Sunday, March 20, 2022

REPORT: Russia Has Empowered Neo-Nazi Factions in Zelensky's Army

There's some debate over this here, and I'm sure lots more on Twitter and elsewhere.

Nazis in the Ukraine army? This is way beyond my knowledge. I'll keep my eyes peeled for more on this. 

At UnHerd, "The truth about Ukraine’s far-Right militias":

Like any war, but perhaps more than most, the war in Ukraine has seen a bewildering barrage of claims and counter-claims made by the online supporters of each side. Truth, partial truths and outright lies compete for dominance in the media narrative. Vladimir Putin’s claim that Russia invaded Ukraine to “de-Nazify” the country is surely one of the clearest examples. The Russian claim that the Maidan revolution of 2014 was a “fascist coup” and that Ukraine is a Nazi state has been used for years by Putin and his supporters to justify his occupation of Crimea and support for Russian-speaking separatists in the country’s east, winning many online adherents.

But the Russian claim is false: Ukraine is a genuine liberal-democratic state, though an imperfect one, with free elections that produce significant changes of power, including the election, in 2019, of the liberal-populist reformer, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Ukraine is, unequivocally, not a Nazi state: the Russian casus belli is a lie. And yet, there is a danger that the understandable desire by Ukrainian and Western commentators not to provide ammunition for Russian propaganda has led to an over-correction — and one that may not ultimately serve Ukraine’s best interests.

During one recent news bulletin on BBC Radio 4, the correspondent referred to “Putin’s baseless claim that the Ukrainian state supports Nazis”. This is, itself, disinformation: it is an observable fact, which the BBC itself has previously reported on accurately and well, that the Ukrainian state has, since 2014, provided funding, weapons and other forms of support to extreme Right-wing militias, including neo-Nazi ones. This is not a new or controversial observation. Back in 2019, I spent time in Ukraine interviewing senior figures in the constellation of state-backed extreme Right-wing groups for Harper’s magazine; they were all quite open about their ideology and plans for the future.

Indeed, some of the best coverage of Ukraine’s extreme Right-wing groups has come from the open-source intelligence outlet Bellingcat, which is not known for a favourable attitude towards Russian propaganda. Bellingcat’s excellent reporting of this under-discussed topic over the past few years has largely focused on the Azov movement, Ukraine’s most powerful extreme Right-wing group, and the one most favoured by the state’s largesse.

Over the past few years, Bellingcat researchers have explored Azov’s outreach effort to American white nationalists and its funding by the Ukrainian state to teach “patriotic education” and to support demobilised veterans; it has looked into Azov’s hosting of neo-Nazi black metal music festivals, and its support of the exiled, anti-Putin Russian neo-Nazi group Wotanjugend — practitioners of a very marginal form of esoteric Nazism, who share space with Azov in their Kyiv headquarters, fight alongside them in the front line, and have also played a role translating and disseminating a Russian-language version of the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto. Unfortunately, Bellingcat’s invaluable coverage of Ukraine’s extreme-Right ecosystem has not been updated since the current hostilities began, despite the war with Russia providing these groups with something of a renaissance...

Keep reading.