By Richard Arnold
While the exact role of Ukrainian far-right groups in removing President Viktor Yanukovych is disputed, they were clearly present among the protestors and well represented by, amongst other organizations, Pravyi Sector (Right Sector). The role of the ultra-radicals is one of the variables on which the stability of Russia’s most important neighbor now rests.
Like other Russians, the Russian far-right is monitoring the events in Ukraine closely. They are even sending their own reporters to Maidan in an attempt to produce “news without censorship” (http://www.dpni.org/articles/blogi/38461/). The overall tone of articles concerning Ukraine does not suggest a clear indication in favor of either Ukrainian nationalists or the government. An article reporting on Viktor Yanukovych’s February 27 appeal to “loyalists” in Crimea openly criticizes him (http://www.dpni.org/articles/novostnaya/38526/). On the other hand, an article regarding the mobilization in Crimea argues that people should not be deceived by claims that the “Russians have all won” and calls on Russians in Crimea to oppose “the new government” under which “the [Crimean] Tatars are the complete masters” (http://vk.com/wall-65924970_479). What unites these seemingly disparate articles, however, is anti-Putinism and populism. The prospect of a Maidan-like protest movement in Moscow sponsored by extremist Russian ethno-nationalists has to frighten the Russian government.
Illustrative of this threat, a January 26 article titled “How to carry out a people’s assembly” and sent from Ukraine provides instructions on mobilizing ethnic Russians in a similar manner to events at Kondopoga in 2006 and Biryulyevo in 2013 (http://www.dpni.org/articles/novosti__d/38302/). The article offers advice to protesters on how to avoid detention, including directions to record the protests and post the videos on the internet. It ends with a warning that Vladimir Putin’s regime has passed a law increasing fines on attendees of unsanctioned meetings to 10,000 rubles ($278) and 100,000 rubles ($2,782) on the organizers of such meetings. While the far right has been trying to hold such rallies frequently, the events in Ukraine cannot fail to have provided them with inspiration.