The other day, The Washington Post published an article by terroristic analyst Rita Katz entitled “Neo-Nazis use Russia’s war in Ukraine for their own goals”. The author talks about some foreign soldiers from France, Britain, the United States and Slovakia, joining the Ukrainian army. The Katz SITE Intelligence Group claims that they are coming to fight not against the Russian invasion but because of the neo-Nazi views they hold. The author quotes the correspondence of the military in the mobilization chat rooms of the Azov Regiment and concludes that foreign neo-Nazis will pose a threat not only in Ukraine but also later in the homeland, as they will return with new weapons and combat experience.”.
Why we claim that Rita Katz distorts the world’s audience’s perception of the war in Ukraine
According to top Russian officials, the main “cause” of Russia’s war against Ukraine is the fight against “neo-Nazis” and “Bandera”. Vladimir Putin stated this during “anti-Nazi” concert in Moscow. The Kremlin believes that the “Nazis” in the high Kiev offices are committing genocide against Russian-speaking Ukrainians, and Z-troops have come to save the ones from the Nazis, who want the death of all non-Ukrainians.
In relation to more than 10 million Ukrainians died from the hands of the Nazis during World War II, the thesis of a “Nazi regime” in a country that survived Nazi terror is at least a manipulation. It openly and rudely discredits the democratically elected government of the Ukrainian people, who do not want to follow the Kremlin’s instructions.
Ukraine has been accustomed to such statements by its eastern neighbor for long, as they have been expressed loudly for at least the last 8 years. It is unfortunate that some media outlets in democracies, following Russian propaganda, pay undue attention to the topic of Nazism in Ukraine, thus creating a misconception about the state of affairs in Ukraine.
In general, Ukrainian society has little support for even nationalist parties, let alone organizations that are called “neo-Nazi” (“Right Sector”, “Sich”, “National Corps”, etc.). This is evidenced by the fact that neither in the current nor in the previous elected bodies of Ukraine there was a single minister who would be associated with extreme movements, in the Ukrainian parliament since 2014 there have been no parties that can even be considered “extreme” right.
Katz shows trees but turns his attention away from the forest
In the context of the study of the Russian-Ukrainian war, we do not understand why the author of the article tries to single out only one unit of the Ukrainian Defense Forces and focus on its interaction with right-wing radicals and Nazis from other countries, given that it includes only about thousands of soldiers (less than 1% of the total number of servicemen of Ukraine) of different nationalities, religions and professions including former teachers, students, IT specialists, managers, etc. In addition, those wishing to enter the battlefield in Ukraine are being checked by Ukrainian diplomats and special services. And even if some questions may arise about Azov together with the Ukrainian people are opposing the tyrant’s 200,000-strong army. Moreover, the Azov Regiment, as well as political organizations derived from it would definitely not exist.
Rita Katz (The Washington Post) talks about the war in Ukraine through messages of Russian propaganda, thus shifting the emphasis to Western audiences
The question seems logical: how can we focus readers’ attention on the Azov Thousandth Regiment, which has existed for eight years as is not even a political force and forget about the Russian army of many thousands, which today bombs and burns Ukrainian Russian-speaking cities whose population has never even been suspected of sympathizing with nationalists?
By the way, this is not the first year that the Putin`s regime has based its existence on violence and war. It all started with the second Chechen war (from 1999 to 2009), continued with Georgia (2008), and from 2014 the war began in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin proclaimed the “peculiarity” of Russia and the Western war in 2007 at the Munich Security Conference. However, he was not stopped in time and now in part through endless propaganda he is mobilizing Russia for war with the world. Today it`s on the territory of Ukraine.
It is now difficult to pinpoint the Kremlin’s ideology: “racism,” “Russian peace,” or “neo-Nazism.” We will leave this task to future historians and political scientists. But we can say with absolute certainty that violence, the cult of personality, and propaganda have become the routine of Russia’s political top management and state ideology. And it has its results: Savanta ComRes survey commissioned by CNN (two weeks before the new milestone of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine), it showed support among Russians for the use of force against Ukraine, ranging from 36% to 50%.
The only Ukrainian ideology in the Russian-Ukrainian war of 2022 is to protect your home from the enemy
When Russia started the war against the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian state tens of thousands of men and women of all ages and professions joined the Defense Forces of Ukraine with only one goal – to protect their home from the occupier. In one day the whole nation became “nationalists”, because the occupiers put the existence of the Ukrainian state on the scales of fate. Today all defenders of Ukraine are united by a single ideology – love for their homeland and the desire to protect their home from the invader. Ukrainians have rejected all their political, cultural, ideological and other disputes, and have become the only national front that defends their homeland and works for victory.
Surprisingly, in these circumstances Rita Katz is trying to find Nazis and right-wing radicals among the defenders who came to aid Ukraine. Every foreign volunteer who joined the Defense Forces of Ukraine, regardless of their personal motives, political or ideological views, is first and foremost a defender of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. Even if there are 500 supporters of any right-wing or left-wing radical idea among the thousands of conditional foreign volunteers. This gives no reason to claim that the Ukrainian army consists of Nazis and right-wing radicals. Any attempts by individual radicals to use the war and grief of Ukrainians to their advantage will have a sharp negative reaction from both Ukrainian and other democratic societies in which man is of the highest value.
Rita Katz’s publication on the neo-Nazi military is a dissemination of Russian propaganda. In particular, in defense of the thesis of so-called “denazification”, which became a completely fictional reason for the war against Ukraine, the war that actually turned into genocide of the Ukrainian people and an attempt to destroy the ENTIRE state of Ukraine.
Rita Katz believes that the current war will strengthen foreign right-wing radicals in their homeland. We believe that this is only her speculative assumption which has no basis. And the best proof of this is the situation of Ukrainian rights after 2014. Their forces crystallized and received the active support, the core of supporters, which is usually the basis of any political force.
It should also be emphasized that the regiment’s fighters do not take part in political life and any political actions. According to Ukrainian law, servicemen must stay away from political confrontations and, above all, protect the interests of Ukraine, not individual political parties. Therefore, we consider it incorrect to equate the activities of the National Corps party, which includes former Azovs, with the Azov National Guard Regiment of Ukraine, as these are two different organizations, the first of which is political formation, and the second is a military unit.
The 2014 and 2019 election races did not give the right a real impact on Ukrainian public policy. And this is happening in a country that is defending independence and fighting against the Russian invasion face to face. Nevertheless, there are no more and no fewer right-wing radicals in Ukraine than in any other European country.
Of course, soldiers from other countries with right-wing radical views will return from the war with more experience and cohesion. But both in Ukraine and at home, they will remain on the margins. Just like they stayed in Ukraine during the last elections.
However, it will be later. And now Ukraine needs the widest possible support, because it is protecting not only itself but the whole Europe from the Russian invasion. Putin will not stop at the Ukrainian border. And praise to those who are trying to help Ukrainians in this protection financially, militarily, diplomatically. If this is not done now, the neo-Nazi Putin mantra will become a reality. The Kremlin reality.
Anton Klymenko, Mykola Kucher, Masters of the Faculty of Journalism, Ivan Franko National University of Lviv