Ukraine: A Far Cry From Europe’s Far Right

Kyiv, 27 May, 2014. An early presidential election took place in Ukraine on May 25. Despite ongoing instability and violence in the east of the country, a record-breaking turnout of voters – more than 61% came out to vote nationwide. According to preliminary results, the vast majority of Ukrainians – nearly 60% – have voted for Petro Poroshenko, an active participant in the Euromaidan protests and a multi-millionaire businessman. The two far-right nationalist parties, Svoboda and Right Sector, received less than 2 percent of the votes between them. These results debunk the Kremlin-sponsored myth about neo-Nazis coming to power in Ukraine.

The May 25 presidential elections ended a transitional period in Ukrainian politics: since former president Viktor Yanukovych fled the country in late February, Ukraine has been governed by an Acting Head of State, an Acting Prime Minister and an Acting Government. Under these circumstances, with only the Parliament being without the prefix “Acting”, some have raised questions about the legitimacy of Ukraine’s institutions of power.

Others, primarily Russian propagandists and their apologists in the West, have gone even further, stating that Ukraine’s new government was not only illegitimate, but nationalist and fascist. To justify their blatant propagandistic rhetoric, the Kremlin’s advocates pointed to an alleged dominance of ultra-right political forces in the government, allegedly formed at gun-point by the “radical” leaders of the Euromaidan protests.

The prime targets of the “outbreak of fascism in Ukraine” line of argument were the Ukrainian nationalist party Svoboda and the radical revolutionary movement Right Sector. Over the last six months both have been vilified and demonized – largely unjustly – by Putin’s propaganda and its western stooges.

More importantly, the myth about Neo-nazis roaming and ravaging the streets of Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities was the main weapon of a mass-media campaign intended to delude the local population, and used by Putin in Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, as well as in Russia’s military subversion aimed at destabilizing the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donbass and Luhansk. All of Putin’s recent public statements about Ukraine, without exception, were peppered with insulting – and inaccurate – references to fascists and blood-thirsty Gestapo torturers in the illegitimate Ukrainian government, who torment and kill peaceful Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine.

The outcome of the early presidential elections, however, has blown Russian propagandists out of the water: the core, as Kremlin would have the world believe, of Ukraine’s new fascists – Svoboda and Right Sector – received a mere 1,9 percent of the votes nationwide.

At the same time, far-right nationalist parties in other European countries are on the unprecedented rise. In the most recent European Parliament elections, which took place on the same day as Ukraine’s Presidential vote, right-wing forces have caused what some commentators have described as a “political earthquake” or a “tsunami”.

Nationalist parties claimed astonishingly high results in such countries as France (25 percent), Denmark (23 percent), Austria (20 percent) and Belgium (30-32 percent). These are results Ukrainian “fascists” could only dream of.

Ukraine’s Presidential elections, therefore, pose an awkward challenge for Putin’s propagandists: how to explain, at least to their domestic audience, the absence of fascists in Ukraine, the crusade against whom was used by Putin as a justification for most of his recent internationally-recognized crimes against the Ukrainian people.