Oleg Tyagnibok (Svoboda), Andrey Tarasenko (Right Sector) and Andrey Biletsky (Azov).
On March 16th, several Ukrainian neo-Nazi organizations signed a manifesto on joining forces. Signatures were provided by representatives of the All-Ukrainian Union Svoboda, the National Corps party (created out of the Azov regiment), and Right Sector. The manifesto contains 20 points, among which are recognizing Russia as an “aggressor country” and severing diplomatic relations with it, recognizing the Lugansk and Donetsk regions uncontrolled by Kiev as “occupied territories,” creating a contract army, and recognizing Ukrainian as the only state language.
The unification of these three Ukrainian neo-Nazi groups is a long overdue, partially overripe fruition. Let us provide some brief background.
One of the aspects of the Euromaidan was the unification of a most wide spectrum of Ukrainian political forces, ranging from pro-Western liberals to ultra-leftists (anarchists) and ultra-rightists (neo-Nazis), against the Yanukovych regime. During this process, the right-wing extremists created their own association, the notorious Right Sector. At the head of Right Sector stood the little-known figure from right-wing circles Dmitry Yarosh. Much of his rise can be explained by his closeness to Igor Kolomoysky, one of the richest Jewish oligarchs in Ukraine.
Right Sector was perceived by many neo-Nazis as an attempt by Yarosh to seize the lead over the whole right-wing movement in the spur of the moment. Therefore, attitudes towards him in the neo-Nazi scene were cautious. Not only ideologically-driven Ukrainian Nazis, but also many ultra-right movements in Europe believe that Yarosh was and is serving the interests of the Ukrainian plutocracy (oligarchy). It is partially for this reason as well as due to the leadership struggle and differing strategic and tactical visions that there was no unification of Ukrainian neo-Nazi forces after the Euromaidan.
Yet today Ukraine’s neo-Nazis are in dire need of at least temporarily joining forces in order to present a more powerful opposition to the Poroshenko regime. What is happening on this flank? Many Nazis hate the founder and leader of the Azov battalion/regiment, Andrey Biletsky, whose unit is incorporated into the structure of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. In the opinion of these neo-Nazi ideologues, this incorporation is unacceptable from the point of view of the ethics of a far-right movement. Still others feel stronger hate for the “Jew” and Kolomoysky pet Yarosh, etc. Even the third anniversary of the Euromaidan was celebrated by neo-Nazi groups under different flags.
But now it is important for Ukraine’s neo-Nazis to show Ukrainian society that they are the only force capable of defending the interests of the people (in their interpretation, the nation). To this end, at least a semblance of unity is needed. Now that the Poroshenko regime’s fall seems very close, it is becoming all the more important to take advantage of this chance to the maximum.
Without a doubt, this union of ultra-right groups is being formed with a single purpose: strengthening the position of Azov and its leader, Andrey Biletsky. The other parties, whether those that have already joined or those representing potential partners, are being used by Biletsky’s forces. This is especially true for Svoboda, whose influence fell dramatically after the Euromaidan’s victory. Svoboda’s leader, Tyagnibok, has had his participation in political games with the Yanukovych administration thrown in his face. Plus it was the paramilitary neo-Nazi organizations, such as Right Sector and Azov, that came to the forefront after the Euromaidan, whereas Svoboda’s main tool has always been politics.
Pay attention to the fact that Biletsky, nicknamed the “White Leader”, is a long-standing and sincere admirer of Hitler. One can see an analogy to the union created out of a number of German right organizations which gained fame in the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. Then Hitler was able to manipulate his more famous and merited colleagues, such as General Ludendorff, to promote his party, the NSDAP.
It is entirely probable that this union between neo-Nazi leaders will be short-lived, but the main point is that it will be Azov that will enjoy an influx of people from the other organizations.
Now let us proceed to analyze the programmatic points of this joint neo-Nazi manifesto.
The common manifesto of the new alliance between three of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi forces, Svoboda, Azov, and Right Sector, deserves attention.
The demand to sever diplomatic and all other relations with Russia is the basic point of the alliance’s program. Since the very beginning, Ukrainian neo-Nazis have demanded that the “Anti-Terrorist Operation” in Donbass be called a war waged by Russia. President Poroshenko himself constantly speaks of Russian aggression, Russian troops in Donbass, etc., but these accusations have never been translated into legal reality and for a reason. Poroshenko perfectly understands the consequences of such for Ukraine itself and his power.
The Nazis, however, have caught Poroshenko in his hypocrisy and contradictions. Recognizing part of Ukraine’s territory as occupied by Russia is what the neo-Nazis seek to achieve, after which the Ukrainian state would be compelled to completely sever diplomatic and trade relations which, despite recent decline, are still rather extensive. In 2016, mutual trade between the two countries dramatically increased. As before, Russia remains one of Ukraine’s main trading partners, the second largest after the combined EU. Therefore, any severing of diplomatic or financial-economic relations with Russia would lead to a serious reduction in Ukraine’s GDP and foreign currency earnings.
As an experienced businessman, Poroshenko understands the implications of this, but Ukrainian neo-Nazis do not want to. The main principle for them is recognizing Russia as a country engaged in aggression against Ukraine and occupying part of its territory, which in essence means declaring war. Poroshenko is a weak politician, but he is not stupid. He will not opt for this final, fateful step to which the Nazis are pushing him. For this reason, he will always remain an enemy of these neo-Nazis who have christened his regime an “internal occupation.”
The idea of establishing a Baltic-Black Sea bloc expressed in the manifesto is an old idea set forth in the programs of Patriot of Ukraine and the Social National Assembly which yielded Azov and the Azov Civil Corpus. The latter documents discussed the creation of a Central European Confederation centered on Ukraine which would include the countries of the Baltic-Black Sea intermarium (the Baltic states, Ukraine, and Belarus). At the time that this program was developed and adopted (at the turn of the first decade of the 2000’s), this point was seen as political fantasy. Moreover, soon after the program’s adoption, Biletsky was arrested on charges of extremism – yet another parallel with his idol, Hitler, whose influence grew after his trial and brief imprisonment.
Meanwhile, today’s events in Ukraine and neighboring Belarus force great attention to be devoted to these goals that Ukrainian neo-Nazis from Azov and its political and social offshoots so persistently push. The predication that Biletsky will be the future leader of Ukraine does not look so fantastical as it did three years ago. In general, the chances of ultra-right forces winning in Ukraine are quite realistic. The social soil for this has already partly been prepared. The worse that the situation is in Ukraine and neighboring countries (Belarus and the Baltics), the higher are the chances of this program being realized. In Belarus, which always seemed to be a left-over of the USSR, Belarusian workers are protesting Lukashenko under the banners of Belorussian neo-Nazis, the ideological brethren of Azov militants. Many Belorussian neo-Nazis were combat hardened in the Azov regiment and other far-right units fighting in Donbass.
A rather curious point in the manifesto refers to the neo-Nazis’ social goals. Ukrainian nationalists, or at least the Dnieper version of Ukrainian nationalism emerged as an alternative to the Galician trend as a left-leaning movement. Petliura himself was not only a Russophobic nationalist, but a leftist who was in the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Party and in general close to the Left, especially the Ukrainian version of the SR’s. In 1996, the infamous Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self-Defense organization even included articles of the Soviet Constitution of 1977 in its electoral program. Patriot of Ukraine, the most dynamic Ukrainian Nazi force before the Euromaidan, also bore strong socialist features and sought not only the overthrow of “foreign oppression” (like the backwards Galician Nazis from Svoboda or Stepan Bandera Trizub) but also the destruction of the oligarchy.
Now the ultra-right’s social platforms are shadowed by their political and military programs. However, they are no less important and, in simplified form, boil down to the liquidation of oligarchy as a phenomenon (the main slogan of the Euromaidan alongside EU integration) and the construction of a racially and nationally pure “Ukrainian socialism”. The active participation of Azov in the protest movement and its interest in trade unions is no accident, as we have written before.
Biletsky’s structures (the Azov regiment, National Corpus Party, and Azov Civil Corps) are actively working in the army and among trade unions. Some parts of the army are already willing to follow the Nazis, as the events of the Donbass blockade recently demonstrated. Therefore, we can assess the chances of this force as exceptionally high.
Admittedly, Biletsky is not only a cruel, but a strong and clever politician, and his force itself is guided by a complex program begin consistently implemented. The essence of this program is rejecting “pure” Nazism or nationalism in favor of a wider social base. This is nothing but the realization of the ideas of German National Socialism in modern Ukrainian conditions.
Hypothetically allowing for such a possibility, how would a victory of these ultra-fight forces in Ukraine be perceived in Europe? The European Union would quietly accept this victory and accept the “new” Ukraine as an ally in its struggle with Russia. Just like earlier, when the European Union accepted the Baltic states with their SS marches and quietly accepted multiculturalism with the prospects of the Islamization of Europe from within, and much more. In this regard, neo-Nazism would be merely an alternative of the contemporary European project, not an anti-Europe.