In his pursuit of laurels, as the united opposition’s leader, Arseniy Yatseniuk has found himself in a position, which could bring an end to his political future. The only chance for him to maintain his prospects as a national leader is to purge the united opposition of people serving oligarchic and anti-Ukrainian interests
Arseniy Yatseniuk and his comrades-in-arms from the Front of Changes are continuing their integration into Batkivshchyna. However, the recent developments in parliament raise many doubts as to his ability to keep the “united opposition” under control even though political responsibility for its actions will be his, no matter what.
The draft language law votes on 24 May and 5 June raised doubts as to the true role of Andriy Kozhemiakin, Head of the BYuT-Batkivshchyna faction, among observers, as well as rank and file opposition members. The mass media reported that Mr. Kozhemiakin faced sharp criticism from MP Yuriy Odarchenko at a meeting of the faction, demanding the resignation of the former from his position as Head of the faction. However, Mr. Kozhemiakin soon took the situation under control, appealed to the reputation of the imprisoned Yulia Tymoshenko and succeeded in persuading the majority of those present to pledge loyal to him.
The question of who is running Batkivshchyna remains open, as does the question of what can be expected from the future “united opposition” with such leaders. The problem might involve a group of people in key positions rather than just a few individuals.
Shortly after the opposition surrendered the Russification law to the Party of Regions, Arseniy Yatseniuk said he was shocked by the failure of the plan to prevent what happened and had no other explanation for this other than treason. It appears that Mr. Yatseniuk is beginning to realize that the merger with Batkivshchyna he initiated and forced his team into, could be much more dangerous than the threats he had expected. Instead of the expected conquering of the party that has been beheaded by the government and turning into the leader of the united opposition, he has become dependent on people, whose missions and purposes are unknown.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED ON 6 JUNE
Much has been said about the infamous language law vote and the situation is completely clear: Mr. Kozhemiakin intentionally ruined the supposedly serious plan to prevent the vote. Later, the media started to buzz with strange news, the purpose of which was to transfer this responsibility to Volodymyr Lytvyn, the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, saying that he allegedly violated voting procedures. In fact, however, the journalists present in parliament that day, including the reporter from The Ukrainian Week, confirmed that voting on various issues had been posted far in advance. The scenario with Mr. Lytvyn as the bad cop and Mr. Kozhemiakin as the good one does not bear criticism. Moreover, Mr. Lytvyn can play small games but will never risk taking sides in a big game with high stakes.
According toThe Ukrainian Week’s sources, the roles of the government and the opposition were pre-determined beyond the walls of the Verkhovna Rada, to boot. BYuT-Batkivshchyna representatives involved in the organization of the protest near the Verkhovna Rada already knew exactly where the Party of Regions’ protesters and the police would stand on the morning of 5 June.
The plan was to bring some Party of the Regions’ protesters in front of the parliament at night and early morning of 6 June where they could peacefully (but in violation of the law, without obstacles from the police) occupy in advance the area around parliament. After this, the police formed a border around them, allegedly to stand between protesters from opposite sides. The plan was supposed to satisfy all sides: the government showed that some voters still supported its initiatives and that the approval of the draft language law was being passed in a democratic manner, with no fights. Under the scenario, the police was supposed to look as if it was not blocking the Verkhovna Rada from the opponents of the draft law, but protecting people on both sides from clashing against one another. Meanwhile, the opposition got a chance to wash its hands and pretend that the “criminal party in power” had got there first and they could not possibly break through the police line to the other side where there were also Ukrainians.
The implementation of the plan was 100% successful. Of course, the “it didn’t occur” to the opposition to occupy the area next to the Verkhovna Rada at night. The protesters felt betrayed once again.
KGB BY BIRTH
Andriy Kozhemiakin was born in 1965 to the family of KGB officer Anatoliy Kozhemiakin who would later co-found the SBU, Ukraine’s Security Service. In his interview for censor.net.ua in December 2006, Kozhemiakin Jr. said: “I come from a family of chekists and I’m proud of it… Until 1991, my father worked in the “fifth line” (fighting undermining ideological centers and the like) in Western Ukraine… My father was always a role model for me as a professional of the special services. I always wanted to be like him.” In 1986, Andriy Kozhemiakin graduated from the Kyiv Naval and Political College and served in subversive submarine units of the Black Sea Fleet. In 1988, he graduated from the KGB school in Novosibirsk to continue his service at a “special unit” in Sevastopol.
During the first 14 years of Ukraine’s independence, the Kozhemiakin family was in charge of fighting corruption. Kozhemiakin Sr. co-founded and headed the Main Department for Fighting Corruption and Organized Crime at the newly-established SBU in 1991. At that point, his son left the Black Sea Fleet and switched to the SBU, where it took him just ten years to be promoted to Colonel in 2002. After his father died in 2005, he headed the anti-corruption department. In 2005, Andriy Kozhemiakin was a Major General. That was when Oleksandr Turchynov was briefly the Head of the SBU. After his resignation, Kozhemiakin Jr. also quit the special service for politics.
He is often linked to the initiative to establish an internal security service within Batkivshchyna, which played an important role in strengthening the Turchynov-Kozhemiakin tandem’s position and later allowed them to take control. The lead role in the tandem was traditionally given to Oleksandr Turchykov, the co-founder of Batkivshchyna, but recent developments might signal that Kozhemiakin Jr. is the true leader. Moreover, there might be some other people above him.
This could be a coincidence, but family ties could link Andriy Kozhemiakin to people that are close to top Russian officials. His daughter Daryna married Roman Korzh, a representative of Barshchevski & Partners, a Russian law firm in Kyiv. Its founder is Mikhail Barshchevski, known for his close ties to Kremlin leaders. In December 2007, Mr. Barshchevski, Boris Grizlov and Serhei Mironov were the initiators of the nomination of Dmitri Medvedev.
On the other hand, Andriy Kozhemiakin’s relations with the Presidential Administration are obscure. His sister’s husband, Vladyslav Yartsev, has recently been the subject of criminal persecution. As Deputy Chair of Solomianska District State Administration in Kyiv, he was arrested under suspicion of taking a UAH 50,000 bribe in February 2011. In March 2012, online publications disclosed information from anonymous sources in the Presidential Administration, that Andriy Kozhemiakin personally visited Mr. Yanukovych to negotiate the closing of the case against his in-law. In April 2012, more than a year after the case was initiated, Vladyslav Yartsev was sent home “in the absence of the indications of a crime”.
Why did so much time pass between the opening and closing of the case? Is it because Andriy Kozhemiakin was elected head of the BYuT faction in parliament in December 2011, thus becoming the one largely responsible for the actions of its MPs in parliament?
A BORROWED IDENTITY
On the other hand, there is no reason for Andriy Kozhemiakin to feel guilt for betraying the Ukrainian language or the ratification of the 2010 Kharkiv deals. He is the incarnation of BYuT members for whom the Ukrainian language as well as other fundamentals of national identity, including Ukrainian history, remains alien. At one point he represented the internal BYuT opposition to Yulia Tymoshenko’s foreign policy, when he openly supported Ukraine’s neutral status and rejected Euro-Atlantic integration.
The hereditary officer corps of the KGB was a soviet elite with its own original identity that had nothing in common with the national features and values of nations struggling against a totalitarian regime. The chekists were part of a privileged class, and were possibly the most mentally and culturally assimilated, so the collapse of the Soviet Union was a personal tragedy for them that ruined their privileged status.
Mr. Yatseniuk cannot but realize that this is not a reflection of real moods in Ukrainian society, at least the part that is the united opposition’s key electorate. If he fails to purge the opposition of such people who have recently publicly discredited it, he will be held responsible for them and as a result, he will continue to lose electoral support.
WILL THE VICTORY OF THE OPPOSITION BE YET ANOTHER DEFEAT FOR THE NATION?
In this context, it is crucial for the nation that another victory of the opposition, which takes ever-more effort each time, does not turn into an immediate defeat, as has been the case in the past six or seven years. There should not be the threat that new MPs will become crossovers in a newly-elected parliament.
A lot will depend on whether the united opposition list or the candidates it promotes in FPP constituencies will include groups controlled by Pinchuk, Martynenko, Zhvania, Kolomoisky, Vadatursky and other oligarchs. Clearly, it will be impossible for Mr. Yatseniuk to control them in the new Verkhovna Rada, in spite of every effort to do so. Meanwhile, available information on the leaders of election teams and potential FPP candidates signals the risk of a new surge of crossovers after the election.
Some local branches of the united opposition still list people in key positions that are linked to crossovers who have already switched to the party in power. These are Zhvania’s people in Kharkiv and Vasadze’s people in Zaporizhzhya.
Meanwhile, Mr. Yatseniuk has found himself in a situation where the rating of his opposition conglomerate has reached the ceiling and further growth is actually impossible. Instead, he is forced to protect his own rating, an uncomfortable position in his political biography, while prior to this, all he had to do was to collect Yushchenko’s and Tymoshenko’s electorate.
Today, Svoboda and UDAR are chasing his electorate and both parties seem to be much more dynamic that the united opposition. Therefore, if the chaotic policy continues, including the chaotic ideological position and protection of declared priorities, the united front led by Mr. Yatseniuk may fade into oblivion.
The only way for Arseniy Yatseniuk to save face is to start cleansing his political forces. This is the first necessary move. If Mr. Yatseniuk wants to become something more than just the leader of a nominal political project, a statesman supported by the majority of the voters, he will inevitably have to declare realistic political goals in addition to the general democratic blah-blah, that include moving from the oligarch model to the capitalism of equal opportunities, the de-sovietization of all spheres of life with cultural and media de-Russification, etc.
If Mr. Yatseniuk does not feel comfortable doing this, he should quit. The nation is tired of the mimicry of democracy, the struggle with the regime, the endless pretence protection of the Russian-speaking population and glorification of Stalinist victories and the achievements of the “great state”. Time plays against Arseniy Yatseniuk.
The Ukrainian Week talked with French cybersecurity expert Christine Dugoin-Clément about mechanisms for fighting fake news, the prospects for certifying true information, and the likelihood of separating propaganda from journalism once and for all.