With a bitter-sweet amusement I listened yesterday to the reports on the radio about a set of stolen paintings from the Netherlands that ended up in the hands of a fascist militia in Ukraine. An expert on the matter told about the volunteer battalions that are fighting in the Donbass area and their connection to the far right Svodoba party. He even went into the history of the right in Ukraine and such names as OUN and Stepan Bandera were mentioned. What a refreshing sound on the Dutch radio!
I say bitter-sweet because, of course I’m not happy that stolen art is being held by neonazi paramilitaries that try to haggle a good price to pay for their murder weapons. But there is a sense of schadenfreude involved when the Dutch finally after more than a year of practically denying the existence of fascism in Ukraine are being confronted with the facts.
It’s a classic example of NIMBY, or “Not in my back yard!” an occurrence usually seen in urban development plans and city council politics. Local residents that oppose the build of a road, office or other city planning development, not because they care about the thing itself but because it’s near them. When asked they might come up with arguments regarding the economical or environmental impact, but the same people wouldn’t care a smidgen if the rail road or office block was being build in the next town over.
Let’s call it Nazis in My Back Yard. Since the early beginnings of the Maidan movement in Kiev, there have been clear signals of far-right tendencies in Ukraine. Only the west largely refused to see or acknowledge it. Bigshots from the European Parliament like Hans van Baalen en Guy Verhofstad rallied the rioters in Kiev and the NATO was quick to cuddle Ukraine like a defenceless puppy.
The reports of armed thugs that controlled the streets of Kiev, paramilitaries paid by oligarchs and neonazi volunteer battalions were shoved aside as “propaganda from Moscow”. Not because it was true but because those reports didn’t fit the narrative. It suited NATO and the west better to have Russia be the big agressor and Ukraine a country that wanted to get out of their Soviet legacy, corruption and Russian sphere of influence to embrace the freedom and values of the EU.
Of course Moscow has a narrative as well. But here’s something that many people don’t realise: something can be be both the truth and propaganda at the same time. Putin’s regime can use the facts about Ukraine’s facist problem for its own purposes without these facts being untrue. The one doesn’t exclude the other. Moscow can have paid trolls on the internet singing Putin’s praises, and at the same time also have genuine supporters. It’s not smart and even dangerous to shove all of this aside as propaganda and slander.
Is the art theft and the discovery of the involvement of the SBU and Svoboda going to turn things around? Probably not. In some news outlets and social media channels people seem already struggle to even distinguish the Donbass rebels from the pro-Kiev militia or even get a clear grasp of who did what. But the mere fact that Ukranian Banderites are suddenly under a (negative) spotlight is interesting to say the least.