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Far-right nationalist paramilitaries in Ukraine determined to make war, not peace

February 03, 2015, 17:17 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© Maxim Nikitin/TASS

MOSCOW, February 3. /TASS/. The all-volunteer far-right paramilitary detachments, one of the main driving forces of last year’s government coup in Ukraine, are an impressive force consisting, on the one hand, of hired professional mobsters, and on the other, of brainwashed hard-line ultra-nationalists, polled Russian experts have told TASS. On the one hand, these "battalions" have created many problems for the authorities in Kiev, which is unable to keep them at bay. And on the other, they are a major impairment in the way of any peace efforts. And all wish the war to go on and on.

Some militants from the "volunteer battalions", all with a combat record in Donbas, staged a demonstration in Kiev’s Independence Square on Monday to demand the resignation of President Petro Poroshenko, the introduction of martial law in Ukraine and dismissals of top officials from the Defense Ministry, the National Security and Defense Council, the General Staff and the Prosecutor-General’s Office. The rally was called by activists of the organization calling itself Pan-Ukrainian Battalion Brotherhood, which the volunteer battalions founded in early November.

On Friday, January 30, militants from the assault battalion Aidar picketed the Ukrainian Defense Ministry to demand cancellation of plans for the battalion’s reorganization.

The leader of the Right Sector, Verkhovna Rada member Dmytro Yarosh, declared the volunteer battalions’ intention to have their own coordination center. According to Ukrainian political scientists, there are more than 50 such battalions at the moment. In shape, the coordination center would resemble the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ General Staff, but Yarosh claims that the emergence of a parallel command body is not on the agenda. The volunteer battalions promise to obey the vertical chain of command, but the first signs of rifts among the armed paramilitaries and the authorities are already in sight.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has slammed the rally by Aidar militants in front of the Defense Ministry as betrayal. "Attempts to block the Defense Ministry of a country in wartime, especially during active frontline clashes is an act of treason," Avakov said on his page in Facebook. He argued that some volunteer battalion members were real heroes, while others preferred to indulge in armed robberies.

Even by Ukraine’s current laws, the volunteer battalions are illegal armed groups and constitute a threat to Ukraine itself. President Poroshenko has to put up with their pressures with little chance of ever putting them under control, president of the Center for Current Politics Sergey Mikheyev told TASS. He believes that these paramilitary forces had been beyond the authorities’ control as of the day of their emergence.

"It was them who spearheaded the coup and it was them who set Donbas ‘ablaze,’ though many of them have not taken part in active combat operations," he said.

Basically, there are two groups of volunteer battalions, director of the Political Studies Center Sergey Markov told TASS. Some, consisting of hired mercenaries, are on the payroll of big business tycoons, Igor Kolomoisky in the first place. Most of their members have a past in the criminal underworld. "The doors of prison cells were thrust widely open," Markov said. "They are mercenaries in their own right. An end to hostilities for them would be tantamount to the loss of income and imminent prosecution." For this reason alone, said Markov, they would resist any peacemaking efforts by all conceivable means. It should also be remembered that these mobsters are not an organized force and just strictly follow orders from their financial sponsors.

In the other group of paramilitaries — who are far fewer than the hired mobsters — one finds mostly brainwashed ultra-nationalists, Markov said. The most radical of these are neo-Nazis of the first water — in the Aidar and Azov battalions. Their motivation and discipline is high. All are stained with crimes against both civilians and political opponents.

"The former just rob, rape and kill. The latter also torture their political opponents and those who identify themselves as Russian Orthodox Christians," Markov said.

Any hint at making peace makes the steadfast ultra-nationalists see red, because an end to war would entail their disarmament and investigation of crimes, as well as the loss of the seats their proxies control in parliament. "They will be prepared to join the struggle for power and to act as a consolidated force," Markov said, describing these battalions as "semi-autonomous political actors".

Markov agrees that for the president, the paramilitary battalions are a great headache. However, in his opinion Poroshenko has in fact been ousted from power. "Ukraine in December-January saw a quiet coup. Poroshenko was in fact ousted from power. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk keeps his hands on the economic controls while Turchinov is in command of the military and law enforcement."

"According to my sources, four to six weeks ago all Ukrainian mass media under the Americans’ control unleashed a campaign of criticism against Poroshenko, while at the same time singing praise to Yatsenyuk. My conclusion is Poroshenko is about to go," Markov said.

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