With the final votes being counted in Ukraine’s parliamentary elections, early results show an unsurprisingly strong showing for the country’s oligarchs, while neo-Nazi candidates score significant victories of their own.
Though the democratic character of the elections is certainly in doubt, the inescapable reality is that the new government in Kiev is going to be even more aggressive, even more radical, and even more dangerous, as the political character of the Verkohvna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) becomes ever more reactionary. Not only will this development have negative repercussions for the people of Donetsk and Lugansk, as they likely will now be facing a renewed assault from a belligerent government looking to assert itself before the eyes of the Ukrainian electorate, it will also further entrench the anti-Russian posture of Kiev, which will now have to contend with even more right wing pressure to eschew negotiations and pragmatism with Russia, in favor of a destructive and unwinnable strategy of continued antagonism and provocation.
In examining closely some of the election’s higher profile winners, one sees a disconcerting trend that goes far beyond simply neo-Nazi ideology; this election has legitimized the rule of criminal oligarchs and the factions and private armies they control, while also entrenching violent, and quite often criminal, individuals and tendencies within the newly constituted government. In effect, the fascist fanatics of Maidan now have a new home in the Rada.
Tallying the Votes, Assessing the Damage
Although the final vote count has yet to be made official, preliminary results show that the two dominant factions and leaders within the Ukrainian government, President Poroshenko and his bloc and Arseniy Yatsenyuk and his “People’s Front,” both handpicked by the United States, each garnered roughly 21 percent of the vote, making them the clear winners in the election. Of course, it is clear that the losers are the people of Ukraine, many of whom demonstrated on Maidan against the corruption of an oligarch-controlled government, only to watch new, “pro-Western” corrupt oligarchs usurp control of the country with the backing of powerful Western interests.
As for the neo-Nazi elements, well they too will have an important place in the Rada. While a number of Western journalists have hailed the election as concrete proof that the neo-Nazi label is merely “Russian propaganda” and “fear-mongering”, the reality is that roughly 15-20 percent of the seats in the Rada will be controlled by the fascist forces of Oleh Lyashko (Radical Party) and Oleh Tyahnybok (Svoboda Party), not to mention the Fatherland Party of corrupt oligarch and quasi-fascist Yulia Tymoshenko. In addition, the criminal leader of the Nazi Right Sector organization, Dmitry Yarosh, has been elected to represent the Dnepropetrovsk region in Kiev. Dnepropetrovsk it should be remembered has been transformed from a region of Ukraine into the personal fiefdom of the oligarch Igor Kolomoisky. In effect then, Yarosh, whose Right Sector has at various times acted as a de facto private army for Kolomoisky, becomes the representative of the Kolomoisky power bloc in Kiev, effectively marrying neo-Nazi ideology with oligarch wealth and influence.
Though it may seem a small minority, and that is precisely how the Western media is spinning these results, the truth is that this election represents a significant victory for the ultra-nationalist fascist forces who will now have a platform in Kiev with which to pull Ukrainian politics further to the right, and further in the direction of outright confrontation with Russia. Indeed, this is the aspect of the election results that is being almost entirely ignored in the West where the sound of champagne bottles being uncorked has drowned out the truth; Ukraine’s “politics of the street,” as typified by the February 21st coup instigated by the Right Sector, Svoboda, and other neo-Nazi factions, has now been given the façade of political legitimacy.
It is critical to recall exactly who these individuals are and what they truly stand for. Oleh Lyashko, whose Radical Party received upwards of 8-10 percent of the vote, is a violent criminal whose penchant for brutally beating, kidnapping, and torturing political rivals is well known among analysts who closely monitor Ukrainian politics. In an August 2014 report, Amnesty International documented and condemned Lyashko’s crimes, noting:
He’s called Oleg Lyashko, he is the leader of the pro-Ukrainian Radical Party, Member of the Ukrainian Parliament and former presidential candidate….His website makes for some grim viewing – Oleg Lyashko is shown entering private and public premises, always accompanied by armed men, and subsequently abducting individuals or forcing them to carry out his instructions…. Lyashko is supposed to be a lawmaker, but he has taken the law into his own hands. “Glory to Ukraine, death to the occupiers” is his rallying cry…Though he doesn’t have the right to detain people, he abducts them and abuses them verbally and physically while the camera is rolling. His and other similar websites feature numerous video clips showing what appear to be cases of abduction and violations of the rights to fair trial, liberty and security of the person, and the right not to be subjected to torture and other ill-treatment… Amnesty International regards the actions of Oleg Lyashko and his armed associates as a flagrant violation of international legal standards which clearly state that only competent authorities can arrest or detain people. Despite that, to date, Oleg Lyashko is enjoying complete impunity.
Considering the fact the even Amnesty International, an organization notorious for its pro-Western bias, has condemned the actions of Lyashko and his group as being in violation of international law, it would seem logical that Washington and Brussels should condemn Lyashko and his electoral triumph, but nothing of the kind has happened. Lyashko’s political violence and intimidation has been quietly swept under the rug by the US and its allies because it casts doubt on the myth of “Ukrainian democracy” that Washington and Brussels have been so diligent in cultivating. While the media drones on about “democratic institutions” and the “rule of law” in Ukraine, one of the most popular political figures in the country commits gross violations of international law in the name of “Maidan” and “freedom.”
Also packing his bags and heading to Kiev along with his fascist co-religionist Lyashko, is the rabid Nazi Dmitry Yarosh who himself has a violent, criminal history. Having killed Russians fighting with Al Qaeda-affiliated terror groups in Chechnya, Yarosh boasts a long rap sheet including inciting terrorism, which ultimately led him to be placed on Interpol’s international wanted list. Yarosh has openly called for terrorist actions against Russia and Russian interests in Ukraine and around the world. He has been accused by multiple sources of being responsible for numerous murders, not to mention his ultimate responsibility for the crimes committed by his organization Right Sector on the streets of Kiev on February 21st and the days of the coup that followed. In addition, investigations into the Odessa Massacre of May 2nd, in which dozens of anti-Kiev activists were murdered by Right Sector thugs in the Trade Unions building which was deliberately set ablaze, have shown that it was Yarosh’s organization which was directly responsible for the war crime. Ultimately, blame for the incident should be laid at the feet of the organization’s leadership, and one Mr. Dmitry Yarosh. Or, should I say, MP Dmitry Yarosh now?
Another important figure emerging on the national stage in Ukraine is Andriy Sadovyi, mayor of the western city of Lviv, and leader of the Samopomich (“Self Help”) party. Not only has he presided over an overtly racist, anti-Semitic administration in Lviv, where monuments to the Nazi collaborator Bandera are numerous and tourists are treated to guided tours illustrating the heroism of Ukraine’s Nazi “nationalists” (while conveniently leaving out any reference to the Holocaust), but Sadovyi is also one of the principal purveyors and beneficiaries of political violence perpetrated by fascist forces loyal to him. Specifically, Sadovyi is closely associated with his friend and collaborator Semen Semchenko, founder of the neo-Nazi militia calling itself the “Donbass Battalion.”
This alliance speaks volumes about both Sadovyi’s true politics which, despite his denials, can be regarded as fascist, and his street power, which is considerable given the guns-for-hire nature of the Nazi militias. Sadovyi becoming a prominent politician on the national stage certainly increases the likelihood of a violent confrontation in the halls of government in Kiev. In fact, it was Semenchenko who openly threatened President Poroshenko, calling him a “traitor,” and threatening to force Poroshenko to run for his life if he dares try to make peace with the anti-Kiev resistance in Donetsk and Lugansk.
The factions represented by these individuals, to say nothing of the Nazi Oleh Tyahnybok ‘s Svoboda Party and Tymoshenko’s Fatherland Party, have been transformed from isolated extremists to a powerful voting bloc that will need to be appeased by President Poroshenko, if he is to have any hope of remaining in power beyond the near-term. In this way, the radical minority, which still maintains to a large degree a monopoly of force on the ground, becomes a part of the ruling majority. In effect, the oligarch-led coalition will need to defend itself from the right by moving more to the right. Certainly, this does not bode well for the people of Ukraine who face the prospect of a long and cold winter with nothing to warm them but platitudes about “Ukraine’s glory” and memories of Bandera.
Washington’s Shameless Hypocrisy
Within hours of the preliminary results of Ukraine’s election being released, the Obama administration released a statement congratulating Ukraine for “successful” elections. Of course, it remains an open question as to what exactly made it so successful, other than the outcome being in line with Washington’s wishes. In a statement issued on the official White House website, President Obama stated:
I congratulate the people of Ukraine on holding successful parliamentary elections on October 26. Despite a challenging security environment in certain regions, millions of Ukrainians turned out across the country to cast their ballots in an orderly and peaceful manner. I commend the Government of Ukraine for the conduct of the campaign and election day vote, which international monitoring organizations assess to have been largely in line with international standards…It is clear that Russian authorities occupying Crimea and Russian-backed separatists in parts of eastern Ukraine prevented many Ukrainian citizens from exercising their democratic rights to participate in national elections and cast their votes. Yesterday’s parliamentary vote represents another important milestone in Ukraine’s democratic development. We look forward to the convening of the new parliament and the quick formation of a strong, inclusive government… The United States stands ready to support the choices of the Ukrainian people and Ukraine’s new government as it enacts and implements the reforms necessary to promote further democratic development, strengthen the rule of law, and foster economic stability and growth in Ukraine.
A statement as replete with inaccuracies and distortions as that issued by the White House deserves a close reading and scrutiny. First of all, Obama’s words purposely obscure the fact that it wasn’t the so called “Russian authorities” and “Russian-backed separatists” that prevented many Ukrainian citizens from exercising their democratic rights to participate in elections; it was the Kiev regime itself through a number of means. One should recall that violence, intimidation, and torture, not to mention legislative attacks, harassment by police, and many other nefarious tactics were all used to destroy and de facto outlaw the Ukrainian Communist Party, one of the most politically powerful and popular parties. Deputies have been kidnapped, beaten, and tortured, with many members of the party having been purged from their democratically elected positions in Kiev. In effect, both the Communist Party and the Party of Regions (former President Yanukovich’s party) have been suppressed by force, thereby invalidating the assertion that these elections were “in line with international standards.” In fact, were such a farcical election campaign to take place in a country not backed financially and politically by the West, it likely would have been regarded as invalid.
Secondly, that Obama would congratulate the Kiev authorities “for the conduct of the campaign” shows the complete disregard Obama and the Washington elites have for true democratic principles and the rule of law. In fact, the election campaign was filled with violence and intimidation that effectively shut out a number of individuals and parties from contention. More than a few times, Ukrainian politicians who for various reasons had run afoul of the Right Sector Nazis and other fascist factions, had been dumped into trash bins, beaten, and otherwise publicly humiliated. Naturally, such political violence is not in keeping with international standards, no matter what the US President has to say about it.
These and other documented instances of political violence and intimidation certainly call into question the validity of the conclusions of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Kent Harstedt, leader of the OSCE observation mission, noted that Ukraine held “consolidate, democratic elections in line with its international commitments…The campaign was competitive and visible, although, we also noted intimidation and threats against candidates and workers…[The elections were] an ample contested election that offered voters real choice and a general respect for fundamental freedoms.” Although the OSCE’s rhetoric demonstrates all the hallmarks of a democratic process, in reality the OSCE is doing yeoman’s work for Kiev, omitting key aspects of the campaign that would serve to invalidate it in the eyes of an objective international audience.
The OSCE described the election as “offering voters real choice and a general respect for fundamental freedoms.” However, what the OSCE left out is the fact that both Kiev and its fascist paramilitaries effectively destroyed and or outlawed both the Communist Party and Party of Regions, two of the most popular parties in the country, both particularly popular among working class people in the East of the country. Essentially then, the OSCE epitomized the western double standard – democracy and choice are only important so long as that choice conforms to the West’s political agenda.
In addition, what exactly are “international commitments”? This is yet another linguistic evasion designed to obscure the fact that Ukraine’s election grossly violated international law which governs the conduct of elections and the rights afforded to all citizens. If, for instance, you are a factory worker in Donetsk, or a coal miner in Lugansk, you were forced to choose between corrupt oligarchs who will put you out of work by selling national assets to foreign multinationals, or right wing extremists who see you as a “Moskal” deserving of little more than a bullet to the head. And this is a “real choice”?
The White House’s statement also mentioned the “reforms necessary to promote further democratic development, strengthen the rule of law, and foster economic stability and growth in Ukraine.” Keen political observers would do well to note the subtext implicit in that statement. What Washington is actually rejoicing over is the fact that the brutal austerity prescribed by Brussels will move ahead with a compliant oligarch-neoliberal government firmly in place, legitimized by these elections. In addition, the “democratic development” the White House refers to is little more than a euphemism for a puppet government amenable to Washington’s agenda, one whose loyalty to the US and Europe, and antipathy toward Russia, is beyond doubt. Essentially, the White House has capitalized on Ukraine’s elections as a means of moving forward their agenda for Ukraine in the coming months, an agenda that includes driving down wages and living standards, slashing social services and pensions, and consolidating all power in the hands of corrupt Western puppet oligarchs. Indeed, one can see why Obama and his European allies are overjoyed.
Although the winners of Ukraine’s parliamentary elections are not yet official, the ultimate losers are clearly the Ukrainian people. Given an election between corrupt oligarchs and raving Nazi lunatics, Ukrainians have opted in large numbers for the former, while the latter continue to grow in strength. The people of Ukraine were given the ultimate Hobson’s Choice, and they made it, choosing the path of oligarch rule and austerity in hopes of some mythical Euro-integration. In the meantime, the people of Donetsk and Lugansk continue to be killed by the Kiev regime’s military amid a so called “fair” election that saw no participation from major swaths of the country.
While the East remains a literal war zone, Kiev will soon become a political war zone as Nazis and oligarchs will inevitably clash over the future course of the country. It is quite likely that the new government itself will collapse before it ever gets going. Soon, Right Sector and other Nazi thugs will once again parade through the streets of Kiev chanting slogans and instigating violence, calling for yet another violent putsch. Perhaps only then will Western media and politicians finally realize the chaos they have wrought in Ukraine.
Eric Draitser is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City, he is the founder of StopImperialism.org and OP-ed columnist for RT, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.