by Gordon M. Hahn
Support for the radical ultra-nationalist and neo-fascist elements in Maidan Ukraine appears to continue gradually deepen, as evidenced by a persistent economic depression, polarizing disunity and massive corruption in the corridors of power, and new opinion surveys. The economic dislocation is well-known and needs no further comment here. The collapse of the ruling coalition’s party support in the Verkhovna Rada, with the defection of two coalition parties, has led to a greater role being played by the ultra-nationalist Radical Party in the search for a new coalition and new government. The EU has expressed its profound disenchantment with Kiev’s failure to achieve reforms and demonstrate unity. This disappointment is reflected by the recent announcement by the EU commissioner that Ukraine will have to wait 20-25 years to join the EU and the continued postponement into at least the mid-term future of a visa-free regime for Ukrainian travel to EU countries (http://echo.msk.ru/news/1723770-echo.html). This dynamic will play into the hands of the anti-EU ultra-nationalists, some of whom are gaining in popularity because of the government’s failures, creating a ‘Catch 22′ that threatens to spiral Ukrainian politics out of control to the extremists’ benefit. In addition, the West’s failure to publicly condemn Ukraine’s ultra-nationalist parties and demand Kiev modify its reigning quasi-fascist state ideology honoring the World War Two-era neo-fascist Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Partisan Army allows the neo-fascists to hold their positions in society and government.
As noted in a previous article, a survey conducted by sociological research agency ‘Rating Group’, if presidential elections in Ukraine in October 2015, showed that among voters planning to vote, 26 percent would support President Petro Poroshenko, Batkyvshina (Fatherland) Party (BP) leader, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko – 16 percent, Opposition Bloc (OP) chairman Yuriy Boiko – 12 percent, Self-Help (Samopomish) Party (SHP) leader and Lviv Mayor Andrey Sadovyi – 9 percent, Radical Party (RP) leader Oleh Lyashko – 7 percent, former Army General and Civic Position (GP) party leader A. Hrytsenko – 6 percent, Right Sector (RS) leader Dmitro Yarosh – 4 percent, and Svoboda (Freedom) Party (SP) leader Oleh Tyahnibok – 4 percent. The rest of the voters would support the other candidates. Thus, presidential candidates from Ukraine’s neo-fascist parties (RP, RS, and SP) would take at least – 15 percent of the vote. If neo-fascist parties were to back a single presidential candidate and if he were to win all of that 15 percent of the vote, he would finish third in the voting or, depending on how their respective percentages were rounded out, perhaps second. Ultra-nationalist candidates (Tymoshenko and Sadovyi would receive 25 percent [“Electoral Moods in Ukraine: October 2015,” Rating Group (Ukraine), 19 October 2015, http://ratinggroup.ua/en/research/ukraine/elektoralnye_nastroeniya_naseleniya.html andhttp://ratinggroup.ua/files/ratinggroup/reg_files/rg_electoral_102015_press.pdf%5D]. In the 2014 presidential elections, Lyashko, Yarosh, and Tyahnibok together took only 10.2 percent of the votes.
The same survey showed that if elections to Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada or simply the Rada, took place in October, 20 percent of decided voters would support Poroshenko’s Bloc of Petro Poroshenko ‘Solidarnist’ (BPPS), Tymoshenko’s BP – 15 percent, the OB – 14 percent, Sadovyi’s SHP – 10 percent, Lyashko’s RP – 6 percent. These parties would break the 5 percent barrier and receive seats in the Rada. Parties with a chance to exceed that barrier and get into the parliament on the party list basis include: Svoboda – 5 percent, Civic Position – 4 percent, Ihor Kolomoiskii’s ‘Ukrop’ party – 4 percent, Right Sector – 4 percent, Rebirth (Vidrodzhennya) – 3 percent, and Our Region (Nash Kray) – 3 percent. These results indicate that the same three neo-fascist parties — RP, RS, and SP — have at least 15 percent of the vote at present. In the 2014 Rada elections, these three neo-fascist parties garnered less than 13 percent of the vote [“Electoral Moods in Ukraine: October 2015,” Rating Group (Ukraine), 19 October 2015, http://ratinggroup.ua/en/research/ukraine/elektoralnye_nastroeniya_naseleniya.html andhttp://ratinggroup.ua/files/ratinggroup/reg_files/rg_electoral_102015_press.pdf%5D].
In addition, there are neo-fascist politicians and leaders in some of the other parties and that some of these other parties, as indicated above, can be characterized as ultra-nationalist or more moderately national chauvinist. These parties (BP, SHP and Yatsenyuk’s National Front) would garner 26 percent of the votes. Yatsenyuk’s ultra-nationalist National Front is likely to get much more than 1 percent of the vote. Also, oligarch and Poroshenko nemesis Ihor Kolomoiskii’s party project ‘Ukrop’, with its 4 percent, might be characterized as partially ultra-nationalist, given Kolomoiskii’s close ties to RS leader Yarosh. This boosts the ultra-nationalists’ take to some 30 percent. Thus, neo-fascists and ultra-nationalists would take nearly half the vote, 45 percent, in Rada elections if they were held in October. This is a slight decline from the Rada elections one year ago, when these parties received 53 percent. However, many do not regard the National Front as an ultra-nationalist party. It includes ultra-nationalists, more moderate national chauvinists, some democrats, and even a few neo-fascists (Aleksandr Biletskiy, for example). If it is removed from that category, the neo-fascist-ultra-nationalists’ take in the party voting will have increased significantly in the past year from 31 to 44 percent. Either way, the ultra-nationalist/neo-fascist part of Ukraine’s political spectrum remains too strong for a healthy civil society [“Electoral Moods in Ukraine: October 2015,” Rating Group (Ukraine), 19 October 2015, http://ratinggroup.ua/en/research/ukraine/elektoralnye_nastroeniya_naseleniya.html andhttp://ratinggroup.ua/files/ratinggroup/reg_files/rg_electoral_102015_press.pdf%5D].
Now, a more recent survey, conducted in February 2016, shows that President Poroshenko would receive only 22.8 percent of the votes if presidential elections were held at this time. Tymoshenko would receive 17.1 percent and Lyashko – 11.5 percent. Thus, Poroshenko’s support has fallen another 3 percent, Tymoshenko’s is up 1 percent, and Lyashko’s has nearly doubled moving up from fifth to third place in the presidential competition. Lyashko passed Boiko–now with 9.6 percent–and Sadovoi–now with 10.7 percent. Gritsenko now receives 8.8 percent; Tygypko 3.2. In addition to the radical Lyashko’s rise, former leader of the radical neo-fascist group ‘Right Sector’ Dmitro Yarosh has seen his support rise from 4 percent to 6.5 percent. Yarosh has formed a new ultra-rightist organization and seeks to ally with other parties from across the political spectrum to complete his ‘nationalist revolution.’ The neo-fascist Svoboda Party’s Oleh Tyagnybok’s 1.9 percent gives the three ultra-nationalist leaders–Lyashko, Yarosh and Tyagnybok–a total of 20 percent now compared with just 15 percent a few short months ago (http://zn.ua/POLITICS/prezidentskiy-reyting-poroshenko-znachitelno-upal-no-po-prezhnemu-vyshe-chem-u-konkurentov-205794_.html and http://vesti-ukr.com/strana/138056-opros-ukraincy-rasskazali-za-kogo-by-otdali-golos-na-prezidentskih-vyborah).
The growing popularity of ultra-nationalism is reflected in the recent promotion of the neo-fascist Vadim Troyan to the position of first deputy chief of the National Police from his previous post of Chief of the Main Administration of the National Police in Kiev Oblast (www.pravda.com.ua/rus/news/2016/03/2/7100934/). Troyan is a member of the Troyan is a member of the openly fascist Social-National Assembly party (SNA), led by Andriy Biletskiy (http://vesti-ukr.com/strana/103513-pochemu-ssha-otkryli-front-protiv-batalona-azov).
The SNA’s program does not leave a reader sanguine. It emphasizes the very same concept of “nationocracy.” Its proposes banning all political parties, organizations, associations and ideological groups. The elite of the Ukrainian ethnic group or nation will hold full power: “Political power is wholly owned by the Ukrainian nation through its most talented, idealistic and altruistic national representatives who are able to ensure proper development of the nation and its competitiveness.” “Supreme power (executive, legislative and judicial) of the Ukrainian state will be in the hands of the head of state, who is personally responsible to the nation’s own blood and property.” Capitalism is to be “dismantled” and democracy is to be “eliminated.” All actions that fail “to comply with obligations to the nation and the state will entail the restriction of civil rights or deprivation of citizenship … The ultimate goal of Ukrainian foreign policy is world domination” (Programa, Sotsialno-Natsionalna Assembleya, Snaua.info, http://snaua.info/programa/, last accessed 15 September 2014. See also Gordon M. Hahn, Maidan Ukraine’s Neo-Fascist Problem,” Fair Observer, 23 September 2014, http://www.fairobserver.com/region/europe/the-ukrainian-revolutions-neo-fascist-problem-14785/).
Biletskiy, who prior to running the SNA led the equally ultra-nationalist ‘Patriots of Ukraine,’ the military wing of the UNA, which was in the business of beating immigrants. In a 2010 interview he described his organization as nationalist “storm troopers” (“Andrei Biletskii | Sotsial-natsionalizm – zolotoi vek Ukrainy,” YouTube, 7 December 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KfqYT6U6xc; Leonid Bershidskiy, “Ukraine’s Neo-Nazis Won’t Get U.S. Money,” Bloomberg, 12 June 2015, http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-06-12/ukraine-s-neo-nazis-won-t-get-u-s-money; and Robert Parry, “US House Admits Nazi Role in Ukraine,” Consortium News, 13 June 2015, http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/30719-us-house-admits-nazi-role-in-ukraine). A year later Biletskiy was in prison, after his organization—renamed the SNA—had been involved in a series of shootouts and fights. In 2007, Biletskiy castigated a government decision to introduce fines for racist remarks, noting: “So why the ‘Negro-love’ on a legislative level? They want to break everyone who has risen to defend themselves, their family, their right to be masters of their own land! They want to destroy the Nation’s biological resistance to everything alien and do to us what happened to Old Europe, where the immigrant hordes are a nightmare for the French, Germans and Belgians, where cities are ‘blackening’ fast and crime and the drug trade are invading even the remotest corners” (“Slovo bilogo vozhdya.pdf,” VKontakte, http://vk.com/doc29866988_319980052?hash=14c0a1bebe416193ef&dl=a33eceb6cbe50c4daf, last accessed on 29 January 2016 and Bershidskiy, “Ukraine’s Neo-Nazis Won’t Get U.S. Money;” and Parry “US House Admits Nazi Role in Ukraine”). Biletskiy has also said: “The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival. A crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen” (Tom Parfitt, “Ukraine crisis: The neo-Nazi brigade fighting pro-Russian separatists,” Telegraph (UK), 11 August 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/ukraine/11025137/Ukraine-crisis-the-neo-Nazi-brigade-fighting-pro-Russian-separatists.html). Following Maidan’s overthrow of Yanukovych, the SNA and Patriots of Ukraine were rewarded with Biletskiy’s release from prison, being regarded as a political prisoner by the new Maidan regime. The Maidan regime’s MVD would give Biletskiy command of one of the many volunteer battalions tasked with suppressing the movement for autonomy/secession in Donbass, and his ‘Azov Battalion would be charged with war crimes. Biletskiy was also a member of military committee of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s party, the National Front, which included other ultra-nationalists and neo-fascists.
Before the latter appointment, Biletskiy’s Azov Battalion was responsible for the 9 May 2014 slaughter of some 20 Mariupol policemen who refused to join Kiev’s ‘anti-terrorist’ operation launched at that time and ensconced themselves inside the Mariupol police station, which was then subjected to tank and other heavy fire by Azov without negotiations. Indeed, Biletskiy celebrated the crime’s first anniversary of the massacre with a military parade in which Ukrainian military and civilian officials (including MVD chief Avakov and Chairman of the Ukrainian Defense and Security Council and former Maidan acting president Oleksandr Turchynov, who initiated the ATO) and weapons banned from the area in accordance with the Minsk 2 accords openly took part. He called the crime Maidan Ukraine’s “first victory” in a videotaped speech which can be found here: “Andriy Biletskiy pro zvil’nennya Mariupolya,” You Tube, 13 June 2015, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lu3HanEJ78
There are many more ultra-nationalists, neo-fascists, and fellow travelers in Ukraine’s other state organs, especially the police and other siloviki.
Yanukovychization of the Maidan Regime
The Maidan Ukraine regime shows growing signs of deligitmization, what might be called its ‘Yanukoychization.’ Thus, the recent survey shows Poroshenko now enjoying less than half the support he enjoyed little more than a year ago (http://zn.ua/POLITICS/prezidentskiy-reyting-poroshenko-znachitelno-upal-no-po-prezhnemu-vyshe-chem-u-konkurentov-205794_.html and http://vesti-ukr.com/strana/138056-opros-ukraincy-rasskazali-za-kogo-by-otdali-golos-na-prezidentskih-vyborah). Yanukovychization was demonstrated even more strikingly in the older survey. It showed that opposition to the Maidan regime is as strong as it was to the Yanukovich regime near its demise. A majority, 53 percent, believes that it is better to go out to protest in the case of a significant deterioration in living conditions rather than be patriotic and remain at home. This percentage is greater than that recorded in December 2013, 50 percent, on the eve of the Maidan’s overthrow of the Viktor Yanukovich regime. Over the past six months, support for the idea of dissolving parliament and calling new Rada elections has increased from 34 to 47 percent, the idea of new presidential elections – from 31 to 43 percent [“Electoral Moods in Ukraine: October 2015,” Rating Group (Ukraine), 19 October 2015, http://ratinggroup.ua/en/research/ukraine/elektoralnye_nastroeniya_naseleniya.html andhttp://ratinggroup.ua/files/ratinggroup/reg_files/rg_electoral_102015_press.pdf%5D].
The most shocking sign of the Maidan regime’s ‘Yanukoychization’ came in a Gallop poll conducted late last year. It found that opposition to the Maidan Ukrainian government and regime is ubiquitous. The government’s approval rating is the lowest since 2007—during the Orange regime (2005-2010)—with 8 percent approval rating then as now. By contrast, under the overthrown Yanukovych government (2010-2014), public approval of the government was at 26 percent in 2010, 24 in 2011, 24 in 2012, 19 in 2013, and 24 in 2014. Only 19 percent of Ukrainians say the regime is taking the country in the right direction; 65% think it is moving in the wrong direction.
Gallop found the same pattern—disapproval of ‘pro-democracy’—i.e., nationalistic leaders—in its presidential approval rating results. The Orange president Viktor Yushchenko had approval ratings of 17 percent and 7 percent in 2008 and 2009, respectively. The overthrown Yanukovych’s approval ratings were as follows: 46 percent in 2010, 29 percent in 2011, 28 percent in 2012, and 28 percent in 2013. Petro Poroshenko’s ratings were 47 percent upon his arrival in office—similar to Yanukovych’s 46 percent—but the fall in his ratings in his second year is much more akin to a full collapse than that under Yanukovych. Poroshenko has fallen from 47 percent in 2014 to 17 percent in 2015. Yanukovych fell from 46 percent to 29 percent and then held steady until he was overthrown with ratings higher than Poroshenko’s present rating ((Julie Ray, “Ukrainians Disillusioned With Leadership,” Gallup, 23 December 2015, www.gallup.com/poll/187931/ukrainians-disillusioned-leadership.aspx)).
Although some of the differences in polling results between the Yanukovych and Poroshenko periods can be attributed to the exclusion of Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk from surveys for the latter period, since these are regions that were allied with Yanukovych’s politics for regional ethnic, linguistice, cultural, and economic reasons. This, however, cannot explain the relative popularity of Yanukovych over his predecessor Yushchenko. Indeed, Poroshenko is unpopular in every mega-region of Ukraine—west, east, north, south, and central—with catastrophic, indeed ‘revolutionarily’ low popularity ratings in the south and east (not including Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk no less) at 11 percent in the east and 7 percent in the south. In Ukraine’s central and northern regions (the former includes Kiev), barely as many Ukrainians approve of Poroshenko (21 percent) as approved of Yanukovych (20 percent) in 2013 on the eve of the Maidan revolt (Julie Ray, “Ukrainians Disillusioned With Leadership,” Gallup, 23 December 2015, www.gallup.com/poll/187931/ukrainians-disillusioned-leadership.aspx).
Gallup poll also found that 88 percent of Ukrainians say corruption is widespread in their government, and 81 percent say the problem is no different in the country’s business circles. A mere 5 percent of respondents said the Ukrainian government is doing enough to fight corruption—lower than the 6% who said the same in 2013 on the eve of the Maidan ‘revolution’ (Julie Ray, “Ukrainians Disillusioned With Leadership,” Gallup, 23 December 2015, www.gallup.com/poll/187931/ukrainians-disillusioned-leadership.aspx).
In sum, the Poroshenko’s Maidan regime is less popular and seen as at least as corrupt within the polity it rules as Yanukovych’s was in that which he ruled when he was overthrown in February 2014.
Yet there are other problems in Ukraine besides lack of regime legitimacy and growing corruption. Independent media is being repressed, and state television represents the views of only one part of the political spectrum—those that support Poroshenko, the oligarchs, and the ultra-nationalists. Neo-fascist groups, like the Svoboda Party and Right Sector among many others, continue to undertake vigilante actions, carry out terrorist attacks, and prepare to finish the ‘national revolution’ of which they saw Maidan as being the first phase.
These developments, along with the EU’s stabs in Ukraine’s back, do not bode well for Kiev or, for that matter, Donbass. The former’s revival of all-out war against the latter can be one way the Maidan Ukraine regime in Kiev can consolidate popular opinion behind it while it tries to get its act together. Meanwhile, the West must help Kiev clean the regime’s ranks of neo-fascists. The posts held by Avakov, Turchynov, Troyan and other ultra-nationalists and their allies are appointed positions. Just as they exercise veto power over appointments to positions such as prime minister, finance minister, and economics minister, the US and EU must demand that such elements are removed from office. If the do not, then this suggests that the administration of Nobel Peace Prize winner President Barack Obama to one extent or another supports ultra-nationalism and neo-fascism.