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

Claiming the role of “big brothers”

30 May, 2017 - 12:06
Photo by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day

Recently, more and more Russian liberals (as they call themselves) are trying to help Ukrainians know themselves. Some of them are attempting to explain to Ukrainians what democracy is, staying behind in Moscow. Among them is, for example, Ksenya Sobchak who gave a lecture to President Petro Poroshenko after some Russian social websites had been banned in Ukraine. She was followed by Vladimir Milov who decided to make it clear to Ukrainians “once and for all” why the Russians have the right to preach at them (facebook.com/milov.vladimir/posts/1494354057302931). What is more, both of them minimized in their lectures the fact of war which their country unleashed against our peaceful state.

You will find below the opinion of Ukrainian political writer Serhii Hrabovskyi and Moscow Professor Boris Sokolov on Milov’s reasoning.


Even some of the staunchest and most noted Russian oppositionists cannot resist the temptation to assume the role of “big brothers,” as far as Ukraine is concerned. This time, too, Vladimir Milov, a well-known liberal and a comrade of Boris Nemtsov, has published a text eloquently titled “Once and for All about the Ukrainian Complaint: ‘What Right Do the Russians Have to Preach at us?’” in Facebook. I will not comment on all of Milov’s assumptions that the Russians have the right to preach at the Ukrainians, although they are full of distortions and outright lies. But let me dwell on one of his statements. “A thousand pardons, but I think it is clear now that we can carry out reforms better than you,” Milov writes. “And in the international ratings of competitiveness, we are, to put it mildly, above you.” Did you memorize these words well? And now a different quotation, from the brochure Putin: the Outcome (2008): “The army, the systems of pension, health care and secondary education, and roads degraded under Putin… The happy period of time allowed, in general, putting finances in a relative order, but… investments in the real sector grew rather slowly, and the industry was not modernized in that period. The chances that emerged thanks to a sudden ‘oil rainfall’ were missed… As a result, now that the Putin presidency is over, we are back to square one again – without effective social security systems, with a growing pension fund deficit, with a past-century army, enormous debts of state-run companies, and a rampant corruption unheard of in Russian history.” This brochure is signed by Boris Nemtsov and… Vladimir Milov.

So where is the truth? Or, maybe, the main reforms in Russia were carried out after 2008 by the brilliant tandem of Putin and Medvedev? Why then is Milov struggling against these prominent reformers? Or, maybe, the reforms reached their peak in the 1990s? Then it is not clear why the main political result of those successful reforms was at the “rule of seven bankers,” i.e., the establishment of an oligarchic clan system, the coming to power of the Primakov-Masliukov neo-communist government, and, finally, transfer of the entire power to the “Kremlin Chekists’s” team with Vladimir Putin at the head. Besides, it is also unclear why Milov bad-mouths Ukraine, for our oligarchic clan system was born under Kuchma who borrowed the Russian politico-economic model that emerged in the 1990s by the efforts of “reformers.” And, finally, is it not true that Russia’s competitiveness in the world is in fact mainly based on “oil and gas export super-revenues,” as Milov himself once said?

I am not idealizing the national situation: we really have enough problems, a lot of things still remain undone, some of the most urgent reforms are really stalling, and corruption is rampant, but, in any case, Ukraine did not and does not have a sociopolitical groundwork for the establishment of a neo-totalitarian system of the type that exists in Russia or Belarus. So, in my view, Milov’s statement on Russian ability to carry out reforms evokes, firstly, a smile and, secondly, a surprise: why does the Russian liberal contradict himself? Or will the “stupid khokhly” (sorry, “kid brothers”) swallow anything?

More about reforms. Milov writes: “You were given undreamed-of opportunities for reforms. And what? The war? Let’s be honest: there have been no active hostilities for 2.5 years since the Minsk agreements were signed. You shouldn’t use this situation as a flimsy excuse for doing no reforms.”

I wonder who “gave us opportunities.” And when were they given if Russia began its aggression, as the date on the Crimea medal testifies, when Yanukovych was still in office? And, in wartime, not so much economic as political and managerial reforms can be really successful (yet it is a separate subject). Let me also note that Milov’s statement about “no active hostilities for 2.5 years” show the author’s rudeness. About 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in action or died of wounds (direct and indirect losses) and about 10,000 wounded in this period – what’s that? No active hostilities or obstacles to reforms?

The king is naked!


The well-known Russian oppositionist Vladimir Milov has decided to wean the Ukrainians once and for all from the habit of “lecturing the Russians.” “We are also being killed,” the fearless fighter against the Putin regime proudly hurled this remark at his Ukrainian opponents. This immediately brings to mind Galina Starovoitova, Anna Politkovskaya, and Boris Nemtsov, who were undoubtedly assassinated for political reasons. And, naturally, there are also other, much less known, oppositionists who gave their lives in the struggle against the Putin regime. But their number amounts to just a few – it may be dozens at most but, fortunately, not hundreds or thousands. Conversely, in Ukraine, in addition to the dead heroes of the Heavenly Hundred, there are more than 3,100 military servicemen who sacrificed their lives in the Donbas war against Russian troops and Putin’s puppets and at least 3,000 civilians who have fallen victim to this conflict. It is somewhat incorrect and impolite to compare these figures.

Milov also brings it home to the Ukrainians: “We can carry out reforms better than you. And in the international ratings of competitiveness, we are, to put it mildly, above you. And your people keep coming to us in search of a job, not the other way round.” The success of Russian reforms can and even must be disputed. Predatory privatization did not change at all the mostly raw-material-based nature of Russian export. And the fact that living standards in Russia are now essentially higher than in Ukraine and, accordingly, Russia’s place in international ratings is also higher is just the result of Russia having considerable reserves of oil and gas. But for this, the Russians would be living today no better at all than the Ukrainians. Sadly enough, the majority of even staunch anti-Putin oppositionists continue to hold imperial views on Russia and other post-Soviet states. Much to our regret, Vladimir Milov is not a lonely figure here. On the contrary, those who believe that Russia must give Crimea back to Ukraine and stop playing the role of a ‘big brother’ with respect to it and other post-Soviet states constitute a negligible minority. What is still sadder, in their moderate and not so moderate imperialism, the Russian elites do not differ in principle from the bulk of the populace which is used to thinking in Soviet stereotypes. This partly explains the fact that even the off-system Russian oppositionists, from Milov to Navalny, are alleging in defense of their imperialism that the Russian grassroots (voters) will not understand and forgive failure to possess Crimea and support the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine. But, in reality, these views are not the result of opportunistic political pragmatism – they proceed from the deep inner persuasions of the vast majority of Russian politicians. And facts only play a supporting role here.

Milov also says: “The war? Let’s be honest: there have been no active hostilities for 2.5 years since the Minsk agreements were signed. You should not use this situation as a flimsy excuse for doing no reforms.” These words only evoke a bitter smile in the Ukrainians. For, according to the honest Milov, there have been no active hostilities in the Donbas since late 2014. I wonder then what the battles for Donetsk airport, Debaltseve, Shyrokyne, and other fierce clashes in the first half of 2015 are in his opinion. And today, when the Minsk agreements are allegedly being observed, we can see almost daily a certain number of the killed and wounded on the Ukrainian side and a no lesser number on the opposite one.

Milov’s criticism that Ukraine carries out too slowly or does not carry out at all some vital reforms, including the ones that would contribute to successful military operations, can be accepted in principle. But his arrogant tone is alarming. Milov seems to be making it clear that reforms were carried out successfully in Russia but flopped in Ukraine, so the latter remains far behind Russia. But he stops short of naming at least one really successful Russian reform. For you can’t possibly call the law on joint-stock companies a “more or less normal” reform, as Milov does. It was adopted in Russia as far back as 1995, under Yeltsin, and has been repeatedly altered since then. This law may be normal indeed, but small-scale business in Russia is even in direr straits than in Ukraine.

It is very alarming that the Russian opposition, even the off-system one, is almost not saying what concrete reforms it will carry out if it comes to power. Things boil down to promises to ensure a real freedom of speech, assemblies, demonstrations, etc., and to hold really free and fair elections. However, the former and the latter has in fact been implemented, albeit with some rough edges, in Ukraine, so Russia will be playing the role of a chaser even after the change of the regime.

And when Milov says to the Ukrainians: “Get down to business. The whole democratic world is looking at you blowing your experiment,” he thus tries to justify the actual inaction and impotence of the Russian opposition, including in the Ukrainian question, to himself and to the world public opinion. For reforms in Ukraine are really going on, albeit extremely slowly, with difficulty, in wartime (which has always been an unsuitable time in history for radical reforms), and under formidable pressure of Western partners.

And, finally, Milov’s last – brilliantly self-exposing – appeal: “And please stop lecturing us in Putin’s style about what right we do and do not have. We have enough of this shit at home.” This means that no legal or moral norms restrain the Russian opposition, at least its imperial and nationalist part that Milov represents, and that it will be free to act as it deems appropriate after coming to power, without any moral checks. I am afraid that if Vladimir Milov replaces Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin, the Ukrainians will see neither the return of Crimea nor the end of the Donbas war. You don’t need Putin if there is an opposition like this!

Boris Sokolov is a Moscow-based professor



Petro OLESHCHUK, Associate Professor, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv:

“I’ve seen some new articles ‘plugged’ in FB, such as ‘Why Russia Is Better than Ukraine.’ Of course, this has triggered a ‘debate,’ where jingoists position themselves as ‘defenders of Ukraine.’

“But I can’t understand why somebody needs to be defended.

“For these are obvious things.

“We and Russia are successors of the same USSR, both we and they have followed the same mainline of building oligarchic raw-material-based economies.

“Clearly, the Russian raw-material-based economy will be stronger than ours many times over, for they have more raw materials. They extract oil, gas, and a host of other useful things.

“We are cutting down the remaining forests and extracting amber.

“It’s clear that we’ll be three times or so poorer under in these conditions.

“To compete with Russia, we must change quality, lure investors, and create conditions for doing business. Otherwise, we’ll stand no chances.

“But so far, in spite of all the efforts to rename things, we remain, economically and socially, a bad copy of Russia.

“And a bad copy can never be better than the original.”