Andriy Biletsky’s new party, National Corps, was presented officially on October 14th. It seems to command the most ample resources among all the far-right projects in Ukraine today. The party congress gathered together a lot of controversial people with neo-nazi background. Some of them addressed the congress or assumed positions on the party’s political council. Most of them have roots in the neo-nazi group “Patriot of Ukraine” (transformed into Social-National Assembly).
This group (mostly Kharkiv-based) is associated with a number of racist statements, activities, attacks, and racket raids. These incidents took place when Gennadiy Kernes was Kharkiv city mayor, and Arsen Avakov was the governor of Kharkiv region. Vadym Troyan, current Deputy Interior Minister, was a member of Patriot of Ukraine at the time. He used to work at Triolan, a media business group ruled by Oleksandr Lypchynskiy, Avakov’s companion from BYuT (Yulia Tymoshenko Block). Another Triolan businessman, Ruslan Eglit, was accused of a raider seizure of a chain of press kiosks in Kharkiv in 2010. Vadym Troyan commanded this operation while other PU members played the parts of thugs.
Head of the National Police Khatia Dekanoidze resigned on October 14th, thus automatically making Troyan the acting head of the National Police. The more liberal Dekanoidze had had a long conflict with her nationalist colleague and mentioned that his political engagement compromised his candidacy for the position. Troyan was also accused of organizing illegal surveillance of journalists.
The program of the new party contains anti-democratic and xenophobic statements. Some of the speakers of the congress are connected with Patriot of Ukraine, neo-nazi football hooligans’ groups, and the far-right music scene. All these people have cover provided by high police authorities: they rarely get into trouble even after committing criminal offences. Thus, Serhiy “Son of Perun” Filimonov has not been brought to account for the attack against a marginal pro-Soviet rally in Kyiv. He had some problems only after punching a police officer, but finally he was released from custody.
It’s hard to suggest who has the real power in the party. All the people listed above are only faces. So we’ll try to identify a few people from Biletsky’s inner circle, who might be real party leaders or fundraisers.
51 year old Ihor Knyazhansky got his alias “Dushman” as the veteran of the war in Afghanistan. From the very foundation of Azov battalion, he was one of the few military experts there. He has built his career in Azov from a basic storm unit commander to the commander of a battalion (one of the several in the regiment) and a planning officer. Knyazhansky was released from service in August 2016 and started working at Azov Civic corps.
Dushman doesn’t look like a person with neo-nazi background. He seems to be more of a pragmatic kind. Before the war he used to work as a financial director at a company producing hi-tech equipment. Now he has an unpaid position as deputy head of KVPU (Confederation of the Free Trade Unions of Ukraine). He coordinated the collaboration of the Civic corps with the KVPU’s medical workers’ union during the protests in front of the Ministry of Healthcare in Kyiv on 17 August 2016. Ihor Knyazhansky was also the CEO of a healthcare company called Globalmedcare. In 2012, he was convicted and sentenced to 2 years and 7 months of jail for an economic crime (real estate fraud).
Now Knyazhansky is the CEO of “Combat Proficiency and Physical Culture Center” LLC that can operate legally in the area of public security and safety. He is also the official head of an LLC that operates in construction business (real estate again).
Dushman is a member of a union organization that stands strongly against the new Labor code aiming to reduce the rights of employed workers and unions. At the same time MP Oleh Petrenko, his colleague from the Civic corps, voted for this bill.
Oleh Petrenko is an MP elected in a majority constituency with the support of Petro Poroshenko Bloc. In spite of Azov’s populist social rhetoric, he voted for anti-social and pro-market bills in Verkhovna Rada. Among them are: new pro-market Labor code, raising the general retirement age, raising utility tariffs, cutting unemployment benefits, cutting donations for the coal and gas industries, and an amnesty for the war veterans and soldiers convicted of grave crimes (rape, robbery, brigandage), war crimes and corruption. You can find short overviews of these laws in Ukrainian here, here and here. Not all of these bills were passed.
During the election campaign Petrenko has specified his occupation as a ranker policeman at Azov regiment. But he is also the CEO and the owner of “Litstroy” LLC, a metal wholesale company.
Petrenko’s unpaid assistant is Dmytro Savchenko, one of the “Troieshchyna terrorists”. Savchenko was accused of co-organizing a terrorist attack at Troieshchyna market, known as the place of employment for a number of people from ethnic minorities, in Kyiv on 20 August 2004. According to the police officials, one market cleaner (ethnic Ukrainian) died, but the far right claim more victims. Savchenko and 3 other people were sentenced to 14 years of prison and released in 2014. In late 2004 there was an attempted murder of the market’s deputy director (also using IED) Serhiy Alisimenko and an assassination of Valeriy Prishyk, the supposed criminal patron of the market. It may indicate that the racist terrorist attack had been an element of a conflict over property redistribution.
The other MP’s deputy is Denis Davydenko. He is a contact person of an IT company that provides services for Obolon district administration in Kyiv. Andriy Biletsky was elected MP from Obolon district, and his public reception desk is placed in the building of Obolon administration.
Amusingly enough, the far-right Petrenko is also the head of Chernivtsy regional branch of “Ukrainian social democrats” party.
Sergey “Botsman” Korotkikh (also known as Malyuta) got Ukrainian citizenship on 5 December 2014 in reward for participating in Azov battalion and showing courage in battles. The former citizen of Belarus of Russian origin served in Belarusian special forces, studied at the KGB school and participated in the beating of Belarus opposition activists in 1999. Korotkih was a member of a few Russian ultranationalist organizations connected with organized crime, such as the Russian National Unity (RNE). Pavel Gubarev, a well-known DNR leader, was also member of RNE. But Gubarev supported Barkashov, and Korotkikh opposed him.
Malyuta’s friend and comrade-in-arms from the Minsk branch of RNE, former policeman Valeriy Ignatovych, was accused of the murder of Dmitry Zavadsky, a TV reporter who had worked together with Pavel Sheremet, a journalist murdered in Kyiv in 2016. Ignatovych got a life sentence for another crime.
In the early 2000s, Korotkikh was one of the leaders of the Russian National-Socialist Association (NSO) that evolved from a legal far-right group into a criminal-terrorist one. In 2012 he was accused of participating in a terrorist attack in Moscow in 2007 (at least, no one was hurt). But the police failed to find him in Russia. The following year, Botsman was arrested in Minsk after stabbing a local antifascist. Maluta supported his friend, a well-known Kremlin-backed neo-nazi Maksim “Tesak” Martsinkevych, who had filmed fake videos with brutal killings of the people of color, got two jail sentences for extremism, and organized a network of gangs that hunted supposed drug dealers and homosexuals. Some of these groups murdered their victims. Both of them were released from custody shortly after their arrest.
There is also an information that Korotkikh used to work as a private military company operator in the Middle East, operated in Chechnya, on the Balkans and in Latin America. In Ukraine, he has built his career in Azov very fast because of his experience and good military skills. Finally, he has become a commander of the regiment intelligence service and one of the political leaders of Azov Civic corps. Now Botsman commands a group of Azov special operation forces, legalized as the Department of security police for strategic objects.
Malyuta’s career, combining politics, organized crime, and military operations, is a good example of the connections and active collaboration between post-Soviet neo-nazis and governmental special services. It is unknown how long ago he broke his relations with his Russian nationalist ex-comrades, who have supported or joined the armed groups in Donbas. Or even whether he broke them at all.
According to Korotkikh’s official declaration, he owns cash and real estate worth almost EUR 1 million. Unlike a lot of nationalists, he hasn’t been too shy to be a businessman for quite a while.
Such personalities are not rare for Ukrainian political parties. Quite the opposite, it is a stable tendency for mainstream political projects. And it seems that National Corps will act as a common political-commercial force. In this case, their radical program and rhetoric, as well as their controversial personalities, might cause them trouble. On the other hand, the party will accumulate strong support from the active far-right minority of Ukrainian society.
It’s hard to predict the results the National Corps will get in the next parliamentary elections. But there are very good chances they will ensure the re-election of “their own” majoritarian MPs like Biletsky and Petrenko, and maybe the election of a few more comrades. This will depend on the resources invested in the National Corps by the big capital and on the political conjuncture.