All Eyes on Biletsky: Ukrainian “Hitler 2.0” has a putsch up his sleeves

February 5, 2018 – Fort Russ – 

By Eduard Popov, translated by Jafe Arnold – 

Since the demonstration of force put on by around 600 Nazi militants from Biletsky’s National Squads in Kiev on January 28th, many in Ukraine have been inquiring into the people behind this new Nazi project and its aims. 

More often than not, one will hear the opinion that the National Squads are a project of the National Corps party and, as follows, the Azov project which, in turn, is said to be the project of Ukrainian Interior Minister Avakov. 

The famous Ukrainian TV host Dmitry Gordon, for instance, has emphasized that the singular aim of the amassing of camouflaged militants in central Kiev is intimidating Ukrainians. Gordon has claimed that this initiative is a harrowing sign for Ukrainian President Poroshenko courtesy of Avakov, emphasizing the “serious contradictions” between the president and interior minister and the fact that Ukraine is expecting elections in 2019. 

Indeed, last week the National Squads were seen engaged in a political action altogether far from the “restoration of public order” on Ukrainian streets which they claim to be pursuing. On January 29th, deputies of the Cherkasy City Council (Cherkasy is the center of the region neighboring Kiev) adopted a local budget despite the fact that the majority of parliamentarians consider unrealistic and even impossible to realize. Then they immediately voted for dissolution. It is now known that they did such under the pressure of ultra-right militants from none other than the National Corps and National Squads, who broke through security and blockaded deputies in the council’s session hall. This was done with almost open approval from the police, who are supposed to prevent the use of such violence in state affairs. 

This incident speaks to the fact that the Ukrainian state has long since lost its monopoly over violence – despite Avakov’s assurances that the National Squads pose no threat. 

The seizure of the Cherkasy City Council – for which no one has been punished – suggests that government paralysis is impending. Warnings can already be heard that if the People’s Front fails in the upcoming parliamentary elections, then the National Squads could simply “cancel” the “incorrect” results of the vote. It is even more likely that Biletsky’s militants will be used to intimidate dissenters and disrupt “anti-Ukrainian” public actions, such as Victory Day celebrations on May 9th. 

Thus, Avakov has in his hands an additional trump card for political quarrels in the form of Ukrainian Nazi assault squads which are nearly identical to the Nazi stormtroopers of Ernst Rohm. 

Andrey Biletsky is a pet and cohort of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. Both, as is well known, are from Kharkov, and began cooperating back in their home town and have had a long history together ever since. However, the question begs itself: Does Avakov have any guarantees that Biletsky and his Azov militants will not want to escape interior ministry control and move on independently? Will they be allowed to do such a thing? 

Biletsky’s coming out from under Avakov’s wing is inevitable. In terms of ideology, worldview, and even race, these are two different people, and any alliance between them is necessarily conditional. In the long term, this alliance works more in Biletsky’s favor, who thanks to the ministry’s help has managed to establish a disciplined and well-equipped fighting unit – the Azov battalion/regiment. 

Moreover, Avakov will not always be interior minister, as the ruling coalition in the Verkhovna Rada (including the Petro Poroshenko Bloc and National Front, of which Avakov is one of the leaders) is already experiencing an acute lack of parliamentary seats. The next elections to the Verkhovna Rada will see serious electoral losses for the People’s Front, whose rating has fallen drastically to the range of 2-3%. In other words, they  have no guarantee of being part of the next convocation of the Verkhovna Rada. 

Avakov, moreover, has committed some gross mistakes on the international arena, such as when he publicly insulted Donald Trump and the United States itself. Avakov was not punished for this, but this merely shows that the American bureaucracy retains considerable continuity of course and independence from the changing White House political administrations. 

Over time, Avakov and Biletsky’s interests will diverge. Biletsky is already allowing himself to take independent steps which do not line up with Avakov’s interests. One year ago,  for example, Azov supported the military blockade of Donbass, even though initially it was critical of such and even clashed with other Nazi formations over the issue. 

It cannot but understated that Ukrainian Nazis are the only force in Ukraine capable of bringing thousands of ideologically-motivated fighters out onto the streets, instead of mere paid stooges. And among all Ukrainian Nazi forces, Biletsky has the most organized fighting force with its own preconceived program and ideology resembling a racist variant of national socialism. Power in Ukraine is lying on the ground – one only needs to stoop down to pick it up – and not now, but a little later. This is precisely what Biletsky is preparing for. 

The comparison of the National Squads to Rohm’s stormtroopers is principally accurate, but there are some noticeable historical or conditional nuances which should be factored into our analysis of Biletsky’s trajectory. First of all, the SA tried to play an independent political role despite the fact that it was considered the fighting unit of the NSDAP. The Ukrainian SA differ in that their military, paramilitary, and political structures have one leader – Biletsky. 

Another fundamental difference is that, after the beer hall putsch adventure of 1923, Hitler renounced the tactic of violently seizing power, instead opting for a combined method of participating in electoral processes in parallel to conquering the streets in fights with militant communists and Social Democrats. In Ukraine, the Civil Corps have negligible electoral chances. Therefore, it is logical to presume that Biletsky will not repeat Hitler’s moves when the time comes, i.e., he will not seize power by peaceful means. Biletsky has no political chances, and as a politician he is of a lesser scale than his historical predecessor. 

Biletsky, we might guess, will instead try to realize the Bolshevik scenario of first seizing power, and then constructing and adapting a political model to this forceful takeover. 

Ukraine’s population is exhausted from instability and the total corruption and absolute incompetence of the Kiev government. Biletsky can thus gather the support of people who would otherwise be far from his supporters. As we’ve discussed in earlier articles, Biletsky also has close contacts with activists in various protest movements, including miners’ unions, and has propagated his ideas in professional military milieus. 

Neither Western countries nor Russia have paid adequate attention to the threat of a wholesale Nazification of Ukraine, as such a scenario seems just too incredible. However, who would have thought four years ago that Biletsky, a political prisoner, would triumphantly walk free, become a parliamentary deputy, and lead the most combat-efficient regiment of the Ministry of Internal Affairs? 

Of course, today’s Azov and its subsidiaries do not yet have enough muscle to seize power. But the degradation of state authority in Ukraine and the unrelenting (and very effective) educational, propaganda, and advocacy work of Azov among children, youth, and the military are doing their job in working towards this. The utter discrediting of all the establishment, pro-government, and opposition parties are only increasing Biletsky’s opportunities. As we have suggested before, Ukrainian Nazis are in this regard typologically identical to Islamists in the Middle East. The sympathy of broad layers of the Ukrainian population, if met with competent political work and sufficient funding, will swing more and more people towards the Nazi, anti-establishment alternative represented by Biletsky. I do not think that Biletsky will have to deal with a shortage of funding from one place or another. 

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For now, Biletsky and his militants are rehearsing their seizure of power in the region next to Kiev. All eyes should be on Biletsky. 

Eduard Popov is a Rostov State University graduate with a PhD in history and philosophy. In 2008, he founded the Center for Ukrainian Studies of the Southern Federal University of Russia, and from 2009-2013, he was the founding head of the Black Sea-Caspian Center of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, an analytical institute of the Presidential Administration of Russia. In June 2014, Popov headed the establishment of the Representative Office of the Donetsk People’s Republic in Rostov-on-Don and actively participated in humanitarian aid efforts in Donbass. In addition to being Fort Russ’ guest analyst since June, 2016, Popov is currently the leading research fellow of the Institute of the Russian Abroad and the founding director of the Europe Center for Public and Information Cooperation. 

Jafe Arnold is Special Editor of Fort Russ, Special Projects Director of the Center for Syncretic Studies, and the founding Editor-in-Chief of Eurasianist Internet Archive. Holding a Bachelors in European Cultures from the University of Wroclaw (Poland), Arnold is currently undertaking his Research Masters in Religious Studies and Western Esotericism at the University of Amsterdam. 

AvakovAzovBiletskyFeatureHitlerKievNational SquadsNazisneo-NazisPopov
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