The Savage Beauty of the Ukrainian Anarchists
It’s not surprising no one heard about this. On October 27, 2019, a group of anarchists crept through the night in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk and placed an explosive device beneath a mobile cell-tower. It was detonated remotely, nobody was injured, and the tower was completely destroyed. In a leaflet scattered after the bombing, the anarchists explain that “this was done to draw the attention to the inhuman tortures in the basements of the MGB (Ministry of State Security of “Donbass People’s Republic”). Abuses and tortures with electric wires in the “people’s” republics has become an everyday normality.” Undoubtedly, the Russian FSB assumed these anarchists were CIA agents. However much they might wish this to be true, they’re incorrect. The bombers were indeed anarchists.
The bombing took place in one of the two territories seized by Russian-backed rebels during the 2014 Ukrainian Civil War. Unlike the western half of the country, the cell-towers in eastern Ukraine are now controlled by the state, adding more relevance to this target. In response to the bomb, the Ministry of Communications informed the public of Dontesk that “as a result of a sabotage act of blowing up a Phoenix’s cell tower in the Proletarskiy district, degradation of mobile network services is possible.”
In the communique for this action, the anarchists claimed their bombing attack was in honor of Mikhail Zhlobitsky, the seventeen-year-old who walked into an FSB office in Arkhangelsk and detonated an explosive device on October 31, 2018, killing himself and injuring several officers. Dedicating their cell-tower bombing to Zhlobitsky undoubtedly confirmed the FSB’s suspicions that they were CIA agents working to undermine Russia. Despite how convenient this might be, the bombers were still anarchists, not the CIA.
It’s hard to say what the FSB was thinking when they learned about the next anarchist attack, this one in the western half of the country. On October 31, 2019, the first anniversary of Zhlobitsky’s bombing, a group of anarchists attacked a police station in the town of Vyshneve, just outside of Kiev. The group used molotov cocktails to destroy several police vehicles and then disappeared into the night. In their communique, the group stated:
The police are an instrument of violence in the hands of the State. We can hear that the Ukrainian police have become “better” since the reform. When drunk policemen killed a 5-year-old child in Pereyaslav-Khemnitsky on 3 June 2019, they showed us what all these reforms cost. We do not need “improved police”, but a new system: direct people’s self-governance and real control of the people over the resources and economy of the country. The order must be ensured by the structures accountable to the self-government bodies. The police in their present form are executioners at the service of robbers and oppressors. It should be abolished as an institution.
Immediately after this attack, it’s more than likely that the fascist-supporting government in Kiev got busy weaving conspiracy theories about how these anarchists were FSB operatives out to destabilize the capitol city. Back east in Moscow, the FSB might have chuckled about this happy accident, knowing their western counterparts were lost in unbounded paranoia. Either way, there was no state intelligence agency behind this attack outside Kiev. It was simply the Ukrainian anarchists and their savage beauty blazing in the middle of a nightmare.
Unfortunately, the Ukrainian anarchists have always been the proverbial weather-vane of history. Exactly one century ago, the Black Army was fighting both the Whites and the Reds in a battle that determined the fate of both Ukraine and Russia. Obviously they lost, otherwise we wouldn’t be living in this horrible reality, but those Ukranian anarchists presented an alternative vision to the state-fascism of the Bolsheviks and the state-fascism of the kings and capitalists. The fact that it was brutally eradicated by both sides should tell you all you need to know about how dangerous this vision was to the forces of domination that control our world. Thankfully, that vision is still dangerous, and today’s Ukrainian anarchists are still positioned in the exact center of history. It’s not a fun place to be.
When the Euro-Maidan protests kicked off in Kiev during the fall of 2013, a short-lived wave of hope swept across the world. Some people thought this would be the “protest of the squares” that finally lived up to its promise and overthrew the forces of domination. The first people to tip the world off about what was really happening were the Ukrainian anarchists. Unlike the anarchists who intervened in the Occupy Movement of the US, the anarchists who set up tents in Maidan Square were quickly attacked by the fascists who took over the movement. To make it all worse, fascists appropriated the historical image of Nestor Mahkno, commander of the Black Army, and stripped away his anarchist beliefs to make him appear like a nationalist.
Feminists were pepper-sprayed, leftists were beaten, and anarchists were forced to hide their beliefs if they wanted to intervene on the street. One major barricade near the Khreshchatyk Metro station was controlled by a group of green-anarchists, although their influence quickly waned once the pro-Russian government was overthrown in a literal fascist coup waged in the name of European statehood. The CIA was obviously very happy with this pro-western outcome, although they weren’t solely responsible for the protests, as the FSB would like to believe. All authoritarian states engender their own internal upheavals, situations that can be exploited by outside actors of all stripes and colors, and one should never confuse the detonator with the explosive.
Having lost their puppet in Kiev, the Ukrainian Civil War quickly broke out in the eastern edge of the country, waged by pro-Russian separatists against the pro-western forces. By the spring of 2014, the Russian army had seized the Crimean peninsula and backed the formation of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. Since then, over 13,000 people have died in a long and bloody conflict fully supported by both the CIA and FSB, albeit for different reason. On the one hand, the US has offered unconditional support for the pro-western government in Kiev, despite the well-documented presence of fascists in the Ukrainian state and its armed forces. On the other hand, Russia has offered unconditional support for the anti-western forces in eastern Ukraine who fight these western-backed fascists. While this conflict was unfolding over the past five years, the Ukrainian anarchists never stopped fighting against all state power, whether eastern or western.
Late-2018 and 2019 have certainly been a roller-coaster for the anarchists of Ukraine and Russia. In January, 2018, eleven anarchists were arrested for belonging to an alleged terrorist organization called The Network. All of them were tortured by the FSB and threatened with death. According to one of the prisoners, their interrogator claimed they were “no longer useful” to the state and threatened to kill them with a forced heroin overdose. After this brutal episode, the alleged members of The Network were portrayed by the media as the anarchist boogy-man. At the same time, the FSB allowed people to think the entire Network was manipulated by the state, a deterrent to any future groups who aimed to attack the government. The FSB was riding high on this narrative until young Mikhail Zhlobitsky set off his bomb in Arkhangelsk, proving anarchists weren’t simply pawns of the state. After that, the word ‘anarchist’ took on new meaning in Russia. For the first time in a century, the general public realized there were more options than just communism and capitalism.
The strength of anarchism is its refusal to play the games of states, geo-politics, and nationalism. We make no sense to the CIA and the FSB, but they will try and manipulate us just the same. Despite all the forces surrounding the contemporary Ukrainian anarchists, they have remained loyal to the great international struggle and act together with others across borders and nationalities. Like a century ago, the Ukrainian anarchists represent the only viable alternative in a polarized world, and their actions are truly hope-inspiring. While the US government uses Donald Trump’s withholding of military-aid to Ukraine as their justification for impeachment, the general public of the US is still completely clueless about the fascists that aid was going to. Meanwhile, the anarchists in Kiev have been fighting fascists on the street with knives and torching government buildings with petrol bombs.
The most recent attack took place in Kiev on November 11 when a group of anarchists destroyed two cell-towers owned by Lifecell, a subsidiary of TURKCELL, the largest service provider in Turkey. This action was taken in solidarity with the Kurds and their fight against Turkish-backed jihadist fascists and it demonstrated how the west blindly accepts Turkey in its fight against Russia, Syria, and Iran.
This is the savage beauty of the Ukrainian anarchists. In a corrupt world where everyone is bought and sold for a specific price, the anarchists remain uncontrollable. We wish everyone good luck for the coming year of 2020 and leave you with this humble reminder: just because we don’t want to play games, doesn’t mean people won’t play games with you. Stay free, stay true, and never stop.
Long Live Anarchy!