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Far-Right Recruited as Crimea Poll Observers

After Moscow denounces Ukrainians as "fascists", neo-Nazis are invited as impartial observers in Crimean referendum.
By Halya Coynash

The Kremlin is adamant that its intervention in the Crimea is a response to what Vladimir Putin has called an “orgy of nationalists, extremists and anti-Semites on the streets of Kiev”. 

This makes the invitations issued to representatives of the European far right to observe the March 16 referendum on whether Crimea joins Russia at very least strange. What is even more baffling is why so many neo-Nazis not only accepted the invitation, but publicly praised everything about the referendum. 

If the Russian narrative is correct, then far-right, anti-Semitic and xenophobic parties should have rallied to the right-wing Svoboda party and Right Sector movement in Ukraine, and opposed the referendum.  

The list of observers included Béla Kovács from the Hungarian far-right Jobbik Party, noted for its anti-Semitic and homophobic views; far-right Spanish politician Enrique Ravello; three representatives of the Flemish right-wing party Vlaams Belang; as well as Belgian activist Luc Michel, who began in a neo-Nazi party and now espouses National Bolshevism.

Russian National Bolsheviks have, incidentally, been calling on the faithful to defend the Kremlin line on the Crimea.They have also supported Pavel Gubarev, a former member of the neo-Nazi, Russian chauvinist Russian National Unity movement who in early March, called on the Kremlin to send troops into the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. 

The British National Party, a founding member of the Alliance of European National Movements, has also taken a pro-Kremlin approach. A March 5 statement which the Alliance issued on Ukraine was predictably anti-Semitic and bigoted, and distances the group from Ukrainian nationalists, some of whom it once had ties with. 

From the beginning of the EuroMaidan protests in Ukraine, both Viktor Yanukovich’s regime and the Kremlin expended enormous efforts on presenting the participants as rabid anti-Semites, fascists and extremists.

All attempts by major Jewish, Crimean Tatar and human rights organisations in Ukraine to set the record straight were ignored by the Russian media, and often too by their counterparts in Western countries. Not, it turns out, by Europe’s far right, which has clearly drawn its own conclusions about its ideological friends.

Halya Coynash is a journalist and a member of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of IWPR.

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