This report is the result of the work of the Marker Monitoring Group on far-right violence. It covers the period from January 1 to December 31, 2021.
The main part of the report (Part II) is the results of the daily monitoring of national and regional media and social media coverage of far-right violence and confrontations for 2021, regardless of who was targeted. The section is divided into several thematic parts, each of which reveals different aspects of the data obtained: the annual dynamics, the ratio of the acts of violence and cases of confrontation, the motives of the attacks and the identified far-right actors. A list of all recorded cases can be found in the appendix to the report.
The report also provides an overview of important events and socio-political processes that influenced the activities of right-wing radicals in Ukraine in one way or another (Part I).
Part III provides a brief overview of other reports by human rights organizations involved in monitoring far-right violence. In particular, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission, the Zmina Human Rights Center, LGBT Human Rights NASH MIR Center, the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, and the Ukrainian Legal Aid Foundation.
The report was written in January-February 2022
Report in PDF format could be found here.
PART I. KEY TRENDS AND EVENTS IN 2021
The activities of far-right groups in Ukraine, while having their own logic, take place within the framework of broader political processes and are closely linked to them. Political events in the life of the country can lead both to a surge of far-right activity, as it happened during the elections, and to its recession. This also works the other way around: the activity of the extreme right, despite their weak representation in state and local government, can influence political processes.
1. Political confrontation
Since the beginning of 2021, the authorities have chosen a strategy of active confrontation with their political opponents. Pro-RussianBy “pro-Russian” we mean forces advocating political rapprochement with the Russian Federation. The accusation of being “pro-Russian” serves as a common justification for … Continue reading opposition forces came under pressure in the first place. A powerful tool was the mechanism of imposing sanctions by the National Security and Defense Council, which are implemented by presidential orders and do not require court decisions.
Representatives of far-right political groups and parties actively joined the pressure on the pro-Russian opposition, in particular through violent means. As in previous years, it was against political opponents that the greatest number of cases of violence or confrontations were directed. However, 2021 was an inter-election year, so less street violence was reported. Most party agitators, the main victims of attacks, left the streets, and political parties held fewer public events and actions. At the same time, there were more attacks on offices, business assets, etc. In clashes between the far-right (mainly the National Corps) and members of Ilya Kiva’s Patriots for Life organization, the latter regularly yielded to the former. In other words, right-wing radicals retain a monopoly on politicized street violence, despite weak attempts by the Opposition Platform—For Life to challenge it.
2. Avakov’s resignation
An important event for the far-right movement was the resignation of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov in July 2021. Avakov is considered to be closely connected with the country’s largest far-right network, the Azov Movement. On August 5, just a few weeks after his resignation, the Security Service of Ukraine announced the liquidation of a criminal formationhttps://ssu.gov.ua/novyny/sbu-likviduvala-potuzhne-zlochynne-uhrupovannia-yake-obkladalo-danynoiu-biznesmeniv-na-kharkivshchyni-video, most members of which belonged to the Kharkiv cell of the National Corps. Two more National Corps members, including Dmytro Kukharchuk, the head of the Cherkasy cell, were suspected of hooliganism after the clashes near the President’s Office on August 14https://hromadske.ua/posts/sutichki-pid-op-sud-vidpraviv-pid-vartu-predstavnika-nackorpusu-dovbisha. The National Corps called such actions “persecution of patriots” and began a series of protests, which, however, were not particularly radical.
To date, the National Corps, which contributed to Zelensky’s rise to power in 2019 by actively pursuing Poroshenko, is in opposition to the government. Although the party’s main opponents are representatives of the pro-Russian opposition, the National Corps remains a significant threat to the current government if the latter makes decisions that would be unpopular with the nationalists.
Arsen Avakov, who returned to Ukrainian politics in December 2021, also announced his move into opposition.
3. Sergei Korotkikh
The resignation of the “eternal interior minister” also affected the most odious member of the Azov Movement, the Russian neo-Nazi Sergei Korotkikh (aka Botsman or Malyuta). In the first half of 2021, even members of the nationalist camp began publicly criticizing Korotkikh, accusing him of working for the Kremlinhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTTebtxybXc. However, Korotkikh remained an influential figure in the far-right movement and actively invited Russian neo-Nazis to move to Ukrainehttps://violence-marker.org.ua/blog/2021/04/17/chy-treba-rosijskym-pravym-pereyizhdzhaty-z-rosiyi-v-ukrayinu/. The resignation of Avakov, whose son is a friend of Sergei Korotkikh, and publication of a video where Botsman agrees to cooperate with the Russian special services, significantly worsened his situation. He temporarily disappeared from the public eye. At the end of the year, however, Korotkikh gave an interview to KP.uahttps://kp.ua/politics/a638038-soosnovatel-azova-serhej-korotkikh-s-sheremetom-my-byli-druzjami-on-edinstvennyj-kto-chestno-pisal-obo-mne and resumed posting videos devoted to the tactics of guerrilla warfare with Russia on his YouTube channel.
4. The far-right and military threat from Russia
The active participation of nationalists in the military conflict in eastern Ukraine contributed to the legitimization of far-right organizations. The status of veterans is still actively used by right-wing radicals to determine their moral superiority over their opponentshttps://zaborona.com/chomu-ultrakonservatory-vykorystovuyut-veteranskyj-status/. The military component is also an important part of the activities of most far-right groups, so the threat of a full-scale war with Russia, which was first discussed in the spring of 2021, could not but affect the activities of right-wing radicals.
The second escalation, which began in November 2021, did not cause much activity among the extreme right at first. Most far-right news sources were skeptical about reports of a possible Russian offensive, in particular the information published by British intelligence about the alleged start of the invasion on Catholic Christmas or the maps of the potential offensive from Bild. But in the aftermath, with tensions steadily rising, right-wing radicals became actively involved in the topic of war preparations. Mass military training, both for their own activists and for interested volunteers, began on the basis of the infrastructure of the National Corps. Back in spring, the Total Resistance initiative was launched; it was presented as an alternative to the official Territorial Defensehttps://t.me/totalopir/6.
Defense Headquarters organized by the National Corps in each region began conducting their own military training or joined the Territorial Defense training. Leader of the National Corps Andriy Biletsky took part in the roundtable Unity of the People. Protection of Democracy. Defense of the Statehttps://espreso.tv/ednist-narodu-zakhist-demokratii-oborona-derzhavi-natsionalniy-krugliy-stil-pid-egidoyu-kiivskogo-bezpekovogo-forumu together with many famous politicians. We can state that the threat of a full-scale war with Russia allowed the nationalists to strengthen their position: to return to big politics, to legitimize paramilitary structures, and to mobilize their own assets.
5. The Max Belorus case
The case of Belarusian anarchist Alexey Bolenkov (Max Belorus), who has been living in Ukraine since 2014, was a landmark for both the far-right and anti-fascists. On April 21, the SBU tried to remove him from Ukraine at the request of the KGB of Belarus. When it failed, the SBU tried to have him deported through the court. Bolenkov’s trials became a site of confrontation between leftists and rightists, resulting in two clashes. On June 20, several dozen right-wing activists attacked Bolenkov and his supporters, trying to prevent them from entering the building of the Court of Appeal. Five people were injured during the attack. But the very next day, the far-right were attacked by anti-fascists in the subway on their way to the pronouncement of the court decision and forced to flee. It was a notable event against the background of right-wing hegemony on the streets since 2014. These incidents encouraged both anti-fascist initiatives and far-right organizations to cooperate closer.
6. Podil “Crusades”
Symbolic places, such as Kyiv’s Podil district, a favorite entertainment and gathering place for young people, are important in the context of far-right violence. Podil has always been a place for clashes with the ultra-right. But while it was about subculture or fan wars in the 2000s, in 2020 the far-right called to “reclaim Podil from the leftists,” which was accompanied by a surge of violence and confrontations, often with homophobic motives.
The second half of 2021 saw a series of attacks on Podil cultural institutions, which have a reputation for being LGBT-friendly or taking a proactive political stance (in particular, joining a campaign against police brutality). In the last quarter of 2021, there were 7 incidents which the right-wing radicals called the anti-drug crusade. Representatives of several far-right organizations took part in the so-called crusade together: Tradition and Order, the Foundation of the Future (former C14), the National Resistance, the Right Youth (the youth wing of the Right Sector) and others.
These attacks, as well as the actions against Alexey Bolenkov, outlined the core group of far-right activists focused on street warfare. The confrontation with the extreme right and criticism of police inaction also contributed to the consolidation of the Podil community, which includes people living in Podil and regular visitors of its entertainment venues.
7. The far-right are going online
One of the key trends in 2021 was the growing popularity of far-right Telegram channels, which allow right-wing radicals to organize mass information attacks, inviting people who are not members of specific organizations and do not see themselves in street activism.
The most popular was the Catharsis Telegram channel, which currently has more than 40,000 subscribers. It regularly publishes sexist, racist and homophobic content. The channel organizes cyberbullying campaigns and publishes personal information of LGBT+ activists, TikTokers, or those accused by the far-right of being unpatriotic. The channel’s audience organizes raids on social media profiles, threatens physical violence, tries to hack into accounts and bank cards, or make their target’s life worse in any other way.
8. Anti-Semitism and xenophobia
Anti-Semitism has ceased to play an important role in the activities and rhetoric of far-right groups in recent years, while attacks on Jews or cases of anti-Semitic vandalism are often committed by people not affiliated with the organized far-right movement. However, in November-December 2021, there was a series of attacks on the candleholders which are traditionally displayed in public spaces of cities during Hanukkah celebrations. A total of six such incidents occurred.
On November 28, a man not affiliated with right-wing radicals destroyed a Hanukkah on Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kyiv. Subsequent attacks seem to have been imitative. We can speak of far-right involvement in at least some of them (Dnipro, Rivne, and Uzhgorod). It is indicative that not a single far-right group claimed responsibility for these actions.
However, since anti-Semitism is not a winning strategy for the extreme right anymore, the role of a convenient victim has shifted to another national minority, the Roma. Anti-Roma rhetoric is quite widespread in far-right online sources. Roma are regularly attacked individually (the right-wing radical Maksym Yarosh is particularly notable here). A large-scale anti-Roma rally organized by several far-right organizations took place in Irpin near Kyiv on October 17.
9. State funding of the extreme right
Since 2014, far-right organizations have become an integral part of civil society. They are present in public councils under ministries or local governments and receive budgetary funding for their programs.
For example, the Right-Wing Veterans associationhttps://violence-marker.org.ua/blog/2021/03/10/pravi-veterany/, which embraces representatives of many far-right organizations, actually won elections to the Public Council under the Ministry of Veteran Affairs of Ukraine and entered it almost as a full member. The association has built its propaganda on blatantly homophobic and transphobic rhetorichttps://t.me/v_marker/136 and named the LGBT+ veterans’ association as its main opponents. Later, C14 member Oleksandr Voytko became the head of the Expert Group on Commemoration of the Fallen under the Ministryhttps://violence-marker.org.ua/blog/2021/05/19/oleksandr-vojtko-z-s14-ocholyv-ekspertnu-grupu-z-vshanuvannya-pamyati-zagyblyh/, while С14 leader Yevhen Karas and four other members of the organization became members of the commission that reviews controversial developments in Kyivhttps://violence-marker.org.ua/blog/2021/07/27/chleny-s14-oficzijno-pereviryatymut-rezonansni-zabudovy-u-kyyevi/.
The Ministry of Youth and Sports remains one of the official sources of funding for far-right and nationalist organizationshttps://violence-marker.org.ua/blog/2020/07/30/miljonery-z-sichi-za-try-roky-s14-otrymaly-6-miljoniv-byudzhetnogo-finansuvannya/. The program of patriotic education almost annually supports projects of some satellite organizations of C14, the National Corps, Sokil and other right-wing organizations.
Working with young people remains one of the key activities of the extreme right. In 2021, representatives of Freikorps and the Carpathian Sich repeatedly visited schools, where they conducted lessons of courage for children, starting from the second grade. Such lessons not only militarize children, but also indoctrinate them ideologically.
PART II. MONITORING RESULTS FOR 2021
The Marker monitoring group has been collecting and systematizing data on street violence and confrontation by right-wing groups, parties, organizations and citizens since the beginning of 2020.
The goal of the monitoring project is to study the activities of far-right groups in Ukraine in detail and to investigate the causes and possible consequences of these activities. The final result of the project is the launch of a database of cases of far-right violence and confrontations in Ukraine.
The main method of information collection is daily monitoring of national, macro-regional, local, activist websites and social media.
Undoubtedly, the data obtained through the monitoring represent only that part of far-right street activity that is reflected in the monitoring sources. However, these data are collected systematically, and thus allow us to:
- assess the extent of the problem;
- track trends in far-right behavior;
- track the dynamics of confrontational and violent right-wing street activity;
- identify the most visible actors among the organized far-right;
- understand which groups of people most often become victims of right-wing street activity.
Confrontation is a protest activity during which direct pressure is put on people without the intention to directly harm people or property: blocking, crowd control, taking over the premises, obstructing an event without the use of physical force, etc.
Violence is a protest activity during which actions are committed with the aim of causing direct harm to people or property; violence against people (assault, beating, fighting, shooting, killing, etc.) and violence aimed at damaging property (arson, destruction of property, vandalism, etc.) should be distinguished separately.
Far-right / right-wing radicals are political organizations, groups, or individuals whose views suggest that violence is acceptable in order to maintain or increase discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, or sexual orientation.
What kind of cases are monitored?
Cases of violence or confrontation that meet two criteria are included in the statistics:
- they are likely to have been committed by far-right organizations, groups or people whose activities fall within the framework of the far-right movement;
- they have an ideological motive or a declared political goal.
The statistics do not include domestic violence or other types of violence and confrontations that have no ideological or political basis.
In cases where no far-right organization has claimed responsibility, the affiliation of participants with far-right movement may be established by a set of additional characteristics: the nature of the attack (for example, not random, but a targeted attack on a specific person or object), the rhetoric of participants, the presence of specific attributes, the inclusion of the event in a broader campaign, the distribution of information through far-right public sources.
OVERALL MONITORING RESULTS
In 2021, the Marker monitoring group recorded 177 cases of far-right confrontations and violence, which is an absolute record for the 3 years of monitoring. 89 of these cases were confrontational, while another 88 included elements of violence, i.e. intentional damage to people or property (see the full list of cases included in the database in the Appendix to the report). 58 cases of violence were directed against people, which resulted in at least 83 victims (in particular, 29 law enforcement officers). In addition to the 177 cases included in this report, the monitoring group recorded 20 cases of hate-motivated violence or confrontations, probably unrelated to the activities of the far-right movement in Ukraine. These 20 cases are not included in the overall statistics.
Compared to 2020, when 119 cases of far-right confrontations and violence were recorded, there was a significant increase in 2021. The total number of recorded cases increased by 49%: there was a 134% increase in confrontations and a 9% increase in violent cases. In 2021, there were only 4 weeks when no cases of far-right confrontations or violence were registered by the monitoring. On average, there were 3-4 such cases per week.
The overall increase in far-right violence and confrontations in 2021 was mainly due to the increase in confrontations. The increase in far-right violence was mainly due to property damage. The number of cases of far-right violence against people in 2021 decreased by 12%.
The monthly dynamics of recorded cases were uneven in 2021. During the first six months, the number of cases of far-right confrontations and violence fluctuated between 8 and 15 per month. In July, there was a jump to 25 cases. For the next two months, there was a lull, followed by a gradual increase to 20 cases in November.
2021 broke the absolute monthly record of registered cases of far-right violence and confrontations for the entire monitoring period. Previous monthly peaks were in November 2018 and June 2020, with 23 cases recorded in each of these months. July 2021 passed this mark with 25 cases, 16 of which contained elements of violence (including 12 against people). In addition to the already traditional attacks on political parties, individual citizens and businesses whom right-wing radicals accused of having a pro-Russian stance, during this month there were attacks on LGBT+, as well as on leftist and anti-fascist activists who organized actions in support of the Belarusian anti-fascist Alexey Bolenkov.
More than half of the recorded cases of far-right violence and confrontations in 2021 (91 cases) took place in Kyiv. A significant number of cases were recorded in Kharkiv (23), Lviv (13), Odesa (11), Poltava (4), Mariupol (4) and Cherkasy (3). Two episodes each were recorded in Dnipro, Sumy and Uzhgorod. One case each occurred in Vinnytsia, Mykolaiv, Khmelnytskyi, Boyarka, Bucha, Chernihiv, Chornomorsk, Irpin, Lysychansk, Rivne, Kolomyia, Korosten, Kramatorsk, Lokhvytsia, Lubny, Lyman (Donetsk Region), Pavlohrad, Pokrovsk, Baryshivka and Hostomel (Kyiv Region), Zabolotivka (Lviv Region), and one unidentified locality.
The participation of specific far-right parties, organizations, groups or their individual representatives was reported in 102 of the 177 recorded cases. 75 cases involved either unidentified far-right organizations or actions taken by prior conspiracy of several people who may not belong to specific organizations, but whose actions fit into the framework of an organized far-right movement. In such cases, the specific nature of the attack, the symbolism, the rhetoric, etc., allow one to draw conclusions about the organization and the participation of members or sympathizers of the far-right movement, and therefore to include them in the statistics of far-right confrontations and violence. Another 20 cases were hate-motivated, but there is no additional information that would link them to the activities of an organized far-right movement. Accordingly, these cases were not included in the monitoring statistics.
In those cases where specific parties, organizations or groups were reported to be engaged, the National Corps was most often involved: 26 cases, of which 12 were violent and 10 against people. Whereas in the previous two years Tradition and Order usually ranked second, in 2021 it was the Foundation of the Future/Future Society (formerly C14): 17 cases, of which 9 were violent, 6 against people. Tradition and Order ranked third: 13 cases, of which 5 were violent, 4 against people. Another 12 cases were recorded with the National Resistance, of which 5 were violent, 3 against people. Other organizations and groups were identified in fewer than 10 cases.
There was a significant activation of other far-right actors apart from the further street activity of the 2020 leaders, the National Corps and Tradition and Order. After a year’s break, C14 returned to the active use of violence and confrontations. Apparently, their attempt to create the Future Society party and the organization’s rebranding as the Foundation of the Future only temporarily reduced the degree of their street activity.
In 2021, the monitoring recorded 39 cases of far-right confrontations or violence directed against political parties or their individual representatives. Only 4 cases of such violence were directed against people in 2021 (24 in 2020). In other words, there has been a significant de-escalation of far-right street campaigning against parties and their individual members. This trend can partly be explained by the fact that there were no election campaigns in Ukraine in 2021, unlike in the previous two years. In fact, most political attacks on people by the far-right were directed specifically against agitators or activists in 2019 and 2020.
In 21 cases, specific participants were identified, with 12 cases involving the National Corps, including 3 of the 4 attacks on people. The National Resistance, Freikorps, Tradition and Order, Street Front and Honor were also recorded to have been involved.
On February 24, there was a clash between activists of the National Corps and the Patriots for Life in Kharkiv. The participants of the fight were seen carrying knives and guns. On February 28, members of the National Corps in Khmelnytskyi attacked businessman and politician Viktor Vikarchuk because of his statements and poured green paint over him. On December 18, members of the National Corps disrupted the congress of the Opposition Platform—For Life party in Poltava. Tear gas was used during a clash between the right-wing radicals and the people guarding the entrance to the congress. On July 23, another political attack involving unidentified far-right activists occurred as right-wing radicals took a T-shirt off a member of the Shariy Party and beat him in Kharkiv. The information was disseminated by far-right online sources.
Most of the violent actions of right-wing radicals against the property of political parties or politicians involved destruction of campaign stands, tents, etc. For example, members of the National Corps broke down a campaign tent of the Derzhava (State) party, accusing it of having a pro-Russian stance, in Pokrovsk, Donetsk Region, on March 25. On October 4, unidentified people burned down a propaganda tent of the Opposition Platform—For Life party in the middle of the street in Kyiv. The information was disseminated by far-right online sources. On December 20, a campaign tent of the Shariy Party was cut up with knives and destroyed in Odesa. On May 7, far-right activists destroyed campaign banners of the Opposition Platform—For Life party in Kharkiv. The banners said “Fascism will not pass” and were dedicated to the celebration of the Victory Day on May 9.
There was also one attack on a political party office in 2021. On May 5, unknown persons painted the Opposition Platform—For Life office in Poltava and cut up party signs. It was not the first attack on this office. In 2020, a grenade was thrown at it, for which an Azov veteran was later detained.
Among the 28 cases of far-right confrontations directed against political parties or their individual representatives, most cases included putting paint on offices, political advertisements, and businesses associated with certain politicians. For example, the Opposition Platform—For Life party office in Mariupol was spray-painted three times: twice in June and once in July. The party’s offices in Poltava and Kharkiv were also spray-painted in July and September and September and December, respectively. In June, members of Freikorps stenciled the Dobkin Hub in Kharkiv twice.
To summarize, there was a significant de-escalation of the far-right’s political street activity during the inter-election period in 2021. The number of attacks on political party representatives decreased sixfold compared to 2020. In 2021, the far-right mainly resorted to physical and symbolic attacks on property: businesses, offices, campaign points, etc. There were also almost three dozen political cases which could have also involved the far-right in 2021. However, in these cases there was not enough evidence to include them in the overall statistics.
AGAINST “GENDER IDEOLOGY”
In 2021, the monitoring recorded 24 cases of far-right confrontations and violence against members and activists of LGBT+ and feminist communities. The number of such cases is not much different from 2020, when 25 cases were recorded. Of the 24 cases in 2021, 10 had signs of violence (in particular, 8 cases of violence against people), and in 14 cases the far-right provoked confrontations.
For example, three unidentified people attacked a transgender person in Kyiv’s Podil because of LGBT symbols on her clothes on January 27. The attackers pepper-sprayed the victim and shouted insults and threats such as “if you keep walking here, it will get worse.” On July 27, four attackers pepper-sprayed poet Serhiy Savin and musician Maksym Verba and severely beat them in the center of Lviv. According to the victims, the attack was motivated by homophobia.
In 2021, attacks were recorded not only against individuals from the LGBT+ community or activists, but also against LGBT+ events. On May 28 in Kyiv, members of the far-right organization Solaris attacked a preview of the LGBT+ film Budmo Gay! Dialogues about Dignity. About 10 people wearing masks with skulls on them came to the Dialog Hub, where they broke a window and threw a flare and a tear gas canister into the room. All 20 guests of the screening received minor eye burns. On August 28 in Odesa, an attempt by members of Tradition and Order to block the LGBT+ march OdesaPride 2021 escalated into large-scale clashes with law enforcement officers, in which both sides used tear gas. As a result, 16 policemen and 13 National Guard officers were injured. Sixty-one people were detained and taken to the police station, in particular the leader of Tradition and Order Bohdan Khodakovskyi and the head of the organization’s Odesa cell Illia Popkov.
Most of the far-right attempts to disrupt LGBT+ and feminist events in 2021 were confrontational. This is true for all other LGBT+ street actions. The May 22 TransMarch in Kyiv involved an incident as well. Right-wing radicals from Tradition and Order tried to disrupt the event and attempted to bring firecrackers to the rally. However, the police stopped them. Denis “Nikitin” (Kapustin), a well-known far-right activist from the Russian Federation and owner of the White Rex clothing brand, was seen at the rally. On July 30, Tradition and Order, Unknown Patriot and Future Society attempted to disrupt an LGBT+ community rally against discrimination in Kyiv. The police detained 12 right-wing radicals, and a misdemeanor report was drawn up for four of them. On September 12, a right-wing radical tried to break through to the participants shouting “Death to LGBT!” during the LGBT+ Pride event in Kharkiv. He was stopped by the police. Also, a right-wing radical took an LGBT+ flag from one of the activists and burned it.
The far-right also provoked confrontations in an attempt to prevent feminist actions and events. On March 5 in Odesa, radicals from Tradition and Order tried to disrupt the Women’s March. About a dozen young men aged 18-19 participated in the incident. They were holding a banner in support of the patriarchy. The provocateurs were detained by the police, whom they tried to resist. Two events were recorded around the Women’s March on March 8 in Kyiv. After the march, right-wing radicals from the National Resistance ripped posters from the hands of the march participants, shouted insults, and shoved them. One of the victims filed a complaint with the police. Law enforcers did not want to consider it for a long time, but eventually the case was opened thanks to the efforts of human rights activists. A similar situation involving the same National Resistance members was repeated near Kontraktova Square subway station as they tore banners from the hands of participants of the march and demonstrated the intention to kick them in the face. On May 29 in Odesa, about 20 people from Tradition and Order stormed the premises where the FemTalks event was taking place. The organizers held back the right-wing radicals for 10 minutes until the attendees were escorted to safety.
Therefore, the number of cases of far-right confrontations and violence directed against LGBT+ people and activists and the feminist community remained high in 2021: this category of violence and confrontations once again ranked second on the list of actions by right-wing radicals. However, the number of violent incidents has almost halved compared to 2020, as has the number of physical assaults of people. Thus, the degree of far-right violence against LGBT+ women and activists and the feminist community decreased somewhat in 2021, although not as radically as for political cases.
AN OUTBREAK OF ETHNIC HATRED
In contrast to political and gender-based cases, where de-escalation was observed, there was an outbreak of confrontations and violence based on ethnic hatred in 2021.
While the monitoring recorded only 6 cases of confrontations and violence based on ethnic hatred in 2020, there were already 21 such cases in 2021. 13 of them included elements of violence, which in 7 cases was directed against people. A significant portion of these cases were motivated by Romaphobia and anti-Semitism.
A few organized attacks against the Roma occurred in Lviv, Dnipro, and Kyiv. On January 10, unknown persons attacked a Roma man in Lviv, accusing him of theft. They poured green paint over him and beat him. A similar attack took place on October 5 in Dnipro: an unknown right-wing radical pepper-sprayed a Roma man and beat him. In both cases, the information and videos were spread by the far-right social media pages. Two more attacks were carried out in Kyiv by right-wing radical Maksym Yarosh and his associates. Videos of these attacks were also spread by the far-right. On October 24, Yarosh used a dildo to beat up female Roma victims. He also pepper-sprayed them, accusing them of a phone theft. On December 20, he humiliated and punched in the head one of the three Roma men whom he accused of stealing a phone. An attack on Roma property was also recorded on July 6 as right-wing radicals threw Molotov cocktails and pyrotechnics through the windows of Roma homes allegedly “at the request of citizens” in an unidentified location (probably in Kyiv). The information was once again disseminated by far-right pages on social media.
Almost all organized confrontations of the far-right on the grounds of ethnic hatred in 2021 were directed against the Roma and were part of a wave of hatred that hit Kyiv and the region at the end of the year.
For example, right-wing radicals threatened a few female members of the Roma minority, pressured and coerced them into sexual acts on October 13, recording everything in a video which was later distributed by far-right pages on social media. On October 17, right-wing radicals came to the Roma settlement in the town of Irpin with firecrackers and smoke bombs and poured paint over the fence. On October 19 in Kyiv, right-wing radicals poured leftover food on a Roma woman in the middle of the street. On October 21, unknown attackers chased a Roma person from Arsenalna subway station in Kyiv. On November 13, unidentified perpetrators painted the faces of four Roma accused of theft with green paint. On December 16, right-wing radical Maksym Yarosh made several Roma women take their outerwear off and shot this on video. Information and videos of all these incidents were distributed by far-right social media pages.
At the same time, most of the hatred-based far-right violence against property in 2021 was carried out on the grounds of anti-semitism. These incidents escalated before Hanukkah, when unidentified people destroyed and demolished Hanukkah candle holders all over Ukraine, organizing a so-called flash mob, as far-right activists called this series of events on social media. There were grounds to attribute three of the six cases to the far-right movement, rather than to spontaneous hate-based attacks. For example, three children joined a so-called flash mob in Dnipro to destroy Hanukkah candle holders on November 29. Four of them were arrested later, one of them wearing clothing by the far-right brand Swaston. On December 3, a Hanukkah candle holder was stolen in Rivne; the attackers left a note saying “Jews are abusing our tolerance.” On December 6, a Jewish woman was thrown into the river in Uzhhorod. A swastika and an anti-Semitic leaflet were left behind. Later, a man was detained, who admitted his guilt and was prosecuted under Article 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. After the Hanukkah flash mob, another anti-Semitic case of vandalism was detected in Lysychansk on December 4, when a memorial to the Holocaust victims was demolished. The city authorities at the time denied the crime and attributed the damage to weather conditions. In January, however, the NS / WP (National Socialism / White Power) page posted a video in which a man with a sledgehammer demolished the memorial. Moreover, the monument was damaged again on January 18, 2022.
As a result, 11 of the 21 cases of far-right confrontations and violence recorded by the monitoring in 2021 were committed due to Romaphobia and 5 due to to anti-Semitic motives. Besides, 13 of the 20 cases which did not show enough evidence to be attributed to far-right violence and confrontations and were not included into the statistics of the monitoring had anti-Semitic motivations. We can therefore speak of a threatening outbreak of organized street Romaphobia as well as organized and unorganized street anti-Semitism in 2021.
ATTACKS ON LEFTIST AND ANTI-FASCIST ACTIVISTS
In 2021, the monitoring recorded 13 cases of far-right confrontations and violence (10 cases in 2020) against leftist and anti-fascist activists, 10 of them with violent elements. Although this is not too many compared to all the cases reported in 2021, it was this category of victims who were attacked physically more often as all 10 cases of violence were directed against people.
Some of the attacks by far-right activists occurred during or around public actions organized by leftist and anti-fascist activists. For example, Tradition and Order attacked left-wing activists for participating in protests against rising utility fees on February 22 in Odesa. The attackers used tear gas and threatened the protesters with cold weapons. On May 9, nationalists and representatives of the Antifascist Committee of Ukraine clashed during Victory Day celebrations in Kyiv. Right-wing radicals tore red ribbons off the rally participants and trampled on flowers.
Two attacks occurred in Kyiv during protests over the situation in Belarus. On July 7, right-wing radical Oleksiy Svynarenko (National Resistance) and his henchmen attacked people who had come to the rally under Belarusian flags. He wrote in his Telegram channel that he had “attacked Belarusian anti-fascists.” Tear gas was used. The attackers were detained by the police, but, as far as we know, no consequences followed. On August 8, right-wing radicals attacked anti-fascists during an action of solidarity with the Belarusian people. Members of the Avangard Cultural Union movement took a banner from the activists and sprayed tear gas at them.
Another attack was recorded during the protests of left-wing activists in support of Belarusian anti-fascist Alexey Bolenkov, whom the Ukrainian law enforcement tried to extradite to the Belarusian authorities. On July 20, four dozen right-wing radicals came to the Kyiv Court of Appeal where a hearing of the Bolenkov case was held. They tried to block him and his supporters in order to disrupt the hearing. When Bolenkov and his supporters tried to approach the courthouse, they were attacked with pepper spray. Five people were injured. Among the attackers were members of such organizations as Future Society, National Corps, National Resistance, Alternatives, Tradition and Order, Rightwing Youth and Unknown Patriot. One more confrontation by the far-right was recorded around the Bolenkov case on June 22. During a court hearing on the deportation of Alexey Bolenkov, administrator of the Volier Telegram channel and leader of the National Resistance Svynarenko tried to hit Bolenkov. Court security escorted the right-wing radical out.
A number of attacks against individual activists or supporters of leftist/anti-fascist views were not associated with any public event. For example, right-wing radicals attacked an anarchist and environmental activist and his acquaintance in Lviv on January 19. A hammer, tear gas, and knives were used during the attack. Subsequently, the attackers smashed up a shop where the activist was trying to hide, and several female workers were injured by the tear gas. The activist sustained moderate injuries and was hospitalized. The police arrived on the scene but did not detain anyone. On July 26, far-right activists attacked a person wearing an Anti-Fascist Action T-shirt in Kyiv and took it away. On August 27 in Kyiv, unknown right-wing radicals brutally beat up a concert attendee for a tattoo with a swastika crossed out. The man had several teeth knocked out and possibly a broken jaw. On November 3, right-wing radicals kicked three anti-fascists in Kyiv. The attackers took their stickers and attributes and made a post in a right-wing Telegram channel. Another attack against an antifascist activist occurred in Kyiv’s Podil on December 16.
In 2021, the 2020 wave of attacks on young people wearing clothing associated with subcultures in Kyiv’s Podil district subsided. However, there was a surge of far-right violence and confrontations around clubs in this area of Kyiv. The official rhetoric of the attackers was built around the “fight against drug dens.” However, the attacks were also predetermined ideologically, although they were not included in the statistics of confrontations and violence against leftist and anti-fascist activists. For example, right-wing radicals from Centuria wrote “YAKARTA VIENIE” (a reference to the mass murder of Communist Party supporters in Indonesia in 1965–1966, when between half a million and a million people were killed) on the walls of the HVLV bar in Kyiv on November 10. On November 16, several far-right radicals came to the SHOOM club, asked if it was the Closer club, and wrote “Death to leftists” on the door of the venue. A total of 10 cases of confrontations and violence against clubs and bars in Podil by right-wing radicals were recorded in November–December 2021. The attacks began on November 6, when the Foundation of the Future, the Ukrainian Flag, and the National Resistance tried to break into the HVLV bar, throwing flour and pyrotechnics and leaving Nazi writings “NS-WP” (NS—National Socialism, WP—White Power). On the same night, they tried to break into the rave club at 41 Kyrylivska Street. On November 20, the Foundation of the Future and the National Resistance threw pyrotechnics at the HVLV bar and blocked the rave club at 41 Kyrylivska Street. The climax of the attacks came on November 26, when right-wing radicals from the Foundation of the Future, National Resistance, and Centuria broke into the HVLV bar, smashed windows, pepper-sprayed several customers, and fought with the security. At least two people were injured. The police identified several of the attackers and opened a criminal case.
So although far-right confrontations and violence against leftist and anti-fascist activists in 2021 were second to attacks against some other groups, it is these cases that most often involved attacks against people. They were directed both against public actions by leftist and anti-fascist activists and against individual activists or just young people with certain symbols. The anti-leftist motives were also at least partly responsible for the attacks on the institutions that the far-right fought against in 2021. To summarize, it is through violence that the far-right continue to try to maintain their ideological dominance on the streets of Ukraine.
In 2021, the far-right movement continued to be active on the streets of Ukraine, but there were significant changes in the nature of far-right confrontations and violence. Despite a significant increase in the number of cases compared to 2020, it is mostly observed due to the rise of the number of confrontations. Against this background, far-right organizations and groups, which were not very active in previous years, were becoming more visible.
Although the overall growth of street activity of the far-right movement in 2021 was more confrontational in nature, the dynamics of right-wing attacks on various groups differed significantly. Thus, the amount of political violence decreased significantly during the inter-election year. Similar trends, although less pronounced, were observed in the war of the far-right against members and activists of the LGBT+ and feminist communities.
At the same time, 2021 saw an outbreak of far-right confrontations and violence based on ethnic hatred. Such far-right activity particularly affected the Roma, against whom most of the recorded cases in this category were directed. A slightly smaller surge, aimed primarily at the destruction of property, was recorded on the grounds of anti-Semitism.
The most violent were the actions of the far-right radicals directed against left-wing and anti-fascist activists. Despite a relatively small increase in the number of such cases, this category saw the greatest number of attacks against people.
As a result, the political situation in the country, in particular the period between elections, the dynamics of the far-right milieu, the government’s response to its activities, and a significant increase in right-wing activism on the internet, as well as other processes, all impacted the street activity of far-right radicals. However, confrontation and violence remain a characteristic part of their activity, which distinguishes the extreme right from others and poses a threat to their political opponents, a number of vulnerable communities, freedom of speech and political dialogue.
PART III. REVIEW OF MONITORING REPORTS BY HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS
Ukrainian human rights organizations do their own monitoring of violations of the rights of vulnerable groups. Marker’s monitoring of far-right movements largely overlaps with other monitorings, as the activities of right-wing radicals account for a significant proportion of human rights violations in one area or another. However, despite the overlap, such monitorings do not duplicate one another, since not all hate crimes are committed by the far-right, and far-right violence may be based on factors that lay outside the scope of interest of human rights organizations.
In this section, we will analyze the information on the activities of right-wing radicals which is contained in the reports of other non-government and human rights organizations working to protect the rights of activists and members of the LGBT+ community.
- Civic Space and Fundamental Freedoms in Ukraine. November 1, 2019—October 31, 2021. Report by the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukrainehttps://www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/2021-12/UkraineCivicSpace2021-EN.pdf
In its report, the OHCHR notes 29 incidents targeting journalists, bloggers and individuals who have spoken critically about the authorities or the “dominant political agenda.” And one of the key problems, according to the report, is the authorities’ failure to guarantee the safety of media workers or public figures who express opinions on sensitive issues, and to effectively investigate attacks against them.
The report also speaks of threats and attacks against members or supporters of political parties, mostly opposition parties, and records an increase in attacks against them during active periods of political campaigns.
“Despite the fact that in at least five attacks the perpetrators openly demonstrated their affiliation with groups promoting violence (wore corresponding clothing, posted videos of attacks on social media, etc.), the investigations have never identified the attackers,” the report says.
During the reporting period, OHCHR recorded 21 attacks on peaceful assemblies. The attacks predominantly targeted actions organized by the LGBT+ community, human rights defenders and opposition political parties. Fifteen of them were perpetrated by “groups promoting violence.” In most cases, the attackers of peaceful assemblies gave an advance warning of their violent intentions, and law enforcement authorities were able to prevent or mitigate the violence.
- The Situation of Human Rights Defenders and Civic Activists in Ukraine in 2021. Zmina Human Rights Centerhttps://zmina.ua/en/publication-en/activism-2021-monitoring-report-on-the-persecution-of-activists-and-human-rights-defenders/
The report presents the situation with persecutions of civic activists in 2021. Persecutions mean not only physical attacks or confrontations, but also cyberbullying, threats, intimidation or discreditation campaigns carried out by authorities, commercial structures or far-right groups.
A total of 108 cases of harassment for civic activities were recorded in 2021, which is 7 more than in 2020. According to the report’s authors, such dynamics may indicate both a deterioration of the situation and the willingness of civic activists to turn to human rights defenders and speak out about the violations of their rights. Intimidation of activists (27 cases), destruction or damage to property (24), physical attacks (20), and smear campaigns (12) were the most common among the documented cases.
Among the recorded cases that clearly described the field of activity of the harassed activists, the most harassed were LGBT+ activists (17 cases), anti-corruption activists (16), activists against illegal construction (13) and eco-activists (11). The remaining 34 cases were categorized as “other social activities.”
The report’s authors make special mention of the far-right Telegram channels that organize campaigns to harass and discredit civic activists and publish their personal information: Catharsis, Volier, Grant Detector, channels of the far-right organizations such as Tradition and Order, Foundation of the Future and Society of the Future (former C14), as well as the personal channels of far-right leaders Yevhen Karas and Alexei Svinarenko.
- The Situation of the LGBT in Ukraine in January–July 2021. LGBT Human Rights Center “Our World”https://gay.org.ua/en/blog/2022/02/10/united-against-violence-lgbt-situation-in-ukraine-in-2021/?noredirect=en_US
“Far-right groups continue to target and attack LGBT events, organizations and individual activists,” the report’s summary reads. The authors call Tradition and Order the main organization responsible for the attacks on these events. Characteristically, says the report, it was the topic of safety and countering homophobic violence that was among the main demands, or maybe the main demand of all public LGBT+ events in 2021.
In total in 2021, the Our World center documented 144 incidents on the grounds of homophobia and transphobia, discrimination and other violations of LGBT+ rights (10 of them occurred in 2020). Among them were 81 cases of insults, threats or humiliation of human dignity and 66 cases of physical violence of varying degrees of severity.
The organization has noted a decrease in the number of cases over the past two years, but it attributes this primarily to quarantine restrictions, which have resulted in the cancellation of many public LGBT+ events and a significant decrease in the number of in-person meetings between LGBT+ people. As a consequence, all of this reduces the number of homophobic attacks by far-right groups as well as the number of extortion attacks.
- Ukrainian Journalists’ Physical Safety Index 2021. National Union of Journalists of Ukrainehttps://safety.nsju.org/indeks-fizychnoyi-bezpeky-2021/
The monitoring of violations of journalists’ rights has recorded 70 cases in 2021. In 8 cases, far-right activists were involved in the attacks. Among them are 3 cases of attacks on journalists during a rally near the Nash TV channel in February 2021; 2 attacks on Alexander Kuzhelnyi, a photo reporter for Bukvy; an attack on a journalist of the 1+1 TV channel during a rally held by the National Corps near the Presidential Office on August 14; an attack on a journalist and a cameraman of the Nash TV channel in Korosten; and an attack on Ruslan Kotsaba carried out by nationalists.
- Antisemitism in Ukraine. Report for 2021. United Jewish Community of Ukrainehttps://ujcureport.site/AntisemitismUKR21.pdf
The annual monitoring report of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine contains information about 52 recorded cases of antisemitism in 2021. The monitoring includes cases of violence against Jews, vandalism, antisemitic statements or inscriptions in public spaces. 52 cases is 3 more cases than in 2020 and 4 fewer than in 2019. Thus, the average level of antisemitism remained unchanged, although the number of violent acts decreased, the report said.
- The Practice of Investigating Crimes Motivated by Intolerance in Ukraine. Ukrainian Legal Aid Foundation together with other human rights organizations and expertshttps://ulaf.org.ua/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Звіт-за-результатами-дослідження-1.pdf
The study examined crimes motivated by intoleranceCrimes that fall under the following articles of the Criminal Code of Ukraine: Article 161; Paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Article 67; Part 14 of Article 115; Part 2 of Articles 121, 122, 126, 127, 129; … Continue reading between January 1, 2015 and June 30, 2020. Not all such crimes were committed by the far-right. At the same time, not all cases of far-right violence or confrontations involve a motive of intolerance towards a particular social group.
Despite the fact that the number of cases in which the pre-trial investigative authorities used Article 161 of the Criminal Code increases every year, the number of cases brought to court under this article is very low. This indicates low efficiency of the article, the authors of the report write.
For example, during the reporting period 212 criminal cases were opened due to violations motivated by racial, national or ethnic intolerance. Only 14 of them made it to court. 114 were closed and 73 were stopped. The cases reached court sentences in 11 cases.
Crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity of the victims are far from always being registered in the Unified Register of Pre-trial Investigations, the report noted. Between 2015 and 2020, only 8 criminal cases were opened where the attackers were charged with motives of intolerance towards LGBT+ people (Article 161 of the Criminal Code). Of these, 3 have already been closed, 5 are still ongoing.
A total of 597 cases have been opened under Article 161 in 5.5 years, 21 of which have been sent to court (4% of all opened cases), and there is a decision in 15 cases (3%). 372 (62%) cases have already been closed. Investigations are ongoing in 179 cases.
“Even in cases where criminal actions are clearly motivated by intolerance, as indicated by human rights organizations, cases rarely make it to court because proceedings are closed “for lack of evidence,” the report concludes.