Facebook’s new public policy manager for Ukraine Kateryna Kruk is a former government official, diehard nationalist, and anti-Russian jingoist who volunteered with the extreme-right party Svoboda during the 2014 US-backed coup.
By Ben Norton
When Facebook hired a new public policy manager for Ukraine, the mega-corporation chose one of the most biased candidates possible: a hawkish jingoist who has worked extensively with the Ukrainian government and the European Union.
Kateryna Kruk, who has served as Facebook’s first public policy manager for Ukraine since late May, was an active participant in Ukraine’s 2014 US-backed coup, in which far-right ultra-nationalists violently ousted a democratically elected government accused by the West of getting too close to Russia and replaced it with a pro-NATO one.
During the coup, Kruk volunteered with the fascistic Svoboda party, and defended the extreme-right group from criticism. She is a nationalist hardliner who compares Russian President Vladimir Putin to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, reduces all pro-Russian forces in Ukraine to “terrorists,” and opposes any kind of negotiations with Moscow.
Facebook’s new public policy manager for Ukraine publicly cheered when Turkey shot down a Russian plane, has called for martial law, and claims that Russians are incapable of keeping promises. She has even gone so far as to refer to the Kremlin as a “terrorist organization.”
An investigation by The Grayzone found that Kateryna Kruk said she “thanked” and “blessed” a boy who joined the Ukrainian neo-Nazi militia known as the Azov Battalion. She also gloated over fascist violence against Ukrainian communist politicians, and repeatedly called for the Communist Party of Ukraine to be banned.
The fact that someone with these extreme political views will be policing content for Facebook is already troubling, and raises concerns about whether she will censor sources that she disagrees with. But Kruk’s recent work history presents even more questions about bias and potential conflicts of interest.
The Ukrainian government’s favorite info-warrior
Before moving to Facebook, Kruk worked in the Ukrainian government, where she was “responsible for social media and international communications of the Ukrainian parliament,” and where she served as a “member of the strategic communications team working on the development of Ukraine’s doctrine of informational security.”
Kruk has made no secret of the fact that she strongly wants Ukraine to join NATO and the European Union. Kruk previously worked as a political adviser in the European Parliament; as an anti-Russia researcher at a pro-war think tank funded by Western governments; and as a TV host and analyst for an anti-Russia “fact-checking” outlet also bankrolled by the West.
Facebook’s new public policy manager for Ukraine openly refers to her country as a key battleground for “information warfare” against Russia. She has called for NATO and the European Union to play a more active role in policing media content. And Kruk clearly indicated in various social media posts that her solution to fight supposed “Russian propaganda” is with pro-EU and pro-NATO propaganda.
This hiring choice suggests that Facebook’s strategy to counter what hawkish Western governments call “Russian disinformation” is responding with bellicose anti-Russian, pro-Western propaganda. The megacorporation selected Kruk as the first official to fulfill this new position, and she will be based in Warsaw, Poland.
Put simply, Facebook is not making any pretense of being balanced and impartial. The big tech corporation has hired someone as biased as possible, a hardline right-wing nationalist with extensive experience working in the Ukrainian government.
In doing so, the company is breaking down the separation between social media and state.
This is not the first time Facebook has worked with figures closely linked to governments. The company has already been working with the Atlantic Council — a belligerent think tank funded by Western governments, NATO, the EU, and Gulf monarchies — to police content, raising concerns over threats to press freedom.
Facebook also partnered with the neoconservative pro-war website the Weekly Standard to “fact check.”
But the social media giant’s latest hire may be the most shocking scandal yet.
Kateryna Kruk announced her new job on the night of June 3, and then locked her Twitter account the next day.
But it was too late. Before she hid her tweets, The Grayzone had already archived many of them.
The following investigation exposes the extreme views of Facebook’s new public policy manager for Ukraine.
Links to Ukrainian fascist and far-right groups
On social media, Kateryna Kruk proudly identifies herself as a “Euromaidan activist,” referencing the US government-backed 2013 and 2014 movement to oust Ukraine’s democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych.
And while corporate media outlets and NGOs today portray Kruk as a valiant pro-democracy activist, media reports from the time described Kruk as a leader of “budding protests against President Viktor Yanukovych’s rejection of an EU trade deal.” Her own official bios have likewise reiterated that the protests were not about corruption or supposed repression, but rather because of the president’s rejection of a neoliberal trade deal with the European Union.
In these pro-EU protests, Kruk was closely linked to extremist ultranationalist groups. In fact, Kruk was featured in a 2014 article in The Nation that profiled the far-right xenophobic Ukrainians who served as the vanguard for that year’s coup.
The Nation identified Kruk simply as a “Svoboda volunteer.” Kruk told the magazine, “There are people who don’t support Svoboda because of some of their slogans, but they know it’s the most active political party and go to them for help.”
Kruk implicitly acknowledged that Svoboda is an extremist group, telling The Nation she “would be very concerned” if the fascist party won a majority in parliament. But she still proudly volunteered with it because she appreciated “the idea of a party that is Ukrainian-focused.”
Svoboda is not only fascistic in its contemporary form; the party has a direct lineage to neo-Nazism. Founded as a rebranding of the openly fascist Social-National Party of Ukraine, its longtime leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, has been captured sieg heiling in photos, and has delivered blatantly anti-Semitic speeches in which he called for Ukrainians to fight the “Muscovite-Jewish mafia” and to stop the supposed “criminal activities” of “organized Jewry.”
Svoboda is not the only Ukrainian fascist group Kateryna Kruk has expressed support for. In 2014, she tweeted that a man had asked her to convince his grandson not to join the Azov Battalion, a neo-Nazi militia. “I couldn’t do it,” she said. “I thanked that boy and blessed him.” And he then traveled to Luhansk to fight pro-Russian rebels.
That’s not all. In March 2018, a 19-year neo-Nazi named Andriy “Dilly” Krivich was shot and killed by a sniper. Krivich had been fighting with the fascist Ukrainian group Right Sector, and had posted photos on social media wearing Nazi German symbols.
She has also said that the Ukrainian fascist politician Andriy Parubiy, who co-founded a neo-Nazi party before later becoming the chairman of Ukraine’s parliament the Rada, is “acting smart,” writing, “Parubiy touche.”
Ukraine as battleground for NATO and EU ‘information warfare’ against Russia
Before being hired as Facebook’s public policy manager for Ukraine, Kateryna Kruk openly spoke of her country as a major site for “information warfare” against Moscow.
In a post on her personal Facebook profile in March 2018, Kruk wrote, “When it comes to information warfare, Ukraine is not part of the problem for the West but the part of the solution. Our experience is a key to successful combating Russian disinformation.”
She continued: “information warfare should be codified in the security documents. It’s not only about fake news, it’s about security… there should be a cooperation and coordination between state institutions, civil and professional societies.”
It is very clear which targets Kruk has in mind for her information war.
The Facebook official strongly supports Ukraine joining NATO and the European Union. She does not even try to hide her enthusiasm. In December 2017, Kruk tweeted a photo of herself holding Ukrainian, NATO, and EU flags, along with the caption, “All I want for Christmas is EU!! … and NATO.”
In February 2016, Kruk commented on an agreement NATO and the EU had signed to work together on “cybersecurity,” adding, “[I] hope soon they’ll start dealin w sec[urity] of media space too.”
That is to say, Facebook’s new public policy manager in Ukraine has publicly said she wants NATO and the EU to influence content in the media.
Kruk did more than just hint at her desire for Western alliances to politicize social media. She directly praised NATO’s strategy to combat what it calls Russia’s supposed “weaponization of information.”
Banning the communist party and joking about violence against communists
Kruk’s open support for banning political parties and symbols she does not like also raises serious questions about whether or not she will respect the free speech of, say, leftists and Russians, as Facebook’s public policy manager.
As far back as 2013 (before the coup she helped lead), Kateryna Kruk repeatedly called for the government to “forbid” the still relatively large Communist Party of Ukraine.
In 2014, Kruk cheered on the Ukrainian coup government’s purge of democratically elected communists from the parliament and move toward eventually banning the communist party — in an authoritarian crackdown that even pro-Western human rights organizations admitted was a “decisive blow for freedom of speech in the country.”
Apparently unconcerned with the major freedom of speech implications, the future Facebook official wrote smugly back in 2014 that this is “What communists g[et] for supporting terrorists.”
Kruk has even gloated about violence against communists.
In April 2014, a fight broke out in Ukraine’s parliament between representatives from the communist party and the fascist party Svoboda. Kruk tweeted a video of this battle and wrote, “beating ppl is bad. but beating lying communists supporting separatists…hmm..”
Kruk has also publicly praised the government’s ban on all uses of communist symbols.
Ukrainian Jewish journalist Lev Golinkin noted around this time that the “government-funded Ukrainian Institute of National Memory is institutionalizing the whitewashing of Nazi collaborators.”
Celebrating terror against political opponents
On November 24, 2015, the Turkish military shot down a Russian plane near the Syrian border, inflaming an international standoff. Three days later, Kateryna Kruk tweeted, “putin is a bully. good turkey finally showed him his place.”
Kruk’s enthusiasm for violence against political foes has not always been limited to the military sphere. In May 2014, she rejoiced over a bloody attack in which dozens of people were killed, tweeting, “Odessa cleaned itself from terrorists, proud for city fighting for its identity. glory to fallen heroes.”
This tweet in particular should raise concerns for the freedoms of speech and the press. If Kruk thinks centrist, mainstream news wires like the Associated Press and Reuters are too biased, what will the new Facebook public policy manager think of alternative media reports? Will such reports be censored by Facebook?
According to Facebook’s new public policy manager in Ukraine, the “Kremlin regime itself is terrorist organization.”
At a 2018 event sponsored by the Atlantic Council of newly inaugurated NATO member Montenegro, Kruk even called for a boycott of the World Cup in Russia.
And her anti-Russian jingoism sometimes crosses into the bigoted and racist. In 2014, she wrote casually about the “highest level of russian idiotism.”
As recently as 2018, Kruk continued openly dabbling in anti-Russian stereotypes, tweeting, “Russians and keeping a word: never happens.”
Hardline opposition to negotiations
In addition to fears about potential threats to freedom of speech and the press, the extreme hawkishness of Facebook’s new public policy manager for Ukraine raises major problems.
In August 2014, she cast aside all concerns with civil liberties and asserted that martial law “will allow us to use all mechanisms to protect our country.” In 2018, Kruk also justified the Poroshenko government’s imposition of martial law.
Kruk has gone so far as to deny that there even is a civil conflict inside Ukraine, instead blaming everything on Russia. “It’s not civil war,” she wrote in 2014; rather, she claimed it is a military conflict between the Ukrainian army and “Russian terrorists” — thereby reducing all compatriots who disagree with her to tools of a foreign state.
Kruk is so bellicose she even condemned her own right-wing government for signing a ceasefire agreement with the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic.
She portrays Russia as a bogeyman with no respect for agreements or international law, and sees military force as the only solution.
Work for Western government-funded organizations
In addition to her extreme views, Kateryna Kruk’s extensive work for Western government-funded organizations provide further evidence of her overwhelming bias.
Before moving to Facebook, Kruk worked for the European Values Think-Tank, a Prague-based Czech organization that pushes for pro-NATO and pro-EU policies. She was hired as a “special fellow” in its openly anti-Russia “Kremlin Watch Program.”
This think tank is funded substantially by the governments of Britain, the US, Germany, Israel, and the Czech Republic, along with NATO itself. And the organization’s largest projects, by far, are its “Kremlin Watch Program” and its annual hawkish Stratcom Summit, which is organized in partnership with Canada, Sweden, and Germany.
The think tank noted that Kruk was hired to “focus on response of democratic states to Russia’s disinformation efforts, as it has been the primary topic of her life since the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine since 2014.” The deputy director of the think tank, who also leads the Kremlin Watch Program, praised Kruk for “countering Russian aggression” and explained her duties at the organization:
“Kateryna is one of the bravest people in this field of countering Russian aggression. She was essentially a spokesman for Maidan and then helped put together communications of Ukrainian government during early stages of the Russian war aganist her country. We are honored that she will join our team. She will look for what lessons learnt can EU and NATO countries adopt from the Ukrainian experience in this struggle, plus she will be part of our team preparing the weekly Kremlin Watch Briefing, delivered to more than 7000 policy makers and journalists across the Western hemisphere.”
Kruk also worked as a TV host and analyst for StopFake, an anti-Russia “fact-checking” organization. This project is funded by the governments of Britain and the Czech Republic and by the International Renaissance Foundation, a pro-NATO Ukrainian organization founded by avowedly anti-communist billionaire George Soros.
The Atlantic Council returned Kruk the favor in 2014, bestowing upon her its “Freedom Award.” At the award ceremony, Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland’s right-wing foreign affairs minister and husband of neoconservative pundit Anne Applebaum, praised “Kateryna Kruk, who was the spokesman for Maidan at the time, and who many of us followed for reliable news of the Maidan, and who’s now the spokesperson for the Ukrainian government.”
Today, five years later, that former spokesperson for Euromaidan and the Ukrainian government is now Facebook’s new public policy manager for Ukraine, and will play a leading role in policing content for the social media giant.