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1 Aug, 2018 13:58

‘A lot of f*cking Nazi sympathizers’: Black reporter recounts ‘mostly positive’ Ukraine experience

‘A lot of f*cking Nazi sympathizers’: Black reporter recounts ‘mostly positive’ Ukraine experience

There are a "lot of f*cking Nazi sympathizers" in Ukraine, but reports of widespread right-wing extremism are "propaganda," according to a black journalist who shared his experiences in the country on Twitter.

Terrell J. Starr, a reporter for The Root, took to Twitter to explain the "challenges of being black" in Ukraine. The US journalist noted that he rarely shares the "f*cked up sh*t" he experiences while working in Ukraine because his encounters with race issues in the country have been "mostly positive" and therefore "the bad ones don't always register." Starr said that 90 percent of the attention he gets for being black in Ukraine is positive, but "the 10 percent is very, very bad. And recently, I have felt some bad vibes during my travels to Ukraine."

He recounted several run-ins with this unsavory minority, including one instance in the western Ukrainian city of Yaremche, in which a man "drove by and spit at me as he threw up the Heil Hitler salute." In a similarly unpleasant encounter in downtown Kiev, Starr said that he was threatened by "right-wing extremists" who claimed to be members of the Azov Battalion – a right-wing, Nazi-rune-bedazzled punitive battalion which was incorporated into the National Guard of Ukraine in 2014.

Starr also said that there are "a lot of f*cking Nazi sympathizers" in Ukraine, adding that he saw "so many SS and 88 tattoos" during his travels there. However, the journalist insisted that stereotyping Ukraine as a country "full of Nazis" is a "falsehood" peddled by "the propaganda machine."

But while Starr insisted that Ukrainians have been wrongly stereotyped, he expressed disappointment that "plenty" of Ukrainians stereotype black people – even though he has worked so hard to defend Ukrainians from unfounded generalizations.

"As a black person, it is very disheartening and hurtful, honestly, to hear Ukrainians say very stereotypical things about black communities when I spend so much of my time breaking down stereotypes about them and their country."

READ MORE: Too blatant to ignore? Human rights groups warn that ‘radical groups’ have free rein in Ukraine

Just as frustrating, according to Starr, is that every time he brings up racism in Ukraine, he's "accused of giving the Kremlin ammunition." Borrowing the default chant for Ukrainian torch-carrying right-wing nationalists, Starr then bizarrely ended his lengthy Twitter meditation with a rousing "Slava Ukraina!"

Although Starr lamented that Kiev's response to racist attacks against Ukraine's Roma population "has not been very good at all," he apparently did not feel inclined to note that one of the neo-Nazi groups accused of attacking Roma settlements received funding from Ukraine's Ministry of Youth and Sports – highlighting that Ukraine's neo-Nazis, while perhaps a minority, have enjoyed direct and indirect support from Kiev.

Attributing reports of widespread right-wing extremism in Ukraine to propaganda may also be ill-advised. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Front Line Defenders, and Freedom House sent a letter to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor General's Office in June detailing a series of attacks by right-wing groups against minorities and activists that have gone largely ignored by law enforcement.

Even the NATO-funded Atlantic Council conceded recently that Ukraine has "a real problem with far-right violence."

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