A day in the life of ‘Ukrainian democracy’

(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. By GORDON M. HAHN* (Most photos and captions have been added by TS)

Activists in Kyiv dressed as zombies shred 'Vesti' newspaper at June 21, 2015 protest in front of the Security Service of Ukraine building demanding banning of the paper (Roman Pilipey, EPA)

Activists in Kyiv dressed as zombies shred ‘Vesti’ newspaper at June 21, 2015 protest in front of the Security Service of Ukraine building demanding banning of the paper | Roman Pilipey, EPA

(June 21) – Samantha Power’s delusions notwithstanding, due to the inordinate presence of non-democratic elements 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.

During one day in the life of ‘democratic’ Ukraine – beginning from prime time television hours on June 17 and extending to the end of the work day on June 18 – 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. 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.

A call for concentration camps

On the evening of June 17, 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, June 17, 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 (military-security apparatus) and Right Sector 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 18, the repression resumed. Men in bullet proof vests, calling themselves the tax police, broke into the offices of Vesti and refused to provide any identifying documentation.  Along with confiscating all of theVesti 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 mobs 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 Verkhovna 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. It 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 Vestisource in the committee, is likely to block the issue from coming up before the committee. Sumar is a political client of the pro neo-fascist MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs) 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, it was in 2012 after we prepared material on Mezhyhiria [the palacial residence of V Yanukovych] gathered from a flyover. 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 cannot recall similar methods of pervasive pressure under Yanukovych or Kuchma. 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 in 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 20, 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 toVesti, Ukraine’s various siloviki are preparing “a series of provocations” (http://vesti-ukr.com/strana/104274-vlasti-gotovjat-novye-provokacii-protiv-vestej). (The Vesti newspaper is a free tabloid – TS)

Meanwhile, numerous other news agencies and television channels are under similar pressures – virtually all television channels, including 112, Inter, TVi, ZIK and the programNashi 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 May 2, 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.

Anti-fascist Ukrainian journalist Oles Buzina, 1969-2015

Anti-fascist Ukrainian journalist Oles Buzina, 1969-2015

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 groupsRevansh (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 commandant 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 andhttp://lb.ua/news/2015/06/18/308640_podozreniyu_ubiystve_buzini.html)

Funeral for Oles Buzina | RIA, Maksim Blinov

Funeral for Oles Buzina | RIA, Maksim Blinov

Another source says that Medvedeko was working as an assistant to 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 June 8, 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 ‘ATO’ 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, is a former member of the ultra-nationalist Ukrainian National Self-Defense (UNSO). It was popular in the 1990s and is a predecessor to groups like Svoboda and Right Sector. Polishchuk was also a participant in the ‘ATO’, 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 February 20, 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 since 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, Feb. 20, 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?

Screen shot from CTV video of Right Sector booth in Toronto at an “Independence” rally organized by the Ukrainian Congress of Canada on August 23, 2014. The fascist group was raising funds for the purchase of military equipment. The festivity was organized by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) and was attended by prominent Canadian politicians, including federal Minister of Immigration and Citizenship Chris Alexander and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynn. Wynn delivered a rip-roaring, pro-war speech to the small crowd attending the day’s event. (Screen shot thanks to Bill Shipkula) Click to enlarge

Screen shot from CTV video of Right Sector booth in Toronto at an “Independence” rally organized by the Ukrainian Congress of Canada on August 23, 2014. The fascist group was raising funds for the purchase of military equipment and recruiting new members from Canada, where it is allowed to freely organize. The festivity was organized by the federally-funded Ukrainian Canadian Congress and was attended by prominent Canadian politicians, including Harper Minister of Immigration and Citizenship Chris Alexander and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynn. Wynn delivered a rip-roaring, pro-war speech to the small crowd attending the day’s event. (Screen shot thanks to Bill Shpikula) Click to enlarge

Similarly, the lesser known ‘Tornado Battalion’ has come under pressure from the government in recent days. Right Sector has spoken out in its defence and appears poised to pressure the regime to back off. On June 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 20, 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.

The International Republican Institute, headed by US Senator Joh McCan, hosts a visit by Semyon Semyonchenko (in camouflage uniform), commander of the neo-Nazi "Donbass Battalion," November 2013, shown in this picture posted by Semyonchenko to Facebook. Behind him on the right is Tennessee Senator Robert Corker. (Click to enlarge)

The International Republican Institute, headed by US Senator Joh McCan, hosts a visit by Semyon Semyonchenko (in camouflage uniform), commander of the neo-Nazi “Donbass Battalion,” November 2013, shown in this picture posted by Semyonchenko to Facebook. Behind him on the right is Tennessee Senator Robert Corker. (Click to enlarge)

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 levelled 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: “There 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 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 3. It called on “all patriots” from across the country to join them 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-2 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.

Notes:

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

* Gordon M. Hahn is the author of three books: Russia’s Revolution From Above (Transaction, 2002;, Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), 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 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 the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He was Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (2011-2013) and Visiting Scholar at both the Hoover Institution and the Kennan Institute.

Source: published on his website Russian and Eurasian politics

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