Ukraine party accused of anti-Semitism receives top positions in new government
As the fires die down from the turmoil in Kiev, a political party that has been accused of promoting anti-Semitism and xenophobia is set to reap the benefits of the new government arrangement.
The Svoboda Party will take control of not one, but three ministries in the interim government.
These posts include the deputy prime minister and the heads of the agriculture and environmental ministries. In addition to these positions, a Svoboda lawmaker was appointed the new prosecutor general in the interim government.
Svoboda’s leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, is one of the leading opposition figures during the recent crisis in Ukraine and met with Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain when the former presidential candidate visited the tumultuous country last December.
Tyahnybok and other party leaders have been accused of making numerous anti-Semitic and racist remarks. In 2004, Tyahnybok urged his party in a televised speech to fight “the Moscow-Jewish mafia ruling Ukraine.”
In 2012, deputy party leader Ihor Miroshnychenko called actress Mila Kunis, who was born in the Ukraine, a “dirty Jewess,” which instantly drew international condemnation. Another party official, Yuriy Mykhalchyshyn founded a think tank called the Joseph Goebbels Political Research Centre, which was named as a tribute to the notorious Nazi propaganda minister.
Even the founding name and original name of Svoboda bear an eerie resemblance to the Nazis. They were founded as the Social National Party of Ukraine and adopted the “wolfsangel” rune as their party logo, which was also a symbol used by Waffen-SS divisions in World War II and is a popular icon among neo-Nazis.
But the party denies accusations that it is anti-Semitic and xenophobic. Tyahnybok has been aggressive in dismissing allegations that his party promotes these ideas.
“Svoboda is not an anti-Semitic party. Svoboda is not a xenophobic party. Svoboda is not an anti-Russian party. Svoboda is not an anti-European party. Svoboda is simply and only a pro-Ukrainian party. And that’s it,” Tyahnybok declared in an 2012 interview with The New York Times.
Its party platform makes no explicit statements of anti-Semitism or racism, but it does contain some curious items.
Examples include: creating a list that would detail the number of KGB agents within the Ukrainian government, banning “Ukrainophobia,” banning the advertising of tobacco and alcohol as well as banning the adoption of Ukrainian children to foreigners.
Svoboda received over 10 percent of the vote in the 2012 parliamentary elections in Ukraine and received 37 seats in parliament — making them the fourth largest party in their country’s parliament.