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One Day in the Life of ‘Ukrainian Democracy’

photo PS DUK

by Gordon M. Hahn

Samantha Power’s delusions notwithstanding, due to the inordinate presence of non-democratic elements inside and and outside the Maidan government, ‘Ukrainian democracy’ remains a distant dream. We learned from the shortcomings of early ‘transitology’ in the 1990s that free and fair elections do not a democracy make. Rule of law, minimal corruption, state monopoly over the means of coercion, judicial independence, and a political culture of some trust and compromise rather than distrust and conflict, among other factors are prerequisites for the consolidation of a democracy. Ukraine lacks almost all of these key characteristics.

Moreover, after a violent revolution from below led by a coalition of neo-fascists, ultra-nationalists, national socialists, and both national and liberal democrats, the Maidan regime’s unity is tenuous at best. Ukraine’s Maidan regime seems to be melting down slowly, split between moderate nationalists, on the one hand, and ultra-nationalists and neo-fascists, on the other. A small democratic faction plays an unofficial second fiddle to the former. Poroshenko appears to be trying to shift or give the appearance of shifting to an alliance with the democrats and distancing himself from some of the worst of the ultra-nationalists, in particular those who openly seek to overthrow him and institute a full-blown fascist regime. However, the latter, inside and outside of government, are intensifying their efforts to create a conditions whereby they might rise to power.

During one day in the life of ‘democratic’ Ukraine – beginning from prime time television hours on June 17th and extending to the end of the work day on June 18th – this dynamic was manifested by: (1) further attacks on press freedom, (2) resistance to disarmament by well-armed neo-fascist volunteer battalions that will be the hammer of any future neo-fascist seizure of power in Ukraine, and (3) a high-ranking Ukrainian official’s praise for the suspects in the murder of a journalist.

A Call for Concentration Camps

On the evening of June 17th prime time television viewers in Ukraine were treated to another of the neo-fascist performances that are now part of the country’s routine. Ideologist of the Ukrainian far right Dmytro Korchynskiy urged the Maidan regime to set up concentration camps for the Donbas’s and Crimea’s population and carry out a full ethnic cleansing and depopulation of the Donbas rebel regions and Crimea: “Americans are our teachers of democracy. The USA is truly the most democratic country in the world today. All democratic institutions were preserved in America during WWII, such as elections, etc. Nevertheless, several million American citizens were deported to particular concentration camps – American citizens of Japanese ethnicity. In wartime they constituted a potential threat. The USA, having preserved the high level of humanism inside its own nation, carried out a nuclear strike upon Japan. They also bombed German cities. Eighty per cent of residential buildings in Germany were destroyed by Anglo-American air raids. The doctrine implied shelling of residential areas first and foremost in order to demoralize German soldiers at the front, etc. Thus, we also should have the highest level of freedom in Ukraine. We have too little freedom. We should have more freedom. Nevertheless, in the front-line zone and occupied territories we should act in the American way; that is, if we lost territories and cannot get them back, they must be lifeless. If they cannot be ours, they ought belong to no one” (Dmytro Korchinskiy’s comments on Ukraine’s channel ‘112’, 17 June 2015 at “Na ukrainskom TV prizvali k sozdaniyu kontslagerei dlya zhitelei Donbassa,” YouTube, 17 June 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSv3fixJPc4, last accessed 19 June 2015).

The Maidan Regime and Press Freedom

Media continue to come under attack from neo-fascist elements within and around the Maidan regime. For example, the Vesti news company has been under attack from the government, siloviki, and Right Sector (RS) for nearly a year (http://gordonhahn.com/2015/04/21/maidan-ukraines-authoritarianism-surplus-update-on-maidan-ukraines-democracy-deficit/ and http://vesti-ukr.com/strana/104230-gazeta-vesti-i-svoboda-slova-v-jepohu-poroshenko). On June 18th the repression resumed. Men in bullet proof vests, calling themselves the tax police, broke into the offices of of the Vesti news company and refused to provide any identifying documentation.  Along with confiscating all of the Vesti office’s servers, computers and laptops, Ukraine’s tax police walked off with the personal money, gasoline filling station debit cards, and notepads of Vesti employees. (http://vesti-ukr.com/kiev/104113-nalogoviki-pokinuli-ofis-vestej-c-lichnymi-dengami-sotrudnikov). As Vesti’s offices were being overturned, siloviki without identifying badges on their uniforms gathered in numbers outside the offices along with “titushki” – a term used for hired ruffians employed by the Yanukovich regime to battle the Maidan protestors during the revolutionary days two winters ago. These mob of disguised state agents and hired thugs, Vesti conjectured at the time, were to storm the building once the tax police left, but after the paper’s website let it be known that they were aware of the threat, the mob dispersed (http://vesti-ukr.com/strana/104274-vlasti-gotovjat-novye-provokacii-protiv-vestej). In other words, the Poroshenko administration and/or its neo-fascist allies are employing the same coercive tactics used by the dastardly Yanukovich regime that the West considered needed overthrowing.

Only Ukraine’s Opposition Bloc deputies have responded to the Vesti attack in any significant way, raising the issue in the Supreme Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, to no apparent effect thus far. The Opposition Bloc is dominated by deputies close to ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and his Party of the Regions and seeks to raise the issue at the Supreme Rada’s Committee for Freedom of Expression and Information Policy. However, the committee’s chairwoman, Viktoria Sumar, according to a Vesti source in the committee, is likely to block the issue from coming up before the committee. Sumar is a political client of the pro-neofascist MVD chief Arsen Avakov, notes Vesti’s source (http://vesti-ukr.com/kiev/104085-komitet-rady-po-svobode-slova-rassmotrit-situaciju-s-vestjami).

Vesti’s editor-in-chief Ihor Guzhva and Opoosition Bloc Rada deputy Yurii Pavlenko held a news conference in the wake of the tax police’s raid to condemn the regime’s attacks on freedom of the press. In particular, Guzhva noted:

“The current authorities just show miracles of ingenuity in fighting the media. Various things have happened. Under Yanukovich they removed me from the post of chief editor of the newspaper Segodnya (Today), if you remember in 2012, after we prepared material on Mezhyhiria gathered from a flightover. There was a big scandal. The staff of the newspaper Segodnya, where I worked, threatened a strike, and I was eventually fired.

That is, I have no sentimental feeling toward Yanukovich, but in fairness I must say that I really can not recall that under Yanukovych or Kuchma similar methods of pervasive pressure were. Most importantly, when the tax police tormented Channel 5, when it tormented channel TVI, remember, in 2012 and 2011, then it was seen as a struggle for freedom of expression. Then international organizations and non-governmental organizations in Ukraine spoke out, because it was seen as pressure on the media by presenting them with invented tax charges. Now, the powers that be pour it on, saying: We are fighting the media which make our life difficult, and this is treated as normal. This is the most dangerous thing in this story” (http://vesti-ukr.com/strana/104241-segodnja-vesti-a-zavtra-ljuboe-drugoe-smi).

On June 20th Vesti reported that the Ukrainian authorities were planning new attacks against the beleaguered news agency. Its sources in the State Fiscal Service (GFS) claim that they have been ordered to prevent publication of the newspaper ‘Vesti’ and stop the work of the entire ‘Vesti’ holding company, which includes the newspaper, the magazine ‘Vesti Reporter’, ‘Vesti’ radio, and Vesti’s website “within the week.” Thus, according to Vesti, Ukraine’s various siloviki are preparing “a series of provocations” (http://vesti-ukr.com/strana/104274-vlasti-gotovjat-novye-provokacii-protiv-vestej).

Meanwhile, numerous other news agencies and television channels are under similar pressures – virtually all television channels, including ‘112’, ‘Inter’, ‘TVi’, ‘ZIK’, and the program ‘Nashi groshi’. ‘Coincidentally’, Channel 5, owned by President Petro Poroshenko, is free from pressure (http://vesti-ukr.com/kiev/104085-komitet-rady-po-svobode-slova-rassmotrit-situaciju-s-vestjami).

Clamping Down on Some of the Ultra-Nationalists Gone Wild

The Maidan regime continues to prove incapable of establishing a monopoly on the means of coercion – an essential element of a viable state – and disarm the neo-fascist volunteer battalions. On occasion it is moving piecemeal against battalion members or some of the lesser battalions who allegedly have committed crimes during and after the ‘anti-terrorist’ operation, in particular against prisoners. However, the more powerful battalions continue to maraud with impunity. The neo-fascist Right Sector, which organized the 2 May 2014 terrorist pogrom in Odessa, remains at-large ensconced at a new base in Dnepropetrovsk, refusing to disarm or integrate into the official Ukrainian armed forces. The Azov Battalion responsible for the war crime at Mariupol the month before the Odessa pogrom remains at its base in Azov near the sea of the same name on which Mariupol is a port. There are many more loose on the Ukrainian land under Maidan’s nominal control.

Members of a smaller radical group and battalion were arrested on suspicion of carrying out the April 16th murder of the popular if controversial Ukrainian journalist Oles Buzina. Early reports were that the suspects were members of the radical nationalist groups ‘Revansh’ (Reveng) and Chernyi Komitet (the Black Committee), whose members have carried out various attacks in and around Kiev recently, including attacks on President Petro Poroshenko’s chocolate company he promised to divest from during the presidential campaign but never in fact did (http://vesti-ukr.com/kiev/104135-po-delu-buziny-gotovjat-aresty-revansha-i-chernogo-komiteta). One of the actual suspects, Andriy Medvedko, was one of the many neo-fascists who helped hijack the democratic peaceful revolution from below that Euromaidan began as and transform it into a violent revolution from below with significant neo-fascist and authoritarian tendencies. He is a member of the ultra-nationalist group ‘C14’ (http://lb.ua/news/2015/06/18/308640_podozreniyu_ubiystve_buzini.html). During the Maidan demonstrations and revolt he operated under the nickname ‘Manson’ and was the Maidan’s commendant controlling the Kiev city administration building (http://korrespondent.net/ukraine/3529250-natsyonalysty-v-dele-chto-yzvestno-o-vozmozhnykh-ubyitsakh-buzyny). Later, Medvedko participated in the ‘anti-terrorist’ operation against the Donbas separatists and was a candidate to the Kiev city council from the ultra-nationalist ‘Svoboda’ party that also helped neo-fascist groups like Right Sector hijack the originally democratic and peaceful revolution and is led by the notorious Ukrainian national chauvinist, Oleh Tyahnibok (http://korrespondent.net/ukraine/3529250-natsyonalysty-v-dele-chto-yzvestno-o-vozmozhnykh-ubyitsakh-buzyny and http://lb.ua/news/2015/06/18/308640_podozreniyu_ubiystve_buzini.html). Another source says that Medvedeko was working as an assistant to a Rada deputy Eduard Leonov, who is also the head of Svoboda’s party organization in Transcarpathia Oblast (http://ua-reporter.com/novosti/172789). Until very recently Medvedko worked in the MVD but was fired on 8 June 2015 – just ten days before his arrest. The leader of C14, Yevgenii Karas, who is also a Svoboda activist, rejected the idea that Medvedko participated in the murder saying that given events surrounding the Tornado Battalion (see below), all the anti-terrorist operation volunteers were now being attacked by the regime that created them. Medvedko’s other friends said that he had been working on lustration in the MVD  (http://korrespondent.net/ukraine/3529250-natsyonalysty-v-dele-chto-yzvestno-o-vozmozhnykh-ubyitsakh-buzyny). Thus, it could be that he has been framed as a result of infighting within the police organ.

The other suspect, Denis Polishchuk, a former member of the ultra-nationalist Ukrainian National Self-Defense (UNSO) popular in the 1990s and a predecessor to groups like Svoboda and Right Sector. He was also a participant in the ‘anti-terrorist’ operation, serving as a leader of a unit in the 54th intelligence battalion (http://lb.ua/news/2015/06/18/308640_podozreniyu_ubiystve_buzini.html and http://ua-reporter.com/novosti/172789). A statement by one ultra-nationalist, Petro Savich, noted that Ukrainian ultra-nationalists were able to walk Kiev’s streets free “from the anti-fascist, beetle bug (colorado) [1] communist trash” thanks to the efforts of “Medvedko, Karas, and the Dynamo ultras” (http://vesti-ukr.com/kiev/104070-predpolagaemye-ubijcy-buziny-okazalis-radikalnymi-nacionalistami).

Interestingly, when Medvedko and Polishchuk were arraigned in court, the former claimed he was being set up to be charged for shooting innocent civilians on 20 February 2014 as part of the notorious snipers’ massacre (http://www.politnavigator.net/obvinyaemykh-v-ubijjstve-buziny-podozrevayut-v-strelbe-po-lyudyam-na-majjdane.html). That atrocity was first attributed to the Yanukovich regime and its special riot police but has been shown to actually have been initiated by members of neo-fascist groups like Right Sector, Svoboda, and others (see Gordon M. Hahn, Working Paper: “Violence, Coercion, and Escalation in Ukraine’s Maidan Revolution: Escalation Point 6 – The ‘Snipers’ of February,” Gordonhahn.com Russian and Eurasian Politics, 8 May 2015, http://gordonhahn.com/2015/05/08/violence-coercion-and-escalation-in-ukraines-maidan-revolution-escalation-point-6-the-snipers-of-february/ and Ivan Katchanovski, “The ‘Snipers’ Massacre’ on the Maidan in Ukraine (Revised and Updated Version),” Academia.edu, 20 February 2015,www.academia.edu/8776021/The_Snipers_Massacre_on_the_Maidan_in_Ukraine). Could it be that the lesser known and thus vulnerable alleged murderers of Buzina are being set up by the MVD and Avakov to take the fall for the Maidan regime’s skeleton in the closet – the participation of its neo-fascist elements in the snipers’ massacre?

Similarly, the lesser known ‘Tornado Battalion’ has come under pressure from the government in recent days, and Right Sector has spoken out in its defense and appears poised to pressure the regime to back off. On August 18 Ukrainian prosecutors accused members of the battalion of committing numerous murders, rapes, and robberies (http://vesti-ukr.com/donbass/104244-matios-v-prjamom-jefire-rasskazal-uzhasy-o-zverstvah-batalona-tornado and http://112.ua/mnenie/prestupleniya-tornado-privyazali-cheloveka-k-sportivnomu-snaryadu-i-iznasilovali-18-238616.html). The authorities made a failed attempt to disarm the battalion. First, there were reports Tornado was refusing to disarm (http://vesti-ukr.com/donbass/104079-bojcy-tornado-otkazyvajutsja-slozhit-oruzhie-i-ugrozhajut-strelboj). Then the MVD released a statement claiming the crisis was defused and Tornado was prepared to disarm. However, when the expected hour came, the disarmament never came off (http://vesti-ukr.com/donbass/104261-ozhidaemaja-sdacha-oruzhija-batalonom-tornado-ne-proizoshla). Late on June 20th, it was reported that a search of Tornado’s base was underway, and the battalion had agreed to disband (http://vesti-ukr.com/donbass/104269-v-mvd-zajavili-o-provedenii-obyska-na-baze-tornado). So the outcome remains uncertain as of writing. However, the prosecutors’ claims demonstrate the veracity of this author’s claims regarding the neo-fascist threat presented to and from within the Maidan regime.

Indeed, as the Tornado Battalion crisis unfolded, Right Sector weighed in. Right Sector issued an official statement in support of Tornado (http://pravyysektor.info/news/sytuatsiya-dovkola-tornado-tse-udar-po-vsomu-dobrovolchomu-ruhovi/), and commander of Right Sector’s ‘Ukrainian Volunteer Corps’ (DUK) Andriy Stempitskiy stated: “This is an interesting long ago predicted tendency: Attacks are being leveled against all the volunteer units. Azov is already ‘Nazi’, and the commander of ‘Torbado’ Ruslan Onishchenko along with his brothers have become very ‘harsh, retarded bandits’. (This happened immediately after a contraband group was detained by ‘Tornado’ fighters). Interestingly, what is being prepared for DUK? Authorities, the war is already over and everything is good in the country? Or has the sense of reality and impunity been lost?” Stempitskiy closed with a threat: “The are slightly more volunteers than there are of you” (http://pravyysektor.info/news/komentar-komandyra-duk-stosovno-sytuatsiji-z-bataljonom-tornado/). Right Sector heavyweight Ihor Mosiychuk – a Supreme Rada deputy and deputy chair of its committee on law enforcement (!) – hailed the two suspects in the Buzina murder as “patriots” who should be recognized as “heroes of Ukraine” (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=876552942400658&set=a.107162176006409.18128.100001378805175&type=1&theater).

Finally, Right Sector recently announced that it, the Azov Battalion, and others will march in central Kiev on July 3rd and called on “all patriots” from across the country to join tham in the march which is intended to begin the process of “freeing the country of internal and external enemies” and the “anti-Ukrainian regime” of “Poroshenko, Turchynov, Yatsenyuk, and Groisman.” They are calling on the Poroshenko regime to nullify the Minsk accords, renew the civil war against Donbass, and carry out a real war against corruption (http://pravyysektor.info/news/marsh-svyatoslava-u-stolnomu-hradi-anons/). Given the summer’s kickoff, it appears it will be another long hot summer in Kiev and the rest of what remains of potentially a great country – Ukraine.


[1] Colorados (kolorady) is a deragotory, dehumanizing term that developed during the Maidan revolt used by Ukrainian national chauvinists, ultra-nationalists, and neo-fascists for ethnic Russians, communists, and other opponents of the new order in Ukraine.


Gordon M. Hahn is an Analyst and Advisory Board Member of the Geostrategic Forecasting Corporation, Chicago, Illinois; Senior Researcher, Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, San Jose, California Analyst/Consultant, Russia Other Points of View – Russia Media Watch; and Senior Researcher and Adjunct Professor, MonTREP, Monterey, California. Dr Hahn is author of three well-received books, Russia’s Revolution From Above (Transaction, 2002), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), which was named an outstanding title of 2007 by Choice magazine, and The ‘Caucasus Emirate’ Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014). He also has authored hundreds of articles in scholarly journals and other publications on Russian, Eurasian and international politics and wrote, edited and published the Islam, Islamism, and Politics in Eurasia Report at CSIS from 2010-2013. Dr. Hahn has been a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (2011-2013) and a Visiting Scholar at both the Hoover Institution and the Kennan Institute.

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