Ukrainian government’s Nazi ties don’t make Putin an anti-fascist – Online Solidarity

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When Putin announced Russia’s bloody invasion of Ukraine, he said his goal was “the demilitarization and denazification” of that country and that “major NATO countries support far-right nationalists and neo-Nazis in Ukraine”.

A pro-Western, pro-NATO government came to power in Ukraine following protests in 2014, which the Kremlin says is working with the far right to exterminate Ukraine’s Russian-speaking minority, which is mostly in the east of the country.

Putin has used defending Russian speakers to justify the annexation of Crimea, backing Russian-speaking separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions on Ukraine’s border with Russia and now invading.

Putin’s rhetoric is designed to tap into the historical memory of World War II and the brutal conflict with Nazi Germany. But his attempts to link President Vladimir Zelensky’s government to the Nazis ignore that Zelensky is a Jew.

Ukraine has a large Nazi and far-right nationalist movement. But before the invasion, there was no evidence that he enjoyed widespread support. In the 2019 Ukrainian elections, a coalition of ultranationalist parties did not win a single seat.

However, during the 2014 protests, Nazis and the far right played a leading role in street fights with former President Victor Yanukovych’s police. After Russia annexed Crimea, Nazis and far-right militias mobilized to fight Russian-backed separatists around Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as in the port city of Mariupol.

The most notorious of these ultra-nationalist paramilitary groups is the Azov Battalion, which cut its teeth during the 2014 protests. They became a serious military force in battles with separatists in Mariupol and gained new legitimacy by helping drive them out. of the city in June 2014.

The emblem of the Azov battalion is the Wolfsangel, symbol of an elite division of the Nazi Waffen-SS. Its first commander was Andriy Biletsky, a leader of the Nazi organizations Patriot of Ukraine and Social-National Assembly.

In 2015, a spokesperson for the regiment said up to 20% of its members were Nazis. A 2016 report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights found that soldiers from the battalion had raped and killed civilians since 2014.

President Zelensky and the Azov Battalion both received support from the same oligarch; Ukrainian billionaire Igor Kolomoisky, energy and media magnate. The Pandora papers revealed significant offshore financial ties between Zelensky, his associates and the exiled billionaire.

Despite its horrible ideology, in November 2014 the Azov Battalion was integrated into the Ukrainian National Guard and put on government payroll. Vadym Troyan, former deputy commander of Azov, was appointed chief of police of the Kyiv region from 2014 to 2021.

The Azov Battalion has also received training and weapons from the United States since 2014. Facebook even lifted a ban on praising the Nazi battalion when Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Hypocrisy

The links between the Zelensky government and the far right in Ukraine are dangerous and very real.

And Russian speakers face some oppression. For example, language laws passed earlier this year require print media registered in Ukraine to publish in Ukrainian. Exceptions are made for English and official EU languages, but not for Russian. There have also been instances of atrocities against Russian speakers by far-right militias.

But Putin’s claim to liberate Russian speakers from the Nazis is cynical hypocrisy. The separatist militias that have been fighting since 2014 are mostly Russian proxies, reliant on Russian weapons and personnel.

They also have their own links to the far right. Russian Nazi and ultranationalist groups openly mobilize and train volunteers to fight in Ukraine.

The Guardian reports: “Russian mercenaries fighting in Ukraine, including the Kremlin-backed Wagner Group, have been linked to far-right extremism, including an organization designated by the United States as a terrorist.

Alexander Borodai, the first prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, worked for the far-right Russian newspaper Zavtra. Putin enjoys the adoration of fascist organizations around the world. The presidential candidate of the French Fascist National Rally, Marine Le Pen, met Putin during his presidential campaign in 2017.

The conflict in Ukraine is being led by ruthless imperialists and thugs on both sides, fueled by a relentless wave of government-sponsored nationalist fervor.

The West is dumping weapons in Ukraine and whitewashing the dangerous ties between the far right and Zelensky’s government. And there are links between the far right and pro-Putin forces inside the country.

The hope lies not in the support of imperialism or its proxies, but in an anti-war movement that rejects both Putin’s invasion and NATO expansion.

By Adam Adelpour

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