© New York Times/Sergey PonomarevDemonstrators this week in Kiev, Ukraine, practiced defending their barricades from riot police officers. As the uprising has unfolded, the role of the nationalist party Svoboda has grown.
Neo-nazi activists in Ukraine are already setting the agenda on key issues

The extreme right in the Ukraine played a key role in the toppling Victor Yanukovich, and they are already emerging as the most forceful voice in the transition.

On February 25th The Guardian ran a story on the increasing tensions over the Crimean peninsula and the danger posed by separatist elements in Ukraine. Part of that article covers the recent vote by the Ukrainian parliament to send former president Viktor Yanukovych to The Hague. The spokesman that they quoted on the issue was Oleh Oleh Tiahnybok, leader of the Svoboda party, an extreme right group which has openly targeted Jews.

Oleh Tiahnybok, leader of the nationalist Svoboda party, said: "It is very important that we had a positive vote today. Now we are inviting all the people of goodwill who have any materials including video, photos or papers that we may need to properly submit to the Hague tribunal the papers about crimes against people, crimes against Ukrainians, and violations of human rights that were committed by those criminals in Yanukovych's regime."

To put this in perspective, in 2005 Oleh Tiahnybok signed an open letter to Ukrainian leaders, calling for the government to halt the "criminal activities" of "organised Jewry". The fact that this man is the go-to man for questions concerning the criminal charges against the former president of the Ukraine should tell you something.

In this context the Ukrainian parliament's decision this week to rescind the status of Russian as a second official language in the Ukraine takes on a new meaning. Such a provocative move makes no sense strategically. It is stirring up tensions in Crimea, alienating much of the population in Eastern Ukraine where much of the population speaks Russian as their first language, and it is has prompted Russia to publicly state that it will act militarily if the Russian population is threatened in Ukraine. Not a smart move on any level, but perfectly aligned with the ideology of Svoboda.

In the power vacuum left by the fall of the Ukrainian government the various groups who participated in the protests are now competing for control of the narrative and so far the extreme right seems to be dominant. The calls for loans that the the pro-NATO contingent have made are weak and indecisive in comparison to the moves being made by Tiahnybok and his followers. This doesn't bode well for the hopes of a peaceful and stable transition for the country.

If the extreme right is controlling the dialogue, then the proposed loans from the U.S. the E.U. and the I.M.F. will only make the situation worse. The West has already made it clear that those loans will require structural adjustments (read austerity measures). Looking at Greece we can see how these policies facilitated the rise of the Golden Dawn (a neo-Nazi group). In Greece there was a standing government which has taken action to contain the movement (by arresting its leaders), but in the Ukraine an entirely different can of worms just got opened up. There is no established government to act decisively to prevent the rise of these elements, and IMF austerity measures will just throw gasoline on the fire.

Ukraine rescinds status of Russian as a second language:

Ukraine leader warns of separatism threat amid fears over Crimea (Tiahnybok is quoted in this article):

Neo-Nazi groups played a key role in the Ukrainian coup: The BBC reporting on the rise of Svoboda back in 2012:

The U.S. government met several times with Svoboda before the coup: