By Ekaterina Blinova – Mar 25, 2022
As Russia continues to conduct its special operation in Ukraine to denazify the county, social media are circulating sinister photos and videos of Ukrainians taped to lamp poles and trees, labelled as “marauders,” “Russian agents” or “diversants”. The inhumane acts are often attributed to nationalist and Neo-Nazi groups.
“Probably as any sane person, I’m simply terrified to see these horrors – in terms of lynching people, kicking them, trying to somehow smash their identity through tying them to the lampposts and painting their faces in the colour of the Ukrainian flag,” says Adriel Kasonta, a London-based foreign affairs analyst and former chairman of the International Affairs Committee at the Bow Group think tank. “This is terrifying, that is beyond any human being’s dignity, it’s really terrifying to see these pictures.”
Many reported atrocities are being committed by Ukrainian nationalists and the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion. Being incorporated into the National Guard in 2014 the group is subordinate to the Ukrainian authorities. The Azov Battalion, which openly wears the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel insignia, is notorious for attacking and displacing residents in eastern Ukraine, as well as raping and torturing detainees in Donbass, according to a 2016 UN report by the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OCHA).
Incidents involving taping and whipping of Ukrainian civilians occur in areas where Ukrainian nationalists are most active: particularly, in Kharkov, Lvov, Cherkassy, and Dnepropetrovsk. Civilians are tied to electric poles or trees with tape, sometimes their faces are smeared with paint or green antiseptic dye, they are whipped and left in the cold. Photos of the victims and footage of the punishment are widely shared on social media networks.
Among those targeted are the Roma people, one of Ukraine’s ethnic minorities. One photo shows a Roma family, including children, being tied to a pole with their faces painted with green dye in the city of Lvov. There is no evidence that these people committed crimes, nor is there any provision in Ukrainian legislation authorising the use of such brutal methods of punishment.
“This is obviously inhumane and marks a dangerous turn in Ukraine towards mob rule, where the worst elements in society take over the policing of the population,” says Joe Quinn, political commentator and author. “While shocking to normal people, such images are not surprising due to the culture of intolerance, extremism and racism that has been a part of the political and military structure of Ukraine for many decades.”
The Western mainstream media either remains silent about the ongoing arbitrariness or tries to portray the instances of the human rights abuse as local civilians’ efforts to fight “looters and bandits by themselves.”
However, the discovery of a torture chamber in the basement of a building previously occupied by the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the village of Kryakovka, Lugansk region, tells another story.
“In this basement there was, so to speak, an impromptu torture chamber, from where we took a local resident tormented to death,” said Lugansk People’s Republic militia serviceman. “There are traces of blood on the floor. Judging by the state of the body, he was shot in the head during the retreat.”
Yet another infamous torture site codenamed “Library” was located in the International Airport of Mariupol, the Donetsk region. Documentary evidence indicated that the site belonged to the Azov Battalion. Those who disagreed with the policies of the Ukrainian authorities after the 2014 coup were detained, tortured and even killed there.
‘Everyone is Perfectly Aware of What’s Going On’
“It is astonishing and saddened that these facts are not loudly condemned by the various humanitarian NGOs in the West,” says Tiberio Graziani, chairman at Vision & Global Trends, International Institute for Global Analyses.
However, according to Kasonta, everyone in the West is perfectly aware of what is happening in Ukraine and how Ukrainian nationalists, the Azov Battalion, and violent mobs are treating regular citizens and ethnic minorities in Ukraine. Racism and xenophobia have long penetrated into the fabric of Ukrainian society, according to the analyst.
Thus, it comes as no surprise that African students were turned back by Ukrainian border guards while attempting to cross into Poland. “They stopped us at the border and told us that Blacks were not allowed. But we could see White people going through,” a Guinea student recalled as quoted by France 24 on 28 February.
Meanwhile, the nationalist agenda became part of the Ukrainian education system. According to Ukrainian outlet STRANA.ua, the nationalist projects received up to half of all the funds allocated by the Ukrainian government for children’s and youth organisations in 2020 alone.
In March 2014, CNN admitted that “far-right, anti-Semitic, anti-Russian, and openly fascist groups have existed and do exist as a blight on modern Ukraine.” Two years earlier the European Parliament’s resolution denounced “the rising nationalistic sentiment in Ukraine.” The Guardian quoted the Azov commander, Andriy Biletsky, as saying in 2010 that “Ukraine’s mission was to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade…against Semite-led Untermenschen [subhumans].”
“Somehow, now many articles and many journals are trying to whitewash their previous claim by saying, ‘okay, perhaps they have the structures in the Ukrainian military forces, but now these Nazis are effectively fighting Russians‘,” says Kasonta. “Now we are supposed to glorify Nazis only for the mere fact that they are fighting the Western boogeyman, which is Russia. And it goes back full circle to World War II, where the German Nazis were fighting Soviet Russia.”
While human rights have been weaponised and monopolised by the West, “now the so-called human rights watchers are blind to the fact that human rights are being violated in Ukraine by Ukrainians, they are only concentrated on alleged crimes committed against Ukrainians by Russians,” according to the foreign affairs analyst.
“This is very disturbing because it shows that the double standard is very clear, that we are not living in a world where we can objectively condemn someone, if someone is committing human rights violations,” he says. “But we are only supposed to condemn those who are labelled by the United States or the collective West as the human rights violators. This is not human rights, if human rights and international law are used arbitrarily by one state to condemn its enemies, then the international law or law at large is not serving its purpose. This is the double standard.”
Regardless of Kiev’s dark record of human rights abuses and xenophobia, the EU – which applauded Black Lives Matter anti-racism marches in summer 2020 – is backing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenski’s bid for membership stressing that “Ukraine belongs to our European family.”
Featured image: © AP Photo / Efrem Lukatsky
Ekaterina Blinova is an independent political analyst, freelance journo.