The Zelenskiy regime appears to have mastered no less than the authoritarianizing but still democratic Biden regime and the increasingly authoritarian Putin regime the postmodern art of artificial reality or ‘simulacra’ in politics. The simulacra in politics is compounding and is compounded by the all too concrete realities of war in Donbass and potentially Ukraine and its environs more broadly. The new case of simulacra is perhaps not surprising in that Zelenskiy spent most of his adult life living in dinosaur media unreality, specifically television acting. Zelenskiy’s television virtual reality was comedy; his political simulacra is becming tragedy.
The most recent and penultimate Zelenskiy simulacra is the ‘Russian-backed coup plot’ announced by Zelenskiy in late November as having been set for execution on 1-2 December. As is almost always the case nowadays in Ukraine, where any negative phenomenon is blamed by almost all parties on Putin and Russia – a tactic America’s Democrat Party is well practiced in – the ‘Russian plot’ turned out to be demonstrations organized by a coalition of corrupt former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, various ultranationalist and neofascist groups including the notorious National Corps of Azov founder and commander Andrei Biletskiy, and entrepreneurs opposed to Zelenskiy’s bill that would require all business to use cashier machines for all business and retail transactions. The 1 December protest was held on the Maidan and then marched to the Office of the President, where demonstrators called for Zelenskiy’s impeachment or resignation. During the protest, the leader of the central staff of the National Corps Maksim Zhorin declared from the Maidan stage that his forces were prepared to remove Zelenskiy from power if he begins negotiations with Putin again. Aleksandr Turchinov, who was the Maidan regime’s acting president and head of the National Security and Defense Committee and declared the anti-terrorist operation against Donbass in April 2014, seconded Zhorin, called for the creation of a committee of the “united opposition” to “lead the people to overthrow the present authorities,” and designated Zelenskiy’s claim of planned 1-2 December coup plot a “fake” (https://strana.news/news/364781-mitinhi-v-kieve-1-dekabrja-i-poslanie-zelenskoho-rade-onlajn.html?fbclid=IwAR1capfoKbN7n6TDRm4X7mfoXggz8eXlrh4wWpYgIlZVBBGyyIH6ldRv5sk and https://strana.news/news/364967-hosperevorot-1-dekabrja-kak-natskorpus-i-porokhoboty-trebovali-otstavki-zelenskoho.html). The four Russians and oligarch Rinat Akhmetov were nowhere to be seen and were not even mentioned by Zelenskiy in his speech given on the day the coup was supposed to take place.
This apparently fake coup plot is not Ukraine’s first Maidan simulacra. Recall the 20 February 2014 snipers’ massacre on the Maidan carried out by the radical ultra-nationalist/neo-fascist wing of the opposition at that time and Maidan demonstrators that killed at least 100 police and demonstrators and wounded many more. Although the Maidan Ukrainian government usually attributes that to the Viktor Yanukovych government it overthrew, then SBU chief Valentyn Nalyvaichenko blamed Russian snipers and US ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt attributed the terrorist attack to a ‘Russian wet team’. So the Maidan regime and its Western allies’ tendency to pin any unfortunate events or shortcomings in Ukraine on Russia is foundational to the regime itself and Ukrainian political culture.
There is another way in which Ukrainians may be following the lead of their mentors in Washington; I refer to the increasingly apparent Democrat Party-state false flag ‘insurrection’ of 6 January 2021 (https://gordonhahn.com/2021/11/20/working-paper-comparing-the-russian-and-american-revolutions-from-above-part-2/). After Zelenskiy announced that a Russia-Akhmetov coup was in the works for 1-2 December, he replaced the head of Ukrainian counter-intelligence, appointing one Alexander Poklad. His background sports a criminal conviction in the 1990s for extortion and being a member of an organized crime book and a recent history of “fabricating criminal cases for organizing fake ‘state coups,'” according to the Ukrainian news portal Strana.ru. He played a role in the trumped up charges of planning a coup against Poroshenko made against the then politically ambitious Rada deputy and former Ukrainian soldier Nadiya Savchenko, who was taken prisoner by the Russians in Donbass and held for a year by Moscow before being released. Poklad also fixed a case against the alcohol company UkrSprit allegedly connected with an alleged coup plot against Zelenskiy’s predecessor, Poroshenko. A member of the neo-fascist Azov battalion says Poklad created a “death squad” in the SBU’s counter-intelligence department (https://strana.news/news/364724-aleksandr-poklad-hlava-dkr-sbu-chto-o-nem-izvestno.html). One might detect Poklad’s hand in Ukrainian prosecutors’ once upon a time charges brought against Mikheil Saakashvili but ultimately dropped (https://strana.news/articles/analysis/111393-kulikovskaja-intriha-hpu.html).
December 1 began with Zelenskiy’s address to the Verkhovna Rada, which he concluded by giving the country’s highest state award, Hero of Ukraine, to Dmitro Kotsyubailo, who is a member of the Volunteer Ukrainian Corps (DUK), the armed wing of the neofascist Right Sector (RS), the founder and former leader of which, Dmitro Yarosh, was recently appointed an advisor to the chief of the general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces (https://strana.news/news/364781-mitinhi-v-kieve-1-dekabrja-i-poslanie-zelenskoho-rade-onlajn.html?fbclid=IwAR1capfoKbN7n6TDRm4X7mfoXggz8eXlrh4wWpYgIlZVBBGyyIH6ldRv5sk). Recall that Yarosh and his RS participated in the 20 February 2014 snipers’ terrorist false flag operation usually attributed in the West to deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and organized the terrorist pogrom in which at least 42 anti-Maidan picketers were burned or shot to death in Odessa on 2 May 2014 (www.fairobserver.com/region/europe/the-ukrainian-revolutions-neo-fascist-problem-14785/;www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/2014/05/ukraine-unwittingly-becoming-sponsor-of-neo-fascist-terrorism-in-ukraine.html; http://gordonhahn.com/2014/07/14/war-from-below-and-the-warlords-of-ukraine/; http://gordonhahn.com/2015/03/15/everyday-neo-fascism-in-ukraine/; and https://gordonhahn.com/2015/05/02/ukraines-neo-fascist-right-sector-claims-responsibility-again-for-2-may-2014-terrorist-pogrom/). Kotsyubailo, one of the top leaders of the RS and its DUK, was mentioned — surprisingly enough — in a New York Times article on Ukrainian concerns about the presence of some 92,000 Russian forces on Ukraine’s border in Donbass. NYT exposed, seemingly unwittingly, what Kotsyubailo’s social net videos clearly demonstrate–that he and other Right Sector members frequently violate the Minsk 2 ceasefire and negotiation accords by firing at Donbass with grenade launchers and other banned weapons. Kotsyubailo openly acknowledges that he violates the ceasefire and has shot first in exchanges of fire across the now distended line of contact and that he opposes the Minsk ceasefire agreements as ‘capitulation.’ NYT also quoted Kotsyubailo joking that the wolf his command staff at the front near Avdeevka keeps as a pet is fed with the bones of Russian-speaking children (www.nytimes.com/2021/04/20/world/europe/-ukraine-russia-putin-invasion.html?fbclid=IwAR12g213INq6EpqyrAydEyipoWDO-f0iVHLRFEHVq_NkxqC-haBMTwCMJ_g; https://strana.news/news/329833-v-pravom-sektore-rasskazali-kak-pervymi-otkryvajut-ohon-na-donbasse.html; and https://strana.news/news/364888-dmitro-kotsjubajlo-iz-pravoho-sektora-stal-heroem-ukrainy-kto-eto-takoj.html). Kotsyubailo’s girlfriend is a deputy in the Kiev city council and a medic in his battalion. She recently said in an interview on the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s YouTube channel that the only good Russian is a dead Russian (https://strana.news/news/364888-dmitro-kotsjubajlo-iz-pravoho-sektora-stal-heroem-ukrainy-kto-eto-takoj.html).
Zelenskiy is therefore seeking to appease and ally with the very radical forces that seek to overthrow him—a strategy his predecessor also adopted and continues to implement. Like Poroshenko, Zelenskiy has turned to the extremists as his support among the population declines, with a recent survey showing 58.2 percent of Ukrainians do not want him to run for a second term (https://strana.news/news/364781-mitinhi-v-kieve-1-dekabrja-i-poslanie-zelenskoho-rade-onlajn.html?fbclid=IwAR1capfoKbN7n6TDRm4X7mfoXggz8eXlrh4wWpYgIlZVBBGyyIH6ldRv5sk). In terms of political groupings, virtually all are now opposed to Zelenskiy, and even his Servants of the People party is beginning to split and is increasingly unpopular. The 1 December demonstrations were the first to pair Poroshenko’s party with the National Corps. So both Poroshenko and Zelenskiy in their ongoing presidential battle are legitimizing Ukraine’s extremists. One of the groups involved in the imagined ‘Russian coup’/actual radical opposition demonstration was the Movement of Resistance to Capitulation, which consists of various ultra-nationalist groups, who oppose negotiations with Russia in contradistinction to at least rhetorical position taken by Zelenskiy and repeated in his 2 December address to the Rada. The National Corps, RS, and its DUK, Svoboda, and other ultras are opposed to a peace settlement in Donbass and demand returning Crimea to the Ukrainian fold.
Now consider that RS’s and Kotsyubailo’s DUK is an illegal armed formation. It is neither part of the Ukrainian armed forces, nor is it part of the National Guard, comprised of the various volunteer battalions that self-mobilized as Kiev declared its ‘anti-terrorist operation’, i.e., civil war, against Donbass separatists in April 2014 and are manned in good part by ultra-nationalists and neo-fascists.
All of the above underscores the dangerous realm the standoff in Donbass has brought us. In endeavoring to expand NATO to Ukraine, the West sparked a crisis that deepened the NATO-Russia standoff and a civil war in Ukraine. Now Russia and the West stand face-to-face through respective proxies in Donbass and Kiev, with allegedly 92,000 Russian forces just over the Ukrainian-Russian border in Russia. Some have claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing to fake or is waiting for a provocation from the Ukrainian side of the front in order to ‘invade’ Ukraine (whatever the respective conjectures mean by that and see as any such action’s goal), the dynamics of which I wrote about recently (https://gordonhahn.com/2021/11/29/putins-plans-for-ukraine/).
There may be hotheads on the Russian side of the border, but we know for a fact there are thousands of neofascist hotheads fighting in or alongside Ukrainian troops on the Donbass front. They are a real potential spark – not simply pretexts for Putin – for a restart of the Donbass war in full measure. A restart of that war will by necessity bring in Russian troops, since the Donbass rebel forces are simply too weak to withstand a sustained assault by the increasingly Western-trained, Western equipped, and Western-assisted Ukrainian army and Putin cannot accept a defeat in Donbass, which would not just undermine Russian prestige and honor, as Russians understand it, but would undermine Putin’s power and authority at home.
Will Ukrainian neo-fascists attempt to spark war in Donbass in hope of forcing Zelenskiy’s hand or in the expectation that the West, which continues to train neo-fascists in and alongside the Ukrainian army? Or the West and/or Kiev intentionally gamble that they can prevail over the Donbass rebel forces and an intervening Russian armed force? Or will President Zelenskiy make the same mistake as Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili made in August 2008, perhaps encouraged to act militarily by some faction inside the increasingly embattled and divided U.S. state apparatus under the aged and hubristic Joe Biden? Take your pick. I prefer but do not necessarily expect that we somehow muddle through, despite the presence and proactive measures of so many bad actors in and around Ukraine.
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About the Author – Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, http://www.canalyt.com and a Senior Researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, www.cetisresearch.org.
Dr. Hahn is the author of the forthcoming book: The Russian Dilemma: Aspiration, Trepidation, and the West in the Making of Russia’s Security Culture (McFarland, 2021) He has authored four well-received books: Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the “New Cold War” (McFarland, 2018); The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland, 2014), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), and Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction, 2002). He also has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media.
Dr. Hahn also has taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and has been a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Kennan Institute in Washington DC, and the Hoover Institution.