The same Western media that once documented and decried Ukraine’s far right is now playing it down and even rehabilitating its leaders — including actual Nazis. Such apologetics aren’t doing any favors for Ukrainians or their fight against Russia’s aggression.

By Branko Marcetic, Jacobin

Since Russian president Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of neighboring Ukraine a month ago, something curious has happened with Western media coverage of the country’s far right. Amid the global wave of indignation at Russia’s war of aggression, which Moscow has justified on the pretext of “denazification,” the Western press — fixated for the last five years on the prospect of fascism and the far right at home — have begun playing the issue down.

The Ukrainian far right, we’re now told, is negligible, no different or more influential than its counterparts in the West and irrelevant thanks to its lack of electoral success. Any claim to the contrary is mere Putinite propaganda. How could it not be, when the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is himself Jewish? As for the movement’s most famous name — the neo-Nazi Azov Regiment that was officially incorporated into Ukraine’s National Guard in 2014 — well, Azov, we’re told, is not really even far right anymore.

Friends and relatives accompany the Battalion

With the Kremlin doing its best to paint the entire population of Ukraine as fascists while reducing schools and hospitals to rubble, you can see why this line of argument might be tempting. But the emerging narrative is baseless — a betrayal of journalism’s truth-telling mission, and one that risks silencing debate about a dangerous and violent movement whose existence is highly relevant to questions of Western policy toward the war. There are better ways to support Ukrainians as they fight to restore their country’s independence and safety than pretending their local far right isn’t a danger — or even rehabilitating actual Nazis.

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