A Year without Spring

23 December 2013, 10:22

The failure of a revolution is always followed by the celebration of vengeance. Pro-government political forces have brought to light many initiatives, which have quite clearly outlined the contours of Ukraine-2014, in case of the complete victory of the Russian course in the interest of the self-preservation of President Yanukovych and his Family, which is how they appear to see it.

So, we can expect a gradual, but unwavering lessening of possibilities for “foreign agents”, as formulated in the relevant prohibitive legislation in Russia, to function on the territory of Ukraine. This pertains to foreign entities that directly operate on the territory of the country, as well as any domestic non-profit organization, if the latter received financing from the West, however episodic it may be, particularly if it was indirect. There have already been precedents in Russia, when such organizations were subject to police searches and their operations were blocked, simply because an individual employee had won one grant or another, or even an award from European or North American entities for human rights activities.

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In Ukraine-2013 only fairly marginal movements (such as the pro-Russian organizations in the Crimea) and individual parliamentarians (such as PR MP Oleh Tsariov) have ventured to promote such initiatives. But should the reactionaries win, such designs could well become laws, bylaws, and most importantly – standard practice, which in the Ukrainian reality, often surpasses even the worst law.

Another natural consequence of such a victory will be tighter control of public activity. First and foremost, this will bring heavier punishment for unauthorized street meetings, marches, etc. To achieve this, those in power have to introduce laws that make literally any gathering of more than three people an illegal, based on the experience of Russia and Belarus, and the late Soviet era. Meanwhile, law enforcers and courts are given space to interpret the laws as they see fit.

The law on peaceful assemblies, which has yet to be approved by parliament, can (and will) be used to turn the screw in this sphere. Entering the necessary corrections to it is just a matter of a few minutes provided that the Presidential Administration gives the respective instructions. And provided that the revolution is quashed or dissolves on its own over the winter cold and Christmas holidays.

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However, the authorities cannot ignore the power of self-organization in the internet, particularly if bloggers return to their computers from the EuroMaidan shunned from the Independence Square by the police’s batons or winter frosts. So there will be attempts to turn the screws here as well. It is scarcely possible that Ukraine, with all the talents of its programmers, will reach the heights of China, which has its own internet, reliably protected from the rest of the worldwide web. Ultimately, even Russia with its creative use of the police was unable to achieve this. Still, Vladimir Putin will apparently advise Viktor Yanukovych on IT issues, too, not just finance or geopolitics. He may have done just that already: the Ukrainian government may survive by passing laws that will allow it to shut down mass media upon suspicion of extremism. Party of Regions’ MP Vadym Kolesnichenko has already tested this in the stormy December days: he registered a draft law on counteraction against extremism. According to it, any public or critical expression of views regarding government representatives or its separate institutions could be recognised as extremism and the mass media could be closed. Add to this the Russian practice of punishing on-line resources, not even for their materials, but for comments (which can very possibly be written by provocateurs, hired by the authorities) – and the deal is done.

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The third reaction, without doubt, has to be the tightest possible control of the income and property of citizens, particularly that of those who don’t want to cooperate with the authorities. Once again, relevant initiatives have long been craved for by the financial section of the government, currently under firm control of the Family’s Vice Premier Arbuzov and the Minister of Revenues and Duties, Oleksandr Klymenko. So far, they have not dared to implement the full-scale control of not only the income, but also the expenses of citizens for a number of reasons. One is the dumb resistance of those who really have something to declare, but don’t particularly want to. However, in 2014 all of this could become a reality under the slogan “quashing the enemy of the revolution” for some and “the implementation of civilised standards” for others. Of course, really wealthy people, whose business is closely intertwined with the authorities, will probably not experience these innovations. However, judges, prosecutors, police officers and other citizens, who live in palaces and drive luxury cars they would never be able to afford in a civilized country, will find another reason for loyalty to the government. And businessmen, who risk getting into a conflict with it, could lose everything in an instance.

How I wish the EuroMaidan did win after all.

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