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The truth about Ukraine’s far-Right militias Russia has empowered dangerous factions

Torch-bearing Azov fighters. Credit: Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty


June 1, 2022   8 mins

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.

The Azov movement was founded in 2014 by Andriy Biletsky, former leader of the Ukrainian neo-Nazi group Patriot of Ukraine, during the battle for control of Kyiv’s central Independence Square during the Maidan Revolution against the country’s Russia-leaning, elected president Viktor Yanukovych. Back in 2010, Biletsky claimed that it would one day be Ukraine’s role to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade
 against Semite-led untermenschen“. The revolution, and the war which followed, would give him the national stage for which he had so long craved.

Alongside other far-Right groups, such as Right Sector, the nascent Azov movement played an outside role in the fighting against Ukrainian security police which left 121 dead and secured the success of the revolution. Acquiring control of a large property, just off Independence Square, from the Ministry of Defence, Azov turned the building, now named Cossack House, into its Kyiv headquarters and recruiting centre. Though Azov has since toned down its rhetoric, and many of its fighters may be non-ideological and simply attracted by its martial reputation, its activists are often to be seen covered in tattoos of SS totenkopfs and lightning bolt runes, or sporting the Sonnenrad or Black Sun symbol of esoteric Nazism. Derived from a pattern created for Himmler at Wewelsburg castle in Germany, chosen as an occultic Camelot for senior SS officers, the Sonnenrad is like the Wolfsangel rune of the SS Das Reich division one of Azov’s official symbols, worn on their unit patches and on the shields behind which their fighters parade in evocative torchlit ceremonies.

I’ve visited Cossack House multiple times to interview senior Azov figures, including the leader of its National Militia (which provides auxiliary patrolling muscle to Ukraine’s official police force), Ihor Mikhailenko, and Azov’s International Secretary and intellectual linchpin, Olena Semenyaka. It’s an impressive setup: along with classrooms for the educational lectures they provide with state funding, Cossack House is home to Azov’s literary salon and publishing house, Plomin, where glamorous young hipster intellectuals busy themselves with organising Right-wing seminars and book translations, beneath glossy posters of fascist luminaries such as Yukio Mishima, Cornelius Codreanu, and Julius Evola.

But Azov’s power derives from the gun, not their literary efforts. Back in 2014, when the Ukrainian army was weak and underequipped, Azov volunteers under Biletsky’s leadership fought at the vanguard of the battle against Russian-speaking separatists in the east, reconquering the city of Mariupol, where they are currently under siege. Effective, courageous and highly ideological fighters, Azov’s efforts in the east won them great renown as defenders of the nation, and the support of a grateful Ukrainian state, which incorporated Azov as an official regiment of Ukraine’s National Guard. In this, Azov is believed to have enjoyed the support of Arsen Avakov, a powerful oligarch and Ukraine’s Interior Minister between 2014 and 2019. 

Both Ukrainian human rights activists and leaders of rival extreme Right-wing groups have complained to me, in interviews, about the unfair advantage Avakov’s patronage gave the Azov movement in establishing its dominant role in Ukraine’s Rightwing sphere — including official functions as election observers and state-sanctioned auxiliary police. Ukraine is not a Nazi state, but the Ukrainian state’s support — for whatever reasons, valid or otherwise — of neo-Nazi or Nazi-aligned groups makes the country an outlier in Europe. The continent has many extreme Right-wing groups, but only in Ukraine do they possess their own tank and artillery units, with the state’s support.

This awkwardly close relationship between a liberal-democratic state supported by the West and armed proponents of a very different ideology has caused some discomfort in the past for Ukraine’s Western backers. The US Congress has gone back and forth in recent years on whether Azov should be blocked from receiving American arms shipments, with Democrat lawmakers even urging in 2019 that Azov be listed as a global terrorist organisation. In interviews, Semenyaka complained to me that this unease was a result of their listening to Russian propaganda, and insisted that American cooperation with Azov would be beneficial for both parties.

In this, the current war has surely come as a blessed relief for Azov. Biletsky’s attempt to found a political party — the National Corps — met with almost zero success, with even a united bloc of Ukraine’s far- and extreme Right-wing parties failing to clear the very low hurdle for parliamentary representation in the last election: Ukrainian voters simply do not want what they are selling, and reject their worldview. Yet in time of war, Azov and similar groups come to the forefront, with the Russian invasion seemingly reversing the downward spiral that set in for them following Avakov’s resignation due to international pressure. Judging by their social media, Azov’s armed units are expanding: they’re forming new battalions in Kharkiv and Dnipro, a new special forces unit in Kyiv (where Biletsky is organising at least some aspects of the capital’s defence) and local defence militias in western cities such as Ivano-Frankivsk.

Along with other extreme Right-wing groups such as Karpatska Sich (whose militancy against Western Ukraine’s Hungarian-speaking minority, including Roma, has drawn criticism from the Hungarian government), the Eastern Orthodox group Tradition and Order, the neo-Nazi group C14, and the extreme Right-wing militia Freikorps, the Russian invasion has allowed Azov to restore its earlier prominence, burnishing its heroic reputation with its dogged defence of Mariupol alongside regular Ukrainian marines. While just a few weeks ago there was still a concerted Western effort to not directly arm Azov, now they seem to be a prime beneficiary of Western munitions and training: these pictures tweeted by the Belarusian opposition outlet NEXTA show Azov fighters being instructed in the use of British-made NLAW anti-tank munitions by blurred-out trainers. 

Similarly, until the Russian invasion, Western governments and news outlets frequently warned of the dangers of Western neo-Nazis and white supremacists gaining combat experience fighting alongside Azov and their allied Nazi subfactions. Yet in the heat of the moment, these concerns seem to have dissipated: a recent photograph of newly-arrived Western volunteers, including Britons, in Kyiv shows Azov’s Olena Semenyaka smiling happily in the background, alongside the Swedish neo-Nazi and former Azov sniper Mikael Skillt. Indeed, Misanthropic Division, a unit of Western neo-Nazis fighting alongside Azov, is currently advertising on Telegram for European militants to join the flow of volunteers and link up with them in Ukraine, “for victory and Valhalla.”

Like Ukraine’s other extreme Right-wing militias, Azov are dogged, disciplined and committed fighters, which is why the weak Ukrainian state has found itself forced to rely upon their muscle during its hours of greatest need: during the Maidan revolution, during the war against separatists from 2014 onwards, and now to fend off the Russian invasion. There has been a certain new-found reticence abroad to speak frankly about their role, no doubt for fear that doing so will provide ammunition for Russian propaganda. This fear is surely misplaced: after all, groups such as Azov are only prominent precisely because of Russia’s meddling in Ukraine. Instead of de-Nazifying the country, Russian aggression has helped solidify the role and presence of extreme Right-wing factions in Ukraine’s military, reinvigorating a waning political force rejected by the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians.

If anything, the primary threat posed by groups such as Azov is not to the Russian state — Russia happily supports extreme Right-wing elements in its Wagner mercenary group and in the separatist republics, after all — nor to Western nations whose disaffected citizens may find themselves drawn to a combat role alongside them. Instead, the threat is to the future stability of the Ukrainian state itself, as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have long warned. While they may be useful now, in the event of the decapitation or evacuation of Ukraine’s liberal government from Kyiv, perhaps to Poland or Lviv, or more likely, in the event of Zelenskyy being forced by events to sign a peace deal surrendering Ukrainian territory, groups like Azov may find a golden opportunity to challenge what remains of the state and consolidate their own power bases, even if only locally.

Back in 2019, I asked Semenyaka if Azov still saw itself as a revolutionary movement. Thinking carefully, she replied, “We are ready for different scenarios. If Zelenskyy is even worse than [ex-president] Poroshenko, if he is the same kind of populist, but without certain skills, connections and background, then, of course, Ukrainians would be heavily in danger. And we have already developed a plan of what can be done, how we can develop parallel state structures, how we can customise these entry strategies to save the Ukrainian state, if [Zelenskyy] would become a puppet of the Kremlin, for instance. Because it’s quite possible.”

Senior Azov figures have been explicit, over the course of years, in stating that Ukraine has unique potential as a springboard for the “reconquest” of Europe from liberals, homosexuals and immigrants. While their broader contintental ambitions may have a very doubtful chance of success, a broken, impoverished and angry postwar Ukraine, or worse, a Ukraine suffering years of bombardment and occupation with large areas outside central government control, would surely be a fertile breeding ground for a form of extreme Right-wing militancy not seen in Europe for many decades. 

Right now, Ukraine and Zelenskyy may well need the military capabilities and ideological zeal of nationalist and extreme Right-wing militias simply to fight and win their battle for national survival. But when the war ends, both Zelenskyy and his Western backers must be very careful to ensure that they have not empowered groups whose goals are in direct conflict with the liberal-democratic norms they both pledge adherence to. Arming and funding Azov, Tradition and Order and Karpatska Sich may well be one of the hard choices forced by war, but disarming them must surely be a priority when the war ends. 

As we have seen in Syria, there is nothing that radicalises a civilian population more than dispossession, bombing and bombardment. Just as in Syria, there is surely a danger that temporarily empowering extremist factions for their military utility, even indirectly, may have grave and unintended consequences. And in Syria, too, there were strong early taboos among Western commentators in discussing the rise of extremist militias that would later cannibalise the rebel cause, for fear of validating Assad’s propaganda that the rebels were all terrorists: this early reticence did not, in the end, work in the rebels’ favour. 

It is not doing Putin’s work for him to observe frankly that there are extremist elements fighting against him in Ukraine: indeed, it is only by carefully monitoring — and perhaps, curtailing — their activities now, that we can ensure they will not deepen Ukraine’s misery in the years to come. For years, liberal Western commentators complained that the Ukrainian state was turning a blind eye to its Right-wing extremist factions: it serves no good purpose for the same commentators to now do the same thing themselves.


Aris Roussinos is an UnHerd columnist and a former war reporter.

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Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago

Thanks Aris – just the sort of informed and intelligent article I don’t find elsewhere.

Stephen Wood
Stephen Wood
2 years ago

Agreed UnHerd has easily been the best thing to read throughout this dreadful war. Good to find something that understands complexity, nuance and doesn’t insult its readers’ intelligence.

Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
2 years ago

This is why I pay my subs to Unherd – although rather miffed that I didn’t get any renewal notice to tell me subs going up. Hmm.
Yes, I find it irritating when news reports mention Putin’s claims to ‘de-N*z*fy’ the country say this is baseless. I realise they can’t go into in-depth explanations every time, but once in a while would help.
What I’ve not seen explained anywhere was Putin saying he would ‘decommunize’ Ukraine. Anyone got an idea what this means? All I think is something to do with Communism (hope that’s NOT censored!)

Max Dunat
Max Dunat
2 years ago
Reply to  Roger Inkpen

My understanding is that this is a reference to to the early Soviet ethnic policy of korenizatsiya, which saw a Moscow-led and tightly controlled “national revival” of Ukrainian language and culture. The communist policy that Ukrainians are a separate national identity suppressed by Russian chauvinism under the czar goes against the current Kremlin line that Ukrainians are merely a type of Russian. The argument is not so much that Ukraine is actively a communist country as it is that the country was invented by them.

Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
2 years ago
Reply to  Max Dunat

Yes – that makes a lot more sense now. Fits in with Putin’s claim about Ukraine merely being an invention by the Bolsheviks.

Riccardo Tomlinson
Riccardo Tomlinson
2 years ago

Disagree. This is a partial, slanted article making out that the Ukrainians brought this invasion on themselves.

1. If Ukraine has right wing elements it’s their own issue. This does not merit a war of terror waged against civilians, which is what is happening.

2. Ukraine after 2014 switched its military doctrine to a model seen in the Baltics and to a lesser extent in NATO elsewhere. It’s decentralised with a big role for Territorials and militias. Police and other groups were armed and given training. This has paid off big time as we can see in the news. That is why Azov etc were supported in what they were doing. And they’re still fighting tooth and nail against the Russians in Mariupol, whatever we think if their politics.

3. Before this invasion, the occupied Donbas had become a lawless enclave run by thieving gangsters. Ukrainians saw this. This is why not just the Ukrainian Nationalists but virtually the whole of Russian-speaking Ukraine was vehemently anti-Putin well before this invasion started.

Has Aris not asked himself why Kharkiv, Mariupol and other Russian speaking cities have fought so hard against the Russians?

Aris Roussinos seems well informed but mostly he’s just dressing up his prejudices. A particular low point was when he blamed those Greek wildfires on the US and Uk. Utter rubbish.

rob monks
rob monks
2 years ago

No I don’t agree. I don’t think the journalist is supporiting the Russian invasion. He is pointing out that these groups although a minority have power. It is a nonsanitized view that’s all.

  1. Most people in Donbas voted for Russia. Oligarchs are all over the country.
Tim Lever
Tim Lever
1 year ago

Delusional, read more than just western media. 14,000 Russian speaking Ukrainians killed by neo Nazis since 2014 – is this an issue or not?

0 0
0 0
1 year ago

Try listening to this interview between James Delingpole and Jacques Baud a Swiss intelligence officer who without taking sides provides all of the information in this article plus a huge amount of background and historical insight.
https://delingpole.podbean.com/e/jacques-baud/

Pete Rogers
Pete Rogers
1 year ago

I am afraid that there is a bit of a problem here.
Not least that all parties unless they be Nazi are banned in Ukraine.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mi859Bbcw8E
It doesn’t make sense to argue that Ukraine is in reality a liberal democracy more like us than a Nazi State unless you can show me where in Liberal Democracies only Nazi Parties are permitted and Liberal Denocracies that have allowed their Nazi Parties to raise and maintain Paramilitary wings and used them in a coups d’etats and as crack troops when the Liberal Democracy goes to war.
All of that indicates a Nazi State doesn’t it? The oppposite of a Liberal Democracy
The Ukrainian security Police the SBU were proscribed by the West until recently because they made people disappear. Liberal Democracy like us?
Ukraine was known to be the most corrupt country in Europe to the extent that before deciding they were heroes by policy change Europe had refused to deal with it for its criminality, most particularly Germany. Liberal Democracy?
The corruption of the heroic Zelensks is eye-watering if you looked at the Pandora Papers, but there has been no investigation even though it is illegal in Liberal democracies fro Presidents etc, to hide funds in Tax havens. Liberal Democracy?
The writing was on the wall once Stepan Bandera was raised to the status of National Hero, since apart from enthusiastic Holocaust activity his principal policy was the extermination of Russophone Ukrainians and Russians in general for that matter.
By the time the Nazis forced parliament to remove Russian as one of the 2 national languages the building dangers were clear as they had created 1st and 2nd class races by doing that. Liberal Democracy?
The Donbas was attacked thereafter for having declared autonomy from a coup d’etat, who wouldn’t if that coup, sorry -Liberal Democracy? – was deeply hostile to the population?
Russia intervened when Zelensky ordered intensification of the 8 year War with Donbas thereby signalling worse danger.
What alternative did they have to intervening if calamity at the hands of this Nazi Liberal Democracy was to be averted?
The West were happy to watch this instead of restraining this Nazism and they successfully characterised the Russian Intervention as the start of a war against a United Ukraine even though it was 8 years old by then and disunity could not have been further away.
We are lied to all the time about the reasons for war.
Can anyone give me a satisfactory reason for what we did in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia etc.? Many more than 1m deathds on our hands and no attempt to hold power to account, in fact we destroyed those who tried
What have the Russians done that can hold a candle to any of that and what did we do when news of mass atrocities was publishen in the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs by Wikileaks?
We destroyed the Publisher and his source in such a vicious manner that the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture said Assange was suffering all the time nder conditions that fit the definition of torture – but hey! Whats a UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to us eh even though we chose him for the job?
When you are at the top of the pile nobody can bring you to justice.
Something is dreadfully wrong, much moreso amongst us than the Russians. At least they had a real reason to intervene instead of making one upi eh?
Perhaps our Liberal Democracies have become more like Ukraine eh?

peter pan
peter pan
1 year ago

What a load of crap , you go to any football match over there you’ll see the nazi SS Galician flag everywhere draped all over every stadium , during the World Cup 2016 the national side asked EUFA could they wear the SS-Galician badge on their shirts , poor Ukraine the leftist would have you believe well I know know differently go look at the photos!!

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
2 years ago

Thank you Aris, I was totally ignorant of the existence of such rightwing nationalist groups in Ukraine until you raised it. And it’s a credit to yourself and Unherd that it was raised – such insight and honest appraisal without mindless tribal conformity, is precisely why I read your articles, and why I primarily use Unherd these days as a place to gain new understanding on topics and to challenge existing beliefs.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

I agree and it gives context to why Putin accused Ukraine of the N word. The four letter word that begins with n and ends with i and contains a z. My comment was censored – I think because of this word – and I have written a letter to enquire why.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago

Interesting because 2 comments of mine, one from last night and another from this morning were totally disappeared. Yet the word appears in every other sentence in the above article. Very weird.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

[email protected] – you must report it to them.

Tim Lever
Tim Lever
1 year ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

I’m sure I’ve commented on this as well and can’t see my comments any more.

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
2 years ago

They need to improve their monitoring algorithms so that if the word appears in the main article it isn’t penalised when repeated in the comments. I suspect, however, that they are using one of the “black box” solutions, which will likely have little nuance.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

I’ve had this discussion with them. And so what if that word doesn’t appear in the article? It is ludicrous.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago

The issue of moderation is one that I feel is eminently suitable to be addressed in an article by Freddie Sayers, who I take to be someone who would wish to support free comment on the website subject to the constraints of the guidelines. The problem seems to lie partially in the basic nature of the algorithm based automatic moderation system that finds the German National Socialist party acceptable but not the short form commonly used as abuse. Similarly homosapiens is acceptable but not if the word is split. I don’t know if the automatic program can be tweaked to distinguish between abuse leading to flame wars or whether Unherd are stuck with it because of cost constraints in which case perhaps a list of banned words might assist in composing comments to avoid unintended offence and consequent annoyance at comment being vaporised.
The other problem is the interpretation of the provision in the Guidelines against upsetting anyone, which gives great leeway for a moderator to remove comment that might be perfectly true and accurate but which one of their authors or the moderator finds “upsetting”. This is a classic free speech issue that I would appreciate hearing Freddie’s views on.
The problem with describing a movement as far right is that it is hard to know if those supporting it are a bit socially conservative and patriotic or a bunch of outright thugs intent on murder and mayhem or something in between.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Write to them please
. And ask for an answer.

Leto McAllister
Leto McAllister
2 years ago

A good, well informed article, finally. Thank you! As if these facts were previously unknown or nowhere to be found (oh, wait, they were nowhere to be found thanks to the kind limits set on the information we should be exposed to in the face of Evil).
Although it starts with the usual, “obviously, Ukraine is a liberal democratic state”. It is like an ideological mantra, one has proclaim before being allowed to move on to discssing the subject.
I have heard from people who had lived in the Soviet Union as adults that a similar type of blanket intro on the subject of Marxism-Leninism had to be a pre-requisite of any article, research paper or publication. The following text (after 1960s roughly) could be as polemical as desired, but you had to have that first paragraph right.

Last edited 2 years ago by Leto McAllister
Julian Pellatt
Julian Pellatt
2 years ago

Well said, Hayden. Generally, Unherd is a source of balanced reporting – something to value in a world where mainstream media have lost their moral authority.

Tim Lever
Tim Lever
1 year ago

You didn’t know?!?! Even though it was one of the two reasons the Russians said they invaded? Maybe there’s been some under reporting of Russian motives for the last 100 days or even 8 years.

Steve Roberts
Steve Roberts
2 years ago

There needs more care taken here, because the western elites are justifying their interventions,indeed further war mongering -‘which are directly reducing the possibility of a peace – by stating this is a war for freedom and democracy. There type of course, simply writing that Ukraine is a genuine liberal democracy does not make it so. Democracy has a habit of meaning all things to all men and all classes, reducing it to a definition because there.are elections is extremely insufficient, especially regards the democratic state itself. A state very reliant on western and other support in most matter. Its not quite a failed state but a liberal democracy ?.And what does that mean in the reality of geo politics today. Its certainly incapable of survival on its own, politically divided, unable for 8 years to resolve a conflict in its East,riven by corruption and oligarchs and an economic basket case. To shout” defend national sovereignty, freedom and democracy ” as some are that leads to war fever and slaughter needs more objectivity and thought not militaristic dogma. We need to pursue a peace not a war, this is real not an abstract game or debate.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Roberts

But it is a war for freedom and democracy. I recognise a genuine liberal democracy in Ukraine, albeit under strain for many years, and from a standing start in 1991.
In contrast, in Russia, I see a dictatorship; not nearly as bad as many there have been, but steadily drawing further and further away from being a liberal democracy. Many dictatorships don’t start as such, but find that once started on that course, they almost always get progressively worse.

Last edited 2 years ago by Colin Elliott
Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
2 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

That usually happens when the leader has been in power for too long.

Kevin Carroll
Kevin Carroll
2 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

Tiwain is case in point when It comes to liberal democracies it started out in the 1950s 60s 70s as a nationalist dictatorship.But progressed into the most liberal democracy in Asia. and yet no country isn’t recognise as an independent sovereign state by many countries. This is because the West has appeased China. Russia is a nationalist dictatorship with economic and and cultural ties with the West I have yet to see a communist regime becoming democratic without blood shed . This was the hope of the West. But now it has clearly failed and China and Russia the formed an alliance western Political scientists we’ll look back on this as the the biggest political mistake the West has ever made.. That’s if we survive.

Ian nclfuzzy
Ian nclfuzzy
2 years ago

I hesitate to comment on an area that Aris obviously knows very well, but the article seems a bit confused in its conclusions.
It seems to be saying that without the invasion, these Nazis were quiescent and not really a force at all in Ukrainian life. So it’s Putins fault they are now ascendant.
Many Russians would profoundly disagree with this conclusion, when they have seen Azov up close and personal committing atrocities in the Donbas and seemingly uncontrolled by the Ukrainian state.
And the article itself points out the multiple ways that the extreme Right is and has been a major force in Ukraine for many years.
This being said however, bravo yet again Aris, for recognising that Putins call for the “deNazification” of Ukraine wasn’t simply some fever-dream from a nut-job. He has good cause to call for it, notwithstanding all the Western wine moms who don’t want to have to deal with anything other than a black and white narrative.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian nclfuzzy

Well stated. It will be very interesting to observe the outcome some day in the future, when the nationalists in the newly free and “democratic” Ukraine enact laws that prohibit anything the LGTBQ+ currently advocates for. Those wine moms will surely clutch their pearls at that moment and wonder why Trump didn’t do anything about it.

Malvin Marombedza
Malvin Marombedza
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian nclfuzzy

I have to disagree with your point on Putin’s ”deNazification” drive. The neo-Nazis were just a convenient straw man. Geopolitics was what it was about. Had the neo-Nazis been pro-Kremlin, I doubt he would have invaded. I don’t claim to know Putin and his motivations very well. He might well hate Nazism. But I think he is just apathetic to it. He strikes me as the sort of person who would crush it if it threatens his interests and gladly support it if it furthers them along.

Aidan Trimble
Aidan Trimble
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian nclfuzzy

Yet this ‘extreme right’ that is a ‘major force’ only polled 2% in the last election

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
2 years ago

The flooding of Afghanistan with uncontrolled weapons, arming the most militant groups, was such a success at stopping the Russian invasion we are going to repeat it in Ukraine. Nevermind who they are and what they might do next, we’re only looking ahead as far as giving Russia a bloody nose tomorrow.

The West is so wedded to the principle of borders being sacrosanct it is willing to defend this principle with decades of regional instability, private armies and de facto open borders…

We’ve completely lost sight of the objective, refuse to accept reality, ignore the past mistakes and, clearly, some see some sort of benefit from the now constant creation of displaced peoples heading to Western Europe.

Last edited 2 years ago by Nell Clover
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Following the end of the last war there was an active armed insurgency by Ukrainian nationalists that it took the Soviets until 1955 to put down

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 years ago

Not Polish nationalists protesting against their forcible absorption into the Soviet Union?

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Given the present sanctions on Russia, we may well destabilize the entire country by next year.
Agreed, we should never have ordered Putin to invade Ukraine. A genuine geo-strategic blunder on our part.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

Aiding the defeat of the USSR was a geo-strategic blunder if strategy means timescales longer than the next election. In the 30 years since it helped precipitate the collapse of the USSR, after which the West patted itself on the back and wrote about the end of history, the geo-strategic position of the West has seriously worsened. In terms of military, economic and soft power, the decline of the West has been rapid and largely self-inflicted. The existence of the USSR, and the threat it posed to our elites, kept a rein on excess. You can be certain if the USSR still existed we wouldn’t have blundered into Iraq and destroyed so much soft power capital and we wouldn’t have offshored large chunks of our productive sectors to future rivals like China.

Last edited 2 years ago by Nell Clover
Gayle Rosenthal
Gayle Rosenthal
2 years ago

The Ukrainian people are not buying what Azov is selling. Clearly! They have a largely beloved Jewish president and the lowest poll numbers on anti-semitism in all of Europe. Only 5% of the population polled about Jews negatively. So let’s talk about what the real, modern version of “white supremacy” consists of. It might be better described by Tradition and Order. Hasn’t humanity come to value stability and prosperity and doesn’t tradition and order bring about stability and prosperity ? Race and religion are non-trivial considerations.
The first order of business for Ukraine at the moment is independence. If the “white supremacists” are the ones willing to fight and die for Ukraine, they should have a say in in its outcome. And frankly they seem more interested in throwing off Russian corruption and the destabilizing forces of multiculturalism and Muslim immigration. What’s wrong with that ?

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago

destabilizing forces of multiculturalism and Muslim immigration”?
That outcome might be enough to have sanctions placed against you by the virtuous West.

John Sharkey
John Sharkey
2 years ago
Reply to  Warren T

Yes let’s get back to Deutschland Uber Alles and its variants in other countries…not!

patrick macaskie
patrick macaskie
2 years ago

What I see in Ukraine on the telly are nice sensible people and, rather surprisingly to me, streams of foreign students that are evidently very sad to be leaving ( many Asian and African). This latter aspect doesn’t fit my (probably misguided) Eastern European stereotype, (high unemployment, low incomes and some associated resentment of foreigners).

The disorder Putin is causing patently makes nazification or similar more likely 
.which sits oddly with his claimed causus belli. It would appear from this most interesting piece that the far right is a factor that gains purchase in Ukraine when Putin gets involved and lacks real purchase otherwise (and that the west has strongly encouraged Ukraine to disenfranchise the far right.

Putin hasn’t a leg to stand on
..but the West needs to be acutely aware of what can happen when war creates a vacuum. If Putin fills this vacuum the problem gets more not less intractable.

The past is where you are tempted to go when you have failed and unfortunately the Russian state is too corrupt to think in any other way.

Neven Curlin
Neven Curlin
2 years ago

This is the best article I’ve read from the author on this subject so far, but it still contains the same contradictory incoherence the other articles suffer from. In this case it’s: Yes, Ukraine has a huge problem with extreme nationalism, BUT it’s all Russia’s fault.

It’s entirely logical, of course, once one admits that Ukraine has a problem with extreme nationalism, that Russia wouldn’t want such elements to manage or control NATO weaponry on its borders, with a striking range of under 5 minutes from Moscow. It’s also logical that Russia cannot stand by forever, while Ukrainian extreme nationalists bombard Russian minorities in the east, and enforce policies that deny the rights of said and other minorities.

All this makes perfect sense, and could have been the basis for the EU to prevent the escalation that has now happened. But as we all know: f**k the EU. The USA is pulling all the strings to the advantage of its own industries.

It’s 10 years too late now, but the solution still presents itself clearly: Guarantee that Ukraine will never be part of NATO or the EU, and instead of investing in regime change and extreme nationalism, financial support should go to building up Ukraine’s economy, while everything should be done to build up friendly relations with Russia, which unlike the USA, is a part of Europe, and always has been.

But given that everything is Russia’s fault, Roussinos will probably continue to advocate for more escalation and war. Not as bad as the intellectually inane Patrikarakos, but still. For these journalists, muddled thinking seems to be the only way to reconcile the cognitive dissonance that Western mainstream propaganda fairytales induce.

Last edited 2 years ago by Neven Curlin
William McKinney
William McKinney
2 years ago
Reply to  Neven Curlin

No idea why you’ve been downticked on this – you’re spot on.

John Sharkey
John Sharkey
2 years ago

Couldn’t agree more William…and excellent post. Love the last sentence and this one ” The USA is pulling all the strings to the advantage of its own industries.” I’d change the last word here to military media industrial complex;)

Malvin Marombedza
Malvin Marombedza
2 years ago
Reply to  John Sharkey

At least you included the crucial piece Eisenhower forgot: Media

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago

The comment I posted last night was somehow disappeared and somehow reappeared a few minutes ago after I wrote the comment below!
This is an excellent article which puts a big dose of reality into a very complex situation. My own take with regard to the current war in Ukraine is that there are no good guys and bad guys, just all bad guys. The presence of actual, heavily armed, brigades of neo-N***s, in the form of the Azov brigade and their fellow travelers, represents a potentially very dangerous situation for the future of an independent Ukraine, especially when they possibly represent the fiercest fighters and defenders of Ukraine. Right now they may be electorally negligible, but one has to be careful what one wishes for because it is quite easy, in a country like Ukraine with no long history of democracy, for such groups to eventually come into power, just as Hitler, backed by the brownshirts, did in 1933.

Last edited 2 years ago by Johann Strauss
John Sharkey
John Sharkey
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Johann…thank you for pointing out this exceptionally relevant reference to the way Hitler came to power in Germany. This is should be the subject of an article in the present context.

Aidan Trimble
Aidan Trimble
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Brigades ?? It’s one Brigade.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago

What is truth anymore? If someone believes another is against them, who are we to challenge their viewpoint? If a 6’5″ rugby player with thick thighs and a muscular, hairy chest claims to be a woman, and we are to believe him/her, or else, does anything matter anymore?

William McKinney
William McKinney
2 years ago

While the article is fairly balanced – especially compared to the propaganda spewing out of legacy media – these factions were empowered long before Putin’s invasion. In fact, as they openly brag, without them there would have been no Maidan revolution (more coup) in 2014.

Anyone interested in the Maydan/Maidan should watch Oliver Stone’s documentary “Ukraine on Fire”.

The link’s long so I’ll not type, and I’m not tech savvy enough to copy/paste it, but go to rumble.com and search for Oliver Stone. It’ll pop up immediately. Needless to say it’s been banned from YouTube where it has resided since 2019.

90+ minutes but if you want to understand Putin’s ire – and the extent of US interference and complicity – it’s a must watch. Usual caveats apply of course – healthy scepticism, and Stone does have some form with interpretation, but a lot of it is factual and it’s well put together.

John Sharkey
John Sharkey
2 years ago

YouTube has actually put Ukraine on Fire back up. As you say William an excellent antidote to US/Western propaganda on what is happening in that tragic country. The role that the US agent Victoria Neuland played in organizing (along with $5 billion) the Madian coup is fully laid out there. And it was a coup, not a revolution.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  John Sharkey

I’d generally describe anything if that nature that enjoys the support of the majority of the population as a revolution rather than a coup personally

Mathieu Bernard
Mathieu Bernard
2 years ago

Excellent article, well-researched and clearly articulated. However, I detect a bit of undue alarmism with regard to the existence of these far-right groups. From what I’ve gleaned from other sources, the Azov Battalion numbers between 900-2400 adherents – in a country of 40 million. Perhaps their influence is in greater proportion to the membership count, but can this truly be a cause for concern? In his own canny way, Mr. Putin, aware of the shock value of the N-word, has capitalized on its use, demonized an entire nation and justified military aggression against it. Not too long ago, Justin Trudeau took the same approach to stigmatize a peaceful trucker’s protest, deriding the participants as swastika-waving racists and homophobes, eventually invoking war-time emergency measures to forcibly subdue the so-called “occupation.” And here in the USA, the Department of Homeland Security has recently determined that the most imminent national security threat facing the country are domestic white supremacist terror groups. All of this neo-N*** hysteria must be a source of amusement to the globalist, neo-Marxist Left. While the media and propagandists distract the masses with exaggerated claims of far-right militancy, they surreptitiously continue their long march through our institutions, destabilizing and dismantling Western liberal societies.

Peta Seel
Peta Seel
2 years ago

This is a very thought-provoking essay, but it must always be remembered that you cannot put a cigarette paper between extreme right and extreme left. Both are zealots and commit the same atrocities.

Last edited 2 years ago by Peta Seel
Bob Rowlands
Bob Rowlands
2 years ago

Thank you it’s a perspective I had not fully considered. Whatever the outcome of the war the attraction of some central European countries for young people inclined to escape ‘wokeland’ is likely to increase not diminish over the coming years. It will be fascinating to see where that takes us!

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago

This is a well balanced article in the main. However, it would seem to me that when you have overtly neo-Nazi elements embedded in your armed forces, and it is those elements that are doing most of the fighting and resisting, you have something of a problem that ultimately you won’t be able to control. Just as the brown shirts and Nazi movement ultimately couldn’t be controlled in Germany and led to the rise of Hitler in 1933.
So it would seem to me that it is probably not good idea for Zelinksi and co to make their bed with the Azov brigade and fellow travelers, because ultimately the Azov brigade may end up overthrowing any legitimately elected government.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

More likely, Azov will be in the forefront of guerrilla resistance.
Agreed, we should never have forced Putin to invade.

Malvin Marombedza
Malvin Marombedza
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Zelinski is Jewish. At least that’s what I heard. If he dares sign a peace treaty with the Russians, I find it very probable that these groups will create some sort of conspiracy story to explain it. Something similar to Hitler’s ”stab in the back theory”. If the Ukrainian people don’t like the terms of it, that story will probably be believed, especially by the younger generations.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago

Yes, that’s what I fear.

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

You and other Russian propagandists on this forum can not deny basic fact that it is Putin who acts like Hitler.
It is Putin who invaded another country using claims of protection of Russian minorities.
Just like Hitler did in 1938/39 with Czechoslovakia.
So inventing some “brown shirts” scenarios for the future, when Ukraine is fighting for freedom against Russian aggression now, is not changing reality of the situation.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew F

If you don’t want to follow nuanced discussions on the complexity of issues, then you are in the wrong forum.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

Good to have an explanation on the Nazism accusations made against Ukraine. I found this a very interesting and well written article.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

“Like Ukraine’s other extreme Right-wing militias, Azov are dogged, disciplined and committed fighters, which is why the weak Ukrainian state has found itself forced to rely upon their muscle during its hours of greatest need”
You do not do a deal with the devil then ask him to turn in gun when the fighting stops. If militas like Azov are prove to b more effective than the Ukrainian army their power and prestige at home is only likely to increase and they will demand and get a seat at the table.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago

That only happens in the real world. We don’t live in a real world anymore. We live in a techno-cyberspace, where we are told what to believe.

George Kushner
George Kushner
2 years ago

Wow, I suspected there was at least something behind Putin’s claims but never trusted other sources. That’s why I subscribed to unheard

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago

Unfortunately, Putin has acted against Ukrainian national sentiment, so it’s unsurprising it empowers nationalist belief. He should know, because he exploits the same sentiments in Russia, and tries to do the same in the east of Ukraine.
It was his decision to attempt the destruction of the democratic government of another country, which may in due course create chaos. He hopes to exploit that, too, but so do others, and other wars in other times have tended to have the same effect.
I don’t see that the Ukrainian government has much choice in this, will surely not start an internal struggle with their own nationalists when they have a bigger one with their neighbour’s.
It’s a case of supporting the lesser evil. In the last war, we supported many communist partisans, who duly used their armaments in attacking political opponents, sometimes not even waiting until war’s end.

Last edited 2 years ago by Colin Elliott
R Wright
R Wright
2 years ago

If liberal Ukraine deserves to survive, then it should have no trouble with restraining these groups.

Leto McAllister
Leto McAllister
2 years ago
Reply to  R Wright

“Liberal Ukraine” restraining these groups?
As it has done so well so far by state funding, state funded media and cultural support to the Azov batallion and the like.
Following the bloody events of the 2014, has the democratic Ukrainian state looked back at the atrocities committed by the militants and prosecuted those guilty of hate crimes, torture, rape and killing irrespective of whether they came in the support of the new president?
No, they did not, and it was well known to the West as well as to Russia.
Minsk agreement was a completely fine compromise that respected Ukrainian borders as well as offered the regions some agency in the form of a federative structure. Yet the Ukrainian side absolutely refused to abide. France did a sterling job helping shape the agreement, while Britain, well. The best that can be said about us, we were too busy Brexiting. The worst is that we were actively pitting Ukraine against Russia, aiming to prevent any kind of peaceful compromise.
Now we show remarkable concern for the wellbeing of the Ukrainian state, though it would have taken far less effort to put a bit of pressure on the Ukrainian government to follow the agreement. If Donbas enjoyed similar rights within Ukraine to those enjoyed by Scotland within the UK, would that be such a bad thing for the country?

Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
2 years ago

I’ve got a lot of time for the idea that the Donbass should be give a free vote for independence, or autonomy within Ukraine. But the Minsk agreements give them a veto over national issues – i.e. they could over-rule Ukraine joining Nato or the EU.
Note there is nothing special about the level of autonomy of Scotland within the UK. The German states have far more freedom but also responsibility e.g. for taxes.

John Sharkey
John Sharkey
2 years ago

Good point! But to add…it was the US that stopped the Minsk accords from being implemented every time it was tried. The US has no interest in stopping the war and never has. Demonizing and destablizing Russia has always been its prime objective…witness US missiles in Romania and Poland.

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago
Reply to  John Sharkey

USA missiles are in Poland and Romania at the request of these countries governments.
Like membership of NATO completely justified by centuries of Russian aggression and occupation.
Strange how all the countries which escapes clutches of Russian bear wanted to join NATO at first opportunity?
Unlike some people here, they know history as it is and not as presented by Russian propaganda.

m. clark
m. clark
2 years ago

“Ukraine is a genuine liberal-democratic state, though an imperfect one, with free elections”. disgusting outright lie. how do you have a “genuine liberal-democratic state” when it was created as a result of a u.s. backed and funded coup? and don’t dare claim that it wasn’t because any moron can clearly see that a coup did in fact occur. there is a massive amount of evidence that 5 billion dollars was spent by the cia and state department to orchestrate the removal of a democratically elected president that favored a relationship with russia more than one with europe and the west. that fascist cow victoria nuland is even on tape talking about the money spent and who the u.s. favored to run the country after yanukovych. there were several independent election monitors watching the election, three of whom conducted exit polling and said that yanukovych and his party of regions was a clear winner in an above board and fair election. yet the u.s. and europe true to their typical strategy claimed the election was rigged and unfair. the same as they do in latin america when someone they don’t like wins an election. when ethnic russians in the donbas area refused to go along with this coup the nazis and ukrainian military began an eight year ethnic cleansing campaign. they murdered 14,000 men, women, and children because these people refused to be ruled by an illegal fascist government. and don’t give me that god damned crap about the clown that thinks he’s the president of ukraine being jewish. when the death camps were liberated after ww2 it was discovered that 70,000 jews collaborated with the nazis as camp and ghetto policemen called kapos. some of the more famous ones sent their own families to the death camps. they robbed, raped, and murdered jews in the camps. there were many that were sent to their just reward in revenge killings after being freed from the camps and a couple were sentenced to death by jewish courts. although one was overturned when they realized the publicity was bad for the “jewish image”. so don’t tell me that because he’s jewish he is above reproach. and where do you get off calling nazis “Effective, courageous and highly ideological fighters”? they are far from “courageous”, they have been hiding behind human shields since the start of the civil war, they’ve shot women and children in the back and legs as they tried to flee or even go out of their prisons for water. these are pure rabid animals and deserve to be treated as one. the are also definitely not “effective” they’ve lost every city and village they have tried to hang on to. how’s that effectiveness doing in mariupol? roussinos, it’s obvious that you are a tool with no thoughts of your own. you serve a master and willingly provide a service like every other western so called “journalist” working for corporate media. doubtful you’ll ever see this, just hoping that maybe a seed will be planted that will influence someone to dig a little deeper and investigate the mindless drivel articles like this crap out.

San Zani Polo
San Zani Polo
1 year ago
Reply to  m. clark

Excellent rant, friend. My only down-marker is the lack of line spacing which may have put off some “unaligned” readers. But thanks for the details. I hope someone’s compass is changed hereby.
This article was recommended by a citizen of my ex-country (the one with the straw-man clown prime minister). So I read it, twice and a half times.
The problem here is the capacity for self-analysis of our first world “anglo-euro-american” demographic which, basically (= as a baseline) imagines that the rest of the world uses the same mental process to get from problem to resolutions. It’s simply not true. From recent or from ancient history, we “euro-brit-yanks” have never met minds with the Chinese, with Africa, with Native/Latin America, with Russia-Siberia even.
As someone married into, and living within, Native South America (with some four decades of “education”), I’d like my witness accepted that: Latin Americans take a very different view of any conflict – this one in particular – from the folks back home in the United Kingdom. Can’t see that the Chinese, Africans, etcetera, might seriously disagree.
For that, it’s easy to see that all our “anglish” analyses – like the article above – completely miss the psychosocial-emotional viewpoint of, say, Russia and her leaders. We are not aiming at the same target!
I score the article 10/10 for application and 0/10 for breadth of vision. Hopefully the author may be persuaded?
Thanks for the stimulation.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
2 years ago

A bully may be a problem in your neighbourhood but if you are attached by outsiders you might need him.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago

The real problem is that, if a) Putin manages to remove Zelensky from office, and b) succeeds in holding what he has so far occupied, right wing forces will be in the forefront of resistance.
Given that the Ukrainians are incredibly better armed than the Syrian opposition ever was, Russia would then face years of a guerrilla struggle far worse than anything the Soviets faced from 1944-1955 in Ukraine, or Assad faced from 2011 to the present.
Putin better hope he doesn’t win…

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Logan
John Sharkey
John Sharkey
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

Sad but true. And let’s not forget that the US will support that resistance as it is doing supplying arms to the Ukrainian fascists as it did in 1944 to 55.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 years ago
Reply to  John Sharkey

Boring question , I know, but what is the source for the claim that the US were arming Ukrainian fascists in 1944 to 1955?

Chris Clark
Chris Clark
2 years ago

No one is turning a blind eye to these groups. We hear all the time about Ukrainian neo-Ns but as this writer quietly observes deep in the weeds of this article, those groups have not managed to create any support whatsoever among the Ukrainian public – no electoral seats whatsoever, and a Jewish President to boot. And while we’re at it, why not make a few cogent comments about all the Neo-N groups in Russia, of which there are at least 10 – perhaps Mr. Putin might have considered addressing those extremists in his midst before offering this service to Ukrainians.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Clark

Good observations. The author of the piece is right to highlight how “extremist militias” might “cannibalise the rebel cause”, as he put it in relation to Syria. It’s the power at the point of a gun.
The reassuring little phrases from the piece, however, was from reading “Ukrainian voters” and “regular Ukrainian marines”.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Clark

The point is surely that if the Russian neo N groups were to support a successful coup against Putin, one backed by the Nationalist Party and maybe with a firebrand nationalist at its head ( Navalny, eg), they would not need an electoral win .

C Yonge
C Yonge
2 years ago

I didn’t read all of this because it turns me off when people use the term “white nationalism”. Also, just too much “Far Right”. I think that’s just parroting the lefts narrative that racism is far right. I don’t feel like true racism should be a right or left thing.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  C Yonge

Whilst the sayings have been overused in the west, there’s no doubting these fighters with SS tattoos are white nationalist and far right

Aidan Trimble
Aidan Trimble
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Do mean the Wagner Group ? Putin’s using neo-nazis to ‘denazify’ a country with a Jewish president. Honestly, some of the pro Putin apologist nonsense spouted on here is appalling.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  C Yonge

You are correct. In my country South Africa, the ‘far left’ is loudly racist.

John Sharkey
John Sharkey
2 years ago

Many excellent analyses of the content and muddledness (?) of this article in the comments. One glaring omission is the fact that the current fascist Azov militia are the direct descendants of the original militia created during WW2 that collaborated with the the German Nazis in exterminating 10s of thousands of Jews and others in Ukraine and beyond. After the war the US supported and funded them to continue fighting the Soviet Russians until 1955.

M. Gatt
M. Gatt
2 years ago

If you were trying to convince me that the rise of this political movement is a result of Russian aggression, you failed.

alex CK
alex CK
2 years ago

I hear from others that there’s Nazis. There’s bio labs. There’s genocide. There’s corruption. The Pandora leak showed that Zelenskyy has money stowed overseas. And so on, endlessly.
Which leaves me scratching my head: Is this the new standard to steal a country? Because if that’s the case, I have a long list of other countries that should be on the invasion list. How about starting with Turkmenistan?
Regardless of Putin’s many ridiculous justifications, stealing Ukraine through brutal force is still completely unacceptable. And you don’t have to be on the right nor the left to agree with that.

Arul Inthirarajah
Arul Inthirarajah
1 year ago
Reply to  alex CK

Have you by chance read about the Maidan Coup and its consequences in the Donbas as a result? Surely, no discussion about Putin’s rationale for intervention would be complete without a full examination of that, don’t you think?

RJ Kent
RJ Kent
2 years ago

Great article, thank you.

Andy E
Andy E
2 years ago

It’s a long read, but if you google “kyiv nazi parade” and take a look at the images, you can save some time.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago

Another strawman argument.
The number of Russians who admire Stalin is far greater than the number of Ukrainians who admire Hitler and his creed.
Simply an objective fact, which I have confirmed in visits to both Russia and Ukraine.

Tim Lever
Tim Lever
1 year ago

Does Unherd have a Nazi problem?
Yes the Ukraine govt is influenced by and has funded neo-Nazis groups but this is not really a problem. Russia shouldn’t be worried about Fascists on its doorstep killing Russian speaking Ukrainians.
Not the first time Unherd seems very sanguine about this issue.

James Swallow-Gaunt
James Swallow-Gaunt
1 year ago

The problem is they arel

Neo Nazi groups in Ukraine. The Azov battalion is a prime example right up to 2019 they were deemed far right and some it’s members, followers where in contact with SGT W Gardener during his arrest by the FBI, after he discussed how to make IEDs. In the case report the FBI deemed Azov as a far right Neo-Bai group.

The Aidar Battalion was mentioned in a UN report stating that these far right fighters had committed war crimes in Donbas. Finally it was only in 2019 that Time did a piece on Azov and you can clearly see they are. As someone born and brought up in Germany I have the Shame caused by the stain of the Nazis, however you don’t see this in Ukraine. Finally look in their ranks how many people of colour are currently fighting with Azov?

This groups are now better trained better equiped and needed by the Ukrainian armed Forces. The fragile unity in Ukraine needed a common cause.

However these groups will attempt to seek total control of Ukraine.

N T
N T
2 years ago

Oh, yeah, that makes me feel a lot better about the situation. War never seems to help the good guys.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

is Russia more godly than Ukraine? Or had it been more god-forsaken than Ukraine up until now? The invasion? Both Russia and Ukraine are, in many respects, godly places that are threatened horribly by pagan mind-sets. But Ukraine as a new, young nation, had up until 24th Feb. been going places. A fairer and freer country had been the name of the game, especially when compared with its much bigger neighbour.

The “de-nazify” remark was purely to cast aspersions on Ukrainians in general, in the hope to disorientate them, deceive Russia’s own army, and mislead the West. Putin could hardly talk about “freeing” or “liberating” the Ukrainians, could he? Another point of the “de-nazify” remark is to goad that tiny minority who know it is militantly “far right” into action. Putin, as well as Ukraine of itself, expects the opposition to place all hands on deck. It’s a very complex propaganda war. Who actually suffers out of it all is the majority of people who are decent, brave and Godly. With a capital “G” this time.

Ken Charman
Ken Charman
2 years ago

A valuable analysis. It’s hard to find balanced sources. The BBC has failed to run this story and persists in painting a picture of Russia in its own middle class professional cosmopolitan image. It doesn’t inspire confidence in what we are told.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ken Charman
2A Solution
2A Solution
2 years ago

I don’t buy for a second this movement isn’t popular in the Ukraine.

Aidan Trimble
Aidan Trimble
2 years ago
Reply to  2A Solution

2% polling suggests you are completely wrong.

Arul Inthirarajah
Arul Inthirarajah
1 year ago
Reply to  2A Solution

The far right and neo-Nazis hold a disproportionate amount of power in Ukraine relative to the amount of hardcore support that they have. It’s the power they wield that counts. Hitler and his Brownshirts had about 15% of the German population as hardcore supporters in the 30s, but they managed to take over the whole country, then Europe. It’s leveraged power that matters, not just absolute numbers.

Jeffrey Chongsathien
Jeffrey Chongsathien
2 years ago

Doesn’t mention how the 3000 Azov fighters have imprisoned the civilians of Mariupol as human shields, in spite of Russian corridors being open.

Aidan Trimble
Aidan Trimble
2 years ago

Utter rubbish.

Andy E
Andy E
2 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Trimble

Hear what civilians who managed to escape from Maripol say. that’s exactly what Azov did. Also terrifying to hear things like “they crashed the door, entered and killed all men and told women to get out” when they needed an appartment for a sniper position. I am sure there are no angels on both sides but the war is getting much dirty with every day.

rob monks
rob monks
2 years ago

this is very well researched. multi-layered.

Howard Gleave
Howard Gleave
1 year ago

Yet another fascinating and nuanced piece by Aris.

Julian Pellatt
Julian Pellatt
1 year ago

A most informative article that provided information and insights that we in the UK simply do not obtain from the BBC (no surprises there!). I was vaguely aware of some pretty unpleasant right-wing elements that played key roles in the Ukrainian revolutions of 2004 and 2014, but Aris’ article places this in a much clearer context. There has also been considerable prejudice and discrimination against Russian-speaking enclaves in eastern Ukraine – again we are not told much if anything about this dimension.

Richard David
Richard David
1 year ago

Liberal democratic states do not ally with Naziis. The facts relayed in your essay refute your initial claim.

Elena RodrĂ­guez
Elena RodrĂ­guez
1 year ago

One problem that the world has right now is that people want to appear to be experts on everything. This means that when a situation occurs in the world, like this war in the Ukraine, people will immediately take up a position on it without really knowing anything about the region. This ignorance is dangerous because it sways the way political leaders deal with situations, wanting, as they always do, to remain popular with their voters.
The mainstream media play on people’s desire to feel informed by portraying world events in a very simplistic form. Wars are portrayed as being about two sides – one bad and one good. Protests and revolutions are generally portrayed by the media as being like those of Eastern Europe of 1989. This happened in the Arab Spring. People wanted to believe that the protests they were seeing would immediately lead to democracy. Then when the Arab Spring turned out to be a lot more complicated than it had initially seemed, people just switched off from caring and moved onto a new part of the world to claim to be interested in.
I’d like to see a world where people wait before expressing their opinions about world events until they have read deeply about the history of the region. I didn’t know about these far right groups in the Ukraine until I read this. This sort of thing helps to build up a greater understanding of a situation that we do, in the end, need to have an opinion on, but that opinion has to have come about through deep reading and debate, not by way of jumping to a conclusion based on popular opinions expressed on social media, which is what most people appear to have done in terms of forming an opinion about this war.

Melanie Mabey
Melanie Mabey
1 year ago

‘Ukraine is not a Nazi state, but the State supports
extreme right wing groups’

Michael Parkhill
Michael Parkhill
2 years ago

Your definition of far right please. Plus enlighten me about Putins Far Left.

Last edited 2 years ago by Michael Parkhill
Paula Williams
Paula Williams
2 years ago

Ok let’s assume there are areas / statelets with far-right values. If they stay within their borders, does it matter? Are they as bad as Putin’s rampaging communism ?

Emre Emre
Emre Emre
2 years ago

This is without a doubt the most informative piece I read on this topic, makes me feel almost smug about being an Unherd reader.

Sam McGowan
Sam McGowan
2 years ago

So, in other words, Putin is right – neo-NAZIs have a large role in Ukraine.

Aidan Trimble
Aidan Trimble
2 years ago
Reply to  Sam McGowan

Yes, the Wagner Group have assisted Putin’s separatists in Donbas and Crimea.

Thomas Cushman
Thomas Cushman
2 years ago

This article is extremely illuminating . I venture to guess that most of the Western public that has thrown its support unequivocally behind Zelenskyy is ignorant of this detailed history of armed , right-wing forces who played a large role in the last decade fighting against Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine.

One thing is unequivocally clear : they may be fighting under Ukrainian command at the moment , but are not fighting for Zelenskyy. They despise Putin, but are no friends of Z., given their anti-liberal, anti-democratic, and anti-Semitic core beliefs. Z. needs them now and they need him, but it’s a really bad marriage in the long term.

In any case, their sordid history and current involvement gives Putin everything he needs for his propaganda machine and his continuation of the war.

Last edited 2 years ago by Thomas Cushman
rob monks
rob monks
2 years ago

a balanced in-depth analysis of these groups which I don’t find in other publications. The paganism is an interesting thread I didn’t know about. The piece and the interview toned down shrill outrage but was clearly opposed to these groups. A more reflective, complex and nuanced analsysis than much corporate right wing or holier than thou woke left.
You can be opposed to the invasion but recognize that these neo nazis have power even though they are a minority. Well done for this.

Slawko C
Slawko C
1 year ago

Majority of Azov is russian speaking. Zelensky before he became president spoke russian exclusively. Without studying Ukraine history, especially during the soviet rule, you will not understand. Below is a Google translation of a letter written to Alexander Glebovich Nevzorov, a Russian television journalist, film director and a former member of the Russian State Duma when he inquired about what Azov is.
——-

“Stop the thief!” usually the thief himself screams the loudest. Kremlin propaganda calls us N***s and f**cists, and calls themselves liberators who came to “denazify” Ukraine.

The whole world today is living in a time of great lies, big lies and tiny truths. Billions of dollars are spent on creating the illusion of grandeur and promoting anti-human ideas of the “Russian world”. The one that brings destruction, death, suffering, hunger and fear.

The only weapon in this struggle remains – Truth. And the Truth is this: our land was vilely attacked by an insidious monster and our right and duty to defend it. At the forefront of this defense is Azov.

Azov is a division of the National Guard that was formed from volunteers in 2014, after Russia took Crimea, part of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. This unit, in which serve: Ukrainians, Russians, Jews, Greeks, Georgians, Crimean Tatars and Belarusians. For 8 years now, soldiers of different faiths have been serving in this unit hand in hand: Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants, pagans, Jews and Muslims. Where the majority speaks Russian.

We despise Nazism and Stalinism. Because our country has suffered the most from these totalitarian regimes and false ideology.

Russia bombs Babi Yar, where victims of Nazism of the 20th century are buried. Putinists bring down tons of shells on hospitals, schools, kindergartens, churches. Putin’s soldiers shoot the elderly, kill children and pregnant women, as the N***s once did.

N***sm is an insatiable need to kill people who dare to become free. This is confidence in one’s right to a certain supernation, and this is confidence in the right to rule other peoples, while raping and plundering other states. Doesn’t it remind you of anything?

The difference is that Azov was, is and will be a shield for Ukraine until the occupier leaves our country. We have never attacked anyone, and the main goal of Azov is to protect and develop our country, our people, and the lives of our citizens are more important than the ambitions of any politicians.

We, the defenders of the hero-city of Mariupol, took up a shield and a sword that protect not only Ukraine from the forces of evil and lies, but the entire civilized world from the plague of the 21st century. If we put down the sword, then tomorrow the same fate will befall Kyiv, Lviv, and the day after tomorrow Warsaw, Berlin and Paris. We want to wish the thinking Russian people to overthrow the government that sends its sons to certain death for the sake of false illusions of a poisoned reality, instead of the people of Russia living, loving and developing.
—–

Everyone uses the terms far right – far left, but I am certain we all have a different interpretation of the meaning. This is part of the problem. Seems today people are labeled either far left or far right. I would bet my life and say majority of the human race is somewhere in the middle. My country and my people simply want to live in peace and have the right to choose and build their future. We will defend our country to the last Ukrainian if we have to. Find a Ukrainian in your country, talk to them yourself, hear what they have to say, instead of relying on foreigners to tell you how Ukrainians feel.

The air raid siren just went off in my city as I write this… This is the Ukrainian reality today… And all because Ukrainian people want nothing to do with russia.

Michael Parkhill
Michael Parkhill
2 years ago

Lefties think that anyone who holds a Conservative populist view is Fascist. I wonder who has coined the phrase Far Right in this case. Take as an example the demonisation of the popular conservative Margaret Thatcher denoted as Fascist by the FAR LEFT
Many will take this propoganda with a pinch of salt. It must be remembered Putin is on the Tyrannical Far Left Communist ilk.
Right is Right and tyrannical FAR LEFT Communists like Putin are Wrong is a Common opinion.

John Sharkey
John Sharkey
2 years ago

Nothing could be further from the truth than this comment. Communism collapsed in 1989/91 and, with the zeal of US carpetbaggers, embarrassed Neo-liberal capitalism. When Putin came to power from his home in the KGB he tried to Russiafy ( I don’t know if that is a word but you know what I mean;)) the process. And in the process allied himself with gang of thieves that profited the most from the ‘transformation’. He even applied for admission to the EU but of course was rejected. So Russia has been a capitalist country for 30 years and counting. But I understand the relish with which many like to smear the country red.
I wish the algorithms would flag comments with too many caps;)

Michael Parkhill
Michael Parkhill
2 years ago
Reply to  John Sharkey

Fair comment. I would say, though, that Russia is still a Socialist state. Albeit with some aspecs of capitalism, rather like China. However it is still politically Socialist. Which although not communist, Marx did believe that socialism would lead to communism. Although he did not fully define communism or the mechanism that would lead to it.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 years ago

How is it politically socialist? True that the communist party is the second largest party, but UR is way ahead. And the Nationalist party is very strong, the Liberals also.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 years ago
Reply to  John Sharkey

Putin did a deal with the oligarchs in 2001-2, putting power back in the bureaucracy. Numerous cross oligarchs then found a haven in the UK, like Berezovsky, who had previously been in the government. I would describe it as state controlled capitalism.

Perry de Havilland
Perry de Havilland
2 years ago

And yet Ukraine voted a Jewish comedian into office. They are a fringe, nutters for sure, and most are going to die in Mariupol, so not going to worry overmuch about their role post war.

Same thing happened in Croatia, when their equally fringe Ustasha fanbois bravely defended Vukovar against the Serbs in the opening phase of Croatia’s war of independence. They served Croatia well by greatly delaying the Serbian army & dying to not complicate Croatia’s post-war politics.

Mike K
Mike K
2 years ago

Excellent