So much for plausible deniability. While apologists and propagandists for the government in Kiev have tried their best to dismiss concerns about the government’s connection to neo-fascist movements, the jig is undeniably up.
The new speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, Andriy Parubiy, is a longtime neo-Nazi activist who was a founder of the national socialist party of Ukraine. The party was recently renamed Svoboda which, along with many neofascists, has seen its political fortunes rise in the wake of the 2014 US-backed coup.
Parubiy played a significant role in the coup, serving as commandant of the Euromaidan, where he and other neo-fascists helped violently overthrow the democratically-elected President Viktor Yanukovych. The armed battles with security forces in Kiev were carried out by many people, who would later join the right wing militias that would fight in the Ukraine Civil War.
The new post-coup president, Petro Poroshenko, brought Parubiy into government as Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, where Parubiy oversaw the brutal campaign in east Ukraine to put down Russian-backed separatists. The war on east Ukraine had limited success and Parubiy resigned before the government in Kiev agreed to a ceasefire.
After his resignation, Parubiy became a member of the People’s Front Party led by now former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Yatsenyuk was favored to lead Ukraine by the United States as evidenced by a recording of an intercepted phone call, in which Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland told US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt that “Yats is the guy.”
The People’s Front did well enough in the 2014 election to bring Parubiy into government where now, thanks in-part to the chaos in Ukraine, Andriy Parubiy has been promoted to Chairman of the Verkhovna Radam, the equivalent of the speaker of parliament. Quite a high honor for an unrepentant neo-Nazi, who led a violent overthrow of a democratically-elected government. What could go wrong?
But Parubiy is not an anomaly. Post-coup Ukraine is incredibly hospitable to neo-fascists. In fact, one neo-Nazi milita, the Azov Battalion, has not only been incorporated into the Ukrainian National Guard, but is receiving training from the United States military over the objections of numerous members of the US Congress.
How long Parubiy will stay in his post is anyone’s guess. Post-coup Ukrainian politics is marked by intense political instability. Parubiy’s elevation comes amidst increased tensions within the Porosheno government. Former Prime Minister Yatsenyuk’s resignation came not long after former Economic Minister Aivarus Abromavicius resigned, citing corruption. Odessa province governor Mikheil Saakashvili got into physical altercation during a presidential cabinet meeting. Parliament itself has recently seen its share of fist fights, as Yatsenyuk could well attest to.
President Poroshenko also now has to deal with public outrage over his involvement in dubious offshore financial activity, as revealed by the Panama Papers. The revelations play into a narrative about Poroshenko, that he is not serious about taking on his fellow oligarchs or the endemic corruption in Ukraine.
In any event, it is hard to sell the idea of a new liberal Ukraine with a neo-Nazi leading parliament.