According to Freedom House’s Ukraine project director Matthew Schaaf, “numerous organized radical right-wing groups exist in Ukraine, and while the volunteer battalions may have been officially integrated into state structures, some of them have since spun off political and non-profit structures to implement their vision.” Schaaf noted that “an increase in patriotic discourse supporting Ukraine in its conflict with Russia has coincided with an apparent increase in both public hate speech, sometimes by public officials and magnified by the media, as well as violence towards vulnerable groups such as the LGBT community,” an observation that is supported by a recent Council of Europe study.
Ukraine is not the only country that must contend with a resurgent far right. But Kiev’s recent efforts to incorporate independent armed groups into its regular armed forces, as well as a continuing national sense of indebtedness to the militias for their defense of the homeland, make addressing the ultranationalist threat considerably more complicated than it is elsewhere. According to Schaaf and the Institute Respublica, Ukrainian extremists are rarely punished for acts of violence. In some cases — such as C14’s January attack on a remembrance gathering for two murdered journalists — police actually detain peaceful demonstrators instead.
There’s no easy way to eradicate the virulent far-right extremism that has been poisoning Ukrainian politics and public life, but without vigorous and immediate efforts to counteract it, it may soon endanger the state itself.Commentary: Ukraine’s neo-Nazi problem | Reuters