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Ukrainian Neo-Nazis – Anything But Fringe & Far From Powerless

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CPI Editor-in-Chief and host of TheRevolutionReport YouTube channel Donald Courter recently published a detailed video explaining the extent to which armed neo-Nazi groups existed and influenced the state in Ukraine since 2014. The video also looks at the Ukrainian neo-Nazi movement’s horrific legacy of Nazi collaboration in the Second World War.

Let’s take a look at the main takeaways from Courter’s video and a deeper dive into the various neo-Nazi and far-right organizations that have been active throughout Ukraine.

Who are the neo-Nazi groups active in Ukraine?

1) Azov

The neo-Nazi group that gets by far the most attention from Western media is the Azov battalion, a paramilitary unit known for its neo-Nazi and white supremacist ideology as well as its use of Nazi symbolism. In May 2014, Andrei Biletsky organized the neo-Nazis of Patriot of Ukraine, the Social National Assembly (SNA) group, and other ultra-nationalist gangs into the Azov battalion. Biletsky, known as “Bely Vozhd” – or White Ruler – to his supporters, infamously proclaimed that Ukraine’s national purpose was to “lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade . . . against the Semite-led Untermenschen [inferior-races].” According to the FBI, the Azov Battalion “is believed to have participated in training and radicalizing United States-based white supremacy organizations.”

Since 2014, Azov has been at the forefront of armed neo-Nazi and ultra-nationalist groups that formed the core of Ukraine’s volunteer battalions – the same formations that fought at the front-line of Kiev’s war against the Donbass people’s republics. Azov’s horrific acts have been laid bare for all to see, as even Western-aligned human rights groups like Amnesty International have accused the group of “ISIS Style War Crimes,” including abduction, executions, and torture. For the last 8 years, Azov has been one of the most enthusiastic front line battalions, indiscriminately bombing innocent people in Donbass and sabotaging their access to clean water and electricity. Now that they are in an all out war with Russia, they have become more brutal than ever before. Azov troops using civilians as human shields, preventing them from accessing civilian corridors, and killing them en masse as part of false flag operations have been reported numerous times.

Azov might get the most attention from Western media but it is not the only neo-Nazi militia to commit atrocities in Donbass. There is also the Aidar Battalion, whose crimes in the Ukrainian-occupied territory of Lugansk in the summer of 2014 prompted Amnesty International to issue a special briefing:

“Members of the Aidar territorial defense battalion, operating in the north Luhansk region, have been involved in widespread abuses, including abductions, unlawful detention, ill-treatment, theft, extortion, and possible executions.”

Even the Kiev-appointed governor of Ukrainian occupied Lugansk said, in 2014, that Aidar was “terrorizing the region.”

Other neo-Nazi and far-right organizations that have joined Azov in committing similar war crimes in the Donbass include Right Sector, the Ukrainian Donbass Brigade, and Dnepr. Despite ample evidence, none of these crimes have been prosecuted by Ukrainian or international authorities.

2) Right Sector

Right Sector is one of Ukraine’s most powerful neo-Nazi organizations, with both its own political party and a paramilitary wing. Right Sector played an instrumental role in carrying out the sniper shootings of protesters and police during the Maidan massacre in February 2014, which led to the overthrow of the Yanukovych government and ultimately to the civil war in Donbass that continues to this day.

On May 2, 2015, an assortment of far-right forces led by Right Sector banded together to massacre their political opponents in Odessa. Right Sector attacked anti-Maidan protesters, sending them fleeing into the local trade union building. Blocking their exits, the far-right forces set the building on fire – killing 48 anti-fascist Ukrainian citizens. The United States and EU looked the other way, thereby legitimizing the violence committed by neo-Nazi forces against Kiev’s political opponents. To this day, Ukrainian authorities have not prosecuted one person involved.

3) C14 and National Druzhyna

C14 is the youth wing of the neo-Nazi Svoboda party and its name references the 14 words by former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke. C14 receives Ukrainian tax-payer money for the purpose of “national-patriotic education.”

Yevhen Karas, the leader of C-14, shares the same neo-Nazi convictions as Azov. On February 5, 2022, Karas publicly boasted about the influence that C14 and other neo-Nazi organizations enjoyed over Ukrainian politics, despite their relatively small numbers: “If not for those eight percent [of neo-Nazis] the effectiveness [of the Maidan coup] would have dropped by 90 percent. The 2014 Maidan ‘Revolution of Dignity’ would have been a ‘gay parade’ if not for the instrumental role of neo-Nazis.” Karas admitted that what makes C14 and similar ultra-nationalist groups so effective is that they “have fun killing.”

C14 is known for its repeated attacks on local Roma populations and the widespread destruction of their living areas. Similar “pogroms” against the Romani have been carried out by the National Druzyhna, a sister organization to Azov.

C14 also regularly attacks leftists and anti-fascists, as evidenced by the attempted assassination of anti-war activist Stas Serhiyenko. Actions like these create a climate of fear for progressive and dissident activists.

Is Ukraine a neo-Nazi State?

It is indisputable that there are powerful neo-Nazis groups active in Ukraine. But is it fair to attribute them to the Ukrainian state overall? Or is it more accurate to dismiss these elements as fringe and powerless?

To answer these questions in a scientific manner, we can turn to Vladimir Lenin’s groundbreaking work State and Revolution. Lenin reminds us that the state is a manifestation of class power, the will of which is carried out by “special bodies of armed men having prisons, etc. at their command.” The “chief instruments of state power,” Lenin observes, are a “standing army and police.” Thus, the essence of the state can be found by examining how its military and police are used as an instrument of class oppression.

In Ukraine, the state’s “special bodies of armed men” are dominated by neo-Nazis, even officially. The Azov battalion was integrated into the National Guard of Ukraine in 2014. Likewise, the Aidar battalion has been integrated into the Ukrainian Armed Force and is now part of the 53rd Mechanized Brigade. In 2018, C14 signed an agreement with Kiev’s city government that allowed the armed neo-Nazi organization to establish a “municipal guard” and patrol the streets. Azov’s own spin off of a street patrol unit, National Druzhina, was openly backed by the Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov. Moreover, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), which acts as the country’s main intelligence and security agency, closely collaborates with Right Sector, Azov, C14, and others as part of counter-intelligence and “anti-terrorism” operations.

Furthermore, the class-based nature of the current conflict and the central role played by neo-Nazis cannot be ignored. Right Sector, Svoobda, and C14 were critical in creating the conditions for the US-backed coup in 2014, which turned Ukraine into a neoliberal vassal state of the global monopoly-capitalist class. Azov, Aidar, and other such battalions have been instrumental in carrying out Kiev’s civil war against those willing to resist fascist repression in Donbass. They have also been used to suppress political opposition to the pro-Western government in Kiev and to conduct political kidnappings, as well as assassinations of dissidents. As for where the money trail leads, these neo-Nazi groups were founded and bankrolled by oligarch billionaires like Igor Kolomoisky, while much of their training and many of their armaments were courtesy of Washington.

Contrary to what the United States and its allies would have us believe, the armed neo-Nazi groups operating in Ukraine are far from fringe and anything but powerless.

Further Reading