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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Ukraine : Porochenko, l’atout de l’extrême droite

by Vadim Kamenka

Ukraine: Poroshenko, The Far Right’s Trump Card

Translated Wednesday 22 April 2015, by Gene Zbikowski

In the western Ukraine, President Petro Poroshenko is trying to win as many votes as possible in the legislative elections by flirting with the theses of the far right and by standing firm as a war leader.

[Translator’s note: This article was originally published in l’Humanité on October 21, 2014.]

Lviv, Ukraine, by our special correspondent.

In Galicia, in the western Ukraine, Lviv is preparing for Sunday’s legislative elections. Along the medieval roads of this city, which was founded in the 13th century, and which is marked by Austro-Hungarian and Polish culture, the Ukrainian flags are hanging on the facades of buildings, in the bars, and on the roofs of cars. In this regional capital, a bastion of Ukrainian nationalism, the citizens’ distrust of the government grew some more on October 18.

The coming into force of a “special status” for the eastern regions (Donetsk, Lugansk) had the effect of a media bomb on Lviv, whence most of the soldiers and volunteers who fill out the ranks of the national guard (battalions made up of far right militias) come.

“In the middle of the election campaign, Petro Poroshenko is trying to present himself as a man of war and a man of peace, capable of uniting the whole nation. A way of differentiating himself from his adversaries and their hawkish line,” is the analysis in the Kiev Times.

In Lviv, a goodly part of the 800,000 inhabitants express a lot of incomprehension, when they had been promised the unity of the country. In the name of the national effort, many families accepted military mobilizations and grief to fight “the terrorists” and “the Russian invader.” Hence it is incomprehension that dominates.

In Ivan Franco square, near the university, Volodomir, a history student, says indignantly: “In the final analysis, they continue to lie to us like the previous governments. This elite will never represent us. Why accept autonomy now, after thousands of deaths? Galicia ought to have its independence, too.” He is going to vote for Svoboda (a neo-Nazi far right party), which obtains its best results in Galicia.

The strategy of the president’s party (the Poroshenko Bloc), which is leading in the opinion polls, could well boost the nationalist organizations and his direct opponent, Oleg Liashko, the extremist from the Radical Party (13%). Liashko is opposed to any conciliation with the eastern regions, where he even fought at the head of a militia.

“In Galicia, Liashko should come in ahead of Svoboda (5%), which is experiencing a certain fall [in popularity] due to its having been in government and due to the growing number of parties that are close to the far right or are openly fascist, like Pravyi Sektor,” says Elena Chaltseva, a political scientist.

For the inhabitants of Galicia, it’s a new disillusionment.

What is provided for in the “special status” accorded to the Donbass region in the eastern Ukraine? For the representatives of the peoples republics of Lugansk (LNR) and Donetsk (LDR), “it’s independence.” For the Ukrainian government, it’s a matter “of self-rule” for a certain number of districts in the Donbass, set up for a three-year period beginning on October 18.

While this point was part of the peace accords signed on Sept. 5 in Minsk in Belarus by the representatives of the insurgents and the Ukrainian authorities, for the inhabitants of Galicia it is a new disillusionment. The government isn’t keeping the commitments announced at the end of the Maidan revolt, which had begun a year earlier. Lviv was one of the driving forces of this movement, which resulted in the overthrow of the former president, Viktor Yanukovich.

This miscontent could well relaunch the protests. The war made it possible to mask, for a while, the economic difficulties and the unkept promises. “But what form would this movement take in a society that is at war, and is marked by divisions and by violence?” Elena Chaltseva asks.

In the streets of Lviv on October 14, thousands of people celebrated the 72nd anniversary of the creation of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) (a Ukrainian militia that collaborated with Nazi forces in the massacre of Jews and Russians). That same day in Kiev, 4,000 of them, helped by the national guard volunteers from the Azov and Aydar battalions (which are accused of perpetrating war crimes) attempted to seize parliament.

This mobilization frightens a portion of the politicians and the Ukrainians who are impotently witnessing the rise of fascist forces. “Their return comes from the banalization of their ideas by successive governments, which have wanted to siphon off votes from Svoboda. The present government is going further by tabling a bill to recognize the combatants of the UPA as heroes,” said Anatoli Sokoliuk, of the Ukrainian Communist Party (KPU). This third Maidan will not be progressive.

An agreement on natural gas arrived at between Kiev and Moscow. The Ukrainians should not suffer from cold this winter. This is what the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, has announced, explaining on television on October 18 that an agreement had been reached with Russia on the question of natural gas. “I can say that the Ukraine will have natural gas, there will be heating,” he stated. But this accord has not been finalized. “It depends on other factors, including the payment of the debt” by the Ukraine, a representative of the Russian company Gazprom said more moderately. According to Russia, the Ukrainian debt amounts to 4.5 billion dollars (3.5 billion euros).

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