The Far Right in Ukraine During the 'Euromaidan' and the War in Donbas
68 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2016
Date Written: September 2, 2016
This paper analyzes the role of far right in the Ukrainian politics during the “Euromaidan” and the war in Donbas. The issue of the involvement of Ukrainian far right organizations in the “Euromaidan” and the war in Donbas have been politicized and polarized. Russian and separatist politicians and the media often presented the “Euromaidan” as a “fascist coup” and the Maidan government as a “fascist junta.” In contrast, the governments and the mainstream media in Western countries tended to present the role of the far right in the “Euromaidan” and in post-Maidan Ukraine, specifically in the conflict in Donbas, as marginal. Previous academic studies generally reached similar conclusions. They focused on numerical strength and electoral support for the far right parties and ignored other aspects of influence of the radical nationalist and neo-Nazi parties, specifically their role in the political violence, such as the Maidan and Odesa massacres and the war in Donbas. However, the number of academic studies of the contemporary far right in Ukraine is generally limited.
The research question is as follows: What is the role of the far right in the Ukrainian politics during and after the “Euromaidan”? This study analyzes the involvement of specific Ukrainian radical nationalist and neo-Nazi organizations in the “Euromaidan,” the Odesa massacre, and the war in Donbas, their performance in the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2014 and the 2015 local elections in Ukraine. The analysis focuses on major Ukrainian far right organizations, such as Svoboda (Freedom), the Right Sector, the Social-National Assembly, the White Hammer, the UNA-UNSO, Bratstvo, and C14, and paramilitary formations or special police and National Guard units organized and controlled to various extent by them, such as the Azov regiment, Dnipro, Donbas, Aidar, Sich, and St. Mary’s battalions, and the Volunteer Ukrainian Corps. It uses various sources of data, such as online recordings of live broadcasts and videos of the Maidan and Odesa massacres and the war in Donbas, official database of court decisions in Ukraine concerning investigations of the involvement of the far right in major cases of political violence, video recordings of the Maidan massacre trial, information posted on websites and social media groups of far right organizations, and media reports in Ukrainian, Russian, and English languages.
The study shows that the far right organizations had significant but minority representation among the Maidan leadership and protesters, the post-Maidan governments, and in the presidential, parliamentary, and local elections. However, the analysis also shows that the far right organizations and football ultras played a key role during violent attacks, such as attempts to storm the presidential administration on December 1, 2013 and the parliament of Ukraine in January and on February 18, 2014. There is also various evidence of the Right Sector involvement in a violent attack of the Berkut police during its highly publicized dispersal of protesters on November 30, 2013. The Right Sector and Svoboda and smaller organizations had a crucial role in the violent overthrow of the Viktor Yanukovych government, in particular, in the Maidan massacre of the protesters and the police on February 18-20, 2014. The study demonstrates that the Right Sector, the Social-National Assembly/Patriot of Ukraine, and groups of football ultras were involved in the Odesa massacre on May 2, 2014. This paper also shows that the far right organizations and their volunteer battalions and paramilitary units had a significant role in the civil war in Donbas but a comparably minor role in fighting with several regular Russian military units during direct military interventions by Russia in August 2014 and February 2015. Major implications of this study for the Ukrainian politics and the conflict between the West and Russia over Ukraine are discussed in the conclusion. This paper implies that the far right has significant but not dominant role in the Ukrainian politics during and after the “Euromaidan.” But far right organizations and their armed units had a key role in major cases of political violence during and after the “Euromaidan,” and they attained ability to overthrow by force the government of the one of the largest European countries.
Keywords: Ukraine; far right; conflict; war; elections; Eastern Europe; political violence
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