‘Ukraine on Fire’ exposes fascism

Film review

Director Igor Lopatonok’s powerful documentary, “Ukraine on Fire,” exposes the history of Western imperialist intervention in Ukraine and the 2014 coup that allowed the far-right to ascend to power.

“Ukraine on Fire” was written by Vanessa Dean and executive-produced by filmmaker Oliver Stone (“The Putin Interviews,” 2017). It contains much footage of the street violence that brought down the Ukrainian government in 2014. The film also features conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and Minister of Internal Affairs Vitaliy Zakharchenko, as well as with award-winning investigative journalist Robert Parry, the founder of Consortium News.

The film investigates the series of events that allowed for “Euromaidan” and set the stage for the coup in Ukraine.

The film’s narrator describes Ukraine as a land of beauty, heroism and sacrifice. Rich in arable land and resources, it has served as a pathway for Western powers trying to subvert and conquer the East, particularly the former Soviet Union, and now Russia.

But the Ukrainian people have “paid the highest price for these games of power.” The U.S. and other world powers have attempted to control Ukraine and use it for their own purposes.

Fascism in Ukraine

For decades Ukraine has been plagued with fascist elements, like the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), formed in 1929. OUN members openly conspired with the Nazi invaders during World War II, and some even joined the Waffen S.S. As noted in “Fraud, Famine and Fascism (1987) by Douglas Tottle, “The relationship between German Nazism and Ukrainian Nationalism” was “no brief honeymoon.”

By the end of 1941 — the same year the Nazis broke their treaty and invaded the Soviet Union in “Operation Barbarossa” — the OUN militia had murdered between 150,000 to 200,000 Jews in German-occupied Ukraine. They also targeted other groups the Nazis labeled as “untermenschen” or “subhuman.”

After Germany surrendered to Allied forces on May 7, 1945, Ukraine remained a part of the USSR. While Nazi leaders were tried for crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg Trials, the Ukrainian nationalists were spared.

Declassified documents from the U.S. government reveal strong ties between the CIA and the Ukrainian nationalists. The agency was well aware of their crimes and used them as tools in the Cold War against the Soviet Union. In a fanatical crusade against socialism and communism, the U.S. and its NATO partners allied themselves with countless reactionaries in bloody conflicts around the globe.

In 1989, the Narodny Rukh (Peoples Movement) emerged, advocating Ukrainian independence. It became an “incubator” for Ukrainian neo-Nazism. Two years later, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ukraine became independent. Since then, the far-right has made a resurgence with groups like the Svoboda party, which champions the cruel fascist ideology earlier carried out by OUN leader Stepan Bandera. Later, other reactionary groups and parties were formed, such as Trident and the Right Sector party.

After the USSR ceased to exist, Ukraine fell into privatization and corruption, which enriched the elite at the expense of the Ukrainian people. In November 2013, Yanukovych sought to ease the country’s economic woes by turning to the European Union, but he says the negotiations failed “due to the usual draconian demands made by the International Monetary Fund.” So he turned to President Putin of Russia. Protests against Yanukovych’s government then erupted in the streets of central Kiev, the nation’s capital.

The U.S. blamed the violence on the government even as Washington played a big part in Yanukovych’s overthrow. In one section of the film, we hear a tape recording of the notorious conversation between Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt discussing who should replace Yanukovych as president.

U.S. partnership with fascist groups

The film shows that the street violence and anti-government rhetoric being spouted were committed by the ideological disciples of the Nazi collaborators propped up by the CIA following World War II. The protests and the media coverage of “Euromaidan” were largely orchestrated by fascists (mostly from western Ukraine), with help from the U.S. government and its partners. Ukrainian television news outlets Spilno, Espreso and Hromadske slanted their coverage of the situation and demanded Yanukovych’s ouster. It has been revealed that these networks, like many of the protesters, were partially funded by the U.S. Embassy.

The film sheds light on the role of internationally financed nongovernmental organizations in helping topple governments, including those with democratic elections. Such NGOs, supported by the CIA, have included the likes of the National Endowment for Democracy, which has supported violent regime change since the mid-1980s, including the invasion of Iraq in 2003. This is best explained by interview subject Parry, who helped break early stories on the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s.

According to director Lopatonok: “In the 1980s, most of these ‘regime changes’ were orchestrated by the CIA. In Ukraine, we uncovered the fingerprints of new stage helpers influencing our elections.”

In Washington, D.C., the effort was applauded by Sens. John McCain and Chris Murphy. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright supported arming the Ukraine government with weapons — for “defensive” purposes, of course. Stone, who also conducted some of the interviews in the film, posted a statement on social media in 2015 revealing how he and those he interviewed believed “these foreign elements were introduced by pro-Western factions — with CIA fingerprints on it.”

Instead of falling prey to the fascist-backed oligarchs now in power, the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk split from Ukraine to form their own republics. The U.S. continues to arm and fund Kiev in an effort to crush the resistance. As the fighting rages on, so does Washington’s effort to demonize and threaten Russia and its allies.

Film banned but available

“Ukraine on Fire” was banned in Ukraine. Efforts have also been made to prevent the film from being shown in the U.S. ever since it appeared on the film festival circuit last year. Fortunately, the 95-minute documentary is being distributed by Cinema Libre Studio, which has courageously partnered with Stone in releasing two other important political documentary features: “South of the Border” (2010) and “Looking for Fidel” (2006).

“Ukraine on Fire” was made available for online streaming (Amazon Video and Vimeo on Demand) in the U.S. and Canada on June 27 and will be made available on DVD and Blu-ray on July 18.

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