Another rally goes on (the 11th, no less) in Kiev today, with opposition ‘leader’ (or at least the man keeping the seat warm until Yulia is released), Yatsenyuk, having stated ominously: “We give parliament one week to change the constitution, or there will be conflicts.”
Strange that this would seem to be the fellow the Americans regard as a real diplomat, good ole’ Yatz. But perhaps not so given his popularity is in general so low, he couldn’t even visit Kharkiv without getting doused in ‘brilliant green’, just about all Yatsenyuk can do is try to cash in on revolution-fervor with his playing to the barricades bravado. Those he presumably hopes to impress with his rhetoric, Svoboda, have just reneged on a pledge to vacate Kiev’s occupied City Hall.
I’m asked rather often by Ukrainians why I don’t support Euromaidan. The answer is quite simple – I have grandparents who served in World War Two, fighting fascism. In supporting Euromaidan, you give your backing to those they were fighting against. The fascism of Euromaidan is deeply entrenched, with an entirely clear lineage. With supporters of Batkivshyna and UDAR fairly moderate, the move to the ‘ultra-violence’ which has become the defining feature of Euromaidan, has been powered by far-right parties.
A recent survey showed the typical Euromaidaner to be a youngish man with no higher education from the west of Ukraine. The three pillars of the west of Ukraine are its ‘capital’ Lviv, academic centre of Ternopil and the supposed seat of Ukrainian culture, Ivano-Frankivsk. And there’s something they’d really like you to think. Really. That their brave soldiers, of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists, OUN (military wing the UPA) fought independently during World War Two, with whichever side gave them the best chance of an independent Ukrainian state.
All very romantic, romanticised. The only trouble with it, is it’s utterly disingenuous and totally untrue. Of all the Nazi collaboration during World War Two, the west of Ukraine in Lviv, Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk were perhaps the most slavish, bloodthirsty proponents. And it began right at the start of WWII, with both branches of the OUN confirming a commitment to working with the Nazis, the OUN described by Germans as “a faithful German auxiliary” of 1939. In fairness, leader of OUN-M, Andriy Melnyk, was a rather dignified older fellow (near 50 at the time), who favoured a more moderate approach.
But the man of that moment was unquestionably Stepan Bandera (pictured left), then in his early-30s, operating proceedings from his Krakow base, Germany’s General Government, in Nazi-occupied Poland. His OUN-B faction were engaged in ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the west of Ukraine from the start of the war, with talks already underway into forming what would be German-serving battalions Nachtigall and Roland. The Germans themselves were shocked at the brutality of the western Ukrainians, as they attempted to eliminate the Poles and Jews from Lviv with everything down to metal poles, a pamphlet of the time proclaiming - “We will lay your heads at Hitler’s feet”.
As enormous crowds turned out -
Ukrainian officials fell over themselves to welcome Nazi officers -
Ukrainian battalions ready to serve were out on parade with their own fascist symbol of two sig runes alongside the Nazi swastika -
Pageants of traditional Ukrainian folk cultures were laid on -
Nor is this the past, this is the present. The most popular political party by far in Lviv (reportedly taking over 50% of the vote there), Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopil is Svoboda, a party who have made Nazi-idolatry a central part of their platform -
- Yuriy Mykhalchyshyn, member of Svoboda’s Lviv City Council, maintains a blog called nachtigal88, the nachtigall a reference to the Nazi battalion formed in Ukraine, with the 88 a binary version of “Heil Hitler”. Mykhalchyshyn references Goebbels repeatedly as a hero, and has himself stated of Svoboda: “We are against diversity. Ukraine is for Ukrainians.”
- In 2011, Svoboda instigated the change in name of a street formerly known as Peace Street, in the village of Razliv near Lviv, to Nachtigall Street, honouring the Ukrainian Nazi unit.
- Svoboda shares the Nazi values of racial and sexual ‘purity’. Senior member Yuriy Syrotiuk declared he was unhappy about black singer Gaitana representing Ukraine in the Eurovision song contest, citing that she “is not an organic representative of the Ukrainian culture”, while the group has attacked homosexual marches, describing them as ‘deviants’ and ‘perverts’.
- Svoboda have championed the veneration of Nazi-collaborator Stepan Bandera as a national hero, while leader Oleg Tyagnibok has become infamous for anti-Semitic statements. His anti-Semitism saw him dismissed from parliament in 2004, yet in 2005 he co-signed a letter to President Yushchenko calling for an investigation into the “criminal activities of organized Jewry in Ukraine.”
And this is really just getting started. Any Ukraine under Svoboda, as per their policy, would see violent persecution of minority groups, even the over half the country who speak Russian, with Svoboda seeking to criminalize that language (despite senior member Iryna Farion having once been a member of the Communist Party, something she rather hilariously denies).
So if you want to know who’s fighting for Euromaidan today, it’s the grandchildren of these western Ukrainians -
These guys -
I took this one down on Maidan, the young man in yellow hiding his face before throwing a Nazi salute when asked about their politics. In the background is the original Svoboda logo, the Wolfsangel, inextricably connected with Nazi symbolism – Svoboda was originally called the Social-National Party of Ukraine (see what they did there?) -
Perhaps the real worry should be, though, that Svoboda are simply not far enough right for many down on Euromaidan. For those who feel Svoboda are just a bit moderate, there’s Spilna Sprava - a clever name because what it supposedly means is ‘common cause’, while the initials spell ‘SS’. They have openly stated their aim is instigating civil war in Ukraine, and the group clearly like this photo, as it’s posted more than once on their Vkontakte page -
The caption ‘only together are we strong’. Guns, of course also referenced by Pravy Sektor leader Dmitro Yarosh -
In his interview with TIME, Yarosh, whose militant brand of nationalism rejects all foreign influence over Ukrainian affairs, revealed for the first time that Pravy Sektor has amassed a lethal arsenal of weapons. He declined to say exactly how many guns they have. “It is enough,” he says, “to defend all of Ukraine from the internal occupiers” — by which he means the ruling government — and to carry on the revolution if negotiations with that government break down.
And indeed, young men down on Maidan are patrolling the streets openly brandishing firearms (highly-trained Afghan veterans have long been a part of Euromaidan), with beatings of anyone who disagrees becoming ever more savage.
(Photos courtesy of here - http://postum-main.livejournal.com/462141.html)
Their grandparents would be proud if they could see them, they too fought for fascism in Ukraine. Just like today, they also managed to fool a lot of Ukrainians into believing they were something other than Nazis.
**Updated as of February 23rd 2014 – Stepan Bandera photo