Protesters to rally for imprisoned far-right activist

Demonstrators in Kyiv will again take to the streets today following the conviction of far-right activist Steriy Sternenko. Sternenko was

Serhiy Sternenko

Photo: Kostyantyn Chernichkin

Demonstrators in Kyiv will again take to the streets today following the conviction of far-right activist Steriy Sternenko.

Sternenko was found guilty of robbery, possession of illegal weapons and attempted abduction and sentenced to seven years in prison. Upon his arrest on February 23, some 2,000 supporters of Sternenko’s ultra-nationalist Right Sector party battled with police, leading to a number of injuries and arrests. Protesters contend that Sternenko has been targeted by the government of Volodymyr Zelensky for the activist’s attempts to expose corruption and ‘disloyalty’ to Ukraine’s sovereignty.

Far-right activists in Ukraine represent a small, if loud, minority of Ukrainian opinion. Similarly, affiliated political parties hold little influence in electoral politics. Thus, while the odds of violent clashes with police are high, today’s demonstration is unlikely to spill over into mass protests that would destabilise the government. However, Ukraine’s weak state has depended on far-right paramilitaries throughout the conflict in the Donbas region. It is unclear whether the prosecution of Sternenko represents a break from this troublesome alignment.

Looking forward, the salience of ultra-nationalism will depend on perceived threats to Ukrainian nationhood. As the war in the nation’s eastern region settles into a frozen conflict, expect the far-right to lose some of its appeal.

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