WASHINGTON, DC, May 3, 2018 - Yesterday, Tatyana Soykina, the head of the Odesa chapter of Right Sector, a far-right Ukrainian political group, made anti-Semitic statements at a large demonstration. The demonstration was held to mark the fourth anniversary of clashes in Odesa between pro- and anti-Maidan protesters. The May 2014 clashes resulted in over 40 deaths and 200 injuries. NCSEJ condemns Soykina's anti-Semitic remarks and hopes a pending investigation into whether Soykina violated Ukraine's law on inciting hatred against a religious group will reinforce efforts to fight intolerance nationwide.
Video surfaced of Soykina's remarks in which she declared that, "We will restore order in Ukraine, Ukraine will belong to Ukrainians, not Jews and oligarchs," using a highly offensive pejorative for Jews, zhid.
Members of other far-right groups, including Svoboda and the National Corps, participated in the demonstration and an accompanying march through the city. NCSEJ continues to follow the growth of the National Corps (Natsionalny Druzhyny) movement in Ukraine, which is an offshoot of the Azov Battalion. The National Corps claims to serve as a supplement to state police forces and has appeared elsewhere in the country, including Kyiv and Cherkasy. The demonstration in Odesa marks the first time we have seen the group emerge in Southern Ukraine.
This demonstration and Soykina's remarks are yet another manifestation of the growing presence of far-right and extremist groups in Ukraine and their use of anti-Semitism to bolster their platforms.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov called her remarks "unpatriotic." Member of Parliament Aleksandr Grabovsky spoke out against Soykina's remarks on his Facebook page and publicly reminded her that it is against Ukrainian law to incite violence or hatred against someone according to their race, ethnicity, or religion.
The Ukrainian government's continued inaction in addressing the growth of far-right and extremist groups and the spread of homegrown intolerance, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism is unacceptable. While NCSEJ acknowledges the Interior Minister's criticism of Soykina's statements and welcomes the decision of local authorities to open an investigation, the government of Ukraine must do more to consistently and effectively combat intolerance and the spread of extremist beliefs in Ukraine.
For further comment, please contact NCSEJ CEO Mark B. Levin at MLevin@ncsej.org or at (202) 898-2500.