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

Poll finds deep divisions among Ukrainian Jews on threat of anti-Semitism

Of note:

In the largest poll of Ukrainian Jews conducted in 15 years, nearly one fifth of 900 respondents (17 percent) said that anti-Semitism has increased in the country, while another fifth (21 percent) said the opposite.

The data underline divisions among Ukrainian Jews over the effects of the 2014 revolution that toppled the previous regime and unleashed an explosion of nationalist sentiment.

In the poll, commissioned by the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress this year, another 23 percent of respondents said it was too hard to say whether there has been an increase anti-Semitism. Thirty-six percent of respondents said the level of anti-Semitism has not changed.

Ariel University’s Prof. Ze’ev Khanin developed the methodology for the poll and presented it Monday at a Kyiv Jewish Forum event. The previous survey of Ukrainian Jews this size occurred in 2003-2004.

Michael Mirilashvili, president of the Eurasian Jewish Congress, said that whereas anti-Semitism “is certainly an important challenge,” the main one is helping Jews “hold onto a strong Jewish identity that can withstand the environment and not weaken as a result of social pressures.” EAJC, he added, is investing in projects focused on achieving this, including Limmud.

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • Seventy-two percent of Ukrainian Jews said they feel solidarity with Israel, compared with 3 percent who said they do not and 26 percent who could not say.

  • Forty-two percent said they find it important that their descendants feel Jewish, compared to 25 percent who said it was not.

  • Twenty-nine percent described themselves as “Ukrainian Jews;” 22 percent as “simply Jews”; 6 percent as “Russian Jews”; and 21 percent percent as “human beings,” regardless of their Jewish affiliation.

Source: Poll finds deep divisions among Ukrainian Jews on threat of anti-Semitism

Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy offers Russians citizenship

Counter offer on citizenship to Putin offers Russian citizenship to Ukrainians in separatist-held areas:

President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy has offered Ukrainian citizenship to Russians, but combined the proposal with criticism of the Kremlin.

“We will provide Ukrainian citizenship to representatives of all peoples who suffer from authoritarian and corrupt regimes. In the first place — the Russians, who today suffer probably the most,” Zelenskiy wrote on Facebook on Sunday.

Zelenskiy’s offer came in response to a Kremlin decree last week that would fast-track Russian passports for residents of eastern Ukraine, with Russian President Vladimir Putin even saying on Saturday he was considering giving all Ukrainians easier access to Russian citizenship if they wanted it.

Moscow’s move condemned

Zelenskiy said Putin should not expect many Ukrainians to take up the offer, saying they had “freedom of speech in our country, free media and internet,” in contrast with Russia.

Moscow’s move has angered many politicians in Kyiv, which has been at war with Russian-backed separatists in the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine since 2014. The conflict, which began after the ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, has so far killed 13,000 people.

Ukraine: Displaced and disadvantaged

Outgoing President Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday accused Moscow of crossing a “red line” with the passport offer, saying Moscow wanted to create a Russian enclave in Ukraine.

The European Union also condemned the move, with European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic describing it as “another attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty by Russia.”

‘New conditions’ for living together

Zelenskiy, who won the second round of presidential elections a week ago, on Sunday also expressed a willingness to discuss the conflict in eastern Ukraine with Moscow. But he warned the Kremlin not to use “the language of threats [and] military and economic pressure.”

“This is not the best path to ceasefire and unblocking the Minsk process,” he said, referring to a peace deal sealed in the Belarusian capital in 2015 that has so far failed to bring about an end to the conflict.

“We are prepared to discuss the new conditions for how Ukraine and Russia can live together,” he said, but stressed that normalizing ties depended on Russia ceasing its occupation of both Donbass and the Crimean Peninsula, which it annexed in 2014.

Zelenskiy, who is likely to be inaugurated in early June, is a newcomer to politics, having previously only played a president in a comedy on television.

Source: Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy offers Russians citizenship

Ukraine’s Newly Elected President Is Jewish. So Is Its Prime Minister. Not All Jews There Are Pleased.

Interesting dynamics:

When Volodymyr Zelensky, the Jewish comedian recently elected the president of Ukraine, announced that he was running, the chief rabbi for the eastern Ukrainian region where Mr. Zelensky grew up was shocked by the hostile reaction.

But the opposition, Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki said, did not come from the Orthodox Church, a bastion of anti-Semitism in the past, or from a Ukrainian nationalist movement that collaborated with the Nazis during Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union. They could not seem to care less that Mr. Zelensky was a Jew, the rabbi recalled.

Instead, the hostility came from Mr. Zelensky’s fellow Jews, both secular and religious, for whom painful memories of czarist-era pogroms and the Holocaust are still very much alive.

“They said, ‘He should not run because we will have pogroms here again in two years if things go wrong,’” said Rabbi Kaminezki, the chief rabbi in Dnipro, the capital of Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region.

Despite its scarred history, Ukraine today is no hotbed of anti-Semitism. It already has a Jewish prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman, and if he stays on after Mr. Zelensky is sworn in, Ukraine will be the only country outside of Israel where the heads of state and government are Jewish.

Religion barely came up during the campaign.

The reason, said Igor Shchupak, a Holocaust historian in Dnipro, is that past persecution of Jews was carried out mostly when Ukraine’s territory was under the control of foreign states, principally Russia and Germany, that made anti-Semitism official policy.

“We have anti-Semites today, but we have no anti-Semitism as a state policy,” he said.

A survey by the Pew Research Center found that only 5 percent of Ukrainians surveyed would not accept Jews as fellow citizens, compared with 18 percent of Poles, 22 percent of Romanians and 23 percent of Lithuanians. Ukraine now has the world’s third- or fourth-largest Jewish community, but estimates of its size vary wildly, ranging from 120,000 to 400,000 people, depending on who is counting.

“The times of pogroms are over,” Rabbi Kaminezki said. “This is not on anybody’s agenda here.”

The rabbi has known Mr. Zelensky for years and has joined him at birthday parties in Switzerland for a self-exiled Ukrainian billionaire, Ihor Kolomoisky, who is Jewish. He said he had been appalled that his own community, in its initial alarm over the Zelensky candidacy, was in effect siding with a small group of supporters of the incumbent president, Petro O. Poroshenko, and far-right nationalists who were trying in vain to make an issue of the comedian’s non-Christian roots.

Aside from a few posts on social media, which included a comment on Facebook by an adviser to Mr. Poroshenko that “the president of Ukraine must be Ukrainian and Christian,” Mr. Zelensky’s background played “zero role” in the election campaign, said Mr. Shchupak.

Diaspora calls on Ukraine to consider introduction of dual citizenship

Call by Canadian Ukrainian diaspora (consideration):

Ukrainian diaspora calls on the authorities to consider a possibility of the introduction of dual citizenship.

“We call on the Ukrainian authorities to consider the introduction of dual citizenship and to listen to the diaspora’s thoughts while balancing security aspects,” President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Alexandra Chyczij said in an interview with Ukrinform.

At the same time, she acknowledged that dual citizenship posed certain security risks. “On the one hand, there are just concerns about possible Russia’s interference through the issuance of passports in the border areas. On the other hand, a large Ukrainian diaspora cares about the fate of Ukraine, wants to participate in solving its problems and strives to preserve Ukrainian citizenship,” the UCC President said.

Chyczij added that the Congress had not yet formed its clear stance on this issue since it “is aware of the difficulties arising from such a step.”

As a reminder, Foreign Minister of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin supports the official recognition of dual citizenship in Ukraine provided that certain “criteria” are introduced.

Source: Diaspora calls on Ukraine to consider introduction of dual citizenship

Poland Bashes Immigrants, but Quietly Takes Christian Ones

Telling:

The far-right Law and Justice party came to power in 2015, at the height of Europe’s migrant crisis, after running a campaign that inspired choruses of “Poland for Poles.” With national elections due in October, the governing party is once again promoting its vision of “Poland First.”

The party’s loud, anti-immigrant rhetoric has created special headaches for the European Union, which has largely failed to distribute quotas of migrants from North Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East around the Continent because of resistance from Poland and other hard-line member states.

So it may come as a surprise that the Polish government has, very quietly, presided over the largest influx of migrant workers in the country’s modern history — though they are mostly Christians from neighboring Ukraine.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has not been shy about promoting the government’s agenda. “We want to reshape Europe and re-Christianize it,” he said in 2017 in an interview with a Catholic television station. The government recently ordered all new passports include the phrase, “God, Honor, Motherland.”

But immigration is Poland’s paradox. It has benefited greatly from the European Union’s open borders, earning billions of dollars in remittances from the hundreds of thousands of Polish workers who have migrated to other countries in the bloc, especially to Britain. Yet with Poland now facing labor shortages, the government is failing to lure back the diaspora — and is restricted by its political stance against migrants.

If government officials rarely speak about needing migrant workers, the infusion of Ukrainians is apparent in many Polish cities. According to Eurostat, more than 683,000 foreigners received their first residence permits in Poland in 2017, the highest number for any country in the European Union. There are now over two million Ukrainians working in Poland, most flocking to cities that are the engines driving the Polish economy.

The question is whether they will stay. Last year, the European Union began allowing visa-free travel for Ukrainians, and Germany is easing work requirements for skilled workers, targeting Ukrainians. A recent newspaper survey in Poland found that 59 percent of Ukrainians in the country said they would leave for Germany if the labor market opened up.

“There is no ownership of the issue by the government,” said Anna Wicha, a director at the Adecco Group, one of the largest employment agencies in Poland. “You ask how many Ukrainians are working here and they will say 500,000. But it is more than two million. And many may be going to Germany.”

For now, the government lacks a long-term strategy to expand the labor pool. Many experts and some opposition politicians in Poland say the situation will only be resolved if political leaders soften their resistance to migrants and embrace plurality. But at the national level, even talking about immigration can be politically lethal.

When Pawel Chorazy, the deputy minister of investments and development, said during a televised debate before the October local elections that “the inflow of immigrants to Poland needs to be increased to sustain economic growth,” he was met with scorn.

Joachim Brudzinski, the interior minister, said that Mr. Chorazy’s comments were “not a position of the government.” The prime minister, Mr. Morawiecki, said that Mr. Chorazy “got seriously ahead of himself.”

Then he fired him.

“Politicians are dancing on the line, well aware that you can wake up demons,” said Irena Kotowska, head of the center for demography at the Warsaw School of Economics. “It is easy to play into nationalist feeling with anti-immigrant rhetoric. But the reality of the need in the labor market is more and more clear every day.”

“This is a defining moment for the country,” she added. “Some decisions simply have to be made.”

Here in the central city of Lodz, the contradictions of Poland’s migration dilemma are evident. Unlike national leaders, however, the local mayor, Hanna Zdanowska, has embraced immigrants. When she ran last October, she called for an inclusive Poland that welcomed newcomers.

The governing party campaigned hard against her, but she won with 70 percent of the vote, which she credited in part to the city’s history of tolerance. It was once a manufacturing center of hundreds of red brick factories, with a diverse population of Dutch, English and German residents, and a strong Jewish contingent.

Henryk Panusz, 89, whose family were leaders in the knitwear industry and part of a boomtown that was an eclectic mix of ethnicities and cultures, said Lodz “was the promised land.”

“Until the Second World War, there were so many cultures and ethnicities and nationalities,” he added.

After the war, Lodz struggled under Communist rule before the Iron Curtain started disintegrating in Poland in 1989. After the country joined the European Union, providing a chance for people to leave more easily, Lodz saw its population decline to under 690,000, from more than 850,000. That was part of an exodus since 2004 of about 2.5 million people from a nation of around 38 million.

But Poland has also benefited from billions in European Union subsidies that have helped turn the country into one of the Continent’s fastest-growing economies. Lodz has attracted international companies, while reinventing many old factories as cultural spaces to attract a new creative class.

Even as the economy thrives, however, the Polish government has had little success in luring home many of those who went abroad in search of better pay and greater opportunity, despite spending millions on a publicity campaign.

Aleksandra Modrzejewska left Lodz in 2014 and found a job as a waitress when she first arrived in Britain. She now lives in Chelmsford, England, and works as an insurance broker. She says she believes the assurances of the government in London that no matter what happens when Britain leaves the European Union, a process known as Brexit, she will be able to stay.

“No one I know is thinking of leaving,” she said. “Brexit may have an impact on new people coming but, as far as I can tell, for people who have built their lives here, it is not going to change anything.”

“It was just a different quality of life,” she added, explaining her decision to leave Poland. “People are much more open and inviting of different cultures and nationalities.”

For officials in Lodz, and elsewhere in Poland, the labor shortage is a problem that could curb economic growth. More than half of the companies in Poland reported having trouble finding workers, according to a survey by Work Service, Poland’s largest employment agency.

Antonina Marushko, 30, came to Lodz from Ukraine three years ago with her husband and two children. She says the move has been difficult. But, she adds, she does not want to leave. She worked and saved and recently was able to open her own beauty salon.

“Our life is here now,” she said.

To reconcile the new arrivals with the government’s anti-immigrant, Christian identity, Poland’s leaders have gone to great lengths to create narrow policies that almost completely limit the influx to Christians. That goal was all but stated in proposed legislation that would make it easier for people from former Soviet satellite countries that are “culturally similar” to Poland to become permanent residents.

Polish immigration officials declined to be interviewed for this article. But the government has worked so hard for so long to build a narrative that bolsters suspicion of all outsiders that even an immigration policy built on proximity and cultural affinity is fraught.

The influx of Ukrainians has come at the same time as a straining in the relationship between the Polish and Ukrainian governments over the politicization of history and the difficult pasts of the two nations, which share a border that has shifted multiple times over the decades.

For Ukrainians migrating to Poland, those tensions can ripple into daily life. Ms. Marushko, the beauty parlor owner, said that her son was the only Ukrainian in his class and that some of the other children — presumably repeating talk they heard at home — had told him that Poland was for the Poles.

Ms. Marushko said that one of her older Polish clients routinely mocked Ukrainians, calling them radioactive because of Chernobyl, a bitter reference to the nuclear disaster in 1986.

“Things are better now,” Ms. Marushko said, referring to her experiences of prejudice.

Perhaps the biggest problem for Poland is that another generation, despite growing up in an era of economic growth, also seems eager to leave.

“There is still the perception here that you ‘make it’ outside of Poland,” said Ms. Wicha of the Adecco Group.

Ms. Modrzejewska, the insurance broker in Britain, agreed. “Even if you have the worst job, it is a better life,” she said.

She talks frequently with her family and her 14-year-old sister, Magda, who seems to have taken the message to heart.

“I want to be a doctor or a medical engineer,” Magda said. “We also have family in Florida. I am too young to know what I will do, but I think about it and going to Florida is my dream.”

David Pugliese: Nazi whitewash gathers momentum as memory of the Holocaust fades

Good article by Pugliese:

With the horrors of the Holocaust a distant memory, and many Canadians no longer aware of the crimes that took place in the name of the Third Reich, an opening has emerged for those who want to rewrite the history of Adolf Hitler’s regime and those who served it.

A movement is afoot to claim that the Nazi collaborators and the SS units made up of Ukrainians, Latvians and other eastern Europeans, were actually nationalistic heroes and in no way associated with the Nazis. I have written a number of articles exposing the role of these collaborators in the Holocaust and their complicity in murdering tens of thousands of Jewish men, women and children.

I have received emails from Ukrainians and Latvians who claim the Holocaust never took place. Others write that while Jews were indeed killed, they deserved the death and destruction the Nazis brought down on their communities.

And then there are others who claim that journalists who write articles about the Ukrainian and Latvian SS units – and the parades that are held in those nations to this day honouring these Nazi collaborators – are “pro-Russian” or somehow spouting Kremlin propaganda.

I’ve had the distinction of being singled out as such in a recent report on Russian disinformation by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute of Ottawa, a right-wing think-tank.

The report’s author, Marcus Kolga, claims my articles about the role of Ukrainians and Latvians in the Holocaust and their service in SS units has parroted the Kremlin’s narrative and has “been critical of Canada’s support for states targeted by Kremlin aggression.”

For starters, the articles I have written about Ukrainian and Latvian Nazis who butchered Jews don’t even mention Canada’s support for those two countries, let criticize that support.

My articles are about those who would deny that Ukrainians, Latvians, and others from eastern Europe eagerly participated in the Holocaust and supported Adolf Hitler. The articles also expose those who would declare these Nazi collaborators as some kind of heroes.

To be sure, the Ukrainian and Latvian governments were not happy about my articles, considering they exposed their nations’ dark past in supporting the wholesale slaughter of Jews.

And the Macdonald-Laurier Institute has received funding from the Latvian Ministry of Defence. In addition, the Embassy of Latvia in Canada has also provided sponsorship for the institute.

What is going on in Latvia and the Ukrainian and other east European nations is a Nazi whitewash designed to rehabilitate those from these countries who took part in some of the most heinous crimes in history.

Here’s how it works.

Ukrainian and Latvian militia and police units were among the most brutal in helping the Nazis hunt down and murder Jewish men, women and children.

They were good at killing defenceless people. So good, that the Holocaust Chronicle, published in 2003 and written by 7 top scholars in the field of Holocaust studies, noted that Ukrainians were also sent to help kill Jews during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in April 1943. 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:

SS General Jurgen Stroop, later executed as a war criminal, was very pleased with the Ukrainian, Latvian and Lithuanian volunteers who helped him and his men murder and hunt down 56,000 Jews. In his diary Stroop wrote that these killers were not only “nationalists and anti-Semites” but among his best troops. They were “wild at heart and with a tendency towards base things. But nevertheless obedient,” Stroop gushed about his Ukrainian, Latvian and Lithuanian killers.

The Ukrainian militias who murdered Jews in the ghetto and elsewhere went on to serve in a new SS unit created by the Nazis, the 14th SS Galizien Division. Stroop was brought on as an advisor to the newly created division.

A similar development happened in Latvia. The members of Latvia’s Arajs Kommando, who had killed an estimated 26,000 Jews for the Nazis, went on to serve in the Latvian SS legion.

These SS units were sent to fight the Russians as they closed in on the Third Reich.

Decades later the whitewash began. The Ukrainians and Latvians who fought for the SS – as the whitewash explains – weren’t really Nazis. They instead were nationalists fighting for their own country against the Russians. And of course none of them committed any type of crime, or so the whitewash explains, carefully ignoring the previous role of the individual members in these SS units in the mass murder of tens of thousands of Jews.

Last year, Karlis Eihenbaums, Latvia’s Ambassador to Canada, launched an attack on Canadian journalist Scott Taylor who wrote 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. Like the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, Eihenbaums suggested such articles were “fake news” and “disinformation.” And like the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, Eihenbaums tried to smear the journalist by suggesting he was under the “influence” of the Russian government. Eihenbaums also targeted my articles.

As I have written before, the eager participation of some Latvians in the Holocaust is not “fake news.” It is a well-documented historical fact that many of the killers from the Arajs Kommando went to the Latvian Legion. These Latvians, Ukrainians, Estonians and others from eastern Europe nations served Hitler and his war aims. No number of claims of “fake news” can change that fact.

These days there are parades in Latvia and Ukraine to honour these SS units who fought under the Swastika. These parades and memorials, which have attracted the support of Neo-Nazis and other fascist groups, have long been controversial and questioned by many throughout Europe. See the photo below and note the white pride shirt on the young Ukrainian with the Ukrainian SS veteran.

For instance, the controversy over the Latvian Legion and the annual parade held in Riga (each March) 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 last year’s Latvian SS parade in Riga, which took place mid-March.

So much for “fake news.” Did Helmut Kohl and Jacques Chirac spread Russian “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 individuals and nations trying to whitewash their Nazi collaboration and rewrite history, while attacking journalists and other organizations who don’t want to let that happen.

While the Macdonald-Laurier report carefully ignores the crimes of Ukrainians and Latvians who supported Hitler’s Third Reich and butchered Jewish men, women and children by the thousands, there are those in the U.S. Congress and Jewish community speaking out against the Nazi whitewash.

In late April 2018 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.

In the summer of 2018 B’nai Brith Canada’s chief executive officer Michael Mostyn called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to use his trip to Latvia that year to push back against that country’s glorification of Nazi collaborators as well as attempts to deny the nation’s role in the Holocaust.

Mostyn called on the Canadian government to speak out more forcefully to denounce parades in Latvia and other eastern European nations that honour units who fought with the Nazis during the Second World War.

“We must challenge all those who distort the historical record on governments, military units or organizations that fought with, supported or sympathized with the Nazis during World War II,” Mostyn wrote to Trudeau. “This includes government leaders who acquiesce in, or fail to condemn, a process of Nazi glorification that amounts to Holocaust distortion.”

“Those who glorify the record of such organizations or units cannot dismiss criticism as ‘fake news’ “,added Mostyn. “The fact is that some organizations and their leaders, now glorified for their fight against the Soviet army, were also involved in atrocities against Jewish civilians or embraced ideologies that were deeply anti-Semitic and perpetuated social hostility towards their Jewish populations. This is why B’nai Brith rejects any efforts to constrain historians and the media from researching what happened and publicly explaining it in an objective manner.”

These are words that those at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute should pay attention to.

Mostyn letter is here:

https://www.bnaibrith.ca/canada_must_counter_the_glorification_of_nazis_in_european_nato_countries

Source: Nazi whitewash gathers momentum as memory of the Holocaust fades