Publication: Prism Volume: 2 Issue: 14

A New Empire Under the Yellow and Blue Flag?

By Vasily Andreev

Everybody has heard about the Ukrainian nationalists, however,few know about them in any detail. Their past is shrouded in mythsand legends and nearly the same can be said about their present.

"Nationalist" organizations in Ukraine today are thosethat place more emphasis on asserting national independence thanon resolving Ukraine’s economic and social problems. The ideaof the superiority of the Ukrainian nation is either absent ornot strongly manifested in the programs of the majority of theUkraine’s nationalist organizations. And no great significanceis attached to the Jewish issue. Perhaps this is because the proportionof Jews in Ukraine’s population is very small now.

As far as the attitude towards the Russians is concerned, it differsbetween different organizations and even between the regionalbranches of one and the same organization. In general, the wellknown aversion of the Ukrainians towards "Moskals"(a Ukrainian disparaging name for the Russians) is fed by fearthat Moscow may return to an imperial policy and attempt to incorporateUkraine. The attitude of the Ukrainians towards the ethnic Russiansin Ukraine is neutral.

The People’s Rukh of Ukraine was one of the first nationalistmovements in Ukraine. During 1989 and 1990, Rukh was theleading political force in Ukraine. Since that time and untilthe present, Rukh has served as the main coordinator ofthe Ukraine’s democratic and national-democratic political forces.

In the field of foreign affairs, Rukh advocates a policyfor Ukraine of reorientation toward the West. At the same time,Rukh’s leader, Vyacheslav Chornovil criticizes those movementswhich oppose Ukraine’s developing relations with Russia. He hassaid that the need for Ukraine to sign a political treaty withRussia has long ripened but the slow pace of the development ofrelations is due to those in Moscow who have an "imperialcomplex" and still refuse to view Ukraine as an equal partnerand a fully sovereign state.

As far as the Black Sea Fleet problem is concerned, Rukhsuggests that the Russian Fleet be granted the status of a foreignmilitary unit temporarily present in Ukraine. A group of Ukrainiandeputies who were elected on Rukh’s slate have prepareda draft law that provides for the problem of the Fleet to be resolvedin this manner and are seeking to have the draft adopted as soonas possible.

Rukh is against Russia’s establishing control (in any form)of the city of Sevastopol and the Sevastopol harbor.

Rukh generally supports the idea of developing integrationwithin the framework of the CIS but it is against Russia’s rolein the CIS being overstated. Rukh members are also criticalof the aspirations of the Russian leadership to artificially (asRukh leaders put it) accelerate the process of integrationbetween the CIS states. Vyacheslav Chornovil has denounced theRussian-Belarus treaty on increased integration stating that thistreaty was imposed on the Belarus people by Moscow politicianswho have imperial ambitions, and the pro-Russian Lukashenko administration.It was to a large extent thanks to the efforts of Rukhactivists that official Kiev agreed to grant political asylumto Belarus Popular Front leader Zenon Poznyak who was forced toleave his country due to persecution.

As regards internal policy, Rukh’s program is based upongenerally recognized liberal-democratic principles, such as afree market economy, the equality of citizens regardless of race,nationality or religion, etc.

Recently, Rukh has devoted much effort to combating thethreat of a Communist revival in Ukraine. In April 1996, at theinitiative of the Donetsk territorial branch of Rukh, aforum of Ukraine’s national-democratic organizations was held.The participants called for a campaign to have the activitiesof the Communist Party of Ukraine banned throughout the country.The majority of Rukh activists believe that the major threatto Ukraine’s independence comes from the Communists, both domesticones and their Moscow comrades.

Rukh‘s major political rival (in the nationalist camp)is the UNA-UNSO (Ukrainian National Assembly — Ukrainian NationalSelf-Defense).

UNA was established in July 1990. UNSO was established in August1991, in response to the coup in Moscow, as a paramilitary formationof the UNA. UNA is led by Supreme Rada (parliament) deputyOleg Vitovich and UNSO head Dmitry Korchinsky.

UNA-UNSO has approximately 6,000-8,000 members, of whom 3,000-4,000are UNSO fighters. UNA-UNSO has 46 regional branches throughoutUkraine.

The motto of UNA-UNSO is "Force, Order, Prosperity"and it sees its paramount task as a restoration of a Slavic empireunited around "Great Ukraine." It wants Kiev to resumeits position as the center of Slavdom and world capital of Orthodoxy.In the longer run it plans for Ukraine to become a superpower.UNA-UNSO propagandists often use the term "empire" butthey refrain from explaining what meaning they attach to it thusleaving the possibility of a rather wide interpretation.

UNA-UNSO is against democracy in the Western understanding butit promises order and stability to the citizens of Ukraine. Aftercoming to power it plans to raise the role and prestige of theArmy, police and secret services. It also seeks 100 percent jobplacement and to protect the national capital.

UNA-UNSO advocates the unification of all Ukrainians behind thenational idea. In eastern Ukraine, where the public attitude towardRussians has traditionally been friendly, UNA-UNSO propagandistsoften omit the "Russian issue" in their speeches. Inwestern Ukraine, where, according to the polls, only 21 percentof the population advocate close cooperation with Russia (see"Ukrainsky Shlyakh," June 12, 1995) they deliberatelyfoment anti-Russian moods.

UNA-UNSO’s stance toward Russia, as a state, has traditionallybeen hostile. UNA-UNSO proclaims its goal as seeking eventually– a complete disintegration of the "Russian empire."However, they do not plan to have Russia destroyed completely,but reduced to the role of Ukraine’s "junior partner."As soon as those in Moscow recognize Kiev’s leading role in theSlavic world and throughout the post-Soviet space a close union(according to UNA-UNSO program) between the two peoples and twostates will be possible, in the first place — to oppose Muslimsand Turks whom UNA-UNSO considers to be the enemies of the Slavsand hence — the enemies of Russia and Ukraine.

UNA-UNSO has a large number of well-trained militants, a totalof approximately 1,000 men. Up to 50 percent of them have theexperience of taking part in military actions (in Yugoslavia (forthe Croats), in Trans-Dniester (against the Moldovans), in Abkhazia(for Georgia) and in Nagorno-Karabakh (for Azerbaijan)). The militantsare trained mainly by former KGB officers. Located not far fromLvov is a special military camp for training junior-rank commandersfor UNSO detachments.

UNA-UNSO militants have actively engaged in the Chechen war (insupport of Dudaev). A first group of UNA-UNSO militants arrivedin Chechnya in January, 1995. A total of approximately 200 Ukrainianfighters have enlisted in the Chechen separatist army; approximatelyhalf of them formed a separate Ukrainian detachment while therest (in groups numbering 10-15 men) joined different Chechenunits. Ukrainian casualties in the Chechen war amount to some10 men killed and another 20 wounded.

UNA-UNSO assisted Dudaev supporters in several other ways. UNA-UNSOmembers helped place wounded Chechen fighters in Ukraine’s hospitalsand Crimean sanitariums; several groups of Dudaev fighters tooktraining courses at UNSO camps located in Ukraine; UNSO’s intelligenceshared their information with Dudaev’s units.

In Ukraine, UNA-UNSO members were actively involved in the pogromsof Orthodox churches. In 1994 in Lvov a UNA-UNSO militant waskilled in a clash with the police (he was robbing a commercialshop). The criminal case was immediately inflated into a politicalone, and the "hero" was given a ceremonial funeral.

The UNA-UNSO’s framework contains a secret service, disguisedas "External Documentation Department." The Departmentis supervised by UNA Executive Committee Chairman V. Melnink andthe majority of the Department’s employees are former intelligenceofficers.

Anatoly Lupinos, the chairman of UNA-UNSO’s political department,visited the U.S. in 1992 where he established contacts with anumber of extremist ultraright organizations. On his way back,he visited Ireland where he met with the leaders of the IrishRepublican Army. According to some sources, UNA-UNSO suppliesarms (through secret channels) to Ireland and Ulster.

In Russia, UNA-UNSO at one time maintained contacts with the fascistRussian National Unity group (led by Alexander Barkashov). InFebruary, 1996 UNA-UNSO exchanged delegations with the RussianNational Bolshevik Party (led by Eduard Limonov) and the People’sNational Party (led by A. Ivanov-Sukharevsky). An agreement onjoint action against the "corrupt democratic regimes"and "anti-national governments" of both states was reached.At present, the party led by A. Ivanov- Sukharevsky representsthe interests of UNA-UNSO in Russia.

Ukrainian law-enforcement agencies tend to view the UNA- UNSOmilitants as ordinary hoodlums not posing any real danger. Independentexperts, however, maintain that UNA-UNSO, with its 1,000 militantsand 100 well-trained saboteurs and snipers, could shake Ukrainewith a series of terrorist acts in the style of Islamic extremists,Red Brigades or Irish Republican Army.

Another influential nationalist party is the Ukrainian RepublicanParty which has Levko Lukianenko, a long time Soviet era politicalprisoner, as its honorary chairman. The URP views the questionof building an independent and integral Ukrainian state as thenecessary condition for an economic, political and spiritual (cultural)revival of the peoples living in Ukraine. Much less space (inURP’s program documents) is devoted to economic and social problems.The URP, like Rukh and other organizations of this kind,generally supports the idea of building a democratic and law-governedstate with a Western-style free market economy.

Recently, the URP has devoted much attention to the problem ofstrengthening the Ukrainian Army and secret services, includingopposing the "pro-Russian forces" which have degradedthe Army and made it something for "enemies to scoff at."

Besides the UNA-UNSO, the radical wing of the Ukrainian nationalistsis represented by three large organizations and a considerablenumber of smaller groups which are scarcely known.

On June 7, 1992 the Ukrainian Conservative Republican Party (UCRP)was established under the chairmanship of Stepan Khmara. Formerlya dissident and human rights activist Stepan Khmara, like manyother politicians of this orientation, adopted nationalist positionsin the late 1980s.

According to many experts, the UCRP embraces the most irreconcilablesection of the Ukrainian nationalists. The UCRP openly proclaimsits goal as "overthrowing the Russian empire" with norestraint being specified as to means. Ukraine, according to theUCRP, should pursue a policy aimed at causing the Russian Federationto collapse. Only after the Russian Federation has collapsed willUkraine be free from mortal danger, they maintain. The arena ofthe fight, they note, might be the territory of the "empire,"i.e. Russia.

In the summer of 1992 UCRP activists together with UNA-UNSO militantsarrived in Sevastopol to conduct propaganda against the divisionof the Black Sea Fleet. They held their action under slogans like"Crimea is Ukraine’s or Depopulated!." The UCRP activistsled by Stepan Khmara staged a number of major street scuffleswith the sailors of the Black Sea Fleet.

The only noticeable organization which proclaims "Ukraineis for the Ukrainians!" is the "Ukrainian State Independence"organizational The movement has its own paramilitary formation,the "Varta," commanded by Vladimir Stadnichenko.Only "pure" ethnic Ukrainians are admitted to membershipof the "Ukrainian State Independence" movement as wellas to "Varta."

"Ukrainian State Independence" (USI) does not engagein any active political activity in the traditional meaning ofthe term. The movement focuses on military training and ideologicalwork among its members and "Varta" fighters.

In general, the Ukrainian nationalists support presidential power,and if they criticize it, they criticize it for being "notsufficiently consistent" in asserting the interests of theUkrainian state. Ukrainian nationalists are in opposition to theSupreme Rada (parliament) which is dominated by the left. Theyconstitute about 20 per cent of the Supreme Rada and opposethe Communists and the factions which ally with the Communists.

According to independent estimates, 15 percent of the populationactively support the nationalists. This is approximately the totalnumber of the votes received by the nationalistic parties in theelections to the Supreme Rada held in April 1994. Of thisnumber, three-quarters support the moderate nationalist parties.The idea of the preservation and strengthening of Ukraine’s independenceis supported by a large part of the population. However, publicattention is now increasingly consumed by difficult and stillunresolved economic and social problems. Therefore, much moreinfluential are those parties which focus on social and economicissues.

The current situation of Ukraine’s nationalists can be characterizedas stable in all respects. Given this situation, only externalfactors, for example, an eventual Communist victory in Russia,might promote an increase in nationalism in Ukraine.

Translated by Aleksandr Kondorsky