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14 Oct, 2019 08:17

Walk on, nothing to see here, just new Ukrainian PM visiting neo-Nazi band gig

Walk on, nothing to see here, just new Ukrainian PM visiting neo-Nazi band gig

Nothing demonstrates a nation’s aspiration of becoming a member of the European Union like its new prime minister paying a visit to a ‘patriotic’ event featuring a prominent neo-Nazi band. Just ask Ukraine’s Oleksiy Honcharuk.

The 35-year-old, who was confirmed as the head of the Ukrainian government in late August, had a really busy Sunday evening last week. He attended an event at one of Kiev’s bars to honor the nation’s veterans and promise support to the armed forces. All good so far, except the event was a neo-Nazi gig featuring one of their favorite bands as the main attraction.

Images of Honcharuk attending the “Veterans Strong Party” show him speaking from the stage with the banners of the band “Sokyra Peruna” behind his back. One of the first people to share the pictures was Evgen Karas, the leader of the far-right organization C14, which is best known in the West for a series of attacks on Roma camps last year.

C14, however, is not some lowly gang of skinheads but a notable political force. Karas, for example, had enough clout to be included in the entourage of then-President Petro Poroshenko in January. And his organization has fingers in all sorts of pies in Ukraine. Their various branches and allied organizations serve as municipal guards in Kiev, are involved in teaching young people about healthy lifestyles, and represent military veterans – hence the patriotic event on Sunday.

While C14 doesn’t like to be called neo-Nazi and even took a TV station to court for describing them as such, the connection is hard to miss. Look no further than “Sokyra Peruna,” the heavy metal band that played that evening. Outwardly, they are just focused on patriotism, Ukrainian nationalism and militarism with an occasional Nazi reference or two slipping through. However, the names of their songs like “Heroes of My Race” and “Glory to Skinheads of the Great Rus” somewhat give them away.

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Their fans, however, are far less subtle. Photos from a concert of “Sokyra Peruna” held in April 2018 caused a minor scandal because there were people literally displaying Nazi swastikas on their T-shirts and flags. They were even probed by the police about the gig, but nothing came of it.

Adding insult to injury was who Karas credited for organizing the evening. It was none other than C14 member Andriy Medvedko, one of two far-right activists charged with assassinating prominent writer Oles Buzina in April 2015. He and his alleged accomplice were caught a couple of months after the vocal critic of post-coup authorities in Kiev was gunned down near his home. One might think a man facing up to 15 years for a premeditated murder might be a flight risk and belongs in jail, but apparently Medvedko’s place is at a bar with the country’s Prime Minister.

It was not immediately clear if Honcharuk’s appearance was because his office was oblivious about the nature of the event that he attended, or because he sympathizes with C14’s cause. Either way, he has some explaining to do.

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