Tymoshenko verdict reveals thuggish behavior

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Oct. 12, 2011, 11:50 a.m. | Op-ed — by Askold S. Lozynskyj

Ukrainian riot police officers block supporters of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko outside the Pecherskiy District Court in Kyiv on Oct. 11.
© AP

Askold S. Lozynskyj

Askold S. Lozynskyj is a past president of the Ukrainian World Congress.

The conviction and sentencing of Yulia Tymoshenko represents Viktor Yanukovych’s Rubicon. Despite both strong admonishment and gentle prodding from the international community, Yanukovych arrogantly flaunted his power and did the wrong thing. True, he said he would during his independence speech. Still hope remained eternal at least until the verdict. The judge who rendered the verdict and passed sentence was merely an agent, and primitive at that. There was no “prima facie” criminality on Tymoshenko’s part. The criminal complaint itself was defective in that regard so the judge took it upon himself to prove abuse of power by then Prime Minister Tymoshenko which resulted in financial damage to the Ukrainian state from the 2009 gas accord between Ukraine and Russia.

The financial facts belie the verdict. True the price of gas increased but the quota decreased dramatically and the corrupt intermediary was cut off. Ukraine lessened its dependency on Russian gas, substantially lowering the mandatory purchase quota and thus decreased its gas expense. This financial benefit was reported by Ernst & Young. The judge ignored the expert conclusion and disingenuously attributed the lesser expenses to energy conservation.

The facts of the criminal case in any event were irrelevant to the verdict. This was a political exercise by Yanukovych to rid himself of political opposition. But now that Yanukovych has revealed his hand entirely there should be consequences. Refusing to heed the international community, Yanukovych must be deemed a pariah.

The Ukrainian diaspora can and should play a prominent role in this regard utilizing many and varied approaches. Anti-Yanukovych demonstrations, letters to international institutions as well as governments have been going on for some time. Some are exhausting all possible avenues by engaging the regime in a dialogue while criticizing its activities. Others have been more critical organizing demonstrations, yet continuing to engage representatives of the regime in worthwhile pro-Ukrainian exercises, jointly sponsoring independence activities, inviting representatives to meaningful events. Still others have taken a position of a total boycott of this criminal regime. Because the diaspora is pluralistic all approaches are considered acceptable and more or less effective. But now engagement seems futile.

Full pressure on Yanukovych seems to me the most effective option since that is the only language he understands. This approach has to include addressing all aspects of the political spectrum including but not limited to withholding ratification of association with the European Union, reconsidering Ukraine chairing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2013 and so on.

Additionally, Yanukovych’s representatives have to be compelled to take sides. Government personnel and even diplomats need to search their conscience. Honorary consulsof Ukraine should be the first to condemn the Tymoshenko verdict. Ministers, legislators, ambassadors, consul generals, consuls even first, second and third secretaries should do likewise. Otherwise they should be shunned.

Pressure should not be limited to withholding contact with the Ukrainian diaspora community. Non-Ukrainian political leaders from both executive and legislative branches, business leaders and investors should be urged to shun those who stand in support of Yanukovich or are deemed to do so by their silence. Naturally, principles will often give way to opportunism. Nevertheless, the effort must continue.

It is important to note that in anticipation of the verdict Yanukovych and his agents have performed a great deal of preparatory work. The local elections of last year in Ukraine enabled him to form a network of lackeys throughout the country. Recently, the convocation of the Diaspora at the V Forum was a partially successful implementation by Yanukovych to influence and control the diaspora, i.e. the V Forum passed a resolution demanding the immediate release of Tymoshenko, former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko and other opposition leaders. Yet Yanukovych’s agents at the Forum, Pavlo Movchan who chaired the resolutions commission, and, yes, Mykhaylo Ratushny, the current head of the Ukrainian World Coordinating Council unabashedly managed to delete the reference and then published the sanitized version on the UWCC website.

So the task is difficult, but at least the goal should be much clearer now that Yanukovych has exhausted every possible chance at rehabilitation and eliminated any doubt about his intentions. Even those insisting on dialogue will have to take stock of their own efficacy. It is no longer enough to talk of changing Yanukovych’s policies, dismissing Minister of Education Dmytro Tabachnyk or recognizing that the Holodomor was a genocide of the Ukrainian people.

The simple solution is that Yanukovych must be unseated, impeached, forced to resign or call a new presidential election imminently. The methods must in all respects remain democratic, including civil disobedience, a renewed Ukrainian revolution with the support of the global community. There is no other way. Ukrainians have some experience in fighting commissars, who more often than not, were simply thugs. This president is no more than that.

Askold S. Lozynskyj was executive vice president from 1990-1992 and president from 1992-2000 of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America.
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