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27 Jan, 2020 21:45

Ukrainian nationalist leader demands compensation from Russia for ‘occupation in 20th century’

Ukrainian nationalist leader demands compensation from Russia for ‘occupation in 20th century’

Oleg Tyagnibok, the leader of Ukraine's far-right Svoboda party, has demanded Kiev authorities follow the example of Poland and the Baltic States by seeking compensation from Russia, for a range of historical grievances.

The radical politician, who has a history of expressing anti-Semitic and xenophobic views, expects Moscow to pay up for the damage caused during World War Two when Soviet Ukraine was invaded by Nazi Germany. He wants more cash for "occupation during the last century," plus dispossession and collectivization, at the hands of the Bolsheviks, as well as recompense for three famines and "tens of millions of killed Ukrainians.”

Tyagnibok is also seeking payouts for Ukraine's claims to a portion of the Russian "Diamond Fund": a valuable collection of gems, and jewelry, held at the Kremlin Armoury in Moscow, which is roughly analogous to Britain's "Crown Jewels.”

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The list doesn't stop there: he additionally wants a share of the foreign exchange reserves of the old USSR. However, the Svoboda Party leader doesn't take into account how Russia, after the Soviet collapse, assumed the debt obligations of all of its constituent republics, including Ukraine. A burden that caused Moscow considerable financial headaches in the 1990s, a decade which culminated in the 1998 economic crisis, and default.

Writing on the Telegram messenger, on Monday, he claimed "Muscovy (sic) owes us like (it owes) no one else" and complained that "Ukrainian authorities don't even breathe a word about it." Tyagnibok accused leaders in Kiev of flirting "with the enemy", and working to maintain trade partnerships.

Tyagnibok fails to acknowledge any Ukrainian culpability for Soviet policies, whether positive or negative. Despite the fact that a considerable amount of the USSR top brass were themselves Ukrainians. Indeed, one Leonid Brezhnev, from the Dnipropetrovsk region, literally ran the state for 18 of its final 27 years. And his immediate predecessor, Nikita Khrushchev, was a former chief of the Ukrainian SSR, who grew up in the Donbass. As it happens, Ukrainians held leadership positions at all political and military levels in what amounted to a union state. For instance, three of the eight chairmen of the KGB came from the country.

The right-wing populist is no fan of Russians and many other foreign and ethnic groups. Back in 2004, he was ejected from Kiev's Rada (parliament) after detailing how Ukrainians, during the Second World War "fought Muscovites, Germans, Jews and other scum who wanted to take away our Ukrainian state." He also referred to a "Jewish-Russian mafia, which (he alleged) rules in Ukraine.”

In a 2012 profile, The New York Times described how "some of his party's members are unabashed neo-Nazis, while others shun the label but nonetheless espouse virulent hatred of Jews, gays and especially Russians."

In recent times, members of the PiS (Law and Justice) government in neighboring Poland have made increasingly combative statements about 20th-century history, apportioning equal blame to the USSR and Germany for starting the Second World War. This revisionism has angered Moscow and brought its relations with Warsaw to lows not seen for decades. Just a few days ago, Poland's de-facto leader, ruling party boss Jarosław Kaczyński, demanded compensation from Russia for damage in World War II.

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Warsaw is also looking for reparations from Berlin. As far as Moscow is concerned, the Soviet Union liberated the Polish from the Nazis and later helped install a Communist government, with the support of local political leaders. Today's elites in Poland regard the post-War decades as an "occupation.”

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