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A thaw in Ukraine?

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April 14, 2011, 11:47 p.m. | Op-ed — by Adrian Karatnycky

Adrian Karatnycky

Adrian Karatnycky writes: There are unmistakable signs of modest political liberalization. The recent indictment of former President Leonid Kuchma for abuse of power in the Sept. 16, 2000 murder of investigative journalist Georgiy Gongadze has sent shock waves through Ukraine’s body politic.

The opening of a criminal process against a former patron of President Viktor Yanukovych is something few expected, as Kuchma was protected from prosecution during the five-year presidency of Viktor Yushchenko.

Neither ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko nor Yushchenko, two politicians whose rise to power was fueled by public discontent over the Gongadze murder, proved capable of doing what has occurred under Yanukovych.
Launching of a case against Kuchma, a pillar of Ukraine’s establishment, defies reason and requires the weaving of complex conspiracy theories about.

For some, the charges are said to be part of an arcane and cynical plot that will eventually find Kuchma innocent and put the matter to rest. But that is unlikely.

The resurrection of this case, its public humiliation of Kuchma and the renewed spotlight on crimes that occurred during his reign is having the opposite effect. It is raising demands that a transparent and fair process occur. Any hint of a cover-up will only undermine Yanukovych’s image.

As importantly, the international community knows that of more than 140,000 cases brought to trial in Ukraine last year, only 100 or so ended in acquittals. Thus, the news for Kuchma appears grim, as does the accumulating weight of evidence.


Journalist Andriy Kulikov (R) and Darka Chepak, a former journalist who is now President Viktor Yanukovych’s press secretary (C), talk with police during the “Stop Censorship!” demonstration in Kyiv on June 6. (Yaroslav Debelyi)

Taken on its own, the launching of a case against Kuchma, a pillar of Ukraine’s establishment, defies reason and requires the weaving of complex conspiracy theories about -- such as revenge by Yanukovych for Kuchma’s alleged abandonment during the 2004 Orange Revolution, which denied Yanukovych the presidency in a rigged election, or the coveting of the vast fortune the Kuchma family has accumulated.

But recent trends point to another explanation.

There are clear signals of the beginning of a political thaw that reflects a return to the policy course many expected at the outset of the Yanukovych presidency.

These early hopes, however, were dashed by signs of authoritarian behavior by police against protesters, the launching of criminal cases against Tymoshenko and other opposition leaders, and security service efforts to intimidate university rectors and leaders of non-governmental organizations.

Such authoritarian acts obscured positive policies in the areas of deregulation, tax policy, the opening of corruption cases against ruling party officials and political allies of the president, the downsizing of government, fiscal stability and the establishment of a more effective administrative system.
Ukraine’s president should be encouraged to continue his government’s hard look at the crimes of the Kuchma era as well to deepen his attacks on corruption by political allies in Kyiv and in the Crimea.

Authoritarian policies also strained relations with Europe at a time when Ukraine’s leadership is signaling that it is firmly committed to a deep and comprehensive free trade area with Europe and an association agreement despite Russian financial incentives and other blandishments.

As a result of this commitment to a pro-European course, we are seeing unmistakable signs of modest political liberalization and a policy shift aimed at reducing domestic Ukrainian political tensions.

The appointment to the Yanukovych administration of respected journalist Darka Chepak – a founding member of the “Stop Censorship” movement – as the president’s press spokesman and the naming of Maryna Stavniychuk, former top legal aide to Yushchenko and a respected member of the Venice Commission (a European rule of law monitor), as a key advisor underscore this shift.

Other signs of the thaw include recent government responsiveness to the demands of mass protests by students angry at the introduction of new fees, small entrepreneurs dismayed by tax code revisions and educators angry at cutbacks.

The chastising of the highly divisive Russophile Education Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk for his dismal relations with educators opens the door to his possible dismissal.

Such a move, coupled with Yanukovych’s restatement on April 7 that Ukrainian will remain as the sole state language, would represent a move away from policies provoking tensions between the country’s Ukrainian-speaking west and Russophone east.
Opening of a criminal case against Kuchma seems less of anomaly and more a part of a pattern by Yanukovych to restore the trust of his people.

Yet another unmistakable signal is the improvement of the media environment at state-owned First National Television Channel, for years a government propaganda vehicle.

Now the channel is offering prime time news programs hosted by one of Ukraine’s most respected journalists, Savik Shuster, who consistently gives equal time to civil society and opposition leaders.

The recent flurry of prime-time TV appearances by Tymoshenko and the decision to allow her to travel to Brussels while under a pending criminal case is another sign of change. So, too, was passage with Yanukovych’s support of Ukraine’s first comprehensive freedom of information legislation.

In this context, the opening of a criminal case against Kuchma seems less of anomaly and more a part of a pattern by Yanukovych to restore the trust of his people, of Europe and of the United States as he seeks to move his country closer to European integration.

However, just as was the case under the Orange government of Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, there are powerful rent-seeking interest groups that continue to use their presence in and influence over the government to advance their narrow interests. Their avarice needs to be controlled.

Thus, just as when he was sharply criticized by Western leaders as Ukraine began straying from democratic practices, Yanukovych now should be saluted for the recent steps he has undertaken in the political sphere, though they are modest in scope.

And Ukraine’s president should be encouraged to continue his government’s hard look at the crimes of the Kuchma era as well to deepen his attacks on corruption by political allies in Kyiv and in the Crimea.

As importantly, Yanukovych and Ukraine should be given clear-cut signals by the international community that such positive trends by Ukraine will open the door to full-fledged integration into the European Union.


Adrian Karatnycky is senior scholar at the Atlantic Council of the United States and coordinator of its Ukraine-North America Dialogue.
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Anonymous April 14, 2011, 11:55 p.m.    

Or, Mr. Karatnycky, is the Kuchma case part of an clash of Ukraine's oligarchy? Akhmetov vs. Pinchuk?

Protection is only removed when you need to be eliminated. The question should not be whether Ukraine is becoming more transparent, but rather, why does the Party of Regions deem Kuchma to be expendable or even a threat?

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Anonymous April 15, 2011, 8:09 a.m.    

But Ukrainian lawyers unanimously state that the charges against Kuchma are impossible to substantiate, mainly because the prosecutors are going to ground their evidence on Melnychenko’s tapes, made by illegitimate means.

Ukrainian legislation states that evidence collected by illegitimate means cannot be considered as evidence in court proceedings. To introduce the Melnychenko tapes into court as legal evidence in the case, they need to follow additional formal and legal procedures.

The prosecutors, who in fact belong to Yanukovych’s team, will not take this step. So we will most likely see another example of traditional abuse of and selective use of justice.

The government team has opened these criminal proceedings in response to accusations from the West that the judicial system in Ukraine only prosecutes the opposition.

Currently several influential members of the opposition are in jail. Kuchma was chosen as a token non-opposition victim because he both does not belong to the opposition or the current governmental hierarchy; in other words, he is not “one of theirs.” Therefore, it is possible to easily prosecute him.

The Ukrainian government treats journalists as their servants and does not stop just at brutal treatment. The infractions include applying censorship, even at the largest television channels.

On the one hand, Yanukovych shows his Western critics that he prosecutes not only members of the opposition while, on the other hand, he does not offend representatives of the ruling elites and political authorities.

Read more:

http://www.kyivpost.com/news/opinion/op_ed/detail/102429/#ixzz1JZ7P57Ed

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Anonymous April 15, 2011, 5:43 a.m.    

Well here he goes. Dillusional and flat out naive (stupid is too harsh).

What some do to kiss the butts of those in power. This was the head of freedom house, now a lobbyist and consultant. Money makes us do things we don't want to.

Kuchma and chernovestky are being attacked not for justice but for political reasons and economic ones, ie bribes and shakedowns. This is just to painfully stupid to read.

This guy first embraced Yushchenko and founded the Orange Circle, what a joke...

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Anonymous April 15, 2011, 7:20 a.m.    

Exactly, naive is the best way to describe it. This is all too soon t tell. Ukraine has too dirty a history of rent-seeking, political protection, and prosecution of ex-politicians in order to exert muscle.

It happens again and its now justice? It's happening to Tymoschenko and all of the ex-government who opposed Yanukovych at the same time and those trials are clear to understand. Why is Yushenko still free? His bloc struct a deal with the POR.

Kuchma and Pinchuk are Dnipropetrovsk cronies, Yanukovych is Donbass mob. Figure it out.

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Anonymous April 15, 2011, 1:53 p.m.    

Exactly, people like Karatnycky, if they were not being paid by the administration, should be saying Mr. President show us you are sincere and call on prosecutors to open a case into the 2004 election fraud you seem to have committed and make such investigation transparent and beyond question, then we will begin to think you may be legitimate.

Mr. K- please stop this and salvage whatever reputation you have left.

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Anonymous April 15, 2011, 8:07 p.m.    

Criminal occupation

Interesting films, of course, like all documentaries, zakazushka is a lot of true facts, there are also many unconfirmed information, there is even frank delirium. In general, look at the spirit, rather zahvatyvayuschiy. Tip of the Donetsk mafia :):):):).

http://video.i.ua/user/4236/24800/230843/

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Anonymous April 15, 2011, 6:43 a.m.    

Nobody trusts Yanukovych. This article is a paid political announcement. Shameful.

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Anonymous April 15, 2011, 11:17 a.m.    

Yeah, Yanukovych is a really nice guy. Convice us. Come on Mr Karatnycky, we can all see with our own eyes that justice is selective. Who are you trying to kid, and more importantly, how much are they paying you to spout such rubbish? The worse crime of all is having a good brain, as you evidently have, and using it to propagate a criminorcacy.

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Anonymous April 15, 2011, 11:19 a.m.    

You have sold your soul to the Devil Adrian. Shame on you!

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Anonymous April 15, 2011, 11:21 a.m.    

Sir, are you reporting from another planet?

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Anonymous April 15, 2011, 4:20 p.m.    

Karatnycky = Duranty?

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Anonymous April 15, 2011, 5:07 p.m.    

Adrian be brave and quit your shill assignment by leaving with the declaration that this is by far the most

corrupt and repressive government in Europe and its making a mockery of democracy just by claiming to

be one.

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Anonymous April 15, 2011, 8:19 p.m.    

Your father is turning over in his grave! Get a grip on yourself!

Remember Fight FOR Ukraine not Against!

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Anonymous April 16, 2011, 4:07 p.m.    

Mr Karatnycky, the rogue!is trying to fool us again! Shame on you!

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Anonymous April 16, 2011, 7:14 p.m.    

Karatnycky once again exposes the brainlessness of the lobby that calls itself the &quot;Ukrainian&quot; diaspora in US/Canada. Karatnycky is the first member of the diaspora to make any sense on Ukrainian policy and to put forward ideas that can actually be taken seriously by the foreign policy community.

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Anonymous April 17, 2011, 10:19 a.m.    

so do you mean that the foreign policy community prefers to deal with chimeras? 'there are powerful rent-seeking interest groups that continue to use their presence in and influence over the government to advance their narrow interests. Their avarice needs to be controlled.' assume, the president is the pinnacle of those enigmatic 'interest groups' (suprise suprise, Mr.Karatnytsky!), who is the one to lead the need for 'the avarice to be controlled'? or is it the foreign policy community, by a chance? Rather, there are unmistakable signs of modest political twisting in this article.

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Anonymous April 17, 2011, 7:31 p.m.    

Make sense of Ukrainian policy? He's making a fool of himself!

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Anonymous April 17, 2011, 9:33 p.m.    

What a joke!

The prosecution of Kuchma means Yanu is opening up towards less political persecution?

A person has to be icompletely stupid to say something like that.

We have seen this illegal govt prosecute most of the leaders of BYuT, while ignoring the massive sins of PoR and OU.

We don't know why Kuchma is being prosecuted, but it is either some sort of silly ploy or Yanu thinks Kuchma is a threat to him.

Comments like Karatnycky make one wonder how much he got paid to write this.

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Anonymous April 17, 2011, 9:37 p.m.    

We've seen the firing of the editor of the KP (Bonner) over an article that really wasn't that serious.

Now we read this piece of rubbish.

Does this mean the KP no longer supports freedom of the press?

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Anonymous April 19, 2011, 9:50 a.m.    

Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man, has bought the UK’s most expensive flat in London for &amp;#163;136.6m, the FT has learnt.

Don't you think that's another unmistakable sign of liberalization?

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Anonymous April 19, 2011, 3:49 p.m.    

the writer's perceived thaw in ukraine can only be dismissed as propaganda paid for by the yanukovych/ donbas / russia mafia structure as the analysis is absurd relative to the police state dictatorship that is really forming in ukraine regrettably

pretty clear why yanukovych is going after kuchma - these people are corrupt but not stupid:

1)donbas clan beating on dnipropetrovsk clan - tymoshenko, kuchma, etc.

2)payback because kuchma took away last presidency in 2004 from yanukovych

3)most important, kuchma is paradoxically the only realistic presidential alternative who may conceivably generate enough support throughout ukraine from east to west to replace yanukovych as president - the remainder of the opposition is fragmented... yanukovych and his team know this and are out to eliminate any threat ...

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Anonymous April 19, 2011, 4:48 p.m.    

Adrian, really, you have no shame - you are a mere apologist for Yanustalin and his cronies.

Example, with respect to the First National TV Channel -

&quot;Now the channel is offering prime time news programs hosted by one of Ukraine’s most respected journalists, Savik Shuster, who consistently gives equal time to civil society and opposition leaders.&quot;

First - when Yefremov and Boogoslonskaya and Miroshnichenko and others from the Party of Thugs get up and blabber and blather their nonsense, the audience meters go to - 0% -. Does Yanustalin care? Does the Party of Thugs care? NO.

It's a very convenient illusion. Despite the zero percent audience support, they continue to &quot;play the piano&quot; in Parliament and do whatever they want.

Second, and more importantly - oh, yes, opposition members and civil society leaders do appear on the Savik Shuster show.

Big whoop - after 4 hours of more blathering and blabbering, the opposition still has no meaningful mechanisms for input in Parliament.

The Party of Thugs &quot;plays the piano&quot; and the bulldozing of Ukraine continues.

In other words, where it counts - in Parliament - there is nothing.

Akhmetov, as a member of Parliament, doesn't even show up. Yanuk's son, and Pshonka's son - well, they show up once in a while.

In other words, the Party of Thugs is putting on a big illusion.

And you have swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

You are a sucker for homo sovieticus propaganda and illusion.

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Anonymous April 20, 2011, 6:46 a.m.    

Hey, Adrian, here's a &quot;thaw&quot; for you - NOT.

Femen girls were protesting, so the police broke the clavicle (shoulder bone) of one of the girls:

http://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2011/04/19/6120459/

And, of course, the police deny that any bones were broken.

http://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2011/04/19/6122747/

In fact, using Yanusovspeak, the police announced that the girls were &quot;behaving with disrespect to societal order.&quot;

And &quot;in keeping with current legislation, these actions qualify as mere 'hooliganism.'&quot;

They then accused the girls of attacking the police.

Anyone can look at the pictures and judge for themselves.

Sovspeak lives!

Adrian, you really should be ashamed of yourself for grasping at straws to make excuses for Yanuhitler and his Party of Sovspeak Thugs.

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Anonymous April 20, 2011, 2:16 p.m.    

Kyiv Post editor reinstated....strike over...effort to censor beaten back amid offers of help in resolving issue from Presidential Administration... That does not look to me like a police state. At least today, we can remove the question mark from the article: There are signs of A THAW IN UKRAINE

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Anonymous April 21, 2011, 3:46 p.m.    

Just more of the say one thing and do another smoke screen by Yanukovych.

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