|Alex Gordon opens the meeting|
by Theo Russell
ANTI-FASCISTS in London discussed the role of the western media in reporting the turmoil in Ukraine over the past two years at a meeting organised by Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine (SARU) at the Marx Memorial Library in central London on Wednesday 15th October.
Andriy Bondarenko, a journalist for Dnipropetrovsk Pravda, and member of the Dnepropetrovsk regional assembly for the Communist Party of Ukraine, and Roger Annis, chief editor of the website New Cold War: Ukraine and Beyond, based in Canada, were interviewed via Skype at the meeting.
Bondarenko began by examining a series of new laws passed by the Kiev parliament, under which, he said: “The left media in Ukraine has ceased to exist, with no court decision, and all communist publications are effectively banned.”
Bondarenko said that under the law on “Condemnation of the Communist and Nazi totalitarian regimes in Ukraine and banning of propaganda of their symbols,” which came into effect in May 2015: “In effect it is now illegal to publicly support or promote the symbols of the communist government of Ukraine which ended in 1990. This includes even expressing support for the collectivisation of agriculture, and carries prison terms of five to 10 years.
“It is also illegal to publicly express support for ‘separatism’, in other words for the anti-Kiev rebels in the Lugansk and Donetsk. But in reality, any opposition to the Kiev government or criticism of the military operations in the East are labelled as ‘separatism’.”
Bondarenko said while the Ukraine Communist Party was not technically banned: “In reality it is shut down. The editors of the newspapers Working Class and Christian Truth are in prison, and there is now only one remaining left publication in Ukraine, The Workers’ Newspaper.
But while this law also outlaws support for “Nazi totalitarian regimes” – a reference to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UIA) led by Stepan Bandera which collaborated with the German Nazis during the Second World War – a separate law has created a new holiday, “Day of Defender of Ukraine” on 14th October when traditionally supporters of the UIA stage fascist-style torch-lit parades..
This law sparked angry protests by the Polish President, and a wave of protests across Poland that were almost totally ignored in the western media.
In his interview Roger Annis from the New Cold War website said “the Western media has affectively whitewashed Ukraine’s repeated shelling of civilians in the rebel-held areas of Donetsk and Lugansk by Kiev’s forces, including the use of cluster bombs, and stayed silent about President Poroshenko’s failure to implement the provisions it agreed to in Minsk last February on the limited devolution of power to the rebel territories.”
He also said the media had “whitewashed a series of crippling military defeats suffered by the Armed Forces of Ukraine”, which launched an all-out conventional offensive against the rebels in the spring of 2014 after Poroshenko labelled them as “terrorists”.
He added: “On 16th September Poroshenko issued a decree banning 388 foreign academics, political officials and journalists from visiting Ukraine after being deemed to be threats to the interests and national security of Ukraine.
“While most of those banned are Russian, list includes 41 journalists and bloggers from across Europe, and three from the BBC.”
Annis said other limitations on Ukraine’s media include a law passed in April 2015 banning Russian films and television series made in Russia after 1991 containing “positive depictions” of the Russian government, police and armed forces and any which are considered “anti-Ukrainian” and the banning of over a dozen Russian television news channels from Ukraine’s airwaves in 2014.
He also said: “In August 2015 the Security Service of Ukraine has opened a criminal investigation into 38 books by Lviv-based Folio Publishers, including several published reports on the human rights situation in Ukraine. The SBU claims the books are part of a secret operation run by the Russian domestic security agency (FSB).”
This array of repressive laws has to be seen in the context of widespread violence in in Ukraine over the past two years, including the destruction and burning of communist party and trade unions offices, the “disappearances” of many people opposed to the Maidan Coup and the repeated desecration of the Holocaust Memorial at Babi Yar. The latest attack, as recently as 14th September, was the sixth so far this year.
Annis said one example of the violence and atmosphere of terror in Ukraine was the murder of journalist and Euromaidan critic Oles Buzina on 16th April, shot dead front of his home in Kiev in broad daylight. “The two members of far right organisations arrested for the murder have become folk heroes for their far-right supporters, with hundreds of Right Sector and Svoboda Party members demonstrating in Odessa demanding their release,” he said.
“On 26th August a memorial plaque for Buzina in front of his house was torn down by a far-right mob and replaced with a plaque honouring his accused murderers, all in broad daylight in central Kiev.”
The meeting also heard from Giles Shorter of Bristol Ukraine Anti-Fascist Solidarity (BUAFS), which has held a weekly picket of the BBC in Bristol for over a year. Giles said this was “to draw attention to the lies they tell about the conflict in the Ukraine and Donbas, and to point out how this conflicts with the vaunted status of the BBC as a paragon of objective and balanced journalism”.
The interviews were followed by a lively discussion on campaign priorities led by Alex Gordon, chair of SARU. These included protests outside the BBC and the Ukrainian Embassy, developing work with the Stop the War Campaign on the issue of British troops deployed in Ukraine to train Kiev regime troops, working with anti-fascist organisations in Britain, and the production of a dossier on the far right in Ukraine for circulation within the labour movement.