Russian President Vladimir Putin says he invaded Ukraine to “denazify” the country and “protect people” from “intimidation and genocide”. The Russians apparently believe it too; around 68% believe the purpose of the invasion is self-defense, while 21% say it has to do with denazification. Although some have been careful to acknowledge that Ukraine does indeed have a Nazi problem, the West has mostly responded to such claims with a roll of its eyes, rightly arguing that Putin’s so-called denazification is nothing short of more than an excuse for blatant land. grab.
But there is one glaring point that has been largely overlooked in the discussion of Nazism in Ukraine: the fact that the country’s Nazi problem traces directly to Russia.
Moscow recently released a shady video of FSB forces allegedly “thwarting” an assassination attempt by Ukrainian neo-Nazis. The so-called assassins’ lair contained a lot of “evidence” which appears to have been planted, such as a new Nazi T-shirt and Sims games, apparently a mistake by Russian agents who were instructed to bring Sim cards into the apartment. but planted the video games instead.
Another item that was “discovered” was a book with a handwritten note, signed with “illegible signature”, suggesting that the FSB mistakenly signed these words after being asked to leave an illegible signature. Like everything else, the book was probably a plant, but the signature isn’t as dumb as it looks.
This phrase has a special meaning in the Russian ultra-nationalist community. It’s even the title of a grossly anti-Semitic animated film about a rat (a metaphorical Jew) who gets a job in an office using a reference with an illegible signature. Leonid Volkov, chief of staff to opposition leader Alexei Navalny, wrote on Twitter that the sentence is also linked to Vasily Fedorovich, author of the 2011 fascist manifesto and guide to hate crimes “White Laces”. Like Die Welt reported in 2008: “Ukrainian hate groups are believed to take inspiration from their counterparts in Russia…Russian skinheads help local groups, sharing advice and video clips on how to attack and torture victims and to leave the scene of the crime safely.
There are other forms of ultra-nationalist cultural inspiration that have bled into Ukraine from Russia over the years, including neo-Nazi football fan groups, mixed martial arts (MMA), and underground metal bands. Russian neo-Nazi soccer hooligan and far-right MMA figure Denis Nikitin has lived in Ukraine for years, where he organizes MMA fights in Kyiv and allegedly uses MMA as a neo-Nazi recruiting tool. Another avenue for Russian neo-Nazis to meet and recruit Ukrainians has been the music scene, including Russian metal band M8L8TX (Hitler’s Hammer), which frequently toured the Kharkiv region. “When you talk to the Nazis themselves,” freelance journalist Leonid Ragozin said, “it turns out that they frequently attended these concerts.”
The Russian government also reportedly played a direct role in sending neo-Nazi mercenaries to Ukraine. This includes Dmitry Demushkin, who claimed that in February 2014, then Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin offered to appoint him mayor of a city in Donbass if he agreed to lead his supporters to fight in Ukraine. A year later, Wagner-affiliated mercenary and neo-Nazi Alexei Milchakov also claimed that he, fellow Russian neo-Nazi Yan Petrovsky and others had been paid by the Russian government to do mercenary work in Ukraine, where he has since founded the neo-Nazi. The Nazi mercenary group Rusich and made headlines by cutting off the ears of enemy corpses.
To be fair, Ukraine has a Nazi history of its own. The nation’s founding fathers were Nazi collaborators: Stepan Bandera was the leader of the far-right Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), Roman Shukhevych was a Nazi auxiliary police captain, and Yaroslav Stetsko once said that he supported the “destruction of the Jews”.
Vestiges of this type of historical antisemitism persist to this day: there has been a recent surge of antisemitism in Ukraine in recent years, including a neo-Nazi march in Kyiv in May 2021. But to the extent that such problems exist, targeted efforts have been made to address them, including in early February this year, when the Ukrainian government passed a law criminalizing anti-Semitism.
Then there is the Ukrainian Azov Battalion, whose founding leader once said that Ukraine’s purpose was to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade…against the Semite-led Untermenschen.” [subhumans].” But if Azov is an ultra-nationalist anti-Semitic group and the ultra-nationalist influence comes from Russia, why is Azov fighting Russia?
“The Nazi golem began to spiral out of its creator’s control.”
“Over the past four years in Russia, there have been mass beatings of people with the ‘wrong’ skin color or the wrong eye shape,” wrote Igor Eidman, the Russian sociologist and political commentator, in September 2020. “But there has been virtually no political attempt at security. officers, officials, oligarchs.
That was until 2007, when “the Nazi golem began to spin out of its creator’s control. The Nazis actually switched to mass terror, destabilizing the country. They started blowing up and destroying the markets,” Eidman wrote. As a result, the Russian authorities decided to end their Nazi project during the Euromaidan uprisings in Ukraine, because “the Kremlin decided that the nationalists could become a fighting force of the protests not only in kyiv, but also in Moscow. That is why in 2014 they tried to ship them to the slaughterhouse in Donbass. And those who refused were imprisoned.
This rhymes with the statements of Demushkin, Milchakov and others.
Eidman concludes that almost all of Russia’s ultra-nationalist leaders suddenly became enemies of the state and were imprisoned from 2014 to 2015. Many subsequently fled to Ukraine. Alexander Parinov, wanted for having planned the murder of a lawyer and a journalist, would now be a member of Azov. Sergey Korotkikh, who founded Russia’s largest ultra-nationalist group, the National Socialist Society, is now one of the best members of Azov. Roman Zheleznov of the far-right Restrukt movement, which hunted gay people in Russia, would also serve in Azov. Alexei Korshunov, a member of the neo-Nazi Combat Organization of Russian Nationalists (BORN), responsible for numerous murders, was suspected of killing antifa activist Ivan Khutorskoi and fled to Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.
Russia therefore helped to foster and encourage ultra-nationalist groups to destabilize Ukraine, but when the Kremlin realized that these same groups could be a destabilizing force in Moscow and suppressed them, many fled to Ukraine. neighbor. The end result being that you now have anti-Russian neo-Nazis in Ukraine of Russian descent.
“The Kremlin has found that the ultra-right can pose a threat to political stability, not just to migrant workers and African students,” said Alexander Verkhovsky, director of Russian think tank SOVA Center, which focuses on nationalism and racism in the post-Soviet era. Russia, told the Daily Beast. “There have been several waves of repression. My hypothesis is that our authorities had fears related to those who participated in the war [in Ukraine] and came back very frustrated.
Verkhovsky says that while Russia influenced Ukrainian bands, it didn’t create them. “Many Russian neo-Nazis and other far-right leaders and activists, including activists, have fled to Ukraine over the years,” he added. “Some of them, not all of them, have become part of the Ukrainian neo-Nazi milieu. But all Ukrainian neo-Nazi groups were created by Ukrainians.
Political betrayal is only part of the problem. There is also a deep ideological divide. “Our ultra-rightists are first and foremost white racists,” Verkhovsky said, adding, “Putin is considered an enemy because he invites millions of non-Slavs from other countries, which is considered an invasion. He is therefore considered a national traitor.
This explains why, in a 2014 report by the Guardian, a fighter from Azov reportedly said, “I have nothing against Russian nationalists or a greater Russia. But Putin is not even Russian. Putin is Jewish.
In a nutshell, this is how you end up with Putin saying he wants to de-Nazi Ukraine and impeach its Jewish president, while having Russian neo-Nazis in Ukraine saying Putin is a Jew. Either way, Putin’s claim is clearly a case of the Nazi kettle calling the Nazi kettle black.