by Gordon M. Hahn
Recent event’s surrounding Ukraine’s neo-fascist organization ‘Right Sector’ (RS) confirm the Maidan regime’s ties and vulnerability to the group and the regime’s increasingly resemblance to the Weimar regime that dropped power on the streets so it could be picked up by Adolf Hitler and National-Socialist Party. The latter is best but not solely demonstrated by the Maidan regime’s failure to establish a monopoly on the means of coercion. That state power is now openly shared with RS.
Right Sector and the Maidan ‘Revolution’
RS was founded by the Maidan revolution and has as its goal a post-Maidan totalitarian, xenophobic, exclusivist, expansionist greater Ukraine/Kievan Rus that is ‘superior to Europe’, antagonistic and indeed revanchist towards Russia. As the more democratic elements of the burgeoning Maidan revolution began to gather on Maidan Square, three neo-fascist and white supremacist groups founded the group, with Dmitro Yarosh selected as its ‘coordinator.’ RS and other neo-fascist and ultra-nationalist groups, especially those centered in western Ukraine began to descend on the Maidan, importing weapons in the process. These elements infiltrated the Maidan’s self-defence ‘heavenly hundreds’ and quickly transformed the nascent peaceful revolution from below into a kinetic and violent ultra-nationalist revolt.
Throughout the winter of 2013-14 RS and its allies recruited and intensified Maidan’s violent attacks against riot police. On 18-20 February, RS and its allies began burning and shooting elements of the soon-to-be old regime. In the early morning hours of February 20th RS and other neo-fascist snipers killed and wounded some 20 policemen before police finally began to return fire (https://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).
The snipers’ massacre culminated the next day in the violation of the EU-Russian brokered transition pact agreed on as shootouts continued on the streets of Kiev the previous day by the leading opposition parties and embattled President Viktor Yanukovich. The agreement could have navigated Ukraine away from a revolutionary and violent regime transformation to an orderly negotiated one. Instead of withdrawing from the city center as the police did as required by the agreement, RS and other radical elements began to sieize additional government buildings in the Kiev city center and elsewhere in Ukraine. Yanukovich chose to flee, and the rest is history.
The pivotal, some would say leading role played in Yanukovich’s overthrow by RS and the other neo-fascist and ultra-nationalist elements of ‘the Maidan’ positioned it and its allies to secure leading positions in the new Maidan regime. Like most extremist elements, they gravitated towards the organs of coercion or ‘siloviki’. For example, Yarosh was offered the position of deputy chairman of the Defense and Security Council by its chairman Andriy Parubii, who appears to have helped coordinate the neo-fascist snipers on Maidan. Yarosh refused the offer. A few months ago an agreement was announced that Yarosh would become an advisor to the chief of the general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces, but Yarosh never formally took up the post (http://vesti-ukr.com/strana/94012-gerawenko-zajavil-o-nalichii-vakansii-dlja-jarosha-v-minoborony and https://gordonhahn.com/2015/04/06/neo-fascist-yarosh-appointed-to-ukraine-defense-ministry/).
Instead, he chose to continue preparing for the second ‘nationalist’ phase of the revolution; something that has been his goal since the Maidan revolution proved too influenced by oligarchs like President Petro Poroshenko.
This did not stop Yarosh from using some oligarchs in order to finance his armed forces’ and social-political activists’ rampages on the Donbass front and indeed across Ukraine. This and the war in Donbass gave Yarosh an opportunity to organize his own armed batalions under the financial sponsorship of the criminal authority, banker-oligarch, and Maidan-appointed governor of Dnepropetrovsk Ihor Kolomoiskii and the state sponsorship of the Maidan regime’s Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov and his program of forming volunteer battalions to supplement the weak Ukrainian army in the face of the counter-revolutionaries in the eastern Ukrainian area of Donbass (Gordon M. Hahn, “Everyday Neo-Fascism in Ukraine,” Gordonhahn.com Russian and Eurasian Politics, 15 March 2015, https://gordonhahn.com/2015/03/15/everyday-neo-fascism-in-ukraine/).
RS and Maidan’s ‘Anti-Terrorist’ Operation
Under the cover of the volunteer battalions – like the notorious white supremacist-oriented ‘Azov’ battalion – for which many RS and other neo-fascist and ultra-nationalist elements volunteered, Yarosh formed his Ukrainian Volunteer Corps (UVC), which he has refused to subordinate to the Ukrainian military of National Guard to which almost all other battalions were subordinated over time.
RS, Azov and UVC have been involved in various terrorist attacks, war crimes, and pogroms both on the Donbass front and elsewhere in Ukraine for well over a year. Under the cover of the ‘anti-terrorist’ operation (ATO) in eastern and southern Ukraine declared by the Maidan regime in April 2014, RS and Azov immediately destroyed a police station in Mariupol without giving the policemen a chance to negotiate. Over twenty were killed and wounded.
On May 2nd RS activists carried out a terrorist pogrom against unarmed picketers in Odessa, parlaying a conflict between pro- and anti-Maidan soccer fans and ultra-nationalists into an attack on an anti-Maidan tent city set up weeks earlier in front of the Trade Union House in Odessa. Days later, the RS’s website openly claimed responsibility for the terrorist pogrom in which 48 activists opposed to the Western-backed Maidan regime in Kiev were killed; most of them burned alive as Ukrainian ‘nationalists’ shot at, three Molotov cocktails and sang the Ukrainian national anthem. Hundreds more anti-Maidan regime activists were injured and wounded. “May 2, 2014 is another bright page in our national history.” It claimed responsibility by noting that “about a hundred members of ‘Right Sector’ and patriotic-minded Odessa residents countered the rebels” and that “Dmitro Yarosh ignored the ‘expedience’ of the election campaign to coordinate the action against the Russian aggression.” (Eugene Trofymenko, “ATO Po-narodnomu, Abo chomu ne Vladimir Putin ne vviv viyska,” Pravyi Sektor, 2 May 2014, http://pravyysektor.info/articles/ato-po-narodnomu-abo-chomu-ne-vladimir-putin-ne-vviv-vijska/). On the one-year anniversary of the attack, the RS website and at least one RS leader reiterated RS’s claim of responsibility for Odessa (https://gordonhahn.com/2015/05/02/ukraines-neo-fascist-right-sector-claims-responsibility-again-for-2-may-2014-terrorist-pogrom/).
As the ATO proceeded through 2014, the UVC, Azov and other RS-tied battalions and volunteer fighters stood at the vanguard of the Ukrainian forces’ tendency to fire on residential areas in Donbass killing and wounding civilians, including many hundreds of women and children. RS has also been at the forefront of teaming up with ultra-nationalist elements in the government to harass independent media organs, such as Vesti-Ukraine (see https://gordonhahn.com/2015/06/21/one-day-in-the-life-of-ukrainian-democracy/; https://gordonhahn.com/2015/04/21/maidan-ukraines-authoritarianism-surplus-update-on-maidan-ukraines-democracy-deficit/; and https://gordonhahn.com/2015/03/15/everyday-neo-fascism-in-ukraine/).
The Mukachevo Attack
Eleven days ago, units of RS’s militia in Transcarpathia attacked police in the western town of Mukachevo. Taking place far from the Donbass front, this was another case of the PS marauding across Ukraine’s countryside. In particular, RS was involved in a settling of scores between two Transcarpatian criminal ‘authorities’ who are simultaneously deputies in the Supreme Rada – the parliament of the ‘new democratic Ukraine’. One of kingpin-deputies, Viktor Baloga, is said to finance RS. A relationship RS struck up an in order to help finance its recruiting, propaganda, political, and military efforts. In the battle that ensued – with PS using machine guns and a grenade launcher – several police and several civilians were killed and wounded, with up to 14 casualties, according to some reports. Security forces flooded in but instead of attacking and arresting the RS fighters, negotiations ensued; some of them involving directly or indirectly Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko himself and his Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov, who implemented the policy of forming volunteer battalions to include a large component of neofascists, given their ‘patriotic enthusiasm.’ The RS continues to refuse to disarm and convened demonstrations in Kiev at the presidential administration and some ten provincial capitols, and other neofascist groups and their battalions are backing RS. Recently fired head of Ukraine’s intelligence service, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), Valentin Nalyvaichenko, backed PS against the Porosehnko-led factions of the Maidan regime (http://anons.uz.ua/news/politics/21855-valentin-nalivaychenko-podderzhal-rebyat-iz-pravogo-sektora-zakarpatya.html). In Mukachevo’s wake, RS demanded the resignation of the Ukraine MVD chief, Arsen Avakov, and the prosecution of the leadership of the Transcarpathian Oblast’s MVD – the town of Mukachevo is located in Transcarpathia. An article on RS’s website accused of Avakov of pedophilia, economic crimes, and the repression and murder of patriots, calling for him to be “eilimnated……from office” (http://pravyysektor.info/news/news/318/avakov-maye-buti-usunutim.html). The SBU claimed several days ago that they had surrounded the hills into which the RS Transcarpathia fighters fled, but no fighting has ensued, not less captures and arrests.
The Lviv Bombings
Two days after the Mukachevo attack, RS’s Lviv branch took down the European Union flag flying at the Lviv Oblast Administration’s building and replaced it with RS’s red and black (blood and soil) flag (www.unn.com.ua/ru/news/1481576-praviy-sektor-zaminiv-prapori-yes-bilya-lvivskoyi-oda-na-chervono-chorni). In addition, RS forces and activists began to set up checkpoints on the outskirts of some cities, including Lviv, where, according to reports, several RS checkpoints have been set up to prevent “titushki” from entering the city. On the next morning, two headquarters of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) in Lviv were mined and the detonations wounded two policeman. One had his foot amputated and kidney removed, and another is now blind from their wounds. RS Lviv has denied any connection with the bombings but has used them as a pretext for sending its goons across Lviv and setting up checkpoints (http://vesti-ukr.com/lvov/107227-postradavshej-ot-vzryva-vo-lvove-amputirovali-nogu-i-udalili-pochku). In response, RS’s Lviv branch announced its intention to establish a presence and presumably act in response to any events in the city (http://vesti-ukr.com/lvov/107188-ps-poobewal-vzjat-pod-kontrol-lvov). The MVD has stated it regards the likely RS attack in Lviv as being connected with the conflict in Mukachevo, meaning it too suspects RS, and has categorized it as a “terrorist attack” (http://glavnoe.ua/news/n233989 and http://glavnoe.ua/news/n234002).
Also on July 13th, some two dozen members of RS’s militia, the Volunteer Ukrainian Corps (DUK), which has refused to be incorporated into Ukraine’s armed forces entered the regional administration offices of Volyn and after several hours of talks a “joint statement and appeal to the leadership of the state” was issued by RS DUK representatives and the Volyn Oblast Administration calling on the all sides to resolve the conflict in Mukachevo peacefully. According to RS’s website, the RS DUK in Volyn was backed by the AvtoMaidan’s representatives in Volyn (http://pravyysektor.info/news/news/313/u-luc-ku-duk-vlada-i-siloviki-pidpisali-kolektivne-zvernenna.html).
During this more than year-long record of terror, terrorism, vigilantism, and criminality, neither Yarosh nor any other RS official or member has been questioned no less arrested for any of these crimes. As demonstrated above both national and local officials are intimidated or are actively working with RS groups.
RS Congress and Veche: Probing Kiev
Moreover, after this record of political violence and terrorism, Yarosh and his RS thugs were allowed to convene both a congress in Zhivteiny Palace in central Kiev, where some of its snipers shot, killed and wounded police and civilians on 20 February 2014, and a ‘people’s veche’ (assembly) on the Maidan on July 21st. RS delegations, many in camouflage uniform, marched demonstratively through the city in formation to Zhivteiny. The congress’s several hundred deputies filled Zhivteiny and heard Yarosh declare, in fact reiterate, his oft-stated goal of a “nationalist revolution” against the Maidan regime he helped bring to power. The congress decided not to take part in Ukraine’s local elections to be held on October 25th and to organize a nationwide referendum on a series of questions, including the legalization of the volunteer armed battalions such as its UVC and a vote of confidence or inconfidence in the authorities (http://vesti-ukr.com/kiev/108102-smenit-rezhim-my-mozhem-tolko-putem-revoljucii-v-kieve-proshel-sezd-ps; http://pravyysektor.info/news/news/414/zyizd-pravogo-sektora-v-centri-stolici.html; and http://top.rbc.ru/politics/21/07/2015/55ae7de79a79473857deec29).
The decision not to participate in elections comes with news that RS’s popularity has grown in the wake of the trail of blood it has left from Donbass to Odessa to Transcarpathia. A recent survey conducted by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) in early July found that for the first time RS would break the 5 percent of the vote threshold needed to secure seats in the Ukrainian parliament, the Supreme Rada, receiving 5.4 percent – this compared to the 1.8 percent RS received in last year’s parliamentary elections. Yarosh and several other RS leaders have seats now, but they were won in single-mandate districts in campaigns financed by Kolomoiskii and other oligarchs. If presidential election were held now, Yarosh would receive 5.7 percent compared to the 0.7 percent he garnered in the 2014 presidential elections. Thus, Yarosh and RS have gained nearly a million new voters since last year’s elections. Other nationalist parties have also been making gains, according to the KIIS survey. Yulia Tymoshenko’s nationalist ‘Fatherland’ party would receive 22.7 percent of the vote compared to 5.7 percent in last October’s elections. The ultra-nationalist Radical Party would receive 10.2 percent compared to 7.5 percent in October 2014. The ultra-nationalist ‘Svoboda’ party would receive 3.9 percent compared to 4.7 percent. The now very unpopular nationalist prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s National Front has dropped to 2.8 from the 22.2 percent it received in the last parliamentary election. Thus, a near majority – 45 percent – would support nationalist, ultra-nationalist or neofascist parties if parliamentary elections were held now. Moreover, there are ultra-nationalists in President Poroshenko’s ‘Petro Porosehnko Bloc’ and Lviv mayor Andriy Sadoviy’s ‘Self-Help’ party (www.kiis.com.ua/?lang=ukr&cat=reports&id=540&page=1).
The veche, which directly followed the congress, gathered some 3,000 attendees, who were treated to a Uniate Catholic invocation from several priests, political speeches, and an appearance from Mr. Yarosh (http://vesti-ukr.com/kiev/108116-veche-pravogo-sektora-na-majdane; http://vesti-ukr.com/kiev/108109-na-majdane-sobralis-poltysjachi-bojcov-pravogo-sektora; and www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuntSMVfwSQ). The modest turnout means that if Yarosh was probing whether or not to begin his nationalist revolution in a ‘Maidan 2.0’, then he must conclude that RS lacks sufficient support for this at present.
Thus, RS after committing a myriad of war crimes, terrorist attacks, now ‘conventional’ crimes and other forms of defiance of the Maidan regime and its siloviki was able to convene its ‘congress’ and organize a mass demonstration in the center of the capitol, without any real pressure from the regime. It appears that Yarosh still has protectors within the Maidan regime’s failing state apparatus, despite the recent firing of one – former SBU chief Nalyvaichenko – and the alienation of another – MVD chief Avakov.
It is very likely that there would be splits within one or more of the siloviki departments — the MVD, SBU, the Armed Forces, and National Guard — on which Poroshenko would need to rely in the event Yarosh’s RS and/or one or more of the many other neo-armed fascist volunteer battalions and civilian neofascist activists were to attempt to seize power by force. Many of these departments have been staffed in part with neo-fascists and/or sympathetic ultra-nationalists and national chauvinists.
This begs the question: Why has Yarosh not attempted yet to use force to seize power? It appears that RS still lacks sufficient forces to carry out a successful revolt on its own. Estimates are RS’s UVC has some 2,000 fighters. Other RS members in other volunteer battalions would likely double that figure, but this would not be enough to hold on to power if they seized key installations in Kiev. A coup in Galicia might have better prospects, but RS would have trouble moving fighters from the Donbass front and elsewhere en masse without being exposed. Yarosh is aware of his still relative weakness. His recent demonstrations, congress, and veche in Kiev appear to be efforts to gauge the level of support he could bring to, and muster in to Kiev. The turnout for the veche suggests that despite the Maidan regime’s weakness, Yarosh for now is unable to seize power relying on RS alone, and coordinating the other neofascist groups and volunteer battalions nationalist elements control or within which they enjoy a majority is a major challenge. The regime’s impotence, therefore, is most unfortunate because this is an opportune time to move against RS. Although this might spark other neofascist groups to rally around Yarosh RS, the same could be true later when the regime may be more impotent and RS more potent given the deteriorating socioeconomic situation in the country. The longer Yarosh and his partners in crime are allowed to operate freely and openly, RS is capable of increasing the financial and other resources needed to accomplish this goal.
In sum, at present it remains unclear whether Yarosh can rally sufficient forces into or around RS in order to mount a coup, and this may be dictating his ‘long war’ strategy founded on a more broad-based ‘nationalist revolution.’ In this scenario, a coercive seizure of power could follow the Maidan model, beginning with civil disobedience, the occupation of government buildings, and then the gradual escalation of violence. Initiating this strategy now would be premature.
For President Poroshenko, the Maidan regime, and the West’s Ukraine policy, Kiev’s acquiescence or impotence before the RS threat is bound to come home to roost. The emperor has no clothes, and the Maidan regime is falling to its knees.
Gordon M. Hahn is an Analyst and Advisory Board Member of the Geostrategic Forecasting Corporation. He is also Analyst/Consultant, Russia Other Points of View and Senior Researcher, Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, San Jose, 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 publishes the Islam, Islamism, and Politics in Eurasia Report (IIPER) at CSIS at http://csis.org/program/russia-and-eurasia-program. Dr. Hahn has been a visiting scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. (2011-2013), the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. (1995 and 2005), and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He has taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, San Francisco State, and St. Petersburg State (Russia) Universities.