Different protests were held by the Verkhovna Rada and different people gathered there: religious fanatics, members of trade unions, party activists, etc. However, people’s anger hasn’t gone that far. Has anything like that happened at the time of Orange Revolution?
Early in the morning nearly 4,000 people gathered outside the parliament. Afghan war vets and Chornobyl disaster victims protested against the elimination of benefits for 16 categories of Ukrainian citizens. After standing outside for several hours with no result they decided to break through to the actual MPs. Protesters broke the fence that separates the parliament from the Mariinsky Park, came through onto the territory of the parliament and made an attempt to break down the front door, through which the deputies usually get into the parliament building. The security was urgently reinforced. However, protesters managed to open the first door and got into the wind-porch. “We have blocked the parliament and will be bringing you out one by one,” shouted angry people.
Panic stroke the ranks of MPs. Many deputies hastily, like military people would do with straps, tore deputy badges off. Not only the members of governing party got rid of the badges but also the opposition deputies (Ivan Kyrylenko, the leader of the BYuT-Batkivshchyna appeared at the parliament tribune without his badge).
However, not all the deputies got scared of people’s anger. MP Kyrylo Kulikov dared to go out to the people. However, he came back just as quick as he came out all in cold sweat.
“I am an officer, I just had to go out,” said Kulikov to the journalists. “As a military man I asked the protesters to step back two meters from the parliament’s entrance. I explained them that in this situation the Berkut men have suffered the most and they do not adopt any laws, the laws are passed in the session hall. I told them that these people are simply executing an order. They had to understand me.”
Another brave man was the leader of the Party of Regions Oleksandr Yefremov. According to him, the protesters and MPs had a “rather difficult, emotional, and in times even a man-to-man talk.” In fact, the conversation got even more than just “man-to-man.” People spoke rough language addressing Yefremov. When the deputy went along the passage made by soldiers toward the Mariinsky Park, one of the protestors doused Yefremov with water, the rest, seeing that, began to spit at the deputy’s back.
As a result of these more than radical actions Afghan vets and Chornobyl disaster victims finally achieved what they wanted. It was decided to postpone adoption of the law in general until its body will be discussed with the NGOs. The working group that has to come to terms with the veterans and Chornobyl victims will be headed by the Deputy Prime-Minister Serhii Tihipko.
Perhaps, it is the stress test for Tihipko from government led by Mykola Azarov. But Tihipko, as they say, is no stranger to these things – after the “pension reform” none of the exempts can scare him, even as aggressive as those protesting.
It seems that the power holders while drawing the fire of resentment at first from students, then entrepreneurs, pensioners, exempts, and finally citizens, who just consider it worthwhile to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their country’s independence, forgot about the foreign factor, which is far from favorable at the moment.
Instead of strong rear within the country, we now have a domestic front.
The Day asked sociologists to give their opinion on the events that took place by the Verkhovna Rada.
Yurii SAIENKO, Ph.D. in Economy, head of the department of Social Expertise, Institute of Sociology, Ukraine’s National Academy of Sciences:
“Ukrainian mentality for many centuries was actualized in people’s ability to choose. We chose headman, hetman, even priest, and deacon. This primordial trait of our people has been mocked by power holders all the years of independence. That’s where there is a tragedy. Of course, people will loose their temper. That is why sooner or later they will explode. However, sociology is not capable of accurately capturing these phenomena. Before the event of 2004 we had eight to nine percent of protest potential. Journalists can feel the situation in that respect much better.
“I have been working many years with the issues of social problems and quality of life. I know this sphere very well. The power holders are not aware of the consequences of their decisions, they cut judging by the average values even though exempts, pensioners, and invalids should be distinguished by categories. For example, those, living in rural areas, differ from those, living in the city. But here they are all considered equally. The privileges abolition should be thoroughly prepared; serious economic, socioeconomic, and social research should be conducted. It is an extremely complicated process. Besides, we now have the situation when society does not trust the state. In the summer I was at a meeting with Tihipko, where I saw and heard it all. When I started talking about what should be done, state clerks said: ‘Don’t philosophize here.’ Thus, those changes were developed in unqualified manner.”
Iryna BEKESHKINA, sociologist, head of the fund Democratic Initiatives:
“After talking to Afghans and Chornobyl victims, Yefremov said that ‘whether we like it or not but in any case we have to come to an agreement with people.’ I have a question: did it really have to take storming Verkhovna Rada to come to a conclusion that authority representatives need to talk to people? The government always steps on the same rake. The situation was the same with Anti Tax Code Maidan: at first they refused to negotiate, but then had to. I can’t say that there are no mechanism for the dialogue between the state and its citizens in Ukraine. Both Afghans and Chornobyl victims have their non-governmental organizations that can present their interests in dialogue with the state. Unfortunately, authorities begin to take citizens seriously only when they gather at the squares and go storm the parliament.
“Social consequences can be serious. It is clear that the state does not have money to pay all those benefits. It’s true. That’s what caused them to make the decision to cut the benefits. For many years populism policy was a norm, especially before elections, when candidates would promise anything and then wouldn’t fulfill their promises. However, any dialogue will fail if the authorities don’t begin changes with themselves. The top-level authorities have to come out to people and say: ‘that’s it, we cancelled all the privileges we had and now we can talk.’ No conversation will be successful without this.
“What concerns benefits, things really have to be sorted out in there. This was discussed a lot. Now they just made a helpless gesture and told people that there is no money. People obviously see what privileges deputies have (this year they have 35,000 hryvnias each, plus free medical treatment). This resentment will grow. The government does not understand this. They have no survival instinct. It is some sort of pathological greed, specific way of thinking. People can not tolerate it any more.”