Is Russia Insider sponsored by a Russian oligarch with the ties to the European far right?

The emails leaked by the Anonymous International last year give us a few insights into the workings of the English language pro-Putin propaganda website Russia Insider.

Its editor Charles Bausman launched the website in September 2014, and described the rationale behind the website as follows:

“It was started in September 2014 by a group of expats living in Russia who felt that coverage of Russia is biased and inaccurate. […] The problem is media control by a few corporations and interest groups, and their close ties with governments and business interests. Instead of challenging, questioning, and fostering open discussion, they tend to promote those interests.”

Ironically, this is what Russia Insider itself has been doing since its launch, namely publishing and republishing pieces of Russia’s disinformation warfare against the West and Ukraine.

Charles Bausman, editor of Russia Insider and a regular commentator for Russia Today (RT)
Charles Bausman, editor of Russia Insider and a regular commentator for Russia Today (RT)

The leaks reveal that Bausman, rather than relying on crowdfunding for Russia Insider, asks for money from a Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev via his associate Alexey Komov.

There were several interesting articles devoted to Malofeev in the international and Russian media. In the context of this blog, Malofeev is known for providing financial assistance to the pro-Russian extremists in Eastern Ukraine (for this very reason Malofeev was sanctioned by the EU, Norway and Switzerland), organising homophobic conferences in Russia, assisting French far right politicians in getting Russian money, and building European far right alliances.

Komov is a no less interesting figure. He is an employee of several organisations founded and funded by Malofeev, as well as a representative of the homophobic World Congress of Families in Russia. He is also an honorary president of the Lombardy-Russia Cultural Association, Russia’s front organisation in Italy established by the far right Lega Nord party. Komov even gave speech at the party’s congress at the end of 2013 that elected Matteo Salvini as its leader.

And here’s a series of communications between Russia Insider’s Bausman, Komov and Malofeev:

Charles Bausman to Alexey Komov (2 October 2014):
Alexey, take a look at our stats, - click the button in the footer. They are very, very strong. I still need money!!  Any chance of resuming the conversation?

Alexey Komov to Konstantin Malofeev (2 October 2014):
Charlie, however, has created a good website - http://russia-insider.com/en - a high-quality, pro-Russian and popular one. He wants to cooperate...

Charles Bausman to Alexey Komov (18 October 2014):
This has links in to my TV appearances. I've been on 4 times now. Any reaction from K?

In his last email, Bausman also sent to Komov his CV that gives us a few interesting details.

It is interesting to note that Bausman was born in West Germany (Frankfurt) in 1964, but then lived in Soviet Russia, “due to father’s long-term assignment” there in 1968-1972 (one wonders what that assignment was about). According to his CV, Bausman was educated in the US, but has been living in Moscow since the late 1980s. He also states that “in virtue of professional and family connections”, he has “multiple high-ranking connections to the European and American media”, as well as “investment and political spheres”.

What is not clear is whether Bausman has eventually received any financial help from Malofeev (the leaked mailbox belongs to a fourth party), but his willingness to “cooperate” with a Russian oligarch who is close to the Kremlin and has been providing funding for the war in Eastern Ukraine is quite revealing.

Dmytro Yarosh’s resignation from the Right Sector

The recent resignation of Dmytro Yarosh from the leadership of the Right Sector may be a sign of the forthcoming changes in the strategies of both the Right Sector and the Ukrainian state.

In order to understand the significance of Yarosh’s resignation statement, one needs to consider two important points related to Ukraine’s domestic situation and international relations.

First, the Right Sector has evidently radicalised its rhetoric and actions after the signing of the Minsk II agreement in February 2015. Many fighters of the Right Sector battalion and its affiliated Ukrainian Volunteer Corps (also known by the Ukrainian acronym DUK) were unhappy about the “hybrid ceasefire” implied by the Minsk II agreement, as they preferred to continue fighting against the Russian invaders and their separatist proxies in Eastern Ukraine. Some members of the Right Sector were also unhappy about Ukraine’s new government and, especially, President Petro Poroshenko, who appeared, for some ultranationalists, as traitors of the Ukrainian revolution.

It would be too easy to explain the unhappiness of some members of the Right Sector about the “hybrid ceasefire” by their alleged bloodthirst. The war opens up many opportunities to those engaged in it. Of course, war, in a sense, is a desired state for many ultranationalists; they have “genetic inclination” for war. However, this argument has a limited explanation power with respect to the unwillingness of some members of the Right Sector/DUK to end the fighting. Some fighters have used the war as a way to avoid prosecution for the actions that the state would consider not entirely legal. They thought that their military feats would buy them a “legal” way out of Ukraine’s legal framework. In a few cases, that did happen, but in general several members of the Right Sector/DUK were held accountable for their illegal actions.

While there are many other explanations why the Right Sector is unsatisfied with the Minsk II agreement, the crucial point is that the Right Sector has become the most radical opposition to Poroshenko and the government. They still crave a national revolution, as they believe that the revolution that started with the Euromaidan protests was an unfinished revolution, or was not a revolution at all. Thus, the Right Sector is a direct threat to the constitutional order in Ukraine, especially given the fact that the Right Sector/DUK fighters have arms that can be used against state officials. Not that the Right Sector can stage a coup détat – they have neither sufficient human resources nor ample public support for this – but their actions may lead to further destabilisation of the weak Ukrainian state, and the Russian invaders can use this destabilisation to their avail. This is something that Yarosh, being a relatively moderate and balanced politician, understands well. And this is why Yarosh acted as a mediator between the state and the extremists in the Right Sector. However, the frustration among the Right Sector’s fighters grew stronger, and they started asking the leadership of the organisation “to give them the order”.

Second, the Western powers have consistently demanded from the Ukrainian authorities to put all volunteer military units under the army or police control. The Ukrainian authorities clearly see the point: not only do the autonomous military units constitute a threat to the state, their existence sours Ukraine’s relations with the West too. On 3 November this year, the Council of Europe published CoE Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks’s report that, in particular, said:

The Commissioner also raised issues related to the volunteer battalions’ integration into the regular army and the police. His interlocutors in the Ministry of the Interior reiterated that the process had been completed with regard to those volunteer battalions integrated in the police force. The prosecutorial authorities informed the Commissioner about a verification procedure launched by them into the activities of all members of volunteer battalions.

But a more important part of the report is this one:

The Commissioner has not yet had a possibility to discuss these issues with the authorities at the Ministry of Defense and other relevant security structures. However, he is aware of credible reports implicating the existence of armed groups which continue to enjoy a high degree of independence and do not appear to be fully incorporated in the regular chain of command. Most frequent references are made in this context to the groups affiliated with the Right Sector (Pravyi Sector). This issue should be addressed without further delay.

What does Yarosh’s resignation mean? It means that he will no longer be a mediator between the state and the Right Sector’s extreme wing, and will no longer cover up for the violent and aggressive actions of particular members of the Right Sector. What it also means is that the state may have become serious about the threats that the Right Sector pose.

What will the state do?

1. The state may deliver an ultimatum to the Right Sector: either they integrate into the army or the police, or they will be crushed as an illegal armed group. This ultimatum will most likely lead to a split within the Right Sector: some fighters will prefer to join the army/police, some will choose the underground activities. A split into more than two groups is also possible.

2. Those who will choose the underground activities will most likely be destroyed. As the destruction of the stubborn fighters of the Right Sector/DUK may lead to a larger revolt against the authorities (dissatisfied fighters of other military units may join this revolt too), the state will:

2.1. wait until the extremists make an obvious mistake that will be perceived by the general public as a legitimate reason for the state to crush them – this can be either a direct attack on the state authorities or a blatant violation of the Minsk II agreement;

2.2. or it will use the security service agents within the extreme wing of the Right Sector to provoke that mistake.

Moscow opts for conspiracy theories to explain the Flight 9268 crash

The crash of the Metrojet Flight 9268 operated by Russian airline Kogalymavia has presented Moscow with a dilemma: what explanation of the crash would be most useful for the Kremlin’s positioning both domestically and internationally? Essentially, there have been two options:

1. A mechanical failure.

The Russian media reported that Flight 9268 experienced technical problems and the pilot asked for a landing in a nearest airport. The Russian media also quoted various people in Russia – family members of the crew, technicians, and other third parties – saying that, in the past, there had been oral reports of the technical problems that the pilots and crew had with the aircraft. Explaining the crash of Flight 9268 with a reference to the mechanical failure was apparently the safest option for Moscow. Since Russia is engaged in the erratic campaign of saving the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria by bombing civilian population, anti-Assad rebels, and, occasionally, ISIS terrorists, the technical explanation presents a picture of a dramatic casualty in no way related to Putin’s Syrian campaign. Naturally, this explanation also points to the corrupt practices in Russia (an aircraft experiencing technical problems should never have been used by the Kogalymavia airline), but all the Russians are aware of the devastating corruption in their country, so “it’s fine”.

2. A terrorist attack.

Almost immediately after the crash, ISIS terrorists claimed responsibility for the incident. This directly linked the crash to Moscow’s Syrian campaign, and implied that ordinary Russians paid a costly price for Putin’s adventures. Hence, admitting that the terrorist attack was the cause of the crash of Flight 9268 could be a blow to Putin’s image domestically: for the Russian audience, he presents the Syrian campaign as something distant and, at the same time, beneficial for Russia’s international standing, but the terrorist attack brings the war back home. A similar situation in Spain (an al-Qaeda cell claimed responsibility for the 2004 Madrid train bombings) resulted in the withdrawal of the Spanish troops from Iraq. If Putin admits that an Egyptian cell of ISIS has been behind the crash and continues his Syrian campaign, his popularity in Russia my decrease. On the other hand, acknowledging the terrorist attack could still be useful for Moscow in terms of its international image: “the Russians are fighting the war on international terrorism, and Russia and the West are in this together, hence Russia is no longer a pariah state, so do lift the sanctions and accept us to the club of the global powers”.

Nevertheless, Moscow sees the first option as the most useful. After all, even the prospect of Russia’s heightened international standing can only be used by the Kremlin for the purposes of consolidating Putin’s regime, but Moscow’s cost-benefit analysis shows that the threats to Putin’s domestic image in the case of accepting the second option are more significant than the potential benefits.

Moscow’s current problem with the first option, however, is that British and US intelligence services increasingly point to the terrorist attack as the cause of the crash, thus narrowing Moscow’s maneuvering space. And the recent reports in the Russian and international fringe media hint that Moscow may have come up with a third option.

3. ‘The West did it’

On 6 November, Russia’s international Sputnik website published Finian Cunningham’s article that bluntly asked: “was it really terrorists, or was it British MI6 agents palming the deed off as terrorists?”. The same day, a conspiracy website published an article by Sorcha Faal arguing that the Russian intelligence service had allegedly captured and arrested “two CIA assets for masterminding the Sinai plane crash of Flight 9268”. The same argument was reproduced by Sean Adl-Tabatabai, a long time follower of David Icke who believes that a secret group of reptilian humanoids controls humanity. On 8 November, Russia’s chief propagandist Dmitry Kiselev, published an article implicating that an explosion on Flight 9268 could be a result of the agreement between the “Western coalition” and ISIS.

Thus, Russia’s third option is admitting that the terrorist attack was the cause of the crash, but this terrorist attack itself was a Western plot against Russia.

This version may seem absurd to everyone who is not prone to conspiracy theories, but it is also extremely dangerous. It means that, indeed, the consolidation of Putin’s criminal regime at home is far more important for the Kremlin than the international cooperation, and that Moscow is ready to escalate its war on the West. The Kremlin keeps on instilling anti-Western hatred into the Russian society by feeding it with conspiracy theories, and this hatred may lead to psychological acceptance of even more aggressive approach towards the West. As Voltaire wrote, “those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities”.

The anti-Semitic demo in London – a Moscow’s KGB-style psy-op?

As the readers of this blog perfectly know, the Kremlin is actively cooperating – sometimes financially – with European far right parties. However, Moscow may also be engaged in even more sinister activities, namely whipping up racial hatred in the West in order to discredit democratic societies that have taken a strong position on sanctions against Russia for its war on Ukraine.

While it cannot be conclusively proven yet, the “anti-Jewification” demonstration that took place in London on 4 July might be an example of such activities. At least, there are sound reasons to suspect exactly this.

The demonstration was organised by the neo-Nazi Eddy Stampton who is notorious for drunken violence towards women, and was attended, among others, by his neo-Nazi mate Piers Mellor; the head of the far right IONA London Forum JeremyJezBedford-Turner; and Britain-based activists of the Polish fascist National Revival of Poland (Narodowe Odrodzenie Polski).

Violent neo-Nazi Eddy Stampton leading the demonstration, 4 July 2015, London. Photo: Jack Taylor/AFP/Getty Images
Violent neo-Nazi Eddy Stampton leading the demonstration, 4 July 2015, London. Photo: Jack Taylor/AFP/Getty Images
Jeremy "Jez" Bedford-Turner with a loud-speaker, followed by the activists from the National Revival of Poland, 4 July 2015, London. Photo: Jack Taylor/AFP/Getty Images
Jeremy “Jez” Bedford-Turner with a loud-speaker, followed by the activists from the National Revival of Poland, 4 July 2015, London. Photo: Jack Taylor/AFP/Getty Images
Piers Mellor speaking at the demo, 4 July 2015, London. Photo: Jack Taylor/AFP/Getty Images
Piers Mellor speaking at the demo, 4 July 2015, London. Photo: Jack Taylor/AFP/Getty Images

The anti-Semitic demo in London was not the first time that Stampton, Mellor, Bedford-Turner and the Polish fascists came together. On 29 November 2014, they organised a demo in support of the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party by the Embassy of Greece in London.

Jeremy "Jez" Bedford-Turner (a man with a loud-speaker on the left), Eddy Stampton (a man in a cap), and Piers Mellor at a demonstration in support of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, 29 November 2015, London
Jeremy “Jez” Bedford-Turner (a man with a loud-speaker on the left), Eddy Stampton (a man in a cap), and Piers Mellor at a demonstration in support of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, 29 November 2015, London

Most prominent participants of the London anti-Semitic demo last Saturday are not simply fascists: all of them are in one way or another connected to the Russians.

Bedford-Turner leads the self-styled “New Right” IONA London Forum that hosted, on 12 October 2013, a conference titled “The end of the present world: the post-American century and beyond”. The main speaker at this conference was infamous Russian fascist Aleksandr Dugin, who is building links between Western far right/far left organisations and Moscow, and who was also involved, in 2006, in training of the activists from the pro-Russian extremist organisation Donetsk Republic. Bedford-Turner also invited Russian neo-Nazi activist Denis Nikitin to speak at one of the Forum’s meetings in August 2014.

This was not the only connection between Nikitin and the British extreme right: Nikitin, who also directs the Russian White Rex company engaged in organising mixed martial arts tournaments in Russia and Europe, was a key person who provided fitness ­sessions to British neo-Nazis at a training camp in Wales. Are the Russians involved in training of would-be right-wing British terrorists?

Denis Nikitin, founder and head of White Rex
Denis Nikitin, founder and head of White Rex

Another participant of the anti-Semitic demo, Australian London-based neo-Nazi Piers Mellor, also participated in the Moscow-inspired anti-Ukrainian protest in March 2015.

Together with Mellor, protesting against non-existing UK arms supplies to Ukraine, was Graham Phillips, a British RT propagandist and strong supporter of pro-Russian extremists in Eastern Ukraine, including the Donetsk Republic, where he spent most of 2014.

Neo-Nazi Piers Mellor (left) and RT propagandist Graham Phillips (a bald man on the right) at an anti-Ukrainian protest, March 2015, London
Neo-Nazi Piers Mellor (left) and RT propagandist Graham Phillips (a bald man on the right) at an anti-Ukrainian protest, March 2015, London

Upon his return to London, Phillips immediately joined the UK Independence Party (UKIP) whose leaders, including Nigel Farage and Diane James, have openly expressed admiration of Russia’s president Vladimir Putin. UKIP MEPs are also active opponents of the sanctions against Russia.

RT, Russia’s major tool of its information warfare against the West, has immediately reported on the neo-Nazi gathering in London, but of course without mentioning any connections between the participants of the demo and the Russians.

Why would the Kremlin be interested in whipping up racial hatred in Britain? The fact is that when the Russians find it difficult to buy political influence in a particular Western country, they try to discredit it as a hotbed of fascism. The classic example is the KGB’s psy-op in Western countries at the end of the 1950s.

The KGB and its counterparts in the countries of the Warsaw Pact infiltrated neo-Nazi organisations in West Germany and some other Western countries, in order to goad them into extremist activities and then accuse Western societies of the alleged resurgence of Nazism. The most prominent case is the “swastika operation” devised by Soviet KGB General Ivan Agayants and carried out in 1959-1960 in Western cities and towns. In that period, KGB agents painted swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans on synagogues, tombstones and Jewish-owned shops in West Germany. Jewish families received anonymous hate mail and threatening phone calls. The initial KGB operation would stir up residual anti-Semitic sentiments in Western societies and, consequently, produce a snowball effect where troublemakers would carry out anti-Semitic activities on their own. The “swastika operation” in West Germany caused considerable damage to the reputation of the country in the West: its diplomats were ostracised, West German products boycotted, Bonn assailed for the alleged inability to deal with Nazism, and questions were raised about the credibility of the country as a member of NATO.

The established connections between the organisers/participants of the anti-Semitic demonstration in London and the Russian actors (as well as other evidence) provide a good reason to suspect that Moscow is now involved in similar psy-ops in Britain.


 

Originally published by Anton Shekhovtsov

The Uneasy reality of anti-fascism in Ukraine

For almost twenty years of Ukraine’s independence, the term “anti-fascism” used to have very limited currency in the established political discourse in Ukraine. Until 2010, “anti-fascism” was primarily used as a form of self-identification by an element of Ukraine’s left-wing movement, as well as being employed by the far right groupuscules to refer to their left-wing opponents. Hence, until 2010-2011, “anti-fascism” remained a notion that largely belonged to the subcultural sphere of the physical and symbolical strife between left-wing and far right activists.

Yet when the notion of anti-fascism did enter the mainstream political discourse in Ukraine, it immediately became extremely problematic. The problematic nature of the notion had little to do with what “anti-fascism” essentially implied – that is opposition to fascism – but resulted from the manipulated use of the notion of anti-fascism in the post-Soviet space in general and Ukraine in particular.

The manipulated use of “anti-fascism” has been increasingly prominent in Russia since Vladimir Putin’s second presidential term (2004-2008). During the “Orange revolution” in Ukraine, when hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians protested against the fraudulent “victory” of pro-Russian politician Viktor Yanukovych in the 2004 presidential election, pro-Yanukovych media in Ukraine and pro-Kremlin media in Russia slammed the leaders of the largely pro-European “orange” protest movement as “orange fascists”. To oppose the virtual threat of an “orange revolution” in Russia itself, the Presidential Administration launched the Youth Democratic Anti-Fascist Movement “Ours” (Nashi). The imagery of the movement drew extensively on the legacy of the Soviet Union: the prevalence of the colour red, Soviet-style slogans, and even their official website was registered in a .su domain (.su was originally assigned to the Soviet Union).

Nashi youth group members in Soviet regalia
Nashi youth group members in Soviet regalia

These events reveal the basic argument behind the manipulated use of the notions of both fascism and anti-fascism in Russia. Since it is the Kremlin’s geopolitical belief that particular sovereign post-Soviet states belong to the Russian sphere of influence, Moscow interprets post-Soviet sovereign countries’ attempts to move away from this sphere as anti-Russian actions. As the Kremlin also adopts the political cult of the “Victory in the Great Patriotic War,” seen as the struggle between the Soviets and fascists, as well as drawing on the Soviet legacy of defining fascism as anti-communism and equating it with Anti-Sovietism, Moscow tends to interpret the perceived anti-Russian sentiment as fascist too. Hence, the term “anti-fascism”, in its manipulated interpretation, implies an opposition to the perceived geopolitical threats that Putin’s regime allegedly faces.

It was in a similarly distorted interpretation that the notion of anti-fascism entered the mainstream Ukrainian political discourse in 2010-2011. This development was associated with three major events. First, in the beginning of 2010 Viktor Yanukovych was elected president of Ukraine, adopted pro-Russian foreign policy and started suppressing political opponents. Second, the same year, Russian politician and businessman Boris Spiegel, who had close ties to the Kremlin, founded, in Kyiv, the World Without Nazism organisation (WWN). Third, in 2011, Vadym Kolesnichenko, Yanukovych’s major ally, launched the International Anti-Fascist Front (IAF).

While both organisations, i.e. the WWN and IAF, officially aimed at fighting against xenophobia, racism and glorification of Nazi crimes, their real objectives were different. The WWN promoted the Russian version of history of the twentieth century, advanced Russian foreign policy and tried to influence public opinion in former Soviet republics. The IAF, in its turn, organised protests against the political opposition to Yanukovych. Originally, the IAF attacked the far right Svoboda party that was critical of Yanukovych, but since Svoboda strategically sided with the democratic opposition, the latter was attacked too. Therefore, the protests held by the “anti-fascist” organisation against the entire political opposition to Yanukovych aimed at discrediting it as “fascist”. The IAF adopted this tactic from the Russian Nashi movement that attacked, from the “anti-fascist” position, all the opponents of Putin.

The activities of the WWN and IAF resulted in a conceptual conflict between the original definition of anti-fascism as a struggle against racism and right-wing extremism practiced by Ukrainian left-wing activists and the implicitly manipulated interpretation that implied promotion of Russian interests in Ukraine. The Ukrainian anti-authoritarian left-wing movement, due to its political weakness, failed to defend their interpretation of the notion. Especially after pro-Russian media and commentators started describing the “People’s Republics” in separatist-held areas of Eastern Ukraine as anti-fascist “states” fighting against the “Kyiv fascist junta”, the term “anti-fascism” became completely discredited. Today, Ukrainian left-wing activists have almost abandoned the use of the term in the public discourse and tend to talk about the struggle against racism, intolerance and political terror.

Ukrainian antifascists hold a banner that reads: "Against political terror". Kyiv, 19 January 2015
Ukrainian antifascists hold a banner that reads: “Against political terror”. Kyiv, 19 January 2015

First published in German language in Beton International: Zeitung für Literatur und Gesellschaft (10 March 2015).

 

How cronyism exploits Ukrainian neo-Nazis

Ukraine’s early presidential and parliamentary elections earlier this year proved to be disastrous for the Ukrainian party-political far right.

Oleh Tyahnybok, the leader of the All-Ukrainian Union “Freedom” (Svoboda), obtained 1.16% of the vote in the presidential election, while his party secured only 4.71% of the vote in the parliamentary election and, eventually, failed to pass the 5% electoral threshold and enter the parliament. In comparison, Svoboda obtained 10.44% of the votes in 2012 and formed the first ever far right parliamentary group in Ukraine’s history. Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of the Right Sector, obtained 0.70% in the presidential election, and 1.80% of the voters supported his party in the parliamentary election.

However, the electoral failure of Svoboda and the Right Sector did not mark “the end of history” of the Ukrainian far right, and some other developments proved to be much more problematic. One of these developments is the rise of the previously obscure neo-Nazi organisation “Patriot of Ukraine” (PU) led by Andriy Bilets’ky.

Neo-Nazi leader Andriy Biletskyi. Kharkiv, several years ago
Neo-Nazi leader Andriy Biletskyi. Kharkiv, several years ago

A member of Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front party, Avakov promoted the Azov battalion and granted the rank of police Lieutenant Colonel to its commander Biletskyi in August. The People’s Front also brought Biletskyi into the military council of the party and apparently planned to officially support his candidacy in the parliamentary election, but, due to the opposition to such a move from the Ukrainian expert community and representatives of national minorities, the People’s Front was forced to re-think its decision. However, the People’s Front, in particular Avakov and his advisor Anton Herashchenko, still supported Biletskyi unofficially, and he was elected into the parliament in a single-member district in Kyiv. After the elections, Avakov appointed Vadym Troyan, deputy commander of the Azov battalion and a top member of the PU, as head of the Kyiv region police.Like some other leaders of the PU, Biletskyi did not take part in the 2014 revolution, as he had been in jail since the end of 2011. Biletskyi and his associates were released – as “political prisoners” – only after the revolution. In May, the PU formed a core of the Azov battalion, a volunteer detachment governed by the Ministry of Interior headed by Arsen Avakov.

At a gathering of the Azov battalion. Kyiv, 2014
At a gathering of the Azov battalion. Kyiv, 2014

Avakov, Biletskyi and Troyan are coming from the Kharkiv region and have known each other at least since 2009-2010, when Avakov was still a governor of the Kharkiv region. In Kharkiv, the PU was involved in questionable activities, ranging from attacks on Vietnamese merchants to seizures of businesses. In 2010, the PU activists headed by Troyan seized four dozens of news stalls in Kharkiv in favour of, according to the media reports, a company of Andriy Liphans’ky. The latter was a business partner of Avakov and headed the board of media and information of the Kharkiv region during Avakov’s governance. Media reports also suggested that Liphans’ky rented a gym for training of the PU activists. In their turn, the PU activists provided security for the Kharkiv protests of the Bloc of Yuliya Tymoshenko (BYuT) – at that time Avakov headed that the regional office of the BYuT. Furthermore, a leader of the Kharkiv football hooligans who was close to the PU took part in Avakov’s mayoral campaign in 2010.Why does the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior promote the leaders of the neo-Nazi organisation? Its ideology can hardly explain these developments, as neither Avakov nor Herashchenko is a neo-Nazi. The explanation seems to lie in the past and has to do with a sinister legacy of cronyism.

Today’s involvement of the PU leaders in Ukrainian police seems to be driven by Avakov’s trust in the organisation that he worked with in the past. Avakov also seems to believe in the personal loyalty of the PU-led Azov battalion and may use them as his “private army” for business or political reasons.

Andriy Biletskyi and Minister of Interior Arsen Avakov, 2014
Andriy Biletskyi and Minister of Interior Arsen Avakov, 2014

The problematic relationship between the Ministry of Inferior and the neo-Nazis is undermining the credibility of the newly formed Ukrainian government internationally and domestically.

It was most likely Avakov who suggested to Poroshenko to grant Ukrainian citizenship to Belarusian fighter of the Azov battalion Sergey Korotkikh who had been involved in the neo-Nazi movements in Belarus and Russia since the late 1990s. It is highly unlikely that Avakov mentioned to Poroshenko the background of a new Ukrainian citizen.

Moreover, under Avakov, the police in Kyiv have already proved unable or unwilling to investigate a number of hate crimes. In July, far right thugs – not necessarily associated with the PU – attacked four black people in the underground, a gay club and a Jewish student by a synagogue. The police initiated two criminal cases, but nobody has been prosecuted so far. In September, the head of the Visual Culture Research Centre Vasyl Cherepanyn was beaten apparently by far right activists, but the police failed to investigate the attack too.

It seems viable to suggest that, under Troyan as head of the Kyiv region police, investigations into hate crimes will hardly be efficient, while the persistent traditions of cronyism will unlikely contribute to the building of a strong democracy

How fake far-right “observers” entered Donetsk from Russia

International fake observers of the fake elections in the Donbas arrived in Moscow on the 31st of October and checked in to the 5-star Metropol Hotel. They had a late dinner at the hotel restaurant and some of them went for a walk to the Red Square:

Those “observers” who would go illegally to Eastern Ukraine, took a morning flight from Moscow to Rostov-on-Don on the 1st of November and then travelled by bus from there to the Russian town of Kuybyshevo, right on the Russia-Ukraine border.

Those "observers" who would go illegally to Eastern Ukraine, took a morning flight from Moscow to Rostov-on-Don on the 1st of November and then travelled by bus from there to the Russian town of Kuybyshevo, right on the Russia-Ukraine border.
Those “observers” who would go illegally to Eastern Ukraine, took a morning flight from Moscow to Rostov-on-Don on the 1st of November and then travelled by bus from there to the Russian town of Kuybyshevo, right on the Russia-Ukraine border.
The "observers" arriving to the Russia-Ukraine border in Kuybyshevo
The “observers” arriving to the Russia-Ukraine border in Kuybyshevo

At the border, (pro-)Russian extremists put armed escorts into the buses of “observers” and then they crossed the border. None of them passed any official Ukrainian border control.

(Pro-)Russian extremists' armed escort on the way from Kuybyshevo to Donetsk
(Pro-)Russian extremists’ armed escort on the way from Kuybyshevo to Donetsk 

They arrived in Donetsk and checked in to the Ramada Hotel.

International "observers" and terrorists of the "Donetsk People's Republic" at the Ramada Hotel, Donetsk, 1 November 2014
International “observers” and terrorists of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” at the Ramada Hotel, Donetsk, 1 November 2014 

On the same day, the “observers” were introduced to the leadership of the terrorist organisation “Donetsk People’s Republic” and issued with “international observer” cards.

Member of the extreme right Ataka party Georgi Sengalevich's card of an international "observer"
Member of the extreme right Ataka party Georgi Sengalevich’s card of an international “observer”

Some of them met with French/Serbian Eurasianist fighters. Below is Manuel Ochsenreiter, editor of the far right Zuerst! journal (far left), and Dragana Trifkovic, director of the Belgrade Centre of Strategic Research (far right), with French/Serbian Eurasianists fighting against Ukrainians in Eastern Ukraine.

Manuel Ochsenreiter, editor of the far right Zuerst! journal (far left), and Dragana Trifkovic, director of the Belgrade Centre of Strategic Research (far right), with French/Serbian Eurasianists fighting against Ukrainians in Eastern Ukraine
Manuel Ochsenreiter, editor of the far right Zuerst! journal (far left), and Dragana Trifkovic, director of the Belgrade Centre of Strategic Research (far right), with French/Serbian Eurasianists fighting against Ukrainians in Eastern Ukraine

On the 2nd of November, international “observers” began their work of “legitimising” illegal, fake elections held by (pro-)Russian extremists. Not all of them did their work in Ukraine, however. Adrienn Szaniszló of the extreme right Jobbik party, for example, stayed in the Rostov region to observe the “elections” there.

Adrienn Szaniszló (in the centre) at the "polling station" in the Rostov region, Russia, 2 November 2014
Adrienn Szaniszló (in the centre) at the “polling station” in the Rostov region, Russia, 2 November 2014

Helping international “observers” see armed men at “polling stations” in the Donbas

Graham Phillips, a controversial British reporter for the Kremlin’s disinformation serviceRussia Today, has interviewed Austrian right-wing politician Ewald Stadler, who is one of the “observers” at “elections” in the Donbas.

According to Stadler, “there is no pressure to the people. Soldiers and people with guns are outside, not inside. Everybody can vote here free”.

OK, so Stadler does not see a man in military fatigues standing behind him. So let’s help Stadler see something else, shall we?

Donbas election
Photo by Novaya Gazeta
armed2
Photo by Oleksiy Matsuka
Donbas election
Photo by RIA Novosti
Donbas election
Photo by Komsomolskaya Pravda
Photo by EPA
Photo by EPA

Right, according to Stadler, there are no armed men “inside” polling stations. This may actually be true: there are no polling stations in the Donbass because there are no elections there.

[hr] Cover photo: AP

Fake monitors “observe” fake elections in Donbas

The “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR) and “Luhansk People’s Republic” (LNR), the organizations which are recognized as terrorist by the Ukrainian authorities, will hold “parliamentary elections” on Sunday, 2nd of November, on the territories occupied by them with the help of the Russian army.

These “elections” are widely considered illegal and illegitimate, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon deplored “the planned holding by armed rebel groups in eastern Ukraine of their own “elections” on 2 November, in breach of the Constitution and national law” adding that “these “elections” will seriously undermine the Minsk Protocol and Memorandum, which need to be urgently implemented in full”.

Nevertheless, the Kremlin is said to be willing to recognize these “elections”, yet again completely dismissing the advice from the UN let alone defying the laws of Ukraine that Russia has invaded in February-March 2014. The DNR/LNR “elections” will not be recognized as legitimate either by the EU or the US that threaten Russia with further sanctions for undermining Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty.

As it happened before, the Kremlin will employ puppet “election monitors” that will “observe” and legitimize the “elections” held by the terrorists. Evidence suggests that two “election monitoring organizations” have been in charge of setting up “election observation mission” for the DNR/LNR: the Eurasian Observatory of Democracy and Elections (EODE) run by Belgian fascist Luc Michel and the European Centre for Geopolitical Analysis (ECGA) run by Polish far right politician Mateusz Piskorski – both have been in the service of the Kremlin’s foreign policy since 2005-2006.

(left to right ) The leader of the DNR terrorists Aleksandr Zakharchenko and Fabrice Beaur (EODE / extreme right Parti communautaire national-européen), 1 November 2014, Donetsk
(left to right ) The leader of the DNR terrorists Aleksandr Zakharchenko and Fabrice Beaur (EODE / extreme right Parti communautaire national-européen), 1 November 2014, Donetsk
(left to right ) The leader of the DNR terrorists Aleksandr Zakharchenko and Mateusz Piskorski, 1 November 2014, Donetsk
(left to right ) The leader of the DNR terrorists Aleksandr Zakharchenko and Mateusz Piskorski, 1 November 2014, Donetsk

At the time of writing, the following names of international “observers” hired by the the EODE and ECGA the can be disclosed:

observer table

As my analysis of the movements of these international “election monitors” shows, they arrived to Donetsk from Moscow via Rostov-on-Don. This means that they have all entered Ukraine illegally, as they did not pass pass the official Ukrainian border control. Thus, they can be all persecuted for the crime of illegal border crossing.

According to Moscow-based journalist Alec Luhn, at the press conference in Donbas, the international “observers” suggested creating the Association for Security and Cooperation in Europe (ASCE), but then Stadler proposed the name “Agency for Security and Cooperation in Europe” (ASCE). The name obviously refers to the Oganisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), an international organization that, in particular, monitors elections in different parts of the world. Since it provides objective and independent monitoring of elections and referenda, the OSCE is hated by the EODE and ECGA, as well as Russian authorities.

However, while constantly vilifying and trying to discredit the OSCE’s observation missions, Russian state-controlled media intentionally present fake “election monitors” as members of the OSCE. For example, in March 2014, Russian TV channel “Rossiya 24” claimed that notorious fascist Michel was “the organizer of the OSCE observation mission” at the illegal “referendum in Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea that Russia annexed afterwards.

Belgian fascist Luc Michel, the head of the EODE, in Crimea. The caption reads: "Organiser of the OSCE observation mission in Crimea"
Belgian fascist Luc Michel, the head of the EODE, in Crimea. The caption reads: “Organiser of the OSCE observation mission in Crimea”

This imposturous presentation of Michel to the Russian-speaking audience reveals the high status value of the OSCE even in the generally anti-Western context.

The “elections” planned for the 2nd of November may be a start of a new offensive of the DNR/LNR extremists against the Ukrainian forces. There is a non-zero chance of a false flag operation against either the “observers” or people at “polling stations”. Some of them may be killed by the (pro-)Russian extremists dressed in uniforms of Ukrainian forces to discredit Ukraine and/or divert the international attention from the illegitimate “elections” to the killing(s) of “election observers” or “voters”. The chances are low, but such a development cannot be ruled out.

[hr] Cover photo: The press conference of the international “observers” in Donbas, 1 November 2014. Third from the right is Ewald Stadler. Credit: Alec Luhn

Ukraine’s parliamentary elections and the far right

On the 26th of October 2014, Ukrainians voted at the early parliamentary elections. Ukraine currently has a mixed electoral system (50% under party lists and 50% under constituencies) with a 5% election threshold. Here are the results of the National Exit Poll 2014.

Since these are not official results, the following analysis is preliminary:

As I argued in February this year, popular support for the far right Svoboda party had dwindled already by the beginning of Euromaidan protests in Ukraine. Svoboda obtained 10.44% of the vote at the 2012 parliamentary elections, but in November 2013 only 5.1% of the voters would have cast a ballot for this party. Moreover, Svoboda failed to recover its lost support during the 2014 revolution in Ukraine, so only 5.6% of the voters would vote for the party in February 2014. At the early presidential election in May 2014, the leader of Svoboda Oleh Tyahybok obtained 1.16% of the vote.

Svoboda’s relative failure to mobilise its former electorate can be attributed to the demise of former president Viktor Yanukovych’s regime: Svoboda was successful in 2012 because it was considered an anti-Yanukovych party, so with Yanukovych ousted, almost half of Svoboda’s electorate was gone too. Furthermore, in 2012, Svoboda was also considered almost the only “patriotic” party, but now all democratic parties are patriotic, so Svoboda has lost its “monopoly” on patriotism.

What should also be noted is that the decline of Svoboda is much deeper than the simple comparison of electoral results in 2012 and 2014 can demonstrate. In 2014, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and part of the Donbass region did not take part in the parliamentary elections as Crimea is now criminally annexed by Russia, while part of the Donbass region is under control of (pro-)Russian extremists. These two regions voted heavily for Yanukovych’s party and the misleadingly named Communist Party of Ukraine and, therefore, brought down the support for Svoboda on the national level. If citizens in Crimea and Donbass had been given a chance to freely vote in the 2014 parliamentary elections, Svoboda’s results would have been even worse.

Where did Svoboda’s former electorate go? I presume that more moderate voters went back to the national-democratic forces, such as the People’s Front or Samopomich. Part of Svoboda’s former electorate apparently went to the Right Sector and Oleh Lyashko’s Radical Party. The inclusion of these two parties into the far right category is tentative. As a political party, the Right Sector is ideologically quite different from the movement under the same name that was formed during the 2014 revolution; the party is less radical than the movement, so I suggest the term “national conservative” as a more relevant one. Lyashko’s Radical Party is dangerously populist and a typical anti-establishment force. However, both the Right Sector and Lyashko’s Radical Party have extreme right members, but they are a minority. In contrast to Lyashko’s Radical Party, the Right Sector will not be able to enter the parliament, but its leader Dmytro Yarosh will most likely be elected in one of the single-member districts.

The People’s Front led by prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk also involved extreme right candidates: Andriy Biletskiy, leader of the neo-Nazi Social-National Assembly and commander of the Azov regiment, and Vadym Troyan of the same affiliation, ran in single-member districts and were supported by the People’s Front. At the time of writing, it is not clear whether Biletsky and Troyan have been elected.

The veterans of the Ukrainian far right, the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, have failed again. I presume the aim of their participation in the elections is not about getting into the parliament; rather, it is about having official observers in the electoral commissions – sometimes in the past observers from fringe political forces provided “services” to interested parties, i.e. were involved in corrupt schemes.

To conclude this preliminary analysis, the Ukrainian far right forces do not appear to be as successful in the electoral terms as they were in 2012. Populism, however, is still a problem, while relatively large segments of the Ukrainian society fail to recognise the threat that populism poses to the consolidation of democracy in Ukraine.