Adrian Karatnycky: Ukraine, anti-Semitism, racism, and the far right

Interesting analysis and commentary placing the legitimate fears regarding the rise of the far right and antisemitism in Ukraine in context. Look forward to comments from others who know Ukraine better than me:

October 14 saw the latest in a string of annual mass marches by the far right in Ukraine. As many as 10,000 people participated, mainly young men, chanting fiercely. A nighttime torchlight parade with signs proclaiming “We’ll return Ukraine to Ukrainians,” contained echoes of Nazi-style symbolism.

Lax law enforcement and indifference by the security services to the operations of the far right is being noticed by extremists from abroad who are flocking to Ukraine. German media reported the presence of the German extreme right (JN-NPD, Dritte Weg) at the rally. According to Ukrainian political analyst Anton Shekhovtsov, far-right Norwegians, Swedes, and Italians were supposed to be there too. And on October 15, they all gathered in Kyiv for the Paneuropa conference organized by the Ukrainian neo-Nazi National Corps party. “Kyiv,” says Shekhovtsov, “has now become one of the major centers of European far-right activities.”

Such activism, naturally, unnerves liberals as well as Jews, and national minorities. And they often result in alarmist headlines in Western and Israeli newspapers.

Coming in a year in which the white supremacist C14 group engaged in savage beatings at a Roma encampment near Kyiv, one could draw the conclusion that the far right is on the rise in Ukraine.

But such a reading would be mistaken. Far-right sentiments exist in Ukraine, but these ultranationalist groupings attract little public support. As the March 2018 presidential election approaches, recent polls show that the combined vote of far-right presidential candidates amounts to around 4 percent. A similarly paltry level of support is to be found for the far-right Svoboda and National Corps parties. Compared to the support of far-right parties such as the AfD in Germany (12.6 percent support), Marine Le Pen’s Rally for the Nation (13 percent) and Italy’s Northern League (17.4 percent), Ukraine’s public has little sympathy for the far right.

Nor can these fringe Ukrainian parties be labeled pro-Nazi, though their leaders initially were drawn to proto-fascist ideas.Ukraine is a country on whose territory two million Jews died in the Holocaust. It is also a country in which five million non-Jewish Ukrainians perished in combat as a result of Nazi occupation. Virtually every family has the memory of Nazi brutality etched into its memory. Ukraine’s nationalists of the 1930s and 1940s, who advanced anti-Semitic and proto-fascist ideas, were also eventually hunted down for extermination by the Nazi regime.

To be sure, casual anti-Semitism and Jewish stereotypes persist in everyday life. And anti-Semitic graffiti appears with regularity near Jewish synagogues, cemeteries, and cultural institutions. Even still, this regrettable phenomenon is widespread in most advanced industrial democracies.

At the same time, in the last two years there has been not a single recorded violent attack against a Jewish person. The last such attack occurred on October 7, 2016, against a Hasidic rabbi visiting the city of Zhytomyr.

Between 2016 and 2017, acts of vandalism against Jewish targets increased from 19 to 24, but were still far below those reported in many European countries. While an Israeli government report issued in January 2018 alleged a doubling of anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine, it failed to provide detailed answers about its methodology or sources.

Unlike two decades ago, when Silski Visti, an anti-Semitic newspaper reached millions of readers, today there is no mass circulation periodical spilling out anti-Semitic bile.

Moreover, in comparison with its Central and East European neighbors, Ukraine remains a remarkably tolerant society, even as it faces Russian occupation in part of its territory. A 2016 Pew Research Center poll found that among South, Central, and East European countries, Ukraine had the highest level of acceptance of Jews as fellow citizens, with only 5 percent of the public disagreeing.

The leadership role of Jews in the country’s economic and political life is rarely a topic of public discourse and is accepted as normal.

The country has a Jewish Prime Minister, Volodymyr Groisman.The president’s chief of staff is Jewish, as was his last chief of staff, Borys Lozhkin, who now heads the Ukrainian Jewish Confederation and is a vice president of the World Jewish Congress.

According to the Ukrainian Jewish Confederation, more than thirty of 427 members of parliament are Jewish. And the Committee on Interparliamentary Relations with Israel is the largest of all such groupings in the Ukrainian Rada, numbering nearly 140 deputies, a third of the legislature.

Ukraine’s religious leaders have regular access to key government leaders. And Ukrainian government and state leaders routinely take part in commemorative ceremonies of remembrance of the Holocaust.

All this is not to say that there are serious problems.

Ukraine’s memory politics reflect too much heroization of a complex past and not enough acknowledgment of such issues as indigenous anti-Semitism and collaboration with the Nazi occupation. More, too, needs to be done in restoring the killing fields in which Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

More ominously, Ukraine’s far-right, para-military formations and their penchant for vigilantism remain a problem that must be more vigorously countered by the state and their sources of funding investigated thoroughly.

Anti-Semitic vandalism needs to be rooted out and hate speech handled in accordance with Ukrainian law. Government reactions to acts or expressions of anti-Semitism remain far too slow. And incidents of violence against Roma by members of far-right groups such as C14 must be swiftly prosecuted.​

However, Western and Israeli governments, media, and NGOs should be sensitive to Russia’s hybrid warfare and disinformation around the topic of anti-Semitism and the far-right in Ukraine. Russia’s deployment of actors who wittingly or unwittingly are encouraged to engage in hate speech, incite anti-minority tensions, commit vandalism, and employ violence is another phenomenon that must be better understood. In a poor country, it is easy to buy or win the allegiance of alienated youth and enlist them in fringe politics either by far-right operatives or Russian agents.

Ukraine’s far right may not be a rising force. But in a poor country facing external aggression, it is a force that cannot be ignored.

Adrian Karatnycky is a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council, and co-director and board member of the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter.

Source: Adrian Karatnycky: Ukraine, anti-Semitism, racism, and the far right

FM Klimkin proposes to discuss dual citizenship in Ukraine

Will be interesting to see how this debate progresses:

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin says there is a need for a debate on dual citizenship in Ukraine.

“We all understand that tens or hundreds of thousands of people in Ukraine have passports of neighboring countries. And this is not only ethnic Hungarians. I think we should hold a discussion about the state’s attitude to this large group of our compatriots,” he wrote in an article for European Pravda.

Klimkin believes it is possible to find a solution that will not harm people with dual citizenship, but, on the contrary, free them from the need to conceal it.

“The discussion is not about worsening their situation or branding them as traitors, but rather reasonably resolving the legal limbo, and not only that,” the minister said.

He stresses the problem of dual Ukrainian-Russian citizenship should be considered separately in the context of Russian aggression against Ukraine.

“I personally consider it fundamentally unacceptable. As a matter of fact, the decision on single citizenship in Ukraine was once made, first of all, as a fuse against Russia’s possible influence on the newly declared independent Ukraine. Today, when Moscow is waging armed aggression against us, such motivation is leveled: if Ukraine wants to consider the possibility of limited application of dual citizenship, this should not concern Russia in principle,” Klimkin said.

Source: Klimkin proposes to discuss dual citizenship in Ukraine

Bill on citizenship to be revised on issue of Ukrainian collaborators in occupied territories – Poroshenko

Not sure that this completely resolves the issues and concerns of expatriate Ukrainians with dual citizens or those inside Ukraine (see earlier Violeta Moskalu: Bill aims to strip Ukrainians living abroad of citizenship | KyivPost):

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko during a meeting with Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people Refat Chubarov and Deputy Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people Ilmi Umerov assured them that the draft law on citizenship will be finalized in the issue of collaborators in the occupied territories.

“There were provisions in this draft law [presidential bill (No.8297) on amending the law of Ukraine on citizenship regarding the improvement of certain provisions] that, on the one hand, protect not only the Crimean Tatars, but also Ukrainians who found themselves in the occupied territory and were forced to accept Russian citizenship under pressure. But there is a small part of the citizens who volunteered to become collaborators – started working in the police, Federal Security Service, illegal authorities,” the presidential press service reported on the results of his meeting with the leaders of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people in Kyiv on Friday.

“I heard your appeal. We have now discussed this and I decided to revoke the bill on citizenship,” he said.

According to him, the “provision on collaborators” will be deleted and the bill will be finalized jointly.

“And we will divide these two things. The first thing is the Law on Citizenship and the Protection of Ukrainian Citizenship. On the other hand, the Law on Collaborators regulates the issues concerning this, albeit small, category of citizens. They must receive an absolutely fair response from Ukrainian legislation, Ukrainian Law and state,” the president emphasized.

Chubarov thanked the president for supporting this initiative to remove the provisions that apply directly to the occupied territories. “Our goal is very clear and everyone knows it – those who violated the Laws of Ukraine and started cooperation with the occupants will be punished. And all the others who maintain dignity and remain loyal to Ukraine – we will all live together in our Crimea,” he said.

According to him, the vast majority of Ukrainian citizens who live in the occupied Crimea are waiting for Ukraine, they expect the restoration of state sovereignty and control over Crimea.

As reported, on April 19, 2018, the Ukrainian president tabled in parliament a draft law (No. 8297) introducing amendments to the law of Ukraine on citizenship.

Among other things, it foresees that the acquisition of citizenship of the Russian Federation as a result of unlawful and unfair acts in the territories temporarily occupied by the Russian administration and the self-proclaimed authorities controlled by Russia is not considered a voluntary acquisition of foreign nationality and therefore is not a reason for the loss of Ukrainian citizenship.

However, the grounds for the loss of citizenship of Ukraine will be the implementation of the electoral or other rights granted by foreign citizenship, or the performance of the obligations envisaged by foreign citizenship, which can be confirmed by the data of public registers of state authorities, local governments of foreign states and information on official websites and in official publications.

The basis for the loss of Ukrainian nationality will also be the use of a passport of another country when crossing the border of Ukraine, which is recorded by an official of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine or another state body.

At the same time, the draft law proposes clarifying the procedure for obtaining Ukrainian citizenship and abandoning foreign citizenship.

Although, according to the website of the Ukrainian parliament, the bill was withdrawn on May 16, 2018.

Source: Bill on citizenship to be revised on issue of Ukrainian collaborators in occupied territories – Poroshenko

Canadian government comes to the defence of Nazi SS and Nazi collaborators but why?

Good question:

In late April more than 50 members of the U.S. Congress condemned the government of Ukraine’s ongoing efforts to glorify “Nazi collaborators.”

The letter, signed by both Republicans and Democrats, outlined concerns about ongoing ceremonies to glorify leaders of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army as well as 14th SS Galizien Division (aka 1stGalician/Galizien or the 1st Ukrainian Division). “It’s particularly troubling that much of the Nazi glorification in Ukraine is government-supported,” noted the letter to U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan. The letter was initiated by Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna of California and David Cicilline of Rhode Island.

Contrast that to how the Canadian government handled a related issue last year when the Russian Embassy in Ottawa tweeted out that, “There are monumets (sic) to Nazi collaborators in Canada and nobody is doing anything about it.”

A monument in Oakville commemorates those who served with the 14th SS Galizien Division. Another monument in Edmonton honors Roman Shukhevych, the leader of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.

As my Postmedia colleague Marie-Danielle Smith discovered, the Russian tweet sent bureaucrats at Global Affairs Canada into overdrive as they tried to defend the SS unit and Ukrainian Nazi collaborators. Documents she received through the Access to Information law show government officials were under a lot of pressure from the “Centre” (the Privy Council Office and the Prime Minister’s Office) to counter the news about the monuments to Nazi collaborators. The bureaucrats came up with a strategy. The would label the tweet as “disinformation” and they came up with a plan to spread the word to the news media as part of their efforts to defend Ukraine’s Nazi collaborators.

Now as I have written before, the Russians are more than happy to try to embarrass the Canadian government, which has steadfastly stood behind the Ukrainian government in the ongoing conflict in the region. Suggesting that Canada allows monuments to Nazi collaborators seems to fit that bill.

But in this case the Russian tweets aren’t “fake news” or “disinformation.” They are accurate.

As those members of the U.S. Congress have pointed out, the Ukrainians who served in the SS Galizien Division were indeed Nazi collaborators.

So too was Roman Shukhevych.

Before going to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, Shukhevych was commander of the Ukrainian battalion called Nachtigall. The men of Nachtigall rounded up Jews in Lviv in June 1941, massacring men, women and children. The Simon Wiesenthal Center estimates that the Nachtigall Battalion, along with their German military counterparts, managed to murder around 4,000 Jews in Lviv. Other historians put the estimate at around 6,000.

Shukhevych was later assigned to a new unit whose role in Germany’s war, according to one Holocaust expert, was “fighting partisans and killing Jews.” Shukhevych later turned against the Nazis.

Then there is the SS Galizien Division. They were eager Nazi collaborators. Some 80,000 Ukrainians volunteered to join the SS but only those who could meet the strict requirements were selected.

The SS used some of its most seasoned killers to oversee the development of its new division. SS Gen. Jurgen Stroop, who would later be executed as a war criminal for his brutal destruction of the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, was brought on as an advisor.

Other commanders of the division were all versed in the murder of Jews throughout occupied territories in eastern Europe. “Many of the Ukrainian officers, like SS- Haupsturmfuhrer Michael Brygidryr, had previously served in SS Schuma battalions, routinely used to kill partisans, burn down villages and, when the opportunity arose, murder Jews,” wrote award-winning author Christopher Hale in his 2011 ground-breaking book, Hitler’s Foreign Executioners.

SS Galizien Division was used by the Nazis in a variety of operations, one of the most controversial being the 1944 destruction of the village of Huta Pieniacka. Huta Pieniacka was considered a “Polish” village that just months before had been the shelter for several hundred Jews, Hale noted. The SS units surrounded the village. Men, women and children, who had taken refuge in the village church, were taken outside in groups and murdered. Kids were executed in front of their parents, their heads smashed against tree trunks, one witness testified. Others were burned alive in houses. Around 850 people were murdered.

Some Ukrainians dispute that the SS Galizien Division took part in the killings or they argue that only small elements from the unit – and under Nazi command – were involved.

A Ukrainian military board heard testimony in 1944 that members of the Galizien Division did take part in the attack. But that action was justified, the board was told since the inhabitants of Huta Pieniacka had been killing Ukrainian peasants. “By the way, the Jews were hiding in the village,” a Ukrainian officer added in his testimony describing the destruction of the village inhabitants.

Some Ukrainians see Shukhevych and SS Galizien Division members as heroes. They argue that those individuals served the Nazis because they saw them as liberators from the Russians. Their ultimate goal was an independent Ukraine.

But to claim that these individuals were not Nazi collaborators is something else. They served Hitler.

In May 1944, SS leader Heinrich Himmler addressed the Ukrainian SS recruits in a speech.  “Your homeland has become more beautiful since you have lost – on our initiative, I must say – the residents who were so often a dirty blemish on Galicia’s good name – namely the Jews,” said Himmler. “I know that if I ordered you to liquidate the Poles, I would be giving you permission to do what you are eager to do anyway.”

Himmler speech was greeted with cheers from the Ukrainian recruits.

Equally disturbing are the details contained in the book, The Holocaust Chronicle, published in 2003 and written by 7 top scholars in the field of Holocaust studies. They noted that Ukrainian SS were also sent to help kill Jews during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The Chronicle published a photo of two of Ukrainian SS members standing over the bodies of Jews murdered during that uprising. See the photo below:

But this issue of Ukrainian collaboration with the Nazis is not new. Since 1986 the Nazi-hunters with The Simon Wiesenthal Center have warned about efforts from those in Ukraine and in the Ukrainian community in Canada who want to deny involvement of the SS Galizien Division with the Nazis.

The Latvian government is also trying to use the “fake news” label to whitewash the reality of Latvian collaboration with the Nazis.

My colleague Scott Taylor has recently written several articles about the Latvian Legion (15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Latvian) et al) and Latvian killers like war criminal Herberts Cukurs as well as the members of the Arajs Kommando, who murdered an estimated 26,000 Jews.

According to Karlis Eihenbaums, Latvia’s Ambassador to Canada, Taylor is spreading “fake news” and “disinformation.” Eihenbaums has also tried to smear Taylor by suggesting that he is under the “influence” of the Russian government.

Taylor’s research into the Latvian SS Legion and the Latvian murderers of Jewish men, women and children is solid.  It is a well-documented historical fact that many of the killers from the Arajs Kommando went to the Latvian Legion. These Latvians served Hitler. No number of claims of “fake news” can change that fact.

Photo below shows Latvian SS:

The controversy over the Latvian Legion and the annual parade held in Riga to celebrate these Nazi collaborators is well known and has been going on for two decades, long before the term “fake news” was even coined. In 1998 the parade caused a storm of protests around the world, particularly in Israel, where Holocaust survivors couldn’t understand Latvia’s desire to celebrate such ruthless killers. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and French President Jacques Chirac were among those that year to protest the Latvian parade. The Times of Israel reported on this year’s Latvian SS parade in Riga, which took place mid-March.

So much for “fake news.” Did Helmut Kohl and Jacques Chirac spread “disinformation” when they denounced the SS parade in Latvia? Of course not.

This whole issue isn’t about “fake news” or Russian “disinformation.” It is about nations trying to whitewash their Nazi collaboration and rewrite history, while attacking journalists who don’t want to let that happen.

It is a positive development that members of the U.S. Congress could see through these efforts to glorify members of the SS. They are speaking out.

But in Canada, the federal government is more than happy to play along with defending Himmler’s SS divisions and Nazi collaborators.

What would our soldiers who fought during the Second World War to help rid the world of this scourge think about that?

Source: Canadian government comes to the defence of Nazi SS and Nazi collaborators but why?

Violeta Moskalu: Bill aims to strip Ukrainians living abroad of citizenship | KyivPost

Will be interesting to see whether the Ukrainian Canadian community takes a more high profile on this this proposed legislation (welcome comment by any Ukrainian Canadian readers).

StatsCan data suggests that less than 10 percent of Ukrainian immigrants (first generation) have dual citizenship:

The Verkhovna Rada may soon consider amendments that could deprive many Ukrainians living abroad of their citizenship.

President Petro Poroshenko submitted the amendments, called bill No. 8297, on April 19, identifying them as urgent. The amendments will be considered by a Rada committee on May 16 and may be considered by the Rada as early as on May 17.

The legislation was previously promoted by the authorities as being aimed at depriving of their citizenship those who voted in Russia’s fake referendum to annex Ukraine’s Crimea in March 2014.

In fact, it will not apply to those people, but may apply to almost any Ukrainian with dual nationality abroad. The wording of the bill is so vague that its effect may be devastating.

The bill says that “(…) if an adult citizen of Ukraine has used an electoral or other right granted to him by foreign citizenship or has fulfilled the duties that foreign citizenship puts on him, which can be confirmed by the data of the public registers of state bodies or local governments of foreign states, information published on official websites, in official publications by state bodies or bodies of local government and/or documents provided by such bodies, or if he or she (an adult citizen of Ukraine) received or used in Ukraine or during the departure/entry to Ukraine a passport of a foreign state, which has been recorded by an official employee of the State Border Guard of Ukraine or another the state body of Ukraine.”

Bill No. 8297 states that “the acquisition of Russian citizenship due to unlawful … actions on the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol by the occupation administration of the Russian Federation” will not be classified as the voluntary acquisition of citizenship. Therefore, participation in the sham Russian elections in Kremlin-annexed Crimea it will not be considered as grounds for stripping a person of Ukrainian citizenship.

This is not the first attempt by Poroshenko to deprive of millions of Ukrainian people of Ukrainian citizenship. In March 2017, bill 6175 was submitted by the president to the Verkhovna Rada, but thanks to the efforts of the Ukrainian diaspora and Ukrainian expats, the bill was blocked.

Moreover, Poroshenko has used citizenship legislation as a tool to get rid of his political opponents. Last year, he stripped his vehement critic Mikheil Saakashvili and his ally Sasha Borovik of their Ukrainian citizenship.

The cancellation of their citizenship violated Ukrainian and international law and due process and was politically motivated, according to both Saakashvili’s lawyers and independent ones.

Despite the catastrophic demographic situation in Ukraine, the Ukrainian government continues its attempts to deprive citizenship to a large number of Ukrainian people, without recognizing that today de facto, at least 10 percent of Ukrainians are bi- or multi- national.

In fact, the repeated attempt to pass such legislation seems even more threatening, since this repeated political mistake is interpreted by experts as a conscious desire to deprive of Ukrainian citizenship millions of Ukrainian people who temporarily live abroad, without any understanding of their role and contribution to the development of Ukraine.

Ukrainians who live abroad are the best lobbyists of Ukraine. Moreover, they are de facto the best investors, who support Ukraine financially on their shoulders, as the mythological ancient Greek titans. According to the data of the National Bank and the State Statistics Service, Ukrainians abroad transfer five times more money to their homeland than foreign investors. For example, in 2017, Ukrainian migrants transferred to Ukraine $9.3 billion. By comparison, during the same period, foreign direct investments amounted to $1.8 billion. Financial transfers from Ukrainians abroad are increasing every year ($7 billion in 2015, $7.5 billion in 2016). Thus, the recent relative stability of the national currency has been achieved thanks to the Ukrainians living and working abroad. Meanwhile, due to the fact that about 10 million Ukrainians work abroad, Ukraine has a lower level of unemployment, and their financial transfers reduce the level of poverty in the country.

A careful analysis of international practice shows that the global trend is the opposite to banning multiple citizenship. Since 1960, the global tendency has changed dramatically, and the vast majority of states do not use their laws to automatically deprive people of citizenship. International experience on the multiple citizenship phenomenon shows that 55 percent of countries allow multiple citizenship without restrictions, 19 percent of states allow it with certain limitations, and only 26 percent of countries ban multiple citizenship. These last are mostly the least developed countries of the world.

While Israel and China fight for the rights of their citizens living outside the country, and in Germany or in Canada there are special integration programs, Ukraine prefers not only to forget about foreign Ukrainians, but even to break ties with them, and revoke their Ukrainian passports. In parallel, the Ukrainian authorities do not create opportunities for high-skilled specialists to return to Ukraine, to help in reforming the country, or bring in new, modern attitudes and approaches, or innovations.

“Ukraine needs powerful government managers, especially with experience from successful projects abroad. Therefore, the adoption of these amendments is inadmissible. These amendments will push Ukrainians to renounce to their Ukrainian nationality and will make it impossible to attract the best specialists to state bodies. In fact, this could be qualified as political sabotage against Ukraine,” said Vadym Tryukhan, a Ukrainian political analyst and ex-diplomat.

The most-used political thesis to defend this rigid approach to citizenship is that in this case Ukrainian politicians will not be able to have several passports.

“The authors of such bills seem to completely ignore the risks of loss of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens as a result of adopting these amendments,” says Igor Reshetnyak, an activist of the Ukrainian community in France and Switzerland.

“This is especially critical at time when the population of Ukraine is steadily decreasing. Of course, there are different agents of the Kremlin in Ukraine, but their damage is not in holding several passports, but in their illegal actions. For these actions they should be punished, and in this case the possession of Ukrainian citizenship by these agents only makes it easier to bring them to justice.”

Given that a presidential election will be held next year, the bill looks like an attempt to diminish the electoral rights of Ukrainians living abroad, who may have a different (and sometimes more critical) vision of the actions of the present government.

“As always, the authorities ignore the interests of millions of Ukrainians who live abroad,” says Tamila Karpyk, a representative of Open World Learning in Toronto and an activist of the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada.

“Rather than anticipating the restoration of electoral constitutional rights and ensuring the full representation of the interests of Ukrainians abroad in the Ukrainian parliament (today there are no deputies from a foreign constituency in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine), the authorities make numerous attempts to curtail their electoral rights.”

Some lawmakers are aware of the need for massive public discussion and a professional approach to public policy, but their voice is poorly heard in the media.

“Citizenship can be neither a free gift nor a tsar’s ‘punishment,’” says Oksana Syroyid, a lawmaker from the Samopomich party and deputy speaker of the Rada.

“In a globalized world, in a context of ‘non-visa regimes’ and negative labor migration, the policy on citizenship needs changes. Citizenship should be seen not only as an identity and privilege of ‘vassalage.’ In any case, changing citizenship policy requires more public consensus rather than arbitrary decisions.”

During the times of Stalin, the Ukrainian intelligentsia and dissidents were eradicated by the Soviet NKVD, and now Poroshenko is making a second attempt to revoke the Ukrainian passports of those Ukrainians who have succeeded in the global world. Will this second attempt be successful?

via Violeta Moskalu: Bill aims to strip Ukrainians living abroad of citizenship | KyivPost

Nazi Salutes and Fascist Chic Put Ukraine’s Jews on Edge

Worth noting:

At the Bingo nightclub, a few hundred Ukrainian music fans were celebrating the anniversary of their favorite very white ultra-nationalist metal band, Sokyra Peruna. Some were teens, some looked like they were in their 40s. They were dressed up and tatted up with Nazi symbols, pagan spirit designs and emblems from the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine.

Some fans brought their children along. Smoke wafted over the stage, guitars rocked, and dozens of right hands straitened up in Hitler salutes as the band’s leader, Arseny Klimachev, roared out neo-Nazi lines he’s made famous in Ukraine’s capital: “Heroes of my race! Heroes of your race!”

The fans will tell you these rants and symbols, banned in Ukraine by law, are really just fashion statements, a part of their sub-culture. But the Jewish population of Ukraine, estimated to be more than 200,000, is more than uneasy about such demonstrations. To them, Hitler’s fans are not just lovers of heavy metal music, but one more manifestation of a hostile, increasingly powerful movement.

For decades both Russians and Ukrainians referred to their enemies as “fascists,” and caricatured enemies as Hitler. During Moscow’s conflict with Tbilisi in 2007 and 2008 Russian propagandists painted Hitler-style mustaches on the face of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. Today millions of Ukrainians refer to Russian President Vladimir Putin as to “Putler”–you can even buy souvenir toilet paper that says that. But if Putin is as bad as Hitler, what are Ukrainian Hitler fans thinking?

Meanwhile, Kremlin officials insist that the pro-European Maidan movement was “fascist,” and that Ukraine is now ruled by neo-Nazi government. And, as if to confirm the Moscow line, dozens of far-right movements, groups, bands use Nazi symbols and praise Hitler’s violence against Bolsheviks, “the occupants of Ukraine.”

Just a few days before the 73d anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazism in World War II, Ukraine saw a march of ultra-nationalists who proclaimed that Odessa should be cleansed of Jews. At the rally, the head of the Right Sector in Odessa, Tatiana Soikina, said: “We are sure that we can put things in order, so Ukraine will belong to Ukrainians and not to Yids, not to oligarchs, glory to Ukraine!”

The march took place several days after the U.S. Congress sent a letter to the State Department describing the  “unacceptable” situation with anti-Semitism in here (PDF). It noted that Ukraine was “glorifying Nazi collaborators and made it a criminal offense to deny their ‘heroism.’” Among those Nazi collaborators the American members of congress cited Stepan Bandera, Roman Shukhevych, and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) for killing Jews and Poles in the years from 1941 to 1945.

In fact, all those historical figures mentioned in the letter are seen by many in Ukraine as heroes, even though today Ukraine gets more support from Washington than ever.
Washington is selling Javelin anti-tank systems to Kiev to reenforce the Ukrainian army in the war against Russia-backed rebels in Donbas. The four-year-long conflict has taken more than 10,000 Ukrainian lives.

Far-right activists insist that every single anti-Semitic action has the Kremlin’s agents behind it, while representatives of the Jewish community want to see the conspicuous fans of Hitler put in jail.

“Anti-Semitism is rapidly growing all over Ukraine: Holocaust memorials are vandalized every week, while the opposition say President Petro Poroshenkois ‘a Jew,’ when they want to say that the president is bad,” says Eduard Dolinsky, the head of Ukraine’s Jewish Committee.

Dolinsky, a prominent public figure in Ukraine, monitors incidents of anti-Semitism. The Jewish Committee has demanded that the government and law enforcement agencies push for punishment of those professing Nazi ideology, but so far there has been none.

Dolinsky says he is upset that both Russian propaganda and some Ukrainian media outlets use his name and voice for political agendas as each tries to put the fascist brand on the other. “Our main intention at the Jewish Committee is not to allow history to repeat itself. Today in public opinion Jews seem to be to blame for political failures, just as it happened in Germany in 1930s,” Dolinsky told The Daily Beast.

Earlier this month, the deputy director of Lviv school Number 100, Mariana Batyuk, was fired after posting photographs of herself and her school students lined up and saluting, “Heil Hitler.” The teacher also posted Hitler’s portrait on her Facebook page with a caption: “He was a great man, whatever you say.”

A Ukrainian nationalist, Sergei Parkhomenko from the “Anti-Putin Information Front” insists that real Ukrainian patriots could not attack Jews. “Both Odessa activists and the Lviv teacher and those who vandalized Holocaust memorials must have been paid by either the Kremlin’s agents or those who want to discredit Ukraine,” Parkhomenko told The Daily Beast.

Far-right militia units recently marching across Kiev and promising to bring “order” to Ukraine sounded threatening, and not many people wanted to get in the way of muscled-up guys with black masks covering their faces.

“The other day I was invited to a round table at a TV show to debate with far-right politicians, I had the opportunity to bring two people with me, but all my friends were too scared to go,” Dolinsky told The Daily Beast.

Reporters of the Zaborona media (translates as “banned” media) group of Ukrainian journalists covering forbidden, censored and sensitive news, took photographs of young men slamming during the concert, pushing each other, showing off Nazi and Ku Klux Klan symbols tattooed on their naked torsos.

One of the fans went from one corner of the club to another unfurling his big Nazi flag. Anna Belous, a Zaborona reporter, told The Daily Beast.

“It is stupid to blame everything on the Kremlin. Officials should admit that we do actually have guys using Nazi symbols in Ukraine,” Yekaterina Sergatskova, the founder of the Zaborona project, told us. “Every year  thousands of people with far-right views participate in Povstanets festival, this is not a news.”

Last week President Petro Poroshenko condemned the increasing anti-Semitism as “unacceptable” in a post on his Facebook page. But the dance goes on.

Source: Nazi Salutes and Fascist Chic Put Ukraine’s Jews on Edge

Ukraine Tears Down Soviet Symbols, Winks At Nazi Ones

Selective approach to history, destroying some monuments and keeping some others:

Both Soviet and Nazi symbols are now forbidden in Ukraine by law. But it’s the Soviet icons, once dumped on the country in industrial quantities, which now are disappearing in record numbers.

Since December 2013, Ukrainians knocked down 500 out of over 1,200 Lenin statues, a trend known as “Lenin-fall,” which in Ukrainian sounds like snowfall. Recently, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a law that formally charged the state with removing Soviet-era monuments, so now Kiev’s municipal services are responsible for destroying statues.

…In April, 40 historians asked President Poroshenko not to sign the law recognizing a number of World War II nationalist organizations, including the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), as mere independence fighters. In a letter addressed to Ukrainian authorities the critics questioned the legitimacy of an organization “that slaughtered tens of thousands of Poles in one of the most heinous acts of ethnic cleansing in the history of Ukraine.”

Western historians pointed out that Ukraine should not be praising as heroes organizations that collaborated with Nazi Germany. The UPA “also took part in anti-Jewish pogroms in Ukraine and, in the case of the Melnyk faction, remained allied with the [Nazi] occupation regime throughout the war,” their letter said.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has expressed concerns about Ukraine’s radical treatment of its history: “As Ukraine advances on the difficult road to full democracy, we strongly urge the nation’s government to refrain from any measure that preempts or censors discussion or politicizes the study of history.”

George Orwell put the fundamental problem rather more elegantly in an essay he wrote toward the end of World War II, when he argued that history is written by the winners. “The really frightening thing about totalitarianism is not that it commits ‘atrocities’ but that it attacks the concept of objective truth; it claims to control the past as well as the future.” And that tradition is one Ukraine is still trying to shake off.

Vyatrovych conceded, for instance, that some UPA activists were involved in Jewish pogroms, “since Jews were blamed for helping Bolsheviks,” but he rejected the idea that the whole of the UPA was at fault. “There were many Ukrainian nationalists who saved Jews, too, during the war,” he told The Daily Beast. “Besides, who could not be blamed for atrocities during that war? Americans bombed Dresden,” said Vyatrovych, whose title is director of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory.

Ukraine Tears Down Soviet Symbols, Winks At Nazi Ones – The Daily Beast.

Pianist says TSO donor threatened to cut funds if she performed

Diaspora politics at play?

Valentina Lisitsa, whose appearances were cancelled this week by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra because of tweets she posted about the Ukrainian crisis, says the TSO told her agent a donor threatened to withhold funds if she performed as scheduled.

In an interview in Toronto on Tuesday, the Ukrainian pianist also said orchestra CEO Jeff Melanson repeatedly refused to discuss the matter directly with her, and that orchestra management was swayed by “malicious translations” of some of her tweets in Ukrainian.

Ms. Lisitsa swept into a downtown hotel late in the afternoon saying she was determined to play in recital somewhere in Toronto on the nights she was to have played Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. “Maybe I’ll play it without them, just the solo part,” she said. “I’ve done it before.”

Ms. Lisitsa’s account of her dismissal conflicts at several points with the account given on Tuesday by Mr. Melanson. But they agreed that she would not retract the offending tweets.

Mr. Melanson said in a phone interview there was “absolutely no donor pressure.” Ms. Lisitsa showed The Globe and Mail an e-mail from her agent, Tanya Dorn at IMG Artists, dated Feb. 27, in which Ms. Dorn said she had spoken with Loie Fallis, TSO vice-president of artistic planning, who told her (in Ms. Dorn’s words) a “Ukrainian donor wants to pull his sponsorship.”

Mr. Melanson said the TSO received complaints from “a wide swath of Torontonians, I would say in the hundreds” about Ms. Lisitsa’s engagement because of her social media posts. He pointed to four tweets, one of which was translated as: “Dear conscious Ukrainians: I will never get tired of reminding you that you are dog feces. Thank you kindly for your attention.” Another shows the behinds of three hogs, with a text translated as: “Here are the faces of the leaders.”

Ms. Lisitsa said the translations were wrong, that “leaders” should have been “bureaucrats,” and that the first comment, translated without the quotation marks of the original, was an ironic quote from a literary work. Other tweets have been taken out of context or misinterpreted, she said.

…On March 13, Ms. Lisitsa said, the TSO forwarded to Ms. Dorn an e-mail from Toronto lawyer Michael C. Smith that cited section 319 of the Criminal Code concerning “wilful promotion of hatred,” and said “there is a possibility that Ms. Lisitsa could be stopped at the border … and deemed ‘unacceptable’ to Canada.” An attached note from Mr. Melanson, who is not a lawyer, went further, stating that Ms Lisitsa’s social media posts “would likely breach or come close to breaching the Criminal Code of Canada.” Ms. Lisitsa replied with her lawyer’s opinion rejecting that of Mr. Smith.

“The TSO said they were concerned,” she said, “and I offered to talk, but they never would. Jeff would never talk to me in person. They would say, ‘Jeff is going to talk to the Ukrainian community and he’ll get back to you.’ And I said, ‘Why won’t he talk to me?’ There was always a wall.”

Mr. Melanson gave a somewhat different account. “I think there was one offer to speak with us,” he said, but added that Ms. Lisitsa eventually insisted all communications go through lawyers. On Sunday, Ms. Lisitsa sent Ms. Fallis an e-mail, which she shared with The Globe, in which she said: “I am more than happy, if you wish, to meet tomorrow and talk how to best handle things that will arise from my appearance with TSO… I am not coming to give political speeches.”

That day, Ms. Lisitsa said, the orchestra told her manager her appearances were cancelled, and proposed a “very neutral” public statement that she was unable to perform. Ms. Lisitsa said that had she acquiesced, those in the local Ukrainian community who objected to her engagement would claim victory, “and wave it like a flag. I thought, it’s going to come out anyway, and not on my terms.”

Pianist says TSO donor threatened to cut funds if she performed – The Globe and Mail.

Holocaust Museum Urges Ukraine To Examine Its History of Anti-Semitism – Forward.com

Good initiative by the US Holocaust Museum:

Aware of the country’s current turmoil, a delegation of museum officials visiting Kiev presented the proposal as an idea, not necessarily as an immediate priority to be implemented quickly. But according to museum director Sara Bloomfield, the initial response from Ukrainian officials was positive.

“In this country — you can’t really separate communism, Nazism and anti-Semitism,” Bloomfield said in a June 8 phone interview from Kiev. She noted that discussing anti-Semitism and teaching about it in Ukraine should span from the early twentieth century, including the infamous 1913 blood libel trial of Menachem Mendel Beilis through the Stalinist persecution of Jews and the collaboration of some Ukrainian nationalists with the Nazis during the Third Reich’s occupation of the country.

Bloomfield visited Ukraine during the first week of June to meet with representatives of the newly-elected government and with scholars and members of the Jewish community. Her talks focused on practical issues, including gaining full access to Communist-era archives. But Bloomfield also sought to begin a process of dialogue aimed at getting Ukraine to reckon with its own history.

“Ukraine is in dire need of a new, more honest and complex historical narrative that reflects all the difficult issues of its history, including its darkest chapters,” wrote Bloomfield and her colleague, Vadim Altskan, a project manager in the museum’s international archival program, in a Global Post op-ed published before their trip to Ukraine. “It will not be easy, but Ukraine has a unique opportunity to validate the importance of an honest reckoning with history, recognizing that only a democratic nation can guarantee the security, freedom and prosperity of all its citizens.”

Following her meetings in Kiev, Bloomfield was cautious despite the positive response from Ukrainian officials to her idea of establishing a commission. “The reality is that right now, the country has many very urgent issues to deal with,” she said.

Ukrainian Jewish Encounter | Facebook is a Canadian initiative that has similar aims, given that there have been tensions both in Ukraine over its history as well as in the Canadian diasporas over World War II war crimes and most recently, over the relative weight and depictions between the Holocaust and the Holodomor.

Holocaust Museum Urges Ukraine To Examine Its History of Anti-Semitism – Forward.com.

No real increase in Ukraine anti-Semitism, OSCE Rep

Of note:

Rabbi Andrew Baker, who is the Personal Representative of the Chairperson-in-Office on Combating Anti-Semitism at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or OSCE, made the statement Tuesday after visiting Ukraine this week.

“There have been several incidents in the last few months including violent attacks which are rare in Ukraine,” Baker told JTA in an email. “By all accounts hate crime incidents in Ukraine are under reported. But apart from these recent events, which many believe were not ‘home grown,’ there does not appear to be any real increase over recent years.”

No real increase in Ukraine anti-Semitism, researcher says | The Times of Israel.