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Meet Moscow’s New “Ukrainian Front”

February 3, 2014

Today Ukraine’s beleaguered President Viktor Yanukovych returned to work after four days of “sick leave.” His country is spiraling into chaos. Kyiv’s writ no long carries in much of the West of country, which is something like open revolt against the Yanukovych government. While that government has promised some concessions to the diverse opposition, little has been achieved yet, while beatings and abductions of journalists and anti-regime activists continue. It is becoming increasingly difficult to see how this crisis can be resolved peacefully.

Some of this dirty work may be attributable to Moscow, as I’ve previously reported. What’s not in doubt is that Russian media over the last week has ramped up its anti-opposition rhetoric, with regular castigations of Ukrainians who dislike Yanukovych as “fascists” and worse. Some of this borders on hysteria. Kremlin-linked outlets in particular have been fanning the flames, resurrecting memories of the Second World War – of course with regular reminders that some Ukrainians, especially in the West, resisted Soviet rule mightily, indeed into the 1950s. Perhaps most alarming is the current of discussion in Moscow media that openly mentions civil war and the fragmentation of Ukraine into as many as five countries, a process that could not be achieved without major bloodshed.

What Russia’s enhanced political meddling in Ukraine looks like was revealed today in an article in the Moscow daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta which, to be clear, is the Kremlin’s official outlet. Maksim Makarychev’s report, titled “Divided. Who will conquer? A front is created in Ukraine to fight against EuroMaidan,” details the establishment of a new political grouping in Eastern Ukraine to back the Yanukovych government against the opposition, which the article slyly hints is in the pay of – unnamed, presumably Western – foreigners.

This new organization, called the Ukrainian Front (Украинский фронт), aims to “save” Ukraine from foreign meddling and revolution, and has just been established in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, under the “grassroots” auspices of Yanukovych’s ruling Party of Regions. Harking back to the Second World War and the Stalinist era, the article cites the stirring words of Mykhaylo Dobkin, one of Yanukovych’s top functionaries in Kharkiv and a prime mover behind the front’s establishment: “After seventy years a new Ukrainian Front is starting to operate in Ukraine, the members of which will follow the example of our fathers and grandfathers and free our land, like in the 1940’s.”

According to Makarychev, “representatives from twenty Ukrainian regions gathered in Kharkiv: They all spoke about the need to put an end to the seizure of state buildings and to violence across the country.  The new organization’s main priority is to free the state institutions that have already been seized.” Additionally, the Ukrainian Front seeks to crush the opposition with a “push for a referendum on completely abolishing deputies’ immunity and on cutting the number of parliamentary deputies by one-third.”

It seems Moscow is not pleased with its protege Yanukovych and his inability to crush the opposition, so it is forming a new grouping to “assist” the hardliners. Given that the appearance of the Ukrainian Front has been heralded with a birth announcement in the Kremlin’s official newspaper, Russian approval and support can be assumed.

Moreover, the embrace of Stalinist-era rhetoric by the Ukrainian Front indicates a great deal, and will serve as a needless irritant towards Ukrainians who detest Stalin and his murderous legacy. In a similar vein, Communist activists have unveiled a bust of Stalin in Western Ukraine, a provocation that is about as offensive to most locals there as a statue of Hitler would be in the rest of Europe. Of course, hailing Stalin’s victories in the 1940’s is of a piece with the current Kremlin vilification campaign against all Ukrainians who do not want their country to be subjugated by Russia, a nasty agitprop line that regrettably has Western supporters, not all of them unwitting dupes.

Now that the Ukrainian Front has entered the picture, with Moscow’s imprimatur, expect the situation in Ukraine to only get worse. It would be difficult to overstate the danger Ukraine and Europe are in at the moment thanks to intimidation, meddling and provocation by Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin. European governments would be well advised to not permit naked Russian interference of a violent and coercive sort in Ukrainian politics: this cannot end well.

29 Comments
  1. The Ukrainian opposition are neo-Nazis, albeit dumb ones who don’t realize that joining the EU will mean that Ukraine gets flooded with Africans and Muslims, and they will be forced to accept cheap Chinese junk and Ukrainian manufacturing will get shut down, just like happened to the US and Western Europe.

    But it’s kind of funny that John McCain is funding Ukrainian neo-Nazis. I guess it should be no surprise, consider they also fund Al Qaeda in Syria.

    I’m rooting for the Russkies and Eastern Ukrainians on this one. My wife is from Zaporozhiye so I’m familiar with this issue. The Western Ukrainians are a bunch of damned fools. They are cutting off their nose to spite their face — they hate the Russians so much, that they want to destroy Ukraine.

    • If current trends continue, Western Ukraine will go its own way. If that can be achieved without significant bloodshed, that might be the least-bad option left.

      • Secession would be OK. Let the Western Ukrainians have the mosques and clitoris cutters.

    • JameSmace permalink

      Are you surprised at the Ukrainians hatred of the Russians?
      Do you forget the genocide of 10 million by the Kremlin?

      http://www.faminegenocide.com/resources/famine_map.html
      When will Russia pay reparations for the stolen grain and other assets?

      • I did not.

      • The Bolsheviks were only 1/4 ethnic Russians. CCCP stood for three You Know Who’s and one Russian.

      • John Rogers permalink

        I guess the Russians are responsible for 2.5 million killed, feels much better

    • @mindweapon: You are joking, right? Because it has to be an advanced irony to say about neo-Nazis fighting the distasteful remains of the most devastating and deeply unambitious totalitarian system in the entire history of human race and what is more, fighting to join the union of countries which grants free flow of people between nations and force multiculturalism. Yep, that’s what neo-Nazis do all the time. They just wake up and dream about the union of free nations and competing states.

      You see, Kremlin did a mistake – they believed in their own lies of being powerful, because they picked up the habit of disrespect from treating their own people outrageously.

      But it will go down. This time all of it. And some part of me lives only to see that become real. From Poland, with love. 🙂

  2. JameSmace permalink

    Is someone looking for neonazis? Look no further than Russia who started World War II with their ally, the Nazis.

    Here is a rare video of the Russians and Nazis celebrating when they met in the middle of Poland.

    • I don’t see what that clip has to do with Neo-Nazism which is a current political outlook and one that continues to be severely repressed by the current Russian regime.

      On a more serious note:

      The de facto division is now in place and this situation which is now in an odd stasis has the ability to blow up again once the USA and EU publicly put forward a new economic proposal for Ukraine.

      Yanukovich is not trusted by the Russians, and even the oligarchs of the Donetsk region find him a bit too slippery for their liking. There is a strong possibility that he will be rendered a lame duck through circumstance if not in name since the stakes are so high.

      One thing that puzzles me is why the Rusyns of the far southwest are taking a much more cautious approach than their brothers in L’viv and Ivano-Frankivsk.

      • Great question there ….

      • JameSmace permalink

        The Kremlin is unchanged since its NeoNazi days when they were the ally of Hitler.

        We had a Nuremberg for the Nazis were justice was served. However the Kremlin has not seen justice and it continues its neonazi ways.

  3. Bruce permalink

    The Ukranian ladies that run the restaurant in my building (not so good; lots of beet soup and potatoes, fried everything) are 100% in favor of the current government and in union with Russia, not EU. The TV in there is always on Fox, so I just suspect they’re right-wing conservative working class types, and I am guessing such views are widespread there in country.

    They describe the situation as “a bunch of crazy people want to make a revolution”.

    I don’t have a dog in the fight, but I enjoy encouraging them by saying “Yanukovych will crush them like Stalin!” while waving my fist in the air for effect. (just for the lulz, I do not endorse Stalin or his imitators). They enthusiastically say “I hope so!”

    It’s beginning to look like the whole ‘end of history’ and Western backed ‘color revolutions’ are all played out. The West has not in living memory been this pessimistic and stagnant, while brutal states like Russia and China keep advancing by leaps and bounds. It’s a shame I had to live during this era.

  4. My Ukrainian ladies are also for Yanukovich and Putin. We have RT on all the time at my house (admittedly biased to Russia) but it showed quite clearly that hte pro-EU forces are the groups descended from Stepan Bandera.

    My wife and mother in law are in touch via Skype with relatives in Zaporozhiye, Kiev and Odessa. The consensus is the Western Ukrainians are a bunch of kooks who are happy to accept help of the demonic EU and USA to destroy Ukraine and make it part of the multicultural, Islam spreading and genetically modified food European Union.

  5. Clive Foss permalink

    You’re no doubt right on about the Ruskies backing horrible Yanukovich, but what about the other side? Surely ‘we’ or ‘the West’ are behind the rebels (how else would they get so far?). Seems even imaginable that we’ve opened a second front here to distract the Russians from the first E/W front, Syria…

    • You assume we’re that clever? 🙂

      Seriously, the opposition is so massively divided that I expect very little traction soon. The opposition has no sense of a common vision, beyond Yanukovych gone and Tymoshenko out of jail. A coherent political program it is not.

  6. Amberbock Mike O'Malley permalink

    According to John Helmer, Ukraine is not about liberty; It is about free gas, dependency and government looting. Is this something the West needs to win? (N.B., I don’t think Helmer is pro Putin. He despises all despots without regard to race, color or creed)
    http://johnhelmer.net/?p=10168

    • It’s about all of those things, actually, But for many Ukrainians, the specter of being openly beholden to Moscow evokes the worst sort of national memories. Hence the drama and emotion, on all sides.

  7. Davod permalink

    Looking at a map of the Ukraine, I wonder if the Russians are not agitating for the separation of western Ukraine along the Dnipro river. Russia maintains control through a friendly Ukrainian government) of the Crimea and most of the industrial and mining in the east and the west gets Chernobyl and agricultural land.

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