Archive for January 29th, 2018


Azov/National Corpus to patrol the streets of Kyiv?

January 29, 2018

It appears that Azov, or rather its civilian movement and political party National Corpus has “sworn in” another 600 people in a ceremony in Kyiv – with MP and former Azov Battalion commander Andriy Biletsky “taking the parade”.

Not exactly the most reassuring message for a nation whose authorities have a weak grasp upon the rule of law, and to be blunt, not exactly the sort of messaging Kyiv would wish to send to either western partners nor a manipulative Kremlin propaganda machine.

As with all propaganda, and some readers will view the above-linked Azov website as being as much about propaganda as any neutral information dissemination – yet there is much to be lost within the fog of literal translation and subsequent interpretation.

It’s not what you say, but what people hear that frames perceptions.

So what was said?

“Нас багато. Ми не боїмося застосувати Силу, аби встановити на вулицях Український Порядок!” is the text accompanying the video of the swearing in ceremony.  That, fairly accurately translated equates to “We are many. We are not afraid to use force to install the Ukrainian Order on the streets!”

Nowhere however, is there a statement that announces a structured and systematic patrolling of the streets of Kyiv by National Corpus – and certainly nothing that proclaims anything akin to police patrolling within the Azov Press website.  Their Facebook Page also makes no such specific claims.

Indeed, National Corpus have for some years involved themselves in numerous acts and incidents, sometimes violent in nature, for what they consider the national good – particularly when it comes to the prevention illegal construction and social issues such as drug dealing or being the last resort for certain citizens when the State has otherwise let them down or ignored them.  Thus their cause oft garnering (often temporary and issue specific) societal support – if not necessarily their methods employed.

A reader might view the organisation prima facie as a mixture of functions taken from the Muslim Brotherhood in relation to “social outreach”, combined with vigilantism of oft a distinct nationalist flavour, and a social justice (where “ends justify the means” (Exitus acta probat – Ovid)) enforcer.

In sum, the “swearing in” ceremony and accompanying rhetoric is perhaps better understood through the lens of a limited ability and thus inferred threat per nationalist propaganda to patrol the streets of Kyiv (akin police) rather than a declaration to systematically and deliberately do so.

After all, 600 is not a particularly large number to set about patrolling the streets of Kyiv in any kind of “policing” role – it takes thousands to police Kyiv – but it is a number large enough to be very problematic to those that draw the attention of National Corpus in Kyiv.

There are therefore issues of accountability and rule of law.  Any “parallel policing” is obviously not accompanied by parallel policing powers.  There is a very thin, and perhaps occasionally smudged line between robust mass civil activism, hooliganism, criminality and vigilantism – a line that National Corpus must tread carefully lest it fall the wrong side of the law.

What is perhaps interesting is the apparent lack of reaction from the political class – in particular the Ministry of Interior which will be the politically accountable ministry when or if the police have to tackle any National Corpus incidents that cross the rule of law line.

That said, astute readers will be aware of the connections of Interior Minister Avakov to Andriy Biletsky, Azov, and the number of former Azov appointees in fairly senior Interior Ministry positions – Vadym Troyan for example.  Few would doubt some “choreographed incidents” will therefore occur.

Though such people may well be good at their jobs (or not), if there be a “threat” from National Corpus and Azov, it is perhaps not going to come from 600 newly sworn in people to its ranks, but rather the seepage of nationalist ideology from such institutional leaders – that on the proviso such individuals are incapable of compartmentalising personal ideology from daily institutional management.

An institutional management replete with patriots usually has a fine moral compass – an institutional management replete with nationalists less so.  There is, after all, a significant difference between patriotism and nationalism.

Nevertheless, it remains to be seen how such parades and social media chatter will shape the public discourse.  It seems doubtful National Corpus will be seen regularly patrolling with the police however.

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