The other day, a Ukrainian NGO, “Free People,” shared on its Facebook page a statement by the present-day leadership of the long dead Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera’s surviving “Revolutionaries” wing of the fascist Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN-B), which collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War 2. Referencing the recent shake-up in the government, the statement was titled “on the Formation of a ‘Capitulation and Revenge Coalition’ in Ukraine.” Someone commented on the Facebook post: “OUN (b) [still] exists?”
Behind the creation of “Free People” in 2013-2014 was the Youth Nationalist Congress (MNK), founded in 2001 on the OUN-B’s initiative. “Free People” plays an outsized role in the so-called “Capitulation Resistance Movement” of 2019-2020, more than likely as an OUN-B front group. The Movement however describes itself as “a broad-based, non-partisan, peaceful and law-abiding nationwide civic campaign.”
In 2015, a German journalist named Felix Blatt embedded himself in a two-week long, “bootcamp style” MNK summer camp. Its members acknowledged that their Congress has cooperated with far-right groups, but only out of necessity. They claimed the OUN-B’s militiant youth organization “wants to have nothing to do with [neo-Nazi] parties like Svoboda and claims to be also different from groups ‘of bald rowdies in army boots, who beat up foreigners’”—such as the notoriously neo-fascist, but also OUN-B oriented, Right Sector.
“With such groups,” Blatt reported, the MNK and its ostensibly respectable Bandera followers “try to stay away if possible. They promote a kind of ‘positive’ nationalism—whatever that may be.” One member told the German journalist about “Free People,” describing it as a “second organization” set up by the Youth Nationalist Congress to “provide clothing and equipment for both the regular troops and the volunteer battalions” fighting Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. The German asked, who finances such an operation? The answer: “We carry out fundraising trips to Canada...”
During the Cold War, Bandera’s cultish followers set up numerous émigré organizations that have lived to support their comrades in post-Soviet Ukraine. “We were there from the first days of the Revolution of Dignity,” the MNK’s leader at the time, Serhii Kuzan, told an audience in Toronto in early 2015 amidst a 24-day tour of Canada organized by the OUN-B affiliated League of Ukrainian Canadians (LUC) and its Friends of Ukraine Defense Forces Fund. “Free People,” Kuzan explained, “was the name of our fourteenth company of the Maidan Self-Defence [MSD] units,” the civilian militia force that organized much of the muscle behind Ukraine’s 2013-2014 “Euromaidan” protest movement.
Today, the “neo-Nationalist” Banderivtsi are neo-Nazi collaborators, whether they like it or not, who apparently seek to bridge the gap between the center-right “national democrats” and the violent far-right, and get the OUN-B’s long awaited “national revolution” back on track—which at least historically aimed to establish a one-party fascist dictatorship in Ukraine. “Free People” and the MNK are both headquartered in the same building as the OUN-B in Kyiv. According to its Facebook page, so is the “Capitulation Resistance Movement.”
The MNK, in fact, was first conceived of as the youth wing of the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists (CUN), the OUN-B’s political party in post-Soviet Ukraine. The CUN, founded in 1993, established a paramilitary branch, the “Stepan Bandera All-Ukrainian Organization ‘Trident,’” which twenty years later spearheaded the creation of Right Sector. Adopting the red-and-black flag of the OUN-B’s Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), Right Sector formed the 23rd company of the Maidan Self-Defense and led many of the riots in Kyiv in early 2014— especially after President Viktor Yanukovych signed the “dictatorship laws” in mid-January. Volodymyr Ishchenko, writing for The Guardian, noted at the time:
The Right Sector did not appear from nowhere, although many media and liberal protesters preferred to ignore their existence. They were active participants in the protest from the very beginning, interested not so much in European association as the “national revolution” … Many protesters, who could not imagine themselves throwing stones and molotovs at the police line before, joined the violence of the extreme right, frustrated at the lack of progress after coming each Sunday to listen to the same talks from opposition leaders.
The MSD Commandant Andriy Parubiy co-founded the 1990s neo-Nazi “Social National Party of Ukraine” (SNPU) and led its paramilitary branch, the Patriot of Ukraine. The latter was abolished and Parubiy parted ways with the SNPU when it reinvented itself as Svoboda (“Liberty” or “Freedom”) in 2004. A decade later, after the Euromaidan, the white nationalist paramilitary leader became a pro-EU statesman, but never renounced his far-right beliefs. Initially Parubiy served as secretary of Ukraine’s National Security Council, and the MNK leader turned “Free People” coordinator Serhii Kuzan was appointed an advisor of his.
Sometime in 2013-2014, Vilni Liudy, or “Free People,” was established as an NGO led by Andriy Levus, a longtime associate of Andriy Parubiy. During the “Revolution of Dignity,” Levus led the MSD’s command center. Meanwhile, the deputy leader of the OUN-B (at least in 2013-2014), Oleh Medunytsia, the second-ever head of the MNK, had been put in charge of the protest camp on Kyiv’s Independence Square. Afterwards, Levus joined Medunytsia as a member of parliament with the new Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s right-wing “Popular Front” party, and became the deputy head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).
In her 2017 book Ukraine and the Empire of Capital, Yuliya Yurchenko argued that there was no “neo-Nazi coup” in February 2014, but that nevertheless the Ukrainian far-right began to carry out a “passive revolution” after the so-called “Revolution of Dignity.” In short, neo-Nazis and neo-Nationalists didn’t fully seize power, as alleged by many opponents of the new government, but deeply penetrated various spheres of the state under the presidency of Petro Poroshenko. It was three years ago that she concluded her book, “Ukraine is pregnant with the next, more violent Maidan.”
The neo-Nationalists’ contributions to such a “passive revolution” were led in part by Volodymyr Viatrovych, the former director of the dubious “Center for the Study of the Liberation Movement” (TsDVR) and the highly problematic Lonsky Prison Museum beneath it, both located at 1 Stepan Bandera street in Lviv. President Poroshenko appointed Viatrovych as director of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance (UNIR) in 2014. Jared McBride, a historian, wrote an article in The Nation about “Ukraine’s New Memory Commissar”:
What unifies his approach is a relentless drive to exculpate Ukrainians of any wrongdoing, no matter the facts. For example, concerning Ukrainian nationalist involvement in the Holocaust, in Viatrovych’s world, collaboration never happened or was coerced and, at any rate, can’t be blamed on nationalism; all evidence to the contrary is blithely assigned to Soviet lies.
According to Per Anders Rudling, also a historian, the TsDVR is an OUN-B front, or “‘facade structure’ which has come to serve as an important institutional link between the young Ukrainian pro-OUN legitimizers and diaspora nationalists…” The OUN-B glorifying museum, founded by the TsDVR, is a place where “Jewish suffering is omitted. Perpetrators of anti-Jewish violence are not named.”
By mid-2014, the UNIR, TsDVR, and Lonsky Prison Museum had all partnered with the so-called “International Council in Support of Ukraine” (ICSU), a global coordinating body of OUN-B affiliated NGOs formerly known as the “World Ukrainian Liberation Front.” The ICSU is also closely linked to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the Ukrainian World Congress, all currently headquartered in Toronto along with the League of Ukrainian Canadians.
The ICSU, now chaired by Borys Potapenko, has in recent years played a central role in organizing visits to the United States and Canada for Parubiy, Medunytsia, Kuzan, Levus, Viatrovych, and other allied Ukrainian nationalists, such as the former Education Minister Serhiy Kvit. All are now exponents of the “Capitulation Resistance Movement,” which launched in October 2019, almost a year after “Free People” officially joined the ICSU, acknowledging on its website that this “was only a matter of time.” Potapenko, a former executive director of the LUC, was likely already the international coordinator of “Free People,” and has co-signed at least two public statements by the “Capitulation Resistance Movement.”
Perhaps with an eye to the 2019 Ukrainian elections, “Free People” apparently began to lay the groundwork for launching the next stage of its rather mysterious agenda no later than 2016. That year, the Ukrainian Week reported that “Free People,” an MNK creation, “is one of the most anticipated new political platforms,” and speculated that its transformation into a political party was imminent.
So far, FP [Free People] members categorically refuse to discuss an independent political project, but the first steps towards forming a party have already been taken: a National Action Committee has been formed, along with a coordination center that includes, in addition to Free People, representatives of [founding Right Sector leader] Dmytro Yarosh’s movement Diya (Action) … and a large number of well-known community and political activists. The next step, according to the initiators of this project, will be to set up a national civil and political movement.
Andriy Levus soon conducted an interview with the same publication, in which he praised the principal ideologue of the pro-Nazi Ukrainian Nationalist movement, Dmytro Dontsov — who translated Mein Kampf into Ukrainian, among other things. Levus likely spoke for the OUN-B when he said the time called for a passive revolution:
In fact, all the recipes were written long ago. Dmytro Dontsov formulated them well in the 20th century… However sad it may be, it’s obvious that Ukraine should expect another radical change. I don’t think it will take the form of a Maidan or revolution, perhaps it will be more evolutionary, but it will come. A change of the political class and elite… Unfortunately, in the minds of the masses, “elite” means either oligarchs or some sort of slick, creative pseudo-intelligentsia. In reality, the [nationalist] elite is emerging right now, on the Maidan, on the barricades and in the trenches… We now need a revolution not in the streets, but in the offices…”
But then came along a comedian named Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Less than a month before Zelenskiy debated Poroshenko ahead of last year’s Ukrainian presidential election, “Free People” spearheaded the creation of an initiative called “Protect Ukraine,” which later in 2019 morphed into the “Capitulation Resistance Movement.” In the interim, the former leader of Right Sector, Dmytro Yarosh, an endorser of “Protect Ukraine,” publicly threatened the new President Zelenskiy that he would be hung from a tree if he “betrays” the nation—a threat that “Protect Ukraine” promoted on its Facebook page, soon to be renamed the “Capitulation Resistance Movement.”
Left: Capitulation Resistance Mvmt, Right:"#Protect Ukraine"
In addition to Yarosh, leaders of several far-right organizations, including Right Sector, the CUN, MNK, “Free People,” and both World War 2-era factions of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, signed a statement that launched “Protect Ukraine.” So did the former “Trident” captain Serhiy Kvit, Supreme Commander of the UPA’s son Yuriy Shukhevych, and Volodymyr Viatrovych, whom Zelenskiy would dismiss as director of the UNIR. The day of the Zelenskiy-Poroshenko debate in April 2019, the MNK and “Free People” seem to have led a pro-Poroshenko march and rally in Kyiv under the banner of “Protect Ukraine,” which the unpopular incumbent addressed.
It is apparent that Poroshenko and his nationalistic “European Solidarity” party support the anti-Zelenskiy campaign which ultimately took the name of the “Capitulation Resistance Movement.” That being said, “Free People” leader Andriy Levus was ranked only #29 on the European Solidarity party list and consequently lost his seat in Parliament, and Volodymyr Viatrovych just barely made it as #25. But “Free People,” after all, was previously associated with the former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s party.
Several high ranking European Solidarity party members appear to associate with the Banderivtsi, in particular Andriy Parubiy (#2), Sofiya Fedyna (#5), and Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze (#10). Fedyna was recently accused by authorities of threatening Zelenskiy’s life when she said over a Facebook livestream in October 2019, “Mr. President thinks he is immortal,” and suggested a grenade might prove otherwise. A week after the parliamentary election in July, when European Solidarity won just 8% of the vote, Fedyna visited Chicago, a hotbed of Ukrainian diaspora nationalist activity, and tagged the Chicagoan ICSU treasurer—allegedly a member of the U.S. leadership of the OUN-B—in two Facebook posts.
With the launch of the “Capitulation Resistance Movement” (CRM/ROK) in October 2019, a “Strategic Council” was formed of eighteen individuals to lead the “Movement.” At least three are with “Free People”: Andriy Levus, Serhii Vysotsky, and Paul Bilous. Bilous, a veteran, was a chief organizer of the “March of Defenders of Ukraine” in August 2019, which nationalists called after President Zelenskiy declined to hold a military parade on Independence Day. Just last week, the New York Times ended an article with a quote from Bilous about recent protests held in Kyiv in defiance of the threat of COVID-19 and organized in part by the CRM/ROK. Neo-Nazis also played a leading role in the demonstrations.
New York Times World @nytimesworldAnti-Russian street protests continue in Kyiv, with organizers saying resisting Russian influence is still more urgent than the risk of the spread of coronavirus https://t.co/WvDWzTRDxl
At least another two leaders of the “Capitulation Resistance Movement” are friends of the OUN-B’s transnational network: former Healthcare Minister Ulana Suprun and Serhiy Kvit. As noted by Oleksiy Kuzmenko, “Suprun’s contacts with C14”—a violent neo-Nazi organization—“go back years.”
Уляна Супрун @usuprunСьогодні увага українців буде прикута до засідання тристоронньої контактної групи у Мінську. Закликаємо Офіс Президента не знехтувати інтересами України — їх будуть відстоювати українці у всі можливі способи. Адже рускій мір — загроза страшніша за коронавірус.
Four of the remaining members of the Strategic Council participated in a “national roundtable” event, “Unity for Victory,” organized by “Free People” in February 2017. One of them is Josef Zissels, perhaps the most prominent Jewish apologist for the OUN-B and UPA. In addition to a handful of former diplomats and “experts,” other members of the Strategic Council included Ihor Lapin, a former company commander of the far-right affiliated Aidar Battalion, which Amnesty International accused of war crimes in 2014, and Andriy Teteruk, former commander of the “Peacemaker” volunteer battalion turned first deputy of Yatsenyuk’s “Popular Front” party, who once struck a female parliamentarian in the head with a glass bottle.
The “Capitulation Resistance Movement” has received moral support from a rather diverse array of pro-Western actors, from the comically info-warrior PropOrNot, which called it “a coalition of patriotic Ukrainian pro-democracy/anti-surrender activists, led by eminent Ukrainian professionals,” to the Atlantic Council’s “UkraineAlert” blog. The latter recently referred to the informally “Free People”-led anti-peace campaign as “a democratic movement made up of distinguished Ukrainian diplomats and experts,” suggesting that the OUN-B’s long term but relatively unsophisticated obfuscation of its activity is paying off.
Rather than let neo-Nazis give a bad name to a prospective “third Maidan,” the crypto-fascist Banderivtsi clearly hope to gain Western backing and broader support from Ukrainians for their “Resistance Movement” by pivoting toward the “national democratic” center. But like in 1941, should the OUN-B’s “national revolution” come into reach, Bandera’s followers may quickly discover that they were probably doomed from the start to lose control to the Nazis once again.
"March of Patriots," Kyiv, March 14, 2020. A few flags belonging to "Free People" and the "Capitulation Resistance Movement" are just barely visible, much less prominent than those belonging to neo-Nazi organizations. (Source)