As Ukraine Descends to Failed-State Status, US-Backed Fascists Exploit the Chaos

KIEV, UKRAINE — Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently issued a damning report of atrocities committed by the Ukranian Security Forces, titled “Ukraine: Events of 2018.” For the past five years, eastern Ukraine has been plunged into a bloody civil war after the United States backed a Neo-Nazi coup dubbed EuroMaidan to overthrow the democratically elected government of Ukraine, which was allied with Russia.

Those in the west of the country and in the capital, Kiev, wished for stronger ties with Europe, those in the east are ethnically Russian and wish for ties with Russia. This caused a bloody conflict as Ukrainian troops advanced eastward and have fought against local militias that support the Russian government.

While the pro-Russian groups were also implicated in the HRW report on Ukraine, most of the atrocities have been committed by the Ukranian army and government, armed and supported by the United States.

In its report, HRW documents how Ukraine strayed away from democratic values and adopted  fascist policies that targeted the country’s most vulnerable:

The [Ukrainian] government took further steps to restrict freedom of expression and association. Violence by radical groups promoting hatred put ethnic minorities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, activists, and journalists at risk.”

Among the crimes of the current Western-backed Ukrainian government is arbitrary, indefinite detention, complete with all the cruelty that flourishes in the haze of war. Especially in a war where rules of engagement have been thrown out the window. According to HRW:

Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) continued to deny the secret and prolonged detention of 18 civilians in its Kharkiv secret detention facility from 2014 to 2016. All 18 were unofficially freed by the end of 2016 and their detention was never acknowledged.”

 

The repressive-government playbook

Ukraine is following the playbook of repressive governments both extinct and extant.

As press freedom is under seige in the U.S., the West, and all over the globe, Ukraine is no exception. The report shows that censorship is the bread and butter of Ukraine’s post-EuroMaidan information landscape:

The Ukrainian government continued restrictions on freedom of expression, freedom of information, and media freedom, seeking to justify them by citing the need to counter Russia’s military aggression in eastern Ukraine and anti-Ukraine propaganda.

According to the Institute for Mass Information, a media freedom watchdog, as of October [2018], 201 press freedom violations took place in 23 regions. These ranged from threats and intimidation to restricting journalists’ access to information.”

The Ukranian government has tried to quash any dissent by the pro-Russian press. This is crucial, as the reason there’s still a bloody civil war is that so many in the East of the country are ethnically Russian and speak Russian at home:

In May, the SBU deported two journalists from the main Russian-state television channel, Channel 1, alleging that they had planned to spread disinformation about Ukraine. Also in May, the Ukraine editor of the Russian state wire service, RIA Novosti, in Ukraine, Kirill Vyshinsky, was arrested on treason charges for his alleged participation in “propaganda campaigns” to legitimize Russia’s actions in Crimea. Security services raided the outlet’s office in Kyiv.”

Atrocities are occurring on and off the battlefield, as Ukraine is a haven for hate groups. This is what is occurring off the battlefield:

Members of groups advocating hate and discrimination carried out at least two dozen violent attacks, threats, or instances of intimidation against Roma people, LGBT people, and rights activists in several Ukrainian cities. In most cases, police failed to respond or effectively investigate.”

In Ukraine, homosexuality is not a generally accepted lifestyle. Often the most vulnerable victims are not given police protection. This is not unique to Ukraine, but the level of Neo-Nazism in Ukraine is much higher than in other European countries. As HRW found:

In March, hate groups attacked events to promote women’s rights in Kyiv, Lviv, and Uzhgorod. In Kyiv, they physically assaulted participants while police looked on. In June, members of a far-right group attacked a Roma settlement in Lviv, killing a man and seriously injuring several others.”

The police failed to do their job in dense urban centers. The political affiliation of the police is unknown but it is possible that the Neo-Nazi groups are so powerful that the police didn’t dare to help the women and minorities. In another pogrom detailed by HRW:

In April, members of a radical group in Kyiv, authorized by the local municipality to carry out patrolling, attacked a Roma settlement. They torched tents and chased women and children with rocks and pepper spray. Two criminal investigations were launched, but at time [sic] of writing, those investigations had not led to any prosecutions.”

Whenever a mob action occurs and there are no prosecutions, that’s is often perceived as tacit support for the mob actions, especially when it is frequently repeated and becomes the norm:

In May, hate groups disrupted an equality festival in Chernivtsi while local police failed to effectively protect participants. Also in May, hate groups in Kyiv disrupted an Amnesty International LGBT rights event in Kyiv. Police present took no action and made homophobic comments..”

 

Fascists adore a failed state

Shameful as the civilian actions are, conduct on the battlefield is truly of critical importance. The war is being fought in eastern Ukraine, which is more rural and, where people are fewer and farther between, atrocities can occur without as many witnesses:

According to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission, as of October, at least 212 civilians were injured or killed in 2018, mostly from shelling and light weapons fire.”

Aside from deaths and injuries, people’s homes and livelihoods are at stake and victims are at risk for everything from PTSD to extreme poverty. HRW cataloged the damage:

Shelling across or near the contact line separating the two sides continued to damage civilian homes and infrastructure and to threaten civilian lives. Since 2014, 740 education facilities were damaged during the conflict, 16 from January to October 2018. Both sides carried out indiscriminate or deliberate attacks on schools and used them for military purposes.”

The sheer number of schools that have fallen prey to this war is something on the order of what is seen in some African countries, certainly not in Europe, and is indicative of a failed state.

It’s often fascists who rise to prominence in failed states. They are able to capitalize on anarchy and promise to restore order. Ukraine is certainly ripe for such promises, and it certainly has a strong right-wing presence.

The United States has a longstanding policy of supporting Neo-Nazi militias, doing this covertly during the height of EuroMaidan. According to journalist Stephen Cohen writing in The Nation:

[T]he snipers who killed scores of protestors and policemen on Kiev’s Maidan Square in February 2014, thereby triggering a “democratic revolution” that overthrew the elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, and brought to power a virulent anti-Russian, pro-American regime — it was neither democratic nor a revolution, but a violent coup unfolding in the streets with high-level support — were sent not by Yanukovych, as is still widely reported, but instead almost certainly by the Neofascist organization Right Sector and its co-conspirators.”

The United States government hasn’t sent just money and weapons to the Ukranian frontline. Washington has sent troops to carry out war games very near the Russian border and Russia’s Naval Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol. This was timed specifically before Russia’s own war games.

Writing for the libertarian think tank The Cato Institute, journalist Ted Galen Carpenter is dismayed by these actions, which are certain, indeed seem calculated, to provoke Russia. In a news brief he states:

Recent measures are certain to provoke Moscow further, and entangle the United States to an unwise extent with an extremely murky, ideologically troubling Ukrainian regime.”

Carpenter covers different arms deals with Ukraine, which is the situs of a hot-proxy war with Russia and has nothing to do with democracy:

The first transaction in December 2017 was limited to small arms …Model M107A1 Sniper Systems, ammunition, and associated parts and accessories, a sale valued at $41.5 million. A transaction in April 2018 was more serious. Not only was it larger ($47 million), it included…210 Javelin anti-tank missiles… Congress soon passed legislation in May that authorized $250 million in military assistance, including lethal weaponry, to Ukraine in 2019.”

With the United States having both an increased budget for arms sales in Ukraine and troops active near the Russian border, it will be interesting to see what the Human Rights Watch 2019 Report on Ukraine looks like.

Top photo | Volunteers with the right-wing paramilitary Azov National Corps stand to attention less than a month before the country’s presidential vole during a march along the main street in Kiev, Ukraine, March 2, 2019. /Efrem Lukatsky | AP

Nick Rehwaldt is a MintPress News intern. He is an author, artist, and standup comedian focused on political issues, with much of his material ripped from the headlines on any given week. He’s also a proud non-voter and global citizen who happens to live in the U.S.

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