President Poroshenko. In 2014 Turchynov also founded the ultranationalist People’s Front party along with Andriy Parubiy (Chairman of the Rada 2016–2019), who in turn had previously founded the Social-National Party of Ukraine (yes, the clue is in the name!) together with Oleh Tyahnybok.
Concluding his report, Ben Makuch joins a torchlight procession through Kiev on the annual “Day of the Defender” with thousands marching beneath neo-Nazi Right Sector and Svoboda banners, but still he only sees “a lot of angry yelling youths in masks and various forms of balaclava”. “What could possibly go wrong?” he asks rhetorically, while taking a selfie!
And this is a Guardian report uploaded in September 2017 with the description: “In Ukraine, the far-right Azov militia is fighting on the frontline – and running a summer camp for children. The Guardian visited the camp and followed 16-year-old Anton through his experiences. Is Azov really a modern Hitler Youth organisation, or is it trying to prepare young Ukrainians for the tough reality that awaits them?”
As Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies remind us in their latest Counterpunch article:
Despite Svoboda’s declining success in national elections, neo-Nazi and extreme nationalist groups, increasingly linked to the Azov Battalion, have maintained power on the street in Ukraine, and in local politics in the Ukrainian nationalist heartland around Lviv in Western Ukraine.
After President Zelensky’s election in 2019, the extreme right threatened him with removal from office, or even death, if he negotiated with separatist leaders from Donbas and followed through on the Minsk Protocol. Zelensky had run for election as a “peace candidate,” but under threat from the right, he refused to even talk to Donbas leaders, whom he dismissed as terrorists.
During Trump’s presidency, the United States reversed Obama’s ban on weapons sales to Ukraine, and Zelensky’s aggressive rhetoric raised new fears in Donbas and Russia that he was building up Ukraine’s forces for a new offensive to retake Donetsk and Luhansk by force.
The civil war has combined with the government’s neoliberal economic policies to create fertile ground for the extreme right. The post-coup government imposed more of the same neoliberal “shock therapy” that was imposed throughout Eastern Europe in the 1990s. Ukraine received a $40 billion IMF bailout and, as part of the deal, privatized 342 state-owned enterprises; reduced public sector employment by 20%, along with salary and pension cuts; privatized healthcare, and disinvested in public education, closing 60% of its universities.
Coupled with Ukraine’s endemic corruption, these policies led to the profitable looting of state assets by the corrupt ruling class, and to falling living standards and austerity measures for everybody else. The post-coup government upheld Poland as its model, but the reality was closer to Yeltsin’s Russia in the 1990s. After a nearly 25% fall in GDP between 2012 and 2016, Ukraine is still the poorest country in Europe.
As elsewhere, the failures of neoliberalism have fueled the rise of right-wing extremism and racism, and now the war with Russia promises to provide thousands of alienated young men from around the world with military training and combat experience, which they can then take home to terrorize their own countries.
The Soufan Center has compared the Azov Battalion’s international networking strategy to that of Al Qaeda and ISIS. U.S. and NATO support for the Azov Battalion poses similar risks as their support for Al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria ten years ago. Those chickens quickly came home to roost when they spawned ISIS and turned decisively against their Western backers.
Right now, Ukrainians are united in their resistance to Russia’s invasion, but we should not be surprised when the U.S. alliance with neo-Nazi proxy forces in Ukraine, including the infusion of billions of dollars in sophisticated weapons, results in similarly violent and destructive blowback.
Click here to read the full article by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies entitled “How the U.S. Has Empowered and Armed Neo-Nazis in Ukraine” published by Counterpunch on Friday 11th.
The following piece written by independent journalist Saj Awan was originally published on his website Burning Blogger on Saturday March 5th. It is reprinted below in full with all links and images retained.
In December 2021 – just a few weeks before the Russian military incursion into Ukraine – something incredibly interesting happened.
A United Nations resolution was presented, its purpose being to condemn Nazism or the ‘glorification of Nazism’. Only two countries voted AGAINST the resolution. Guess which ones? It was the United States and Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Britain, Australia, Canada and the countries of the European Union were among those who abstained.
Just process this again, please. The US and Ukraine refused to condemn Nazism. While Canada, the UK and various European nations simply ‘abstained’ from having to do so. Fascinating, isn’t it?
Mere weeks later, Vladimir Putin is making a speech about ‘denazifying’ Ukraine (for which he was widely ridiculed in Western media), Russian forces were invading, and this whole disastrous situation unfolding.
Why would any government or nation, in this day and age, refuse to condemn Nazism – or even abstain from such a vote? Shouldn’t it be a simple, cut-and-paste matter? Apparently not.
Weeks later, all the world’s attention was fixed on the imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In the wake of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, a concerted and calculated propaganda programme has encompassed all of Western media and commentary: one that has sought to completely whitewash Ukraine of any controversies or of any unsavoury elements – and to present all of Ukraine, including its militias and armed groups and its politicians, as absolute Good Guys and the Russians as the Absolute Villains.
The programme, in short, has been to present Ukraine as entirely untainted and those within the Ukrainian state and its society as being entirely devoid of any failings, wrongdoings or blame for the state of affairs that preceded the current crisis.
This is all about Russia’s aggression and Putin’s mania – and nothing else. Putin is the new Hitler.
That’s the programme: and every single major news broadcaster, media outlet or newspaper has adopted this narrative. Across all of both mainstream/corporate media and online social media, this whitewashing operation has been in full swing.
Now, I will preface this article the same way as every other I publish on this subject: which is to clarify that I am not being a Putin apologist and I am not endorsing or defending the military violation of one sovereign state by another.
This article isn’t about endorsing the military offensive in Ukraine: or all of the destruction and casualties that inevitably go along with such an operation.
What it is about is exposing and confronting the mass media whitewashing of the Ukraine situation: and the highly selective narrative that is being presented by both media and governments.
In this article, we will establish that:
- this mass media whitewashing is deliberate; and even could be considered sinister, given that,
- there absolutely is a Nazi presence in Ukraine, and
- NATO governments absolutely know this: and are in fact covering for it.
Anyone reading this is of course entitled to disagree with those conclusions: but you will probably find it very difficult to.
As for this whitewashing, it is absolute: every measure has been taken to present a highly sanitised image of Ukrainian society and politics.
In recent days, Facebook has reversed its ban on posts praising the Azov Batallion: it had previously (and correctly) regarded Azov as being in the same category as groups like Islamic State and the Ku Klux Klan – but, of course, the recent onset of pro-Ukraine mania in the West has seen the social media giant change its mind, apparently.
Moreover, Facebook and Instagram have both been hosting dozens of accounts that are raising funds and selling merch for openly Nazi and extremist groups. As reported, ‘the network of accounts’ promoting Nazi and white supremacist merchandise are ‘linked to two extremist groups operating out of Ukraine: Azov Battalion and Misanthropic Division’.
Here are a couple of fine examples: note the Nazi/SS ‘wolfsangel’ symbol in the second item.
You can buy your Azov merchandise all over the place these days, by the way: try here or here, for example. Now that everyone is all about celebrating the Ukrainian heroes, I suspect some of this merchandise is going to be selling really well.
Get your Azov merch, folks: it’s the hip new thing.
I’ve written about Azov before: here, for example. An openly Neo-Nazi organisation that has been involved in violence, hate crime and the Russia conflict ever since the events of 2014, in which the US/Western-backed ‘revolution’ helped create the situation that has existed in Ukraine to the present day.
When we’re talking Azov Battalion, remember that this is the same organisation whose mission (according to its founder) is to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade… against Semite-led subhumans”.
Remember that. When someone says ‘oh, but they’re patriots and nationalists who are fighting for Ukraine’s independence’. Sure: and how precisely does fighting for Ukraine’s independence relate to leading ‘the white races of the world in a final crusade against sub-humans’…?
I mean, just a suggestion here: but couldn’t you fight for Ukrainian independence and, you know, NOT lead the white race in a final crusade against sub-humans?
And, just a reminder, get more Azov merch here. And here. Support the Heroes of Ukraine!
Alright, so let’s recap a little bit about the Azov Battalion.
Azov was apparently founded by Andriy Biletsky, who – during the Maidan Revolution in 2014 – was actually freed from prison to take part in the ‘revolution’: having been otherwise serving a sentence for murder. So that’s a good start right there, isn’t it?
Among various other ultra-right-wing groups in Ukraine (Right Sector, Svoboda, National Corps, etc, all of which are basically connected), the Azov Battalion stood out because of its brazen brandishing and adoption of Nazi imagery and because of some of its reportedly brutal behaviour.
Ukrainian officials, Azov supporters and apologists, all like to say the regiment is misunderstood.
This is clearly bullshit. The regiment’s symbols, including wolf’s hook (or wolfsangel) and black sun, were Nazi SS symbols during World War II. Everyone knows this. Azov members have frequently been shown wearing Nazi insignia, riding around with swastika flags or patches, and making Nazi salutes.
Apologists like to say the Azov and other Nazi militias are not state actors, but individuals and rogues. A few bad apples, right? Not true. Azov Battalion was formally incorporated into the National Guard and operates under the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Azov and other Nazis are therefore part of the state apparatus, legitimised by elements of the Ukrainian state.
If officials in Ukraine were embarrassed by or ashamed for the Nazis in their midst, why the hell would they incorporate them into the state? How can they be ‘rogue’ if they’ve been made part of the system?
Azov ‘patrols’ and the like also became commonplace, with members of the militia basically acting like a police force: in some cases to enforce the law, while in other cases to (predictably) intimidate or persecute ethnic minorities (including ethnic Russians).
If this is sounding a lot like a white/European version of ‘ISIS’, that’s something I’ve pointed out before: I argued back in 2018, in fact, that Ukraine is being turned into a European Syria-like situation, with Azov and other white nationalists being empowered to be the ‘white power’ equivalent of ISIS and other jihadists. Only instead of waving the ISIS black flag, they’ll be waving swastikas and wolfangel symbols.
As Michael Colborne wrote four years ago:
‘Azov is trying – as one of their higher-ups has told me personally – to build a far-right “state within the state,” running everything from nationalist study groups and mixed martial arts training to free gyms for youth and programs for the elderly. They’re also trying to turn Kiev into a capital of the global far-right, inviting neo-Nazis and white supremacists from around the world to visit…’
Apologists also like to say that the Neo-Nazi militants and white supremacists are a minority and have very little influence. This is also bullshit.
As this article from TIME magazine as recently as January explained:
It has its own political party; two publishing houses; summer camps for children; and a vigilante force known as the National Militia, which patrols the streets of Ukrainian cities alongside the police… [Its military wing] has at least two training bases and a vast arsenal of weapons, from drones and armoured vehicles to artillery pieces
This isn’t some small network of troublemakers. Azov and its related far-right groups have connections across Ukraine’s institutions: including security services, police, military and government. They are prevalent across the society.
The Nazi-inspired ideology has apparently been quite prevalent too. Whether a group like Azov is a minority presence or not, it obviously has supporters and collaborators in all the places that matter – not just in Ukraine, but abroad.
But the involvement of foreign intelligence services and governments is something we’ll come to shortly.
And Azov, in fact, is only the most blatant and visible tip of the Nazi iceberg: this isn’t just about Azov.
As Atlantic Council noted in 2018:
Ukraine’s Ministry of Youth and Sports is funding the neo-Nazi group C14 to promote “national patriotic education projects” in the country.
The authors advised:
Government agencies at all levels should stop cooperating with far-right groups. In addition to the Youth Ministry’s problematic funding, C14 and a Kyiv city district recently signed an agreement allowing C14 to establish a “municipal guard” to patrol the streets; three such militia-run guard forces are already registered in Kyiv, and twenty-one operate in other cities as well…
While we’re on the subject of ‘C14‘, the group’s leader, Yevhen Karas, was filmed giving a speech in early February at a Svoboda event.
You really need to listen to what he’s saying here, as it really does reveal the true nature of the Maidan events in 2014 and what’s happening now: because the media is certainly not going to show any of this type of stuff (“we have fun killing” is my favorite part). Basically, among other things, he boasts about all the weaponry Western allies have sent to them, gets excited about all the fighting that’s going to happen, and – crucially – explains that the ultra-right really was the chief beneficiary of Maidan.
Svoboda, for the record, is widely acknowledged as a Neo-Nazi party, and was founded by Oleh Tahnybok and Andriy Parubiy, the latter of whom was the chairman of Ukraine’s parliament until 2019 (and was invited to address the US Congress three years ago), and the former having been famously photographed with Senator John McCain during the events of 2014.
To demonstrate just how omnipresent the fascist element is, the current Ukrainian President (and now worldwide hero) Volodymyr Zelensky (originally a comedy actor playing the fictional president of Ukraine in a TV show and then subsequently becoming the real president of Ukraine) has been presented as a heroic leader and figure since the events of the Russian incursion.
And not without justification. His actions have been admirable, brave and – for ordinary Ukrainians – inspiring. It’s no surprise he has suddenly becoming an iconic figure worldwide.
However, it was reported as recently as April 2021 that the ostensibly ‘liberal’ Zelensky wanted to appoint one Serhiy Sternenko (a former leader of the Neo-Nazi ‘Right Sector‘) as the head of the SBU (the Secret Service in Ukraine).
This despite Sternenko being under investigation for murder and for involvement in a massacre during the events of 2014.
If even Zelensky – the current and apparently ‘liberal’ president – is willing to be in alliance with Nazis and murderers (let alone to seek to place a Nazi and murderer in charge of, of all things, the Secret Service), then how much of a ‘minor problem’ or ‘minority’ presence can the Neo-Nazis and ultra-nationalists really be?
So then you might argue, ‘well, okay, there’s Nazis – but Ukraine isn’t a totalitarian state, at least’.
Well, sure, okay.
But, as the Georgetown Security Studies Review reminds us:
[I]n 2015 Ukraine passed a law recognizing controversial nationalist groups… as “independence fighters” and making it illegal to question the legitimacy of their actions.
It’s illegal to question the legitimacy of groups linked to white supremacy and Nazism? Well, that doesn’t sound promising, does it?
It’s not as if this stuff has been well hidden.
A key figure in Azov’s political wing, the National Corps Party, is Volodymyr Zelensky: who has been photographed with the swastika flag and doing a Hitler salute. She was invited to be a visiting fellow at the Vienna-based Institute for Human Sciences.
The evidence of Nazism or fascism in the Azov group and other related groups in Ukraine is endless: there’s been so MUCH of it that it became impossible to cover up or deny a long time ago. Hell, its members and supporters don’t even bother covering it up, they’re open about it, proud of it: that’s the whole point – for them, it’s all part of the glorious national (and racial) struggle.
They’ve held public marches and gatherings – out in the open. Often with state officials in attendance. These people aren’t in hiding. On January 1st this year, hundreds gathered in Kiev to celebrate World War II Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, for example.
Yet, somehow, Western media and commentators are managing to ignore it entirely right now: the media line that been adopted since Russia’s build-up of military forces has been to pretend none of this is significant.
As Fair.org has pointed out, Western media has almost completely whitewashed the fascists from their coverage of the Ukraine crisis. As I’ve said, they’re presenting only a very measured and binary narrative of Russian aggression and Ukrainian heroism.
Remember the images of Valentyna Konstantynovska, the 79-year-old Ukrainian grandmother learning to handle an AK-47? Those images went viral in mid-February, as everyone applauded the brave Ukrainian citizens taking up arms to help defend their country.
And what could be more poignant than a sweet old lady doing it? It was practically begging to go viral, right? And of course it did – with hundreds of thousands of people sharing the story.
But, as discussed in the article here on Friday, almost all of the media outlets running the story failed to mention that the sweet old lady was being instructed by members of the Azov Battalion.
As the Fair.org piece points out:
The BBC (2/13/22), for instance, showed a clip of “civilians lining up for a few hours’ military training with the National Guard,” with International Correspondent Orla Guerin describing Konstantynovska endearingly as “a granny with a gun.” Though Azov Battalion insignia was visible in the report, Guerin made no reference to it, and the report ends perversely with an NGU combatant helping a child to load an ammunition magazine…
The printed press fared little better. On February 13, UK newspapers the London Times and the Daily Telegraph ran front-page spreads showing Konstantynovska preparing her weapon, without any reference to the Azov Battalion running the training course.
As the article points out, this is all the more perverse because both The Times and the Telegraph, along with the BBC and other organisations, had already in the past reported on the Nazi presence in Ukraine’s security apparatus and its militias, as well openly calling the Azov group a Nazi organisation.
I can attest to this: having read numerous mainstream news outlets in 2014 and 2015 acknowledging the true nature of groups like Azov and the involvement of Nazi groups and ideology in the new Ukraine. This included a number of BBC Newsnight reports from the time (which can still be found on YouTube: here’s an example).
And, again, if something as mainstream as TIME published an article on the matter as recently as January, then clearly the mainstream media establishment cannot claim ignorance. The Guardian, The New York Times, and various other major media companies have – at various times in the last several years – published articles addressing this fascist element in Ukraine: and yet, suddenly, no one wants to acknowledge the issue anymore.
Which means simply that they’ve all decided – in lockstep – to omit that information and context as of February 2022 and the Russian invasion.
To be clear, this means that the major media organisations across the Western world are acting in unison to present a manufactured and incomplete narrative. In effect, this is war-time propaganda we’re now seeing: where broadcasters like the BBC were once at least willing to acknowledge the presence of Neo-Nazis and white supremacists in this equation, now they’re covering it up completely.
This can only be policy: a policy of omission that has apparently been adopted across all Western media – in order to make sure this Russia/Ukraine conflict is presented in only a very specific way.
Not that the disease of Nazi-inspired ideology in Ukraine is in itself a justification for Russian invasion: but when Putin referred to the Nazi issue in his speech a week ago, the media and Western politicians decided to mock his claims and essentially suggest Putin is mentally unhinged – instead of confronting or debating the issue.
In effect, the argument is that any time Putin mentions ‘Nazis’, he is obviously either delusional, suffering from psychological issues, or a fantasist living in the Soviet past.
As a case in point, while both social media and mainstream media is presently filled with stories about Russian aggression (somewhat justifiably, given that Russia has launched an invasion: though it’s worrying that even the term ‘war crimes’ is being used a lot now too) and being contrasted to the apparently heroic struggle by the Ukrainian resistance, possible dynamics that don’t fit this neat-and-tidy narrative are being removed from all discussion.
For example, during the Russian assault on Mariupol, which has a strong ethnic Greek population living there, one Greek resident told Greek City Times that ‘Ukrainian “fascists” are killing people for trying to leave the city.‘
Regarding the ongoing siege in Mariupol (where Azov is based), other claims to a similar effect have been reported: albeit mostly from Russian media sources, which admittedly makes them biased and unreliable. But the Greek source quoted above seems to be more independent.
Now, of course we don’t know if those stories are true or not: but, if they were true, would the media tell us about it? Or would they cover it up and keep bombarding us with headlines about indiscriminate Russian shelling and civilians being targeted, etc?
Again, in the fog of war and under war-time propaganda conditions, the truth is always difficult to ascertain. And, regardless, none of this necessarily justifies Russia’s military assault on Ukrainian cities: invading a sovereign state is still a breach of international law.
And what is happening to ordinary people in Ukraine, caught in the midst of all of this, is terrible.
But why is the fascism problem in Ukraine being covered up?
And, coming back to the question we started this article with, why did Ukraine, the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and others refuse to condemn Nazism in the UN in December?
Meanwhile, the reality – and obvious danger – of the Azov Battalion and other white supremacist groups that are pervasive in the Ukrainian sphere isn’t just limited to Ukrainians. The Azov group and related fascist entities in Ukraine have been attracting foreign recruits for years.
We talked about this before: about Russia in fact complaining to various European states about the ‘volunteers’ going over to Ukraine to fight alongside the militias.
As explored in this older piece on the subject, this included people like Brenton Tarrant – the Australian who would go on to carry out the Christchurch Massacre in New Zealand: an act (a massacre at a mosque) that is entirely in keeping with ideology of Azov and other white supremacist militias.
Security expert Ali Soufan told TIME magazine that more than “17,000 foreign fighters have come to Ukraine over the past six years from 50 countries.”
Remind you of anything? Yeah, the Islamic State again, right? Hell, they even look the same, don’t they?
As for the foreign fighter element, that’s going to increase exponentially now that the war is happening in Ukraine: and now that Zelinsky has called on foreign ‘volunteers’ from everywhere to come to Ukraine to help in the fight against the Russians. One British security expert has warned, in response to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss’s apparent encouraging of British ‘volunteers’ to go fight in Ukraine, that the danger of far-right terrorism coming back to the UK as a result of this is significant.
That is in fact precisely the scenario I predicted in this older article: that Ukraine would become the white supremacist equivalent of the ISIS ‘caliphates’ – a bloody battleground in which militants belonging to the same ideology can come and get real-world experience of warfare and violence… and then export that violence across the continent.
Whereas the ISIS fanatics did it in the name of the fundamentalist Islamo-fascist ‘caliphate’, the Neo-Nazis will do it to, as Biletsky said, “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade…”
Everything I’m seeing right now, as this current crisis unfolds, is reinforcing my longstanding suspicion that this has been part of the long-term plan of the various agencies or parties involved in this business.
Michael Colborne, writing for Foreign Policy in 2019, seemed to agree, and described Ukraine as “a dangerous neo-Nazi-friendly extremist environment” with “global ambitions“.
And remember that earlier quote too: that they are ‘trying to turn Kiev into a capital of the global far-right, inviting neo-Nazis and white supremacists from around the world to visit…’
You can probably see then, if you didn’t already, why I was so bitchy the other day about the ‘Glory To Ukraine’ memes and hashtags that are all over social media since the Russian military operations began. Again, “Slava Ukraini, heroyam slava!” (“Glory to Ukraine, glory to the Heroes!”) is a slogan that goes back to the 1930s and Ukraine’s Nazi collaborators who, among other things, were involved in genocide.
As this Georgetown Security Studies Review article from 2018 explains:
Rather than leave it as the people’s unofficial rallying cry, the Ukrainian government pushed to have it become the official greeting of the Ukrainian Armed Forces’: a proposal that was made law in October of 2018.
While it’s worrying enough, given all of the other context laid out in this article, that this phrase – with its connotations – has literally been made the official greeting of Ukraine’s Armed Forces: it’s even more disturbing to now see it being nonchalantly adopted by so many people around the world, most of whom don’t understand the context.
But then that brings us back to the fact that the mass media is deliberately failing to inform the general public of the full context of these things: and, more generally, the full context of the present crisis that we’re seeing reported on every day and night on our televisions.
As for any notion that the Maidan Revolution or the ousting of Victor Yanukovych (whether he was a corrupt oligarch, a Russian puppet or whatever else) was a purely domestic affair, this was contradicted from the very beginning by the United States’ Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland.
Nuland, who was on the scene for the Maidan protests (not unlike how the likes of Hillary Clinton were on the scene in Libya, parading with Libyan rebels), was public about the fact that America had spent five billion dollars on the regime change programme in Ukraine.
And everyone knew about the fascists and Nazis in the midst of things. Again, ignorance cannot be claimed.
The ‘revolution’ was co-opted and guided by those very groups: and it was always the fascists and ultra-nationalists who benefited most from those events. And just as the likes of Hillary Clinton and John McCain were in Libya meeting with so-called Libyan Rebels (often Al-Qaeda) trying to overthrow Gaddafi in 2011, in 2014 McCain was pictured in Kiev with Oleh Tyahnybok, a Nazi-saluting founder of the Svoboda party.
Like a great many Syrians and Libyans before them, any progressive or well-intentioned Ukrainian protesters involved in Maidan in 2014 were always going to be disappointed to find that the ‘revolution’ in fact was being stolen from them: that it didn’t really belong to them at all.
Ever since then, it’s been the thugs and militias that have had the run of the roost.
As Atlantic Council noted in this 2018 article, Amnesty International had warned that:
“Ukraine is sinking into a chaos of uncontrolled violence posed by radical groups and their total impunity. Practically no one in the country can feel safe under these conditions.”
Also it has to be borne in mind that the current state of affairs – the conditions created by the Russian military incursion – are exactly the kind of scenario the Neo-Nazi groups and militias have been waiting for. This situation – and the urgent need to defend Ukraine – will give them the opportunity to fully expand their influence and position within the society: even beyond that which the events of 2014 had already given them.
It’s exactly the same model by which Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other jihadist groups were able to thrive in the chaos and subsequent violence brought about by the so-called ‘Arab Spring’.
Remember what C14 leader Yevhen Karas said in the video from earlier: ‘We have fun killing, we have fun fighting…’
And now it’s all about the fight: the ‘heroic struggle’. These fighters – and their foreign backers – have been preparing for this Russian incursion for a long time.
As far back as May last year, Arsen Avakov, the Minister of Internal Affairs (and affiliated with the Azov Battalion and other Nazis) was calling for ‘patriots’ to prepare to protect the Motherland from Russia. This Russian operation was clearly fully expected.
Moreover, the Nazi or fascist elements in Ukraine are not a rogue factor being overlooked by Western governments or intelligence services. The mass media’s current whitewashing of the Ukrainian situation is precisely to provide cover for our covert operations involving groups like the Azov Battalion and other fascists.
Research by the Institute for European Russian and Eurasian Studies at George Washington University revealed – as recently as September last year (PDF here) – that Canadian military were training Ukrainian students connected with the fascist organisation called ‘Centuria‘.
As this article from December informs us:
‘In April 2021, Centuria’s leaders boasted on Ukrainian social media that they “actively cooperate with foreign colleagues… participating in military exercises with France, Great Britain, Canada, the USA, Germany and Poland…” The same month, the group participated in a march glorifying the exploits of the 14th Division of the Nazi Waffen-SS, the “Galicia Division,” which was comprised of Ukrainian fascists. It honors this Nazi division because it “beat the Bolshevik contagion…”…’
Let’s reiterate that last bit: a march glorifying the Nazi Waffen-SS and its Ukrainian fascists. And again, this march – and others like it – have been held openly in Ukraine. These aren’t covert.
The same group also attacked an LGBTQ event in 2019, claiming to be defending the streets “from perverts”.
Concerning this Canadian and foreign military operation in Ukraine, WSWS.org reports that:
[T]he Ottawa Citizen reported that military and Defence Department officials attempted to conceal a 2018 meeting between a group of Canadian “officers and diplomats” and members of the Azov Battalion, an openly fascist group with members embedded in the Ukrainian National Guard. Fully briefed in 2017 on its Nazi ideology, Canadian officials were concerned only that the meeting remain secret. It was exposed when Azov boasted about it via social media…
We’re further informed that the ‘Ukrainian Canadian Congress, which openly defends these Nazi veterans and glorifies the fascist World War II Ukrainian leader Stepan Bandera, wields considerable influence in Ottawa. The Deputy Prime Minister, Chrystia Freeland… is the granddaughter of one of the Waffen-SS Galicia division’s principal promoters, Mihailo Chomiak, the editor of a pro-Nazi newspaper in occupied Poland...’
This is true, about Chrystia Freeland – Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister: I didn’t know that until recently.
So Canadian military and defense officials not only were engaged with the Nazi Azov Battalion, but tried to cover it up.
Something virtually identical also happened with the British military.
Declassified UK revealed that ‘Ukraine’s National Guard says that in meeting last year the UK military agreed to start training its forces…’
As the piece shows, photos and details concerning this meeting in Kiev were published on the website of Ukraine’s National Guard – which includes the Azov Battalion. Despite this, the UK Ministry of Defence was angry that this ‘private’ meeting was publicised in Ukraine. And, as the Declassified UK article tells us, ‘There is no mention of the meeting in any UK records that are publicly available.’
This too was published in September 2021 – just a few months before this current Russian invasion.
Not that Western military agencies’ collaborations with Azov and other Ukrainian militias is new. In March 2015, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov had announced that the Azov Regiment would be among the first units to be trained by United States Army troops in their Operation Fearless Guardian training mission.
In fact, the US State Department has classified the Azov Battalion as a terrorist group. In 2018, the US House of Representatives passed a provision blocking training of Azov members by American forces, due to its Neo-Nazi links. However, extraordinarily, this ban was quietly lifted due to pressure from the Pentagon.
Obama had in fact blocked armed sales to Ukraine, presumably worried about the arming of Neo-Nazi units: but Trump and now Biden reversed this policy. Trump in fact approved the $39 million sale of defensive lethal weapons to Ukraine.
As noted in my 2018 article here, Israel was also reportedly selling weapons directly to the Azov group: that’s Israel selling weapons to Neo-Nazis. What a world.
Now, of course, in light of the current events, all kinds of weaponry is being openly sent to Ukraine. Everyone is sending weapons to Ukraine now (just look at this list) – even including countries like Germany and Finland.
Which is logical on one level – obviously everyone wants Ukraine to be able to defend itself against an invading aggressor. But you also have to ask precisely whose hands all the weapons are going to end up in: because, as we once saw with the Islamic State group, it’s usually the worst-case scenario.
It is clear, at any rate, that Western intelligence and military groups have been supporting and engaging with groups like the Azov Battalion: in spite of their openly Nazi ideology. No one is under any illusions about this.
It is now looking increasingly like Special Forces from various countries are arriving in Ukraine to fight the Russians. Israeli special forces, it is reported, are in Ukraine: so are Canadian special forces. And British SAS personnel are said to be headed to Ukraine. You know, let’s just assume everyone’s ‘special forces’ are arriving in Ukraine.
My question. given everything else, is how many of them are going to be colluding with the likes of Azov.
To conclude here: no, Ukrainians aren’t all Nazi-loving white supremacists. Of course they’re not. It’s a country of 40 million people: most of them I’m sure have no affinity with the extremists, just as most people in Mosul had no affinity with the Islamic State militants.
But the evident and obvious Nazi presence in the affairs of the Ukraine/Russia/NATO conflict is too big and too significant to be so completely removed from the equation in the way the media is doing. The general public in most Western nations are not particularly versed in the details of the Ukraine/Russia situation or the recent history leading up to this present state of affairs: and generally do not know much about the Nazi resurgence or about the nature of groups like Azov – or our governments’ collusion in these matters.
And the mass media is making sure it stays this way: presenting the general public only with the context and ‘information’ that suits the present propaganda agenda. This policy of omission is either stupidly short-sighted or it’s actually sinister: draw your own conclusion as to which it is.
Click here to read the same article as it was originally published by S. Awan on his official website Burning Blogger on March 5th.
1 From an article entitled entitled “How the U.S. Has Empowered and Armed Neo-Nazis in Ukraine” written by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies published in Counterpunch on March 11, 2022. https://www.counterpunch.org/2022/03/11/how-the-u-s-has-empowered-and-armed-neo-nazis-in-ukraine/
2 From an article entitled “How Ukraine’s Jewish president Zelensky made peace with neo-Nazi paramilitaries on front lines of war with Russia” written by by Alexander Rubinstein and Max Blumenthal published in The Grayzone on March 4, 2022. https://thegrayzone.com/2022/03/04/nazis-ukrainian-war-russia/