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A Choice Between Nazism And Russia In Crimea?

Crimeans preparing to cast ballots in the disputed March 16 referendum vote are likely to have recently seen a billboard like the one above.

"On March 16 We Choose," it says. The choice, according to the signage, is between a Crimean republic overrun by Nazism or one that is under the Russian umbrella.

This is a false choice. As we have noted, while there are worrisome nationalist elements tied to Kyiv's new government, there has been no evidence of a serious fascist movement and no reported attacks on Russians in Crimea.

But it is a good example of the propaganda war that is being waged in the autonomous republic since former President Viktor Yanukovych fled Kyiv three weeks ago.

Many Crimeans, nearly 60 percent of whom are ethnic Russians, watch Russian state news broadcasts, where they frequently hear of the alleged neo-Nazi threat to the ethnic Russian population of Crimea. Signs, at pro-Russian marches and on the streets, warn of impending doom if the local population chooses to stay within Ukraine.

This sign depicting a radical flamethrower is apparently sponsored by the "Stop Maidan" group. It says, "Crimea is for stability. [Say] 'no' to extremism."
Here a sign, apparently sponsored by the same organization, appears in a TV report by Russia's state-run Channel One. "I want to live without fascism," it says.

Many pro-Russian protesters interviewed by journalists in recent days appear to have been genuinely convinced of an ominous fascist threat from Ukraine's capital. In this report by Simon Ostrovsky, of Vice News, a Cossack member of the local "self-defense" forces freely refers to the new government as "fascist."

-- Glenn Kates