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22 Jan, 2014 15:06

​Ukrainian opposition and the West ‘playing with fire siding with extreme nationalists'

There is a danger that the Ukrainian extreme right are serving the political purpose of the apparently moderate leaders, who in fact want a revolution, Mark Almond, professor of history at Oxford University, told RT.

The so-called moderate opposition has desired a rise of nationalism during the riots, Almond believes. The Orange Revolution went wrong in 2004-05 precisely because the mass protests were peaceful, they led to a re-run of elections, but although Yanukovich lost, “he lost very narrowly and remained a viable political player with a very large body of support, and won of course the election in 2010.” Thus, the opponents of Yanukovich now recognize that “if you simply force fresh elections you don't fundamentally change the political system.”

“They want to marginalize Yanukovich and his Party of the Regions, his supporters. So you need a non-constitutional revolution. Remember one of the opposition television stations is now headlined the Revolution station,” Almond told RT.

As an example he mentioned Klitchko’s rethoric.

“Vitaly Klitchko spoke in forked tongue: when he talks in English or German for the media he talks about the need for peaceful protests, the need for fresh elections; but he then says to his supporters that Yanukovich is like Ceaușescu and Gaddafi. If you say that the president of Ukraine is like Gaddafi, what you are saying is that he is a dictator that should be lynched as Gaddafi was at the end of 2011,” Almond said.

“So there is a danger that the extreme right that does exist, the extreme nationalists and indeed near Nazi elements, are actually serving the political purpose of the apparently moderate leaders. That is to say they want to overthrow the existing state, they don't trust elections, because they fear that even if they win the elections there's a sufficiently bigger body of support for Yanukovich that his political movement would survive and come back again as it did after the failures of the Orange revolution,” he added.

Thus, “the so-called liberals and moderates are playing with fire,” Almond concludes, saying that the extremist mob now clashing with police in the streets might turn against them, too. “It's a very unstable situation, and I think that Vitaly Klitchko, Yatsenyuk, Parshenko - these leaders whom the West courts - are playing with fire, and so is the West,” Almond believes.

“They want a collapse of Yanukovich's government, a revolution of a sort. They, of course, then want to glide safely into the presidential office and into the seats of power, but they will have depended upon the heavy mob, these extreme nationalists of Ukraine who chant anti-Russian slogans, anti-Jewish slogans, and who of course have got a taste of violence, and, who will see themselves if they are able to overthrow Yanukovich, as the people who brought about the revolution,” he told RT. “And of course we've seen in the past once you move from having elections as the basis of political power to the crowd in the street, to the storming of the government buildings, that can slide out of control: the people who think they are the leaders today could find themselves marginalized, the people who today are willing to use incitements to violence by denouncing the current government as being tyrants could find themselves being targeted by the same people who are throwing Molotov cocktails tomorrow.”

Mark Almond also points out that the situation is “a sinister, cynical political power game about the Ukraine, which has implications for the functioning of the constitutions of the Western Europe, for the functioning of our own democracy.”

A pro-European protester throws a burning tyre during clashes with riot police in Kiev January 22, 2014.(Reuters / Vasily Fedosenko )

“I think it is a rather sinister sign not only for Ukraine that the democratic countries of the EU and the US, their governments and democratic institutions in Brussels, are siding with a rioting mob in the streets,” he said.

“Yanukovich's government refused to sign the association agreement with the EU - that sparked the protest. In other words, Yanukovich has a negative rating for the EU and for America; he didn't do what we wanted. What if a government inside the EU was to begin to say that we don't entirely agree with this or that, would they also see a sponsored crowd on the streets, would they also see inside a country inside the EU a threat to the constitutional order if you don't follow the line that the bureaucrats in Brussels have laid down,” Almond told RT.

Ukrainian authorities should take fascism more seriously

Both governments in Western Europe and the US, as well as Ukrainian authorities, must be more aware of the dangers of fascism, Nicolai N. Petro, professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island, believes.

"Whatever noble intentions these protesters might have had, they've been hijacked by very sinister and dark forces, and it is sad to see the governments across the border, in Western Europe and the US, not understand the dangers of fascism to a government that is divided and unwilling to take decisive action," Petro told RT.

"They don't take those ideas very seriously. Fascism seems like a historical footnote to them, they don't realize that these sort of events could be repeated, particularly in governments like Ukraine that don't have a long tradition of stable democratic politics," he added.

Petro says that the Ukrainian government should have been more decisive in its actions against extremist protestors.

"There's a threshold when authorities decide that the rights of protest have moved into a sphere in which it endangers the livelihood of the community, and when that determination is made the government restrains the most aggressive forcers and tries to shunt political activity back into constitutional framework. That is something that the current Ukrainian government has so far failed to do, and I think this is one of the greatest weaknesses and the most destabilizing aspect of the current protest - the government's ineffectiveness. The legitimate government's ineffectiveness, I should add," Petro concluded.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.