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Radical Right-Wing Political Parties and Groups

Radical Right-Wing Political Parties and Groups "Right Sector" is one of the most active right-wing radical organizations of Ukraine.

The largest ultra-nationalist organisation in Ukraine is the All-Ukrainian Union “Svoboda”, which has significant representation in Ukrainian parliament and regional councils in western regions. Svoboda organises summer camps, which aim to “bring up a nationalist from a regular Ukrainian. A lot of attention is paid to the physical education of the youth. Particular focus is made on disciplines such as various martial arts, shooting sports, and mountain climbing. Camp members receive first aid training, survival and orientation. Besides physical training, much attention is paid to the spiritual education of these young men. This includes the national-liberation movements of the 20th century”.

"Right Sector", an organisation that was established during 2013 “Euromaidan” protests and united several nationalist groups, became relatively prominent in 2014. The organisation maintained its own armed units, which merged into Ukrainian Volunteer Corps in July 2014 (around 10 000 people). One of the oldest organisations with historical roots, is the Ukrainian Nationalist Assembly – Ukrainian People’s Self-Defence (UNA-UNSO), adhering to “integral nationalism” ideology , as well as anti-Semitism. UNA was incorporated into the Right Sector, but UNSO continues as a non-governmental organisation.

In early September, 2014, Ukrainian TV Channel Inter broadcasted a story about family training camps organised by far right organisations in Ivano-Frankovsk and Transcarpathia, where women and children were given military training to participate in the war.

"Right Sector" and UNSO became the foundation of volunteer battalions fighting in the south-east (Azov, Aidar, and others). They often demonstrate Nazi symbols and greetings.

All extreme right organisations were completely legal in 2014. Following a number of Presidential decrees and resolutions (see Section 12), UNO-UNSA ideology became official in Ukraine; Stepan Bandera and Ukrainian Insurgent Army became national heroes.

As a parliamentary party, Svoboda has to maintain a certain decorum. Its programme contains calls to develop Ukrainian culture and identity. In practice, however, the party interprets it as a call to assimilation of ethnic minorities and discrimination against their culture. In this regard, it is worth citing the aforementioned statements of Irina Farion. Svoboda made regular calls to harassment of various minorities part of its daily political agitation. The party demands nationally proportionate representation in government institutions (thereby implying that there are too many non-Ukrainians in these institutions), and advocates the introduction of an “ethnicity” clause in passports.

"Right Sector" itself noted that the interview was clearly provocative and claimed that “dishonest journalists intentionally asked provocative questions and took the responses out of context.” Organisation stated that it respects Polish rights to recognise their heroes. “Similarly, we hope that Poles themselves will abandon chauvinistic stereotypes and will also recognise our right to respect our heroes. "Right Sector" issued a statement to the Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine on the social networks. The association claims that the “anti-people regime” is making every effort to tarnish the revolutionary movement and depict the Right Sector fighters as “extremists”, “terrorists”, “fascists” and “Russophobes”. In an April interview, Dmintry Yarish said that Right Sector is very “cautious” of EU membership, which according to him “takes measures to nullify national identity, traditional family and implement anti-Christian policies”. Right Sector denies having anti-Semitic views, even though some of its member organisations, such as the UNA or White Hammer, are blatantly anti-Semitic.

The official ideology of the "Right Sector" is “integral nationalism”, based on social Darwinism and open racism. Ukrainian nationalists aim to create a Ukrainian nation-state, which they interpret as a state built around the traditions of a titular nation (classic European model). Part of them define “nation” as just ethnicity. "Right Sector" Congress, held in July 2015, decided to change the name of the organization from “Military-Political Movement Right Sector” to “National Liberation Movement Right Sector”.

In November 2015, D. Yarosh was forced to leave the movement, which from that moment stated becoming more marginal. Members of the movement took an active part in the attempt of the so-called “Third Maidan” in February 2016, which indicates the preservation of its radical thrust.

In 2015, there was a further growth in the ratings of right-wing parties in Ukraine. In local elections in October, the political party “Svoboda” was supported by 6.7% of voters - ranking 5th in the country. Compared to 2014, the level of support for this party grew by 2%.

The electoral support of the Right Sector party remains stable: 3.1-3.7% (compared to 2014, it almost doubled).

Today, the right-wing radical movement of Ukraine is largely divided - there are at least 59 parties, public organizations, informal groups. Potentially, they can rely on the support of 20-30% of the population.

In addition, right-wing radical rhetoric in their political activities and hate speech has also been used more often by national-democratic parties such as the Popular Front, the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko, the Fatherland, the Radical Party O. Lyashko, UKROP and others, the aggregate rating of which is more than 60% of the vote.

On the whole, it can be said that a process similar to the those that take place in many European countries is taking place in the country: majority parties that have passed into parliament are adopting nationalist slogans previously put forward by small nationalist groups and gained popularity among the voters.

Thus, major parties take out the competition, but they themselves turn towards national radicalism, which is successfully presented as patriotism.

As of 2020, the far-right is an active minority and has a significant influence on the formulation and shaping of Ukrainian domestic and foreign policy. The prerequisites for the influence of far-right and neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine are their significant role in the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych during the 2013-2014 Euromaidan, their participation in the armed conflict in southeast Ukraine, the general militarization of society due to the events in Donbass, and the weakness of state authorities and the dire socio-economic situation in the country.

Thus, nationalists on the one hand became the vanguard of the patriotic movement and became opinion leaders in the defense of the country, and on the other hand, they took advantage of the general socio-economic crisis and the inability of young people to find work and their place in society within the usual social structures.

The most influential nationalist parties and groups remain Svoboda, Right Sector, Azov and the National Corps formed on its basis, and C14. The peculiarity of nationalist organizations is their authoritarian ideology, chieftainism and, as a consequence, difficulties in consolidating efforts. An attempt to overcome the nationalist split was made in March 2017, when representatives of the aforementioned organizations, as well as the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, signed a Manifesto on joining forces. This document was intended as a kind of set of general principles for radicals in domestic and foreign policy, should they come to power. In particular, the Manifesto put forward the ideas of "cleansing the Ukrainian information space from hostile propaganda," "ensuring the Ukrainian language the status of the only state language," and "establishing a unified local church. In turn, these provisions can be viewed as violating provisions of the Constitution of Ukraine in terms of freedom of speech and equal rights of citizens on the basis of language and religion. At the same time, there were no long-term consequences for the nationalist movement in the country after this document was signed.

The period of 2018-2020 was particularly significant for Ukrainian nationalists. Ukraine held presidential and parliamentary elections in 2019, which, first, drew a line under five years of nationalist activity in the first five years after the victory of Euromaidan and the beginning of the conflict in Donbass, and, second, created conditions for the consolidation of nationalist parties. The leader of the National Corps, Andriy Biletsky, stated in March 2019 that he and Svoboda, the two most influential forces of Ukrainian nationalists, walk "parallel histories" and there is no political disagreement between the parties.

During the presidential elections, the only nationalist candidate was Ruslan Koshulinsky, former deputy head of the Verkhovna Rada and deputy head of the Svoboda party. He also received public and organizational support from Praviy Sector, the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, and S14, as well as the former commander of Praviy Sector, now the head of the Ukrainian Volunteer Army, Dmitri Yarosh. "The National Corps refused to support Koshulinsky. In a statement issued by the party, it was noted that the decision on his nomination was made behind the scenes, and he has no authority among the Ukrainian nationalists. The most probable reason for this decision is the competition between the old-format politicians, united around Svoboda, and the young radicals, represented by the National Corpus.

In his election program, Koshulinsky spoke from extremely tough positions. He proposed mass inspections of residents of Donbass for "cooperation with the enemy," suggested that media licenses be revoked for "anti-Ukrainian propaganda," refused amnesty for participants in the armed conflict in southeastern Ukraine by the unrecognized republics, and also rejected the idea of granting Donbass autonomy. Thus, Koshulynsky advocated rejecting the Minsk agreements as the basis for a peaceful settlement of the conflict in southeastern Ukraine and pursuing the harshest possible line against those whom the nationalists would consider "enemies of Ukraine.

The representative of the nationalists received 307,000 votes, or 1.62% of the vote in the presidential election. It can be assumed that a portion of the nationalists' votes migrated from Koshulinsky to the then president, Petro Poroshenko, who also came from right-wing or even right-wing positions, but due to his position and status as commander-in-chief he initially had more opportunities to implement his program.

In the July 2019 parliamentary elections, Svoboda, which had a similar program, received 315,000 votes, or 2.15 percent of those who participated in the elections. This did not allow the party to enter the Verkhovna Rada in the multi-mandate constituency, but Svoboda member Oksana Savchuk entered parliament in constituency 83 (Ivano-Frankivsk region). Svoboda's results in the 2019 parliamentary elections generally correlate with the party's level of support in 2018. Thus, according to the Kiev International Institute of Sociology, in December 2018 the level of support for Svoboda was 2.2% . In December 2019, the level of support for the party increased slightly and, according to the sociological group "Rating", was 2.4% . Another marker of support for Svoboda was the local elections held in Ukraine in October 2020. The sociological group "Rating" made an aggregated rating, according to which in the whole country Svoboda was supported by 3.3% of citizens.

A certain recovery of the party's popularity can be explained by the worsening socio-economic situation in the country and indecisiveness of the central government, which actualizes the demand in the society for radical ideas and actions. At the same time, it should be taken into account that part of Svoboda's traditional electorate has been pulled by Poroshenko's European Solidarity, which has significantly radicalized its rhetoric during the 2019 election campaigns.

In 2018, a greeting from Svoboda's Lviv City Council deputy and part-time school history teacher Maryana Batiuk, who on her Facebook page congratulated Adolf Hitler on his birthday, noting that he was "a great man," became widely known. On her Facebook page, Batiuk also posted photos of her students raising their hands in the Nazi salute. It should be noted that Svoboda remains the only popular nationalist party that has representatives in the government. All other groups have a level of public support at the level of statistical error, which, however, does not directly correlate with the influence of these organizations.

In 2019 Right Sector's rating did not change compared to 2018 and amounted to 0.3%. At the same time, as of 2020 the organization was not included in the conducted opinion polls, which allows us to conclude that the level of its support fell to the level of sociological error. As for the Right Sector, led by Yarosh's former ally Andrei Tarasenko, its rating is only 0.1%. Representatives of the Right Sector have repeatedly been caught up in anti-Semitic scandals. For example, in May 2018, Volodymyr Moskal, a member of the Right Sector's central headquarters in the Lviv region, said during his public speech that "the spectacle of the Muscovite-Judean power" continues in Ukraine, and Stalin defeated Hitler during World War II thanks to help from "world-Judeanism."

According to the Kiev International Institute of Sociology, the level of support for Andriy Biletsky's "National Corps" in June 2019 was 0.4% (a year earlier the rating of the party was 0.6%) . At the same time, in September 2020, on the eve of local elections, the party's rating rose to 0.8%. As in the case of Svoboda, the growth of support for the far-right organization is primarily due to the ongoing crisis in the country and the inability of the authorities to overcome it. "The National Corps was created on the basis of the Azov National Guard regiment, known for its use of neo-Nazi symbols and slogans.

The Azov Regiment's ultranationalist ideology has repeatedly been the subject of criticism both inside Ukraine and from Western countries. For example, in October 2019, a group of 40 congressmen from the U.S. Democratic Party sent an appeal to the State Department demanding that Azov be recognized as a terrorist organization. The statement notes that Azov openly invites neo-Nazis into its ranks, and "in the relatively short history of this group, the UN has documented human rights violations and cases of torture." Also, the congressmen in the appeal pointed out that Brenton Tarrant, who shot 50 people in a New Zealand mosque in March 2019, was associated with Azov and trained at their base .

Significant support and patronage for the National Corps and Azov was provided by Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. Ukrainian media and political experts have regularly reported on the ties between the radicals and the head of the Interior Ministry since 2014. According to available information, Azov fighters and members of the "National Corps" are used by Avakov to exert forceful pressure on his political opponents and supporters of a peaceful end to the conflict in Donbass. After a group of congressmen demanded that Azov be recognized as a terrorist organization, Avakov publicly supported the regiment twice over the course of ten days. First, during a meeting with Christine Quinn, head of the U.S. mission to Ukraine, Avakov said that the congressmen's appeal was "a discredit to the unit and a sign of the quality of its fight for the territorial integrity of Ukraine." Avakov also visited Azov's base in Mariupol, where he called the regiment "one of the most professional and trained units" and declared "maximum support for those defending Ukraine.

Azov veterans and members of the National Corps together with representatives of other far-right organizations regularly hold torch marches in Ukrainian cities to mark the birthday of OUN leader Stepan Bandera and the anniversary of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. At the same time, in the aesthetics of the events held by trained people in camouflage with torches, there is an obvious reference to the Third Reich.

"C-14 is not a political party. It began as a typical street militant group, and now its function is gradually added to its social activities. According to various versions, the name comes either from the encoded name "Сичь" (Sich), or from a reference to the well-known neo-Nazi symbol "14/88. The leader of the group is Yevhen Karas. Since C14 is not a party, sociologists have not measured its rating. At the same time, C14 receives state funding. Thus, a number of public organizations founded by members of "C14" in 2019 received 900 thousand UAH (almost $30 thousand) from the State Service for Veterans of War and ATO, and 200 thousand UAH from the Kyiv City State Administration. Also the leader of "C14" Karas is a member of two public councils, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau .

If we summarize the ratings of nationalists, the aggregate level of support for radicals in 2019 decreased to 3.2% (3.7% in 2018). There are several likely reasons for the decline in nationalist ratings. The first is the use of extremely radical rhetoric by then-President Petro Poroshenko during the presidential and parliamentary election campaigns. As a consequence, a significant part of the nationalists shifted from support for minor organizations to support for the head of state and commander-in-chief, which is especially relevant in the context of the ongoing armed conflict. The second reason was the nationalists' lack of an attractive image of the future, the general socio-economic crisis and the mass depression of society due to the ongoing conflict and lack of prospects.

Along with this relative to 2019, in 2020 the cumulative rating of nationalists rose to 4.4%. We can assume that due to the weakness of the central government, its inability to implement consistent policies, and the ongoing socio-economic crisis, the growth of support for the ultra-right will only increase. We can assume that in the case of further disappointment of Ukrainians in traditional politicians unable to ensure the normal development of the state, as well as in the case of the emergence of a charismatic leader, Ukrainian radicals will get a new impetus for the development and promotion of their ideology.

During the period of military action against Russia in 2022, the rating of right-wing radical and neo-Nazi parties and organizations expectedly increased, according to experts. Some of them say that the number of their supporters reaches 75%, but measurements, for obvious reasons, have not been taken.

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