Potekhin Dmytro Political analyst, Director at the European Strategy Group

Eastern Gangstership

28 January 2014, 18:00

What he is looking for is not compromise, but a way to excuse the use of state violence for his personal trauma. Such people cannot be given even a driver’s license, let alone state power.

There are various groups of people at the protests, not just the right wing. None of them want to live under dictatorship. It produces a real diversity of violence, which started with the regime and was nurtured by the lack of action from the opposition.

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Many writers are wrong on the region and link resistance movements to the deals authoritarian leaders make with Russia. Although they indeed influence the logic of political processes in the post/neo-Soviet world and are likely to make authoritarian neighbours of Russia feel more secure, the dynamics of resistance and suppression is more seriously defined by the (in)ability of the movements to define and apply successful nonviolent strategies based on old principles of democracy and the rule of law, rather than geopolitical thinking of the East/West relations.

The Yanukovych regime did what any authoritarian, fake democracy would do – suppressed what looked like a movement threatening the regime. The movement though failed to do what an efficient movement needs to do – fuel clashes within the regime, leading to open change of loyalties of at least some state security forces. Most activists and their coordinators kept doing what made the 2004 Orange Revolution a success – nonviolent actions. This is good but not enough.

2013 is different and lacks at least two important factors. First, in 2004 the falsified elections were observed by and communicated to the whole society, including state officials. Now people in the regime, throughout the ranks and pillars have no idea why the Yanukovych regime is illegitimate and why they have legal ground – not just the will – to disobey orders and join the movement. Second, the likely change of the regime is too far in time – presidential election is to be held only in 2015, so it makes no sense for the officers to risk their positions now and get promoted one and a half year later in the best case or spend this time without wage or even in jail – in the worst case.

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Therefore, the movement should have done two things. 

The first one was to communicate illegitimacy of the Yanukovych regime caused by the 2010 change of the Constitution which resulted in an inefficient constitutional framework in Ukraine that pretends the country has separation of power and is run by officials, not a bunch of clowns clothed as the president, the cabinet ministers and members of parliament. The riot police and other officials must follow orders of such regimes only if they work for the same circus. Try to talk to the officers holding the governmental district in the center of Kyiv and you will find out they are trained not only to beat people but the basics of law, too. Nobody cared of doing this. On the contrary – all types of media, NGOs and opposition politicians are still addressing Yanukovych & Co as bad politicians but legitimate officials.

Second, the movement could have moved the possible date of the regime change closer. Should it announce early elections – not just discuss them with the regime – Ukrainian NGOs would make sure the elections are fair. However, the country essentially has no Constitution at least since the 2010 decision by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, as the current constitutional order was set by the institution which had no right to do this. This means the country has no officials who can represent it and sign agreements. Under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, such agreements are void. 

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Western recognition of Ukraine’s usurper Yanukovych as legitimate president of the country has not only helped to assure the police that it is following legitimate orders to beat peaceful protesters, but also paved the way for his deals with Moscow. Although it is Yanukovych and his regime who are mainly responsible for the usurpation of power in Ukraine and the violence against peaceful protesters, Western external and internal services share responsibility for what is going on in Ukraine.

The EU leadership had been warned on several occasions about the illegitimacy of Yanukovych and his regime. The last warning came on the eve of the Vilnius Summit, when EuroPol was asked to arrest Yanukovych. Should Yanukovych have been arrested in Vilnius, the police would have no one to protect in the regime since there is no government in Ukraine – just a group of usurpers. (Then, the Anti-Corruption Action Centre (Tsentr Protydii Koruptsii) NGO and PEPWATCH initiative collected and revealed detailed information on the assets of Yanukovych, his Family and close allies in Ukraine and abroad. Detailed accounts of their assets are available at the Centre's official website. "The authoritarian regime of President Viktor Yanukovych has been strengthened by corrupt proceeds laundered via international financial system through the network of shell companies and professional intermediaries", the activists report, providing the names of these intermediaries as well. Part of the Centre's team was forced to flee abroad for security purposes, the NGO reports on its Facebook page. Activists plan to publish similar information on the assets of the Interior Minister Zakharchenko – Ed.).

The West has so far been unable to answer the warnings from Ukrainian citizens and uphold European principles of the rule of law. The Director of EuroPol and leaders of other EU institutions and services in charge of the rule of law and relations with Ukraine must resign. The next generation of Western politicians and experts on the Eastern Gangstership must finally read the 2010 opinion of the Venice Commission on the constitutional situation in Ukraine, stop legitimizing usurpers, start funding non-violent resistance and provide observers for independent elections.

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