Canadian officials who met with Ukrainian unit linked to neo-Nazis feared exposure by news media: documents

Not good, neither the substance nor optics:
The Canadians met with and were briefed by leaders from the Azov Battalion in June 2018. The officers and diplomats did not object to the meeting and instead allowed themselves to be photographed with battalion officials despite previous warnings that the unit saw itself as pro-Nazi. The Azov Battalion then used those photos for its online propaganda, pointing out the Canadian delegation expressed “hopes for further fruitful co-operation.”After a journalist asked the Canadian Forces about the Azov social media postings, officers scrambled to come up with a response, according to documents obtained by this newspaper through Access to Information law.

Lt. Col. Fraser Auld, commander of Canada’s Joint Task Force Ukraine, warned that a news article might be soon published and could result in questions being asked inside the Canadian government about why such a meeting took place.

A year before the meeting, Canada’s Joint Task Force Ukraine produced a briefing on the Azov Battalion, acknowledging its links to Nazi ideology. “Multiple members of Azov have described themselves as Nazis,” the Canadian officers warned in their 2017 briefing.Bernie Farber, head of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, said the Canadians should have immediately walked out of the Azov Battalion briefing. “Canadian armed forces personnel do not meet with Nazis; period, full stop,” Farber said. “This a horrendous mistake that shouldn’t have been made.”

Farber said it was also disturbing the Azov unit was able to use the Canadians in propaganda attempts to legitimize its far-right ideology. Besides its support of Nazi ideology, Azov members have been accused of war crimes and torture.

One gathering that journalists didn’t find out about was a December 2018 event in Ukraine attended by then Canadian Army commander Lt.-Gen. Jean-Marc Lanthier, according to the documents.Members of the Azov Battalion were present, but, again, instead of denouncing the battalion’s Nazi sympathies, the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces focused concern on the possibility that photos might have been taken showing Canadian soldiers with members of the Azov unit.

Chris Henderson, then assistant deputy minister for public affairs, emailed more than 20 DND public-relations officers, worried that photos might appear online. “Do we have a clear expression of CAF policy toward this group?” he asked of the Azov Battalion. “This may or may not prompt questions, but we need to be ready and not come across as being taken by surprise.”

Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, policy director of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, said Canada had to make it a priority that its military personnel have no involvement with far-right fascist militias in Ukraine under any circumstances. “It’s concerning that, for the second time in a month, we have seen evidence of Canadian military officials engaging with Ukrainian neo-Nazi groups,” she added.Kirzner-Roberts was referring to a recent report from an institute at George Washington University in the United States revealing that Centuria, a far-right group made up of Ukrainian soldiers linked to the Azov movement, boasted they received training from Canada and other NATO countries. Researchers with the university tracked social media accounts of Centuria, documenting its Ukrainian military members giving Nazi salutes, promoting white nationalism and praising members of Nazi SS units.

In 2018, the U.S. Congress banned the use of U.S. funds to provide arms, training and other assistance to the Azov Battalion because of its links to the far-right and neo-Nazis.National Defence spokesman Dan Le Bouthillier said the Canadian military was examining its policies on the vetting of foreign troops it trains as well as the information uncovered by the George Washington University report.

He had earlier noted that the 2018 meeting with Azov Battalion members was planned and organized by Ukrainian authorities. Canadian military representatives had no prior knowledge of those who would be attending, he added. Le Bouthillier noted it was the job of the Canadian defence attaché to assess the situation in the conflict zone. “Canada has not, does not, and will not be providing support to Azov and affiliated entities,” Le Bouthillier said.

In 2019, the Soufan Center, created by former FBI agent Ali Soufan, who was involved in a number of counter-terrorism cases, warned about the connection between the Azov Battalion and white nationalists. “In Ukraine, the Azov Battalion has recruited foreign fighters motivated by white supremacy and neo-Nazi beliefs, including many from the West, to join its ranks and receive training, indoctrination and instruction in irregular warfare,” the report outlined.The Azov Battalion has been formerly incorporated into the Ukrainian military, at least in theory, the Soufan Center report noted. But the battalion has cultivated a relationship with members of the Atomwaffen Division, a U.S.-based neo-Nazi terrorist network, it added.

Source: Canadian officials who met with Ukrainian unit linked to neo-Nazis feared exposure by news media: documents

Cohen: Eighty years after the Babi Yar massacre, we struggle to remember and learn

Good reminder:

Among the most searing scenes in War and Remembrance, Herman Wouk’s epic novel of the Second World War presented as a multi-hour television series in the 1980s, is the massacre at Babi Yar in 1941. It is where the Holocaust began.

Through his highly developed characters, Wouk offers an unsparing depiction of the plight of the Jews in Auschwitz and in Theresienstadt, “the paradise ghetto.” In contrast to the slow, intimate unspooling of that agony, his dramatization of Babi Yar is remote, anonymous and brief.

See thousands of Jews ordered from their homes in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. See them marched to a sprawling ravine on the city’s outskirts. See them present their papers, leave their luggage, remove their clothes. All methodically.

See them walk to the edge of the ravine — naked, terrified, wailing — where they tumble like cordwood before the battery of machine guns. See officers with revolvers wading through the bodies that have been choreographed to fall “like sardines” in the pit; they shoot those still moving. See them work with equanimity and efficiency.

They needed both. After all, you can’t dispatch 33,371 Jews over two days without a plan. The Nazis had one. Blow up important buildings in Kiev and blame it on the Jews, calling them Bolshevik saboteurs, Communists and partisans. Use that as a pretext to eliminate the community of 230,000, mostly women, children and the elderly, the younger men having gone east to join the Soviets.

Post signs telling the Jews to gather with their belongings, bedsheets, winter coats. Years later, those confiscated items were sold in local markets.

All this took place on Sept. 29 and 30, 1941. It was the largest such operation up to then as the Nazis swept across the Soviet Union, which they had invaded in June. It was, as historians says, the Holocaust “by bullets” rather than gas.

There was no ghetto in Kiev like there were in Warsaw and Lodz in Poland and other cities in Ukraine. The mechanized killing that reached its apogee in the Nazi concentration camps came later.

That autumn they would kill Jews, gypsies, political prisoners, the mentally ill, Roma, Communists and Ukrainian nationalists, thought to number 100,000. Two years later, the leaching mass graves so alarmed retreating Germans fleeing the Soviets that they made prisoners dig up and burn the bodies, then killed them.

Eighty years after the massacre, in a climate of swelling anti-Semitism, we struggle to remember. In our unconscious world, where memory is easily manipulated, distorted or denied, who knows or cares?

Five years ago, when my son and I visited Babi Yar, we could barely find it. There were monuments at either end of the nearby subway station, but they were unimpressive. Worse, when we came upon what appeared to be the blood-lands, nothing marked what happened there.

Nothing. A grassy park, picnic grounds, slightly sunken. A couple sat on a blanket. Children roughhoused. Dogs roamed. No one seemed aware of the atrocity. It was nauseating.

In my season searching for the past in monuments, memorials and museums of Europe, this was the most wilful, brazen erasing of memory I’d seen.

What the Nazis tried to hide, the Soviets did, too. In 1961, Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko famously wrote: “No monument stands over Babi Yar/A steep cliff only, like the rudest headstone.”

Only after Ukraine became free was there any attempt to recognize the past. It was easier to forget, especially because some Ukrainians took part in the atrocity, too. History is a minefield, and no more so than when it is a killing field.

That’s changing. Ukraine is now remembering Babi Yar. The story is taught in schools; on the 80th anniversary last week, there were commemorations and programs in Kiev and beyond, attended by prominent politicians.

In the next five years, a museum, memorial and research centre are planned. Finally, Ukrainians want to come to terms with their uncomfortable past.

If the acknowledgement of ignorance is the beginning of wisdom, this is reason for hope.

Source: Cohen: Eighty years after the Babi Yar massacre, we struggle to remember and learn

A bold, controversial memorial to a wartime massacre in Kyiv

Of note:

On a balmy September evening locals stroll in a leafy park in Kyiv. Parents push prams. Couples kiss. Young men perch on benches with cans of beer and shawarmas. Among the trees and promenaders stand slabs of granite the height of a person. Implanted in each is a peephole, like the lens of a camera. Peer into one of them, and you see a colour photograph taken on this spot 80 years ago: a ravine, scattered clothes, three German officers looking over the edge. This is Babyn Yar.Listen to this story

The picture was taken at the beginning of October 1941. A few days earlier, on September 29th and 30th, Nazi forces shot 33,771 of the city’s Jews in the ravine (a figure that excludes small children). It was the biggest such massacre of the second world war. Over the next two years, perhaps 100,000 more people were killed, dumped and burned in the same place, including Roma, communists, Ukrainian resistance fighters and patients of a nearby psychiatric hospital. But the slaughter in Nazi-occupied Kyiv began with Ukraine’s Jews; 1.5m had perished by 1945, a quarter of all victims of the Holocaust.

The tragedy of Babyn Yar was never forgotten. Yet as both a topographical feature and a site of mourning, it all but vanished from the map after the war. Now, an international team of artists, scholars, architects and philanthropists is transforming the landscape again, physically and emotionally. The photographs are a small part of a vast project that involves museums, art installations, books, education initiatives and films. Endorsed by Volodymyr Zelensky, the country’s president, it is funded by businessmen including Mikhail Fridman, a Ukrainian-born Russian tycoon, his associate German Khan, and Viktor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch.

The mix of painful history, Russian involvement and oligarchs is explosive in today’s Ukraine. But the memorial’s ramifications go wider. Many countries have mass graves, “but nobody wants to remember [the victims]”, says Patrick Desbois, a Roman Catholic priest and adviser to the project who spent years documenting the “Holocaust by bullets”. The new memorial, he says, is a message to mass-murderers everywhere: “We always come back.”

For decades Babyn Yar was a place not only of murder but of the physical suppression of memory, first by the retreating Nazis, who scrambled to conceal their crimes, then by the Soviets. Josef Stalin wanted to celebrate his triumph, not mourn tragedy; after the war he launched a new anti-Semitic campaign of his own. Official historiography depersonalised the victims of Nazism as undifferentiated Soviet citizens.

Babyn Yar was levelled. In 1952 some of its cavities were flooded with pulp from a brick factory. There were plans to build a football stadium and entertainment park on top of it. The ravine did not go quietly: in 1961 a dam securing the pulp gave way and a mudslide carrying human remains hit a residential neighbourhood. Hundreds died (the exact toll was hushed up).

Later in the 1960s Viktor Nekrasov, a Kyiv-born Russian writer who had fought at Stalingrad and wrote about it movingly, spoke up about Babyn Yar. To him, covering up the Nazi genocide made the Soviet government complicit. Of the murder and “the subsequent attempt to forget about this murder, to eradicate the very memory of it”, he wrote in 1966, “the first is more tragic. The second is more shameful.”

Nekrasov led one of the first big commemorations of the massacre. Mourners, many of whom had known the victims, gathered at the edge of a Jewish cemetery that had been vandalised by both the Nazis and the Soviets. They held flowers and cried. The kgb cringed. The crowd was quickly dispersed; Nekrasov was expelled from the Communist Party and forced to emigrate. Then, in the early 1970s, Babyn Yar became a rallying point for Jewish dissidents. The Soviet authorities finally put up a monument near the site of the ravine, dedicated “to the Soviet citizens, prisoners and officers executed by the German occupiers”. There was no mention of Jews.

Murder and memory

If Soviet ideology had little room for the Holocaust, it has been a sensitive subject for some Ukrainians for other reasons. Millions of them fought in the Red Army; millions died, in and out of uniform. But in some places the Nazi slaughter was abetted by Ukrainian auxiliary policemen. In others Jews were slain by nationalist partisans. (In the 1960s Ivan Dziuba, a non-Jewish poet who spoke of his shame over anti-Semitism in Ukraine, was imprisoned.)

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and Ukraine won independence, the area that had been Babyn Yar became a park. A jumble of plaques and memorials were erected; politicians paid their respects. But the main theme of historical restitution was the Holodomor—the famine Stalin inflicted on Ukraine in the 1930s, killing millions of peasants. As historical trauma often is in new states, the Holodomor became a central plank of national identity.

Five years ago Mr Fridman, the tycoon, saw an opportunity. Born in 1964, he grew up in Lviv, a city in western Ukraine where the large pre-war Jewish population had been all but obliterated. As a student in the 1980s he moved to Moscow and became one of Russia’s richest businessmen. After the revolution that overthrew Ukraine’s Kremlin-backed government in 2014, business and civil society helped fill a void left by the state’s confusion. Having made his fortune in the turbulence that followed the Soviet collapse, Mr Fridman knew that such moments should be seized.

In 2016 he assembled a coalition of businessmen, politicians, activists and intellectuals, both Jewish and gentile, and launched the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Centre. “Private money frees the project from state ideology,” Mr Fridman says.

How to remember the second world war is always a neuralgic subject. In Poland, references to Polish complicity in Nazi atrocities can result in legal action; in Russia, comparison between Stalinism and Nazism is now a crime. And the idea of private cash shaping memory of the conflict, and of the Holocaust, would be jarring anywhere. Given Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the war in the Donbas—not to mention Kremlin propaganda that tars Ukrainians as fascist—the involvement of Russian citizens at Babyn Yar inevitably riled politicians and others. Some feared that the Holodomor would be downplayed. Petro Poroshenko, who as president until 2019 supported the initiative, now worries that representatives of Russia are using history to “discredit the Ukrainian state and Ukrainians”. Some local Jewish activists were irked by the outsiders too.

The appointment in 2019 of Ilya Khrzhanovsky, a Russian film director, as the project’s artistic overseer led to more controversy. His previous work includes a dark film installation exploring coercion and power in a Soviet physics institute, which caused scandals in Ukraine and elsewhere. Mr Fridman has been accused of nefarious meddling; Mr Khrzhanovsky’s initial ideas, such as a suggestion of role-playing by visitors as victims and killers, led to charges that he was planning a sort of Holocaust theme park.

The role-playing was dropped—but Mr Khrzhanovsky is determined to make an emotional impact on an audience for which the war is no longer part of living memory. Anton Drobovych, who left the project and now leads the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance, a state body, is sceptical about both the approach and what he sees as the aloof way it has been implemented. “You can’t build a memorial of such national and international significance,” he thinks, “without a proper dialogue and consultation with society.”

The work is ongoing. Four museums, tackling different aspects of Babyn Yar’s history, are still to be built. But Mr Fridman, whose outlook is shaped as much by his Jewish roots and upbringing in Ukraine as by his affiliation to Russia, does not see the memorial as a way to attribute blame; for him it is a means to empower Ukrainian society. “The ability of a country to talk about its past is a sign of maturity,” Mr Fridman says. “People who assume the role of victim can rarely achieve success.”

Sergei Loznitsa, an unflinching Ukrainian film-maker, agrees. “Telling the truth about the Holocaust is intertwined with state-building in Ukraine and the forging of its national identity,” he says. His dispassionate documentary, “Babyn Yar. Context”, which was partly funded by the memorial project, had its premiere at this year’s Cannes film festival, to great acclaim. Based on German and Soviet archive footage, it shows devastated Soviet soldiers surrendering to German troops; Jews being abused by their neighbours in Lviv; jubilant crowds tearing down Stalin’s portraits and cheering the Nazis as liberators, and less jubilant crowds greeting Soviet soldiers a few years later.

The massacre at Babyn Yar was not filmed. Instead viewers see pictures of Kyiv’s Jews and a long, scrolling tribute from “Ukraine without Jews”, an essay by Vasily Grossman, a Soviet war correspondent and author of the epic novel “Life and Fate”, whose mother died in the Holocaust:

“Stillness. Silence. A people has been murdered. Murdered are elderly artisans…murdered are teachers, dressmakers; murdered are grandmothers who could mend stockings and bake delicious bread…and murdered are grandmothers who didn’t know how to do anything except love their children and grandchildren…This is the death of a people who had lived beside Ukrainian people for centuries, labouring, sinning, performing acts of kindness, and dying alongside them on one and the same earth.”

Grossman’s essay (translated by Polly Zavadivker) captures the ultimate purpose of the memorial as Mr Khrzhanovsky sees it: to rescue faces and voices from oblivion; to make them real, so they can be remembered, mourned and loved for who they were. “We want it to be a place of living memory and of empathy, where people—whatever their age or nationality—can establish their own emotional connection with those who died here. And you can only feel empathy for concrete people.”

He began by collecting names and scanning archives to construct biographies of victims and perpetrators. A team of forensic architects and historians studied old maps, soil samples, photographs and witness statements to reconstruct the lost topography, and the terrible events that followed the Nazi invasion. The information has been used to produce a3d model depicting scenes, buildings and people, which will be encased in a huge kurgan, or burial mound, erected on what was the edge of the ravine. The more detailed and tangible the story of Babyn Yar, the more universal its meaning is intended to be.

The life that was

Among the first art installations to be unveiled was a “mirror field”, designed by Maksym Demydenko and Denis Shibanov. A large stainless-steel disk covers the ground, from which rise ten vertical columns, shot through with bullets of the same calibre used by the Nazis in 1941 (see lead picture). Visitors see their own reflections in the perforated columns and are immersed in sounds that emanate from below—names, prayers and snippets of everyday life recorded in Kyiv before the war. When night falls, the field becomes a mirage of this extinguished life.

A path leads to the “crying wall” (pictured), created by Marina Abramovic, a feted Serbian artist, which will be completed before a state memorial service on October 6th. A 40-metre-long wall, made of Ukrainian coal, is embossed at the level of the head, heart and stomach with quartz crystals, meant to reflect the diversity of victims at Babyn Yar. Water weeps out. Nearby is a symbolic synagogue, designed by Manuel Herz, a Basel-based architect, made from Ukrainian oak and partly open to the elements. Once again, the past is present: the interior is decorated with copies of ornaments from long-gone synagogues in western Ukraine.

“Memory is not the past. It is the consequence of the past, it is what makes present life possible,” says Anna Kamyshan, who grew up in Ukraine and helped develop the project. Some of her forebears died in the Holocaust; others cheered the murderers. What defines her identity, she says, “is not my blood, but this landscape, this environment, this soil. This Babyn Yar.” 

Source: https://www.economist.com/books-and-arts/2021/09/18/a-bold-controversial-memorial-to-a-wartime-massacre-in-kyiv

Controversial parade not the way to honour Ukraine’s contribution to Second World War

Sigh…

On April 28, approximately 250 people marched through the streets of Kiev, Ukraine, to commemorate the 78th anniversary of the Second World War Waffen SS Division Galicia.

That’s right folks, hundreds of people gathered, despite the threat of spreading the COVID-19 virus, to commemorate Ukrainian soldiers who took an oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler and fought for Nazi Germany.

This parade drew an immediate backlash from Germany’s ambassador to Ukraine, Anka Feldhusen. She tweeted: “Waffen SS units participated in the worst war crimes and the Holocaust during WW2. No volunteer organizations fighting and working for Ukraine today should be associated with them.”

This blatant display of Nazi glorification was also condemned by the Israeli ambassador in Kiev and the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Sadly, there was no such reaction from the Canadian Embassy nor from the Canadian Armed Forces. Canada presently has more than 200 military trainers assisting the Ukrainian armed forces in the face of Russian aggression.

For the regime in Kiev to not only allow a tribute to Hitler’s SS to take place, but to also provide the marchers with a police escort, flies in the face of all those Canadian soldiers who fought and died in Second World War to defeat the Nazi regime.

For the record, and before the apologists claim this event was an exercise in “free speech,” Ukraine cancelled this year’s May 9 traditional public celebration of the Second World War Victory Day due to COVID-19 concerns.

Ukrainians were prevented from gathering to celebrate the defeat of Hitler, but allowed to parade in commemoration of Ukrainians who volunteered to fight for the Nazis?

The U.S. State Department did not directly condemn the parade but in a statement to The Nation they noted “We welcome [Ukraine] President Zelensky’s strong statement condemning the march.” However, they added the comment that the U.S. State Department “continues to monitor and systematically refute a longstanding Russian disinformation campaign that conflates support for Ukrainian sovereignty with support for neo-Nazi and fascist ideals.”

Here is a little bit of free advice for those concerned about Russian disinformation: just put an end to parades and events that glorify Hitler’s Waffen SS.

While I can understand that Ukrainians are proud of their heritage, I cannot fathom why young nationalists seek to glorify those who took up arms to enforce the Nazis’ ideology. Yes, I understand that Stalin imposed ruthless measures against the people of Ukraine and that they suffered horribly under the Soviet regime.

However, the fact that Ukrainian men took up arms to fight the Red Army as members of the Waffen SS does not change the reality that Hitler’s Nazis perpetrated the Holocaust.

Of all the incredible accomplishments that Ukrainians have achieved throughout history—music, literature, cuisine, art, etc.—I cannot fathom why it is a flawed military unit that fought for Hitler that these young Ukrainians have chosen to revere.

Formed in 1943, the SS Galicia Division only really fought one major engagement against the Soviets in the Battle of Brody in July 1944.

The SS Galicia was soundly defeated and it was subsequently relegated to fighting against partisans, first in Slovakia and then in Yugoslavia.

For those who would paint the SS Galicia volunteers as fighters for Ukraine’s independence, this theory cannot be justified in view of the fact they actually fought against civilian patriots in Slovakia and Slovenia to enforce Hitler’s Nazi occupation.

In the final days of the war, the SS Galicia changed its name to the 1stUkrainian Division prior to surrendering to the allies in Austria.

After a lengthy internment in Italy, many of these Ukrainian SS veterans emigrated to Canada. There is actually a memorial erected to the memory of the SS Galicia division in Oakville, Ont.

That said, it is estimated that more than 40,000 Ukrainian Canadians served in the Canadian military during the Second World War, fighting to defeat Hitler.

It is those brave, patriotic Ukrainian-Canadians that Canada needs to remember. It will make it far easier for our government to publicly denounce any future Nazi-glorification in Ukraine.

Source: Controversial parade not the way to honour Ukraine’s contribution to Second World War

Ukraine Foreign Minister Kuleba: We plan to allow dual citizenship with EU countries | KyivPost – Ukraine’s Global Voice

Canada most likely will be included among the “friendly” countries included:

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba announced plans to allow dual citizenship in Ukraine with the EU countries.

“What did you see in the NSDC decision? You saw the outlines of the state’s position, which should be reflected in the future in the legislation regarding the participation of persons with dual or multiple citizenships in the state life of Ukraine. The policy that we will implement consists of two elements. We plan to allow dual citizenship with the EU and friendly countries, which do not pose any threat to us, and the list of these countries will be calibrated, it will depend on some criteria,” Kuleba said at an online briefing on March 5.

According to him, this will be an opportunity to keep the halo of the Ukrainian presence in the world as a whole, and a citizen of Ukraine who has left for permanent residence, for example, to an EU country, in the future will be able to become a citizen of this country and remain at the same time the part of Ukraine, preserve the Ukrainian passport.

“We need to keep together millions of Ukrainians scattered around the world, we must not interfere with their integration into the society in which they decided to continue their lives, but we must, as a state, make every effort to keep them Ukrainians, so that they stay connected with their homeland, so that they will be Ukraine’s lawyers in a new society,” Kuleba said.

At the same time, he indicated that a number of restrictions on dual citizenship for parliament members and ministers would be established. Also, dual citizenship with the Russian Federation will not be allowed.

“I am a consistent supporter of this idea, we are working with the MPs on the appropriate legislative amendments. There is one exception – this is an aggressor state, there can be no talk of any dual citizenship with it,” the minister said.

Kuleba added that this is a policy that still needs to find its legislative formulation, its implementation.

Source: Kuleba: We plan to allow dual citizenship with EU countries | KyivPost – Ukraine’s Global Voice

Dual citizenship: Zelensky enacts NSDC decision on threats to national security

Aimed at Russian citizenship, will likely impact some Ukrainian Canadians:
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has put into effect the National Security and Defense Council’s decision to counter threats to national security in the field of citizenship, the President’s Office has reported.

“President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky signed decree No. 85/2021, which puts into effect the National Security and Defense Council decision of February 26, 2021 ‘On urgent measures to counter threats to national security in the field of citizenship’,” the document reads.

According to the NSDC decision, the Cabinet of Ministers, together with the Central Election Commission and the Security Service of Ukraine, must conduct an inventory and analyze Ukrainian legislation on issues related to dual (multiple) citizenship within two months.

In particular, it is necessary to establish the presence or absence of legal certainty of the prohibition of citizens of Ukraine, who have the citizenship of a foreign state, to hold certain state and political positions or to perform the functions of state or local self-government.

Based on the results of such an analysis, the government must submit to the Verkhovna Rada within six months the draft laws that would prohibit Ukrainian citizens, who have the citizenship of a foreign state or have submitted documents (undergoing the procedure) for acquiring foreign citizenship, to apply for performing state or local government functions, to apply for holding senior positions at strategic state-owned facilities, to have access to state secrets, to be a member of an election commission, an official observer or to conduct election campaigning in national and local elections, and to be a member of a political party.

“It is also necessary to develop and submit to parliament a procedure for confirming the refusal and renunciation of the citizenship of a foreign state for citizens of Ukraine who apply for the above positions,” the statement said.

In addition, a procedure should be introduced at the legislative level for citizens of Ukraine to submit declarations on the acquisition of foreign citizenship. This procedure will be put into effect for residents of the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk, Luhansk regions and Crimea only after the restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Liability must be established for the submission of inaccurate information in declarations about the absence of foreign citizenship.

According to the NSDC decision, the government should also start an interstate dialogue on concluding bilateral agreements with interested states, except for the aggressor state, aimed at resolving issues related to dual (multiple) citizenship.

Source: Dual citizenship: Zelensky enacts NSDC decision on threats to national security

One million passports: Putin has weaponized citizenship in occupied eastern Ukraine

Of note:

Moscow plans to issue one million Russian passports to residents of Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine by the end of 2020, officials confirmed last week. By creating new demographic facts on the ground, the Kremlin hopes to alter the geopolitical balance in the region and derail efforts to end the six-year undeclared war between Russia and Ukraine. Despite these grave consequences, the international community has yet to impose any additional sanctions on Russia. Instead, Russian President Vladimir Putin is able to continue pursuing policies of passport imperialism in Ukraine with apparent impunity.

Speaking on June 9 in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, United Russia MP Viktor Vodolatsky confirmed that more than 180,000 Ukrainians had received Russian passports since the introduction of a new fast-track procedure a little over a year ago. According to Vodolatsky, a further 98,000 applications are currently being processed and up to 800,000 more passports are expected to be issued in the second half of the current year.

Plans for simplified passport distribution in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine were first unveiled in April 2019, just days after Volodymyr Zelenskyy has won the Ukrainian presidency via a landslide victory. Throughout the spring 2019 Ukrainian presidential election campaign, Zelenskyy had been markedly less confrontational towards Russia than his rival, the incumbent Petro Poroshenko. This had led to widespread speculation that Zelenskyy’s election could serve to break the deadlock in a peace process that had witnessed little concrete progress since the end of large-scale hostilities in early 2015.

This initial optimism was soon tempered by the publication of Putin’s presidential decree granting Ukrainians from the occupied east of the country the right to apply for Russian passports via a special streamlined procedure. “These actions are yet more confirmation for the world community of Russia’s true role as an aggressor state, which is waging a war against Ukraine,” commented Zelenskyy at the time. “Unfortunately, this decree does not bring us closer to the ultimate goal of a ceasefire.”

Emboldened by the lack of a robust international response to his initial decree, Putin then escalated his passport imperialism against Ukraine. The Russian leader issued a second decree on July 17, 2019 that extended the citizenship offer to all Ukrainians living in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts – the two eastern regions of Ukraine that are currently under partial Russian occupation.

This is far from the first time the Kremlin has employed passports as a foreign policy tool to project its influence across the former Soviet Union. The tactic was first seen in Moldova in the early 1990s. The distribution of Russian passports also helped cement Moscow’s grip on the two breakaway regions of Georgia prior to the 2008 Russo-Georgian War. Meanwhile, Russian passports have played an important role in the Kremlin’s Crimean policy, both before and after the 2014 seizure of the Ukrainian peninsula.

Putin’s passport ploy in eastern Ukraine is as clear an indication as you could possibly wish for that Russia has no intention of allowing Ukraine to regain full control over the occupied regions. If the Kremlin’s current forecasts are accurate, there will be one million Russian citizens living in occupied eastern Ukraine by the end of 2020, representing at least a quarter of the entire population. This will transform the so-called separatist republics of eastern Ukraine into Russian passport protectorates.

With Russian citizens representing a large percentage of the region’s overall population, Moscow will claim the legal right to intervene at will in Ukraine’s internal affairs. Such arguments bear little relation to the realities of international law. Nevertheless, they represent a far more convincing pretext for endless interference than the protestations about oppressed Russian-speakers that Moscow has relied upon since Russia’s military intervention began in 2014.

The war Russia unleashed six years ago is far from over and Moscow remains as committed as ever to limiting Ukraine’s independence. Putin’s passport imperialism is central to these ongoing efforts, offering the potential to entrench Russian influence in the country while fatally weakening Ukrainian sovereignty. If it is allowed to proceed unimpeded in occupied eastern Ukraine, the same strategy could then be expanded to additional regions throughout the country, allowing Russia to slowly but surely undermine the Ukrainian government’s ability to function. Sadly, there is nothing particularly far-fetched or fanciful about such nightmare scenarios. Indeed, the passport distribution phase is already underway in unoccupied parts of eastern Ukraine.

Moscow has framed its passport offensive as a purely humanitarian policy designed to ease the suffering of a population trapped in a conflict zone, but these claims are no more credible than the Kremlin’s attempts to portray its well-equipped proxy armies in eastern Ukraine as a ragtag collection of disgruntled miners and tractor drivers. In reality, the weaponization of Russian citizenship is a well-known element of the hybrid arsenal developed by the Kremlin since 1991 and deployed throughout the former USSR as Moscow has fought to retain its imperial influence.

Only an emphatic international response can now prevent the Kremlin from using the same passport tactics to consolidate control over occupied eastern Ukraine and destabilize the rest of the country indefinitely. The European Commission has already taken steps to prevent EU member states from recognizing passports issued via Putin’s April 24, 2019 decree. Further measures targeting the Kremlin are also necessary, including additional sanctions.

Russia is currently in the process of establishing passport protectorates in eastern Ukraine. It is doing so methodically and shamelessly, in front of the watching world. If such brazen aggression is allowed to go unpunished, it will lead to a further erosion of international security, with implications that will be felt far beyond the borders of Ukraine.

Source: One million passports: Putin has weaponized citizenship in occupied eastern Ukraine

A Black Metal Festival in Ukraine This Weekend Is the Neo-Nazi Networking Event of the Year

Never knew of this disturbing genre of music but not surprised that the far right has a cultural aspect:

Hundreds of far-right extremists will converge on Ukraine’s capital this weekend for a “militant black metal” music festival that experts say has become a networking hub in the international neo-Nazi scene.

Asgardsrei, which will be held Saturday and Sunday in Kyiv’s Bingo Club, bills itself online as a black metal festival that has “grown into the largest (and certainly the most radical)” in the region.

“2 days, 14 bands, 1,500 places, 0 tolerance,” its website reads.

Researchers say the festival is a showcase for the explicitly neo-Nazi musical genre known as “national Socialist black metal,” or NSBM. The lineup features acts with violent anti-Semitic lyrics, referencing the Holocaust and swastikas, and featuring anti-Jewish slurs. One of the bands, Stutthof, is named after a Nazi concentration camp, while another, the French band Seigneur Voland, has a track titled “Quand les Svastikas étoilaient le Ciel” (“When Swastikas Light Up the Sky”).

Another act, the Greek band Wodulf, has a track with the lyrics: “Standards of Aryan might unfurl in triumph / Immortal loyalty to the swastika.” Footage from last year’s festival shows members of the audience widely giving the Nazi salute during performances.

“The organizers have been very clever in connecting almost the complete European neo-Nazi scene.”

Far-right experts say the festival, now in its fifth year in Kyiv, has become an important networking hub for the transnational white supremacy movement. The festival was organized by individuals linked to Ukraine’s powerful far-right Azov movement, the ultranationalist group that played a major role in the revolution and the war against Russian-backed separatists in the east. It also includes a mixed-martial arts “fight night” by an Azov-affiliated fight club on Friday night.

The festival has previously drawn extremists from groups including the U.S.-based neo-Nazi organization Atomwaffen Division, Germany’s The Third Path party, and Italy’s neofascist CasaPound.

“It’s established itself as the major festival of the national Socialist black metal scene,” said Thorsten Hindrichs, a musicologist at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz who specializes in far-right music subcultures.

He told VICE News that the festival provided an important point of contact for disparate far-right groups in their project “to build a pan-European community of right-wing extremists.”

“The organizers have been very clever in connecting almost the complete European neo-Nazi scene,” Hindrichs added.

Mollie Saltskog, an intelligence analyst at strategic consultancy firm The Soufan Group, said that festival organizers had boasted last year that they had “almost a thousand foreigners” at the event. Among them were members of Atomwaffen Division, including the leader of the group’s Washington State cell, Kaleb James Cole, who spent 18 days in Ukraine as part of 25-day trip through Europe.

“It’s likely that many prominent figures within the transnational white supremacy movement, both in and outside of Ukraine, will participate in the concert and surrounding activities this weekend in Kyiv,” Saltskog told VICE News.

“It’s an opportune moment for members of the transnational movement to meet up, network, forge international connections, and exchange tactics and experiences to bring back home to their own ‘fight.’” Saltskog continued.

Ahead of last year’s festival, she said, Azov had hosted an international conference of far-right ideologues, where they discussed topics such as “Nordic Paganism as Metaphysics.”

Hindrichs said Kyiv had become a “safe space” where events like Asgardsrei could take place without disruption from authorities or protesters. He said the festival’s growing importance on the international far-right scene meant it warranted closer attention from Western security services to monitor the contacts their extremists were potentially making in Kyiv.

“There’s horrifying things going on there,” he said. “It would be a good idea to try to stop people attending.”

A global hub

According to Haaretz, Asgardsrei was founded by Russian neo-Nazi Alexey Levkin, a far-right dissident who came to Ukraine in 2014 to support Azov, which has since actively forged links with like-minded groups elsewhere.

Levkin describes himself as an ideologist “who gives lectures in culture, history, and contemporary political thought” to National Militia — the paramilitary street wing of the sprawling Azov movement, which also has a regiment incorporated into Ukraine’s national army, as well as its own political party, National Corps.

As well as fronting his own band, M8L8TH, which will be performing at Asgardsrei, Levkin is also a key member in Wotanjugend — a Ukraine-based neo-Nazi group that has promoted a Russian-language translation of the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto. Saltskog said Wotanjugend was “originally established in Russia, but uses Ukraine as a base to operate and spread its neo-Nazi ideology and message of hate, under what appears to be the patronage of Azov.”

Levkin told VICE News that “only two or three bands on the line-up could really be considered NSBM” acts — including his own act, M8L8TH.

Levkin denied the festival had become a networking hub for the far-right and explained it was “first and foremost about breaking … taboos.”

“We respect any artists who dare to truly challenge the dominant narrative of the contemporary Western society,” he said.

And when asked if he considered himself a national socialist, he replied: “Yes, sure!”

Researchers said the event highlighted the way Ukraine, through the influence of Azov and affiliated far-right movements, has emerged as a global hub for right-wing extremists since the outbreak of war. In recent years, events like Asgardsrei have drawn foreign radicals to Ukraine to network with Azov-affiliated extremists, where they have documented their presence at far-right subcultural events like concerts and MMA tournaments on social media.

Meanwhile, Azov has pursued an outreach program to cultivate links with far-right groups internationally. Olena Semenyaka, international secretary for Azov’s political party who has strong ties to Levkin, traveled to meet contacts in Germany, Sweden, Italy, Croatia, and Portugal in the past year.

Last week, a far-right Ukrainian group even turned up on the frontlines of the Hong Kong protests, which sparked concerns they could be attempting to learn lessons from the pro-democracy demonstrations to use in violent street protests at home.

Kuleba: Ukrainians from diaspora should be allowed dual citizenship

Ongoing discussions and floating of the idea:

Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Dmytro Kuleba believes that granting Ukrainians the right to dual citizenship will allow Ukraine to more effectively use the potential of compatriots from the diaspora who seek to help their homeland.

The told the ZN.UA (Dzerkalo Tyzhnia.Ukraine) there are several reasons for granting Ukrainians the right to dual citizenship (he emphasized that he expressed his personal opinion, not the one of the entire government).

“If new representatives of the diaspora with Canadian or U.S. citizenship but ready to work for our country appear in the Ukrainian government in the future, the Ukrainian state should have a ready-made model of cooperation with them but not invent all kinds of schemes,” the deputy prime minister said.

He believes that liberalization of citizenship policy will make it possible to keep in the Ukrainian space millions of Ukrainians who left Ukraine and obtained the citizenship of another country, but who want to keep in touch with their homeland.

“We should not tear these people away. We have already lost so many,” the official added.

In addition, according to Kuleba, the state’s tolerant attitude towards second citizenship will solve the issue of tens of thousands of Ukrainians having Hungarian and Romanian passports, which many received only for the sake of a quiet movement in the European Union. By and large, according to the deputy premier, this should remove one of the acute problems in relations between Ukraine and neighboring countries.

At the same time, Kuleba categorically rejects the possibility of Ukraine’s recognizing Russian citizenship as the second one.

“The right of dual citizenship should not under any circumstances apply to the aggressor country,” he said.

Source: Kuleba: Ukrainians from diaspora should be allowed dual citizenship

Canadian officials honour Nazi collaborators in Ukraine, angering Jewish groups

Not quite as simple as portrayed: see tweet from former Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine, Andrew Robinson:

The Canadian Forces and Global Affairs Canada are facing criticism after honouring members of Ukrainian organizations that helped the Nazis in the Second World War.

Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine Roman Waschuk spoke at an Aug. 21 ceremony that unveiled a monument in Sambir to honour members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), two groups that are linked to the killing of tens of thousands of Jews and Poles.

The event has been condemned by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and the Ukrainian Jewish Committee who warn the memorial whitewashes the role of Ukrainian collaborators in the Holocaust.

“All Jews of Sambir were murdered by Nazis and their collaborators from OUN and UPA,” Eduard Dolinsky, director-general of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee based in Kiev, told Postmedia.

The monument, which is at the edge of a cemetery holding the remains of more than 1,200 Jews murdered by the Nazis and Ukrainian collaborators, is a desecration and “double murder of the Jewish victims,” Dolinsky said. “It’s like putting a monument to killers on the top of the graves of their victims.”

Global Affairs Canada said the Sambir event was intended to assist efforts by the Jewish community in Canada and Ukraine to build public support to create an eventual memorial for the Jewish cemetery in the town. That was the reason for Waschuk’s attendance and to suggest otherwise would be false, the department said.

The memorial is to 17 members of the OUN who the Ukrainians say were killed by the Nazis. Waschuk, in his speech at the ceremony, paid tribute to the murdered Jews, Ukrainians who tried to help them and “those Ukrainians who fought against the Nazi regime as members of OUN-UPA.”

Members of the OUN-UPA supported the Nazis and helped round up and execute Jews after the Germans invaded Ukraine, according to Holocaust historians. At one point, they broke away from their support of the Nazis, but later joined forces again with Germany. In 1943 the UPA started massacring Polish civilians, killing an estimated 100,000 men, women and children, according to historians.

The Canadian Forces said in a statement that military personnel were requested by the Canadian embassy in Ukraine to attend. The attendance was “part of a whole government effort to champion tolerance in a democratic Ukraine and reiterate that totalitarian regimes (in both past and contemporary times, and under all guises) have done injustices to Ukrainians,” the statement said.

Jewish organizations have been trying for years to erect a memorial at the Jewish cemetery. But Sambir locals have resisted that, removing the Star of David at the site and instead erecting three large Christian crosses on the Jewish cemetery. A compromise was eventually reached; in exchange for removing the crosses, a memorial to the dead OUN-UPA would be erected.

Waschuk called the memorial “a monument of love to one’s motherland. And a motherland must know how to defend itself so that it does not suffer again from waves of inhuman totalitarian terror as happened during World War 2.”

It’s not the first time that Canadian actions in Ukraine have raised concerns.

In June 2018 the Canadian government and military officials in Ukraine met with members of the ultranationalist Azov Battalion, which earlier that year had been banned by the U.S. Congress from receiving American arms because of its links to Neo-Nazis

The Canadians were photographed with Azov battalion members, images which were shared on the battalion’s social media site.

In a statement to Postmedia the Canadian Forces noted the meeting was planned by Ukrainian authorities and Canadian representatives had no prior knowledge of those who would be invited. The Azov battalion has been connected to war crimes by the United Nations.

Various Jewish groups have warned about efforts to whitewash Nazi collaborators in eastern European countries, portraying them as heroes instead of those who aided in the Holocaust. Earlier this year, the Canadian government added its voice to those condemning an annual parade in Latvia’s capital honouring members of the Nazi SS, saying it opposes any such event glorifying Adolf Hitler’s regime.

Around 1,000 people marched in the parade in Riga on March 16 in honour of the Latvian SS divisions which fought for the Nazis in the Second World War. Some in the parade wore swastikas and other Nazi insignias.

Source: Canadian officials honour Nazi collaborators in Ukraine, angering Jewish groups