The scary fascists who, according to Russia, have taken over Ukraine since the “coup d’état” and ousted the former president didn’t do too well. Who did do well were the actual scary fascists in Western Europe who were supported by, well, Russia.
According to one report:
The supposed reservoirs of reactionary thinking in Western Ukraine generated an embarrassing 1 percent of the vote for Oleh Tyagnibok of ultra-nationalist Svoboda Party and less than 1 percent for Dmitry Yarosh of the new Right Sector party that sprung up during the protests. A story run by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency notes that Tyagnibok and Yarosh together received fewer votes than Vadim Rabinovich, a Jewish candidate who captured a little over 2 percent of the ballots.
There’s no doubt that Svoboda and Right Sector are bad actors. But the overweening propaganda from Moscow claiming that Kiev is being ruled by “fascists” is now proved to be ridiculous. (Not that Moscow’s propaganda since the Ukraine crisis erupted has been anything but ridiculous, starting with its claims that it wasn’t invading Crimea and its claims that it isn’t secretly behind the eruption of ersatz “people’s republics” in Eastern Ukraine’s Donets Basin region.)
Meanwhile, the elections for the European Parliament—admittedly, a weak institution—reflect a troubling shift toward right-wing, fascist-leaning and ultra-nationalist politics in several European countries, including France and Great Britain. While some left-leaning parties did well, too, the biggest gains were made by parties such as the UK Independence Party, France’s National Front and a pair of far-right Greek parties. As I wrote in this space on May 21, Russia has formed an anti-EU alliance of convenience with many of these self-same fascist parties in Europe.
Timothy Snyder, writing in The New York Review of Books, pointed out last March that the Russians, so quick to denounce fascism and anti-Semitism in Ukraine, are themselves among the worst offenders:
The point man for Eurasian and Ukrainian policy in the Kremlin is Sergei Glazyev, an economist who like Dugin tends to combine radical nationalism with nostalgia for Bolshevism. He was a member of the Communist Party and a Communist deputy in the Russian parliament before cofounding a far-right party called Rodina, or Motherland. In 2005 some of its deputies signed a petition to the Russian prosecutor general asking that all Jewish organizations be banned from Russia.
Later that year Motherland was banned from taking part in further elections after complaints that its advertisements incited racial hatred. The most notorious showed dark-skinned people eating watermelon and throwing the rinds to the ground, then called for Russians to clean up their cities. Glazyev’s book Genocide: Russia and the New World Order claims that the sinister forces of the “new world order” conspired against Russia in the 1990s to bring about economic policies that amounted to “genocide.” This book was published in English by Lyndon LaRouche’s magazine Executive Intelligence Review with a preface by LaRouche. Today Executive Intelligence Review echoes Kremlin propaganda, spreading the word in English that Ukrainian protesters have carried out a Nazi coup and started a civil war.
The populist media campaign for the Eurasian Union is now in the hands of Dmitry Kiselyov, the host of the most important talk show in Russia, and since December also the director of the state-run Russian media conglomerate designed to form national public opinion. Best known for saying that gays who die in car accidents should have their hearts cut from their bodies and incinerated, Kiselyov has taken Putin’s campaign against gay rights and transformed it into a weapon against European integration. Thus when the then German foreign minister, who is gay, visited Kiev in December and met with Vitali Klitschko, the heavyweight champion and opposition politician, Kiselyov dismissed Klitschko as a gay icon. According to the Russian foreign minister, the exploitation of sexual politics is now to be an open weapon in the struggle against the “decadence” of the European Union.
Indeed, under Vladimir Putin Russia is gradually becoming a heartland-of-Asia power whose leaders encourage anti-Semitism, ultra-Orthodox religious nationalism, virulent anti-gay propaganda and more.
Meanwhile, in the so-called people’s republics of Ukraine’s east, there’s trouble. There are factional clashes between what appear to be local militiamen and more organized forces tied directly to Russia’s special forces. As The New York Times reported:
Increasingly, a cadre of commanders with Russian citizenship like Mr. [Alexander] Borodai and a shadowy military commander named Igor Strelkov seem to be seizing control of the often rudderless rebellion as clashes with the Ukrainian Army intensify….
New questions had surfaced on Tuesday, when local officials revealed that a large share of rebels killed in intense fighting with the Ukrainian military on Monday were Russian citizens.
On Thursday, commanders of the separatist forces said they planned to repatriate the bodies of 33 Russians from brigades that were organized in border cities on Russian territory and then traveled to Donetsk. Thirty-three coffins would be trucked to the border on Thursday, a member of the rebel force said.
Yet even as the coffins were being prepared for transport, dozens of camouflaged rebels from the Vostok Battalion, which many of the Russians had joined, were breaking down doors in the rebel headquarters, where the leadership of the fledgling republic sat.
It’s clear that when Russian leaders, such as foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, say that Ukraine is involved in a “civil war,” he means a civil war that is being deliberately stoked by Russia. Still, it’s good news that leaders of Russia and Ukraine may meet soon to talk about resolving the crisis, and talks are underway about resolving disputes over Russia’s supply of gas to Ukraine. And it appears that a significant number of Russian forces that had been massed on the Ukrainian border are being withdrawn, according to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
Now that Russia has tentatively welcomed the election of Petro Poroshenko, the new Ukrainian leader has a tricky path ahead. Weakening and disarming the mobs that have taken over several cities in eastern Ukraine without inflaming the situation by heavy-handed tactics and overuse of force will not be easy. Meanwhile, President Obama, who’s maintained a hands-off attitude and rejected calls from US hawks and Ukrainian officials to supply arms to Kiev, needs to stand fast.