The role of right-wing nationalist parties in Ukraine is greatly exaggerated by the Russian media and is being used as an excuse to justify military intervention in Ukraine, said David Kramer, the president of Freedom House, an international non-governmental watchdog organization, reports Ukrainian Crisis Media Center. And many experts now believe that the acts of pro-Russian extremists in eastern Ukraine are very likely to result in violent clashes and will lead to another intervention in Ukraine from the Russian Federation.
“Russian propaganda is trying to paint everything into fascist colors. I can say for sure that there was no threat to Russian-speakers in Crimea or anywhere else in Ukraine… Support of the far-right in Ukraine is extremely low, while tolerance in general is very high,” concluded Kramer at his press briefing at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center on April 10.
The usual litany of falsehoods and propaganda spouting from Russian state-controlled media is evident in other instances too. In the April 9 issue of the New York Times, Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki, in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, commenting on Russian media reports claiming neo-Nazi extremist activities in order to justify its invasion of Crimea and further into eastern Ukraine, said: “It’s a total lie.”
“Jews are not in danger in Ukraine,” he continued: “Anti-Semitism exists in everyday life, but gets no support or encouragement from the [Ukrainian] state, unlike in Russia, where the security services have tolerated and at times nurtured neo-Nazi nationalist groups with openly anti-Semitic agendas.”
Nonetheless, statements about the alleged growth of extremism and fascism in Ukraine had been circulating in the Russian media long before the recent Russia-Ukraine crisis. Kremlin-paid specialists have made every effort to dramatize and overstate the reach of what are in reality small pockets of right-wing extremism in Ukraine, including in the nationalist party Svoboda, in the Stepan Bandera movement or in the public organization Right Sector. Despite Russia's claims, numerous foreign officials who have visited Ukraine unequivocally state that there is no evidence of a threat to human lives or of extremism.
“If I listened to Russian rhetoric, I would have expected to walk through the streets of Kievand be attacked by dangerous elements. I was approached by children with flowers,” said Wendy Sherman, U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs.
The manufactured image of a fascist-extremist Ukraine benefits Russian ideologues and may reverberate in any current and future aggression initiated by the Kremlin, experts say. Acts of pro-Russian extreme separatism are being seen in eastern Ukraine, namely in Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk.
After recent violent clashes, pro-Russian activists occupied and still hold city administration buildings in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kramatorsk and Slovyansk and are calling for federalization in these regions and possible annexation with Russia.
According to Dmytro Tymchuk, head of the Center for Political and Military Research, the sudden rise of extremism unfolding in eastern Ukraine is a grave threat to the country. “Following a Crimean scenario, there will be no full-fledged military attack, but rather disguised (as 'green men') unmarked Russian military units supporting pro-Russian extremists and instigating a conflict between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian demonstrators,” he concluded.