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23 December, 2013  ▪  Oles Oleksiyenko

Between Stability and the Instinct of Survival

The choice of scapegoats for the bloody dispersal of the EuroMaidan proves that Yanukovych is leaning towards the pro-Russian lobby

After the latest attempt to disperse the Maidan and the storming of the Kyiv City State Administration building on the night of December 11, oligarchs Rinat Akhmetov, Dmytro Firtash and Viktor Pinchuk publicly distanced themselves (in person or through official announcements of their companies) from the violent actions against the EuroMaidan. Premier Mykola Azarov set about publicly blaming oligarchs for the lack of informational support for the government (the TV channels of all three were surprisingly objective in their reporting of events at EuroMaidan). The threesome made every effort to demonstrate their innocence: they were “surprised” by the sudden change in the course of Ukraine’s foreign policy, publicly delighted in the EuroMaidan and condemned violent actions against peaceful protesters.

At the same time, sources in the Party of Regions unofficially admit that resistance has escalated between the “eagles” (people closest to the Family) and “pigeons” (largely representatives of big business) in the government team. The latter are very irritated by the blatantly provocative actions of the eagles at a time when protest sentiments escalate in society. The choice of scapegoats for the brutal dispersal of the EuroMaidan actually confirms these processes.

On December 14, General Prosecutor Viktor Pshonka named First Deputy Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council Volodymyr Sivkovych, the Head of the Kyiv police Valeriy Koriak and his Deputy, as well as Head of the Kyiv City State Administration Oleksandr Popov, as the guilty parties. According to Pshonka, Sivkovych and Popov, “directly pressured the leadership of the Kyiv police to use force at Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) on the night of November 30”. Yanukovych suspended them from work on the following day.

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In other words, the government’s version of the events of November 30 appears to be that it was a spontaneous abuse of office or inactivity of mid-level officials, who were unable, or did not want to hinder the extreme scenario. Meanwhile, the way the scenarios developed, both on the eve of November 30, as well as later, on December 11, is evidence that these actions were thought out and approved in advance at a much higher level.

MP Hennadiy Moskal, referring to secret documents received from his own sources, stated that prior to the start of the dispersal an encrypted telegram marked “secret” was sent to all oblasts other than Zakarpattia and Ivano-Frankivsk, ordering them to transfer their Berkut units to the disposition of the Interior Ministry, not the National Security and Defence Council or the Kyiv police. At the same time, opposition members leaked reports on interrogations of Popov, Sivkovych and Koriak, conducted on December 13. According to the reports, the three gave evidence that on the eve of the tragic events on the Maidan, Vitaliy Zakharchenko, the Minister of Internal Affairs, personally phoned him and ordered him to execute all the commands of Volodymyr Sivkovych. Oleksandr Popov stated that Andriy Kliuyev, National Defence and Security Council Secretary, had personally phoned him twice on November 29, to give him a similar order. The interrogation report for Popov suggests that it was Sivkovych who was coordinating the brutal battle. Interrogation reports for Sivkovych contain information that on the eve of the EuroMaidan operation he met with Andriy Derkach, who is known for lobbying Russian interests in Ukraine and has close ties with Viktor Medvedchuk. Vladimir Putin is the godfather for Medvedchuk’s daughter. Medvedchuk is considered to play a leading role in the implementation of Russian scenarios through Ukrainian top officials.

This hints at a clear Russian trail. Kliuyev, and his Deputies Sivkovych and Derkach, not to mention Medvedchuk, have long lobbied the Kremlin’s interests in Ukraine, related in one way or another to Soviet and later Russian special services. This trail had been visible before, first in the disruption of the Association Agreement with the EU in 2011 when Yulia tymoshenko put in jail; then in early 2013 when MPs visiting Tymoshenko at the Kachanivka prison were forced out right before the upcoming Ukraine-EU summit. According to the ex-Party of Regions’ MP Inna Bohoslovska, Andriy Kliuyev assured her that the Association Agreement would not be signed even when everything suggested the opposite outcome. Meanwhile, he was closely involved in the entire process as one of the key negotiators with EU Enlargement Commissioner Stephan Füle. Now, Füle refuses to meet with Kliuyev under any circumstances. Perhaps, he has a good grasp on the situation.

Earlier, a lot of information was leaked to the mass media about Andriy Kliuyev’s role in provocations of clashes during the May rally (see Anti-Fascism & the Yanukovych Regime at by the titushkas and beating of journalists in Kyiv. In other words, Andriy Kliuyev could well be a key figure in the implementation of Russian destabilization scenarios in Ukraine. However, he continues to hold a high state position, which allows him to coordinate the activities of all enforcement agencies. Therefore, the opposition has a good reason to insist on his removal from office and arrest.

Instead, the fact that the General Prosecutor’s Office has cleared Kliuyev of any complicity in the provocation on the Maidan, could be evidence that Yanukovych and his Family trust Kliuyev completely and approve his actions. Moreover, if the November 30 operation actually originated from Moscow, Premier Azarov and Vitaliy Zakharchenko, the Interior Minister loyal to the Family, had to be aware of it. The mass media, controlled by another Family representative, Serhiy Kurchenko, is currently providing the most active media support to the flock of “eagles” in the government. This gives grounds to include at least part of the Family in the list of those who are playing on Moscow’s side.

Russia’s operation to provoke the forced scenario could have aimed broader than just pushing Yanukovych into a dead end and preventing any alternatives but capitulation to the Kremlin (his behaviour does not suggest that he has realized this yet). People behind this scenario may also have counted on fuelling separatist sentiments in South-Eastern Ukraine. It is not without reason that this scenario has lately been gloated over by pro-Russian forces in Ukraine (Crimea, Sevastopol, Medvedchuk’s Ukrainian Choice) and was savoured in Russia. More specifically, on December 6, in an interview on the Echo of Moscow radio channel, Viktor Medvedchuk stated that: “A division in Ukraine is inevitable. Moreover, I can prove this; politically, legally, based on life, on my fingers. The country is divided. Because this is the way it is territorially made up. Never will the mentality of Lviv be the same as that of Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv or Luhansk”. He determined that Kyiv was closer to Western Ukraine in terms of mentality. On December 13, Russian Premier Dmitri Medvedev stated that Ukraine should “overcome the tectonic fault, which threatens the existence of the state”. Meanwhile, through Mikhail Zurabov, the Russian Ambassador to Ukraine, the Russian side has already stated convincingly that the results of agreements from December 17 will help to stabilise the situation in the country.

At present, it is difficult to predict further developments in the ruling conglomerate: to what extent are the “pigeons” ready to compromise with the opposition and resist the “eagles” that play into the Kremlin’s hands? When the opposition returned to the idea of a no-confidence vote against the government, it seemed to send a signal that at least a small part of the pro-government majority was willing to reformat parliament and the Cabinet of Ministers. This initiative was failed on December 3: Only 186 of the required 226 MPs supported the no-confidence vote. However, the reaction of society and the West to the attempted violent dispersal of the Maidan on the night of December 11, as well as subsequent protests numbering many thousands on December 14–15, suggest that the problem will not be resolved on its own. On December 18, Arseniy Yatseniuk stated that the opposition is only three votes short for the no-confidence vote against the Cabinet of Ministers. A Party of Regions' MP assured The Ukrainian Week that “He’s not really bluffing”.

Meanwhile, the Family, too, appears to have switched to an attacking position. Information on possible resignation of three ministers who are considered to be close to Rinat Akhmetov leaked to the media may signal Yanukovych’s response to the public demarche of his former chief sponsor.

It is finally possible to speak about the start of a confrontation between different groups of influence in the government, which, under certain circumstances, could lead to a reformatting of the majority in parliament to an opposition against Azarov’s government, or maybe to the “eagle” camp. More specifically, with approval from Moscow, the Communists, who are controlled from Russia, will vote in favour of the resolution that they submitted before for the dismissal of Azarov’s government. The Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko is already giving relevant signals in his statements. Escalation of this conflict between the different groups in the Ukrainian government could benefit Putin as it would make them more vulnerable to his influence. However, this game could be risky, since in time, it could lead to the formation of a pro-European majority. The results of Yanukovych’s visit to Moscow could, on the one hand, significantly strengthen his position among disgruntled pro-government deputies, since Ukraine’s financial-economic problems will appear to be resolved by the 2015 presidential election. On the other hand, though, they could force the pro-European lobby to be more pro-active, in order not to lose possibly the last chance to prevent sliding into the Russian orbit and the growth of the Family’s authoritarianism

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