Instead of observing the political drama in Ukraine with popcorn in hand, the Ukrainian community in the U.S. should be rolling up its sleeves and removing scoundrels from leadership positions on its own side of the ocean.
Those Westerners directly or indirectly involved with the Yanukovych regime must not only be condemned by the Diaspora community, but they must be removed from positions of influence lest they do any more damage to Ukraine, particularly her image in the West.
The most obvious target of a Diaspora lustration effort is Adrian Karatnycky, who will go down in history for his extensive and unabashed cheerleading and apologizing for the Yanukovych administration.
It’s worth reviewing just a small sample of the nuggets of political insight from this self-styled guru, who continues to advertise himself as an objective analyst of Ukrainian politicsand is still being published in the world’s top publications, most recently in the Wall Street Journal.
Karatnycky penned so much fawning of Yanukovych& Co. that describing it all would take too much space. (Those interested can read his entire archives at: atlanticcouncil.org).It’s worth focusing on Karatnycky’s assurances that Yanukovych would never resort to dictatorial, authoritarian methods.
Immediately when Yanukovych and his entourage came to power, Karatnycky assured us that “five years in the political wilderness has taught them that the world does not end with the democratic rotation of power, nor does it put anyone's massive fortunes at risk.”
As early as May 2010, when the authoritarian path that Yanukovych was taking was apparent to all objective political experts, Karatnycky accused those comparing the administration to authoritarians and dictators of fomenting hysteria. Such comparison “confirms my thesis of the excessive rhetoric adopted by normally sober analysts of Ukraine’s politics.”
He lamented, “instead of benefiting from acknowledgement for this generally positive state of affairs and for his positive economic steps, Yanukovych is instead being subjected to increased international criticism.”
“In short, there has been a tsunami of articles suggesting Ukraine is about to become a vassal of Russia led by an unchecked tyrant who has seized control of most media content,” Karatnycky wrote in May 2010.
Yet despite that “tsunami” of opinion, the political “expert” from the Atlantic Council chose to instead focus on Yanuokvych’s “openness to criticism and his willingness to correct mistakes,” as someone “not inclined to become a second-rate administrator of a Russian province.”
“My interactions with Ukraine’s entire political spectrum for the past two decades persuade me that, with the exception of their cultural and linguistic policies, the Yanukovych team is essentially on the right track.”
When Yanukovych was demonstrating his propensity for violence, Karatnycky was apologizing, tritely pointing out that he “sternly rebuked” Interior Minister VitaliyZakharchenko “for excesses in policing demonstrations.”
As for Zakharchenko, he was part of the president’s entourage of “well-educated, highly professional 30 and 40 somethings,” Karatnycky insisted, as if pulling this spin directly out of a Party of Regions talking points e-mail.
Regarding the now infamous criminal charges for damaging the Maidan’s tiles, “these are appear to be focused on alleged damage done to Kyiv’s central square and do not constitute wide ranging reprisals against protest leaders and participants.”
Perhaps they protest too much,” Karatnycky obnoxiously wrote of Yanukovych’s critics. “Anxieties about a Russia-influenced reassertion of authoritarianism are not likely to be borne out.”
Karatnycky sung Yanukovych’s praises even during the politically motivated prosecution of Yulia Tymoshenko, lauding him for allowing her to travel to Brussels as “a sign of change.”
Admittedly, Karatnycky’s cheerleading took a less arrogant tone once Yanukovych’s leading political rival was thrown in prison. But he kept pulling his twine nonetheless, insisting that “Ms. Tymoshenko’s wrongheaded prosecution obscured the significant record of progress,” including lowered taxes, reduced government subsidies and heightened corruption prosecutions.
Even until the very bitter end, Karatnycky could not bring himself to use the “a” word about Yanukovych, still couching any criticism by referring to his fallen hero as a “semi-authoritarian” ruler.
At this point criticizing Yanukovych for his steps away from Western values, Karatnycky still had his “amputee’s itch” for defending someone who has all the signs of being a client, though Karatnycky denies having any financial ties to the Party of Regions or its sponsors, directly or indirectly.
Indeed his defense, as is the defense of all the “repenting” Regions entourage, is trite and predictable. Karatnycky informed me by e-mail that he was critical of Yanukovych when he abandoned the course to Western integration.
It took him until December 2012 (more than a year after Tymoshenko’s imprisonment!) to ‘start sending warning signals,” when they were apparent to millions of people in 2004 and to all objective political analysts by the summer of 2010.
“I thought honestly that Yanukovych had learned from the Orange Revolution that the Ukrainian public would not permit the usurpation of power. I was proved wrong,” he wrote me in late July. And was he wrong! So much so that most of the claims in more than a dozen pieces have proven to be farcical, both then and in hindsight.
Yet playing the “earnest believer” card isn’t credible for anyone supporting the Party of Regions. When confronted with evidence of corruption and murder among the Donetsk clan as early as 2005, Karanytcky insisted there was “no proof,” as reported by Dr. TarasKuzio, a research associate at the University of Alberta.
Just following the Orange revolts, Karatnycky interviewed Akhmetov, producing a flattering article on him for the Wall Street Journal. That year, Karatnycky launched the Orange Circle, a defunct organization of Ukrainian Diaspora leaders committed to “networking the friends of democratic Ukraine.”
Among the supporters of the Orange Circle was the Donbas Fuel & Energy Co, (currently DTEK), owned by Akhmetov. This sponsorship is the only proven financial link between Karatnycky and any of the dons of the Party of Regions. Yet Karatnycky denies to this day having any financial ties to Akhmetov.
We now see what a “friend” Akhmetov is to democratic Ukraine, having allowed separatists and Russian soldiers to terrorize and murder the people of his native Donbas, where not being able to walk the land and breathe the air would be his worst sanction. Ironic that he uttered those words in December.
But given Akhmetov’s alleged criminal history (I say “alleged” because documentary films, investigative television news reports and books are not enough proof for Karatnycky), the Orange Circle’s patrons, including Canadian business executive James Temerty, should not have been surprised at how he handled the terrorists.
How does Karatnycky explain his cheerleading for the Yanukovych administration? Karatnycky insists his texts were “analysis.”
Indeed much of his praise for Yanukovych& Co. is tactically cushioned with light criticism and disappointments, often focused on shortcomings in the cultural sphere (a safe area given that the Party of Regions spit on these issues).
This balancing act that Karatnycky is trying to claim as astute analysis is really as process of covering his own tracks. For an apology for Yanukovych, he can point to a criticism, which is very often contradictory.
The end product can look quite ridiculous. “Despite the use of administrative resources and a far from level playing field, political pluralism is alive and well in Ukraine;” wrote Karatnycky, even after Tymoshenko’s imprisonment and the substandard parliamentary vote.
“Evidence of corruption and cronyism abounds ,” Karatnycky wrote, just one year after praising Yanuokvych for “extensive prosecution of current government officials on corruption charges.” I guess the prosecution wasn’t “extensive” enough.
Indeed to the objective political observer, if Karatnycky wasn’t getting paid for his cheerleading, then he missed a golden opportunity to make some serious cash off his “analysis.”
Karatnycky is now hoping to put all that behind in the past. In the EuroMaidan aftermath, he’s given speeches at Harvard University and at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan about the reasons for Yanuokvych’s fall.
Since Yanuokvych’s ouster, he has published in the Wall Street Journal and New Republic writings on the Donbas war. Normally, someone with all the appearances of a hired PR gun would not be allowed to pose as an objective political analyst, writing for such prestigious publications.
Yet Karatnycky is able to get away with it because he remains a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a respected Washington think tank whose stamp of approval confers legitimacy to someone who at best is a hired gun. If he was never paid, his writings would qualify him as an incompetent.
Shockingly, the Atlantic Council is entirely satisfied with his work. Ignoring my questions of how Karatnycky became a senior fellow and what would be the procedure to remove him, spokeswoman Taleen Ananian instead forwarded me a statement from its president and CEO Frederick Kempe.
“Adrian Karatnycky is widely known as one of America's leading experts on Ukraine,” he said. “We are proud of the work the Atlantic Council team, along with Adrian, is currently doing to advance the freedom, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
Unfortunately, the Atlantic Council leadership has yet to understand the dangers Karanycky poses to forming public opinion on Ukraine. Those less familiar with the on-the-ground situation in Ukraine actually start believing the tripe that a cheerleader like Karatnycky churn out, with the Atlantic Council’s endorsement.
The inability to sort out the truth early enough, amidst the smokescreen created by those like Karatnycky, about those with alleged violent histories such as Yanuokvych and Akhmetov enables them to accumulate enough power to do even greater damage, as demonstrated by the tragic deaths of the EuroMaidan and the current war in Donbas.
By continuing to pose as an expert, Karatnycky is a threat to objective political analysis on Ukraine that’s desperately needed in a time when the Russian government is producing fraud and falsehoods on a daily basis. He is also a threat to informing the Diaspora community, who trusted his failed Orange Circle effort with tens of thousands of dollars.
If he’s demonstrated his willingness to promote one authoritarian government,then there’s nothing to stop him from finding another gang of (alleged) criminals to offer his services to.
Someone whose ties to the Yanukovych regime are more clear cut is former First Lady of Ukraine Kateryna Yushchenko. As recently as October 2013, she and her husband where guests of honor at a celebratory banquet organized by the Ukrainian-American Archives and Museum of Detroit.
It’s understandable that these honest folks are desperate. Their museum is located in the city of Hamtramck near central Detroit, which is a war zone no less dangerous than present-day Luhansk. And to them, gaining the ear of someone as fabulously wealthy as Mrs. Yushchenko is among their few hopes in finding new digs for their museum.
But for those of us living in Ukraine proper, the Yushchenkos are those people who teamed up with Yanukovych to defeat Yulia Tymoshenko in the 2010 presidential elections.
The reward they gained from their unholy alliance was the right to live in a luxurious state dacha in Koncha Zaspa immediately after Yanuokvych’s victory. It’s reasonable to suspect there was an exchange because the Yushchenkos fled their dacha around the same time that Yanuokvych fled Ukraine.
Living in a dacha that costs an impoverished country $3.75 million a year to maintain – when you own privately several luxurious residences – is one degree of boorishness.
But having secured the dacha as part of a political alliance with the man who tried to become dictator, maiming a few thousand people in the process, is downright abominable, and no matter amount of wearing their embroidered shirts and flaunting their Ukrainian kitsch will erase that.
The Ukrainian-American Archives and Museum of Detroit should relinquish its ties with the Yushchenkos, as should any Diaspora organization. Indeed it’s high time for Diaspora leaders to admit their mistakes and wipe their slates clean of the sponsors of the murderous Party of Regions and its partners in crime.
Unfortunately, too many Diaspora leaders are open to cutting political deals or accepted lucrative donations from the likes of Firtash, another Party of Regions sponsor.
They have also resorted to the “Karatnycky defense,” insisting they had no moral scruples in dealing with the Regions sponsors because they had no criminal convictions.
Of course, such evidence as Firtash admitting his relations to Russian mobster Semyon Mogilevich, Number One on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, was not enough to raise concern.
And of course, they didn’t expect that the U.S. government may soon “soil” Firtash’s clean status soon, filing charges of bribery, money laundering, threats and intimidation and other crimes that could earn him up to 55 years in prison.
For his troubles, Firtash is blaming the same U.S. government that the Diaspora leadership is lobbying to provide more aid to Ukraine: “What is important is that there is a geopolitical struggle between the U.S. and Russia under way. The U.S. needs an enemy abroad to solve problems at home and Ukraine happened to become a battlefield.”
Michael Sawkiw, Jr., the president of the U.S Holodomor Committee, declined to respond as to whether his organization will return the $2.5 million donated by Mr. Firtash to build the Holodomor Victims Memorial in Washington.
“Obviously we’re very disturbed about all of the allegations, and we’re concerned about the support of individuals like Firtash,” UCCA spokeswoman Roksolana Lozynskyj said in April, as reported by London’s The Globe and Mail. “However, the project is under way.”
Another Diaspora leader in Firtash’s web is Borys Gudziak, the American-born former rector of UCU who is now the eparch of Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Eparchy of Paris. Firtash donated $4.5 million to build the Striyskiy Parkcampus. He said then that he hopes it wouldn’t be Firtash’s last gift.
Just how these Diaspora leaders, Sawkiw and Gudziak, got in touch with Firtash remains a mystery. Sawkiw has repeatedly declined to say who approached whom, and UCU has never revealed the relationship’s genesis.
Whether these Diaspora leaders, Sawkiw and Gudziak, deserve condemnation for accepting money from Firtash has long been a debate in the community. But a criminal conviction might finally put that debate to rest and put Firtash off-limits as a source for financing, once and for all.