Crocodile tears for Sentsov and Kol’chenko

The silence about hundreds of criminal cases against oppositionists in Ukraine is the height of hypocrisy

By Victor Shapinov

August 28: The crocodile tears of the liberal and left-liberal public after the verdict against Oleg Sentsov and Alexander Kol’chenko are in stark contrast to the determined silence of this same group about the fate of communists accused of terrorism by the Ukrainian state. For example, my comrades Andrei Sokolov and Vladislav Wojciechowski. 

Oleg Sentsov and his accomplice Alexander Kol’chenko, during
announcement of the verdict in North Caucasus District Military Court.
(Photo: Valery Matytsin / TASS)

I knew Alexander Kol’chenko personally. A subcultural anarchist known by the nickname “Tundra,” leader of a small Crimean anarchist group. Now – a former anarchist. After all, the people who sang the [Ukrainian] national anthem during his sentencing are unlikely to belong to a political trend that rejects the state altogether.

However, Maidan and the start of the civil war changed many people. Or didn’t change them — just peeled off political labels and bared the ugly essence. Maidan reconciled many who called themselves anarchists and anti-fascists, not only to the Ukrainian state, but also to those who once seemed irreconcilable enemies — the Nazis.

So I’m not surprised that former anarchist and anti-fascist Kol’chenko found himself in the company of Ukrainian nationalists associated with the “Right Sector”* and other fascist organizations. At least one of the defendants in the Crimean case — Aleksey Chirny — openly admits his relationship with RS. Not only during the investigation, but during his arrest, he admitted that he received instructions from this Nazi organization. I do not rule out that such confessions were extracted under duress, but the connection with Sentsov’s fascist political circles indicates there is more to it than that.

Sentsov was a leader of the organization “Automaidan.” Many people think that this is a volunteer organization to help Maidan motorists, an almost apolitical representative of civil society. This is not true. During the events of winter-spring 2014, the Automaidanists — typically middle-class drivers of expensive cars — hunted down, beat and seized as hostages the so-called “titushky,” i.e., opponents of the Maidan, and anyone they didn’t like. In fact, it was a hunting party for the “golden youth” of Kiev, aimed at those whom they regarded as disenfranchised and inarticulate “cattle.”

One of the leaders of the “Automaidan,” the famous Ukrainian Nazi Jinja, who distinguished himself even under Yanukovych for hunting people of “non-Slavic” appearance, today is fighting in the Nazi “Azov” battalion, and participated in punitive operations in Mariupol. Many of the Automaidan joined the war through the ideologically-driven Azov battalion. According to the testimony of one of the former “Azovtsev,” scrubbed from the ranks for opposition to the division’s Nazi ideology, “the battalion turned into a gang that accepts only the extreme right. If a person does not adhere to National Socialist beliefs, Azov will not accept him.”

Liberal public opinion disputes the accusation of terrorism, believing that the planned arson of Russian Unity and Party of Regions offices and preparations to bomb a monument of Vladimir Lenin should be classified as deliberate destruction of property. I do not want to give a legal evaluation of their actions, much less stand on the side of the investigation. But from a political point of view, the Sentsov group was preparing acts of political terrorism, as evidenced by their choice of targets for “destruction of property” — the headquarters of Antimaidan political forces and a communist symbol.

I condemn not so much the Sentsov group’s methods — sometimes violence is the only means of political struggle. I condemn the focus of their actions. After all, the political purpose of Sentsov’s group is a struggle for the forcible imposition of the Kiev regime’s will on the Crimean majority, forced detention of the Crimean population in a “unified” Ukraine that is rapidly turning into a fascist state.

As a former anti-fascist affiliated to the Ukrainian fascists, Kol’chenko is not the only example. In winter 2014, most Kiev anarchists supported the Maidan, despite the clear dominance of their ostensible ideological opponents — the Nazis.

Common ground was found quickly — first directed against police violence (for the anarchists, the important fact was such violence itself, rather than its political orientation); secondly, anti-communism (a small group of anarchists even brought an anti-communist banner with caricatures of Lenin and Trotsky to the square). Hatred of the state also managed to reconcile itself with participation in the far-right rebellion – it was sufficient to switch from “their own” to a neighboring state – Russia.

Clear socio-class causes underlie the transition of anarchists and left-liberals to the side of the Maidan.Young people from families of the Kiev “middle class” reached for the socially similar crowd on Maidan. Anarcho-Tusovka [Anarcho-get-together] has always lived by the principle: “Let’s see how the Western anarchists act and do likewise.” This Eurocentric thinking, long grafted to imperialist cultural hegemony, easily reconciled to the slogans of “European integration.” Having an illusory hope to become “first class” “European” leftists, they ran to the neoliberal-nationalist leaders of the Maidan, who promised to lead Ukraine “into Europe.”

And the fact that the right-wing coup was presented as a “revolution” allowed the anarchists and left-liberals to join the Maidan movement, despite its blatant anti-leftist orientation.

Once the claw was stuck, the entire bird sank into the swamp. Floating down the Maidan stream, the former anarchists and left-liberals soon found themselves in the ranks of the punitive battalions – the Nazi “Aydar,” the notorious torture and rape outfit “Tornado,” and others.

Imagine that Kol’chenko was not arrested along with Sentsov’s group and, after successfully blowing up the monument to Vladimir Lenin, fled to Kiev. What would he have done then? Most likely, we would read about him today as a “fighter” of one of the volunteer battalions sent to suppress the anti-fascist uprising in the Donbass. At least, that’s how the Kiev anarchists that went all the way with the “Maidan Left” and were not stopped by the FSB, ended up.

Perhaps an overly strict verdict broke Kol’chenko the activist, but saved the life of Kol’chenko the man. He was rescued from participating in a war against his own people, which he undoubtedly started, preparing armed action against the self-determination of the Crimean people. Unlike many of his associates from Kiev, Kol’chenko has not stained his hands with the blood of people in Donetsk and Lugansk, he did bother to be this bad. But he certainly was going that route, joining the Sentsov group.

The liberal public’s support for Sentsov and Kol’chenko isn’t a protest against any violations that may well have happened during the investigation and trial. It is support for the policies of the Kiev government with its repression of dissent and crude nationalism. It is support for the Kiev authorities in their efforts to regain control of Crimea and the Donbass, contrary to the will of the population of these territories. That’s why would-be terrorists with a Nazi stench were championed by the liberals of “Russian solidarity.”

The hypocrisy of this assemblage, and those leftists who joined with them, is also evident in the fact that they do not notice the repression which the Kiev regime systematically conducts.

Solidarity with political prisoner Andrei Sokolov
in New York City, June 13, 2015.
Photo by Greg Butterfield
Right now my comrade, communist Andrei Sokolov, is on trial. He is accused of “creating a terrorist organization” (from 8 to 15 years in prison). The court sessions are held with numerous violations. At the first two sessions he was not even present in the court. The trial took place by video conference from jail.

Andrei Sokolov is a famous person. In Russia, he spent a total of nine years in prison on political charges under Yeltsin and Putin. At the same time, like a true leftist, he strongly supported the uprising in the Donbass from the beginning. Last winter, as a self-taught engineer, he came to the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) to help the country establish vital production. He stumbled on a Ukrainian checkpoint and was captured.

Why do people who move mountains to devend Sentsov and Kol’chenko remain silent on the case of Andrei Sokolov?

Another friend of mine, Vladislav Wojciechowski, was arrested on charges of creating a terrorist group in Odessa. During his arrest, which, besides Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) agents, involved “activists” of Nazi groups, he was beaten. Then he was beaten during interrogation, under demands to admit his guilt and finger other comrades. Vlad was lucky — he was exchanged for captured Ukrainian soldiers, and now is a political commissar of the Ghost Brigade in the Lugansk People’s Republic (LC).

Vladislav Wojciechowski, survivor of Odessa massacre,
former political prisoner, now fighter in the Novorossiyan Ghost Brigade.
But while Vlad spent months in jail, where was the protest by those who today condemn the verdict against Sentsov and Kol’chenko? Where were the U.S. State Department and PACE, champions of the Crimean mountain-terrorists?

In Ukraine today, there are hundreds of criminal cases against communists and other opposition leaders. To not talk about them and howl about the “political persecution” of Sentsov and Kol’chenko is the height of hypocrisy.

Sentsov and Kol’chenko fought against the Crimean people on the side of the Kiev government, Sokolov and Wojciechowski — against the Kiev government on the side of the opposition. This is the difference between them. Therefore, those who support the Sentsov group and stay silent about Sokolov and other political prisoners in Ukraine not only demonstrate a high level of hypocrisy, indicating complete moral failure, but are politically adjacent to the worst reaction.

Of course, the best way out of this situation is not to leave the unfortunate terrorists – who actually do not have the capacity to acheive anything serious – to rot in prison, but to exchange Sentsov and Kol’chenko for political prisoners in Ukraine, for example, Russian citizen Andrei Sokolov and Odessa journalist Artyom Buzilov.

* From November 17, 2014, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation banned the activities of five extremist Ukrainian nationalist organizations in Russia: the Right Sector, UNA-UNSO, Ukrainian Insurgent Army, “Trident of Stepan Bandera” and “Brotherhood.”

Translated by Greg Butterfield

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