Traffic came to a standstill, people in the squares and sidewalks knelt down, the bells of all the churches rang, soldiers marched in parade uniforms and a pompous state funeral began. It was an impressive event, symbolizing the Nazi victory over a Jewish president: on March 10, 2023, liberal Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, representing the collective West, stood behind Zelensky at the open coffin of Dmytro “Da Vinci” Kotsiubailo, a leading commander of the fascist “Right Sector” who advocated ethnic cleansing. In the days that followed, Ukrainian media loyal to the regime (critical media and opposition parties are banned) reported effusively on his exploits, and countless squares and streets in Ukrainian villages and towns were named after Kotsiubailo.
Moreover, Kotsiubailo suffered a heroic death to save the Ukrainian “master race” in the fight against the Russian “subhumans” in the Donbass. An ardent supporter of Bandera, who murdered thousands of Jews, the 27-year-old was one of the youngest military commanders. He was awarded the Order of a Gold Star and the title of “Hero of Ukraine” last year in the Ukrainian parliament by, of all people, a Jewish president. Below you can see him with a picture of Bandera in the background along with his wolfhound. He liked to joke that his wolfhound could eat the bones of Russian children.
Kotsiubailo’s funeral was also a symbolic “funeral of the former peace mediator Zelensky,” who was elected peace president, also with the votes of Russian-speaking Ukrainians, thanks to the election promise to bring about an end to discrimination and violence against minorities, especially in the Donbass, but failed miserably.
Kotsiubailo’s “Right Sector,” the like-minded fascist Azov and Svoboda battalions, and other Ukrainian nationalist groups have been waging a war against the Russian-speaking population in the Donbass since 2014, after residents revolted because President Yanukovych, whom they had democratically elected, was forcibly ousted from the presidential palace in a coup orchestrated by the United States. Not only did they feel unrepresented in Kiev, but they also felt threatened by the Russia-hating nationalists who had come to power.
After the coup, large protests, also called the “anti-Maidan movement,” occurred in Crimea, the Donbass, the south, and other Russian-speaking areas. Cities such as Odessa, Melitopol, and Mariupol refused to obey the illegitimate government. However, unlike the violence perpetrated by fascists during the Maidan protests, these protests were peaceful, with little violence and, most importantly, no fatalities.
However, the character of non-violence of the anti-coup protests changed dramatically in April 2014 for the following reason: instead of negotiating with the demonstrators, the Security Council of Ukraine, while CIA Director John Brennan was in Kiev, under its chairman Andriy Parubiy of the Nazi Svoboda Party, decided on April 13 to launch the so-called “anti-terrorist operation.” Just two days later, the violent campaign began in opposition areas, where tanks and other heavy war equipment were deployed against demonstrators in what was then eastern and southern Ukraine. This marked the beginning of a relentless war against Russian-speaking civilians in the Donbass, who were demonized as “terrorists.” In the process, Ukrainian government forces used, among other things, cluster munitions on a large scale in populated areas such as the city of Donetsk, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported. HRW added that “the use of cluster munitions in populated areas violates the law of war due to the indiscriminate nature of the weapon and may constitute a war crime.”
The fighting escalated further when Kiev sent “volunteer battalions” into the Donbass, formed from the neo-Nazi “security forces,” including from the Right Sector of the Maidan protests. These units bore names like “Azov” and “Svoboda” and quickly gained sad notoriety for their cruelty. The Nazi brigades, of which there are dozens, were equipped with modern weapons, including heavy weapons of all kinds, mostly of American origin, starting in 2014.
As Western media also reported, units of the Ukrainian army then defected to the protesters. Since there were numerous soldiers and entire barracks and military bases in eastern Ukraine sympathetic to the protesters, the insurgents were quickly well armed. Earlier, Ukrainian government forces in Crimea had also begun to turn their backs on the regime in Kiev.
By the time of the Russian invasion in 2022, the war had already lasted nearly eight years and claimed thousands of lives in the Donbass, but was largely hushed up by the Western media.
Long before he became president, he had campaigned as a comedian against discrimination against the Russian-speaking minority. In 2014, for example, he declared in a television appearance, “In the east and in Crimea, people want to speak Russian. Leave them alone, just leave them alone. Give them the right to speak Russian. Language should never divide our country…. We have the same skin color, the same blood, regardless of language.”
When he was elected president in 2019, he tried to actually implement his campaign promises, which were directed against discrimination and violence against ethnic minorities. However, this was a Herculean task in the face of very strong nationalist forces and the “fascists who have overrun the country” (Jerusalem Post) who opposed his peace mission. The influence of these circles was (and is) so great that all Western Ukrainians, from schoolchildren to senior citizens, were educated to hate Ukrainian citizens of Russian descent and to believe that it is good to slaughter them. Even in schools, students were encouraged by their teachers to use slogans like these against Russian-speaking Ukrainians: “Hang the Muscovites,” “Put the Russians on the pyre,” “Drink the blood of Russian babies!”
The nationalists prevailed over Zelensky: Article 10 of the new constitution stipulates that Ukrainian is the official language of Ukraine. In addition, a new law came into force in Ukraine in January 2022 that mandates the use of Ukrainian in almost all areas of public life and de facto prohibits the use of Russian and other minority languages. For example, children of Russian-speaking, Hungarian-speaking, Polish-speaking, and Romanian-speaking Ukrainians who were previously taught in their native languages in schools are now being taught only in Ukrainian.
Making peace and thus preventing an invasion by Russia was an even greater challenge for Zelensky than the question of the right to exercise one’s mother tongue. He could have achieved peaceful coexistence between western and eastern Ukraine only if he had been allowed to negotiate with Russia and with representatives of the majority Russian-speaking Donbass, as he originally wanted. To do so, he needed the backing of his supporters in Washington, because the Russophobic nationalists who have led the fighting in eastern Ukraine since 2014 threatened him and declared that they would only accept a “final victory” over the Donbass. But the Americans did not want him to negotiate with the separatists and Russia – strengthening the extremists‘ position. The nationalists, guided by the ideology of their idol, the Nazi Bandera, even told Zelensky that he would sign his own death warrant if he talked to the separatists and Putin.
When Zelensky traveled to the Donbass in October 2019 to campaign in rebel-held Russian-speaking areas, he was met by angry members of the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, who protested under the slogan “No to surrender.” Zelensky discussed the president’s call for a troop withdrawal with a commander of the Azov battalion in a videotaped conversation. “I am the president of this country. I am 41 years old. I am not a loser. I came to you and told you: withdraw your weapons,” Zelenskyj demanded.
Despite his personal appearance on the ground, Zelensky met even more resistance: the same neo-Nazi forces set up an armed checkpoint to prevent or at least delay a withdrawal of the Ukrainian military. Thousands of nationalist demonstrators, cheered by the liberal intelligentsia and carrying flares, also marched in Kiev.
Although Zelensky was reluctant to accept the Minsk agreements on resolving the minority issue, he continued talks on their implementation. The radical nationalists expressed their violent opposition at every opportunity – including in August 2021, when at least eight police officers were injured during armed protests in front of the presidential office. Their threats against Zelensky undoubtedly thwarted a peace agreement that could have prevented the Russian invasion.
The New York Times headline on February 10, 2022.
Just two weeks before Russian troops entered Ukraine, the New York Times noted that Zelensky would “take extreme political risks to even consider a peace agreement with Russia” because his government could be “shaken and possibly overthrown” by far-right groups if he agreed to “a peace deal that they believe gives too much to Moscow.”
Yuri Hudymenko, leader of the fascist Democratic Axe party, even threatened Zelenskyj with a coup d’état, according to the New York Times: “If anybody from the Ukrainian government tries to sign such a document, a million people will take to the streets and that government will cease being the government.” He also emphasized that “they [the Zelenskyj government, F.A.] fear the Ukrainian people [respectively his fascist followers, F.A.] more than they fear the Russian army.”
Yuri Hudymenko, Führer of the far-right party “Democratic Axe” at his headquarters. Note the axes on the walls of the party headquarters, which party members are eager to use against Russian speakers. [Source: nytimes.com]
Zelenky’s environment was anything but conducive to a successful peace mission. After the 2014 coup d’état, many well-known neo-Nazis were appointed to government positions. Although the Nazi parties achieved rather low election results, their propensity for violence had an intimidating effect and helped to push through their political goals. And although no openly fascist party is in power in Kyiv, Nazis hold key positions in the army, judiciary, police, intelligence services, media, education and culture. They had enough power to sabotage the Zelenky government’s policy of giving equal rights to all Ukrainians and ending the war in the Donbass.
Commemorative procession on April 28, 2021 in downtown Kyiv in honor of the 78th anniversary of the creation of the SS Division Galicia. It was the Ukrainian branch of Germany’s SS (Schutzstaffeln) which was originally Adolf Hitler’s personal bodyguard unit and then evolved into one of Nazi Germany’s most powerful organizations which was also at the forefront of the Holocaust. Its recruits, who had to prove none of their ancestors were Jewish, received military training and were also taught they were the elite not only of the Nazi Party but of all humankind. The marchers carried the SS Galicia division’s lion-emblazoned symbol as well as flags of Stepan Bandera’s Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists.
The fact that even under President Zelensky countless monuments to Nazi criminals have been erected while at the same time monuments honoring greats of world literature such as Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky have been torn down shows his powerlessness: Alexander Pushkin, born in 1799, was a world-famous playwright and novelist; Fyodor Dostoevsky, born in 1821, expressed religious, psychological and philosophical ideas in his widely acclaimed writings; and Leo Tolstoy, born in 1828, is considered one of the greatest writers of all time and has been nominated several times for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Intellectuals from a time when parts of what is now Ukraine and what is now Russia were still one country with a common history are being violently torn from their pedestals to make way for Nazi mass murderers like Bandera and Shukhevich, the new national saints.
And the European Union and the United States, of all countries, have provided most of the funding for this demolition and renaming frenzy. These include, for example, the many new memorial plaques throughout the country to Taras Bulba-Borovets, the Nazi-appointed leader of a militia that carried out numerous pogroms and murdered many Jews. Monuments have also been erected in honor of Symon Petliura, who headed the short-lived Ukrainian People’s Republic when 35,000 to 50,000 Jews were killed in a series of pogroms between 1918 and 1921.
Since the Maidan coup in 2014, more than 1,000 settlements and more than 50,000 streets have been renamed in Ukraine. It was a massive de-Russification and re-Nazification campaign.
At the last round of Minsk talks in February 2022, just two weeks before the Russian invasion, a “major obstacle,” as the Washington Post reported, was “Kiev’s resistance to negotiations with the pro-Russian separatists.” Only through this opportunistic closing of ranks with the nationalists who were out for his life was Zelensky able to ensure his political and physical survival.
Zelensky’s peace efforts were ruined once and for all when, in April 2022, two months after the Russian invasion, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson traveled specially to Kiev as Washington’s representative and instructed him not to sign the peace treaty negotiated with Russia in Turkey. He made his demand with the illusory promise that NATO would give him money and weapons until Russia was defeated.
With his back against the wall and in the face of an overwhelming phalanx of nationalists and NATO, he seemingly had no choice but to transform himself from a peace-seeking mediator into an obdurate hardliner and a Russophobic warmonger. He probably had no other choice. To blame him alone would be unfair.
First and foremost, it is Washington’s fault for abandoning him in pursuit of American primary strategic goals – the uncompromising weakening of Russia and, in its wake, Europe.
In a much expanded article, I go into more detail about the role of the nationalists and the U.S., the secession of Crimea, the civil war, and Russia’s alleged imperial ambitions.
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