Ukrainian radicals as an instrument of pressure on local self-government

Sviatoslav Vyshynsky
Non-governmental organization “Bukovynian Center”

1. How does official Kiev use radicals to intimidate and restrict local self-government? 2. Radicalization of public relations as a tool for blackmailing minorities and political opposition. 3. "Tie in blood", or Why do the Ukrainian authorities turn a blind eye to the atrocities of the extreme right-wing movements?

Despite the policy of decentralization and an increase in the role of local self-government, pursued by official Kiev under pressure from the European Union and Western financial donors, in reality, after the revolution in 2014 in Ukraine, the balance of power has not changed. The Ukrainian state retains all the features of a presidential republic - with the difference that in the current situation more and more power levers are being used informally and with the involvement of third parties. So, despite the facade reforms and public statements, the Administration of President Petro Poroshenko, through regional councils and local state administrations, tightly controls the process of decentralization and redistribution of the territories of local communities, perceiving local authorities as an instrument in implementing a single state policy - and turning its representative bodies into obedient entities ...

Given the disagreements between the public position of the Kiev authorities and their real interests, the political elites cannot pursue the policy of strengthening the center officially - and are increasingly using the controlled media, public organizations and radical groups for their own purposes, which, with the assistance or non-interference of the police and special services, carry out "dirty work" to pacify the hotbeds of resistance on the ground. The latter, at the suggestion of official Kiev, are becoming the main instrument of pressure not only on parliament, but also on local councils - gradually turning into a “third power” in the Ukrainian state. Strengthening the role and importance of extreme right-wing groups and organizations in modern Ukraine is quite logical, because they made up the most radical and effective backbone of the protesters at the Euromaidan in 2013–2014, and after active participation in hostilities in eastern Ukraine as part of volunteer battalions, they did not only combat experience, but public, media and political legitimation.

The Kiev authorities are aware that it is the right-wing radical movements, as the most passionate and inclined to protest actions, having passed through the Euromaidan and the war in the East, constitute the greatest internal political threat. That is why in Ukraine, in accordance with the ancient Roman principle "Divide et impera!" - “Divide and conquer!”, With the help of the media and political technologies, artificial gaps and breaks are created, hotbeds of social conflicts, into which, like cannon fodder, radicals and fanatics are thrown first. Along the way, with their hands cleansing and cracking down on the camp of political opponents, who, with the help of the media and manipulation of public opinion, are exposed as “traitors” of the people, state, national interests, as foreign agents and the embodiment of the “fifth column” in Ukraine. And if in the first years of the war in the East, such rhetoric, proceeding from the central government, could still find some kind of response and public justification, then, starting in 2016, it is increasingly heard on the right-wing flank. Well aware of the ambiguity of such a policy, the Kiev government gives it to the mercy of Ukrainian nationalists and right-wing radicals - first of all, the Svoboda, Right Sector, and National Corps parties most incorporated into the country's political system, as well as related public organizations C14 , "Falcon", "Vostochny korpus" and paramilitary "National squads". The more the authorities are silent and inactive, the louder the right-wing radicals speak and act, who are given the green light to implement the policy of intimidation and suppression of the opposition centers.

The seriousness of the situation is evident from the fact that not only motley critics of the authorities, but also the most independent bodies of local self-government, are gradually turning into “enemies of the regime” at the suggestion of nationalists. The campaign to pacify them, launched by Kiev in 2017, is gaining momentum every year - and on the eve of the 2019 presidential election campaign, one can only expect its intensification. Examples of pressure on regional authorities take place in all parts of Ukraine - the most striking: in the Lviv regional, Cherkassy and Kharkiv city councils in 2017 and 2018. The storming of the Lviv regional parliament on May 30, 2017 by radicals from the Svoboda and National Corps parties became the first sign in the process of putting pressure on local governments. The ridiculousness of the reason - the demand of the radicals to accept a declarative, meaningless appeal of the regional council to the Verkhovna Rada, the lengthy organization and preparation of a forceful action, the unwillingness to resolve the conflict through negotiations, the organized transport of hundreds of activists from other regions of the country - with the absolute inaction of the special police units who indifferently watched the assault and the pogrom of the local authority is also evidenced by a completely different, purely political reason for the events described. Namely: on the deliberate intimidation of the opposition Lviv authorities by Kiev, which used obedient nationalists as a tool for its own purposes.

It is significant that the leadership of the local branch of the party of power "Solidarity" in the person of the head of the Lviv Regional Council Alexander Ganushchin accused of attempts to destabilize not radicals and not even inactive police, through the Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov entirely controlled by Kiev, but oppositional to the government, the party "Samopomich", whose leader, the mayor of Lviv, Andriy Sadovoy, is considered one of the main contenders for the presidency in 2019. The destruction of the image of one of the most successful and liberal cities in Western Ukraine, its destabilization and the suppression of local authorities by the hands of right-wing radicals who received carte blanche from the central government for any violations criminal law and public order - became the first milestone in the march of nationalists by local city councils. The most active in this role are the Svoboda party led by former parliamentarian Oleg Tyagnibok (a longtime and irreconcilable opponent of Andrey Sadovy in Lviv), as well as the National Corps party led by People's Deputy Andrey Biletskiy, which emerged on the basis of the nationalist organization Patriot of Ukraine and regiment of special purpose "Azov" as part of the National Guard of Ukraine (which is directly subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Affairs). It is the latter, with the tacit assistance of law enforcement agencies, that shows the greatest participation in political conflicts on the ground - being true to the statement of Andrei Biletsky: "We will come to other regional councils, we will continue to do so."

For example, on January 29, 2018, activists of the National Corps, hiding their faces behind masks and balaclavas, burst into the session of the Cherkasy city council, staging a scuffle with the deputies and forcing them to vote for the city budget in the edition of the executive branch, headed by the mayor of Cherkassy Anatoly Bondarenko. Rumors that in the conflict between local deputies and the city head of the latter was supported by the Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov, one of the leaders of the ruling coalition and the right-wing populist Popular Front party led by former Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseniy Yatsenyuk, were indirectly confirmed not only by the traditional inaction of the police , but also by the public statement of the adviser to the Minister of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Stanislav Rechinsky, according to whom the right-wing radicals "achieved a worthy result" through illegal pressure. Which the all-Ukrainian newspaper Den identified as a “dangerous trend” for Ukrainian democracy, and former Cherkass mayor Serhiy Odarich directly called “unacceptable bandit methods” when activists, with the assistance of the police and the central government, force local councils to “make decisions with which representatives delegated by the people do not agree".

Obviously, the nationalists themselves, who were dragged into a dangerous political game, do not agree with a number of such decisions - it seems impossible to get out of it without sacrifices and consequences. We are convinced that all sorts of atrocities, violations of public order and criminal legislation by right-wing marginalized people (such as serial attacks and pogroms of Roma camps in Kiev and Lvov in April and June 2018), politically motivated killings, to which the authorities deliberately turn a blind eye - part of the technology of "hilling" nationalists. By admitting multiple offenses and collecting (even actually: creating with their own hands) compromising evidence on ordinary radicals and leaders of the right-wing movement, the Ukrainian government, police and special services have almost completely “tamed” nationalists by now, “tied” them with blood and turned them into obedient instruments of their own policy. In this context, the searches that the police conducted at the main base of the National Corps in Kiev on March 23, 2018 are very instructive - we definitely interpret them as a threat from the authorities to the right-wing radicals themselves, a reminder signal from the country's leadership about who is master of the house. "

Apparently, the reminder was taken into account, because on June 20, 2018, activists of the National Corps organized a pogrom in the Kharkiv City Council and lynched Kharkiv Vice-Mayor Andrey Rudenko. As in the case of the storming of the Lviv Regional Council in 2017, the reason was an insignificant conflict between football fans and the local authorities in connection with plans to develop the territory adjacent to the main city stadium "Metallist". The real reasons, rather, should be sought in the attempt of the Presidential Administration to put pressure on the popular Kharkiv mayor Gennady Kernes and enlist his support in the presidential elections in March 2019 - in strict accordance with the policy of limiting local self-government and mobilizing its resources in the interests of the central government. At first glance, the spontaneous pogroms of the nationalists coincided with the searches carried out several weeks earlier by the Security Service of Ukraine at the utilities of Kharkov. These actions, as well as the defeat of the city council, which remained unpunished, Gennady Kernes directly called an attempt to illegally "seize power" and "deliberately discredit local government bodies." The fact that this attempt was successful can be concluded from the court decision of August 10, 2018 on the termination of the criminal prosecution of Gennady Kernes in the attack on Euromaidan activists on January 25, 2014, which was the final, but clearly not the last milestone in the history of blackmail local authorities.


Presentation at the Baloldali Sziget Festival (Sigetmonostor, Regatta, 25 August 2018).

© 2018


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