From the first days of Euromaidan in the center of Kyiv, you could hear right-wing rhetoric. It is manifested in political slogans, writings on posters and the facades of administrative buildings and in populist, sometimes discriminatory, speeches from the stage. All this content is spread amid protesters and is gradually becoming acceptable.
The right-wing groups have been involved in the protests from the very beginning; their record increases and their actions become legitimate. It is useful to differentiate between the different right-wing groups on the Maidan: parliamentary – Pan-Ukrainian Union ‘Svoboda’ and its informal youth wing ‘Sich/C14’, and extra-parliamentary groups – the ‘Right Sector’, which became the driving force behind the radicalisation of the protest, as well as somewhat less active UNA-UNSO, KUN (Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists) and RUN (Russian-speaking Ukrainian Nationalists).
The presence of Svoboda at Maidan is inevitable – it is part of the opposition coalition that assumed the hardships of Ukrainian integration in the EU. One interesting fact: while European far right groups talk about ‘euro-scepticism’, Svoboda initiated active dialogue in favor of the European Union with its own electorate. However, the party makes some illogical steps at the same time by inviting precisely those euro-sceptic lecturers. On 15 January, John Morgan, head Arktos publishing, delivered a lecture in KyivCity Hall, which had been seized by Svoboda activists. First of all, we should point to the fact that Arktos publishes works by Oleksandr Dugin, who has very peculiar views on the geopolitical integrity of Ukraine. The lecture was desined to explain why liberal values should not be tolerated and that the future of Ukraine should not be defined by integrating with any union, whether it is the EU or Russia.
There are two key issues in the divisions among the right-wing groups on the Maidan – attitudes toward the integration for which citizens came out on the main square of the country, and the extent of radicalisation of protest. For instance, the security guards in the City Hall, which consist of both members and activists of Svoboda as well as citizens who have filled in the security ranks during the protest, are not radicalised yet; they did not go on the barricades on Hrushevskiy Street (officially).
‘Right Sector’ – coalition of ‘Stepan Bandera Tryzub’ (Trident) and ‘Biliy Molot’ (White Hammer).
The media has repeatedly mentioned that UNA-UNSO is part of ‘Right Sector’ too. However, members of both organisations denied this information. Euromaidan has started on 21 November, while the ‘Right Sector’ activists joined in shortly after. According to the activists, they seized the fifth floor of the House of Trade Unions on 28 November, and on the next day occupied a position near the monument of founders of Kyiv with a large banner that carried the name of organisation. From the very beginning of their involvement, their main goals were national revolution and the impeachment of the President, but not euro-integration. On 1 December, activists of this organisation were on Bankova Street near the Presidential Administration building. After these events, ‘Right Sector’ started calling Svoboda ‘unreliable’ due to Oleh Tiahnybok’s announcement that the people present on Bankova Street are provocateurs. The Euromaidan protesters supported the statement of the Svoboda leader.
But the situation changed after the events of 19 January. One Automaidan activist called out for a march on the Verkhovna Rada, taking the 16th Sotnia of the Maidan Self-Defence Force with him. The ‘Right Sector’ activists joined them only after a certain lag. Regarding the events on Hrushevskiy Street, it is hard to define who exactly started to radicalize the protest – the demonstrators were full of anger as a result of the laws of 16 January – the so-called ‘Black Thursday’. But a cold fact remains – ‘Right Sector’ activists joined the organised column and the confrontation already after the protesters had climbed over the buses and were ready for concrete actions.
The people who observed the strengthening of the protest, such as the use of Molotov cocktails, burning buses and use of fireworks by demonstrators, perceived these actions as radical, but they were seen as justified toward the corridor of security forces. This is the main difference between the confrontations on Bankova Street and Hrushevskiy Street – the legitimacy of the protest’s radicalisation. Attempts by Vitaliy Klitschko, one of the leaders of opposition, to calm down the protesters were interpreted extremely negatively, which did not happen on 1 December when the leader of the UDAR party contained radical people in their confrontation with Berkut forces near the Presidential Administration building.
Though the liberal participants of Euromaidan do not regard right-wing rhetoric as radical, since they do not hear other kinds often, left-wing groups adhere to different opinions on events in the center of Kyiv: some have attempted to bring about left-wing discourse by organising film screenings about workers’ strikes and by anti-discriminatory events, others stayed neutral.
However, unexpectedly for everyone, some left-wing activists from ‘Narodniy Nabat’ (People’s Bell) were among those involved in the confrontation on Hrushevskiy Street. This organisation was founded just a year ago and has friendly relations with ‘Avtonomniy Opir’ (Autonomous Resistance) and ‘Volna Zemlya’ (FreeLand). Its ideology is social anarchism – direct democracy, classless society, protection of animals and ecology. The activists are quite skeptical regarding European integration; they do not regard European Union as a zone of economic prosperity for Ukraine. Speaking on their involvement in radical actions, according to the activists, they were in the front rows on Hrushevskiy Street. People’s Bell activists have criticized the lack of activity on the part of Ukrainian left-wing groups: “Instead of suggesting a plan of action for the people on Maidan, they are concerned about what their partners outside Ukraine would say about them.”
Today, there is a provisional truce between the extra-parliamentary right-wing groups and left-wing groups present at Euromaidan. There was no official procedure that would declare this; we are talking about common provisional goals, not final ones. For the Right – this is a national revolution, for the Left – a social one. The time frames of this truce are not defined either. It is intact until the confrontation on Hrushevkiy Street and Maidan ends. This is a paradox that was previously possible only during student protests, but with center-right and left-wing student youth organisations, which had cooperated during the ‘Against degradation of education’ campaign or when these youth organisations joined mutual social protests which concerned student affairs. In the view of activists from both sides – cooperation in the long-term is unlikely despite the progress of the revolution.
By Tetiana Bezruk
Translated by Oleg Naumenko