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Even if
those in power were not actively trying to provoke trouble in Kyiv – as well as
at the recent memorial events in Simferopol to mark the 69th anniversary of the
deportation of Crimean Tatars – they showed an irresponsible indifference to
people’s safety and an inability to use democratic methods when faced with
diverging views. 

execution was also extremely poor.  

“antifascist” card has been part of the current administration’s line ever since
Yanukovych came to power. But it really took off after the right-wing Svoboda
party gained over 10 percent of the votes in the parliamentary elections. The
obvious mileage the Party of the Regions has been extracting from that victory,
and from Svoboda’s coalition with the opposition Batkivshchyna and UDAR parties,
can only fuel suspicions that Svoboda received tacit support. There is a
cynical logic to such support since at the very least votes for Svoboda steal
votes from other opposition parties, not from those in power. Moreover, with
support for the ruling party falling ever lower, Svoboda’s rising popularity at
least gives the Party of Regions the chance to cast themselves as the champions
of moderate, non-nationalist ideology.

While Svoboda’s
ideological consistency does not make its bigoted views any more palatable, the
Party of the Regions is still a loser in terms of message. The old Soviet
rhetoric being regurgitated was once part of a need to concentrate on the War
and “fight against fascism,” because reality had stripped all communist myths
of any credibility.

The Party
of the Regions does not really have any ideology and even with near total
monopoly over the media, the series of “anti-fascist” rallies around the
country from May 14 and ending with Saturday’s rally could not convince
anybody. The slogan “Into Europe without fascism” was embarrassingly absurd
since it is the ruling party’s insistence on politically motivated prosecution
of the opposition and assault on other democratic rights that have placed
European integration in jeopardy. 

Nor do the
words “without fascism” hold up under close scrutiny. The over-use of
enforcement bodies and courts seen in the last three years in preventing
peaceful assembly, and repressive measures against dissent suggest a very
specific understanding of “antifascism.” One of the most vocal “antifascists” –
member of parliament Vadim Kolesnychenko – is also the author of a bill
prohibiting “promotion of homosexuality.” This latter term is as meaningless as
the claptrap about antifascism while not making the initiative any less

This danger
was stressed in a statement issued by the Association of Jewish
Organizations and Communities of Ukraine [Vaad] and the Congress of National
Communities. They write that the “anti-fascist”
demonstrations are aimed exclusively at discrediting the political opposition
by pushing associations between historical fascism and the party Svoboda, as
well as all parties in opposition to the current regime.
Their warning is unequivocal: the organizers of the “antifascist” events will
bear responsibility for any provocation and escalation in tension..

While there
were thankfully few incidents, the authorities can take no credit for this. The
above-mentioned assault by thugs on two journalists is highly symbolic. Olha
Snitsarchuk from TV Channel 5 and Vladyslav Sodel came under attack when trying
to film around 10 burly louts beating up some Svoboda supporters. The
police simply looked on despite calls for help. 

The ruling
party’s “antifascists,” judging from reports around the country, included a
very large number of public sector workers forced to attend for free and people
offered money to be present. They also included the sort of thugs who gave
fascism its deservedly bad press a long time ago. 

It is
perhaps well that the Party of the Regions have shown themselves to be so
unconvincing since all such attempts to blur the real meaning of fascism and
neo-Nazism for political gain are highly dangerous. Power, however, is in their
hands at present, and their total disregard for what – and who – can be placed
at risk is immensely disturbing.

Halya Coynash is a member of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group.

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