‘Prepared to Die’: The Right Wing’s Role in Ukrainian Protests
(Photo: Getty Images)
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich appears bent on crushing the protest movement but the opposition won’t go quietly. A right-wing nationalist party is seeking to benefit from the growing violence and has begun warning of a civil war.
Dressed in jeans and a down jacket, the parliamentarian who wants to overthrow Ukraine’s president by any means necessary is standing in Kiev’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or Independence Square, where a struggle for power has played out over the last two months. “What can our cobblestones, Molotov cocktails and burning tires do against water cannons, bullets and armored cars?” asks Igor Myroshnychenko. “Many people here are prepared to die.”
Under his jacket Myroshnychenko wears a traditional embroidered Ukrainian shirt. He is among the leaders of the right-wing nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) Party, which has formed a coalition with former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko’s Udar Party, along with jailed former leader Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland Party, against President Viktor Yanukovich.
Myroshnychenko tried a few days ago to prevent the passage of an amendment that limits the right to demonstrate. Soon after the president signed it, Myroshnychenko and three other Svoboda MPs marched into the printing plant where the government newspaper was being completed. New laws only take effect once they have been published. Part of the print run had already been sent off in trucks but protestors burned the remainder on Maidan Square.
Government opponents have been erecting increasing numbers of barriers in the center of Kiev in recent days, and the country is on the brink of a “partisan war,” Myroshnychenko says. “A lot of blood will flow, including the blood of innocent people. I have no hope that Yanukovich will meet even a single one of our demands.”
Flirting with the Right Wing
The Svoboda party also has excellent ties to Europe, but they are different from the ones that Klischko might prefer. It is allied with France’s right-wing Front National and with the Italian neo-fascist group Fiamma Tricolore. But when it comes to the oppression of homosexuality, representative Myroshnychenko is very close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, even if he does all he can to counter Moscow’s influence in his country.
“The EU is the only possibility for us to defend ourselves against Russian pressure,” he says. He and his party see the alliance with Klitschko as being purely tactical. Klitschko, after all, would like to limit the powers of the president while Svoboda dreams of a country with a strong leader.
Myroshnychenko was press spokesman for the Ukrainian national football team in the lead up to the 2008 European Championships, but he isn’t exactly cosmopolitan. He would even like to see foreign professional football players deported because they “change Ukraine’s ethnic map.”
There have been other, similar incidents. In a 2012 debate over the Ukrainian-born American actress Mila Kunis, he said that she wasn’t Ukrainian, rather she was a “Jewess.” Indeed, anti-Semitism is part of the extremist party’s platform; until 2004, they called themselves the Social-National Party of Ukraine in an intentional reference to Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist party. Just last summer, a prominent leader of party youth was distributing texts from Nazi propaganda head Joseph Goebbels translated into Ukrainian.
Without the nationalists’ tight organization, the revolt on Maidan Square would long since have collapsed. But Svoboda also embodies the greatest danger to the protest movement. The party’s foot soldiers, with their muddled, right wing doctrine, aren’t likely to hold back for much longer.
And that might be what the president is waiting for.
Spiegel.de has the full article