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Ukrainian sovereignty withstands Medvedev

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May 20, 2010, 9:31 p.m. | Op-ed — by Stanislav Belkovsky

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Stanislav Belkovsky says that despite the pretty facade, the true relationship between Russia and Ukraine remains complex and antagonistic. The Ukrainian political elite were on the verge of a nervous breakdown on the eve of the visit of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on May 17-18. The most ardent advocates of unlimited rapprochement between Ukraine and Russia expected yet another “breakthrough” in this relationship, akin to the Kharkiv agreements made on April 21, which extended the term for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine until 2042.

Opposition of all colors tried to persuade the public that, during this “historic” visit, President Viktor Yanukovych would surrender Ukraine, renouncing a part of its territory (such as Tuzla Island and the Kerch-Yanikal channel), strategic industrial sectors (such as nuclear energy and plane building) and, of course, the main national treasure – the natural gas transport system, the famous “pipe.”

In the end, there was neither a breakthrough, nor surrender. Medvedev’s visit was ordinary and even boring. Its highlight was probably the fight between Yanukovych and a wreath in Kyiv’s Glory Park, which showed once again that the Ukrainian president, despite his impressive stature, is no Terminator capable of squeezing any opponent, but a fearful creature dreading any threat to his physical security.

Of all the documents signed by the presidents, only one – on the demarcation of borders – actually has some political meaning. It allows both nations to activate negotiations on a visa-free regime with the European Union, an important issue for the elites of Ukraine and Russia.

The rest of the agreements, including the one on a new navigational system, cooperation in the culture and education sectors, cooperation between Ukreximbank and Vneshtorgbank are part of a pleasant ritual, not real politics.

As far as I know, on the eve of the visit, the sides discussed cutting it down to a single day. But it was decided that shortening the visit would give the public the wrong signal. So they set up a Ukrainian-Russian economic forum on May 18, featuring the two presidents and the best and most talented oligarchs from both countries.

The forum brought no practical results, except one: It once again showed that the facade of the new Russian-Ukrainian relationship – in which FRIENDSHIP is in banner-sized letters – hides deep and sharp antagonisms, primarily in business and economy. They’re not likely to be resolved in the foreseeable future.

Medvedev’s visit once again proved that there will be no “sharp turn” of Ukraine to Russia, as predicted by various commentators after the “Kharkiv pact.” Ukraine will continue moving towards the European Union under Yanukovych.

It’s a completely different matter that this movement is doomed to be very slow. The EU does not want to embrace new members soon, especially after the Greek trouble, which might yet repeat in other countries of the euro zone.

Ukraine, with its retrograde economy and dual political worlds that read and interpret every signal in exactly the opposite way, can barely aspire for quick European integration. I am not even mentioning Russia here – Russia will never join the EU, and knows it very well.

So, despite the opposition’s warning, Yanukovych surrendered neither the gas pipeline, nor the nuclear industry, nor airplane construction. He never will. He needs them, too.

He had agreed to prolong the term of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea only because he knew that neither the U.S. nor Europe would mind. They know that this dilapidated fleet has neither military nor political significance. And the West is tired of being the arbiter in Russian-Ukrainian relations.

Medvedev’s “triumphant” visits to Kharkiv and Kyiv have drowned out a few remarkable moves by Yanukovych, such as his refusal to join the Russian-led customs union or strip [the late Ukrainian nationalists] Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych of their Hero of Ukraine awards. These stances are clearly not pro-Russian.

The logic of Ukraine-Russia relations is now shaped by two key factors.

One of them is international. The world truly became unipolar 20 years after the Soviet Union’s demise. The U.S. now dominates completely, not through the “export of democracy.” Rather, it establishes loyal regimes in different parts of the world and sets technological and consumer standards, as well as controls the world financial system.

In the framework of this global domination model, there is no particular difference between Russia and Ukraine, two large but peripheral states. Today’s Moscow is no less loyal to Washington than Kyiv is, and the superpower has no reasons to fear Russia. That’s why selling anti-Russian ideology is more difficult these days. Nobody will help you just because you’re against Russia. Yanukovych and his team know it and are acting based on this knowledge.

The second factor is internal for Ukraine, deriving from the fact that Ukraine has two political elites. One of them considers anything tied to Russia to be positive. The other one rejects it. Until this internal gap is bridged, there can be neither a national consensus about relations with Russia, nor a consistent policy related to Russia. The relationship will continue to develop along the “one-step-forward-two-steps-back” principle.

Also, Medvedev’s visit exposed the depth of the moral and psychological crisis of Ukraine’s opposition. Bluffing in politics is acceptable and habitual. But a bluff is only effective when it cannot be quickly and clearly disproved.

Of course, Ukraine’s opposition claimed right after the visit that the nation was not surrendered thanks to their preventive panic. But I imagine that even many critics of Yanukovych did not believe the opposition’s claims. Their accusations were made too crudely.

I think the official Ukrainian opposition needs a timeout to re-think and re-group. During this timeout, Yanukovych’s camp will make enough stupid mistakes, giving the opposition new ammunition.

No matter how hard Medvedev and Yanukovych demonstrate their friendship, on May 17-18 we once again saw that Ukraine and Russia are two different nations that will never reunite, at least not in the foreseeable future.


Stanislav Belkovsky is a Russian political analyst. He is a founder and director of the National Strategy Institute and of the communication company Politech.
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Anonymous May 20, 2010, 9:50 p.m.    

Stanislav Belkovsky is one of the Zionist criminals from the other Russia so called opposition. He doesn't know what he is talking about LOL

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Anonymous May 20, 2010, 11:03 p.m.    

Why do you call him a &quot;Zionist criminal&quot;? What crime did he commit?

Is your label of him as a &quot;Zionist&quot; supposed to be a &quot;bad thing&quot;?

Would you approve of this article if you knew he was anti-Zionist?

The only fault with this interesting article is that it does NOT discuss the 14 points...see:&quot;Medvedev gave 14 instructions to Putin concerning Ukraine&quot; elsewhere in this same issue of Kyiv Post.

In the future you will embarrass yourself if you try to be rational rather than presenting yourself as an ugly bigot.

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Anonymous May 20, 2010, 10:32 p.m.    

Sounds like he does to me. He also doesn't sink to insults.

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Anonymous May 21, 2010, 9:47 a.m.    

stop embarrassing yourself

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Anonymous May 21, 2010, 12:46 a.m.    

Guys. How about a rule? Anyone that resorts to personal insults frankly has nothing to say to defend their position, and their posting therefore doesn't justify a response.

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Anonymous May 22, 2010, 2:55 p.m.    

You're probably right but maybe sometimes it's good to question what they say and test the motive behind the insult.

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Anonymous May 21, 2010, 1 a.m.    

A Zionist is a fascist which supports racist laws and occupation against non Jewish race people. This kind of person doesn't have any right to speak of &quot;oppression&quot; concerning other nations. The communist with did 1917 &quot;revolution&quot; were these kind of people.

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Anonymous May 22, 2010, 5:53 p.m.    

I thought not.

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Anonymous May 21, 2010, 3 a.m.    

OK, so please be so kind as to offer a convincing argument to the contrary, based on facts......

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Anonymous May 21, 2010, 11:19 a.m.    

Remarkable Belkovsky! The most perceptive Russian analyst! And a brilliant talker! His few words on the Black Sea fleet are the only thing to say today face the ridiculous accusation of the hysterical Lady YOOOOOOOOOOO about betrayal!

Sorry for those who do not understand that!

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Anonymous May 21, 2010, 3:57 p.m.    

Fairly accurate as I see it playing out to be fair.

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Anonymous May 21, 2010, 7:35 p.m.    

&quot;Ukrainian sovereignty withstands Medvedev&quot;

Ukraine who ?

LOL :D

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Anonymous May 22, 2010, 8:56 a.m.    

Memorandum Regarding the

Visit to UCU of a representative of the

Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) (former KGB)

(responsible for contacts with Churches)

18 May 2009, office of the rector, 9:50-10:34

At 9:27 in the morning Fr. Borys Gudziak received a call on his private mobile phone from a representative of the Security Service of Ukraine requesting a meeting. The meeting was scheduled for 20 minutes later at the rectorate of UCU. This official had had contacts with the UCU rectorate a year ago at the time of the visit to the university of the then President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko. He had made a visit to the rectorate in the late afternoon on May 11 with regard to a request of the Ecumenical and Church History Institutes to sign an agreement to use the SBU archives. At that time members of the rectorate were away from the office. He had, what Dr. Antoine Arjakovsky, director of the Institute of Ecumenical Studies, called a “very good meeting.”

Upon arrival on May 18 in a polite manner the agent related that certain political parties are planning protests and demonstrations regarding the controversial (and in some cases inflammatory) policies of the new Ukrainian authorities. Students are to be engaged in these protests. There is a danger that some of these manifestations may be marred by provocations. He stated that, of course, students are allowed to protest but that they should be warned by the university administration that those involved in any illegal activities will be prosecuted. Illegal activities include not only violent acts but also, for example, pickets blocking access to the work place of government officials (or any protests that are not sanctioned by authorities).

After his oral presentation the agent put on the table between us an unfolded one-page letter that was addressed to me. He asked me to read the letter and then acknowledge with a signature my familiarity with its contents. He stated that after I had read and signed the letter it would be necessary for him to take the letter back. Since I could see that the document was properly addressed to me as rector (I also noticed that it had two signatures giving it a particularly official character) I replied calmly that any letter addressed to me becomes my property and should stay with me -- at least in copy form. Only under these conditions could I agree to even read the letter (much less sign).

The agent was evidently taken back by my response. It seemed that the situation for him was without precedent because in my presence using his mobile phone he called his (local) superiors to ask for instructions on how to proceed. The superior refused permission to leave me either the original letter or a copy, saying that the SBU fears I “might publish it in the internet.” I questioned this entire procedure and the need for secrecy and refused to look at the letter and read its contents. The young official was disappointed and somewhat confused but did not exert additional pressure and did not dispute my argumentation.

Our conversation also had a pastoral moment. I cautioned the agent of the fact that the SBU as the former KGB, with many employees remaining from the Soviet times, has a heavy legacy of breaking and crippling people physically and morally and that he as a young married person should be careful not to fall into any actions that would cause lasting damage to his own identity and shame his children and grandchildren. I sought to express this pastorally as a priest. To his credit he both acknowledged the past and declared his desire to serve the needs of Ukrainian citizens. He also asked that I indicate to him if I feel that he is exercising improper pressure.

Finally, I expressed my and the general population’s profound disappointment that the work of the SBU is so uneven, that security and police officers live lavishly on low salaries because they are involved in corrupt activities, and that the legal rights of citizens and equal application of the law are severely neglected. I gave the recent example of my cousin, Teodor Gudziak mayor of Vynnyky, who in February 2010 (three days after the election of the new president) was arrested in a fabricated case of bribery that was set up by a notoriously corrupt political rival and former policemen through the regional and city police. Despite the fact that two weeks before the fabricated affair the mayor, based on a vote of the town council, had given the SBU a video of plainclothes policemen breaking into his office and safe in city hall in the middle of the night and using town seals on various documents the SBU took no action. (The leadership of the Church, specifically Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, fears that by manipulated association this case may be used as a devise to compromise the rector of UCU and the whole institution which has a unique reputation of being free from corruption.) I also related that I had reliable testimony and audible evidence that my phone is tapped and has been for many months.

The population of Ukraine continues to fear and distrust both state security and police personnel because of the woeful track record of law enforcement and because of the diffuse practice of police intimidation of honest politicians, journalist, common citizens and the wonton extortion practiced by security institutions and police with respect to middle and small business. I asked the young agent to convey these concerns to his superiors. I had the impression that personally he is open to moral argument but that he also was simply doing his job. It was clear to me that he was dutifully “following orders.”

During our conversation the agent asked me about the imminent (May 20-22) General Assembly of the Federation of European Catholic Universities (FUCE) that will be hosted by UCU in Lviv. He characterized it as an important event (it has received considerable publicity) and asked about the program and whether it is open to the public. It was clear that he would have been interested in participating in the proceedings. I said that the main theme, “Humanization of society through the work of Catholic universities,” was announced in a press release as will be the outcome of the deliberations. The working sessions of the university rectors, however, are not open to the public. I explained that the 211 members of the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU) and the 45 members of FUCE follow closely the development of the only Catholic university in the former Soviet Union. They will be monitoring the welfare of UCU, especially since in Japan in March at the annual meeting of the Board of Consultors of IFCU I had the opportunity to describe some of our socio-political concerns and the threats to the freedom of intellectual discourse (imposition of Soviet historical views, rehabilitation of Stalin and Stalinism, to whom a new monument was unveiled in Zaporizhzhia 5 May 2010) and new censorship of the press and television that are incompatible with normal university life.

Subsequently, as had been arranged at the beginning of the meeting, I called in the UCU Senior Vice Rector Dr. Taras Dobko to whom the official repeated the SBU’s concerns.

Besides noting the SBU’s solicitude for stability in Ukrainian society there are a few conclusions to be drawn from the encounter and the proposals that were expressed:

1. Signing a document such as the letter that was presented for signature to me is tantamount to agreeing to cooperate (collaborate) with the SBU. The person signing in effect agrees with the contents of the letter and their implication. In KGB practice getting a signature on a document that was drafted and kept by the KGB was a primary method of recruiting secret collaborators.

2. Such methods have no known (to me) precedent in independent Ukraine in the experience of UCU and of the Lviv National University whose longtime rector (and former Minister of Education, 2008–10) Ivan Vakarchuk I consulted immediately after the meeting. These methods were well known in the Soviet times.

3. The confiscation of the letter after signature makes the letter and signature instruments to be used at the complete discretion of the SBU

4. The possible scenarios for the exploitation of such a document include the following:

a.) In case of the arrest of a student the SBU could confront the rectorate and charge that the university was informed of the danger to students and did not take necessary measures to protect them from violence or legal harm. In this case the university administration could be charged with both moral and legal responsibility. A charge with legal ramifications could become an instrument to try to force the university to compromise on some important principle (freedom of expression, forms of social engagement and critique, even religious practice, all of which have precedent in recent history). Furthermore, the authorities could use such a pretext to exert a high degree of pressure on the university to curb any and all protest by students.

b.) After a hypothetical arrest of a student or students the students and their parents as well as other members of the university community could be shown the document with which the administration was warned and counseled to curb student activities. Since the administration did not stop the students from the activities that became the pretext for the arrest, parents or others could draw the conclusion that the university does not have adequate concern for the welfare of its students. This would be a most effective way of dividing the university community and undermining the university’s reputation among its most important constituents–students.

5. The apparent genuine surprise of the agent at my refusal to do as requested could mean that he is not used to such a reaction. He had explained to me that he works with clergy on a regular basis. It could be assumed that other clergy (who work with youth, students, etc.) have been approached and that they have not refused to sign such documents.

6. Measures of this nature create apprehension and unease. They are meant to intimidate university administrations and students. They are part of a whole pattern of practice that is well known to the Ukrainian population. The revival of such practices is a conscious attempt to revive the methods of the Soviet totalitarian past and to re-instill fear in a society that was only beginning to feel its freedom.

7. Since only two of the approximately 170 universities of Ukraine have been voicing there protest regarding recent political and educational developments and many rectors have been marshaled/pressured to express their support regarding the turn of events, it is clear that in recent months fear and accommodation are returning to higher education at a rapid pace. It can be expected that UCU will be subject to particular attention and possible pressure in the coming months. The solidarity of the international community, especially the academic world, will be important in helping UCU maintain a position of principle regarding intellectual and social freedom.

8. Speaking and writing openly about these issues is the most peaceful and effective manner of counteracting efforts to secretly control and intimidate students and citizens. As was apparent during this incident, state authorities are particularly sensitive about publicity regarding their activity. Information can have a preemptory, corrective and curing role when it comes to planned actions to circumscribe civic freedom, democracy, and the basic dignity of human beings.

It should be noted that on 11 May 2010, when Ukrainian students were organizing protest activity in Lviv as well as Kyiv, a representative of the office of Ihor Derzhko, the Deputy Head of the Lviv Regional Administration responsible for humanitarian affairs called the rectorate and asked for statistics on the number of students participating in the demonstrations. UCU's response was that the uniersity does not know how to count in that way.

Please keep UCU and all the students and citizens of Ukraine in your thoughts and prayers.

Fr. Borys Gudziak

Rector, Ukrainian Catholic University

19 May 2010

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Anonymous May 23, 2010, 1:36 a.m.    

&gt; Ihor Gawdiak has drawn my attention to the fact that the date of Dr. Borys Gudziak's memorandum should read 18 May 2010. The visit of the Secret Service took place only a few days ago.

&gt;

&gt; A colleague from Kyiv informs me that similar visits of the Security Service are taking place in various educational institutions throughout Ukraine and that many Principals / Rectors are signing the letter as requested by the SBU.

&gt;

&gt; I agree wholeheartedly with Alexander Motyl that the AAUS and the Canadian AUS should express their concern asap. I also suggest that we disseminate this letter (with the corrected date) as widely as possible, and request that Fr. Gudziak send a Ukrainian version of the report, so that it can be sent to websites in Ukraine (including Maidan, Human Rights Organizations) and professional lists.

&gt;

&gt; Best wishes,

&gt;

&gt; Natalia Pylypiuk

&gt;

&gt; Ukrainian Culture, Language &amp; Literature Program

&gt;

&gt; Modern Languages &amp; Cultural Studies

&gt; University of Alberta

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Gene Nelson May 22, 2010, 10:29 p.m.    

I can't find much to criticize the writer, but do believe he is a little naive.

I believe Yanu thinks he can control Ukraine much like Kuchma did, but I sense he will fail much like Lukashenko in Belarus did.

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Anonymous May 23, 2010, 12:17 a.m.    

Well if he 'fails' as well as Lukashenka has done in Belarus, then I fear for the country and its people.

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Anonymous May 23, 2010, 12:15 a.m.    

Wouldn't the best scenario be Azarov de-frocking the oligarchs, and then Azarov himself going, followed by the 2012 parliamentary elections? Followed by a parliamentary democracy. Maybe too much to hope for.

Anyway Putin was able to cement his power with the United Russia party and its mantra of 'support President Putin'. I can't see something similar being accomplished here, particularly as the Party of Regions would more appropriately be called 'Divided Ukraine' and would never get more than 35% in a parliamentary election.

Just thoughts.

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