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31 May, 2011

Why Do You Need This?

Lately, the Ukrainian government has been confirming all the negative stereotypes that surround it. The detention of Yuriy Lutsenko, the arrest of Yulia Tymoshenko, and the imprisonment of other representatives of the previous government - all on obscure grounds – are hardly anything other than show-off repression

The fact that the president signed the bill about hanging red flags has come as yet another unpleasant surprise. Of course, the government wants to please the electorate by fulfilling its social obligations, but, being unable to meet its liabilities, it turns to nostalgia for good old Soviet times instead.  Perhaps the Kremlin is demanding that those in power to be loyal to the Russian World. However, there are other ways to do this with fewer long-lasting negative repercussions for the country.

It almost appears that the tough game with the arrested opposition is meant to test how quick and deep society and the West will react and to see who will protest and how critical these protests will be. Meanwhile, the government is sending a message to the public: whoever is not with us is against us and will face all the obvious consequences.

What is all this for? The government leaves the impression that it has made the decision to turn Ukraine into Belarus.

Those in power believe that a drop in their popularity is inevitable and they lack the administrative leverage to create a solid majority in parliament. Despite all the government's glowing reports, socio-economic victories are nowhere near. People believe price tags rather than the declarations of the prime minister. The nation is angry and another attempt to fake an election could lead to the next Maydan. This, of course, is frightening to the powers that be and consequently, those in power need to isolate anyone who might instigate or participate in a protest, or please them with a random bill that is supposed to make life easier for small and medium business. Until recently, hope remained that the government had enough wits or at least the instinct to drop the path it has been pushed onto by advisors from Russia. Ukraine is neither Belarus, nor Russia. Primitively punching someone in the face will not work here: Ukrainians are used to different options.

Yet, it looks like the Rubicon has been crossed. Sentences for the opposition, violent struggles against protests, fraudulent elections, and passage of the long-promised amendments to the constitution regarding the Russian language, Soviet symbols and so on could be soon to follow with the help of an obedient though hardly constitutional majority in parliament. These changes could give those in power hope that they could try to negotiate economic privileges and cheap gas with Russia.

Yet, at the same time, they do not want to join the customs union – Europe seems better for the business interests of the pro-PR oligarchs – nor do they want to give away their strategic companies. So, they will trade the elements that make the country they run Ukrainian without knowing their real value. Russia will definitely win under this scenario: such moves by the government will put Ukraine into the same group as Belarus, isolated from the West and a vassal to Moscow.

This is why the Kremlin is so persistent in making politicians in Kyiv believe that their key enemy is Ukrainian society and that it should be put in its correct place at any price.

As long as the government is still Ukrainian, it should think of the consequences. Imperial arrogance keeps the Russians from properly evaluating Ukrainian society and that has already undermined them many times; furthermore, they are unable to suppress the nation for a long time. After Russia loses its specific interest in Ukraine and thinks its mission there has been accomplished or switches to solving its own problems, politicians will face the public standing before the nation on their own. This prospect is now haunting them in office as they fail to give society any stability or a better life. Their only gift has been intimidation and pressure. Ukrainian history proves that such developments do not end in peaceful rallies – the protest will evolve rapidly and aggressively.

P.S.Lviv Under Attack

The hangover after 9 May in Lviv has been lasting too long: the fans of red flags are once again packing Soviet symbols to take to Lviv. On 22 June, a joint delegation of Russian and Ukrainian Communists accompanied by Russian MPs will visit the city, even though the local government claims that it has never invited these “guests.”

Another conflict over the red flag could knock several local officials out of their seats as the Prosecutor General blamed 9 May clashes completely on the local administration.

In fact, relations between Lviv and the central administration look like the tense relations of two countries on the verge of a diplomatic war. Kyiv passes a bill about red flags and Lviv bans Soviet symbols followed by the Prosecutor’s appeal against the resolution. The president signs the bill and Lviv Regional deputies call on him to denounce the Kharkiv agreements while passing a motion of no-confidence in the central parliament.

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