Ukraine on Her Knees

Chaos reigns as 'untouchable' thugs rule the streets and oligarch unleash private marauders; 'the next Libya on the doorstep of Europe'

“Hundreds of people of the Lviv region kneeled in the snow on January 12, showing their respect to the fallen ‘kiborg’ Lyubomyr Podfedko,” reported Khaeriya-97.

On the gray rainy day of December 20, 11 am local time on the freeway Kiev-Borispol, a car tried to bypass a number of vehicles that were moving too slowly for traffic, taking all four lanes of the highway with a speed of about 25 mph. In the car, there was a young man behind the wheel, with his pregnant wife at the back seat. The driver was trying to change lanes to get ahead, but all the vehicles in front of his car suddenly started to aggressively show their displeasure to his maneuvers, until they completely blocked his way and stopped his car. Knowing in advance what was to follow, the pregnant woman started to cry. From one of the SUVs emerged two men in paramilitary camouflage. Paying no attention to the agonizing cries and tears of a young woman (she was yelling, “What are you doing, I will call police! Mommy! Mommy! Daddy! How can you do this!”), took her husband out of the car and started to beat him. We know what was said because a camera in the victim’s car recorded the entire incident, which has landed on YouTube. Curses can be heard in the background as blows are rained on the young man. Having finished their pummeling, the men tore off the car’s license plates and threw them away, returned to their SUV and sped off.

The driver who was beaten up tried to file criminal charges later, but nobody was even arrested, although the names of the people involved were known to the police from the very beginning.

pic. Right Sector poster – “Long Live National Revolution”.
pic. Right Sector poster – “Long Live National Revolution”.

The reason: the criminals belonged to the Ukrainian untouchables, feared and respected irregular paramilitary battalions that play a major role in fighting pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine.

The structure of the irregular paramilitary formations of new Ukraine is not very complicated. First, there are the Ukrainian Volunteer Corps (UVC), organized last summer of the members of the Right Sector Party. These are traditional Ukrainian nationalists whose main ideological and spiritual leader is Stepan Bandera, the Nazi collaborator during the Second World War. These are the followers and ideological descendants of UPA-UNSO punishers, responsible for the Volyn massacre and Babi Yar. For them, January 1 is not a New Year Day holiday, but Bandera’s birthday.

What defines them most is their hatred toward the ‘Moskals’ (Russians). The UVC fighters dream of the exclusive Ukrainian nation that would breed exclusive Ukrainian culture and traditions the way they fantasize them. They don’t want to be part of Europe, which they despise because of its decadence and pervasive tolerance. Their position on LGTB community, for example, is straightforward – there will be no place for those people in the future Ukraine they are building. The Right Sector’s manifesto, ‘Standing for Traditional Values Of Ukraine’ states this fact unambiguously, attacking homosexuality as a “perversion” that destroys “traditional morality” and even “sexual identity.” “It goes without saying that ‘Right Sector’, based on nationalism, traditionalism, Christianity and Ukraine values will resist this pressure.”

These are the people who a year ago marched on the streets of Kiev holding the burning torches over their heads, their faces covered by black masks, shouting ‘Moskals on the knives!’ and ‘Moskals on the gallows!’

Although heavily armed and playing an important role in the long fighting at the war zone, the Ukrainian Volunteer Corps is under no control by any official structure of the Ukrainian government. They only inform the Kiev military command about their vague strategic warfare intentions and grudgingly accept the coordination of their actions with the Ukrainian generals. In this sense, there is no difference between them and the pro-Russian separatists. Notorious warlord Dmitro Yarosh is their leader, commanding his troops from his position as a member of the national Parliament.

They have been very well financed from unknown sources, and last summer and fall took part in a number of seizures of the enterprises that were to the liking of their ‘sponsors’ and used to belong to cronies of former President.

‘Azov’ symbols
‘Azov’ symbols

The second group of Ukrainian paramilitary formations is composed of the regiments and battalions of the National Guards. The most notorious ‘Azov’ battalion was until recently financed by Ukrainian oligarch Kolomoisky. Started as a private paramilitary battalion, this group was legalized by the Ministry for Internal Affairs, although they admit that some of their armed members have never been registered with the Government. These are followers of the ‘White Race” theory, more tolerant towards non-Ukrainian influences and cultures as long as they are white. Among them one can find a significant number of ethnic Russians and others who share neo-Nazi ideas, skinhead or soccer-fan riot mentality and anti-Semitic sentiments.

Their leader, Andrei Biletsky, was imprisoned under the previous regime for attempted murder. He is a head of Social-National Assembly party who believes, according to the Telegraph, that the “historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival – a crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.”

Now, in new Ukraine, Mr. Biletsky holds the rank of lieutenant-colonel of the Ukrainian police, and as with Mr. Yarosh, is a member of the Supreme Parliament.

Then, there are the Battalions of the Territorial Defense – composed of the representatives of the local “minutemen’ who once hoped to find their way out of mobilization and warfare and to shirk their ‘patriotic duties’ at places farther away than their beloved counties and regions. They got themselves registered, wanting to serve exclusively by their own villages – controlling the block-posts and check-points and such – but instead were sent into the bloodbath on the front lines. They have no ideology other than local ‘patriotism’ – and in very narrow sense of the word ‘local.’

‘Aidar’ battalion
‘Aidar’ battalion

The last significant group is represented by the paramilitary formations like battalion ‘Shakhtiorsk,’ disbanded last fall, which lacked any ideology whatsoever and had been composed of outright criminals. This battalion “distinguished” itself on the frontline with war crimes. Fifty members of this battalion were charged with looting and other crimes and later sent to prison.

Battalion ‘Aidar’ is a replica of ‘Shakhtiorsk.’ Two members of this battalion took part in the beating of the unfortunate driver on the Kiev freeway last December.

At the disposal of the new Ukrainian revolutionary elite, all together there are thousands of these Ukrainian ‘patriots’ and ‘heroes,’ as they are called officially.

These paramilitary battalions turned out to be very useful while fighting the ideological war both in Russia and in the West. Every time the question is raised about Nazi inclinations among the ‘patriots,’ the spotlight is turned by the Ukraine propaganda machine to the ‘Ukrainian nationalists’ from the Right Sector. When asked about ultra-nationalist Bandera followers among the troops, the focus of the argument turns to the ‘patriots’ from the ethnic Russians among Nazi sympathizers from ‘Azov’ battalions. From time to time the math student from the territorial battalions is pointed out, an example of refined patriot who has nothing to do with neo-Nazis or nationalists.

No matter what paramilitary formation they belong to now, these people made the violent overthrow of the previous Yanukovich regime possible. They were the ones with Molotov cocktails, stones, and iron bars. They were jumping police barricades and organizing the torch marches on the Kiev streets. They all claim to be descendants of the ‘Heavenly Hundred’—street fighters killed by unknown snipers during the days of the ‘Revolution of Dignity,’ as the bloody events of one year ago have been branded.

Since then, they have been the backbone for ‘people’s garbage lustrations’—violent purges of corrupt or insufficiently patriotic officials during which the latter were usually thrown into garbage containers by the violent mobs and kept there under all kinds of physical and verbal abuses until they signed their resignations or admitted their sins.

Their numbers are in the many thousands, they are Ukraine’s ‘heroes,’ ‘patriots’ and ‘defenders’ for some (31%), private armies of the Ukrainian oligarchs for others (16.1%), according to the Kiev International Institute for Sociology.

The Ukrainian military high command has almost no control over these people. The way they fight the enemy confuses, bewilders and even angers both military professionals and the civil government. For example, they place artillery and mortar weapons right in the middle of the economically vital urban infrastructure like electric power stations, as happened some days ago at Shaste. When the pro-Russian separatists’ positions were shelled from there, the return fire put out electricity and water supply for the whole Kiev-controlled part of Luhansk region with population of around 300,000 people –in winter.

Some of their military goals seem irrational at best. They blow up bridges, railroads, mine roads, and block the roads in front of convoys with humanitarian cargo.

On January 23, Governor of Luhansk region Gennady Moskal said that the troops from the battalion ‘Dnipro-1,’ controlled by the oligarch Kolomoisky, mined the railroad tracks and blew up a freight train that was loaded with coal from the separatist controlled area and on its way to the electric power plant stationed in a Kiev controlled town.

Governor Moskal had to appeal to the “partisans” not to mine the railroads with explosives in the future on the Kiev-controlled territories and not to place their artillery by the electric power plants. Governor Moskal wrote, “Those who want to wage a guerrilla war can go and prove themselves in the settlement of Zholobok near checkpoint No. 29 on Bakhmutka highway, where Russian regular troops are deployed now with armored vehicles, and the settlement of Golubivske in Popasna district, now being controlled by the Russian army,”suggesting the ‘partisans’ move their action from his territory to one controlled by the separatists.

By the report to the President Poroshenko of January 22 by the Governor of Kiev-controlled part of Donetsk region Alexander Kikhtenko, 20% of the troops of the volunteer battalions deployed in the warzone are involved in looting, wrote Ukrainian newspaper Zerkalo Nedeli. “Among the Ukrainian patriots who defend our country today with arms, there turned out to be a sufficient number of those who, taking advantage of the war, are trying, to put it mildly, to improve their financial situation,” said the Governor.

They not only loot, but also are responsible for weapons that can be easily found on the Ukrainian black market. ‘Souvenirs’ like hand grenades and guns are routinely taken home by the paramilitary troops on their way to leave. For example, battalion ‘Prikarpatie’ (Western Ukraine) had no desire to fight at Ilovaysk and deserted in full. In the end of last summer Ilovaysk was lost to the separatists because these ‘minutemen’ simply hopped on the buses and left, deserting the battlefields, but taking with them all the weapons they had at their disposal, including grenade-launchers.

As a result, the criminal situation all over Ukraine has grown completely out of control. On January 25, a drunk commander of a paramilitary regiment on his leave from the frontline blew up a hand grenade in the middle of Kiev. The same day in Kharkov a hand grenade was thrown into a warehouse by the railroad station. Fire broke out and heavy smoke filled the street, local media reported. This is a new normal for modern Ukraine.

When the heavy fighting started last May around Donetsk airport, members of the Ukrainian paramilitary battalions were sent right into the meat-grinder. Some say that the Kiev government was trying to get rid of those who distinguished themselves during the violent Maidan days as potential instigators of future riots.

Mythical ‘kiborg’
Mythical ‘kiborg’

Many hundreds were killed there, but the fierce attacks by the separatists were repelled (the airport was taken by separatists some days ago anyway). In the meantime, the Ukrainian public watched the developing bloody drama at the Donetsk airport with fascination and pride, calling it their ‘Stalingrad.’ They bestowed the fighting men with all kinds of honors, giving them mystic and mythical qualities of men of steel not reachable by death.

Ukrainians invented a special name for them – ‘kiborgs’ (‘cyborgs’) – but when this name became widespread in media after a long and bloody stand-off with the  separatists, a very creepy omen was noticed – when read backwards, the word was ‘a coffin’ in Russian.

And the coffins started to be sent all around Ukraine. The United Nations reported that by January 23, there were at least 5,086 soldiers and civilians killed since last April. Many more—at least 10,000—were injured and a big number of them are still in the hospitals. Pictures of maimed ‘kiborgs’ with their limbs left at the battlefields all but dashed the bright hopes of the Revolution of the Dignity. A recent visit to the Kiev hospital by the Commander of US Army in Europe Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges failed to encourage the Ukrainians. While praising the courage of Ukrainian ‘kiborg’ who left his left arm on the battlefield after just ten days of fighting, he offered him a plastic badge – a symbol for the US Army Europe. “I am proud of your service to your country,” said the top US military representative in Europe. The pleas of the 24 year-old father of two, that he needed help for a $120,000 prosthesis, were ignored.

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Meanwhile, they demand respect and admiration from Ukrainian civilian population and often the manifestations of this respect have been expressed in a very dramatic way—strange to the outsider’s eyes. In West Ukraine in particular, now and again one can see hundreds and hundreds of villagers kneeling along roads and highways for miles in a manifestation of their respect and adoration to the local paramilitaries returning home from the frontlines with the body of one more dead ‘kiborg.’ All kind of folks patiently wait by the sides of the roads for the arrival of the paramilitary convoy and kneel in the dirt or snow at the first sign of it, waiting hats-off for it to pass.

Every time there is a transport with the body of a dead ‘kiborg’ on the road – all traffic stops, people get out of their cars on their knees are patiently wait for it to go by.

Mass kneeling is a new phenomenon in modern day Ukraine. Now and then, one can see crowds of people on their knees saying farewell to the mobilized troops, praying for victory over the enemy, or on Ukraine’s Independence Day praying for Ukraine’s … independence.[protected-iframe id=”41f209d171a2a1adee110e8e95941eb6-35584880-78363900″ info=”” width=”560″ height=”315″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen=””]

They also put their enemies on their knees. Last year during the first days of their victory, captured representatives of police, loyal to the previous regime, were put on their knees, the word ‘slave’ was written on their forehead in brilliant green, and they were made to ask for forgiveness in front of the blustering crowd. President Petro Poroshenko himself was on his knees praying for the ‘heroes of the ‘Heavenly Hundred’ in August in the middle of Maidan—in fact, he was on his knees in front of the predecessors of today’s ‘kiborgs’ and thus kneeling in front of the ‘kiborgs’ themselves.

Despite this show of respect, some ‘kiborgs’ openly hate and despise not only President Poroshenko, but Prime Minister Yatzenyuk and Speaker of the Parliament Groisman. They hate them for their connections to the previous regimes, for their wealth, and for all three of them being Jews. For them, President Poroshenko is a billionaire oligarch who broke his promise to sell his ROSHEN chocolate empire, and still makes money on his chocolate factory and candy stores in Lipetsk and on a number of lucrative starch-production factories in hated Russia. In fact, the octopus of shady offshore companies he owns still supply Russia with made-in-China cars and car batteries for Russian made Renault cars.

Some ROSHEN stores were vandalized around Ukraine in the middle of the night (interestingly, none in Russia). Thus, while fighting the war against ‘Russian aggression,’ he has been accused of making money from Ukraine’s enemy. Ukrainian paramilitaries think he is more interested in saving his fortune than fighting the war, and has too many personal connections in Russia since his days of a Minister for Foreign Affairs.

For them, Mr. Poroshenko is the most obvious scapegoat for war failures, economic disaster, currency collapse, growing social anger, and for their country breaking to pieces. (The fact that Ukraine is breaking to pieces was stated recently by ex-President Kravchuk himself.) To postpone the complete collapse of Ukraine, Mr. Poroshenko declared one more wave of winter mobilization of 50,000 men from 16 to 60 year-old. After three weeks of training they will be sent into the meat-grinder against experienced seasoned separatists and the Russian professional troops like ‘cannon fodder,’ by the opinion of the German Die Welt.

“Let the Poroshenko kids go to the frontline! Why do our children have to die for the interests of [oligarch] Kolomoisky!”-  shouted the angry parents of mobilized young Ukrainians at Belovodsk, Luhansk region late January. [youtube]

{ Mr. Poroshenko’s eldest son is a member of the Parliament and fights Russia by voting for the war.}

There are rumors in Ukraine that Mr. Poroshenko’s days as a President are numbered, that there will be another coup carried out by paramilitaries with right-wing affiliations. They have enough manpower, weapons, experience to work underground and as ‘kiborgs,’ they believe they have the  sympathy of the general population. “We need the real ataman (chieftain), our own Pinochet,” 57-year-old Maria from Lviv told the Observer in an interview two weeks ago.

And there are candidates for the position of Ukraine’s Pinochet.

Dmitro Yarosh, leader of the Right Sector, for example, openly stated during the televised interview earlier in January that his party had a lot of questions to Mr. Poroshenko and Mr. Yatzenyuk, the Prime-Minister. He said that the representatives of the government must not address only military issues, but also social ones. “One can provide for the army but completely ruin the social sphere in the meantime, [and] cause social unrest in the country, in the rear. The government will be demolished by the people and we are not going to stop them, these people, because their anger will be justified.”

And it looks like he doesn’t throw his words into the wind. Ukrainian newspaper Vesti reported on January 26 that the Right Sector started to form a new battalion with the goal to ‘protect the capital [Kiev] in the case of emergency situation.’

Taking the threat seriously, the government started to accumulate its own forces in Kiev, bringing them from the frontlines of the Anti-Terrorist Operation, as the war with the separatists is called in Ukraine.

If President Poroshenko is overthrown in the spring and some ataman comes to power, Ukraine has a very good chance to turn into another Libya or Somalia right at the doorstep of Europe. There are already a few dozen right-wing volunteers from Europe, Canada and the US fighting in the ranks of Ukrainian paramilitary battalions. Having tasted the experience of torch-marches in Kiev, perhaps one day they will want to parade on the streets of ‘liberated’ Europe, where kneeled Europeans greet their marching  “patriots.”

  Ukraine on Her Knees