How US Has Empowered and Armed Neo-Nazis in Ukraine

Russian President Putin has claimed that he ordered the invasion of Ukraine to “denazify” its…

Russian President Putin has claimed that he ordered the invasion of Ukraine to “denazify” its authorities, whereas Western officers, akin to former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul, have known as this pure propaganda, insisting, “There are not any Nazis in Ukraine.”

Within the context of the Russian invasion, the post-2014 Ukrainian authorities’s problematic relations with excessive right-wing teams and neo-Nazi events has develop into an incendiary component on either side of the propaganda conflict, with Russia exaggerating it as a pretext for conflict and the West attempting to comb it below the carpet.

The fact behind the propaganda is that the West and its Ukrainian allies have opportunistically exploited and empowered the acute proper in Ukraine, first to tug off the 2014 coup after which by redirecting it to battle separatists in Japanese Ukraine. And much from “denazifying” Ukraine, the Russian invasion is prone to additional empower Ukrainian and worldwide neo-Nazis, because it attracts fighters from around the globe and offers them with weapons, army coaching and the fight expertise that lots of them are hungry for.

Ukraine’s neo-Nazi Svoboda Get together and its founders Oleh Tyahnybok and Andriy Parubiy performed main roles within the U.S-backed coup in February 2014. Assistant Secretary Nuland and Ambassador Pyatt talked about Tyahnybok as one of many leaders they had been working with on their notorious leaked telephone name earlier than the coup, at the same time as they tried to exclude him from an official place within the post-coup authorities.

As previously peaceable protests in Kyiv gave approach to pitched battles with police and violent, armed marches to attempt to break by way of police barricades and attain the Parliament constructing, Svoboda members and the newly-formed Proper Sector militia, led by Dmytro Yarosh, battled police, spearheaded marches and raided a police armory for weapons. By mid-February 2014, these males with weapons had been the de facto leaders of the Maidan motion.

We are going to by no means know what sort of political transition peaceable protests alone would have led to in Ukraine or how totally different the brand new authorities would have been if a peaceable political course of had been allowed to take its course, with out interference by the USA or violent right-wing extremists.

But it surely was Yarosh who took to the stage within the Maidan and rejected the February 21, 2014 settlement negotiated by the French, German and Polish international ministers, below which Yanukovich and opposition political leaders agreed to carry new elections later that yr. As a substitute, Yarosh and Proper Sector refused to disarm and led the climactic march on Parliament that overthrew the federal government.

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Since 1991, Ukrainian elections had swung backwards and forwards between leaders like President Viktor Yanukovych, who was from Donetsk and had shut ties with Russia, and Western-backed leaders like President Yushchenko, who was elected in 2005 after the “Orange Revolution” that adopted a disputed election. Ukraine’s endemic corruption tainted each authorities, and fast public disillusionment with whichever chief and social gathering gained energy led to a see-saw between Western- and Russian-aligned factions.

Neo-Nazis in Ukraine

In 2014, Nuland and the State Division acquired their favourite, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, put in as Prime Minister of the post-coup authorities. He lasted two years, till he, too, misplaced his job as a consequence of countless corruption scandals. Petro Poroshenko, the post-coup President, lasted a bit longer, till 2019, even after his private tax evasion schemes had been uncovered within the 2016 Panama Papers and 2017 Paradise Papers.

When Yatsenyuk grew to become Prime Minister, he rewarded Svoboda’s function within the coup with three cupboard positions, together with Oleksander Sych as Deputy Prime Minister, and governorships of three of Ukraine’s 25 provinces. Svoboda’s Andriy Parubiy was appointed Chairman (or speaker) of Parliament, a submit he held for the subsequent 5 years. Tyahnybok ran for president in 2014, however solely acquired 1.2% of the votes, and was not re-elected to Parliament.

Ukrainian voters turned their backs on the extreme-right within the 2014 post-coup elections, lowering Svoboda’s 10.4% share of the nationwide vote in 2012 to 4.7%. Svoboda misplaced assist in areas the place it held management of native governments however had didn’t stay as much as its guarantees, and its assist was cut up now that it was now not the one social gathering working on explicitly anti-Russian slogans and rhetoric.

After the coup, Proper Sector helped to consolidate the brand new order by attacking and breaking apart anti-coup protests, in what their chief Yarosh described to Newsweek as a “conflict” to “cleanse the nation” of pro-Russian protesters. This marketing campaign climaxed on Could 2nd with the bloodbath of 42 anti-coup protesters in a fiery inferno, after they took shelter from Proper Sector attackers within the Trades Unions Home in Odessa.

After anti-coup protests advanced into declarations of independence in Donetsk and Luhansk, the acute proper in Ukraine shifted gear to full-scale armed fight. The Ukrainian army had little enthusiasm for preventing its personal individuals, so the federal government shaped new Nationwide Guard models to take action.

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Proper Sector shaped a battalion, and neo-Nazis additionally dominated the Azov Battalion, which was based by Andriy Biletsky, an avowed white supremacist who claimed that Ukraine’s nationwide objective was to rid the nation of Jews and different inferior races. It was the Azov battalion that led the post-coup authorities’s assault on the self-declared republics and retook the town of Mariupol from separatist forces.

The Minsk II settlement in 2015 ended the worst preventing and arrange a buffer zone across the breakaway republics, however a low-intensity civil conflict continued. An estimated 14,000 individuals have been killed since 2014. Congressman Ro Khanna and progressive members of Congress tried for a number of years to finish US army support to the Azov Battalion. They lastly did so within the FY2018 Protection Appropriation Invoice, however Azov reportedly continued to obtain US arms and coaching regardless of the ban.

In 2019, the Soufan Middle, which tracks terrorist and extremist teams around the globe, warned, “The Azov Battalion is rising as a crucial node within the transnational right-wing violent extremist community… (Its) aggressive method to networking serves one of many Azov Battalion’s overarching goals, to rework areas below its management in Ukraine into the first hub for transnational white supremacy.”

The Soufan Middle described how the Azov Battalion’s “aggressive networking” reaches around the globe to recruit fighters and unfold its white supremacist ideology. Overseas fighters who prepare and battle with the Azov Battalion then return to their very own international locations to use what they’ve discovered and recruit others.

Violent international extremists with hyperlinks to Azov have included Brenton Tarrant, who massacred 51 worshippers at a mosque in Christchurch in New Zealand in 2019, and a number of other members of the US Rise Above Motion who had been prosecuted for attacking counter-protesters on the “Unite the Proper” rally in Charlottesville in August 2017. Different Azov veterans have returned to Australia, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, the U.Ok. and different international locations.

Regardless of Svoboda’s declining success in nationwide elections, neo-Nazi and excessive nationalist teams, more and more linked to the Azov Battalion, have maintained energy on the road in Ukraine, and in native politics within the Ukrainian nationalist heartland round Lviv in Western Ukraine.

After President Zelensky’s election in 2019, the acute proper threatened him with removing from workplace, and even dying, if he negotiated with separatist leaders from Donbas and adopted by way of on the Minsk Protocol. Zelensky had run for election as a “peace candidate,” however below menace from the precise, he refused to even discuss to Donbas leaders, whom he dismissed as terrorists.

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Throughout Trump’s presidency, the USA reversed Obama’s ban on weapons gross sales to Ukraine, and Zelensky’s aggressive rhetoric raised new fears in Donbas and Russia that he was increase Ukraine’s forces for a brand new offensive to retake Donetsk and Luhansk by drive.

The civil conflict has mixed with the federal government’s neoliberal financial insurance policies to create fertile floor for the acute proper. The post-coup authorities imposed extra of the identical neoliberal “shock remedy” that was imposed all through Japanese Europe within the Nineties. Ukraine obtained a $40 billion IMF bailout and, as a part of the deal, privatized 342 state-owned enterprises; diminished public sector employment by 20%, together with wage and pension cuts; privatized healthcare, and disinvested in public schooling, closing 60% of its universities.

Coupled with Ukraine’s endemic corruption, these insurance policies led to the worthwhile looting of state property by the corrupt ruling class, and to falling dwelling requirements and austerity measures for everyone else. The post-coup authorities upheld Poland as its mannequin, however the actuality was nearer to Yeltsin’s Russia within the Nineties. After an almost 25% fall in GDP between 2012 and 2016, Ukraine continues to be the poorest nation in Europe.

As elsewhere, the failures of neoliberalism have fueled the rise of right-wing extremism and racism, and now the conflict with Russia guarantees to supply 1000’s of alienated younger males from around the globe with army coaching and fight expertise, which they’ll then take house to terrorize their very own international locations.

The Soufan Middle has in contrast the Azov Battalion’s worldwide networking technique to that of Al Qaeda and ISIS. US and NATO assist for the Azov Battalion poses comparable dangers as their assist for Al Qaeda-linked teams in Syria ten years in the past. These chickens shortly got here house to roost after they spawned ISIS and turned decisively in opposition to their Western backers.

Proper now, Ukrainians are united of their resistance to Russia’s invasion, however we shouldn’t be shocked when the US alliance with neo-Nazi proxy forces in Ukraine, together with the infusion of billions of {dollars} in refined weapons, ends in equally violent and damaging blowback.

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, and writer of a number of books, together with Inside Iran: The Actual Historical past and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Nicolas J. S. Davies is an impartial journalist, a researcher with CODEPINK and the writer of Blood on Our Arms: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.