Is Ukraine free?

Print version
Jan. 24, 2011, 4:17 p.m. | Op-ed — by Leigh Turner
Leigh Turner writes: Improvements in political rights and civil liberties are not always linear. Which is the most free country in the Commonwealth of Independent States? Can we say confidently that it is Ukraine? Or how about a new pretender to that crown – Moldova?

There are many ways to measure freedom, some more objective than others. As I noted in a recent blog on human rights, one can often get a feel for the degree of freedom in a country as soon as one arrives at the airport. But such impressions are inevitably subjective.

That makes the Freedom in the World 2011 Survey, produced by U.S.-based non-governmental organization Freedom House, an important document. The survey attempts to form an objective assessment, giving countries scores of between 1 (good) and 7 (bad) for political rights and civil liberties respectively, producing a potential top score of 2 and a potential bottom score of 14. It then groups countries into Free (scoring 2-5 points); Partly Free (6-10); and Not Free (11-14). In 2005 Ukraine became the first, and so far the only, CIS country which Freedom House classed as Free, with a score of 5 for the period 2005-10.

For 2011, Ukraine’s score slips by one point to 6, placing it in the “Partly Free” category, with the same score as Moldova. Moldova, meanwhile, is on an upward trajectory having seen its score rise from 8 in 2009 to 7 in 2010 and 6 in 2011. Freedom House explains the fall in Ukraine’s score by “deteriorating media freedom, secret service pressure on universities to keep students from participating in protests, government hostility toward opposition gatherings and foreign non-governmental organizations, and an increase in presidential influence over the judiciary.”

One may debate the methodology used by Freedom House. But the report is important for several reasons:

First, it is a reminder that improvements in political rights and civil liberties are not always linear. A super chart (above) prepared by my embassy colleagues shows how, for Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Moldova and the CIS as a whole, the Freedom House ratings have moved around, often significantly, since 1992. This is the political equivalent of “you’re only as good as the last hamburger you served.” In other words, countries that have achieved gains in freedoms must keep working ceaselessly to maintain them. This is true in Ukraine, the United Kingdom or anywhere else.

Second, Ukraine has only slipped one point in the rankings from 2010 to 2011, but this has taken it down a category from “Free” to “Partly Free.” The fact that Moldova now has the same score means that both can, in theory, argue that the Freedom House ratings show them to be the most democratic countries in the CIS. It will be fascinating to see who scores highest next year.

Third, whatever your opinion of the methodology, Ukraine’s descent into the “Partly Free” category will reinforce concerns about the development of democracy and freedom of speech. The fact that the country has slipped only one point shows that there is everything still to play for and – I hope – that Ukraine can restore its position in the “Free” category next year.

The challenge for the Ukrainian authorities now is to do everything they can restore Ukraine’s “Free” rating by demonstrating respect for political rights and civil liberties in the year ahead. If that means we are now going to see a fierce competition between Ukraine and Moldova for the title of “Most Free Country in the CIS,” so much the better.

Leigh Turner has been the British Ambassador to Ukraine since June 2008. You can read all his blog entries at (in English) or (Ukrainian)
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 Jan. 24, 2011, 5:19 p.m.    

of course, Moldova is ten only CIS state that is a parliamentary democracy. As long as Ukraine remains under Presidential authority of will never be a free independent state.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 24, 2011, 7:23 p.m.    

that is an interesting comment.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 25, 2011, 9:01 a.m.    

The Ukraine is as free as Femen's breasts. We have Bandera, who will save us by joining the Nazis.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 26, 2011, 12:16 p.m.    

&quot;&quot;The&quot; Ukraine&quot;? Not a very popular statement in &quot;Ukraine&quot;

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 26, 2011, 5:27 p.m.    

How can one be &quot;in&quot; the border? &quot;The Ukraine&quot; is the correct terminology. In Slavic languages, it's correct to say &quot;на украине&quot;.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 31, 2011, 8:23 a.m.    

Thank you for providing a forum for the following:

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 25, 2011, 4:25 p.m.    

Freedom house a &quot;NGO&quot; :-) It is financed in a major part by the US government. Among its presidents was Wolseley, ex-CIA director. Prominient members: Huntington, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Brzezinski.

Further, Leigh, how does it feel to be so hypocritical? Uneasy maybe? Where are your &quot;writings&quot; about freedom on the libel laws in the UK? Maybe have a tight-lipped comment on the uk hosting &quot;NGO's&quot; like

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 26, 2011, 12:19 p.m.    

Isn't hosting websites like a freedom of speech issue?

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 26, 2011, 2:48 p.m.    

Look at the website first before commenting. And the hypocritical UK invades Irak because it is a &quot;terrorist threat&quot;.

What a joke. Double standards big time.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 26, 2011, 10:42 p.m.    

What about a &quot;; in the US? Freedom of speech, you see.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 26, 2011, 5:58 p.m.    

It is an accurate observation that Ukraine is fundamentally participating in numerous CIS related meetings. We will pray that Ukraine never formally join this Russophope organization that Russia is using to try to restore the Russian USSR evil empire.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 25, 2011, 5:51 p.m.    

Mr. Leigh Turner is fundamentally wrong. Ukraine is not and has never been a member of the CIS.

The fact that the Ambassador of the UK to Ukraine is so ill informed is a fundamental embarrassment to the United Kingdom and its foreign policy office.

The Foreign Ministry should review their basic information about Ukraine.

Bohdan A Oryshkevich

Founder, USA/USA Program

New York City

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 27, 2011, 6:57 p.m.    

Mr. Leigh is fundamentally correct except for the part about Ukraine being in the CIS. This one error does not negate the overall truth and accuracy of the article. Ukraine has recently greatly increased active participation in the CIS meetings which is a big warning sign as the CIS is an instrument of Russian domination and imperialistic expansion.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 28, 2011, 12:33 a.m.    

Yanukovych: Ukraine benefits from CIS membership

Dec 27, 2010 at 12:19 | Interfax-Ukraine

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych believes that Ukraine should be taking active part in the joint activities of the Commonwealth of Independent States, as this complies with the country's national interests.

&quot;If we are present there (in the CIS), then we should act, and not sit back and do nothing, otherwise why should we be there be in this organization?

Read more:

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 25, 2011, 11:56 p.m.    

In Which country can YOU question THE HOLOCAUST without political persecution???? Now THAT is a litmus test for FREEDOM that few European &quot;countries&quot; or &quot;colonies&quot; (whichever way you want to interpret their occupation) can pass!

Just ask their &quot;political prisoners&quot; about &quot;freedom&quot;!

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 26, 2011, 1:19 a.m.    

You can ask intelligent questions about the Holocaust in every societt but there is a difference between asking a question ABOUT the holocaust and a question about whether there WAS a holocaust. People who's &quot;questions&quot; constitute a denial of the holocaust are rightly condemned along with those who question whether &quot;non-whites&quot; are really human.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 26, 2011, 4:30 a.m.    

&quot; Of the historians who showered us with purported testimony or confessions, I

had requested “one proof, just one proof” of the reality of a physical

extermination of Jews by Hitler or his associates. Then, going for better

precision, I let fly with “Show me or draw me a Nazi gas chamber!” Finally,

going to still greater lengths for precision, I invited, so to speak,

“Holocaust” researchers to go and visit the capital of “the Holocaust”, that is,

Auschwitz, and then, at the very heart of the camp, stand before the ruins of

the big crematorium II, which tell so much; I challenged them to find us the

least trace, on or beneath the roof of the alleged gas chamber, of what they

called holes and ducts for the pouring in of Zyklon B pellets. For my part, I

summed up my observation and its consequences in four words: “No holes, no

Holocaust!”. Well before that, I had, moreover, published the building plans of

that crematorium, plans which, along with a good number of other documents, I

had discovered on March 19, 1976 in the archives of the Auschwitz State Museum

and which had been kept hidden since the war. Those plans showed that the place

which, according to what we are told, housed a homicidal gas chamber contained

instead a simple depository, with the characteristic dimensions and layout for

the keeping of corpses awaiting cremation.

Towards the end of this year, a book to be published in France will amount to a

“laying of flowers and wreaths” on the grave of what the American Robert Arthur

Butz, in a masterly work published in 1976, already called The Hoax of the

Twentieth Century. And justice will thus be done to the memory of Maurice

Bard&amp;#232;che, Paul Rassinier, Louis-Ferdinand C&amp;#233;line and a cohort of men and women

who, the world over, have preferred accuracy to lies. In the first line I see

Ernst Z&amp;#252;ndel and Fred Leuchter. A hundred other real revisionists stand with


{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 27, 2011, 8:38 p.m.    

just show ONE photo of a gas chamber that gassed thousands of people every 1/2 hour and disposed of the bodies without trace! Is THAT asking too much? Don't need thousands of lying testomony or &quot;confessions&quot; under torture...just ONE PROOF will do! so....where is it?

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 26, 2011, 9:03 p.m.    

So if someone asks whether the earth is perfectly spherical, then that's OK, but if he asks whether it's spherical at all, then he should be jailed? If a question is crackpot, then why not avoid jailing the questioner, and expect no harm from it being asked because the public will recognize that it is crackpot? Half the comments made underneath Kyiv Post articles are crackpot, but they do no harm because everybody recognizes them for what they are.

Come to think of it, anyone advocating government power to sift through all communication to locate and punish impermissible statements is totalitarian--AND CRACKPOT!

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 26, 2011, 7:58 a.m.    

Your &quot;comment&quot; is unclear and unsupported. You will have to do better than that. I will give you a 3/10 = epic fail.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 26, 2011, 5 p.m.    

does that mean you can demonstrate how 10,000 people can be gassed and disposed of every 1/2 hour using these 1940s facilities and technology?

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 27, 2011, 12:46 p.m.    

&quot;[should be] condemned&quot; hardly means &quot;should be jailed.&quot; But there is an interesting question here: how should a society respond to acts of and incitments to racial hatred?

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 27, 2011, 8:34 p.m.    

is denial of Holodomor or Holocaust as acts of genocide an act or incitment to racial hatred?

how do YOU enforce LOVE? and punish HATE...if you seek divorce because you no longer love ...should YOU be jailed?

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 27, 2011, 4:47 p.m.    

Ummmm... Isn't this what the current administration in Ukraine is doing now?

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 26, 2011, 12:27 a.m.    

Confusing to make a small number signify lots of FREEDOM. This numerical score would be more correctly called a SLAVERY score--the bigger the number, the greater the enslavement. To make it function as a FREEDOM score, its creators have had to invert the ordinate in the graph.

This is a small point, I suppose, but it makes me question the competence of the creators of the ratings. Perhaps a more competent crew would have come up with quite a different picture.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 27, 2011, 11:58 a.m.    

The Ukraine is free, except for Bandera. He's our hero! He should be free to be president with the Nazis.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 28, 2011, 1:43 p.m.    

You are such a jerk, Stalin was an ally of Hitler for almost 2 years from 1939 to 1941 via the Non Agression Pact that those two killers signed. REMEMBER THAT

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 27, 2011, 9:28 p.m.    

Freedom is a state of mind you can have all the civil rights and still be a slave to drink,debt etc.I am not saying anything new read the bible or writings of Roman citizens true freedom comes from within.Maybe the ambassador should rephrase the question as how well does gov't uphold constitution and rule of law compared to other CIS states.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 31, 2011, 9:36 a.m.    

Maybe the ambassador should mind his pwn business and do his job.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 28, 2011, 1:45 p.m.    


{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 28, 2011, 5:53 p.m.    

A precise analysis. yes, the only period Ukraine really experieced freedom was during Yushenkos presidency. That quickly turned on a downward spiral as soon as Yanukovich took over, and it's getting worse!

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 28, 2011, 5:56 p.m.    

Freedom is a basic human right for all to enjoy. And the devil has taken it away from us!

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 29, 2011, 1:23 a.m.    

Where do you live? Disney Land...Fantasy Land?....or the land of

the sovoks

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 30, 2011, 9:40 p.m.    

No one on planet earth is free.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 31, 2011, 1:03 p.m.    

Freedom,democracy,diversity,diversity is strength,tolerance,new horizons,are all CIA,mossad new world order lies made to soften you up ukraine to get you to believe that nonslavic people are your equal then when they the NEW World Order think they have softened you up enough they will try to get you to accept a flood of nonwhite imigrants, blacks,brown,turks,arabs,indians,paki's,asian oriental people and the criminals will say ukraine its all in the name of freedom,human rights, diversity is strength,The criminal CIA,mossad, NWO will use the nonwhite nonslavic imigrants to destroy you ukraine from within. This is the same way the NWO criminals destroyed western europe, USA,canada,australia,new zealand. Stay slavic ukraine russia and you will be O.K.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 31, 2011, 9:02 p.m.    

Ukraine needs to be more free from the west and ukraine needs closer ties with russia. The west is controlled by the new world order.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Feb. 1, 2011, 2:48 a.m.    

Ukraine needs to free itself from the clutches of russia. Ukraine should work on building closer ties with the rest of Europe instead of wasting time/resources on aging russia.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Feb. 2, 2011, 5:50 p.m.    

Ukraine do not listen to the criminals from the west. Thanks to the NWO the west, EU, USA,other western countrys the west today no longer exist. This is why i laugh at the west when they talk about freedom and democracy. The west, EU, USA, is controlled by the NEW WORLD ORDER. There is no freedom in the west anymore. Stay slavic ukraine russia and you will be alright.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Feb. 2, 2011, 9:03 p.m.    

In a dictatorship there is no freedom and if you get rid of all those who question your authority you can say whatever you like.

It is sad to see that in Ukraine many will lose thier freedom and rights which are not for one man or party to take. History shows that it will end in violence and being 2011 it shows that we have learned nothing , so much for intellegence on earth.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Feb. 3, 2011, 4:42 p.m.    

What Mr Turner fails to mention is that Britain is not &quot;free&quot; either. We have closed circuit television cameras on every street corner, the police have a massive database of peoples' personal information, and data protection is completely flawed among both state and business. In addition to this there is very little freedom of speech. If you make any negative remark about issues such as immigration, the role of women in society, the status of marriage, abortion, sexuality, you are condemned for expressing an honest opinion.

Get your own house in order first Mr Turner! The lavish one in Podil paid for by people like me!

{# <-- parent id goes here


© 1995–2014 Public Media

Web links to Kyiv Post material are allowed provided that they contain a URL hyperlink to the material and a maximum 500-character extract of the story. Otherwise, all materials contained on this site are protected by copyright law and may not be reproduced without the prior written permission of Public Media at
All information of the Interfax-Ukraine news agency placed on this web site is designed for internal use only. Its reproduction or distribution in any form is prohibited without a written permission of Interfax-Ukraine.