Update on recent Ukraine developments

Worrying developments in Ukraine over the last few days include the killing of far-right leader Olexander Muzychko, a.k.a. Sashko Bilyj, in a shoot-out with police; the attempted storming of Parliament by armed Right Sector militants today; the growing presence of Russian armies alongside Ukraine’s eastern border (along with persistent and growing rumors of an impending invasion); and preparation for war on both sides.

Here are some English-language sources with useful background information on these events.

Profiles of Muzychko:

http://www.rferl.org/content/ukraine-oleksandr-muzychko-dead-profile/25308993.html

http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/26/world/europe/ukraine-right-wing/

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26784236

Anton Shekhovtsov on the link between certain members of Right Sector (specifically, those associated with the group Patriots of Ukraine/Social-National Assembly) and Russian neo-fascists:

http://anton-shekhovtsov.blogspot.com/2014/03/blog-post_28.html

The above piece is in Russian, but I expect it to appear in English translation soon. Shekhovtsov concludes:

“Interpreting the Right Sector’s March 27 provocations at the Supreme Council (Parliament), aimed at further destabilizing the situation in the country and, thereby, playing into the hands of the Kremlin, [Dmytro] Yarosh either no longer controls the Right Sector, or appears to be the same kind of provocateur and traitor of Ukraine.”

What all this suggests is that there is a struggle going on between different factions in Ukraine.

It’s quite possible, as Shekhovtsov suggests, that within the Right Sector are people working to destabilize the situation in Ukraine so as to create a pretext for military invasion by Russia. Shekhovtsov shows evidence that some have consorted with Russian neo-fascists before.

In any case, the Right Sector and its sympathizers have been triggered by Muzychko’s death — seemingly at the hands of Ukrainian police (either in a shoot-out, or execution-style, depending on whom you believe) — to call, at the very least, for the dismissal of Ukraine’s internal affairs minister Arsen Avakov, and, at most, for a new government purged of its “corrupt, old guard.” President Turchynov has responded by calling Right Sector a dangerous group and a threat to Ukraine.

Russian media, meanwhile, have been focusing on events that support its case that there is “chaos” and “anarchy” in Kiev — so their attempted storming of Parliament presents them with live footage of what appears to be just that.

Meanwhile, austerity measures are being proposed already by the Prime Minister (see #4 of these 10 worries).

On “where the fascists are,” see also these articles:

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2014/03/21/where_the_fascists_are_122017.html#.Uy3XtAo290V.facebook

http://www.interpretermag.com/rts-manuel-ochsenreiter/

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/141067/mitchell-a-orenstein/putins-western-allies

http://anton-shekhovtsov.blogspot.com/2014/02/pro-russian-network-behind-anti.html

and this piece, in Russian, which shows that many of the “international observers” flown in to Crimea during the referendum were actually ultra-right, and sometimes neo-fascist, Europeans:

http://www.president-sovet.ru/blogi_soveta/verhovskij_a_m/nelzya-vovlekat-ultrapravykh-na-rossiyskoy-storone-v-ukrainskom-krizis/

None of that is to deny that there are fascists and ultra-nationalists in Ukraine. But the Russian government’s line about fascists having “taken over” is clearly inaccurate.

Here (linked) is a picture of the affiliations of current Ukrainian interim government officials. It’s a bit inaccurate, but is the best such image I’ve seen so far.

Central gov UkrainefinalHD

A few observations and clarifications:

1) It’s difficult to state with any certainty that the Batkivshyna (Fatherland) and UDAR parties are “center-right.” Elsewhere they have been identified as “center-left,” e.g., here, but I don’t think that’s accurate either. If anything, Batkivshchyna tends to play the center, leaning to the populist left before elections and to the “belt-tightening” right once elected. UDAR has not been in power, so it’s too early to say that, but I suspect it will be true if they should gain power. It’s probably fair to say that the “oligarchs” fall into more or less the same bushel.

2) On the far right: One of the Svoboda members, Defense Minister (and army commander) Tenyukh, was pressured to resign and has been replaced by a non-Svoboda member. And the identification of Maidan leader and Bat’kivshchyna member Parubiy, education minister Kvit (up until recently the president of the University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy, widely recognized to be among the leading universities in the country), and journalist Chornovol as semi Right Sector members (black) is somewhat unfair, as it seems to be based on past affiliations and sympathies (going back, in Parubiy’s case, more than 20 years) rather than actual membership. There are, as far as I know, no actual Right Sector members in the government.

3) It’s also a little confusing that the independents (yellow) and technocrats (i.e., non-party affiliated individuals chosen for their administrative skill, displayed in white) are listed in the same column as the far right (see legend in top-right), though they make up a separate and unrelated category (as indicated by the colon).

4) Together, the centrists (see point 1), independents, and technocrats make up a majority and are far more prominent than the “far right.” That said, Maidan activists would quickly point out that old-school politicians, including the mega-wealthy oligarchs, make up too many of the names, and that Maidan activists and independents make up too few. This remains a point of tension between many Maidan activists and the interim government, but most are willing to grant it the capacity to govern while moving toward presidential elections.

I should mention that the above mapping of government affiliations was created by Swedish left-green activist Tord Björk, and seems to be based (from what I’ve been able to determine; someone please correct me if I’m wrong) on information compiled by Marxist organization Borot’ba (which has been on the anti-Maidan side of Ukraine’s independent left, and which may account for some of the slant). Further details on all the individuals are provided here.

 

A few details in this piece were updated at 12:52 pm EST on March 28.

 

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