Neil Findlay

Neil Findlay

Neil Findlay: What Happened When I Called Out Holyrood’s Ukrainian Neo-Nazi

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There was an international backlash this week when the Canadian Parliament stood to applaud a Ukrainian SS veteran. This was not the first time far right elements from Ukraine have been welcomed to parliaments. Former MSP Neil Findlay recalls the strange events around Andriy Parubiy’s official visit to the Scottish Parliament.

On 14 June 2018 I was a Labour MSP sat in my usual place in the back row of the Scottish Parliament. As 12pm on that Thursday approached, members sat, some eagerly, others with feigned interest waiting on the weekly ritual of First Minister’s Questions. With a few minutes to go the Presiding Officer Ken McIntosh said to the assembled politicians:

“Before we turn to First Minister’s questions, I invite members to join me in welcoming to the gallery Andriy Parubiy, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, the Parliament of the Ukraine. [Applause.]” 

This request was not unique, the Presiding Officer of the parliament regularly asks members to applaud international guests and visitors in attendance. These are usually Prime Ministers, Ambassadors and the like. MSPs more often than not have no idea who these people are and receive no prior information about them.

On this occasion as soon as FMQs ended I was contacted by a journalist who took me by real surprise when he said, ‘do you realise the parliament has just applauded a fascist?’ Well, of course I had no knowledge of Mr Parubiy nor I suspect did any of my colleagues, so I did a quick check online. What I read shocked me. 

Mr Andriy Parubiy, was a co-founder of the neo-nazi Social-National Party of Ukraine. The party used a symbol adopted by some SS units during World War Two as part of its branding. Its ideology was ultra nationalist, similar to the Nazis and attracted a large far right skinhead following. The European Union said it was a racist party. It was disbanded in 2014 and became part of the Svoboda party which restricted membership to ethnic Ukrainians. 

Following these revelations, I told the presiding officer I would “prefer to know the next time I am asked to welcome a racist, fascist nazi to this parliament.”

Those defending Paraubyi including David Leask of the Herald insisted that “Mr Parubiy has moved firmly into the mainstream in recent years. His current party in Ukraine’s ever-changing politics is centre-right and pro-EU.”

These claims were somewhat undermined a few months later when Parubiy told a chat show that he had “scientifically studied” democracy and cautioned his audience “not to forget the contributions of the fuhrer to the development of democracy.”

“The greatest man who practiced direct democracy was Adolf Hitler in the 1930s,” he said.

SNP MP Chris Law, contributed to the Leask article saying: “At the end of the day, this will only serve the Kremlin.”

Following my intervention this letter was sent to me via twitter from the Ukrainian Embassy. 

Writing about the incident Leask went on to say, of me “Neil Findlay is far from a soldier in Vladimir Putin’s information wars. But the Labour MSP last week – unwittingly – thrust Scotland right on to their front line. That is because the socialist said something in the Scottish Parliament which tallied perfectly with Kremlin messaging: Mr Findlay on Thursday called the visiting speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, Andriy Parubiy, a “racist, fascist Nazi”.

Leask’s initial comments here are as correct now as they were then. I am no ally of Putin, indeed in 2018 I had no knowledge of, or real interest in the regional politics of the former Soviet Union. My motivation was to end the marshalling of MSPs into a group think mentality where at the behest of someone in a position of power (the PO) and influence they simply follow the lead to applaud and show respect to someone with a background such as Parubiy. 

One further note of interest in the Leask article was his reference to the work of the ‘Integrity Initiative, a network of researchers and journalists seeking to counter Russian propaganda and boost media literacy.’ Of course what Leask did not say what that ‘Integrity Initiative’ was a £2 million Foreign Office funded project run by military intelligence experts and based at the Headquarters of the Institute of Statecraft in a derelict building at Auchtermuchty, Fife.

And not only did the ‘Integrity Initiative counter Russian Propaganda’ it repeatedly attacked the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn and those worked for him such as Seamus Milne, Director of Communications amongst others.

Of course what Leask also failed to report was that he had met and briefed the ‘Integrity Initiative’ on the 27th March 2018 just a few months before my intervention. We were never told whether Leask was or remains on their payroll?

This episode has taken on more importance in the current climate with the Ukraine/Russia propaganda war at fever pitch. My plea is that people should learn from this relatively minor episode and not simply accept what we are spoon fed by the political class and so called credible media outlets. Or else you end up in the preposterous position the Canadian Parliament found itself in this week where unquestioning politicians stood to applaud 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka, a former member of the Waffen-SS “Galicia” Division, a volunteer unit that was under the command of the Nazis. A man described by the Speaker of the Canadian Parliament as a ‘war hero’.

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