D.C. youth at Ukraine embassy demand release of young communists
D.C. YCL delivered letters to the Ukrainian Embassy, sharing concern over the detainment of two Ukrainian YCL members and demand for their freedom. Free the Kononovich brothers in Ukraine! Twitter

WASHINGTON — On Saturday, March 20, members of the D.C. Young Communist League (D.C. YCL), together with the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), Black Alliance for Peace, and the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party gathered in front of the Ukrainian Embassy to protest the arrests of two young communists — Michael and Aleksander Kononovich of Ukraine.

Mikhail Kononovich, and his brother, Aleksander Kononovich, are activists with the Communist Youth Union of Ukraine. | Photo via WFDY

At the protest, the D.C. YCL delivered a statement to the embassy, describing the charges levied against the Kononovich brothers, namely that they are Russian spies, as “the latest accusation meant to justify political repression against progressive forces in Ukraine.”

The D.C. YCL statement continued, warning that “as we speak, far-right, ultra-nationalist forces like the Azov Battalion, Right Sector, and Aidar Battalion continue to further entrench themselves into [the Ukrainian] government.”

The recent growth of far-right nationalism represents a grave threat to peace in Ukraine. As the D.C. YCL notes, “no peace in Ukraine will be possible while the multi-national character of its population is not recognized and celebrated,” and further that “the suffocating atmosphere of war-time nationalism” only deprives Ukraine of democracy and equality.

In concluding their statement, the D.C. YCL outlined three demands. The demands are for the immediate release of the Kononovich brothers, a public apology to them and their families, and “an end to the political repression against the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) and its youth wing (LKSMU).”

Sean Blackmon of PSL denounced the arrests as “part of a suppression campaign” against progressive forces by the Ukrainian government. Another speech by Aaron Booe of the D.C. YCL celebrated the efforts of the KPU to fight the privatization of agricultural lands and harmful austerity policies. In exchange for a loan from the International Monetary Fund, the Ukraine government has engaged in a massive privatization campaign including the closing of 40 percent of the nation’s public education institutions.

Others noted the long-documented growth of fascist influence in Ukraine and the war that has been raging since 2014 in the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic, breakaway areas that have been fighting for their independence from Ukraine. The Ukraine government, using fascist groups like the Azov Battalion, has waged a war resulting in 15,000 deaths in the region.

The Kononovich brothers, leaders in the LKSMU, have been imprisoned by Ukrainian authorities for more than three weeks. Since the two were arrested, the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY), a global alliance of progressive youth organizations, has been organizing on their behalf.

In a statement released shortly after the Kononovich brothers were arrested, WDFY condemned the arrests and called for their immediate release.

Later in that same statement, the WFDY called on people to organize protests against their imprisonment, asking that fellow progressive organizations “denounce this situation, to demand their liberty and to protest against the Ukrainian neo-fascist regime.”

Since the two were arrested, the WFDY has only received one update on their condition. In a March 12 statement, the group confirmed that the brothers were alive, though badly beaten, in a pre-trial detention facility.

Ukraine’s Crackdown on the Left

After US-backed fascists led a power grab in the 2014 Euro-Maidan coup in Kiev, government forces have been engaged in a brutal campaign of repression against the Ukrainian communists.

An early shot in this renewed effort to “de-communize” Ukraine included banning the KPU and all Soviet imagery. Banning the KPU is an egregious violation of popular will in Ukraine since, in the last election that the party was able to compete, it secured almost three million votes.

More than tearing down statues, the Ukrainian government has collaborated with fascist groups like Svoboda to raid Communist Party buildings.

Using the war with Russia as an excuse to expand the repression of progressive voices, Zelensky banned 26 opposition parties. The list includes Opposition Platform – For Life, Shariy Party, Nashi, Opposition Bloc, Left Opposition, Union of Left Forces, State, Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, Socialist Party of Ukraine, Socialists’ Party, and the Volodymyr Saldo Bloc.

As was the case with the Kononovich brothers, Ukrainian authorities have justified their repressive moves on the grounds that these parties have connections to Russia. Opposition Platform – For Life, the 2nd largest party in Ukraine, was banned for these supposed connections even after they issued a statement explicitly condemning the Russian invasion..

Time and time again, anti-communism is the canary in the coal mine, an early sign of rising fascist influence. We must stand resolutely against anti-communist aggression and demand the release of Michael and Aleksander Kononovich and an end to the repression of communists in Ukraine, just as we must urge for a peaceful resolution to the war between Russia and Ukraine.


Special to People’s World
Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.