On April 7, 2014, Oleksandr Turchynov, the then-acting president of Ukraine, de facto started the ATO by declaring that antiterrorist methods should be employed against pro-Russian separatists who were then capturing, with Moscow’s encouragement and help, administrative buildings in Eastern Ukraine. On April 13, 2014, the National Defense and Security Council of Ukraine passed a decision “on immediate measures with regard to curbing the terrorist threat and maintaining the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” which constituted the de jure start of the ATO (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group 2014). During the following months, on numerous occasions, Turchynov spoke highly of the volunteer battalions (Tsenzor.NET 2017). This previewed the soon to be established particularly close connection between Turchynov’s new party, the Popular Front, and Ukraine’s armed forces – in particular, the emerging IAGs.
Although the Popular Front became a functioning organization only in September 2014, that is, less than two months before the parliamentary elections of October 25, 2014, it won the proportional part of these elections with 22.2% of the turnout. Somewhat paradoxically, the Popular Front did not, however, even run in the 2015 local elections, as its support had plummeted by then. Since Arseniy Yatseniuk, the party’s public leader, was Ukraine’s prime minister during the deep economic crisis years of 2014–2016, the voters evidently deemed the party responsible for the socioeconomic collapse of that time.
The Popular Front’s October 2014 electoral victory was also surprising in view of the fact that the Front’s emergence had been somewhat accidental. The party ran only because its leaders, Turchynov and Yatseniuk, had not been able, in summer 2014, to agree with their then allies, Yuliia Tymoshenko and Petro Poroshenko, on their and their affiliates’ positions on the electoral lists of Fatherland and Solidarity, for the upcoming parliamentary elections. Thus, Turchynov and Yatseniuk founded a new party with a demonstratively militaristic but not ultranationalist self-image, and they focused on issues of national defense as well as state security. The new party quickly carved out a particular nonextremist nationalist political niche of its own. One of the corollaries of its campaign was establishing close links to the armed forces and, in particular, to the recently emerged IAGs (Chernyshev Reference Chernyshev2014b).
A number of prominent participants of the ATO or figures publicly linked to the armed volunteer movement were placed on high positions of the Popular Front’s party list for the proportional part of the elections. Other IAG members were elected in single-member districts with the help of the Popular Front. The most prominent list candidates among the party’s top 25 positions included:
• Andriy Parubiy, former head of the National Security and Defense Council, on position 4
• Andriy Teteruk, the commander of the Myrotvorets’ (Peacekeeper) battalion, on position 5
• Arsen Avakov, minister of internal affairs, on position 6
• Yuriy Bereza, then commander of the Dnipro-1 battalion, on position 10
• Anton Herashchenko, the Interior Ministry’s “coordinator of the volunteer battalions,” on position 21 (Chernyshev Reference Chernyshev2014c).Footnote 7
Andriy Parubiy, briefly head of the National Security and Defense Council in 2014 and speaker of the Ukrainian parliament in 2016–2019, is among the most prominent politicians linked to the IAGs. Parubiy had been the commander of the Euromaidan’s Samooborona (self-defense), that is, the numerous so-called sotni (hundreds) that protected the protesters during the Revolution of Dignity of 2013–2014. He stood thus at the origins of those IAGs that were created out of Samoborona sotni, and he was personally acquainted with many of the IAG commanders.
In the early 1990s, Parubiy had been one of the creators of the above-mentioned Social-National Party of Ukraine in Galicia, the predecessor organization of Svoboda (BBC Ukraina 2016). Parubiy, however, strayed away from Svoboda in early 2005 and joined instead Viktor Yushchenko’s moderately nationalist Nasha Ukraina (Our Ukraine) party (BBC Ukraina 2016). During the 2004 Orange Revolution, he had been one of the protests’ key organizers and the “commandant” of the Ukrainian House – a prominent location in the Kyiv city center controlled by the protesters and the headquarters of the electoral uprising.
Against the background of his 2004 experience, Parubiy became in late 2013 also the “commandant” of the Euromaidan protesting camp and came to play “one of the key functions in the organizational structure of Euromaidan” (BBC Ukraina 2016). After the protesters’ victory, he coinitiated the incorporation of the Euromaidan’s self-defense units into the emerging National Guard of the Ministry of Interior as volunteer units (Depo.ua 2017). In spring 2014, Parubiy ordered the Euromaidan’s self-defense units to capture the buildings of local authorities in the north of the Luhans’ka oblast’ in order to prevent them from falling into the hands of Russian-led separatists (BBC Ukraina 2016).
As minister of the interior since late February 2014, Arsen Avakov also played a crucial role in the formation of the volunteer battalions, and he later managed to induce several of them to merge into the National Guard. Anton Herashchenko, an advisor to Avakov, was intimately involved in the communication between the ministry of the interior and emerging IAGs. He, for instance, supported the creation and activities of the Shakhtars’k battalion, according to Andriy Filonenko, its commander. Herashchenko explained that, before the separatist combatants started to operate heavy weapons, the task of the new volunteer battalions had been to “bring order” to the settlements “liberated from the terrorists” (Karpiak Reference Karpiak2014).
The reserve colonel and former United Nations peacekeeper Andriy Teteruk was, in spring 2014, asked by the ministry of the interior to form a unit out of former Ukrainian participants in peacekeeping operations. Teteruk reported that interim President Turchynov and Interior Minister Avakov took a special interest in the creation of the Myrotvorets’ battalion (later, regiment) out of military professionals (Teteruk interview Reference Teteruk2018). Their close contact since spring 2014 apparently facilitated Teteruk’s inclusion into the Popular Front’s electoral list a few months later. Teteruk emphasized that his battalion was an explicitly neutral fighting unit with no political ideology (Teteruk interview Reference Teteruk2018).
According to Viktor Chalavan (interview Reference Chalavan2017), who coordinated the creation of many dobrobaty, the Kyiv-1, Dnipro-1, and Zoloti Vorota (Golden Gate) IAGs were among the first such units. During their formation, often more or less prominent personalities played some role, among them above-mentioned Yuriy Bereza and Yevhen Deidei, another later Popular Front MP (Hladka et al. Reference Hladka, Khromakov, Myronova, Pluzhnyk, Pokal’chuk, Rudych, Trofymovych and Shevchenko2016, 88). They, together with Teteruk, were considered to be in Avakov’s informal influence group within the Popular Front (Ukrains’ka pravda 2016c). Bereza has, however, denied that his Dnipro-1 battalion is affiliated to Avakov or anyone else except “the people” (Hladka et al. Reference Hladka, Khromakov, Myronova, Pluzhnyk, Pokal’chuk, Rudych, Trofymovych and Shevchenko2016, 194). Teteruk has claimed that, after his election to the Rada, he only participates in honorary events of the Myrotvorets’ regiment and keeps only personal (and no political) contacts with fighters he served with (Zheliznyak Reference Zheliznyak2017).
There were more 2014–2019 Popular Front MPs coming out of the armed volunteer movement. Mykhailo Havryliuk, a Maidan hero with later links to the Zoloti Vorota (Golden Gate) unit, won in October 2014 an SMD seat in the Rada, with the support of the Popular Front (Antykor 2015). As mentioned, Andriy Bilets’kyy, the Azov battalion’s creator and first commander, ran in Kyiv with unofficial support from the Popular Front. Mykhailo Bodnar, elected in the L’vivs’ka oblast’ in October 2014, had fought in the Kulchyts’kyy battalion (Narodnyy front 2018). Millionaire V’iacheslav Konstantinovs’kyy had volunteered as a fighter in the ATO, within the rapid response unit “Kyiv-tsentr” of the Kyiv-1 battalion. Konstantinovs’kyy became famous after he had sold his Rolls Royce car and donated the UAH 2.5 million he had received for it for medical treatment of soldiers injured in the ATO and for purchasing equipment for units fighting in the Donbas (Obozrevatel 2016).
West Ukrainian Popular Front MP Ihor Lapin, formerly a Maidan activist, had served, before his election, as the commander of the 2nd Company of the Aidar battalion and received several awards for his service. After being elected to the Verkhovna Rada, as per Lapin’s official biography, he “visits [the] ATO [zone] to help our fighters, share skills and experience of conducting [military] operations” (Lapin Reference Lapin2018b). Lapin was subsequently accused of (or defamed for alleged) corruption and of forging his military biography by an investigative journalist (Volyns’ki novyny 2017). The latter allegation seemed, in view of ample video documentation of Lapin’s military service, however, misleading (Lapin interview Reference Lapin2018a).
Source : https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/nationalities-papers/article/between-frontline-and-parliament-ukrainian-political-parties-and-irregular-armed-groups-in-20142019/90BAFE7AA179511DA2B58240D943D8C41552