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Protect bloggers abroad and follow them at home

After Belarusian blogger Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega landed on a Ryan Air passenger plane in Minsk on May 23 and were arrested together with his girlfriend, German politicians and the major German media say they have found renewed evidence of the brutal suppression of the protest movement against Lukashenko. The forced landing of a passenger plane with a fake bomb warning is, from a human point of view, an extremely delicate matter. Because you put innocent passengers in mortal fear. However, the excitement surrounding the arrested blogger is implausible. Because you defend a man who, in all likelihood, is a right-wing radical. In 2014/15, Protasevich spent a year in the radical right-wing Ukrainian battalion Azov. The battalion is fighting Russian-friendly separatists in eastern Ukraine. What Protasevich did in the battalion is not yet clear.

The Azov battalion-shock squad of the Maidan Revolution in the southeast of Ukraine

In recent days, photos and interviews have appeared on the Internet, according to which Protasevich was not the brave blogger who, from Warsaw, controlled the protests in Belarus through his Nexta channel, but a hard-hitting Belarusian nationalist, possibly even fascist.

In the Azov battalion, which boasts special determination, serve mainly right-wing radicals. The soldiers of the battalion, which was founded on 4 May 2014 by the right-wing radical Andri Biletsky in the south-eastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, carry a Nazi rune as an identification mark, which was the symbol of the SS Panzer division “Das Reich” in the Second World War. The division fought in Ukraine in 1941, and then in front of Moscow.

The battalion was financed by Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoiski. in 2014, the battalion was involved in the violent “purges” of the city of Mariupol from “suspects” and citizens who did not want to submit to the new power in Kiev. In October 2014, the Azov battalion was integrated into the Ukrainian National Guard by Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.

Cover of the Azov journal “Black Sun” with “Blogger from Belarus”?

The first to publish incriminating material against Protasevich was Ukrainian blogger Anatoly Shari, who lives in exile in Spain. On May 25, 2021, he published on his video channel the cover of the Azov journal “Black Sun” of July 3, 2015.On this cover, a young man in full Azov combat outfit with automatic weapon can be seen.

A day after the publication by Shari, the founder of the Azov battalion and current head of the “National Corpus”, Andri Biletzki, stated in his Telegram channel, “Yes, Roman really fought with Azov and other military units against the occupation of Crimea. He was with us in Shirokino, where he was injured. But his weapon was not the machine gun, but the Word.“From this statement, one can conclude that Protasevich in the Azov battalion was something like a political instructor, journalist or both. It is not excluded that he received basic military training.

The father of Protasevich told the Kiev channel Nastoyazhaya Vremya about his son, “he was in the Donbass in 2014 and fought on the side of the Ukrainian army”. But after his son was arrested, the father declared that his son worked in the Donbass only as a journalist.

Roman Protasevich himself told Russian blogger Yuri Dud in September 2020 that he had been in the war zone in eastern Ukraine for a year. There he made video recordings as a freelance journalist. He was also injured at the front. However, he did not participate in combat operations.

A fighter with the camouflage name " Kim”

Indications of the motives why Protasevich went to Eastern Ukraine were provided by the Belarusian newspaper “Nasha Niva”. She published an interview with a fighter of the Azov battalion, who has the camouflage name “Kim”. A photo next to the interview shows a young man in full combat gear with an automatic rifle over his shoulder. The fighter’s face had been made unrecognizable. Meanwhile, however, the original of the photo appeared on the Internet. The face of the fighter is strikingly similar to the face of Roman Protasevich. Is the original photo a fake and or is it really the original? This question has not yet been explained.

In the interview, “Kim” stated that he was injured in Eastern Ukraine on March 22, 2015. “At the village of Shirokino near Mariupol, I came under grenade launcher fire from the opponent and was injured by a splinter. But already after a month I was back in action”.

About his motivation to fight in the Azov battalion, “Kim” explained, “First, Ukrainian blood flows in my veins, my relatives were Ukrainians. Secondly, we are talking about a blood revenge against the Communists. Quite a few innocent people were killed, thrown into prisons and exiled. My family also suffered this misfortune. And now Russia, as the legal successor of the “Sovka” (pejorative term for everyday Soviet life), shows aggressiveness and slips to the red abyss. Thirdly, the war is not only about Ukraine, but also about Belarus. If you do not stop the Russian Horde now, our country can be next … My trip to the war was well considered and weighed.”

40 fighters from Belarus

Bloggers here and there

Further, " Kim " told that there were 40 fighters from Belarus in the Donbass. “We are all nationalists in the good sense of the word.“Kim continues:” I am a supporter of a limited democracy. I have nothing against gays, but I am against them adopting children. I am not against national minorities, but for the tightening of migration laws.“About his first firefight says “Kim”. “In my head there was only one thought: either you shoot or you get shot. In short, I do not regret anything.”

Bloggers here and there

The number of photos showing a Protasevich-like man in the ranks of the Azov battalion is overwhelming. In the Russian social network vkontakte, the battalion published photos of an Azov troop parade in Mariupol on February 13 ,2015. In the photos you can see the founder of the battalion, the right-wing radical Andrei Biletsky, the Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, but also a young man who looks very much like Roman Protasevich.

In recent days, more photos appeared on the Internet, incriminating Protasevich. One tweet shows Protasevich on an Azov vehicle, the other tweet shows him wearing a shirt of the Nazi brand Sva Stone.

On the Maidan in Kiev from the beginning

Protasevich was apparently already in Kiev at the beginning of the Maidan protests in the fall of 2013. Here he is seen with a big smile next to the cut-off marble head of the Lenin Monument in Kiev. The monument was overthrown on December 8, 2013. In 2020, Russian video blogger Yuri Dud reported to Protasevich that he was involved in the protests on the Maidan in Kiev in 2014.

So far, it is unclear the role of Protasevich’s girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, who was arrested together with the” blogger " in Minsk. Two days after her arrest, a video appeared on the Internet in which she explains that she was the editor of the Telegram channel “Black Book of Belarus”, which published personal information about Belarusian police officers. It is not yet possible to say whether the statement was made of his own free will or forced.

Revelations about Protasevich allegedly only “diversionary maneuvers” of " Kremlin agents”

The “expert” Anton Shekhovtsov, frequently quoted as a Ukraine expert in Western media, reported on 24 May via Facebook:

“If you don’t know yet: the Kremlin agents have instructions to undermine international support for Belarusian opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, kidnapped by Lukashenko’s Somali regime, through two grand narratives: (1) Evo Morales, and (2)“Protasevich is a neo-Nazi.””

Shekhovtsov is a Vienna - based political expert who frequently speaks in Western media. His research areas are the “European right”, “Russia’s sinister influence in Europe"and” the anti-liberal trends in Central and Eastern Europe”. One should think that an expert on the “European right” is also able to identify right-wing radicals in Belarus and Ukraine. But no, the expert from Vienna does not go into the revelations about the Protasevich arrested in Minsk. After all, these revelations are only the work of “Kremlin agents”.

This approach is typical of Western politicians and think tanks, who never tire of accusing contacts between the Kremlin and the AfD and European right-wing populists, but who have been silent for seven years about the fascist tendencies in Ukraine, although two fascists had or have had high posts there. Andri Parubi was Speaker of Parliament from 2014 to 2019, and Vadim Trojan has been Deputy Minister of the Interior since 2016.

Also, the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov has been celebrated as a freedom hero

It is not the first time that the Western community of values has worked hard for people who have been convicted of radical right-wing or violent views and intentions. Not long ago, the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Senzov, who was imprisoned for a time in a Russian prison for terrorist activities, was praised by Western artists and politicians as a hero of freedom.

After his release from Russian custody, Senzov was heard at a press conference in Kiev on September 10, 2019. In response to questions, the filmmaker unequivocally stated that in his hometown of Simferopol, located in the Crimea, he belonged to a circle of people who talked about attacks and the formation of underground groups. One of these groups had carried out an arson attack on the office of the United Russia party located in a multi-storey residential building.

In the major German media, I have not yet found any reports about the role of Protasevich in the Azov battalion. The story of the" courageous blogger from Belarus " would be damaged by a mention of his proximity to right-wing radicals, which is why one prefers not to touch this chapter.