Sergej Sulemny, the director of the Heinrich Böll Stiftung a German NGO, has said that Ukrainians in the Russian empire and the Soviet Union were like blacks in racist America.

In a long Twitter-thread Mr Sulemny explained how Ukrainians were victims of racism and ostracism in Russia and in Soviet times, lamenting that Ukrainians were perceived as uneducated and the Ukrainian language as peasant-like, noting that the perception persists until now.

“The fight for Ukrainian language and Ukrainian culture is a liberation fight, a fight against imperialism and colonialism. Those who question the right of Ukrainians not only to speak Ukrainian but also to reject Russian de facto repeat the slogan “All lives matter” and other BS”, wrote Mr Sulemny.

Moreover, he accused Volodymyr Zelenski, the Ukrainian president, of having referred to Ukrainians in an offensive manner, calling them “khokhly”, a word that described the typical Cossack haircut and that has been familiarly used for the Ukrainian people. Mr Sulemny called the word “khokhly” the equivalent of the N-word, indicating it would have the connotation of a racial slur. There is little indication that “khokhol” may ever have had the same deeply disparaging meaning of a racial insult, in fact it is commonly used in informal contexts among Ukrainians themselves.

“The representatives of one of the biggest Ukrainian TV channels, close to Kolomoysky and Zelensky, said, they produce only comedies in Ukrainian, because Ukrainian is funny. And for serious films, dramas etc. they use Russian as a “serious” language,” wrote the director of the German NGO in Ukraine.

Mr Sulemny states these are his private views, not the ones of this organization. The Heinrich Böll Foundation is a German NGO, named after the German writer and Nobel laureate Heinrich Böll. It is close to the Green Party and operates in several countries. The organization webpage says the the purpose of its Kiev office is to strengthen civil society in Ukraine and Belarus.

Stefano Di Lorenzo @StefanoDiLoren5