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Ukraine's economic straits raise worries about radicalism

Gains by a far-right party in regional polls and the murder of a Ukrainian nationalist have caused concern. But many caution that radicals hold limited appeal at the national level.

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As the economic crisis in Ukraine continues to bite hard, one parliamentary deputy last month drew a chilling comparison in an open letter to the country's president, Viktor Yushchenko.

"[Many people] are worried by the historical analogy between the rise of a neofascist mood in Ukraine during the economic crisis and events in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s," wrote Oleksandr Feldman.

While political analysts say that the comparison with the chaos that preceded Hitler's rise to power is exaggerated, there are concerns that the strained economic and political conditions in Ukraine are leading to a rise in radicalism. A far-right party won a regional election in March, and last month saw the murder of a Ukrainian nationalist by an "anti-fascist" group. And with the presidential election set for January, the worry is that the contenders are likely to stoke tensions for political gain.

"There is a certain radicalization of society that reflects disillusionment with the political elite, which in the past few years has put its own interests ahead of the state's," says Volodymyr Fesenko, director of the Penta Center for Applied Political Studies in Kyiv (Kiev).


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