Raivis Zeltīts: National Corps is a party that was born out of military organization of Azov. This is quite a unique situation in Europe, not seen since interwar period when nationalist paramilitary organizations played a huge political role in Europe. So my first question is – what do you represent? The party? Azov? Or is it all just part of a broader national movement in Ukraine?
Olena Semenyaka: As an international secretary of National Corps, I represent this party, but, as a parliamentary wing of a Ukrainian nationalist movement of a new generation which adapts to changed reality of the XXI century, it is closely intertwined with many other related structures and projects, so it would be no mistake to say that I also represent the Azov Movement, or the Movement of National Corps.
Indeed, it is quite unique from a historic point of view and, as of now, is comprised of 4 main elements listed in the order they emerged: the Azov Regiment of the National Guard of Ukraine subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Affairs (which has its long and glorious history), the political party of National Corps, the National Militia as a prototype of Ukrainian territorial defense, and a variety of social projects from the Youth Corps (a system of patriotic youth education camps) and the Sports Corps (a network of free training programs and gyms) to the metapolitical Plomin Club and the Military School open for all the units of Ukrainian armed forces.
The reason for such a rapid and multifaceted development is clear: the war with Russia and the aggravated since the Second World War crisis of the international law, which made Ukraine, left to its own devices, rely on its true national vanguard in the hour of need (and under conditions of a general paralysis of the state): Ukrainian nationalists and a patriotic volunteer movement. Russian occupation of Georgia in 2008 has already been a warning sign to Eastern Europe. No less important warning sign was a preceding NATO’s refusal to let Georgia in.
In this respect, speaking in terms of the potential, the Azov Movement, starting with the ongoing quest to build a state within a state, not only envisions and represents the possible future of Ukraine (for us – desirable) but also stands on guard of the entire region, if not all of Europe. After all, just like regular Ukrainians, often teenagers, took up arms to defend homeland in East Ukraine, enthusiasts of the so-called “civic geopolitics” still lead the way of alternative European integration for Ukraine. The Azov Movement distinguished itself in both of these fields. Lately, Russia’s warm welcome in the European Council, vice versa, was like a cold shower for those Ukrainians who still believed in the unconditional Western European support for the country suffering from the Kremlin’s aggression. Therefore, as a coordinator ot the Intermarium Support Group founded by the leader of the Azov Movement and United nationalists, MP of Ukraine Andriy Biletsky in 2016, I carry out quite an honorable and important task which should be considered our common challenging mission.
R.Z.: What are relations between National Corps and other Ukrainian nationalist parties like Svoboda? What are the similarities and differences? What are the main goals of National Corps?
O.S.: As the iron fist of the country at war, all Ukrainian nationalist organizations share the same vision of urgent survival means for the state and the nation: securing Ukrainian national interests on the frontline and the international arena (the status of Donbas and Crimea), blocking the pro-Kremlin revanchism in the parliament, fighting oligarchy and corruption, etc. In this field, we unite with Svoboda, Pravyi Sektor and other Ukrainian nationalist organizations regardless of any subtler ideological differences.
In other words, they do exist, but we can summarize them in terms of approaches, “classic” or innovative. Although we have like-minded colleagues in allied organizations, as a whole, National Corps, I would say, is the only Ukrainian nationalist force which strives to upgrade ideology of Ukrainian nationalism and make it a basis for the national rebirth led by the patriotic war generation. At the moment, this strategy is being elaborated within respective think tanks and workshops of the Azov Movement (involving target audiences) while the visible part of the latter daily engages in the all-national struggle against the most obvious threats requiring an immediate reaction. As soon as the conditions allow it, special projects, which are developed solely by the National Corps Movement as they are considered as a splendid oddity by other nationalist forces, will secure the historical breakthrough of Ukraine as the laboratory of a new Europe, according to our vision. Developed geopolitical collaboration with the region and beyond is a yet another unique feature of the Azov Movement as a reflection of its far-sighted supranational attitudes.
But, to facilitate such development, it would be very helpful to learn from experience of Croatian nationalist parties that currently formed an alliance named “Croatian Sovereignists” (Hrvatski suverenisti), which have already proven to be successful, and believe that it’s not a limit for efficient reunification in terms of electoral gains. Renowned independent intellectuals like Tom Sunić and Jure Vujić, actually, have joined them at this stage of work, so there’s nothing impossible about combining “right-populist” politics and sophisticated metapolitical and geopolitical strategies.
R.Z.: For the next parliamentary elections this autumn Ukrainian nationalists have created a unified political block. Do you think that this will last as a national movement in Ukraine or is it just a temporary alliance?
O.S.: Under conditions of the ongoing attempted revanche of the pro-Russian forces in the parliament, our alliance, regardless of the form, is simply doomed to be lasting. So far, all big Ukrainian TV channels have been owned by oligarchs, so the Azov Movement keeps developing its own media platforms. Now, we face a new challenge, since the Kremlin’s agents, above all, Victor Medvedchuk, succeed in buying quite influential media platforms while the developed Ukrainian nationalist movement is artificially isolated and marginalized as a result of coordinated media falsification. In other words, uniting an electoral potential of Ukrainian nationalist parties is a necessity.
Besides, the leader of the Azov Movement Andriy Biletsky, who currently heads the entire bloc of Ukrainian nationalist forces, has always strived for the creation of the united nationalist front. During the upcoming parliamentary election, nationalists from different parties will be elected as a single alliance on a basis of Svoboda party’s list, but the real goal is to create a new nationalist structure uniting all of them in its ranks in the aftermath of the election. So, as long as other Ukrainian nationalists aspire for the same, the rest is assured.
R.Z.: How would you describe the general situation for the Ukrainian nationalists? What are your enemies? The oligarchs? Globalists like Soross? Russian imperialism? And where does the new president of Ukraine Zelensky stand in all of this?
O.S.: At the moment, the enemy number one is Kremlin’s quasi-Soviet revanchism, or simply Russian neoimperialism, no doubt. Otherwise, nationalists would continue the national-revolutionary struggle in the vein of early Pravyi Sektor and would have switched from the overthrow of the regime to a proper anti-oligarchic revolution. But, there’s too much at stake if we focus our struggle on the social justice: Putin has already done everything possible to discredit the revolution and will keep invading the Ukrainian territory in times of the biggest revolutionary turmoil. Historically, the position of Ukrainian nationalists is very similar to that of the Freikorps movement in interwar Germany caught between two fires: Bolsheviks in Germany and Baltics and the treacherous Weimar government. Another important lesson taught by the recent history is that revolutions never happen instantly. So there is no reason for demoralisation. We should estimate all other players and threats in the light of this fundamental dilemma of Ukrainian nationalists.
For instance, post-revolutionary presidents, be it Poroshenko or Zelenskiy, are representatives of the oligarchic capital in Ukraine. And, as such, they cannot crack down on a patriotic front unless they want to bequeath their estates to the Kremlin and leave the political game meaning for them nothing but a chance to get even richer thanks to the war. Currently, Zelenskiy will be on the verge of impeachment (retreat to Russia like Yanukovych) if he continues unpopular withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from the conflict area while the enemy is willing to move forward, keeps appointing separatists to responsible posts and giving a green light to “rapprochement” with Russia, etc. But, it must be clear that Zelenskiy is “the truth” of Poroshenko, the result of the latter’s shallow patriotic stance concealing the disastrous reality in all social fields, including aggressive globalization promoted by Soros and similar foundations which, of course, will have no room in Ukraine when we come to power. We have our own universalist project and understanding of social equality and do not need tips from abroad. So only the nationalist alternative aiming for the restoration of Ukraine’s geopolitical and economical subjectivity can make a difference.
R.Z.: There are many myths about Azov and National Corps. For example, that you are a “fascist” or “neo-nazi” party. Some ultra-liberals even call you “putinists”, which is absurd, considering that Azov liberated Mariupol from pro-Russian forces and was one of the leading forces in stopping further Russian invasion in Ukraine. So can you once and for all destroy these myths for the readers of our page?
O.S.: National Corps is the Ukrainian nationalist and patriotic movement of a new generation that protects not only Ukraine but all of Europe from the Kremlin’s hybrid warfare, in the information, geopolitical and security fields. Over 40 soldiers of the Azov Regiment alone laid their lives on the frontline. The Azov Regiment is the regular unit of the National Guard of Ukraine and, as such, is apolitical in a narrow sense. As for the party of National Corps, it promotes new nationalism, paneuropeanism and neutralisation of chauvinism and potential inter-ethnic conflicts in Europe, so our approaches are quite universalist. Against this background, not mentioning real social evils like radical Islamism or child pornography, “far-right” imagery or tattoos of those of our associates who were involved in the youth right-wing subculture back in the days are absolutely innocent and unimportant. Communities like that, if found among supporters, have never defined our ideological priorities or professional capabilities and can be disavowed anytime. We’re too busy with the daily struggle for national survival to pay attention to “controversies” like that and usually make fun of it.
As for our “Putinism,” whatever it may mean, return of Russia into the European Council, which completely disregarded the issue of Donbas and Crimea, was the last nail in the coffin of the neoliberals’ attempts to equalize Putinism and right-wing ideas, absurd to everyone familiar with Russian social reality and official policies. Unpleasant as it is, this incident has one big positive aspect: a sharp increase of interest towards the Intermarium project among the Ukrainian public and total disappointment with the fake “civilized West’s” support for Ukraine.
R.Z.: You are very active in the European nationalist scene. What is the strategy of National Corps in cooperation with European nationalist and identarian organizations? To offer an alternative to the Russian influence? And how does this relate to the geopolitical idea of Intermarium?
O.S.: You summarized our motives pretty well. Indeed, first and foremost, my international activities are meant to counter the propaganda of Russian lobbies worldwide, from refuting news fakes to suggesting alternative historiography of Ukrainian and regional state building, which is the only way to undermine once and for all typical Kremlin’s attempts to present Eastern European countries as failed states that cannot do without the Russian big brother. For this purpose, we rely a lot on our synergy with Ukrainian diasporas in Europe and beyond. But it’s the very least we are able to do, so, in the strategical respect, we promote a constructive agenda focused on the development of Intermarium (Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea Union) as the cornerstone of regional stability and, potentially, a new Europe.
As the Ukrainians, we start with the reality of our national interests (restoration of territorial integrity, preservation of the national identity and regaining of political sovereignty), yet as soon as we do, we arrive at the obvious conclusion that it is impossible to solve these issues on our own. Moreover, we see that neighbouring countries not only understand us in the historical respect but often experience exactly the same problems with Russia and face the same disregard of Eastern Europe by the West within the framework of the “two-speed Europe.” Nothing is more logical under such conditions than the promotion of regional solidarity and partnership.
However, we get strong support also from the countries of Western Europe and America that connect their future with the outcome of our struggle. All of them solidarize with Eastern Europe, which has its own issues with the West, and do not mind getting on our boat if the burden of open borders taken by the West gets out of control, which is almost the case. Or, which is a preferable scenario for the countries still in charge of their destinies, they entrust to Eastern Europe the grandiose reform of the European Union in fields of grave importance like national security and identity.
In other words, we construct the Intermarium partnership within the framework of multi-vector geopolitics and are ready to suggest the project of alternative, or parallel, European integration in case of aggravation of the crisis tendencies in the EU suffering from bureaucratic rigidity, humanitarian blindness and the pressure of Russian business lobbies. Actually, we refer to the Nordic Council as the model for the first phase of parallel regional integration, since this is an international body to coordinate decentralised interparliamentary cooperation of member states of different political and defense blocs (in our case, NATO, EU or a non-aligned status). Besides, given the turn in the course of the Atlantic elites since the election of Donald Trump and the “economic wars” between the US and the EU, such transformations, naturally, presuppose new forms of transcontinental cooperation and, eventually, world order.
The next, already Fourth international conference of the Intermarium Support Group, is scheduled for the coming autumn in Zagreb, Croatia, or even Brussels. The algorithm of parallel European integration as suggested by the Group (from cooperation of NGOs and political parties promoting the Intermarium project to the regional intergovernmental partnership) is being implemented along with electoral success of our political allies.
R.Z.: People in the Baltics support Ukraine in its struggle against Russian aggression and know that you are fighting also for us. Because today it is Ukraine, but tomorrow it could be Latvia, Estonia or Lithuania. So what is your advice for us? How can we help Ukraine more and at the same time – how can we learn from the mistakes of Ukraine, so that we would never have to experience situations like in Crimea?
O. S.: Let us start with the lessons, for they underlie our renewed cooperation since similar geopolitical conjuncture in the former century. You know that under the 1994 Budapest memorandum Ukraine renounced its third largest in the world nuclear potential in exchange for “security assurances” by the US, UK, and the Russian Federation (later also France and China). And, when one of the signatory countries, Russia, invaded Donbas and annexed Crimea, the West did nothing to restore the justice. Military help by the West to Ukraine is a joke, let’s be honest.
Here, the lesson is clear I guess: under conditions of the Russian hybrid, which means “undeclared,” warfare, no NATO member state can feel safe, especially Latvia, taking into account some of its cities with a prevailing Russian “minority.” Intermarium is important not only as a faraway or close alternative to doubtful Western defense support for Eastern European countries: the efforts to establish cooperation between defense forces of the region and the very public discussion of the latter will definitely increase defensibility of Eastern Europe and will make the West rethink its conception of the regional security. First of all, I mean the status of multinational units like LITPOLUKRBRIG and the Division North which, so far, cannot take a decision on their own even to conduct a peacemaking humanitarian operation in the Donbas.
Further, modern Germany as the unspoken leader of the EU said it all when Angela Merkel started lobbying the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline bypassing the Ukrainian territory. Finally, reintegration of Russia into the European Council in spite of the unresolved issues of Donbas and Crimea put a full stop to the wishful thinking about the EU’s care for Ukraine. In terms of road infrastructure and regulated waves of economic migration of cheap qualified labor force to Western Europe, they do care for Ukraine, but, as we have seen so far, political elite of the EU does not think that it is even worth spoiling relations with Russia.
So the main piece of advice would be to neutralize globalist influences on Latvia inside the country and those coming from abroad, for they serve as a Trojan horse for the Kremlin’s political grip on the country. The second biggest “window” for the latter is economy: the loss of young labor force and human resources in general since Latvia’s joining the EU still serves as a valid argument in Russian geopolitical speculations. So the construction of the regional economical and security partnership within the framework of multi-vector or simply differentiated geopolitics should be carried out regardless of the hysteria in the “national-liberal” circles striving to portray such activities, first, as unrealistic, and, if it does not work out, as “anti-Western playing into the hands of the Russian Federation.” The price for pleasing this fake patriotic segment of Latvian political life, which in no way may be considered an antidote to the Kremlin’s imperialism, could be the loss of territories equal to the Ukrainian Crimea and, potentially, the entire statehood. Luckily, our work on public information cooperation of the real regional patriotic forces moves on.