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29 August, 2011

Terrorist Attack For The Holiday

On the eve of Independence Day, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) made an affected statement about the prevention of an act of terror

On August 22, they found explosives and a leaflet calling to violence, in the office of a nationalist organization “Patriot Ukrainy” (Patriot of Ukraine) in Vasylkiv, Kyiv oblast. The SBU announced the beginning of legal proceedings on the grounds of preparations to commit of an act of terror, and arrested several activists of the organization. Another event, one which happened in Kharkiv on August 23, is hardly a mere coincidence: an unidentified man fired rubber bullets into the office of the local branch of “Patriot Ukrainy.” As a result, two wounded PU members and the shooter himself ended up in hospital. This dire incident can be just another strike of bad luck for this organization and maybe, for others of the same kind.

The news of the arrest of PU activists couldn’t fail to agitate the Internet community. Against the background of the trial of the top opposition leader, the detention of a member of a national patriotic organization looks like a new wave of political repression. At the same time, many will just not buy the story of the “prevented terror attack.” Over 20 years of its independence, Ukraine has not had a single big act of terror. The representatives of various national patriotic organizations have long been known to honor the very fact of Ukraine’s independence and the holiday. Consequently, many viewed the sensational announcement by the SBU about the alleged preparation for a terror attack on August 24 as a provocation on the part of the secret service or government.

Skeptics emphasize that after the rise of the Party of Regions to power, arrests of nationalists have become a routine. This January, during his visit to Ivano-Frankivsk oblast, Viktor Yanukovych had to take another route due to the arrest of a group of individuals who had been allegedly planning to assassinate him. On March 4, 2011, the Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast Court convicted Andrii Stempitsky, leader of the national organization “Tryzub” (Trident) to four months in custody for illegal possession of weapons. The cases of vandalizing the monument to Dzerzhynsky and blowing up a bust of Stalin in Zaporizhzhia also caused a lot of publicity. All these incidents have one thing in common: the inappropriateness of sentences to the offences declared by the secret service. The SBU reports prevention of the assassination of the head of state, and yet the culprit gets four months — as if he had been involved in nothing more than a street brawl. The SBU tells of an explosion in Zaporizhzhia, but the court has been looking into the case for six months now, all to no avail.

The details of the recent SBU operation to prevent “the terrorist attack on Independence Day” leave everyone puzzled, too. It is hard to imagine that — after numerous conflicts between nationalists and law enforcement agencies — a radical nationalist organization would store explosives in its own office which can be inspected at any moment. This immediately calls to mind the year 2004, when the police “found” explosives under a gas cooker in the kitchen of a “PORA” (a civic youth organization established in 2004 and espousing non-violent resistance. – Ed.) activist.

Using this or another path, the regime can use the “Patriot Ukrainy”  case to solve several political tasks. First, to distract public opinion (especially its national-patriotic sector) from the Tymoshenko trial. Second, to send another message to the West to the effect that there is a threat of terrorist attacks in the country, and the threat comes from nationalists. And last, to mend its rapidly-sinking popularity ratings. The news about the prevention of terrorist attack was circulated by almost all influential mass media. The public got the following message: “Patriot of Ukraine” had been preparing an act of terror, but the authorities promptly learned about it and took timely preventive measures.

This sort of advertisement is more than timely for the regime. The economic ambitions of the business lobby in the Party of Regions (PR) have aggravated relations with Russia. Such moves annoy pro-Russian supporters of the Party of Regions, who tend to trust the Kremlin more than their own president. The electoral gap between the PR and the BYuT has already shrunk to 2 percent, and the parliamentary election is just a few months away. Consequently, the incumbent party must immediately turn towards its core electorate. For example, they must pretend, for the umpteenth time to be busy enforcing law and order and ensuring public peace. On the eve of the local election of 2010, the media ideologically aligned to the PR had been fussing over the possibility of a “Nazi revenge” in Ukraine, and advertised the PR as the only force capable of protecting ordinary citizens in Eastern and Southern Ukraine. The old bogeyman, “the blood-stained Bander activist with an axe,” has done the trick more than once.

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