Wave of assassinations in Ukraine targets critics of Kiev regime

POTROLAND

POTROLAND

 

In the lead-up to the May 9 celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany at the end of World War II, there has been an accelerating wave of political assassinations targeting critics of the Western-backed, far-right regime in Kiev.

Yesterday evening, a group calling itself the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA)—the name of a Ukrainian fascist militia that collaborated with Nazi forces in carrying out ethnic genocides of Jews and Poles during World War II—claimed responsibility for the killings. In a statement emailed to opposition legislators and political commentators, it also gave “anti-Ukrainian” persons 72 hours to leave the country or be killed if they stayed behind.

It pledged to carry out the “complete extermination” of enemies of Ukraine and a “merciless insurrectionary struggle against the anti-Ukrainian regime of traitors and Moscow toadies,” according to a report in Der Spiegel .

The killing spree began this week with the murder of journalist Sergey Sukhobok. On Wednesday evening, Oleg Kalashnykov was found dead in his home in Kiev. He was a former parliamentarian from the Party of Regions and a close ally of President Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian politician ousted in a NATO-backed, fascist-led putsch in February of 2014 that installed the current regime in Kiev.

According to Interior Ministry advisor Anton Heraschenko, killers were waiting for Kalashnykov outside his residence and shot him when he returned.

Before his death, Kalashnykov indicated that he had received death threats over his call to commemorate May 9. He addressed a letter to his friends warning that “open genocide on dissent, death threats, and constant dirty insults” had become the “norm” since he publicly raised the issue. He reportedly added in the letter that Ukraine was under Nazi occupation.

On Thursday, pro-Russian journalist Oles Buzyna was shot and killed near his house in Kiev by two unidentified masked gunmen firing from a car. Buzyna had edited the Segodnya newspaper, a pro-Russian publication financed by Ukraine’s richest oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov, a multi-billionaire who was also one of the leading sponsors of Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions. Also killed on Thursday was Neteshinskiy Vestnik editor Olga Moroz.

The killings were the latest in a spate of deaths of high-profile opponents of the Kiev regime. The victims have largely been political and media associates of the faction of the post-Soviet Ukrainian business oligarchy tied to Akhmetov, Yanukovych and the Kremlin oligarchy in Russia. Other deaths include:

* Aleksey Kolesnik, former chairman of the Kharkov regional government, found hanged on January 29;

*Stanislav Melnik, a Party of Regions member reportedly close to Akhmetov, found shot in the bathroom of his Kiev apartment on February 24;

*Sergey Valter, the mayor of Melitopol, found hanged before his trial on February 25, leaving no suicide note;

*Aleksandr Bordyuga, the deputy chief of Melitopol police, found dead the next day, in his garage;

*Mikhail Chechetov, a former member of the Party of Regions, who jumped from the window of his 17th floor apartment in Kiev on February 28, leaving a suicide note;

*Sergey Melnichuk, a prosecutor who fell from a 9th floor apartment in Odessa on March 14.

Russian and Ukrainian officials have traded accusations of responsibility for the killings. Speaking on a call-in television show, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and said of Buzyna’s killing, “It is not the first political assassination, we have seen a series of such killings in Ukraine.”

Officials in Kiev offered up dubious arguments to blame the killings on Russia. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the killings “a deliberate provocation which plays into the hands of our enemies, destabilizing the political situation in Ukraine.”

In the meantime, officials and far-right parliamentarians in Kiev have openly endorsed and celebrated the murders. While lawmaker Borys Filatov rejoiced that “one more piece of sh*t” had been eliminated,” Irina Farion, a lawmaker of the fascist Svoboda Party, attacked Buzyna as a “degenerate” and hoped that his “death will somehow neutralize the dirt this [expletive] has spilled… Such ones go to history’s sewers.”

Political responsibility for the killings rests with the imperialist powers that oversaw and backed the Kiev putsch. They have encouraged Kiev to wage a bloody civil war against pro-Russian regions of eastern Ukraine and covered up its reliance on fascistic, anti-Russian forces. In the resulting political atmosphere, opponents of the Kiev states can be murdered without investigation and with political impunity.

What is occurring in Ukraine is a warning to the international working class. With the support of Washington and its European allies, which are moving to train the neo-Nazi militias that make up much of the Ukrainian regime’s National Guard, an ultra-right regime has emerged in a major European country.

With Ukraine’s economy disintegrating and its population resisting Kiev’s attempts to reinstate the draft to wage war against eastern Ukraine, Kiev is seeking to crush domestic dissent and relying ever more directly on the far right. Terrified that mass opposition might coalesce around the May 9 holiday, it has banned public discussion of communism. It also rehabilitated the UPA and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN).

This is the culmination of a series of police state measures by the Kiev regime that have enjoyed the full support of its NATO backers. During last year’s Ukrainian legislative elections, opposition candidates, including Pyotr Symonenko, the Stalinist Communist Party of Ukraine’s (KPU) former presidential candidate, were physically attacked by fascist thugs.

Even before the murder of Buzyna, Kiev regime officials and sympathizers were demanding draconian punishments of journalists who oppose the regime. Last month, Ukrainian Minister of Information Policy Yuri Stets demanded that journalists in the breakaway eastern Ukrainian Donbass region serve prison terms of eight to 15 years.

In an account on Facebook of a speech he had given at Harvard University, pro-Kiev regime commentator and political analyst Yuri Romanenko boasted that he had argued for murdering pro-Russian journalists and summarized his arguments.

“The Ukrainian army must selectively and carefully eliminate Russian journalists covering the situation in Donbass. We need to direct Ukrainian army snipers to shoot people wearing PRESS helmets, making them priority targets,” Romanenko wrote. “Since the media represent a destructive weapon and allow Russia to operate not only in the war zone but across Ukraine, taking out several dozen journalists in the conflict zone will reduce the quality of the picture presented in the Russian media and, therefore, reduce the effectiveness of their propaganda.”

The murder of Kalashnykov, Buzyna and their political associates emerges directly from the foul political atmosphere produced by such ranting. It is an indictment of the NATO powers backing the regime in Ukraine and the illusions peddled by the Western media and corrupt pseudo-left groups that the right-wing protests on the Maidan and the February 2014 putsch were part of a democratic revolution.

While these forces insisted, without any proof, that the murder of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was a crime carried out by the Russian government, they are maintaining a hypocritical silence as the Kiev regime’s internal opponents are gunned down in the streets.

Mikhail Chechetov: Suicide or Murder?

Mikhail Chechetov

Mikhail Chechetov, member of Party of Regions, and ex MP

 

The Witch-Hunt of Former Party of Regions Officials Continues

March 05, 2015

by Halyna Mokrushyna

On February 28, a former member of the Party of Regions, Mikhail Chechetov, committed suicide by jumping from the window of his 17th floor apartment in Kyiv. Before ending his days, he left a note saying: “I am leaving. I think this will be better for everyone. A huge thank you to all of you for your support. Forgive me and understand me correctly. M. Chechetov.”

On February 21, Chechetov was arrested by the Pecherskyi court of Kyiv under accusations of malfeasance, abuse of authority and forgery. Bail was set very high by the court–five million hryvnias (app. US$170,000). It was paid by Chechetov’s friends and on February 23 he was able to walk out of the detention centre.

Chechetov was one of the targets of newly appointed Prosecutor General of Ukraine Viktor Shokin, an old-time friend and relative of President Petro Poroshenko. Shokin was appointed on February 10 after former Prosecutor General Vitaly Yarema submitted a letter of resignation under pressure from deputies of the Verkhovna Rada. The pressure came mostly from the faction of the presidential party in the Rada, the Poroshenko Bloc. The deputies claimed that Yarema did not investigate fast enough the sniper shootings on Maidan Square on February 20, 2014 and that he was not quick enough in bringing to justice officials of the previous governing regime of President Viktor Yanukovych. Yarema explained that, naked assertions of the deputies of the new Euromaidan parliament of Ukraine notwithstanding, the Office of the Public Prosecution does not have any proof of “concrete” crimes committed by  Serguei Liovochkin (former head of the Administration of the President of Ukraine under Yanukovych), former deputy and member of the Party of Regions Andrei Kluiev, and the current deputy of the Rada and member of the Opposition Bloc, Yuri Boyko.

Shokin worked under Yarema as deputy prosecutor general. When Shokin received his new appointment as prosecutor general, he started without delay to “restore justice” and call the “former people” to account. Alexander Efremov, the former leader of the faction of the Party of Regions in Verkhovna Rada, was arrested on February 14, 2015 under the same accusations that were leveled against Chechetov. What do these accusations mean concretely? Chechetov as well as Efremov were accused of voting for the “scandalous” and “odious” laws of January 16, 2014, adopted by then-governing Party of Regions and which sought, among other goals, to curb violence on Maidan Square by making stricter rules governing the right to stage public protests. Before I comment on these laws, I would like to say a couple of words about Mikhail Chechetov.

After the February 2014 coup d’état which overthrew the Yanukovych regime and sent him fleeing to Russia, together with several other high-ranking officials, Chechetov remained in Ukraine. He did not participate in the October 2014 election to the Verkhovna Rada and retired completely from politics. He was living in his Kyiv apartment with his wife.

Chechetov was a professor and author of over 500 scientific and current affairs publications. He had a candidate degree in economics and a doctoral degree in public management. His career path is what in Soviet times was called the path of a simple worker.

He was born in 1953 in the Kursk region of Russian Federation. He worked as a fitter in Yenakiyevo (the home town of Viktor Yanukovych), then in the “Yunkom” coal mine of Ordzhonikidze Coal Company.  In 1979, he graduated from Kharkiv Institute of Engineering and Economy with a diploma in mining engineering and economics. From 1982 to 1994, he taught in the same institute and held the position of dean of the faculty of economy. In 1994, he entered big-time politics, being elected a deputy to the Verkhovna Rada. He held high ranking positions in the government related to economic management. From April 2003 to April 2005, he was the head of the State Property Fund of Ukraine, responsible for the privatization of big state assets. Under Chechetov’s directorship, Krivorozhstal, one of the biggest metallurgical complexes in Ukraine, was sold in 2004 for 800 million dollars to a consortium created specifically for this reason by two oligarchs – Rinat Akhmetov and Viktor Pinchuk. Allegedly, this price was five times lower than the true value of the enterprise. When Yulia Tymoshenko became Prime-Minister in 2005, this privatization was declared illegal. In October of the same year, the enterprise was sold for 4.8 billion dollars to Lakshmi Mittal, one of the largest metallurgical conglomerates in the world. Chechetov explained later that he purposefully organized the privatization in such a way that it fell into the hands of Ukrainian, not foreign, owners.

The then-head of the State Property Fund of Ukraine, Valentyna Semeniuk, who oversaw the second privatization to Mittal, later wanted to reverse it because the buyer did not respect certain conditions of the contract, namely, Mittal closed the program of social payments owed to employees, and promised foreign investment in the enterprise did not materialize. Semeniuk objected to the privatization right from the beginning, stating that Krivorozhstal was a strategic enterprise providing not only vital production but also jobs and social security to thousands of Ukrainian workers. (Semeniuk also committed suicide under dubious circumstances, on August 26, 2014 in her country house. Apparently, she shot herself with a shotgun).

After the Orange Revolution of 2004, when the camp of presidential candidate Victor Yuschchenko won the election late that year, Chechetov left politics and went back to teaching at the institute in Kharkiv. In 2007, he was reelected to the Verkhovna Rada as a member of the Party of Regions. He was part of the leadership of the party. In December 2012, he became First Deputy Chief of the party. In the Rada, he was a member of the committee on industry and investment policies and a member of the board responsible for tallying votes in the Rada.

It was this latter membership which gave rise to the accusations against him of abuse of power and forgery, ultimately leading him to take his life. Ukraine’s prosecutor general stated that on January 16, 2014, Chechetov, Efremov and two other members of the Party of Regions who have since fled from Ukraine to Russia, forged the vote in the Rada. While some deputies were absent, the accused organized voting by hand instead of by using a card, as is the regular procedure. They counted votes of absent members. Chechetov refuted the accusations stating that it was the heads of the parliamentary factions and the head of the counting board who counted the votes, not him.

The famous “dictatorial”, “draconian”, “odious”, “scandalous” laws, as the then- opposition in the Rada and the Ukrainian media, owned by opposition oligarchs, quickly called them, were meant to curb the violence of protesters on Maidan, many of whom, wearing balaclavas and military clothes, were throwing Molotov cocktails at regular police and the ‘Berkut’ riot police and using bars and poles torn from metal fencing to assault police.

On the day of voting on January 16, members of the ruling Party of Regions indeed had to vote with their hands because the deputies from the opposition had disrupted the procedure by snatching voting cards from them. In the highly charged political atmosphere, the following of normal procedure was very problematic. Any initiative by the Party of Regions would be met with great hostility by the opposition. Both sides were accusing each other of breaking the law. And in general, what law can we talk about in the situation of an uprising prevailing in January of 2014 on Kiev’s Maidan Square?

As for the laws themselves, according to one of their authors, Vladimir Oleynik, they were drafted according to the legislation of many European countries. And they are not as “draconian”, as the opposition pretended. For instance, in the Criminal Code of Canada, a person taking part in an unlawful assembly and wearing a mask or other disguise to conceal their identity without lawful excuse is guilty of a (a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction. If such a person participates in a riot, he/she is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years. The violent Maidan protests largely exceeded the definition of riot according to the Canadian Criminal Code.

In the proposed laws of January 16, concealing of identity of any kind of gathering in public, as well as using fire, pyrotechnical means, or any dangerous object or wearing military clothes imitating the uniform of police or military, was punishable by a fine between 150 and 250 non-taxable minimal monthly incomes or an administrative detention for up to 15 days.

I could give many other examples of how these “draconian” laws were not really so draconian. For those who read Russian, a very good analysis is done by Anatoliy Shariy, a Ukrainian journalist in exile. The problem was not the laws, but their very superficial reporting by Ukrainian media and also the superficial reaction to them by the high-ranking European bureaucrats and politicians who relied on Ukrainian media and promptly expressed their concerns with the “repressive laws”. For instance, Anatoliy Shariy cites the headline in a popular Internet newspaper “Ukrainska Pravda” (Ukrainian Truth) reporting on the laws of January 16: “Citizens are not allowed to travel more than five cars at a time – Rada restrains the rights of protesters”. What the newspaper refers to is a proposed law according to which any procession of more than five automobiles which was not approved in advance by the respective division of the Ministry of Interior and which obstructed traffic is punishable by a fine, namely revoking of a drivers license for up to two years and a possible suspension of the vehicle registration. A Russian liberal newspaper “Novaia gazeta” failed to report an essential part of this law – about the obstruction of traffic.

And of course, these laws were said to be the product of the Federal Security Service of Russia, because, presumably, the members of the Party of Regions are not smart enough to come up with such sophisticated laws.

On January 16, 2015, on the one-year anniversary of the “draconian” laws, Mikhail Chechetov explained that the current parliament has legitimized many of the same laws as those voted one year ago. For instance, in the 2014 laws, it was stipulated that a forceful overthrowing of power and calls for the violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine are punishable. The new law proscribing “separatism” states the same. Chechetov also said that the goal of the laws of January 16 was to decrease the political tension within society, to avoid violence and to peacefully resolve the crisis in Ukraine.

The then opposition in the Rada criticized the Party of Regions, saying it did not follow the correct procedures and did not give the opposition the time to read the text of the bill. It was put to a vote on the same day it was introduced, and voted without discussion. Under those difficult conditions, given the huge political tensions and the impatient crowds on Maidan Square, what legal procedures could have been respected? And how were the actions of Party of Regions deputies any different from the voting of the state budget for 2015 when deputies of the current Verkhovna Rada voted during one, lengthy overnight session on Dec. 29, 2014 for a document they had not seen before and for which there were no accompanying notes or explanations?

When Poroshenko heard about Chechetov’s suicide, he said it was not a contract killing. There are not and there never will be contract killings in Ukraine, said Poroshenko.

And yet, I have doubts. Chechetov in his public speeches always reiterated that he was for a negotiated resolution of the conflict during Euromaidan. He participated in various television programs explaining the position of the Party of Regions. He did not flee Ukraine, as other high-ranking officials of the Yanukovych regime did.

Since the appointment of Poroshenko’s proxy Shokin as prosecutor general, the Ukrainian justice machine has advanced accusations against several public figures, such as Alexander Efremov and Hennadiy Kernes (mayor of Kharkiv), of being “separatists”. Efremov and Kernes deny the accusations. The Opposition Bloc in the Rada made an official statement on February 28 that the government in power in Ukraine drove Chechetov to kill himself by its cynical hounding and public humiliations of him. In Bloc’s opinion, the current power holders are driving its citizens to extreme despair. Some, such as Chechetov, are driven to despair by hounding and groundless accusations; others by war, poverty, lack of employment and of any hope for the future.

I rather agree with this statement. Prosecution of the former officials from the Party of Regions resembles more victors’ justice than a lawful investigation of abuses of power and corruption.

Halyna Mokrushyna is currently enrolled in the PhD program in Sociology at the University of Ottawa and a part-time professor. She holds a doctorate in linguistics and MA degree in communication. Her academic interests include: transitional justice; collective memory; ethnic studies; dissent movement in Ukraine; history of Ukraine; sociological thought. Her doctoral project deals with the memory of Stalinist purges in Ukraine. In the summer of 2013 she travelled to Lviv, Kyiv, Kharkiv and Donetsk to conduct her field research. She is currently working on completing her thesis.

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.