One line of Kremlin propaganda you hear a lot from Confused Pro-Putin Libertarians and the pseudo-antiwar (but really just anti-Western) left is that there was a “fascist coup” or “right-wing takeover” of Ukraine, and that as a result, Putin needed to invade Crimea (and quite possibly other Ukrainian provinces soon) to “protect” ethnic Russians and Jews from “Nazis” in Kyiv.
Like the most successful lies, this one has a grain of truth to it: the far-right parties Right Sector and Svoboda did play a role in the protests that toppled pro-Russian autocrat Viktor Yanukovych from power, and they did gain representation in the provisional cabinet that followed his ouster.
But the fact is that there has been no resurgence of fascism in Ukraine (at least, in the parts not controlled by Russian spetsnaz and armed separatists), and the claim that Ukrainian Jews are under threat has been refuted and denied by Ukraine’s rabbis and Jewish community. As Timothy Snyder pointed out months ago, “The prime minister is a liberal conservative, one of the two deputy prime ministers is Jewish, and the governor of the important eastern province of Dnipropetrovsk is the president of the Congress of Ukrainian Jewish Organizations.”
Moreover, the protests that drove Ukrainians into the streets were motivated by a desire for liberalism, limited executive power, free trade, and European integration, and against corruption, autocracy, Russian imperialism, and Yanukovych’s murderous riot police. Weakening the president, abolishing stormtroopers, new elections, and international integration: not exactly a typical “fascist” agenda.
But the results of the recent Ukrainian election clinch the matter: Right Sector and Svoboda came in 10th and 11th place, respectively, with a combined 2.3% of the vote. Meanwhile, elsewhere in Europe, right-wing extremism, anti-immigrant xenophobia, and out-and-out fascism really are on the rise, as seen by the ascendency of France’s National Front, Greece’s Golden Dawn, and Hungary’s Jobbik party. The elections thoroughly debunk the claim about a fascist dictatorship in Ukraine, but that likely won’t stop Vladimir Putin and his unwitting allies in the West from idiotically repeating it.