In Digest, Ukraine

By the editors, New Cold War.org, Dec. 30, 2014

The weekly fashion magazine in France, Elle, has issued a sort-of retraction for a news/photo feature it published on the war in eastern Ukraine glamorizing the handful of young females joining far-right paramilitary battalions that fight alongside the Ukraine army against the people of eastern Ukraine. The five page feature article was published in the Nov. 14, 2014 issue of Elle.

Elle Magazine story, Nov 14, 2014. Pictured is a woman named 'Sveta'.

Elle Magazine story, Nov 14, 2014. Pictured is a woman named ‘Sveta’.

The feature pictured six women in glamour-photo mode. ‘Vita’ is a member of the ‘Aidar’ battalion. Three sisters—’Vassilissa, Ludmila and Masina’–are said to be members of the far-right ‘Donbass Battalion’ (the first two sisters are pictured). ‘Sveta’ is a member of an unidentified battalion. ‘Nadejda’ is said to be a “graphic artist”; no other description is provided.

The sixth woman pictured is Vira Savtchenko, sister of the infamous Ukrainian helicopter pilot Nadejda Savtchenko (Nadiya Savchenko) who is presently imprisoned and facing criminal charges in Russia. (See the Elle feature article at this weblink, pp 151 to 156.)

Nadejda Savtchenko is accused of providing coordinates to Ukraine army or militia artillery batteries whose shells killed two Russian journalists, Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin, near Luhansk in southeast Ukraine in June of 2014. She was detained by pro-autonomy rebels in eastern Ukraine on June 17.

Elle presents the fascist paramilitary groups in Ukraine as heroic self-defense forces. The magazine was led to publish its lame retraction (text below) when it emerged that one of the ‘heroines’ it portrayed is a virulent neo-Nazi whose social media presence includes photos and written testimonies to her neo-Nazi convictions. A French blogger has written a detailed description of that young woman, here. She is alleged to be the woman ‘Sveta’ whose photo (pictured) is the lead photo in the Elle feature. She is described as “19 years old, a secretary and a volunteer in a self-defense group”.

Elle does not identify which of the six women whose photos it published is the neo-Nazi in question. Considering that its story is replete with praise for the ‘Aidar’ and ‘Donbas’ battalions, its retraction of praise for the unnamed neo-Nazi heroine is almost beside the point, and very lame.

* * *

Statement of editorial board of Elle (translation to English by New Cold War.org further below):

Suite à la publication le 14 novembre dernier dans notre magazine d’un reportage intitulé « Les femmes ukrainiennes s’engagent », traitant du rôle de femmes au parcours très divers dans le conflit à l’est de l’Ukraine, nous avons appris, fin décembre, qu’une des jeunes femmes, interviewée et photographiée, était une activiste d’extrême-droite, diffusant sur les réseaux sociaux des photographies faisant l’apologie du néo-nazisme.

Lors du reportage, la jeune femme incriminée, combattante du Bataillon Aidar, rencontrée le 2 octobre dernier, sur la ligne de front près de la ville de Lougansk, aucun élément, aucun signe extérieur distinctif, aucune parole dans l’interview, ne laissait comprendre ce jour-là que cette jeune femme était néo-nazie.

En effet, le reportage s’est partiellement déroulé auprès d’une unité du Bataillon Aidar, une formation paramilitaire nationaliste d’environ 600 membres, rattachée au ministère de la Défense ukrainien, qui comprend dans ses rangs des combattants d’origine et d’obédience politique très diverses.

La rédaction de ELLE ainsi que les deux journalistes ayant réalisé le reportage, ont été choqués d’apprendre, à posteriori, le véritable profil idéologique de cette jeune femme, et condamnent bien entendu toute idéologie prônant la xénophobie, l’antisémitisme ou l’apologie du nazisme.
–La Rédaction

Following the publication on November 14 in our magazine of the article titled ‘The women of Ukraine enroll’, dealing with the role of women in the complex conflict in eastern Ukraine, we have learned at the end of December that one of the young women interviewed and photographed for the story is an activist of the extreme right, using social networks to spread information glorifying neo-Nazism.

During the course of our reporting, the young woman in question, a fighter in the Aidar Battalion who we met on the battlefield near Luhansk on Oct. 2, displayed no sign, no visible evidence, no words during the interview, to indicate that she was a neo-Nazi.

Yes, the reporting took place in part near one of the Aidar Battalion units, a nationalist paramilitary group of around 600 members attached to the Ukrainian Department of Defense. It comprises fighters of various political origins and loyalties.

The editors of Elle as well as the two journalists who provided the news story were shocked to learn, in hindsight, the true ideological beliefs of this woman. We, of course, vigorously condemn any and all ideology that promotes xenophobia, anti-Semitism or glorification of neo-Nazism.
— The editorial board, Elle magazine

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