Bandera and the Atlantic Council

This is the first installment of a two-part series about the present-day Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists-Bandera (OUN-B)’s pull with influential groups in Washington ostensibly advocating on behalf of Ukraine.

Official launch of the Atlantic Council's partnership with the Ukrainian World Congress, September 2014

The Atlantic Council (AC), the “semi-official think tank of NATO” that has championed a new Cold War with Russia, is well known for influence peddling. The Council has been connected to several Ukrainian oligarchs, namely Victor Pinchuk, who founded the Yalta European Strategy (YES) conference in 2004 to promote Ukraine’s membership in the European Union; Rinat Akhmetov, formerly the chief financial backer of the pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, chased from Ukraine by protests hijacked by the far-right and triggered by his decision not to sign an association agreement with the EU in 2013; and Mykola Zlochevsky, the founder and president of Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian gas company that Hunter Biden infamously joined the board of soon after Yanukovych’s government was swept from power in 2014.

Also evidently attempting to influence the United States government’s Ukraine policy via the Atlantic Council is what remains of the WW2-era pro-Nazi Ukrainian fascist leader Stepan Bandera’s postwar transnational underground network. Relatively few seem to realize, let alone appreciate, the extent to which the crypto-fascist Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists-Bandera (OUN-B) operates in 21st century Ukraine and especially the Ukrainian diaspora. Bandera’s sworn followers above all appear to exert influence in the Atlantic Council via the Center for US-Ukrainain Relations, more than likely an OUN-B front, and the Banderite-led Ukrainian World Congress, which officially partnered with the Atlantic Council in 2014 to implement the latter’s “Ukraine in Europe Initiative.” 

The CIA didn’t back Bandera, but nevertheless whitewashed his wartime followers and helped facilitate, if only indirectly, his cultish supporters’ takeover of the Ukrainian diaspora during the Cold War via the OUN-B’s Organizations of the Ukrainian Liberation Front. This postwar coalition of Banderite NGOs formally united internationally as the World Ukrainian Liberation Front after the 1967 creation of the World Congress of Free Ukrainians, what is now called the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC). The “Liberation Front,” which is today technically a member of the UWC, has adopted numerous names after the collapse of the Soviet Union, including the Organizations of the Ukrainian State Front, the Coordination Council of State Organizations in Ukraine, and the World Conference of Ukrainian State Organizations, but these days it is best known in English as the International Council in Support of Ukraine (ICSU).

In the meantime, the Banderites have led the Ukrainian World Congress at least since 1998, when Askold Lozynskyj, a conniving attorney and OUN-B operative in the US for the past several decades, became its leader. After his 10-year term as UWC president ended in 2008, he became the chairman of the ICSU, the global coordinating body of OUN-B affiliated NGOs, which are also UWC members. “There isn't a politician in the United States,” Lozynskyj declared in 1997, “who will ignore or would ignore the Ukrainian American community or the issues which the Ukrainian community holds dear.” That has only become more true, but few if any US politicians appear to be cognizant of the Banderites’ co-opting of the organized Ukrainian American community.

After Askold Lozynskyj became the president of the UWC in addition to the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA)—taken over by the “Liberation Front” in 1980—the conservative Ukrainian American columnist Myron Kuropas, who himself used to be associated with a rival faction of the OUN, opined that Lozynskyj is “someone I have known (and disagreed with) for decades. He is bright, brash, articulate (often given to demagoguery), thoroughly bilingual and dynamic. I have watched him mature over the years from a firebrand Banderite to a more nuanced Banderite.” Over twenty years later, Kuropas has said, “In retrospect I don't see Askold maturing for the better politically. He seems to still follow Bandera's dictum that ‘those who are not with us are against us.’ He still seems to push for OUN-B domination of the Ukrainian American community.” Of course, the transnational OUN-B’s goals extend far beyond the United States, but the Ukrainian American community and its allies in Washington are an important asset for the Bandera cultists in their perpetual struggle to take over Ukraine.

The Ukrainian World Congress

Ever since Canadian Banderites succeeded Lozynskyj as the presidents of the UWC and ICSU in 2008 and 2013, respectively, both international organizations have been headquartered in Toronto. Eugene Czolij, former president of the OUN-B’s international Ukrainian Youth Association (Спілка української молоді, CYM) and more recently the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC), became the new president of the UWC in 2008. He was succeeded by Paul Grod, another UCC leader and fellow “CYMivtsi,” in 2018.

Those “elections” to the World Congress saw Stefan Romaniw, longtime chairman of the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organizations and former CYM leader in Australia, named general secretary and then first vice president of the UWC. In 2009, the year Romaniw became the new global OUN-B leader, he spoke at an event at Stepan Bandera’s grave in Munich honoring that year as the 100th anniversary of his birth, as did Lozynskyj and Czolij. Three years later in Munich, Czolij addressed an ICSU conference, held in part to honor the belated 100th birthday of the late Yaroslav Stetsko—Bandera’s deputy, ideologist, and successor, who was likewise a fascist war criminal, Nazi collaborator, and anti-Semite.

After the 2013-14 “Euromaidan” (aka the “Revolution of Dignity”) in Kyiv, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the spark of an armed conflict in eastern Ukraine between the new Western-backed Ukrainian government and Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas, the Atlantic Council launched its Ukraine in Europe Initiative following a visit to the United States by Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the new Prime Minister of Ukraine. Part of that initiative included the AC’s “UkraineAlert” newsletter, for which Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Irena Chalupa shortly became a leading contributor. Although she briefly conceded in an article that year that Bandera collaborated with Nazi Germany, Chalupa has apparently never publicly acknowledged that before her stint with the US broadcaster RFE/RL, she worked for Stetsko in the OUN-B’s Cold War-era international headquarters building in Munich.

By the summer of 2014, in the words of Atlantic Council CEO Fred Kempe, the AC had initiated a “critical partnership” with the Ukrainian World Congress to implement the Ukraine in Europe Initiative. The AC-UWC partnership became official that September with the signing of an agreement between Kempe and Czolij in conjunction with a visit to the Atlantic Council by the Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. According to a press release by the AC, its “strategic partnership” with the UWC, intended to “strengthen the Council’s efforts to help counteract Russian disinformation campaigns via products such as UkraineAlert,” was initiated with the support of George Chopivsky Jr., a Ukrainian American businessman and philanthropist who had recently joined the Atlantic Council board of directors.

Also supportive of the partnership was Natalie Jaresko and Lenna Koszarny of Horizon Capital, “the leading private equity firm in Ukraine.” According to its website, Horizon Capital was founded “as a spin-out of the investment management team of Western NIS Enterprise Fund (WNISEF),” a $150 million investment fund financed by the U.S. government’s Agency for International Development (USAID) and based in Chicago. A few months after helping ink the AC-UWC partnership, the Chicago-born Jaresko was appointed the Finance Minister of Ukraine, and in 2018, Koszarny became a vice president of the Ukrainian World Congress, by which time Poroshenko had unsuccessfully sought US support to make Jaresko the Prime Minister of Ukraine, who was instead dismissed and joined the Atlantic Council as a distinguished fellow. Also in 2018, Marta Farion, a periodic UkraineAlert contributor and vice president of the UCCA’s Illinois Division, allegedly run by OUN-B officers, joined the WNISEF’s board of directors.

Shortly before Natalie Jaresko became an AC fellow, Ulana Suprun, the UWC’s Director of Humanitarian Initiatives and plausibly a sworn member of the OUN-B, was appointed the acting Healthcare Minister of Ukraine, in which capacity she became the darling of the Atlantic Council, a friend of the Ukrainian far-right, and one of the most prominent Banderites in the world. Also born and raised in the United States, Suprun probably met Yaroslav Stetsko when she was just 18 years old at an event they both spoke at in Detroit honoring the 40th anniversary of the OUN-B’s attempt to create a Nazi client state in western Ukraine.

Since her dismissal from the government by Porosenko’s successor Volodymyr Zelenskiy in 2019, Ulana Suprun has thrown in her lot with the anti-Zelenskiy “Capitulation Resistance Movement,” which is evidently led behind the scenes by the OUN-B’s proxies in Ukraine, supported by Poroshenko, and seemingly aspires to overthrow Zelenskiy’s government via another “Maidan” revolution that promises to be bloodier than in 2013-14. In any case, its representatives have made numerous thinly veiled threats to Zelenskiy, and downplay the legitimacy of his landslide election last spring. The “Resistance Movement” is spearheaded by an NGO called “Free People,” which is a member of the ICSU, aligned with Poroshenko’s “European Solidarity” party, and was created by the OUN-B’s Youth Nationalist Congress.

Despite almost universal praise for Suprun’s reforms by Western “experts” and the Ukrainian diaspora, Zelenskiy has blamed them for the Ukrainian health care system’s unpreparedness to tackle COVID-19. “The coronavirus has shown what kind of medical reform it was — hospitals aren’t ready, there aren’t enough beds for infected patients, salaries are very low, medical infrastructure is missing,” he said recently. Meanwhile, she’s alleged, “The Russian world is a threat that’s scarier than coronavirus,” and the so-called “Capitulation Resistance Movement” (Рух опору капітуляції, ROK) organized an anti-Zelenskiy protest in Kyiv almost immediately once the Ukrainian capital’s quarantine lockdown ended, at which there was a very significant far-right presence.

The AC’s UkraineAlert has described the ROK as “a democratic movement made up of distinguished Ukrainian diplomats and experts,” despite the ambitions of its right-wing vanguard to topple a government that was democratically elected by unprecedented margins and enjoys significantly more popular support than the “Resistance.” Just days before the October 2019 launch of the “Free People”-led ROK and its threatening ultimatum to the Ukrainian president regarding his prospective peace negotiations with Russia, the Banderite-led UWC, UCCA, and UCC simultaneously issued similar ultimatums.

Since 2018, there has been a sideshow at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland purporting to showcase the “new Ukraine.” Supported by familiar groups—the Pinchuk Foundation, Horizon Capital, and the Ukrainian World Congress, among others—the executive director of “Ukraine House Davos” is Alexa Chopivsky, the daughter of George Chopivsky Jr., who is by now not only a member of the Atlantic Council’s board of directors but its executive committee. (The Chopivsky Family Foundation is in the same category of financial support for the AC as Burisma Holdings: $100,000 to $249,000 per year.) Last summer, the Canadian government hosted “Ukraine House Toronto,” apparently a one-time affair, with the UWC as an official partner of the event. Two Ukrainian “reformists” favored in the West who are evidently friends of the OUN-B were among the featured speakers: Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, former executive director of Pinchuk’s YES conference, and Hanna Hopko. Also promoted at the Toronto event was a film starring Askold Lozynskyj’s son. 

To be sure, this is not to say that Banderites are pulling the strings of “Ukraine House,” but they remain relatively close to the action, thanks to their long-term efforts, and in large part due to the Ukrainian World Congress. The AC’s George Chopivsky Jr. may very well not be an OUN-B backer, but perhaps hoodwinked by the Bandera cultists, he has in the past lent his support to what is quite possibly the most influential 21st century OUN-B front in the United States, the Center for US-Ukrainian Relations (CUSUR), which has also received support from the Atlantic Council. Chopivsky even joined the Banderite-dominated steering committee of CUSUR’s star-studded inaugural event in 2000, hosted by the Library of Congress and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Center for US-Ukrainian Relations

Walter Zaryckyj, the chairman of the Ukrainian World Congress’ International Scholarly Council and allegedly the US leader of the OUN-B, is the longtime executive director and program coordinator of the Center for US-Ukrainian Relations, which has sponsored dozens of high-profile conferences, most of them in Washington DC. In any case, as I have already explained, the CUSUR has always been spearheaded by prominent Banderites.

10 Atlantic Council “experts” or leaders, including Paula Dobriansky, Michael Carpenter, John Herbst, Anders Åslund, Ian Brzezinski, and Damon Wilson, have spoken almost a combined 100 times at the Center’s events, although they did not necessarily do so representing the AC. Indeed some spoke to CUSUR before joining the Atlantic Council. Nevertheless the Council has been a patron or sponsor for half a dozen CUSUR events over the years, not including a joint CUSUR-AC panel discussion about the results of Ukraine’s 2007 parliamentary elections held in the Atlantic Council’s conference room and moderated by its CEO. 

Ulana Suprun’s parents have also been particularly supportive of the Center for US-Ukrainian Relations. In addition to sponsoring or providing funds for a handful of its events, the CUSUR acquired its DC bureau in 2012 thanks to their financial support. That year in Chicago, about six weeks after the aforementioned ICSU conference in Munich, the Center organized a conference under the auspices of the ICSU in anticipation of the 2012 NATO summit held in Chicago. John Herbst and Ian Brzezinski were among the featured speakers.

The event produced a communique on behalf of the presidents of the North American member organizations of the ICSU. Earlier that year, the ICSU sent a letter, signed by its chairman and secretary at the time, Askold Lozynskyj and Borys Potapenko, respectively, to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that stated, “we support regime change in Ukraine as the only viable way for Ukraine to return to its democratic course that is severely undermined by the Yanukovych regime.” 

During the 2013-14 “Revolution of Dignity,” Suprun was in contact with the ICSU’s Potapenko, also from Michigan, who served as an interpreter for the OUN-B deputy leader Oleh Medunytsya during his visit to the United States in early February 2014. According to a local New York newspaper, Medunytsya’s tour of the Ukrainian American community was “scheduled to culminate at the White House in Washington, D.C., during a prayer breakfast with Pres. Barack Obama.” His visit was likely coordinated by the CUSUR and/or US division of the ICSU.

Medunytsya, in addition to being a member of Ukraine’s parliament, served as the deputy commander of the Maidan Self-Defense Forces, the official militia of the anti-Yanukovych protest movement. Banderite leaders arranged the 2015 and 2016 visits to the US of Andriy Parubiy, the far-right commander of the Maidan Self-Defense turned leading politician in Ukraine. As the new secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Parubiy did a webcast with Damon Wilson, executive vice president of the Atlantic Council, in March 2014. Wilson and Herbst met with Parubiy that summer when they visited Kyiv. At that time, the AC’s partnership with the UWC was taking shape. Parubiy has since served as the chairman of Ukraine’s parliament (2016-19), and is today the deputy leader of Petro Poroshenko’s political party, second only to the “Chocolate King” himself.

In the autumn of 2014, Banderite leaders in the US spearheaded the creation of a new group called the Ad Hoc Committee for Ukraine (AHCU). Several months before he became a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, Ariel Cohen joined the board of directors of the AHCU, the executive committee of which was chaired by Mykola Hryckowian, the head of CUSUR’s Washington DC bureau. The executive committee also included several members of the ICSU, such as Borys Potapenko, who chaired the AHCU’s “legislative subcommittee.”

According to Hryckowian and Potapenko, the AHCU played a central role in the passage of the 2014 Ukraine Freedom Support Act and the creation of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, as well as arranging Andriy Parubiy’s aforementioned visits to the United States. In 2016, that included a speaking event at the Atlantic Council and a meeting with Michael Carpenter, then the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, who has since become an AC senior fellow. Parubiy spoke at the same CUSUR events as John Herbst and Michael Carpenter in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

February 2017 is apparently the first time that a representative of the OUN-B affiliated “Free People” appeared at a roundtable discussion organized by the Center for US-Ukrainian Relations. “Free People” leader Andriy Levus did so twice in 2017, in the company of the Atlantic Council’s Adrian Karatnycky, Anders Aslund, and John Herbst. In October, the AC’s UkraineAlert featured an article based on an interview with Levus, concluding with a quote from him: “The revolution will be when we are free people.” Levus also spoke at two CUSUR events in 2018 and 2019 each, including once with OUN-B leader Stefan Romaniw last summer. By that time, Melinda Haring, deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, had optimistically referred to Hanna Hopko, Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Sergiy Kvit, Andriy Levus, and Serhiy Vysotsky as a “group worth watching.” Vysotsky is also with Free People, and Kvit a former Education Minister and prior captain in the OUN-B oriented paramilitary group, the “Stepan Bandera All-Ukrainian Organization ‘Trident,’” who is now a member of the “Capitulation Resistance Movement” (ROK)’s “Strategic Council.”

Levus hasn’t made it to the United States thus far in 2020, but a member of the “Strategic Council” has, that is, Volodymyr Vasylenko, who is also a member of the so-called “Ukrainian Strategic Institute” (USI)—by all appearances, another OUN-B front. Founding members of the USI’s board of directors include Levus, Medunytsya, and Potapenko. Michael Carpenter, John Herbst, and Alexander Verhsbow, all Atlantic Council “experts,” spoke at the same March 2020 CUSUR event as Vasylenko. I, too, briefly attended, before CUSUR’s Banderite leaders, Walter Zaryckyj and Mykola Hryckowian, removed me from the event. Hryckowian got up off his panel with Carpenter to do so. It remains unclear if the Atlantic Council’s friends of the OUN-B are aware of who they are dealing with; perhaps I was told to leave to keep it that way.

Mykola Hryckowian, left, and Walter Zaryckyj, right, with me, having asked to take a photo together after telling me to leave CUSUR's 11th annual "Security Dialogue," March 5, 2020

It is often pointed out that far-right groups in Ukraine, such as Svoboda and Azov’s National Corps, receive relatively few votes in elections. Contrary to speculation by Kyiv’s Ukrainian Week magazine back in 2016 that Free People’s transformation into a political party was imminent, the Banderite NGO has so far neglected to take that step, likely recognizing that it does not enjoy popular support. The Atlantic Council’s (perhaps unwitting) relationship with the remnants of the OUN-B is important because it boosts the profile of the latter’s undemocratic proxies. For example, when UkraineAlert published a statement by ROK, the AC newsletter conflated the “Free People”-led “Resistance Movement” with “Kyiv,” as if it speaks for the government it so vigorously opposes. If the Atlantic Council really wishes to support Ukraine, maybe it should not associate with those who seek to overturn the will of the Ukrainian people and violently overthrow their government. After all, if the ROK instigated another revolution, it may very well lose control to more radical nationalists, particularly the Azov movement.

In the next installment of this series, we will take a look at the Banderites’ relationship with a lesser known but also influential think-tank, the American Foreign Policy Council, the leadership of which has less plausible deniability.

UPDATE: I missed somebody in the Atlantic Council, and wrote a new post about it.