Back in the USSR

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Nov. 9, 2011, 9:57 p.m. | Op-ed — by Michael Hammerschlag

Ukrainian communists hold a placard of former Soviet leader Josef Stalin during the rally on Independence Square in Kyiv on Nov. 7. People marched in the Ukrainian capital to mark the anniversary of the October Revolution of 1917 that brought the Bolsheviks to power.

Despite success in ramming through preparations for Euro 2012, the European football championships to be co-hosted by Ukraine with Poland, President Viktor Yanukovych has shown astounding incompetence in allowing the Yulia Tymoshenko persecution to proceed to a guilty verdict. Now it has metastasized to other ancient charges. It seems the powers that be want to bury her, like imprisoned former billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky in Russia.

It all begs the question of whether the whole purpose was to paint Ukraine in a box with one exit: to Russia.

Western powers should have come down on the leadership much harder when Tymoshenko's charges started. They should have launched travel bans, account freezes, etc. Maybe this madness could have been nipped in the bud.

In a standard Soviet nonsense prosecution, she was charged with doing her job, something that couldn't be a crime anywhere in the civilized world. To recap, the world price of gas is set by a six month delay of oil prices, which were at record highs in July 2008: Yulia had nothing to do with it, and Ukraine had a gun to its head after the Jan 2009 shutoff.

It is deeply ironic that she was charged with treason -- betraying one's country -- particularly to a foreign power.

Some examples of treason were: say, the Oedipal George W. Bush neoconservative plot to invade Iraq, which benefited no one but war profiteer Vice President Dick Cheney, killed 300,000 to 400,000, including 5,000 Americans, crippled and maimed 30,000; injured 200,000; or the insane impeachment of President Bill Clinton, just as Al Qaida was coalescing into a fearsome terrorist threat.... or here, the incredible throwing of the RusUkrEnergo lawsuit by the present government in the Stockholm Arbitration Tribunal.

Getting rid of the RosUkrEnergo gas intermediary was probably the best thing Tymoshenko did, no matter what the motive.

First the government fired the American law firm defending the state against the company, which rakes a billion or so dollars a year off the top of the Russian gas supply, returning 50 percent to Gazprom and 50 percent to Dmytro Firtash & Co.

Then they just threw the case, failing to defend it, so the Swedish court robotically ordered a 12 billion cubic square meters, $3.2 billion judgment against Naftogaz, which it doesn't have. What it does have is the pipelines that still handle 80 percent of Russian transit gas to the West, which Russia desperately wants to buy.

If this happens, chances are good that Ukraine will effectively lose its sovereignty, like poor Belarus, now utterly dependent on Russia, which could conceivably want to station troops on the pipelines to prevent “terrorism”. The Party of Regions also canceled incipient deals with Westinghouse for nuclear fuel and reactors and settled on Russia as the sole supplier (nuclear provides 50 percent of Ukraine's electricity), leaving them with an energy stranglehold over Ukraine.

That's a pretty good definition of treason.

Having a prime minister whose primary allegiance is to a foreign power is another deeply suspect situation.

Much has been written how angry Russia is with the prosecution of Tymoshenko cause it lays the groundwork for reneging on the admittedly atrocious gas deal. But after a recent Yanukovych-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev meeting in Donetsk, the little bear was evidently mollified by the President's probable explanation: “If you want us back in your orbit, Tymoshenko has to be crushed.”

After a teaser of changing the law to legalize the charges against her (rather than just instructing the young show-trial judge to find her innocent), they came down with a sledgehammer.

The blizzard of new charges actually may have some basis in fact (though participation in the 1996 murder plot against Yevhen Shcherban seems designed to smear her with the West, and no evidence is trustworthy 15 years later) -- few big biznismeni here haven't diverted millions, but tellingly the ridiculous initial charges were designed to prove that we can vaporize any critic without valid cause.

If you imprison the only powerful opposition leader, you erase any pretense of democracy- entirely unnecessary since the POR has achieved a total monopoly on power anyway- with iron control of the Rada, Courts, Election Commission, Security Ministries, Police, and TV networks.

But if the plan was to throw Ukraine's lot in with Russia, Tymoshenko and her party were serious roadblocks. Ukraine is fading fast as an issue that anyone in the EU cares about.

The window is slamming shut.

Ex-President Viktor Yushchenko's virulent hatred of Yulia and multiple betrayals directly led to Yanukovych's election, so exhausting the public with the feud that truly widespread protests against Ukraine's totalitarian backsliding are dubious.

The EU probably won't ratify the free trade and association agreements. The International Monetary Fund, World Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development probably won't dispense more money unless Ukraine jacks up subsidized gas prices (doubtful with coming 2012 parliamentary elections; the IMF mission just left again without any commitment).

Pressure on the hryvnia will prove irresistible very soon, with up to $55 billion of loan repayments due in the next year.

So after 20 years of fluctuating independence, it seems all roads again lead to Moscow, and Papa Putin is sitting pretty. He will save Ukraine.

Michael Hammerschlag is a freelance writer living in Kyiv.
The Kyiv Post is hosting comments to foster lively debate. Criticism is fine, but stick to the issues. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks will be removed from the site. If you think that a posted comment violates these standards, please flag it and alert us. We will take steps to block violators.
Anonymous Nov. 9, 2011, 10:07 p.m.    

Astounding stupidity Mr Hammerschlag stick to your day job

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Anonymous Nov. 9, 2011, 10:15 p.m.    

He sounds pretty much right on the money. He writes only what most intelligent people are thinking.

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Anonymous Nov. 9, 2011, 10:34 p.m.    

Anyone who writes Papa Putin can be expecting to be taken seriously.

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Anonymous Nov. 10, 2011, 4:38 a.m.    

Syntax, you need to pay some...

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Anonymous Nov. 10, 2011, 1:20 p.m.    

Who the fuck cares!

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Anonymous Nov. 10, 2011, 12:57 a.m.    

Answer above must have been from a member of the Lviv diaspora who can't seem to rationalize that Ukraine is a joke in the world.

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Anonymous Nov. 10, 2011, 4:29 a.m.    

Russia is a land of devil worshipers.

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Anonymous Nov. 10, 2011, 1:19 p.m.    

So don't go to or talk about Russia and Ukraine. You have no business there!

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Anonymous Nov. 10, 2011, 4:37 a.m.    

You are right! The diaspora and people of Lvov do not think Ukraine is a joke. Unfortunately, for now the joke is on Ukraine and the initials are POR. They do their best to make it a joke. Real Ukrainians are not laughing.

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Anonymous Nov. 10, 2011, 1:18 p.m.    

You are not a real Ukrainian, so mind your own business!

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Anonymous Nov. 10, 2011, 5:33 a.m.    

Really? Yes Ukraine is pathetic. But what about Greece right now? Or Italy with its spirally debt and a Prime minister who was involved in many sex scandals.

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Anonymous Nov. 9, 2011, 10:41 p.m.    

Saint Tymoshenko claimed gas contract was for 1 year,Putin stayed neutral in 2010 race meaning he expected good relations with Tymoshenko.Her job as prime minister was manage economy, she failed.

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Anonymous Nov. 10, 2011, 12:49 a.m.    

now utterly dependent on Russia, which could conceivably want to station troops on the pipelines

Read more:

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Anonymous Nov. 10, 2011, 12:51 a.m.    

ridiculous initial charges were designed to prove that we can vaporize any critic without valid cause.

Read more:

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Anonymous Nov. 10, 2011, 12:56 a.m.    

As uncomfortable as it is to admit to what Mr. Hammerschlag is saying...he's pretty much correct.

Ukraine tends to be its own worst enemy....mostly because of a lack of national self identification....and the willingness to betray that which should be paramount to any self respecting country.

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Anonymous Nov. 10, 2011, 2:31 a.m.    

You view of things Ukrainian is quite good, even prescient; your anti conservative comments and associated America bashing is gratuitous at best. There are enough problems for you nearby. Turn your considerable talents and attention to that, rather than side swipe a little revisionist anti American history. That part sounds more like the standard &quot;Moscow Line&quot; of commentary.

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Anonymous Nov. 10, 2011, 6:15 a.m.    

The last place one should go for information as to what is happening in Ukraine is to the Diaspora.

The East Village is alive and well. It is booming. Studio apartments are costing about $2000 per month. New construction is everywhere. A huge luxurious apartment building is being renovated and will literally overshadow the Ukrainian American community. New restaurants and businesses are replacing the decrepit Ukrainian ones. The Ukrainian American community is not taking part in any of this not for lack of capital but because of lack of imagination or will. It is being pushed out. It is sad to see old confused Ukrainian Americans wandering about in their old neighborhood which now sports upscale Italian and Tibetan restaurants, bistros, and boutiques. The Ukrainian American community is not even taking care of its own old people. It is pathetic.

The Ukrainian American credit unions here do not provide any comprehensive services to the Novoprybuli who come to this neighborhood looking for something. They are not even investing any substantial amounts of money into education without which the Ukrainian American community cannot survive.

Ukraine needs a sophisticated presence in New York City which is arguably the center of the world. That is the obligation of the Diaspora here in America. To constantly rant and rave about what is happening over there (as tragic as it is) and blame it on a dead horse is irresponsible. The first step of personal and political maturity is to analyze what is around you and to improve it. All politicals is local. Or think global but act locally. Build a local base. The Ukrainian Americans who are here still think that they are an intrinsic part of Ukraine. They still refer to the local Americans as foreigners and themselves as the true Ukrainians. They have developed what I call a юкі-kacap culture. (A юкі-kacap who lives in America refers to Americans as чужинці to remind himself where he is.) They have embedded this even in their American born children who know nothing about Ukraine.

If Ukrainian Americans squander (which they are doing) that presence in New York City they will leave a sad memory in Ukraine.

Dachas in suburban New Jersey or Connecticut (decorated with token pysankas made with ostrich eggs) no matter how plush or extravagant will not do the trick. The local Ukrainian American &quot;book store&quot; sells ostrich eggs for making pysankas.

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Anonymous Nov. 10, 2011, 6:25 a.m.    

This gibberish is not remotely connected to the article and Yanukovych rolling back democracy turning Ukraine into a police state.

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Anonymous Nov. 10, 2011, 10:15 a.m.    

That gibberish was written by a kremlinoid.

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Anonymous Nov. 10, 2011, 6:27 a.m.    

From Zik UA 08 November 2011:

Yanukovych wants to grab control over Supreme Court in typical raider scheme

Pres Yanukovych intends to sign the bill increasing the number of SC judges from 20 to 48 by Nov. 14, Ukrayinska Pravda reported Nov. 8.

The bill will substantially increase the authority of the SC, Yanukovych said Nov. 8, introducing a new interior minister.

The bill, if enacted, will stop mass appeals by Ukrainians to the European Court on Human Rights, Yanukovych believes. As of early 2011, the European Court has obliged Ukrainian authorities to pay out 487,000 euros in compensations to Ukrainians.

Earlier, presidential adviser Maryna Stavnychuk, the Association of Ukrainian Banks, the Udar party and some lawmakers have asked Yanukovych to veto the bill which, among other things, cancels mandatory open website registration of all the rulings by general jurisdiction courts.

By appointing his loyal judges to blow up the SC total strength will give Yanukovych a majority in the SC, the only independent court left in Ukraine. The SC still consists of the judges elected before Yanukovych came to power in 2010.

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Anonymous Nov. 10, 2011, 7:07 a.m.    

More b.s. Your thoughts are very imaginative and only serve to incite mass hysteria against who is possibly the best President the Ukraine has ever had.

There is no question that the Ukraine needs law and order after the failed and misguided policies of Ms Tymoshenko &amp; Mr Yuschenko.

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Anonymous Nov. 10, 2011, 9:11 p.m.    

Oh my gosh! How did you imagine all this crap! Yanukonvict the best president ever? Give mea break! puke! puke! puke!

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Anonymous Nov. 10, 2011, 8:02 a.m.    


“This barbwire means the pain of all Ukrainians”

“I made this shot as a symbol of the 20th century. I don’t want the barbwire or militia cordons to become the symbol of today. I want to live in this country. I don’t want the barbwire to hinder relationships between Ukrainians. It is strange to see that Communists today dream to bring back the state which caused so much pain to our people. I am not a nationalist, but I don’t understand the Communists either. They want to have a new fence again. Why? We are surrounded by a free world.”

PS This was written by a UKRAINIAN child.


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Anonymous Nov. 10, 2011, 9:02 a.m.    


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Anonymous Nov. 10, 2011, 1:16 p.m.    


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Anonymous Nov. 10, 2011, 5:03 p.m.    


This is interesting.....Though when Jews go around with posters of Nazis praising them for their Greatness then I can understand why Ukrainians would willingly parade around with &quot;ikonz&quot; of Genocidal Mass Murderers like Uncle Joe.......Does the word DUROK iLi DUREN ring a bell?

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Anonymous Nov. 10, 2011, 5:06 p.m.    

Cold war still going on? Like those stupid &quot;neo-cons&quot; and their masters in the u$a.........

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Mykhayl Nov. 19, 2011, 10:20 a.m.    

Democracy gets the government it deserves.

Who do you vote for?

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