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5 April, 2011

A Bad Example

Did Lee Harvey Oswald really shoot John Kennedy on his own?

We will never know. John Wilkes Booth, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan and Brutus will remain misunderstood figures for eternity. Maniacs, hired assassins, or zombie Manchurian killers. We all have to accept the fact that there are mysteries that will never reveal themselves to us, especially when it comes to political attacks. It’s not even that hard to hide the truth. You just need a few key figures with enough power and money. But this isn’t the worst. Secrets have one peculiarity: when there are a dozen different interpretations floating around, including the most unlikely ones, and one of them is finally declared the truth, no one will be able to tell the difference. And no one will believe it.

The year 2011 has only started and I’m already convinced: the resurrection of the Gongadze affair and the questioning of Leonid Kuchma will end up the main nomination for “Surprise of the Year.” Both the competent and the less-than, the masters of the corridors of power and junior windbags are all competing for a wise answer to the case against the former Head of State. Some say that Kuchma isn’t the real target, but just the means to a different end. That those in charge want to either hit the ex-president’s son-in-law, Viktor Pinchuk, so that he becomes more “manageable” and shares some of his wealth. That they’re really after VR Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, Mr. Kuchma’s one-time Chief-of-Staff, in order to clip his wings.

And if we assume that Leonid Kuchma was the target, then two possible motives arise as well. Either this is Mr. Yanukovych’s delayed vengeance for having been “betrayed” on the Maidan or it’s a red herring to draw attention away from what’s going on in society to a spectacular if empty performance and to show some muscle. For whose benefit? The inner circle, the opposition, Europe, themselves? All these options are entirely within the scope of the ruling party. Which of them dominates may not be that important. The main point is that all these motives lack the one motive that would be appropriate for a modern democratic state—or at least a state that cares about its reputation. No one, absolutely no one at all has even raised the possibility that the ultimate goal of Kuchmagate II is an honest desire to restore justice, to hold a fair trial, and to punish wrongdoers. Once again, one of the interpretations that no one will believe.

I don’t believe that this government suddenly became interested in the truth in general or in Gongadze in particular.

I don’t believe in the official report of the investigation—not then, not now.

I don’t believe in the tape recorder under the couch. To be honest, I don’t much believe Maj. Melnychenko, either.

I don’t believe that Gen. Kravchenko shot himself in the chin twice. They really should try testing this one out.

I don’t believe that Kuchma ordered the murder of a journalist and the rest is food for conspiracy theorists (who set Leonid Kuchma up, we won’t know, but a bit of analysis of domestic and, more importantly, external policy before and after this episode offers plenty of food for thought).

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t feel sorry for Mr. Kuchma. He helped set up a system whose victim he himself became over the years. Even if all this comes down to is a little shaking up, it will have been a terrible blow to his pride, if you ask anyone who personally knows Leonid Kuchma. Indeed, all of those who are in some way or another connected to his personal drama are his protégés and pupils. A professional machine-builder, he himself developed and perfected the roller under which he has finally fallen. As to the morality of those who are not afraid to disturb a dead lion, no one has any illusions, nor ever did.

But there is one relevant and pragmatic turnaround in all this sad tale: Imagine for a minute the current President, who just gave or ok’d the green light. How can he not be putting himself in the same spot as his predecessor? One year and a bit of Yanukovych & Co has resulted in so much “business” that a normal prosecutor would have enough for dozens of charges of “abuse of office” and “overstepping of powers.” So let’s just assume that he will get his fill and decides to hand over power peacefully to his successor. No, before he can dare to do that, he will inevitably remember Leonid Kuchma, who was a dignified senior statesman one Tuesday, someone whose interviews were sought, whose presence was requested at dinner parties as an honored guest, who traveled abroad, and now only the investigator wants to talk to him—and his one-time bodyguard.

Having established this kind of precedent, Viktor Yanukovych is going to grab onto power to the bitter end. Ideally, until the end. With his hands. With his teeth. There are plenty of models to choose from. Col. Gaddafi has hung in there for over 40 years.

Welcome to eternity!

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