Did Semenchenko just signal the start of a Nazi Maidan?

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May 26, 2017 – Fort Russ – 

By Eduard Popov – translated by J. Arnoldski – 

Verkhovna Rada deputy, ex-commander of the Donbas volunteer battalion, and coordinator of the blockade of the self-proclaimed Donbass republics, Semen Semenchenko, has announced that the biggest Ukrainian oligarchs’ enterprises are to be returned to state ownership. In an interview for Ukrainian censor.ua.net, he stated: “We are creating a staff and proposing a new format for unifying efforts for civil society. What task is to be set for the second stage of the blockade? Our first task is returning Akhmetov and other oligarchs’ enterprises to state ownership wherever they do not fulfill investment obligations.”

Semenchenko named the Burshtyn fuel and energy station in Ivano-Frankivsk region, which is part of Rinat Akhmetov’s Donetsk Fuel and Energy Company, his first target. When asked what exactly activists intend to do with the enterprise, Semenchenko said simply: “take it.” “We’re just going to physically take it. We will force the government to take it over as state property,” he remarked. Semenchenko also claimed that the businessmen Dmitry Firtash’s “enterprises which he seized in the 2000’s need to be taken.”

The jist of this news staring us in the face is that Semenchenko seems to understand fighting the oligarchs to be mean fighting only against the property of Rinat Akhmetov and partially Dmitry Firtash, as if the rest of the oligarchs in Ukraine can sleep peacefully for now. A war has been declared on the oligarchs not as such, but only against those inconvenient representatives of this class. After all, Firtash has been vividly engaged in preparing a campaign against Poroshenko, and Akhmetov’s main fault might be his economic state – no matter how hard the business empire of this “King of Donbass” has been hit, he still maintains the largest chunks of property and considerable political weight in both Ukraine and Donbass. He even has a numerous clientele base in the very top leadership of the Donetsk People’s Republics. In Kiev, he controls a fraction of the Opposition Bloc in the Verkhhovna Rada. 

A testimony has surfaced in Ukrainian media claiming that Akhmetov have reached an agreement with Poroshenko on common rules of the game and the fact that they have common enemies. Lacking any other accounts, it could also be presumed that the attack on Akhmetov has been initiated by Poroshenko, and that this is being done through the hands of his enemies from opposition financial-political groups. The latter narrative is, in my opinion, more likely. Even people from Semenchenko’s own entourage have said that he is an ordinary mercenary who fulfills the orders of whatever oligarchic group approaches him.

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To be clear, I do not believe that this is Semenchenko himself’s initiative. Someone more intelligent and wielding more money stands behind it – either an oligarch or someone from the upper echelon of the Ukrainian government. The customer might be a key minster or group of regional barons with large holdings that are undermining not only Akhmetov, but also President Poroshenko. Some day we will learn the name or names of who is behind this action. But in my opinion, this is not the main point.

Even if this campaign was initiated with the altogether moderate goal of striking at Akhmetov personally and robbing him of all or part of his economic assets, still the whole socio-economic model of Ukrainian oligarchic capitalism is impacted. Similar to how the Euromaidan, from the very first day, meant the inevitable split of Ukraine into West and East, so does Semenchenko’s idea thus initiate nothing more nor less than a third, Nazi Maidan. Let me explain what I mean.

Every oligarch in Ukraine – and Akhmetov, of course, is no exception – has their own private army. But if we hone in on the popular slogan of fighting oligarchs, then we see that the coercive resources of the Nazis are much stronger than the private armies of this or that individual oligarch. The Nazi camp, however, is not uniform, and is riddled with acute, intra-Nazi struggles. But Semenchenko’s initiative might draw the interest of competitors insofar as it promises obvious political and perhaps even financial gain. Let us recall that the Azov regiment and its political “wing”, the National Corpus Party, initially did not support the blockade of Donbass and even clashed with supporters of the blockade from other Nazi groups. But in the end, all of them united for the sake of a common, conditional goal. 

Something similar might be repeated in this case. Stripping the oligarchs of the property they stole would be a de facto realization of one of the Euromaidan’s main slogans. In addition, such is also excellent training for a future Nazi Maidan and would work to popularize their forces among broad swathes of the population. If the threat is backed up with action, then the Nazis’ admirers among Ukrainians will dramatically increase in numbers. In fact, an attack on even just one oligarch’s enterprises would be met with approval by broad circles of Ukrainian society no matter what their attitude is towards the Nazis or Semenchenko personally. Such would be a blow to the oligarchy as such, and to the regime, on top of which also sits an oligarch – President Petro Poroshenko.

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Thus, Semenchenko’s words should be taken seriously not only by Akhmetov, but by President Poroshenko and all of the Ukrainian oligarchs. 

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