Exiled Russian lawmaker explains why Putin isn’t afraid of Obama

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Exiled Russian lawmaker explains why Putin isn’t afraid of Obama

VOX – Tuesday, April 21, 2015

On March 20, 2014, when Russia’s State Duma voted on whether to annex the Ukrainian region of Crimea into Russia, 445 of the Duma’s legislators voted yes and one voted no. The “no” was Ilya Ponomarev, a longtime leftist politician and critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Within a few months, Ponomarev was exiled from Russia and stripped of his legislative immunity from prosecution. Though he is still officially a Duma member, he now lives in the US and is attempting to organize a more formal opposition to Putin from outside of the country.

We spoke to him in Washington, DC, about the stability of Putin’s rule, the Russian elites who help keep him in power, how things might change, and Putin’s increasingly tense relationship with Europe and the United States. While Ponomarev believes change will come to Russia, he warned that it will take years — and believes it will likely come from a combination of Russian elites turning against Putin and popular unrest, not from the ballot box.

What follows is a transcript of our conversation, edited and condensed for clarity.

Let me ask you about Crimea, and your vote in the Duma against its annexation as part of Russia. Did you know you were going to be the only one voting against it?

Yes. I expected this.

So why did you vote against it?

I thought there had to be somebody to show that it wasn’t unanimous. Because if it was unanimous, that would be used later to restore relations with Ukraine [while treating the annexation of Crimea as irrevocable]. But if there was a split, that means you have somebody to talk to [in the Russian government about Crimea’s status]. But of course, I understood that would significantly disrupt my activities in the country.

Did you expect the reaction to be as bad as it was?

I expected they might try a criminal case for sure. I didn’t expect that they would try to isolate me outside of Russia. I would rather expect the reverse — that they would try to contain me within Russia. They decided to go the other way.

Do you regret it?

The vote? Of course not. This was my job to do this. So I consulted with my constituents, and I tried to do right.

After the vote, what was the reaction from your constituents?

The most common reaction, pardon my language, is, “We disagree, but you are a true Siberian man with real balls.” That was the most common phrase I heard.

I understand you’re traveling to Europe soon. What are you working on there?

I’m working with the Russian diaspora, which has been traditionally disorganized and hasn’t had any kind of political agenda. It’s very fragmented. That’s a very dramatic contrast with the Ukrainian diaspora, because the Ukrainians are very well-organized. They were very active in terms of what was going on in 2004 in the Orange Revolution and the recent Maidan events.

The Russian diaspora is not like that. So I want to change it. I want to use it to develop a vision of Russia after Putin.

Within Russia, a big constituency for Putin’s actions in Crimea and in eastern Ukraine has been the neo-imperialist movement and, to some extent, the Russian nationalist movement that sees these areas as rightfully Russian. Are these groups focusing much on the Russian communities in the Baltic states, in Estonia and Latvia and Lithuania?

All Russian speakers. All those who might be seen as wanting to come back. But even the Russian community in Baltic states is divided. Take an example that I know well, Latvia, where we have the largest Russian community. There are people for whom Russian is a native tongue but who agreed to integrate in Latvian society and learn the language. That’s about half of the Russian population there; they are citizens.

They still identify themselves as Russians. They watch Russian TV. The mayor of Riga is Russian, Nils Ušakovs. The party that is supported by these Russians, Harmony, is the number-one political party in Latvia. They get around 30 percent, 35 percent of votes. It’s supported by these ethnic Russians in Latvia, but they are pro-Latvian. They don’t want to join Russia.

But there are ethnic Russians in Latvia who are non-citizens, who say, “We don’t want to learn Latvian language. It’s not our fault that we live here, and they should respect [our rights].” It is a difficult issue of being a non-citizen in your own country, where you have been born. They are very much pro-Russian because they feel oppressed.

That community was supporting a local referendum to acknowledge Russian as a second state language in Latvia. The referendum failed, but a very significant number voted for it. And that basically illustrates the divide.

If Putin’s going to leave office, are you looking toward the Duma elections coming up in 2016 or the presidential election in 2018 as how that would happen?

Most likely not that fast, because it’s impossible to use the existing electoral code and conduct free elections. We will end up with exactly the same system, and I think that without rewriting the constitution, without rewriting the basic political laws, it’s impossible to create a workable system. You would need to have a kind of transitional president, during which these set of laws would be developed.

We have this with the president of Kyrgyzstan, Roza Otunbayeva, who was elected by all different political actors during the revolution. [Otunbayeva served as transitional president in 2010 and 2011 after the government was deposed.] She was a popular figure, and she was trusted by everybody to not abuse power and to not run as a candidate during the next election.

Sure, but the mechanism for that was a revolution.

Yes, I would think that only a revolution would change things [in Russia]; I don’t believe any change will come through the elections.

Who would that come from?

I think that would come from a combination of civil unrest in the streets and from elites who are already dissatisfied with what’s going on, who would come to understand that it’s really dead-end for them in this current system.

Right now, though, there are still hopes [among Russian elites] that a new American president will come into office in 2017 and that he or maybe she will end the sanctions.

Do people believe the sanctions will end specifically because Hillary Clinton would end them, or just that once Obama leaves, whoever comes in will change US policy toward Russia?

The analysis in the Kremlin that has been propagated down, including to the [state] media, is the belief that the Americans are extremely rational and pragmatic. [In this view, the problem is only that] Obama is a lame duck and so he would not do anything, and he already has a personal issue with [Putin]. But as soon as he’s out, the pressure would go.

But elites in Russia are unhappy with how things are going?

Of course nobody is happy with how things are going. The sanctions are disturbing [to the elites]. The elites are nervous, and definitely don’t want to live under such circumstances for a long period of time because it’s a kind of personal instability for them. It creates insecurity. They want to settle this down so that these feelings will go. It hurts their business. Even those who are not under sanctions, they might come under them at any time.

Who are these elites? Are there key people who, if they lose faith in Putin, could be important in determining what happens?

It’s a significant part within Russian elites who can open the gates of the Kremlin in a critical situation. They are within business, the establishment, law enforcement. Nobody wants to fight against their own people. They would never make the first move, but they will join the winning side.

That’s why it has to be a combination [of elites and a popular movement to effect change]. People on the streets need to protest. That’s what was happening in Ukraine. You know, Maidan [the 2013 Ukrainian revolution] would not have happened if it was just people on the Kiev streets. It happened only because it was a combination: people at the top, the inability of law enforcement to really fight, and mass popular movement.

What’s stopping that from happening now?

People are not ready. It takes time. You have to mature to that idea.

People, at the end of the day, are pretty rational. So they always weigh risks, especially risks to themselves. And if there is doubt, they’ll always be waiting whether any change is real or not. So they have to start to feel that the change is real. That has to be in the air, the sense that it’s real. That something is going to change.

s there a belief among the elite that Putin, even if they don’t love him, can at least maintain stability and keep all the internal forces in line?

Yes, some people actually afraid that without Putin it would be a turn for worse. That’s a possibility; that is a very valid fear. A lot of these Novorossiya people [who see much of Ukraine as rightfully part of Russia and may have fought in eastern Ukraine] are real fighters or are real 100 percent fascists. That’s really scary for a lot of people.

One of the usual Putin lines of propaganda is that he never says he is good. The message put out to the [Kremlin] media might say, “Yes, we are bad, but those who might come after us are worse.”

He never says, like, United Russia [Putin’s political party] is good. He says, “Yes, it is corrupt. Yes, it is incompetent. But look at the opposition. They are even more corrupt, they are even more incompetent. They are associated with the ’90s, and in the ’90s it was worse than we have now, so you better stick with the lesser evil.”

And the elites find this message compelling?

eah, many people do. We have seen so often in our lives that it can always be worse. People are really afraid.

The opposition is focused too much on negative things. Like, okay, [opposition figure Alexei] Navalny is against the corruption. Okay, we are all against the corruption. It’s pretty self-evident that we should fight corruption.

That’s why Putin is saying Navalny is as corrupt as all the others. That’s his message. People say, “Probably that’s not true, but still I don’t know. He’s against corruption, we like him, but how?”

Is there anyone you think is providing a compelling alternative message in Russia right now?

Right now I don’t see many people do this. There was a prototype, called Club 2015. It was organized by a group of Russian business people in 1995 who were developing this 20-year vision for Russia.

It was never actually implemented inside Russia despite the fact that four members of the club, who swore that they would promote the ideas of the group, all have prominent positions right now. For example, Olga Dergunova, one of the members, is now chief of the government agency that manages state property.

But another member became a key person for reforms in Georgia, under [former Georgian President] Mikheil Saakashvili. It was extremely successful, and helped to defeat corruption and jump-start reforms. And that came from that [Club 2015] vision.

here seems to be a view in Russia that the US and Europe are somewhat divided over their approach to Russia — for example that Europe is only going along with sanctions because Obama has pressured them into it. Is there an effort by Russia to widen this possible division?

In general, [the view is that] this current administration thinks this all should be a European affair. They have their priorities in the Middle East, which I think is a mistake.

Putin recognizes this lack of attention and lack of strategy and is trying to play on the contradictions. Europe is not very capable as a union in terms of foreign policy, and Putin is trying to increase the possibility that this union could fall apart. He is financing right-wing parties, he is financing separatists.

A fear that I hear from people who work with NATO is that Putin is trying to, as you say, heighten contradictions between the US and Europe, and particularly between the US and Germany, over the degree to which NATO should counter Russia’s actions in Europe. And that part of what he’s trying to do, not just in Ukraine but maybe also in the Baltics, is to force a split between Europe and the US that will divide NATO. Do you think that’s right?

That’s obviously his strategy. The weaker part of NATO is not right now contradictions between Europe and US, but contradictions within Europe. Within the neutral countries of Europe, like in Germany.

First, inside Germany there is a greater degree of anti-Americanism, and Putin is playing on this. It’s 19th-century anti-imperialism that has been translated into anti-Americanism. Putin, again, is trying to use this concept of lesser evil, that you should ally with the lesser imperialism to fight the major imperialism. And a lot of people who are ultra-left and ultra-right tend to agree with that position, and that is facilitating this kind of thing.

Also it’s important to see that in Germany, Social Democrats and Socialists [two major political parties] are traditionally affiliated with labor unions. And that’s all about jobs, and jobs are about economic cooperation with Russia. I hear all the time from German Social Democrats, “Our economic interests in Ukraine, they are minuscule, and our economic interests in Russia, they are pretty large. Of course, we understand that Ukraine is right and Russia is wrong, but, speaking pragmatically about the interests of Germans, common Germans, we should still be with Russia.”

That view also seems to be much more popular with German voters, one of saying, “Let’s not get involved in this, because it’s really just a fight between the US and Russia that could be costly to us, and let’s stick with our economic interests.”

Yes, absolutely. And [the Kremlin] plays on this all the time. They are trying to show Germans that you’d be better off forgiving Russia for all wrongdoings, because that would be to your benefit.

The most extreme version of this that I hear in Washington is the fear that Putin could try to split Germany from NATO once and for all by hinting that he might do with the Russian communities in Estonia or Latvia something like what he did in Donbass, in eastern Ukraine. And because Estonia and Latvia are NATO members, this would force Germany to choose whether it was going to side with NATO and come to the Baltics’ defense, or whether it would say, “No, we’ve had enough of this,” and that this would effectively end NATO.

I wouldn’t think Putin would dare to vote for open military measures in the Baltic states. But of course it would be enough for grassroots movements there to rebel, and Russia would play on this, and that would be used as a lever on Europe.

Rather, I think it’s a very high probability of further advances in non-NATO members in eastern Europe. Definitely Putin might decide for another offensive in eastern Ukraine, after Victory Day [an annual Russian holiday marking the end of World War II] on May 9. Or he might try to build this land corridor to Crimea. He might escalate in Moldova [where Russia has a military base in the separatist region of Transnistria].

With Baltic states, as NATO members, he’ll be more cautious. But he’s the type of guy who is always increasing stakes.

 

 

Russians’ approval of President Vladimir Putin hits near all-time high, poll shows

Russia's President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin (RIA Novosti / Alexey Nikolsky)

 

RT news

Published time: October 15, 2014 18:30

President Putin’s average approval marks from the Russian public have approached the record level of early 2008, independent research has shown.

The poll conducted in late September by the Levada sociology center shows that the average mark given by Russians to their leader is now 7.33 out of 10. This figure has been higher only once before – a mark of 7.49 reached in January 2008 at the very end of Putin’s first two terms as president.

17 percent of all respondents think Putin deserved the top mark – 10 out of 10 – for his work.

In the same poll, 38 percent of Russians said the head of state was worthy of their trust because his current performance was strong and successful.

At the same time, the overwhelming majority of respondents denied that the president’s popularity was turning into a personality cult. Only 19 percent said they had noticed features resembling a cult, compared to 27 percent a year ago.

The poll results are consistent with a recent tendency for record-breaking ratings for President Putin and other top Russian officials. Researchers explain this by ‘mobilization’ and solidarity of society in the face of foreign hostility, and also by events like the accession of the Crimean Republic into the Russian Federation.

In mid-August, 52 percent of Russians told Levada Center that they were ready to vote for Putin if presidential elections were held on the nearest weekend. January 2014, the share of such people was about 29 percent and that means that Vladimir Putin’s presidential rating has doubled in almost seven months.

Another influential sociological think-tank, the Public Opinion Foundation, conducted similar research in early August. It found that 68 percent of all potential voters were ready to support Putin at presidential elections, compared to 58 percent in March and 46 percent in January.

Putin: Nazi virus ‘vaccine’ losing effect in Europe

The coup d’état in Ukraine is a worrying example of growing neo-Nazi tendencies in Eastern Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin told a Serbian newspaper. He stressed that “open manifestations” of neo-Nazism is also commonplace in Baltic states.

Below is the full text of the interview.

Politika:You are coming to Belgrade to take part in the celebrations commemorating the 70th anniversary of the city’s liberation from occupation by Nazi Germany. Why, in your view, are such commemoration events important today?

Vladimir Putin:First of all, I would like to thank the Serbian leadership for the invitation to visit Serbia and take part in the celebrations commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Belgrade from occupation by Nazi Germany.

We are truly grateful to our Serbian friends for the way they treasure the memory of the Soviet soldiers who fought together with the National Liberation Army of Yugoslavia against Hitler’s occupation troops. During World War II, over 31,000 Red Army officers and soldiers were killed, wounded or went missing on the territory of former Yugoslavia. About 6,000 Soviet citizens fought against the invaders in the ranks of the National Liberation Army. Their courage brought closer our common victory over Nazism and will always be remembered by our peoples as an example of bravery, unyielding determination and selfless service to one’s homeland.

It is hard to overestimate the importance of the upcoming events. Seventy years ago, our nations joined forces to defeat the criminal ideology of hatred for humanity, which threatened the very existence of our civilization. And today it is also important that people in different countries and on different continents remember what terrible consequences may result from the belief in one’s exceptionality, attempts to achieve dubious geopolitical goals, no matter by what means, and disregard for basic norms of law and morality. We must do everything in our power to prevent such tragedies in the future.

Regrettably, in some European countries the Nazi virus “vaccine” created at the Nuremberg Tribunal is losing its effect. This is clearly demonstrated by open manifestations of neo-Nazism that have already become commonplace in Latvia and other Baltic states. The situation in Ukraine, where nationalists and other radical groups provoked an anti-constitutional coup d’état in February, causes particular concern in this respect.

Members of the Ukrainian far-right radical group Right Sector (Reuters / Valentyn Ogirenko)

Members of the Ukrainian far-right radical group Right Sector (Reuters / Valentyn Ogirenko)

Today, it is our shared duty to combat the glorification of Nazism. We must firmly oppose the attempts to revise the results of WWII and consistently combat any forms and manifestations of racism, xenophobia, aggressive nationalism and chauvinism.

I am sure that the anniversary celebrations in Belgrade, which are to become another manifestation of the sincere friendship between our nations based on the feelings of mutual affinity and respect, on spiritual kinship, on brotherhood in arms in the years of WWII, will also contribute to addressing these challenges. We hope that the preservation of historical memory will continue to help us strengthen peace, stability and welfare of the common European space together.

Politika:How do you see the Russian-Serbian relations today? What has been achieved during the past twenty years and what future trends in the interaction between the two countries do you foresee?

Vladimir Putin: Serbia has always been and still is one of Russia’s key partners in southeast Europe. Our nations are united by centuries-long traditions of friendship and fruitful cooperation. Their development is fostered by common interests in such spheres as politics, the economy, culture and many others.

Today, the Russian-Serbian relations are on the rise. In 2013, President of Serbia Tomislav Nikolic and I signed the Interstate Declaration on Strategic Partnership reaffirming our shared intention to promote large-scale collaboration in all key areas.

We have maintained active political contacts to discuss relevant bilateral and international issues in the spirit of confidence and agree on joint practical steps. Our governments cooperate closely within the United Nations, OSCE, the Council of Europe and many other organizations.

We are satisfied with the consistent progress in our economic relations bolstered by the existing free trade regime between our countries. In 2013, our mutual trade grew by 15 percent amounting to $1.97 billion, and, in the first six months of 2014, it increased by another 16.5 percent to $1.2 billion. We expect it to reach $2 billion by the end of this year.

A positive trend continues in the field of investment as well. The total amount of Russian investments in Serbia has exceeded $3 billion. Most of these funds have been invested in the strategically important energy industry. One example of successful cooperation is the energy giant Petroleum Industry of Serbia, which has turned from a loss-making enterprise into a major contributor to the Serbian state budget. The South Stream project will provide Serbia with more than 2 billion euros in new investments and significantly strengthen the country’s energy security.

Serbia’s rail infrastructure is being rebuilt and upgraded with the participation of the Russian Railways and our support in the form of loans.

I am pleased to see Serbian businesses play an active part in the promising Russian market. For example, they supply high-quality agricultural and industrial products.

I would like to note another important area of our bilateral cooperation. In recent years, the Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Centre in Nis has taken part in disaster response operations in the Balkans on several occasions. Last May, Russian rescuers helped to evacuate people during a severe flood. The Russian Emergencies Ministry aircraft made several flights to deliver more than 140 tonnes in humanitarian aid to Serbia.

The growing mutual interest of Russian and Serbian people in our countries’ history and culture is also evidence of deepening humanitarian relations. This autumn, Serbia is hosting Days of Russian Spiritual Culture with great success. The central event is the exhibition titled Russia and Serbia. History of Spiritual Connections, 14th-19th Century. We plan to expand cultural, educational, scientific and youth exchanges, and to promote tourism and sports events.

I am confident that my upcoming visit to Belgrade will give a new boost to the traditionally friendly Russian-Serbian relations, which will continue to grow and strengthen from year to year.

Politika:There is currently a great deal of speculation regarding the possible reduction in the supplies of Russian gas to Europe because of Ukraine’s debt. Should European consumers get ready for a cold winter? What about the future of the South Stream project, which is of great interest to Serbia?

Vladimir Putin: First of all, I would like to stress that Russia is meeting its obligations in full with regard to gas supplies to European consumers. We intend to further deepen our cooperation with the EU in the energy sector, where we are natural partners, on a transparent and predictable basis.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko in Minsk August 26, 2014 (Reuters / Sergey Bondarenko)

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko in Minsk August 26, 2014 (Reuters / Sergey Bondarenko)

Since the beginning of the 21st century, we have successfully implemented a number of major projects together with our European partners. This includes the Nord Stream, whish is an important factor in minimising transit risks and ensuring uninterrupted gas supplies to Europe. Over the recent months, Gazprom has been actively increasing gas reserves in European underground gas storage facilities. These measures are aimed to prevent transit disruptions and meet the peak demand in winter.

Naturally, we are aware of the risks generated by the Ukrainian crisis. We were forced to interrupt gas supplies to Ukraine last June because the Kiev authorities refused to pay for the gas supplies they had already received. In late summer and early autumn, we held a series of consultations in a three-party format with the participation of Russia, the EU and Ukraine, where we discussed possible mutually acceptable solutions to the problem of the Ukrainian gas debt settlement, resumption of gas supplies to Ukraine, which had been stopped by the Ukrainian side itself, and continuous hydrocarbon transit to Europe. We are ready to continue constructive talks on these issues.

As for the future of Russian gas exports to Europe, the problem of transit across the Ukrainian territory remains. One of the more obvious solutions might be to diversify the delivery routes. In this regard, we hope that the European Commission will finally make a decision in the nearest future about the use of the OPAL gas pipeline at full capacity.

In addition, we need to resolve the deadlock concerning the South Stream. We are convinced that this project will significantly contribute to integrated energy security in Europe. It will benefit everybody, Russia as well as the European consumers, including Serbia.

South Stream gas pipeline (RIA Novosti / Ramil Sitdikov)

South Stream gas pipeline (RIA Novosti / Ramil Sitdikov)

Politika:In your opinion, what is the ultimate objective of the sanctions against Russia, imposed by the EU and the United States? How long will they last, in your view, and how much harm can they do to Russia?

Vladimir Putin: This question should be addressed to the EU and the United States, whose reasoning is hard to understand. Any unbiased person knows that it was not Russia who staged the coup d’état in Ukraine, which led to the grave internal political crisis and a split in society. An unconstitutional seizure of power was the starting point for the subsequent events, including the ones in Crimea. The people of Crimea, seeing the complexity and unpredictability of the situation and in order to protect their rights to their native language, culture and history, decided to hold a referendum in full compliance with the UN Charter, as a result of which the peninsula re-joined Russia.

Our partners should be well aware that attempts to put pressure on Russia with unilateral and illegitimate restrictive measures will not bring about a settlement, but rather impede the dialogue. How can we talk about de-escalation in Ukraine while the decisions on new sanctions are introduced almost simultaneously with the agreements on the peace process? If the main goal is to isolate our country, it’s an absurd and illusory goal. It is obviously impossible to achieve it but the economic health of Europe and the world can be seriously undermined.

With regard to the duration of the restriction measures, it also depends on the United States and the European Union. For our part, we will adopt a balanced approach to assessing the risks and impact of the sanctions and respond to them proceeding from our national interests. It is obvious that the decline in mutual confidence is bound to have a negative impact on both the international business climate in general and on the operation of European and American companies in Russia, bearing in mind that such companies will find it difficult to recover from reputational damage. In addition, it will make other countries think carefully whether it is wise to invest their funds in the American banking system and increase their dependence on economic cooperation with the United States.

Politika:What do you think the future holds for Russian-Ukrainian relations? Will the United States and Russia re-establish a strategic partnership after all that has happened, or will they build their relations in a different way?

Vladimir Putin: As for Russia, its relations with Ukraine have always played and will continue to play a very important role. Our nations are inextricably linked by common spiritual, cultural and civilisational roots. We were part of a single state for centuries, and that huge historical experience and millions of intertwined fates cannot be dismissed or forgotten.

Despite the current difficult stage in Russian-Ukrainian relations, we are interested in progressive, equitable and mutually beneficial cooperation with our Ukrainian partners. In practice, this will become possible after sustainable peace and stability are achieved in Ukraine. Therefore, we hope to see an end to the protracted deep political and economic crisis.

Today, there is a real opportunity to end the armed confrontation, which actually amounts to a civil war. The first steps in this direction have already been made. It is vital to start a real intra-Ukrainian dialogue as soon as possible involving representatives from all the regions and political forces. This approach was documented in the Geneva Statement of April 17. Such a nationwide dialogue must focus on Ukraine’s constitutional structure and the future of the country, where all the citizens with no exception will live comfortably and in safety.

As for the Russian-US ties, our aim has always been to build open partnership relations with the United States. In return, however, we have seen various reservations and attempts to interfere in our domestic affairs.

Everything that has happened since the beginning of this year is even more disturbing. Washington actively supported the Maidan protests, and when its Kiev henchmen antagonised a large part of Ukraine through rabid nationalism and plunged the country into a civil war, it blamed Russia for provoking the crisis.

Now President Barack Obama in his speech at the UN General Assembly named the “Russian aggression in Europe” as one of the three major threats facing humanity today alongside with the deadly Ebola virus and the Islamic State. Together with the sanctions against entire sectors of our economy, this approach can be called nothing but hostile.

US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo/Timothy A. Clary)

US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo/Timothy A. Clary)

The United States went so far as to declare the suspension of our cooperation in space exploration and nuclear energy. They also suspended the activity of the Russia-US Bilateral Presidential Commission established in 2009, which comprised 21 working groups dedicated, among other things, to combating terrorism and drug trafficking.

At the same time, this is not the first downturn in relations between our countries. We hope that our partners will realise the futility of attempts to blackmail Russia and remember what consequences discord between major nuclear powers could bring for strategic stability. For our part, we are ready to develop constructive cooperation based on the principles of equality and genuine respect for each other’s interests.

 

German news site Spiegel Online interviews Ukrainian fascist Yarosh

Dmytro Jarosh, leader of the Right Sector

Dmytro Jarosh, leader of the Right Sector

 

By Peter Schwarz
25 April 2014

WSWS

On April 22, Spiegel Online published an interview with Dmytro Yarosh, leader of the Ukrainian fascist paramilitary organisation Right Sector. This interview confirms that the fascists not only played a decisive role in the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych on 22 February, but also play a significant role in the current transitional government headed by Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Yarosh explained that the armed wing of his organisation had not been disbanded, but legalised. “Our battalions are part of the new territorial defence. We have close contact with the intelligence services, and the general staff. We actually have good relations with everyone, apart from the police,” he told Spiegel Online.

Yarosh is closely connected to Andriy Parubiy, who commanded the self-defence forces during the protests on Independence Square (the Maidan). Parubiy was the co-founder of the fascist Ukrainian Social National Party, the predecessor of Svoboda. He is now a leading member of the Fatherland Party of Prime Minister Yatsenyuk, and heads Ukraine’s security and defence council. Yarosh was originally supposed to have been his deputy, but rejected the offer in order to maintain his freedom to manoeuvre against the government.

In the interview, he made clear that Right Sector does not accept the authority of the current government, nor would it accept a future elected government. “Our revolution will only be completed when we have totally renewed the state,” he stated.

His goals are clearly of a fascist character. His choice of words was similar to those of the Nazis, whose terror regime he described as a “government of national revolution.”

Asked by Spiegel Online about his motives, Yarosh answered, “I am a Ukrainian nationalist. My goal is a strong state.” He described liberalism as “a form of totalitarianism.” On the EU, he criticised its alleged “anti-Christian orientation.”

“We oppose the destruction of the traditional family, and are against same-sex marriage.” By contrast he supported the EU’s social and economic policies, calling for tax cuts to support the middle classes and foreign investment.

In his militarist work “Nation and Revolution,” Yarosh expressed himself even more explicitly, as Spiegel Online pointed out. In it, he openly opposes parliamentary democracy and advocated an ethnically-based nationalism. He intends to spread “the nationalist ideology throughout the entire territory of our state,” “de-russify” eastern Ukraine, and ensure that the native people have the leading role in the state.

Yarosh no longer appears in a military uniform. He is a candidate for the upcoming presidential election and now wears a suit and tie. In his interview with Spiegel Online, he sought to downplay his anti-Semitic beliefs, which could prove embarrassing for the Western supporters of the new regime in Kiev.

The interview with Yarosh—and the fact that he was provided a political platform by Spiegel Online—shows the thoroughly reactionary nature of the forces Western powers relied upon to force regime change in Kiev and provoke a confrontation with Russia. In February, the armed provocateurs of Right Sector played a key role in escalating the conflict with security forces, leading to the loss of hundreds of lives and the overthrow of the elected president, Viktor Yanukovych.

Meanwhile, there are reports indicating that western cooperation with Right Sector goes back some time. According to a report in the Polish weekly Nie (“No”), published by 80-year-old journalist Jerzy Urban, the Polish Foreign Minister Radoslav Sikorski invited 86 members of Right Sector to an intensive, four-week training course at the Police Training Centre Legionowo near Warsaw last September.

The fascists were trained in crowd management, person recognition, combat tactics, command skills, behaviour in crisis situations, protection against gases used by police, erecting barricades, and especially shooting, including the handling of sniper rifles. The training was officially described as “student exchange.”

The visit took place a full two months before the Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an Association Agreement with the EU on 21 November—the event that triggered the Maidan protests. If the report in Nie is true, it shows that the events leading up to the regime change in Kiev were a carefully planned provocation.

The Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski has close links to ruling circles of the USA. He is married to the right-wing American journalist Anne Applebaum and was director of the Atlantic Initiative at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, starting in 2002.

On February 21, Sikorski together with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, negotiated the agreement between President Yanukovych and the Ukrainian opposition, which was then sabotaged within the space of a few hours by the Right Sector and other armed groups. If Sikorski maintained close links to the Right Sector then he must have known of or possibly planned the provocation with the fascists.