Provocations in western Ukraine: the far-right as a Russian agent

Far-right activists with connections to Russia are behind a provocation, which has worsened the already strained Ukraine-Hungary relations. Recent traces lead all the way to an employee of the German parliamentary Alternative für Deutschland party. The cooperation between Putin’s Russia and European nationalists is not coincidental. In fact, it has been going on for several years, helping to promote Russian interests across Europe.

In the aftermath of the arson attack on the Hungarian cultural centre in the Ukrainian city of Uzhhorod on 4 February 2018, the Polish security forces (in cooperation with their Ukrainian colleagues) arrested three men with links to Poland’s extreme right-wing scene. At the currently ongoing trial in Kraków, the accused Michal Prokopowitz stated he was hired for the attack by German far-right journalist Manuel Ochsenreiter. The aggressive act was to be done in a way that would automatically make the Ukrainian nationalists  the main suspects, in order to aggravate the already tense relations between Kiev and Budapest.


Nationalist and extremist groups are forming an organizational network across Europe, which is consistently and actively used by the Kremlin to push its own agenda forward


In the past, Ochsenreiter repeatedly appeared on Russian state media where he was voicing his support for the pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Ukraine and criticizing the policy of European countries towards the Kremlin. Since September 2018, he was working as a consultant for the German MP Markus Frohnmaier, an exponent of the radical wing of the Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland) party, who also happens to be a vocal opponent of the economic sanctions against the Russian regime. On the grounds of the Polish attackers’ testimonies, the German authorities launched an investigation against Ochsenreiter, and his employment under the German MP was subsequently terminated.

According to Anton Shekhovtsov, a political scientist specialising in the research of extremism in Europe, the Polish arsonists have clear links on Poland’s extreme right-wing scene. The attack’s intermediary, Michal Prokopowicz, is a member of the Polish neo-fascist Falanga and the pro-Russian party Zmiana (Change). The members of Falanga sympathise with Putin’s regime and actively supported the separatists in fights in eastern Ukraine. Moreover, Zmiana’s founder Mateusz Piskorski is currently serving his sentence for espionage activities for Russia’s intelligence services. Piskorski also organised election observation missions in the occupied eastern Ukraine intended to provide the controversial elections with legitimacy. As a matter of fact, Manuel Ochsenreiter was among those who took part in these missions.


The main goal of the provocation has been achieved despite the perpetrators being uncovered


The case serves as an illustrative example of the cooperation between nationalist and extremist groups with links to the Russian regime. The groups are forming an organizational network across Europe, which is consistently and actively used by the Kremlin to push its own agenda forward. To this end, Russia is building relations with established political parties from all around Europe, notably the French National Rally, the Austrian Freedom Party, the Hungarian Jobbik, the Italian League and many others. Nevertheless, Russian interests can also be fulfilled by more marginal groupings at the edges of the political spectrum.

The main goal of the provocation has been achieved despite the perpetrators being uncovered. Budapest is accusing Kiev of being unable to guarantee security of the Hungarian minority in the Zakarpattia region. After their previous dispute over education legislation, which, according to Hungary, discriminates against ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine and prevents them from teaching in their native language, the arson attack in Uzhhorod means another blow for the Ukraine-Hungary relations. Without good relations with its neighbours, however, Ukraine’s path towards membership in the European international organisations might find itself in a serious danger.

About author: Petr Fena


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