Ukraine fecklessly irritates OSCE, but fails to identify genuine security threats related to election observation

On 2 January 2019, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin wrote a letter to Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), in which he invited ODIHR observers to monitor the presidential elections in Ukraine planned for 31 March 2019. In the same letter, Klimkin informed Gísladóttir that Ukraine recognised the Russian Federation “as an aggressor state and an occupying power” and said that Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry would not “accept applications for accreditation as official observers from foreign states or international organizations from the holders of Russian passports or other individuals seconded by the Russian side”.

On 23 January 2019, the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Ukraine issued a statement in which – referring to the need of “minimizing the risks and threats of the Russian intervention [sic] in the upcoming presidential elections on March 31, 2019” – it reminded “all foreign states and international organizations intending to monitor the electoral process” that the Russian Federation was recognised by Ukraine as “an aggressor state, committing a crime of aggression against Ukraine and temporarily occupying parts of its territory”. […]

Russia and the Western Far Right

Russia and the Western Far Right
Anton Shekhovtsov
Routledge, Londres et New York, 2018, 262 p.

A review by Galia Ackerman

Anton Shekhovtsov est un politologue ukrainien spécialisé dans l’étude des mouvances d’extrême droite en Europe et, en particulier, de leurs liens avec la Russie. Son dernier livre affiche en couverture une photo de Marine Le Pen et de Vladimir Poutine se serrant la main avec un grand sourire. D’entrée de jeu, on comprend qu’une entente cordiale règne entre le Kremlin et le Front national (ainsi qu’une multitude d’autres partis européens d’extrême droite).

Une telle proximité, détaillée tout au long de cet essai stimulant dont on espère qu’il sera rapidement traduit en français, s’explique par un ensemble de considérations aussi bien domestiques qu’internationales. Pour résumer, l’extrême droite européenne comme le régime poutinien visent, en se liant, à remodeler à leur avantage un environnement hostile.

La connexion ne date pas de l’arrivée de l’ancien agent du FSB au pouvoir, en 2000. Mais, au départ, son régime, quoique déjà corrompu et autoritaire, entretient des rapports plutôt corrects avec la communauté internationale et ne se préoccupe guère des forces extrémistes actives dans les pays occidentaux. En revanche, à partir de 2003, Poutine se sent menacé par les révolutions dites « de couleur » qui surviennent en Géorgie, puis en Ukraine et au Kirghizstan. Ces protestations de rue se soldent, chaque fois, par le renversement des régimes corrompus en place dans les pays en question. À Moscou, on est persuadé que derrière ces mouvements populaires se trouve l’ennemi historique, les États-Unis, déterminés à déstabiliser le voisinage immédiat de la Russie et, de cette façon, à contribuer, un jour, au renversement du régime russe. Ces idées paranoïaques contribuent, explique Shekhovtsov, à l’ouverture graduelle des élites moscovites en direction des politiciens européens d’extrême droite, connus pour leur détestation de Washington. Ceux-ci, de leur côté, essayaient depuis longtemps déjà de courtiser le Kremlin qui incarne à leurs yeux une alternative crédible à l’atlantisme, réel ou supposé, des élites européennes. On le voit : l’anti-américanisme que les deux parties ont en partage constitue un premier facteur de rapprochement. […]

La relazione (poco) complicata tra Putin e i fascisti

A review by Maurizio Stefanini.

Torna la tensione tra Mosca e Kiev, e subito sui media di Stato russi rimbalza contro il nazionalismo ucraino l’accusa di “nazismo”. Su Sputnik in particolare e su Rt . Nel contempo, però, gli stessi media pompano massicciamente vari leader della destra europea che – a torto o ragione – sono accusati di “neo-fascismo” in casa loro. Da Marine Le Pen a Salvini passando per Wilders o perfino Alba Dorata . Come è possibile questa apparente contraddizione? “Nella retorica risalente ai tempi dell’Urss fascista significa semplicemente nemico della Russia. Se un fascista diventa amico, allora cessa di essere considerato fascista. Per definizione”. Molto prima di quest’ultima crisi, questa spiegazione ce la diede nel 2017 Anton Shekhovtsov: un politologo ucraino Visiting Fellow all’austriaco Institute for Human Sciences. e uno dei più importanti esperti europei nel campo delle relazioni tra Putin e i movimenti populisti. Come tale, il 3 giugno 2017 fece una relazione a un convegno tenutosi a Roma a cura di Atlantic Council e Istituto Gino Germani di Scienze Sociali e Studi Strategici, su “La strategia di influenza della Russia in Europa: Mosca e i movimenti populisti europei di destra e di sinistra”. Il 30 agosto sempre del 2017 i suoi studi sono stati riversati nel libro Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir, pubblicato dalla prestigiosa casa editrice britannica Routledge. Foto eloquente in copertina, Putin che stringe la mano a Marine Le Pen. […]

French Yellow Vests, the Far Right, and the “Russian connection”

The Movement of the Yellow Vests (“Gilets Jaunes” in French) was started in the mid-November 2018 as a popular protest against an increase of fuel taxes underpinned by the environmental concerns. The protesters chose to wear high-visibility vests: since 2008, all drivers are required to have these vests in their vehicles. On 17 November, the protests mobilised, according to the Interior Ministry, 282,000 demonstrators throughout France, on 24 November – 106,000 people, on 1 December – 75,000 people, and on 8 December – 136,000 people. At the end of November, public opinion polls showed that the protests were supported by 84% of the French. […]

Detangling Putin’s web in the West

Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir. By: Anton Shekhovtsov. Publisher: Routledge, London and New York, 2018.

A review article by Matthew Kott

Anton Shekhovtsov, a fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, is already a familiar name to those working on the far right in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. He has previously written on Aleksandr Dugin and Russian neo-Eurasianism as well as on white power racist music subcultures. With his recent book, Russia and the Western Far Right, he is reaching out to a much broader audience than the relatively intimate academic world of comparative fascist studies.

The book appeared late in 2017, but was mostly completed long before the inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the United States, the subsequent rise of the so-called alt-right as a factor in American society and the twists and turns surrounding the official investigation into whether there was any attempt by Russia to skew the election. Nevertheless, it touches on Trump and in passing the run-up to the French presidential election in early 2017. On the one hand, it makes Shekhovtsov’s latest highly topical and indeed groundbreaking. On the other hand, however, that which are the book’s strengths can also be its weaknesses. As with many publications, the risk is that this is a book with an expiration date.

Ambitious agenda

Shekhovtsov’s aim is to shed light upon the various ways in which Russian actors – both official and figures from the far right – have over the decades attempted to foster contacts amongst the far right in European countries in order to gain influence abroad and legitimacy at home. Right from the beginning such an ambitious agenda raises several significant questions in the mind of the reader: What is meant by the vague term “far right”? How is the concept of “western” defined? And what criteria does Shekhovtsov apply in choosing the various cases examined? Given the nebulous and short-lived nature of many of the groupings on the far right, what sources does he rely upon for this extensive study? […]

Belarus tries to follow in Moscow’s steps and team up with the European far right

On 21 May 2018, Belarusian far-right politician Oleh Haidukevich published on his Facebook a message that said that his party, the misleadingly named Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus (LDPB) led by his father Siarhei Haidukevich, started preparations for the “Congress of Patriotic Parties in Europe” that would take place in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

In his post, Haidukevich mentioned that the LDPB had invited representatives of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), French National Front (FN, renamed into the National Rally on 1 June 2018), Alternative for Germany (AfD), “United Russia” and 15 unnamed parties. He also posted two scanned copies of invitations addressed to FN’s president Marine Le Pen and the FPÖ’s leader Heinz-Christian Strache. The invitations were dated 26 April 2018 and said that the congress would discuss “patriotism, conservatism, national conservatism and social-conservatism”, “the right [sic!] renaissance”, “perspectives of identity and traditional values”, preservation of “national traditions and mentality [sic!]”, “the problem of Islamic fundamentalism”, “the crisis of the European Union and NATO”, European and Russian (counter-)sanctions, “the idea of the Greater North from Antwerp to Vladivostok”, “the Great North as a single civilizational and cultural space of great Europe”, “the crisis of the family and family values” and “alternative media self-organization and promotion experience”, among other topics. […]

Russian active measures, European neo-Nazis and the Kremlin’s French connection

On 7 June 2018, the Russian far-right, misleadingly named Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky held a meeting called the “World Congress of Peace-loving Forces” (WCPF), which became yet another LDPR’s attempt to unite pro-Kremlin European far-right organisations.

The title “WCPF” is a reference to a conference held in Soviet Moscow under almost the same in 1973. That historical conference was a Soviet active measure aimed at promoting the allegedly peaceful image of the Soviet Union. It brought together over 3 thousand of left-wing activists and politicians from all over the world who praised the totalitarian Soviet regime for its struggle for the “preservation of peace”. […]

Full list of Members of the European Parliament who voted against the resolution on political prisoners in Russia

On 14 June this year, the European Parliament adopted a resolution that, in particular, demanded “that the Russian authorities immediately and unconditionally release Oleg Sentsov and all other illegally detained Ukrainian citizens in Russia and on the Crimean peninsula”.

Oleg Sentsov is a Ukrainian film maker who lived in Crimea. He stayed there after Russia had annexed the Crimean peninsula; shortly after the annexation, Sentsov was arrested, forcibly “granted” a Russian citizenship, falsely charged with terrorist activities and sentenced to 20 years. […]