This article originally appeared at CounterPunch
On February 9 in the heart of Kiev, a Swedish extreme nationalist, Michael Skildt, and fighters of the Ukrainian paramilitary volunteer battalion ‘Aidar’ arrested two men who were crossing Maidan [Independence] Square in the center of the city. The two were just walking down the street and allegedly talking out loud on the phone “about the Ukrainian army, namely, how many Ukrainian soldiers should be killed,” the Aidar fighters told the Ukrainian television channel Espresso-TV.
Alert patriots and the Swedish volunteer, who happened to be there, immediately arrested the “separatists”. They searched the “arrested” and claimed to find on them… medals of the “terrorist organizations of DPR and LPR”.
In fact, under the law, members of volunteer battalions do not have a right to arrest, interrogate or search people (though, many of the members of these battalions are officially listed as employees of the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior). However, they do it regularly. For instance, in September of 2014, Amnesty International published a report in which the Aidar battalion was accused of frequent abductions, torture, racket and even executions of people.
Tatiana Montyan, an opposition politician and leader of the party ‘Spilna Diya’ (Common Action) in a conversation with Swedish magazine Aftonbladet said she does not believe that the arrested were separatists. “This is a tale from the Vienna Woods”, she said. In Kiev, no one would talk out loud about sympathizing with the rebels; still less would they carry medals issued by “the other side”.
According to Tatiana, this episode could be anything, including plain robbery in broad daylight, slightly disguised as a “patriotic action.” Such cases, she said, are becoming more and more frequent in Ukraine. People with guns feel full impunity and openly commit unlawful actions, while the police are afraid to get involved. There was a recent case when armed “patriots” threw a grenade at police.
“There is an increasing chaos in the country; all state institutions are collapsing,” says Montyan.
But if the victims of the Aidar fighters were most likely passersby who happened to be there, the fighters’ presence on the main street of the city was by no means accidental. They had come downtown to hinder “pro-Russian provocateurs”, which is how they describe protesters against the doubling of fares on the subway and other public transportation.
According to the memorandum which the Ukrainian government has signed with the IMF, the government pledges, beginning this year, to increase the pensionable retirement age to 65 years, raise by four to six times the price of natural gas, fire some 230,000 public sector employees (primarily doctors and teachers) and implement a number of other unpopular austerity measures. All this, coupled with rising unemployment and the highly unpopular mobilization (conscription) to the army, puts Ukraine on the brink of social explosion.
Under such circumstances it is quite natural that radical, nationalist guards appear at social protest actions. The so-called volunteer battalions (some of them flaunting ultra-rightist ideology) are financed in Ukraine by big businesses – for example, by the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region, billionaire Igor Kolomoisky.
“They all belong to the oligarchs, politicians and officials, confirms Tatiana Montyan, “and they will execute any order, regardless of whether it is in accordance with the law.”
In a situation of acute social crisis, these well-armed and trained detachments may become the mainstay of the power holders in Ukraine who are rapidly losing their popularity. Today, patriotic rhetoric is becoming openly mixed with social racism and discrimination. “I arrested two separatists and it turns out one of them has tuberculosis. Now I will have the shivers every time I cough,” Michael Skildt complained recently in his Twitter account.
One of his readers explained how the disease of the poor is associated with “separatists”: “Most of them are criminals and tuberculosis is a common thing in Rus prisons,” he wrote.
But Michael Skildt, the Swedish fighter for the white race, is not discouraged. He says, “Vikings do not die from such shit.”