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The Armies of the Right -- Inside Ukraine's extremist militias | Harpers Weekly - Dec. 2020 |

Outside the city-council offices in Kyiv's Obolon district, Andriy Biletsky was about to give a speech. It was a spring day in 2019, and volunteers from Biletsky's far-right group, the Azov movement, were idling in the sunshine next to the gloomy Soviet-era building, while others milled about in the shade of the birch and linden trees of a nearby park, almost outnumbering the audience members. The volunteers wore tight-fitting T-shirts and heavy military boots, and were ready to record the proceedings with cell phones and camcorders. The spectators, mostly pensioners, clutched plastic shopping bags and gossiped among themselves.

Azov was established in 2014 as a volunteer militia, and was lauded for its heroic intervention in Ukraine's grueling campaign against Russian-backed separatists in the east. Since those early victories, however, Azov has expanded its scope, managing to integrate itself into the military, the police, and other structures of the Ukrainian state. It established its own political party, the National Corps. Biletsky, who commanded Azov's military forces against Russia, is the party's leader.

One respectably dressed middle-aged man carrying groceries asked Biletsky why he hadn't deployed his regiment to deal with the crooks in parliament. Biletsky sidestepped the question, reminding the crowd instead of the importance of voting.

Ukraine is among the poorest countries in Europe and the closest thing the continent has to a failing state. It is mired in a smoldering conflict with Russian-backed separatists in its eastern provinces, and its state institutions have been almost entirely captured by competing oligarchs. Corruption pervades almost every level of government. Outside Kyiv's metro stations, elderly women in head scarves and bedraggled war veterans beg for change, while nearby the streets are lined with luxury shops and petty gangsters run red lights in black SUVs without fear of rebuke. Millions have emigrated to Poland or Russia for work. The capital has the uncanny feel, at times, of a postmodern Weimar, where Instagram influencers brunch in cafés tricked out in the international hipster style opposite billboards adorned with the faces of Ukraine's martyrs in the war against Russia.

The Al Jazeera news report from the trenches were hard-core neo-Nazis in the trenches on the front fighting Russian separatists.

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Tue Feb 22nd, 2022 at 09:52:09 PM EST
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