Voices from Russia

Friday, 31 January 2014

The Menace Across the European Continent: The Ukraine and the Rebirth of Fascism

00 Ukrainian rioter 01. 31.01.14

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The violence on the streets of the Ukraine is far more than popular anger against a government. Instead, it’s merely the latest example of the rise of the most insidious form of fascism in Europe since the fall of the Third Reich. Recent months saw regular protests by the Ukrainian political opposition… protests ostensibly in response to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich‘s refusal to sign an association agreement with the EU that many saw as the first step towards European integration. The protests remained largely peaceful until 17 January, when protesters armed with clubs, helmets, and improvised bombs unleashed violence on police, storming government buildings, beating anyone they suspected of having pro-central government sympathies, and generally wreaking havoc on the streets of Kiev. However, who are these violent extremists and what’s their ideology?

The political faction is Pravy Sektor (Right Sector), essentially an umbrella organisation for a number of ultra-nationalists (read fascist) rightwing groups, including Svoboda (Freedom), Patriots of the Ukraine, Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self Defence (UNA-UNSO), and Trizub. They share a common ideology; they’re all vehemently anti-Russian, anti-immigrant, and anti-Jewish, amongst other things. In addition, they share a common reverence for the so-called “Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists” of Stepan Bandera, an infamous Nazi collaborator, who actively fought the USSR, who engaged in some of the worst atrocities committed by any side in World War II.

Whilst Ukrainian political forces, opposition and government, continue to negotiate, a very different battle goes on in the streets. Using intimidation and brute force more typical of Hitler’s “Brownshirts” or Mussolini’s “Blackshirts” than a contemporary political movement, these groups managed to turn a conflict over economic policy and political allegiances into an existential struggle for the very survival of the nation that these so-called “nationalists” claim to love so dearly. The images of Kiev burning, Lvov streets filled with thugs, and other chilling examples of the chaos in the country, illustrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that the political negotiation with the Maidan (Kiev’s central square and centre of the protests) opposition is now no longer the central issue. Rather, the issue is Ukrainian fascism… should one support it or reject it?

For its part, the USA strongly came down on the side of the opposition, regardless of its political character. In early December, members of the American Establishment such as John McCain and Victoria Nuland were at the Maidan, lending support to the protesters. However, as the character of the opposition became clear in recent days, the American and Western ruling class (and its media machine) did little to condemn the fascist upsurge. Instead, their representatives met with members of Right Sector, deeming them “no threat”. In other words, the USA and its allies gave tacit approval for the continuation and proliferation of violence in the name of their goal… régime change.

Attempting to pry the Ukraine out of the Russian sphere of influence, the US/EU/NATO alliance allied itself, not for the first time, with fascists. Of course, for decades, fascist paramilitary forces in Latin America armed and supported by the USA murdered thousands and many more “disappeared”. To destabilise the USSR, the USA created and financed the Afghan Mujahideen, who were also extreme ideological reactionaries. Later, they transmogrified into al-Qaeda. Of course, there’s the painful reality of Libya and, most recently, Syria, where the USA and its allies finance and support extremist jihadists against a government that refused to align with American and Israeli interests. There’s a disturbing pattern here not lost on keen political observers… the USA always makes common cause with rightwing extremists and fascists for geopolitical gain. The situation in the Ukraine is deeply troubling because it represents a political conflagration that could very easily tear the country apart less than 25 years after it gained independence from the USSR. However, there’s another equally disturbing aspect to the rise of fascism in that country… it isn’t alone.

The Fascist Menace Across the Continent

One can’t view, let alone understand, the Ukraine and the rise of rightwing extremism there in isolation. Rather, one must look at it as part of a growing trend throughout Europe (and, indeed, the world)… a trend that threatens the very foundations of democracy. In Greece, savage austerity imposed by the troika (European CommissionEuropean Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) crippled the economy, leading to a depression as bad, if not worse, than the Great Depression in the USA. Against this backdrop of economic collapse, Golden Dawn became the third-most-popular political party in the country. Espousing an ideology of hate, Golden Dawn… in effect, a neo-Nazi party promoting anti-Jewish, anti-immigrant, and anti-women chauvinism… is a political force the government in Athens labelled a serious threat to the very fabric of society. This threat led the government to arrest the party’s leadership after a Golden Dawn Nazi fatally stabbed an anti-fascist rapper. Athens launched an investigation into the party, although the results of this investigation and trial remain somewhat unclear.

What makes Golden Dawn such an insidious threat is that, despite their fundamental Nazi ideology, their anti-EU anti-austerity rhetoric appeals to many in economically devastated Greece. As with many fascist movements in the 20th Century, Golden Dawn scapegoats immigrants, Muslim and African primarily, for many of the problems facing Greeks. In dire economic circumstances, such irrational hate becomes appealing; it’s an answer to society’s problems. Indeed, despite Golden Dawn’s leaders being in prison, other party members are still in parliament, still running for major offices including Mayor of Athens. Although an electoral victory is unlikely, another strong showing at the polls would make eradicating fascism in Greece that much harder.

Were this phenomenon confined to Greece and the Ukraine, it wouldn’t constitute a continental trend. Sadly, however, we see the rise of similar, albeit slightly less overtly fascist, political parties all over Europe. In Spain, the ruling pro-austerity People’s Party proposed draconian laws restricting protest and free speech, empowering and sanctioning repressive police tactics. In France, the National Front of Marine Le Pen, which vehemently scapegoats Muslim and African immigrants, won nearly 20 percent of the vote in the first round of presidential elections. Similarly, the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands… a promoter of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant policies… grew to be the third-largest in parliament. Throughout Scandinavia, once-completely irrelevant and obscure ultranationalist parties are now significant players in elections. To say the least, these trends are worrying.

Besides this, one should note too that, beyond Europe, the USA supports a number of quasi-fascist political factions. In their seemingly endless quest to suppress leftists in Latin America, Washington tacitly and/or overtly supported rightwing coups that overthrew the governments of Paraguay and Honduras. Of course, one should also remember that Aleksei Navalny and his nationalist followers, who espouse a virulently anti-Muslim racist ideology viewing immigrants from the Russian Caucasus and former Soviet republics as beneath “European Russians”, spearheaded the protest movement in Russia. These and other examples paint a very ugly portrait of an American foreign policy that attempts to use economic hardship and political upheaval to extend American hegemony around the world.

In the Ukraine, the “Right Sector” took the fight from the negotiating table to the streets, attempting to fulfil the dream of Stepan Bandera… a Ukraine free of Russians, Jews, and all other “undesirables”, as they see it. Buoyed by continued support from the USA and the EU, these fanatics represent a more serious threat to democracy than Yanukovich and the pro-Russian government ever could. If the EU and the USA don’t recognise this threat in its infancy, by the time they finally do, it might just be too late.

29 January 2014

Eric Draitser

Counterpunch

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/01/29/ukraine-and-the-rebirth-of-fascism/

 

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Yanukovich Sez He’s Done All That He Can Do to Defuse Crisis… Military Asked Yanukovich to Stabilise Situation

00 ukrainian rioter 02. 31.01.14

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On Thursday, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said that the authorities complied with all the obligations upon them to find ways to end the present political crisis. He said in a message posted on the Presidential website, “In the course of negotiations for a peaceful settlement of the conflict, we’ve reached solid agreements with the opposition. We’ve carried out all the obligations incumbent upon us as the state authority. The Rada passed an amnesty law, which guarantees freedom of protest and released those arrested during the riots. However, the opposition continues to escalate the situation; they egg on people to stand in the cold to satisfy the political ambitions of a few leaders. I think that this is wrong”. According to Yanukovich, the state and the people have no future if some factions place political interests superior to Ukrainian national interests (for facts about the oppositionists, click here and here). On Thursday night, the Rada adopted an amnesty law, but it releases rioters only after protesters evacuate captured administrative buildings and allow local authorities to work. The oppositionists opposed it, demanding amnesty without conditions (for more on the amnesty, click here).

30 January 2014

Viktor Avdeyenko

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According to the Minoborony Ukrainy website, military leaders urged Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich to take urgent action to stabilise the situation, saying, “Expressing their opinion as citizens, the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and all those under the Minoborony Ukrainy, call upon the Commander-in-Chief to take urgent measures under existing legislation to stabilise the situation in the country, to bring societal reconciliation”.

31 January 2014

RIA-Novosti

http://ria.ru/world/20140130/992247165.html

http://ria.ru/world/20140131/992360445.html

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Ukrainian Oppos Reject Amnesty… Yanukovich Gets the Flu

viktor yanukovich

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The Rada passed an amnesty for anti-government rioters jailed during recent public unrest, but on Thursday, oppositionists rejected the initiative, describing it as an attempt to undermine their cause. The Rada, which has a Regions/KPU majority, passed the amnesty law by 232 votes, six more than the required minimum, overnight Wednesday. The law mandates the release of rioters arrested since the current anti-government protests began in November. However, it only comes into effect if the opposition vacates occupied buildings and opens up blocked streets in central Kiev.

Opposition politicians described the amnesty proposal as creating a hostage situation. According to media reports, UDAR leader Vitaly Klichko said that the new law would “raise the temperature in society”. Other opposition leaders told demonstrators gathered on the Maidan that there were procedural violations during the passage of the bill and confirmed that the activists who created a large camp protected by barricades on the Maidan would stay there. On Thursday, Svoboda chieftain Oleg Tyagnibok said that the opposition must comply with the law within 15 days or the government wouldn’t free the detained rioters. The amnesty bill is part of a package of concessions from the authorities, who have struggled to cope with a recent violent escalation of protests, during which at least three demonstrators were killed.

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Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich went on sick leave Thursday, prompting oppositionists to accuse him of inaction during the current political crisis. A statement on the presidential website said that Yanukovich was on sick leave with “an acute respiratory illness accompanied by a high temperature”. A senior Regions Rada deputy, Mikhail Chechetov, said that Yanukovich “looked ill” whilst meeting with lawmakers late Wednesday to discuss amnesty for detained rioters. The Presidential Administration didn’t say how long they expected Yanukovich to be off work, or whether he was able to perform his presidential duties in the meantime. The oppositionist UDAR bloc said of the President’s illness, “[It’s] an attempt to avoid resolving the current political crisis. By being on sick leave, he can prevent the dictatorship laws from being cancelled, shun representatives of the opposition and global community, and avoid urgent measures to resolve the political crisis”.

On Thursday, Justice Minister Yelena Lukash said that Yanukovich had 15 days to sign into law a bill cancelling a series of unpopular anti-protest laws that sparked riots, leading to clashes with police. UNIAN quoted her as saying, “We’ll submit the bill submitted to the presidential administration today, and the president will have 15 days to sign it”. She said that he’d sign the bill into law after the Cabinet of Ministers and the Justice Ministry look at the legislation and tell him their conclusions.

30 January 2014

RIA-Novosti

http://en.ria.ru/world/20140130/187043433/Ukrainian-Opposition-Rejects-Protester-Amnesty-Law.html

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Monday, 9 December 2013

BREAKING NEWS… Leaked: Amnesty to Free Pussy Riot and Greenpeace Activists

get out of jail free community chest

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Editor’s Note:

Many thanks to the Cabineteer (you know who you are) who got to this to me tout suite. I can’t find everything on my own… I don’t deserve such good friends…

BMD

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Media sources say that an amnesty dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Russian Constitution would free members of the Pussy Riot punk band, Greenpeace activists, and Bolotnaya Square demonstration protesters. The amnesty initialled by President Putin would free some 25,000 people. Interfax quoted Vladimir Vasilyev, deputy speaker of the RF Gosduma, “We’ll release around 1,300 people from prison, and relieve 17,500 people of non-custodial sentences. In addition, we’re terminating criminal proceedings against nearly 6,000 people”.

Several Russian media outlets, including Izvestiya and Vedomosti, obtained a copy of the draft amnesty, submitted to the Federal Assembly by President Vladimir Putin on Monday. They said that the participants in such high-profile cases as the Pussy Riot Cathedral protest, Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise boarding of an oil rig, and the Bolotnaya Square riots would all get amnesty. Vasilyev pointed up that the upcoming amnesty wouldn’t apply to those who committed crimes that posed a serious danger to society, adding that the amnesty would give preference to convicts in vulnerable social categories and people who’d served the country. Preference would go to all minors, mothers with small children, pregnant women, women over 55, men over 60, the disabled, Chernobyl cleanup workers, and military veterans.

According to Vedomosti, the draft amnesty covers three articles of the criminal code “as an exception”, which means that those convicted under them would be freed or relived from punishment regardless of age, sex, or social status. The first such is Article 213 “Hooliganism”, which means that two Pussy Riot members… Mariya Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova… as well as the Greenpeace activists awaiting trial in Russia, would walk free. Three members of the Pussy Riot punk band each received a sentenced of two years in prison after staging a protest in Moscow‘s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in February 2012, although one member of the band later gained release on appeal. Currently, the 30 Greenpeace activists are on bail and awaiting trial after trying to board a Russian oil platform in the Prirazlomnaya oil field in the Barents Sea this September.

The second exception was for Article 2012 Part 2 and 3, “Participation in Riots and Incitement of Same”. This would allow nine participants of the Bolotnaya trial not accused of using force against police officers to avoid prosecution. The authorities detained the so-called Bolotnaya prisoners following riots on Bolotnaya Square in central Moscow in May 2012. The third exception deals with those convicted of violating traffic regulations with severe consequences to people’s health. Meanwhile, Izvestiya said that those who committed economic crimes wouldn’t receive pardons, as there’s already been an amnesty for this category of prisoners earlier this year, with 1,431 people released. This means that former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner, Platon Lebedev, would stay behind bars.

A high-ranking source in the Gosduma told Izvestiya that the government would adopt the amnesty before the end of the year and carry it out within the next six months. Russia celebrates the 20th anniversary of its Constitution on 12 December. Mikhail Fedotov, the head of the RF Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights, expressed his satisfaction with the draft amnesty bill, expressing hope that it wouldn’t suffer excessive revision by the Gosduma. He told RIA-Novosti, “I’m sure that there’ll be some Deputies who’d try to widen the amnesty bill and those who’d push to narrow it. In the end, I hope that it’d remain as it was when the President submitted it”.

However, Oleg Orlov, one of the heads of Memorial human rights centre, called the draft amnesty bill a disappointment. He told Interfax, “Even in its current form, I welcome the document. At least, it’d release some people. However, the part of Russian society that advocated an amnesty understood it in a broader sense, so, of course, we’re disappointed”. President Putin tasked human rights activists with putting together a draft bill for an amnesty dedicated to the 20th anniversary of Russia’s current Constitution in late September. In mid-October, the Presidential Council for Human Rights approved a draft bill proposing to pardon around 100,000 prisoners.

 9 December 2013

RT

http://rt.com/news/amnesty-bill-putin-parliament-951/

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