In Digest, Feature Articles, Ukraine

By New cold War.org. editors, Feb 19, 2015

Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, appeared recently on an interview program on German television. A two-minute segment of the program covered the program host’s questions to Melnyk about the “strange people” who are enlisted in Kyiv military ranks. “There are obviously far-right groups, who wear ‘SS’ insignia. Here [photo shown], we see the Azov Battalion and there is even a swastika. Do you know who is fighting on your side? Do you have them under control [sic]?”

The ambassador begins by stating there are no far-right parties represented in the Ukrainian Parliament (more on that claim below). He then goes on to acknowledge that “volunteers” have stepped forward to fight in eastern Ukraine because “When we were attacked by the Russians last year, we hardly had an army.”

“But there are thousands of such ‘volunteers’. These are not stragglers,” interjects the host.

“These units are fighting together with our army and the National Guard and they are coordinated and controled by Kyiv,” the ambassador replies.

The host gestures again to the photo of the Azov Battalion with its Nazi paraphenalia. “Can you bet your right arm that these people are doing nothing wrong?”

The ambassador replies by saying that the photo may not be authentic, then restates, “These units are coordinated by the general staff in Kyiv… Without them, the Russian Army would have advanced much further [into Ukraine].” And so goes the remainder of the interview.

Ambassador Melnyk’s claim there are no far-right parties represented in the Rada (Parliament) is part lie, part ruse. There are, indeed, members of the Right Sector, Svoboda and other far-right and outright neo-Nazi parties in the Rada, including Right Sector leader Dmitry Yarosh. One of the radical right parties is formally represented–the Radical Party of Oleg Lyashko. It received 7.5 per cent of the vote in the October 26, 2014 election to the Rada. The Right Sector and Svoboda alone did not achieve the five per cent threshhold needed to be win party seats.* That is due, in part, to the fact that some of their representatives ran as candidates for the larger ‘parties’ (which are little more than electoral machines), including the ‘Peoples Front’ of Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. It’s also true that due to the banning or severe restrictions, including vigilante violence, against left wing forces in Ukraine, the whole political spectrum of the country and its electoral politics has shifted radically rightward. Thus, there is not a lot of political difference between the far-right parties and the electoral machines of President Poroshenko, Prime Minister Yatsenyuk and others. Voters inclined to the radical right can comfortably shift to the less radically right and still have their views well represented.

* Half the seats in the Rada are assigned to the parties that achieve more than five per cent, proportional to their total. The parties then designate who will fill those seats. Sovoboda finished just shy of the five per cent threshhold, at 4.7 per cent.

Andriy Melny was appointed as Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany in December 2014. Watch the two-minute interview segment on German television here:

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