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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

A blow to Dnipropetrovsk, dealt with Putinesque precision

Ukraine’s election is exclusively that countries domestic business, which is why I refrained from any publications for two weeks
5 November, 2015 - 12:00
Photo by Mykola LAZARENKO

Ukraine’s election is exclusively that countries domestic business, which is why I refrained from any publications for two weeks. The major news is forbidden ground, so writing on other subjects is basically pointless. But recently things happened which make one place the outcome of the election in the Russian context. The events in question are as follows: a pogrom at the Ukrainian Literature Library and arrest of its director, Natalia Sharina, as well as detention of co-president of the Ukrainians’ Association in Russia, Valeria Semenenko, and the demand for re-registration of all Ukrainians except for refugees from the Russian-occupied south-eastern territories of Ukraine, voiced by the Russian Federation’s Federal Migration Service. There is little doubt that this means the start of an ethnic purge. Meanwhile, residents of Donbas receive a sort of intermediate status: they are not quite Ukrainian citizens, but not Russian either.

And then the circle closed with an event of the same caliber: the arrest of Hennadii Korban and cracking down on UKROP Party, which means an attack against the volunteer movement and ATO participants.

Citing your chief editor might be trespassing the limits of correctness, but I have already shared Larysa Ivshyna’s opinion about the existence of two parties in Ukraine: the party of resistance and the party of collaborationism. So, can we see the recent developments as an assault of the collaborationism party against that of resistance?

I think we can, taking into account the conventionality of the comparison with Russia in the times of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s arrest. He was not a convinced democrat back then, nor is he one now. The legal vagueness of the 1990s and the biased investigators and judges allowed to put him behind bars for anything imaginable. Russia was undergoing a transition from a clan democracy, based on the equilibrium between several oligarchy groups, to a monopoly of one clan, backed by power-wielding agencies. Khodorkovsky tried to counter it by buying off MPs (in Russia this is the only way to secure their independence from the executive), promoting enlightenment, and doing other mischievous things. Mind you, the ruling clan is not loath to enlightenment, Mikhail Prokhorov can do that, for one. But within certain limits, comrades. The broad billionaire masses must not consider political independence.

The current Ukrainian situation could well be compared with those years in Russia. A period of clan democracy is coming to an end, and we see a monopoly of power taking shape. The blow is dealt to the resistance party, chosen by a part of oligarchy as its political platform, together with Ukraine’s territorial integrity. The crackdown on volunteers and ATO participants, which was forecast long ago, is inevitable. They are viewed by their opponents as a power reserve. Apart from Ukraine’s state authorities, the assaulters use the Kremlin as its power resource as well. Putin’s recent statement in Sochi about his support for Poroshenko should not be considered as an attempt to compromise Ukraine’s president. It seems that in this case his words must be taken literally.

This is a classical colonial device (also employed by Russian colonialism): the union of one part of the elite with the potential empire against another. Few will probably remember that under Brezhnev’s rule (and before that, twice under Stalin) Russian troops were sent to Afghanistan following six calls for help on the part of Hafizullah Amin. In the first hours of the operation, he was receiving reports on their progress. There were probably only two politicians after World War Two, who were able to use Moscow’s help without succumbing to it completely: Tito and Mao, who disposed of sufficient power-wielding resources of their own.

Apparently, assessment of Russia’s aggression has not become a criterion to judge political views in Ukraine. Or it has, but only for an insignificant, cloutless part of society, concentrated in Kyiv and other big cities. Meanwhile, after the polling day there is no way we can consider Kharkiv as a city of Ukrainian resistance. Korban’s arrest eliminates Dnipropetrovsk as one of the centers of national consolidation. The blow was dealt with Putinesque precision and accuracy. Surprisingly for all, a new Ukrainian identity took on in urban culture of the south-east, disproving the stereotypes of archaic, folklore, country-side Ukrainian self, which only deserves to be a subject of ethnography. But it looks as if the situation is being corrected now.

However, none of this means that Moscow is about to take the incumbents on the payroll. Just the opposite: the Kremlin does not want a strong Ukrainian government. Yanukovych was deposed and effectively kidnapped after the signing of preliminary accords with the participation of the EU representatives. He was beginning to obtain a new legitimacy. The Kremlin absolutely does not want a pro-Russian regime in Kyiv, and who will define “pro-Russian”? There was nothing anti-Russian about Maidan, it is the Kremlin’s agitprop that declared him as such. And Belarusian President Lukashenka is only relatively friendly, but Moscow finds him convenient for other reasons.

The current generation of Russian rulers is much smarter than their predecessors. They have absolutely no need in Gottwald’s slogan “friends forever with the Soviet Union,” or in the Soviet-style tunic which Rakosi tried to introduce in the Hungarian army. By the way, Bulgarian uniforms were a replica of Russian ones, which nevertheless did not stop Bulgaria from allying with Russia’s enemies in both world wars. What the Kremlin does need is a totalitarian space in Eastern Europe, permeated with eternal antagonism and hatred both domestically and internationally. It is from this perspective that we should consider the current Ukrainian disturbances, eating democracy away.

The spreading of these disturbances is the goal of Russia’s Federal Migration Service policies, threatening with ethnic purges and deportations. In this way, the Kremlin is going to remind the Ukrainian population of its economic dependence, which is quite real, one must admit, as well as foment dissatisfaction with the resistance party. Although the ultimate goal of these measures, just like the Kremlin’s entire foreign policy, is to maintain hatred and tension in Russia. The cliche “Goebbels’ propaganda” is totally misplaced when  applied to Russian agitprop and  its sympathizers. This is already Streicher’s level, this has long been Der Sturmer instead of Volkischer Beobachter. And that is why seeing the tricks of one or another dovish figure or supporter of equal accountability makes me so sick. Any person with a grain of common sense will see what sort of information space s/he lives. Ignoring this in your speech is deliberate deceit and baseness.

Watch out for another helping of deceit and baseness in connection with the expected re-registration of Ukrainians in Russia.

By Dmitry SHUSHARIN, Moscow-based historian and political journalist, special to The Day