Flashback: That Time McCain Met And Praised Actual Neo-Nazis In Ukraine

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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter
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Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona once met with a well-known right-wing nationalist party in Ukraine in 2013.

The senator took a trip to Kiev, Ukraine, where he spoke to thousands of protesters gathered in the city’s main square to protest former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to cut trade relations with Europe and instead engage with Russia.

His visit was reportedly to show U.S. support for the protesters, but his trip to Ukraine was notable for another reason. McCain was repeatedly photographed standing next to and meeting with Oleh Tyahnybok, the leader of the right-wing nationalist Svoboda Party, Business Insider reported.

The Svoboda Party has gained some traction and notoriety in Ukraine, garnering 10 percent of the national vote in the nation’s 2010 parliamentary election. Svoboda has a history of anti-Semitism. When it was founded in 1995, the party had a logo eerily similar to the Nazi swastika. The party underwent a schism in later years, but still remains true to promoting Ukrainian ethnic identity.

Tyahnybok has a history of making anti-Semitic comments. He was expelled from parliament in 2014 after he demanded the Ukranian people wage war against the “Muscovite-Jewish mafia,”–both words are insults aimed at the nation’s Russian and Jewish citizens. In 2015, Tyahnybok wrote letters in which he demanded Ukraine fight against acts “of Jewry.”

Tyahnybok was at the forefront of the Ukranian protests, so McCain’s choice to meet with him isn’t all that surprising. At the same time, it is understandable, given his past statements, why Jewish citizens of Ukraine are not fans of Tayahnybok and the Svoboda Party.

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