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Endanger nationalists and neo-Nazis in Ukraine peace throughout Europe?

by Matthias Erne, lawyer, Zurich

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a kind of nationalism has emerged in its republics, hampering, in part even hindering the solution of various current problems on the Eurasian continent, with possible long-term effects on the security of Europe. In its most extremist form, this nationalism is presently manifesting itself in Ukraine. It is an expression of an identity crisis in this country. However, this article is not about revealing the history of the newly formed republics in 1991. Rather, the connection between nationalism and European security are to be illustrated.

With the Soviet Union disintegrated 1991 a multi-ethnic state, in which lived about 100 ethnic groups. The political elites in the successor states then faced the problem of creating an independent national identity in order to protect themselves in the long term against reintegration into a successor realm. For ideological reasons, the leadership of the Soviet Union never paid much attention to the question of nationality. Relations between Soviet republics were close in every respect, and especially Russians, Belarussians and Ukrainians played an important role in many smaller constituent republics. Many territorial issues remained unresolved. That was the difficult starting position at the end of 1991, when the Soviet Union ceased to exist.
The handling of the nationality problem did not succeed equally well everywhere. While Russia and Kazakhstan, with their more than 100 resp. 50 ethnic groups, regard themselves as multi-ethnic states, other former republics began to demarcate themselves sharply.

“Western countries, too, not only tolerate these goings-on, they even promote them: Neo-Nazis from the Ukraine were trained in military camps in the Baltic States, in Poland and Georgia. US, Canadian and British instructors trained these volunteers at the so-called Peacekeeping Operations Centre near Lviv. Gladly, one uses the universal argument of neo-Nazism against political opponents in one’s own country. But when Ukrainian and other Nazis fight against Russian citizens in Donbass and against Russia in general, Washington, Brussels and Berlin are happy to turn a blind eye.”

Development in the Baltic republics

This was especially easy for the Baltic republics, which had little in common with Russia in language, religious and cultural respects. The basis of their national understanding was and is their language. However, Estonia and Latvia in particular quickly began to disadvantage their Russian-speaking minority systematically. This minority today accounts for about a quarter of the population in both countries. The problem took on such proportions that the OSCE was obliged to appoint a special envoy. However, these states will not have to fear any criticism from the High Commissioner for National Minorities (HCNM): Diplomats from EU and NATO countries probably made sure that the HCNM did not become too active. More recently veteran associations of former members of the SS have become increasingly active in the Baltic republics, appearing in public in uniform, organising commemorative marches, erecting monuments and rejoicing at the high prestige they enjoy in these countries. Today they receive state pensions. And the younger generation is fully involved in this tradition. The official representatives of these countries sometimes show difficulties in distancing themselves from these activities.

Central Asian republics

The republics of Central Asia also succeeded in demarcation on the basis of linguistic, religious and cultural characteristics. But they coped well with the Russian minority and the Russian language. In Central Asia, unresolved territorial issues and the influence of radical Islamists – especially from the Gulf region – play a destabilising role.

South Caucasus

The situation is completely different in the South Caucasus: In Georgia as well as in Armenia and Azerbaijan, political elites believe that only a person speaking the state language can be a citizen. Georgia in particular, under the leadership of Zviad Gamsakhurdia, expressed problems in dealing with national minorities. In the Djavacheti region, with its predominant Armenian population, a new minority problem is growing, because these people are not allowed to run Armenian language schools and they have to hold services in their churches according to the rites of the Georgian Orthodox Church. For the Armenians, for whom religion is part of their self-image as a nation, this is hard to bear. In Armenia and Azerbaijan, even before the final collapse of the Soviet Union, conflicts arose and pogroms occurred in some places. This severely hampers the search for a solution to the conflict in Nagornyi Karabakh.

Belarus

The Republic of Belarus also faced the problem of demarcating itself from the big neighbour in the East. But Belarus approached this problem with a sense of proportion, and after the events on the Maidan Nezalezhnostiin in Kiev in 2014 and later on, hardly anyone believes that the Ukrainian way is worth following.

Ukraine

Ukraine in its present form is a result of the secession from the former Soviet Union. Its territory was determined after the Second World War according to political and military criteria. Since independence, Ukraine has pursued a policy of Ukrainianization based on the understanding that a national understanding must be on the basis on the Ukrainian language. This culminated in a statement by former President Viktor Yushchenko that his goal was to make the use of the Russian language in Ukraine disappear within two generations. The Russian minority, which made up about a quarter of the population, became the first target of the political elite in Ukraine. This did not only apply to the Crimea and Donbass, but also to the cities on the Black Sea coast, especially Odessa, with its mixture of Russian, (Crimean) Tatar, Greek and Jewish populations. It did not bode well for the Romanian, Hungarian, Slovakian and Belarusian minorities in the country, any more than for the autochthonous Russians in the Carpathians, who are not officially recognised as an ethnic group of its own.
A first attempt to secede Ukraine from the Soviet Union was made by Ukrainian nationalists under the leadership of Stepan Bandera and Roman Schuchewitsch in the summer of 1941, after National Socialist Germany invaded the Soviet Union. During the whole war Ukrainian nationalists made a common cause with National Socialist Germany, put guards in concentration camps and participated in the brutal fight against partisans in Ukraine and Belarus. Since then, Ukrainian nationalists have always struggled to distance themselves from National Socialism.
The followers of Bandera and Zhuchevich were now very much in demand with the outbreak of the conflict in Donbass. Their volunteer organisations had been important for Ukraine in 2014, one often hears, and the rulers in Kiev tolerate them. On the other hand, Ukrainian officials are always happy to point out that the nationalists can only win a few per cent of the votes in elections. On 14 October of this year, about 10,000 supporters of the Nationalist Volunteer Battalions gathered in the city centre of Kiev to commemorate the establishing of the so-called Ukrainian Uprising Army in 1942. If they are able to arm themselves from the large number of illegally circulating, unregistered weapons from the various wars of the first half of the 20th century and from the disintegration of the Soviet Army in the early 1990s, they represent a power in the state that is not to be ignored. This is also causing concern in the neighbouring states of Ukraine. And to this mass of violent protesters, the Ukrainian police held against with a ridiculous number of 200 police officers. This clearly shows that Interior Minister Arsen Awakow is happy to let these thugs act as they please.
In keeping with this, on the same day in Kiev, a convention of ultra-right nationalists from all over Europe and North America was held, star guest of which was the notoriously known Greg Johnson, a white nationalist who wants to build an ethnically pure state in the US whose citizens are of white skin colour only. His understanding of the state coincides with that of many nationalists in the former Soviet Union.
The list of state-tolerated abuses against national minorities in Ukraine is long. Also in the future, the rulers in Kiev want to utilise the gangs of hooligans to help establish their understanding of the state. If Ukraine is to be maintained with its present-day borders and in its form of state, then the government will have to take coercive measures, call for martial law or resort to other provocations.
Western countries, too, not only tolerate these goings-on, they even promote them: Neo-Nazis from the Ukraine were trained in military camps in the Baltic States, in Poland and Georgia. US, Canadian and British instructors trained these volunteers at the so-called Peacekeeping Operations Centre near Lviv. Gladly, one uses the universal argument of neo-Nazism against political opponents in one’s own country. But when Ukrainian and other Nazis fight against Russian citizens in Donbass and against Russia in general, Washington, Brussels and Berlin are happy to turn a blind eye.    •

* Matthias Erne is an established lawyer in Zurich and Wil. He has a sensorium in international law and follows geopolitical affairs as a Swiss citizen under this aspect.

Extremist nationalism in Ukraine

me. Since 2014, Ukraine has been experiencing an increase in National Socialist crimes, which represents a serious threat to the security of the entire European area.
The accelerated Ukrainisation was one of the causes of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine four years ago. Meanwhile, not only nationalist formations and organisations, but also law enforcement agencies have become instruments for the government to suppress law-abiding citizens of Ukraine.
Here are a few facts:

1. With regard to the Hungarian minority in Ukraine

On 27 February 2018 an unknown person deposited an explosive device on the windowsill of the office of the Hungarian Cultural Bureau of Transcarpathia in Uzhgorod. The explosion caused a fire which destroyed the entire interior of the building.
Previously, on 4 February 2018, a Molotov cocktail had been thrown through the window of this office.

Source: https://www.eurointegration.com.ua/rus/articles/2018/02/27/7078141  

In July 2013 an arson attack was carried out on the Hungarian Cultural Centre of Transcarpathia in the city of Beregovo. The building was set on fire at night when nobody was in the office. After throwing a brick through the window of the Union of Hungarians, the unknown perpetrators poured a flammable mixture into the room and set it on fire. The perpetrators of the attack have not yet been identified.
In April 2013, the monument to Sándor Petöfi on the Ferenc Rákoczi II square in Beregovo burned. What had been the background of the arsonists – vandalism or provocation – could not be determined. In 2007 the monument was covered with black paint. Here also the perpetrators have so far remained unknown.
A similar thing happened to the monument to Sándor Petöfi in Uzhgorod, which was desecrated more than once: In March 2009 it was covered with white paint, and the sword was broken off four times, in 2016, 2015 and 2011.
In March 2014, at the height of the civil commotions in Kiev, a monument dedicated to the 1100th anniversary of the arrival of the Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin was set on fire on the Veretskij Pass in Transcarpathia. Ever since its installation in 2008, this monument has become a constant object of vandalism. In 2011 an arson attack was carried out on it, suspects were three local functionaries of the party “Svoboda” (Freedom). In 2012, the monument was smeared with the words “Death to Magyars”, “Here is Ukraine”.
In Budapest Ukraine was asked to “leave the Hungarians alone”. There was no official comment from the Ukrainian side.
At the national level, Ukrainian Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak discussed with Transcarpathian Governor Gennady Moskal the development of military infrastructure in Mukachevo and Uzhgorod and the possibility of stationing the 128th mountain brigade in the city of Beregovo. This brigade belonging to the Ukrainian army actively participated in the hostilities in the Donbass, especially in the Debalzevo battles. In 1956 it had been part of the Soviet troops that suppressed the Hungarian uprising in Budapest.
A full statement was made by Bogdan Chervak, head of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). He described the Budapest actions as interference in the internal affairs of a neighbouring country, and for something like that, he declared, people got “their face smashed” (“За это бьют по зубам ...”). Decisive steps were needed to demonstrate that Ukraine had to be respected. This could be done by stationing Ukrainian troops in Transcarpathia and carrying out a military pacification (боевое слаживание).

2. with regard to the Romanian diaspora

On 22 May 2018, the Ukrainian intelligence service SBU opened an investigation due to the suspicion of separatism. On 11 June, twelve members of the Ukrainian intelligence service searched the Romanian Cultural Centre in Chernivtsi. Some historical maps dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the modern Romanian state were the reason for initiating this criminal case. Among them was a map of the so-called Romagna Mare (“Greater Romania”) from 1918-1940, which included part of today’s Czernowitz region.
The Romanian Cultural Centre in Chernivtsi accused the security services of discrimination based on ethnicity. They alleged that the Ukrainian intelligence service SBU was trying to create fear and discouragement in the public organisations of Romanians in Ukraine, so as to accelerate Ukrainisation, said the head of the centre, V. Teritsanu. SBU staff had spent the whole day on the Centre’s premises, confiscating books, newspapers and magazines published by the Centre, computer equipment and correspondence with representatives of local authorities, Kiev authorities and diplomats.

Source: http://alternatio.org/events/all/item/60245-sbu-stremitsya-seyat-strah-i-unynie-sredi-obschestvennyh-organizatsiy-rumyn-ukrainy-dlya-bezuslovnoy-i-uskorennoy-ukrainizatsii

Representatives of the Romanian community described the Ukrainian law enforcers’ actions as “a return to KGB practices” and accused the Ukrainian security service of harassing the Romanian cultural centre “Eudoxio Gurmuzaki” on ethnic grounds, by means of visitations.

Source: https://ru.tsn.ua/ukrayina/v-rumynskom-kultcentre-vozmutilis-iz-za-obyskov-sbu-i-obvinili-silovikov-v-diskriminacii-1171221.html 

3. With regard to Poles

In January 2017, a monument to Poles who had been murdered in the course of a joint punitive expedition of the SS divisions “Galicia” and the UPA was blown up. The rubble was painted with pictures of blue-yellow and red-black flags as well as with SS runes.
After the restoration of the monument in the middle of March 2017, it was again smeared with the “Wolf hook” of the SS division “The Reich”, which is now also a symbol of the battalion “Azov”, with swastikas and the Ukrainian trident, as well as with slogans like “Death to the Poles” (“Смерть ляхам”).
Source: odnarodyna.org/content/luckiy-vystrel-iz-granatometa-v-evropu
In February 2017, the building of the Consulate General in Lviv was painted red and smeared with the inscription “Our country”.
https://ukranews.com/news/477908-zdanye-genkonsulstva-polshy-vo-lvove-oblyly-krasnoy-kraskoy-myd-vystupyl-s-zayavlenyem 
In March 2017 the Polish Consulate General in Lutsk was bombarded with grenade launchers.

Source: https://nv.ua/ukraine/events/strelba-iz-granatometa-v-lutske-mestnye-smi-soobshchili-o-vzryve-v-genkonsulstve-polshi-884389.html  

The SBU remains in the dark about the motives of the perpetrators: Either it is a terrorist attack, hooliganism [sic] or the revenge of an individual who has been denied a visa.

Source: https://odnarodyna.org/content/luckiy-vystrel-iz-granatometa-v-evropu  

4. With regard to Belarussians

In April 2018, provocative inscriptions could be read in the streets of Chernigov, the contents of which were directed against Belarusian citizens.

Source: https://0462.ua/news/2006038 

Yuri Goncharov, head of the Chernigov regional SBU, appealed to the residents of Chernigov and the region to stop attempting to incite ethnic hatred.

5. With regard to Jews

On 30 June 2017, the anniversary of the Lviv Pogrom, Ukrainian nationalists held a festival in Lviv in honor of Roman Shukhevich, a collaborator with the National Socialists and with members of the “Nightingale” battalion, which was directly involved in the murders of Jews during the Second World War.
On 26 April 2018, unidentified persons set fire to a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust in Ternopil, where more than 100,000 Jews had been killed during the Second World War.

Source: https://apostrophe.ua/news/society/accidents/2018-04-27/v-ternopole-oskvernili-pamyatnik-jertvam-holokosta-opublikovano-video-s-momentom-podjoga/128453

On 2 May 2018, when Odessa called to mind the victims of the fire at the House of Trade Unions in 2014, in which 48 people were killed, Tatyana Soikina, head of the Odessa branch of the “Right Sector” and veteran of the so-called “anti-terror operation” in Donbass, promised to create “genuine Ukrainian order” in Odessa. Ukraine belonged to the Ukrainians, not to the Jews and not to the oligarchs, she said, and chanted “fame for Ukraine”.

Source: https://www.dni.ru/society/2018/5/4/397200.html

Other anti-Semitic acts were the smearing of anti-Semitic slogans on the synagogue in Chernivtsi in November 2016, the desecration of Rabbi Nachman’s grave in the city of Uman, on which the head of a pig with a swastika carved in it was thrown in December 2016, and the attempt at arson in a synagogue in Lviv in June 2016.

Source: https://ru.molbuk.ua/chernovtsy_news/136060-vandaly-yaki-splyundruvaly-synagogu-v-chernivcyakh-vchynyly-ryad-inshykh-zlochyniv-po-vsiy-ukrayini-avakov.html

6. with regard to Sinti and Roma

On 1 July 2018, a 30-year-old woman was killed with a knife stab to the neck on the premises of the railway depot in Beregovo. The Ukrainian police opened criminal proceedings, but allegedly found no motive for murder related to sex, race or other forms of discrimination. This was also the statement of the Transcarpathian regional administration.
In the night from 23 to 24 June 2018, a group of young Lviv Nazis attacked a village of Sinti and Roma in one of the suburbs of Lviv and killed one of its inhabitants – a 23-year-old man from Transcarpathia. The Pogrom participants were members of the ultra-right organisation “Трезвая и злая молодежь” (literally: “Sober and Wicked Youth”), a suborganisation of the Nazi group “Misanthropic Division”, which is closely associated with the volunteer battalions and especially with the battalion “Azov”. The group’s online social media accounts are full of quotes from Hitler and Mussolini and clearly show the racist views of its members. According to human rights activists in Lviv, these neo-Nazis went to the camp only to kill, and if there had been no intervention of the police, there would have been more casualties. They injured a ten-year-old child with knives, and also his mother who tried to protect her son.

Source: https://ukraina.ru/opinion/20180625/1020524252.html

On 21 April 2018 the Nazis of the “C14” group destroyed a camp of Sinti and Roma in Lysa Hora, in the territory of the Kiev district Pechersk, where almost all national authorities of Ukraine are located. During the pogrom there were also police representatives present who called the ongoing lawlessness, during which a group of Nazis beat Roma children and women out of their homes, “subbotnik” (Saturday work).
Source: Youtube: “Представники Нацдружини Огненный зачищають табiр ромiв у Голосiiвському парку - вiдео Куiv Куiv LIVE”, “Видео цыганского рейд погрома в Киеве”, “Огненный Лысой Лысой: кто и почему сжег лагерь ромов ромов на Лысой горе?”
Under pressure from international human rights organisations, the interior ministry opened criminal proceedings in respect of the pogrom – but nothing happened. The ultra-right, who felt themselves to be immune to prosecution, immediately began new pogrom actions:

  • On 9 May 2018, the nationalist youth burned down a camp of Sinti and Roma in the village of Rudnoje near Lviv;
  • On 22 May 2018, Nazis attacked a camp of Sinti and Roma in the Ternopil region;
  • On 27 May 2018, activists from various ultra-right organisations staged a pogrom against Caucasian and Turkish stalls at the Kiev market near Lesnaya metro station, in order to show that not only Roma could become victims of nationalist attacks;
  • On 7 June 2018, the activists of the “National Brigade” destroyed Sinti and Roma houses in Goloseevsky Park.

Source: https://ukraina.ru/opinion/20180625/1020524252.html

The acts of violence against Sinti and Roma are an important indicator of the creeping nationalist tendency in Ukrainian politics.
The Ukrainian Nazis benefit from the total defencelessness of the national minorities on the territory of present-day Ukraine and from the tacit support of the Ukrainian government and authorities.