There are two Volodymyr Zelenskys: the one we have known since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, who has since been celebrated every day in the Western media as a hero with a spotless white (or green) vest; the other, who was less well-known prior to this significant escalation of the war, which, according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, began in 2014. (Here are details on the actual start of this war in 2014).
After all, prominent British, German and other European media already referred to the “Panama” or ”Pandora Papers” to describe the “former” Zelensky, who was not yet the illustrious governor of the American empire, as being highly corrupt. His hero status may abruptly end though, if and when Washington decides that he is no longer useful (e.g., when war results do not meet expectations despite massive NATO support and involvement) and the media start digging for dirt on him again. Wanna bet?
What the same media bubble fails to mention, however, is that Zelensky was elected to office with a large majority of the votes, with massive financial support from the richest Ukrainian oligarch at the time (who had stolen huge sums of money and was therefore banned from entering the United States) and with the promise of bringing peace to the Donbas. It may surprise you—but he actually tried.
Zelensky’s original peace mission
His plan probably also had to do with the fact that he, the president of Jewish faith and Russian mother tongue, himself belonged to the minority. He learned fluent Ukrainian only late, when it became politically unavoidable for him.
Long before he became president, he had campaigned as a comedian against discrimination of the Russian-speaking minority. For example, in a 2014 television appearance, he declared, “In the east and in Crimea, people want to speak Russian. Leave them alone, just leave them alone. Give them the right to speak Russian. Language should never divide our country….We have the same skin color, the same blood, regardless of language.” When he took the highest office in the country, he tried to implement his election promise.
However, this was a Herculean task in view of the very strong ultra-nationalist forces and the “fascists who overran the country”” (according to the Jerusalem Post) who opposed his peace mission. The influence of these circles was (and is) so great that, from schoolchildren to senior citizens, all western Ukrainians were processed to hate Ukrainian citizens of Russian descent and to believe that it is good to slaughter them. Even in schools, students were goaded by their teachers to use slogans like these against Russian-speaking Ukrainians: “Hang the Muscovites,” “Put the Russians on the pyre,” and “Drink the blood of Russian babies!”
Peaceful co-existence instead of final victory
Zelensky could only have achieved peaceful co-existence between western and eastern Ukraine if he had been permitted to negotiate as he originally desired with Russia and with representatives of the largely Russian-speaking Donbas. He also needed the backing of his supporters in Washington because the radicals leading the fighting in eastern Ukraine threatened him and said they would only accept a “final victory” over the Donbas.
But they did not want him to negotiate with Russia—and thus strengthened the position of the extremists. The western Ukrainian ultra-nationalists and Banderists even told Zelensky that he would sign his own death warrant if he talked to Putin, so the only result in the end was war. We currently experience that in Ukraine, and there is no end in sight.
In addition to the threat to his life, Zelensky faced direct obstacles to his peace mandate on several fronts
Zelensky was met by irate members of the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion who protested under the banner “No to surrender” when he traveled to the Donbas in October 2019 to campaign in Russian-speaking rebel-held areas. Zelensky argued with a soldier from the Azov Battalion about the president’s demand for a troop withdrawal in a videotaped exchange. “I am the president of this country. I am 41 years old. I am not a loser. I came to you and told you: withdraw your weapons,” Zelensky asked.
Despite his personal appearance on the ground, Zelensky encountered even further resistance: The same far-right forces set up an armed checkpoint to prevent or at least delay a withdrawal of the Ukrainian military. Thousands of far-right and nationalist demonstrators, cheered by the liberal intelligentsia and carrying flares, also marched in Kyiv.
Suffering in Donbas acknowledged by Zelensky, censored by Western media
Katharine Quinn-Judge of the International Crisis Group explained that Zelensky’s ex-press secretary, Yulia Mendel, acknowledged the suffering in the Donbas because “Zelensky had promised during the election campaign to treat the residents of the Russian-backed enclaves as full Ukrainians”—a misstep for the U.S.-favored far-right nationalists, who oppose equal rights for all Ukrainians.
Yet journalists in European countries are intimidated and prevented from reporting on Ukrainian terror and suffering in the Donbass by being defamed, losing their jobs, and even threatened with imprisonment. This explains why Europeans are generally unaware of the years of violence that the Ukrainian military and neo-fascist groups have inflicted on the population in the Donbas.
Moreover, the political and media elites in the West do not care that dissent and freedom of the press are suppressed in Ukraine. The few independent journalists who dare to report on the situation in the Donbas, where the Russian-speaking majority has been targeted by Ukrainian forces since 2014, bother them all the more.
The French journalist and filmmaker Anne-Laure Bonnel had made two documentaries showing the situation of the Russian-born population in the regions attacked by Kyiv. As a result, she lost her job in Europe. Here you can see how she had to deal with biased editors in France while working in the Donbas. By the way, both Patrik Raab and Anne-Laure Bonnel had condemned the Russian invasion.
“I saw the war, yet we cannot speak the truth,” says Sonja van den Ende, a Dutch investigative journalist who has covered the Donbass, adding, “We’re being censored in Europe.”
Italian photojournalist Giorgio Bianchi became the target of a defamation campaign waged by major Italian newspapers over his reporting from Ukraine. He was accused of being a pro-Russian propaganda stooge.
The media conjured up all sorts of wild suspicions against him, to which he responded: “All of these hypotheses are absolutely false and lack any support of evidence. It is a clumsy attempt to muzzle whoever disapproves of crazy policies by a government that is making the Italian people pay the cost of arbitrarily imposed sanctions against Russia.”
Bianchi noted that most intellectuals and journalists are increasingly reluctant to come out and voice their concerns about the escalation of the conflict for fear of jeopardizing their reputations or suffering a career assassination because of the witch-hunt atmosphere.
Alina Lipp moved to Ukraine in 2021—a year before Russia invaded—and traveled to Donetsk to spend some time there and find out for herself what was actually happening in the Donbas. The German freelance journalist was little known at the time.
Although Berlin loudly declared that it was protecting democracy and thus freedom of expression in Ukraine (nota bene: with heavy weapons, including tanks rolling against Russia again!), Germany wanted to punish her for this with three years in prison. Lipp saw her bank account frozen losing 1,600 euros without explanation. The German authorities also said that she would not be allowed to defend herself in court, as this could hinder the investigation.
Here is one of Alina Lipp’s uncensored documentaries about her stay in Donbas. Watch and form your own opinion!
For those for whom atrocities like the murder of Russian-speaking Ukrainians by Ukrainian nationalists don’t turn their stomachs, I recommend this video.
And discover even more about the history of the war and its background in Ukraine in this insightful documentary by Paul Moreira, a renowned French filmmaker who has made quite a few investigative documentaries in conflict zones.
Nationalists and U.S. government prevented agreement
Although Zelensky was reluctant to accept the Minsk agreements on resolving the minority issue, he continued talks on their implementation. The radical nationalists expressed their violent opposition at every opportunity—including in August 2021, when at least eight police officers were injured during armed protests in front of the presidential office. Their threats against Zelensky undoubtedly thwarted a peace agreement that could have prevented the Russian invasion.
Just two weeks before Russian troops invaded Ukraine, The New York Times noted that Zelensky “would take extreme political risks to even consider a peace agreement with Russia” because his government could be “shaken and possibly overthrown” by far-right groups if he agreed to “a peace deal that they believe gives too much to Moscow.”
Yurii Hudymenko, leader of the far-right Democratic Ax Party, even threatened Zelenskyj with a coup d’état: “If anybody from the Ukrainian government tries to sign such a document, a million people will take to the streets and that government will cease being the government.” He also emphasized that “they (the Zelenskyj government, F.A.) fear the Ukrainian people more than they fear the Russian army.”
An example that the far-right is serious about its hostility toward Russian-speaking Ukrainians is the recent announcement by a Ukrainian soldier in the east of the country that he and his comrades will murder all Russian-born eastern Ukrainians in the Donbass as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
Transatlantic politicians and the mainstream media portrayed the Maidan “revolution” as the work of liberal, pro-Western protesters motivated by righteous resentments against an authoritarian, corrupt president.
The fact that the insurrection served primarily to empower literal neo-Nazis while enacting only the goals of the Western powers that opportunistically provided their support was conveniently ignored. Instead, it was a marriage of convenience between opponents of the government, which at best represented one-half of a polarized country, and the far right.
Tryzub, one of the groups that came together to form the influential nationalist Right Sector, had urged the Ukrainian opposition to shift “from a peaceful demonstration to a street-revolutionary plane” in March 2013. In the event that the pro-Russian forces came to power, their leader Dmytro Yarosh had already called on his compatriots in 2009 to “take up an armed struggle against the regime of internal occupation and the Moscow empire.” Yanukovych was hated by nationalists as part of the “pro-Russian forces.” However, the Brookings Institution characterized Yanukovych’s foreign policy as “more nuanced” than his pro-Russian leanings had initially suggested.
Looking outside of Kyiv, a thorough examination of more than 3,000 Maidan demonstrations revealed that the far-right Svoboda party, whose leader once alleged that a “Muscovite-Jewish mafia” controlled Ukraine, and which includes a politician who admires Joseph Goebbels, was the most active force behind the demonstrations. They were also more likely than any other group, with the exception of Right Sector, a collection of far-right activists with ties to collaborators with the Nazis who committed mass murder, to engage in violent acts.
For good reason, the Israeli embassy advised Jews to stay in their homes while a prominent rabbi urged them to leave the city and even the country.
A massacre perpetrated by snipers during the Maidan coup, which was strongly condemned, was a false-flag operation attributed by Western politicians and media to the Yanukovych government to lend some moral credibility to its overthrow.
Ivan Katchanovski, a Ukrainian professor at the School of Political Studies & Conflict Studies and Human Rights Program at the University of Ottawa, who conducted research on the matter, refuted this claim: “All the evidence shows that this massacre was not perpetrated by government snipers or led by the police…. No one has been convicted of this mass murder…. They killed and wounded police officers and Maidan demonstrators in order to falsely blame government forces….”
Indeed, the post-Yanukovych interim government, in which leading far-right figures took prominent positions, swiftly passed a law giving Maidan participants immunity for any violence.
Adds Katchanovski: “He (President Yanukovych) was blamed for the massacre and the West, including the United States, no longer recognized him as president of Ukraine. In his memoirs, Biden writes that immediately after the massacre he called Yanukovych and told him that he had to leave Ukraine.”
Katchanovski points out that there is evidence of involvement of nationalists and neo-Nazis in the massacre.
The term “Nazi Ukraine” is not a creation of Vladimir Putin
“Thirty years ago, Stepan Bandera, who called for the murder of Jews, was considered in Ukraine as a murderer, while today he is erected as a national hero,” the lawyer said about the Russophobic Ukrainian Nazi. “The country has issued postage stamps [with] his image, erected statues and established holidays in his honor. The largest avenue in Kiev, five kilometers long and leading to the site of Babi Yar, bears his name. As for the extension of this avenue, it was named after Roman-Taras Yosypovych Shukhevych, who was even worse than Bandera.”
Shukhevych, a Nazi and mass murderer of Jews and Poles, has become another outstanding national hero in today’s Ukraine.
While numerous monuments to Nazi criminals are being erected, at the same time monuments honoring greats of world literature, such as Leo Tolstoy and Alexander Pushkin, are being torn down along with monuments honoring Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin. The European Union and the United States have provided most of the funding for this demolition and renaming frenzy.
Eighty years ago, in 1943, soldiers of General Nikolai Vatutin’s Red Army units liberated Kyiv from Nazi rule. Shortly after the liberation of Kyiv, he was ambushed and wounded by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) led by Stepan Bandera.
The general was rightly celebrated as a hero, and the people of Kyiv regularly decorated his monument with flowers. The Vatutin monument was recently demolished, in the year of the 80th anniversary of the liberation of Kyiv, and the Kyiv authorities desecrated his grave.
The Azov Battalion, the Ukrainian military unit whose emblem is the “Wolfsangel,” a Nazi symbol used in particular by units of Nazi Germany’s SS, was given the honor of renaming the street named after Ukrainian Marshal Malinovsky, one of the leaders of the Red Army in the war against Nazism, to “Street of Heroes of Azov Regiment.”
President Poroshenko’s interior minister incorporated the Azov Regiment into Ukraine’s National Guard. From 2014 Ukraine became a Mecca for far-right extremists around the world, who came to learn and get training from Azov—including, ironically, Russian white supremacists who were hounded from their country by Putin.
Azov had been identified by the U.S. Congress as a terrorist and neo-Nazi organization.
Around the time the General Vatutin monument in Kyiv was destroyed, the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ Tenth Mountain Infantry Brigade received the nickname Edelweiss.
The name had been used by the First Mountain Infantry Division of the German Wehrmacht during World War II. This division was responsible for the deportation of Jews, the execution of prisoners of war and the use of punitive measures against partisans in Yugoslavia, Italy, Czechoslovakia and Greece. Many members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, including the current commander-in-chief, openly wear “Totenkopf” insignia, which are almost identical to the emblems of the SS “Totenkopf” division and other Nazi units.
Since the Euromaidan coup in 2014, more than 1,000 settlements and more than 50,000 streets have been renamed in Ukraine, almost all for political reasons. It was a massive neo-Nazi and de-Russification campaign.
On May 10, 1933, students across Germany burned more than 25,000 “un-German” books. Among them were the works of Jewish authors such as Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud, leftist and liberal authors, and blacklisted American authors such as Ernest Hemingway and Helen Keller. More than 100,000 people took to the streets in New York and many other places in the United States to protest this fascist act.
Nobody in the West objected when millions of “un-Ukrainian,” i.e. Russian-language books, were recently banned throughout Ukraine and books for the Russian-speaking minority were publicly burned.Because the media either failed to cover this fascist act and the true nature of the banderist Ukraine, or because they chose to ignore it this time, Americans and Europeans were unaware of the striking similarity between the disappearance of countless books in Nazi Germany and in contemporary Ukraine.
And why, if they could, wouldn’t those who purge millions of books from Ukraine also exterminate their writers and readers, whom they despise so much, in large numbers like in Nazi Germany?
“One language, one Ukraine. Long live Ukraine. Long live the nation. Ukraine above all. Bandera, Shukhevych are heroes of Ukraine. Out with Judaism. Death to the enemies. Death to Moskal (ethnic slur for Russian speakers). Impale the (Ukrainian) Russians with knives.”
Since 2014, nationalist mobs have been shouting the above slogans in the streets, stadiums and elsewhere in western Ukraine, from Kiev to Odessa. Odessa already had a sad reputation for one of the worst massacres in Ukraine in 1941 and 1942, when more than 100,000 Jews were burned or shot. In 2014, Odessa saw another massacre, this time of Russian-speaking citizens, again perpetrated by fascists. This documentary depicts the new crime.
The ultra-nationalists that have become a mighty force after the overthrow in 2014 are not only targeting Russian speakers but also other minorities, a fact that seems to be purposefully ignored or downplayed in the West. Peter Szijjarto, the foreign minister of Hungary, recently lamented on his Facebook page that the Kiev regime had severely restricted the minority rights—including language rights—of the more than 150,000 ethnic Hungarian Ukrainians. For instance, schoolchildren who speak Hungarian are no longer allowed to receive instruction in their native tongue.
Article 10 of the Constitution stipulates that Ukrainian is the official language of Ukraine. In addition, a new law came into force in Ukraine in January 2022 that mandates the use of Ukrainian in almost all areas of public life and de facto prohibits the use of Russian and other minority languages.
According to a nationwide survey in 2021, 22 percent of Ukrainians speak Russian as their native language. The percentage is identical to that of French speakers in Switzerland. Unlike Ukraine, however, not only German, the language of the majority, is an official language in Switzerland, but French and Italian (the language of an even smaller minority) are also official languages with equal rights. Official documents such as law books and passports are issued in these three languages, schools teach in these languages, and Swiss citizens can use their mother tongue without restriction.
Which raises the question: Why does Ukraine discriminate against its minorities, while other countries do not, as the example of Switzerland shows, and treat minorities equally? (Such queries to the Ukrainian government are not made by Western politicians or media.)
The Roma, another minority, have become the target of heinous Nazi hate crimes.
It was a matter of political and physical survival
Zelensky clearly got the message. Instead of pursuing the peace program for which he was elected, he has instead forged alliances with the Ukrainian far right, which violently opposes the program. It was not until late January 2022, in the midst of final talks to salvage the Minsk Agreement, that Ukrainian security chief Oleksiy Danilov, appointed by Zelensky, declared instead that “fulfillment of the Minsk Agreement means the destruction of the country.”
At the last round of Minsk talks in February 2022, just two weeks before the Russian invasion, a “major obstacle,” as The Washington Post reported, was “Kyiv’s resistance to negotiations with the pro-Russian separatists.”
Only through this opportunistic closing of ranks with the ultra-nationalists who sought his life could Zelensky ensure his political and physical survival. The peace-seeking mediator turned into an obdurate hardliner and a Russophobic warmonger.
He had no other choice. To hold him solely responsible for this would be unfair. Washington is primarily responsible for letting him hang, based on its primary strategic goals—uncompromising weakening of Russia and, in its wake, Europe.