Monday 20 February 2023

Why I will be outside the BBC on 25 February


Those of us critical of the US/NATO role in the Ukraine war, have to stress that we are not Putin supporters. As opponents of the Israeli state we have to stress that we are not anti-semites and, 20 years ago, we had to stress that in opposing the war and occupation of iraq, we were not Saddam Hussein supporters. 

Putin’s supporters are to be found amongst those who now clamour for more war. There is Tony Blair who supported Putin’s rise to power, Peter Mandelson who takes vacations on Putin oligarch yachts, and Rishi Sunak and his ministers who have pocketed Russian oligarch money.

I have written before about the Zelensky government’s praise of Black Rock, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs for “buying up Ukrainian assets and defending freedom and property.” For Zelensky the USA has “consolidated the world in defence of freedom,” and shown us “how to win this battle.” (We now see what this 'battle' involves with Seymour Hersch's recent article on the blowing up of the Nord Stream pipelines).

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government has declared January 1st to be a national holiday in memory of Nazi collaborator, Stepan Bandera, have banned leftist parties and restricted trade union rights. In Kyiv a street has been named after Ivan Pavlenko, a Nazi collaborator who led a Ukrainian unit involved in the killing of tens of thousands of Jews. Another Kyiv street has been named after Nil Khasevich, who was involved in mass killings of Poles during World War II.

According to Freedom House’s Ukraine project director Matthew Schaaf, “numerous organized radical right-wing groups exist in Ukraine, and while the right-wing 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. 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,”

Institute Respublica, a local pro-democracy NGO reported that activists are frequently harassed by vigilantes when holding legal meetings or rallies related to politically-controversial positions, such as the promotion of LGBT rights or opposition to the war. Azov and other right-wing militias have attacked anti-fascist demonstrations, city council meetings, media, art exhibitions, foreign students and Roma people. Kiev's city government allow C14 (the name refers to a 14-word slogan popular among white supremacists) to organise a "municipal guard" to patrol the streets and at least 21 operate in other cities.

Activists describe a climate of fear that they say has intensified since the stabbing of anti-war activist Stas Serhiyenko, which is believed to have been perpetrated by C14 . Brutal attacks on International Women’s Day marches in several Ukrainian cities prompted a statement from Amnesty International, which warned that "the Ukrainian state is rapidly losing its monopoly on violence.”

Tariq Ali warns that, “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. Meanwhile, refugees are flowing from the Ukraine to different parts of Europe. But there are other wars going on. The war in the Yemen has cost nearly half a million lives, has unleashed epidemics like cholera. Malnutrition affects 70 to 80% of the people. Where are their refugees going? Nowhere, because no one will take them. So they stay in the country, and they carry on dying. And there is a feeling one gets that the Europeans, in particular, are more sympathetic to the Ukrainians because they’re the same color. They have blue eyes and blond hair, and they are acceptable refugees, whereas the other wars, not waged by Putin but by the West, either directly or through proxies, are creating havoc in parts of the world."