Writers at the largest national daily newspaper in Canada, the Globe and Mail, have lately joined writers at the Toronto Star in publishing articles extolling the fundraising efforts in Canada of Ukraine’s extreme-right.
This comes in the form of two recent news articles in the Globe, including one by its long-standing correspondent in Europe, Mark MacKinnon.
MacKinnon reported on Feb. 27 in the Globe and Mail from the warehouse in Kyiv where ‘Army SOS’ gathers the military supplies that it purchases or receives and then provides to the extreme-right battalions fighting Ukraine’s war against its citizens in the east of the country.
As an article by me on Feb. 20 reported, writers at the Toronto Star have also been promoting ‘Army SOS’. The military equipment provided by financial or direct donations has included technology for improving the accuracy of Ukrainian rocket and artillery attacks against the towns and cities of eastern Ukraine.
MacKinnon describes ‘Army SOS’ as “a volunteer organization that aids Ukraine’s warriors in the field”. He writes, “Ukraine’s myriad volunteer battalions are famed for their bravery, as well as for their sometimes-extreme nationalism. Along the front line, they are often the ones engaged in the toughest fighting against the rebel army that Kiev and NATO say is armed by Moscow.”
Actually, MacKinnon’s “warriors” are mostly “famed” for their extreme-right or neo-Nazi views. The most well-known among them, including the ‘Donbass’, ‘Aidar’, Azov and Dniper battalions, have been cited by journalists and human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, for kidnappings, torture and executions. They have been condemned for blockading humanitarian shipments into eastern Ukraine.
The rightists do not limit their crimes to warmaking in Ukraine’s east. They are also organized politically, including as members of Ukraine’s Parliament (Rada). Some are represented through their own political parties, such as the openly fascist ‘Right Sector’, while others have entrenched themselves in the ‘parties’ (actually, electoral machines) of President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
Across Ukraine today, free expression is severely curtained. The extreme right conducts vigilante attacks against public expressions of concern about the war or the disastrous state of Ukraine’s economy and national finances. The rightists are at the forefront of advocating draconian laws and pushing them through the Rada. These laws have closed down newspaper and television stations and allow the government to control internet publishing. A law currently before the Rada would authorize lengthy jailing of those protesting the government’s war in the east or its economic policies.
The violence and crackdown in Ukraine is couched in the language of fighting “separatism” and “pro-Russian separatism”. To close down an uncomfortable idea in Ukraine, it is enough to shout “separatism” loudly enough. The word refers to the demands of Russian-speaking and other nationally-distinct Ukrainians who want a voice in their political and economic destiny.
Fundraising in Toronto for Ukrainian rightists
A second Globe and Mail article along the same lines as that of MacKinnon was published on March 2 by commissioned writer Sahar Fatima. She reported on a fundraising dinner for ‘Army SOS’ in Toronto on February 28 that raised $52,000.
The young journalist wrote, “Throughout Saturday’s event, speakers and organizers tried to drill home the message that Ukraine is a David fighting a malicious Goliath, Russia, bent on snatching its freedom and autonomy. The only way Ukraine stands a chance is if organizations such as Army SOS help level the playing field using donations from the public, attendees heard.”
A keynote speaker at the event was Ihor Kozak, a “defence and security expert” and a retired Canadian military officer. He wants the NATO confrontation with Russia to be escalated, the Globe article reports, including by providing more advanced weapons to Ukraine, extending the economic sanctions in place against Russia, and more bankrolling of the Ukrainian government and its military.
The ‘all-out war’ theme was also cited by MacKinnon when he quoted Lenna Koszarny. She is the head of the Kiev arm of the extremist Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC). He reported:
“Is the [Ukrainian] diaspora at war with Russia? Absolutely,” says Ms. Koszarny, 45. “The diaspora is helping Ukraine defend itself. How do we do that? In any which way we can.”
MacKinnon neglected to mention an interesting fact about Koszarny. She is Chief Executive Officer and a founding partner in 2006 of the Horizon Capital investment firm in Ukraine. Another of the founding partners is none other than Natalie Jaresko, the U.S. citizen who was appointed late last year to be Ukraine’s minister of finance.
Jaresko is currently embroiled in legal battles for her handling of an investment fund that was created in 1994 with $150 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development. The fund was earmarked for spurring capitalist business activity in Ukraine. Horizon Capital took over the managing of it when the firm was created.
Another of the rightist fundraising efforts in Canada mentioned in both the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star is ‘Patriot Defense’.
A prominent player in the rightist fundraising efforts and in the pages of the Globe and Star, is the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. Recently, the organization co-organized and sponsored a speaking tour to Canada and the United States of one of the extremist members of the Ukrainian Rada, Andriy Paruiby.
Parubiy was feted by the Conservative Party government in Ottawa on February 23. He met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Rob Nicholson and with members of Parliament. His message to the government, reported in the Globe and Mail, is that he wants Canada to use its influence in Washington to convince the U.S. government to provide more lethal and advanced weaponry to Ukraine.
Parubiy is one of the founders of modern-day, extreme-right politics in Ukraine. He founded the Social-National Party of Ukraine (SNPU) in 1991. It went on to spawn other fascist or extreme-right formations, including the large, present-day Svoboda Party. Svoboda’s leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, was a founder with Parubiy of the SNPU.
Parubiy has sought to moderate his image in recent years, but he wrote in 2008: “I was one of the founders of SNPU and since that time, my political views and ideology haven’t changed.” During the EuroMaidan protest movement in 2013/early 2014, he was a commander of the extreme-right shock troops that battled police and closed off Maidan Square to political forces with less extreme, pro-Europe views.
In a briefing note to the Canadian government on Feb. 9, 2015, the UCC listed four things it wants the government to do “in order to assist the people of Ukraine as they fight bravely to protect their country from foreign aggression”:
1. Provide lethal, defensive military weapons, intelligence, equipment and military advisors.
2. Enact decisive sectoral economic sanctions against the Russian Federation’s military.
3. Ensure the political isolation of the Putin regime.
4. Declare the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk “Peoples’ Republics” as terrorist organizations, and designate the Russian Federation as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The UCC note says, “Thousands of regular and irregular Russian troops are in Ukraine along with tanks, missiles, heavy artillery, and are directly engaged in an invasion of sovereign Ukrainian territory”.
This paranoid, detached-from-reality description is also sounded in a lobbying document in early 2015 co-authored by the very influential, neo-conservative and pro-NATO Atlantic Council, in the United States. The document is titled ‘ Preserving Ukraine’s independence, resisting Russian aggression: What the United States and NATO must do’. It argues vigorously in favour of arming Ukraine to the teeth. “The West has the capacity to stop Russia. The question is whether it has the will.”
The ceasefire which Kyiv and its backers were obliged to accept last month should be serving as a time to address the underlying political issues in the conflict in Ukraine, notably the demands of the people in eastern Ukraine and other regions of the country for a real say in the running of the country–or even for the right to a future independent of Ukraine, should they so choose.
Instead, there is the danger that the pause in fighting may serve merely as an occasion for Ukraine’s government and extremist paramilitaries to regroup and re-arm, while NATO presses ahead with its sanctions and other threats against Russia. Unfortunately, that’s the message coming from the ‘war parties’ in NATO capitals.
It is disturbing, to say the least, to see the extreme right in Ukraine being extolled in the pages of the leading newspapers of Canada. And if anyone in the Parliament in Ottawa is opposed to the drive for war against Russia and the feting of extremists, they are not making their voices heard. Progressive-minded Canadians need to push back against all this. Encouragingly, the torrent of critical commentary by readers of the Globe and Mail in response to the articles it published soft-pedaling Ukraine’s extreme-right is a strong indicator that Canadians are wanting to do just that.
Roger Annis is an editor of the website ‘The New Cold War: Ukraine and beyond‘.