The annual Ukrainian best & worst list

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Dec. 28, 2011, 6:34 p.m. | Op-ed — by Oksana Bashuk Hepburn

Oksana Bashuk Hepburn

Oksana Bashuk Hepburn, a former Canadian government executive, is a founding member of the Canadian Group for Democracy in Ukraine.

Almost everyone has favorite lists this time of year -- best movies, books, persons. For the ninth year, here is my list of the best and worst issues, events and people who have had a profound impact on the global Ukrainian community. BEST

1. Former Prime Minister and key political opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, for her fighting spirit during her “show trial.” She condemned presidential interference and the corruption of the judicial process, thereby drawing a line between Ukraine’s present governance and where it needs to be as a full-fledged member of the democratic community.

2. Ukraine’s journalists, for tenacious pursuit of independence despite the fact that 60 have died for the cause of truth since Ukraine’s independence.

3. Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for a tough message to President Viktor Yanukovych, a letter in which Harper asked him to stand firm on his “commitment to democracy” and warning of “negative impacts” stemming from the politically motivated trial of Yulia Tymoshenko.

4. Canada’s House of Commons, for their commitment to keeping Ukraine in the democratic community by having a Special Debate on the erosion of democracy in Ukraine.

5. The European Council and Ukraine, for finalizing the association agreement, coupled with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy’s strong signal: He said that the “politically-motivated justice in Ukraine,” in particular the Tymoshenko case resolution, “will be a litmus test” for ratification.

6. Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Churchmfor urging Ukrainians to build a “Ukrainian world” in their homeland in response to the call by Kirill, patriarch of the Moscow Orthodox Church, to Russophiles around the globe, and particularly in Ukraine, to build “one Russian world.”

7. Canadians, like Jonathan Kay of the National Post, for criticizing the Canadian Museum of Human Rights’ of selective treatment of genocides. The museum position sends the message that the exposure of Nazi crimes against humanity is of greater value than exposing genocides perpetrated by Communist and other murderous dictatorial regimes.

8. Ukraine’s institutions and citizens, for respecting their constitution, among them the head of Front for Change Party, Arseniy Yatseniuk, who condemned the Party of Regions’ parliamentarians for seditious remarks and said those who hate Ukraine and do not consider it their country (numerous oligarchs) should forfeit Ukrainian passports and go live elsewhere.

9. Ukraine's Constitutional Court, for banning the use of the Soviet Red Army flag as an official state symbol.

10. Generous donors like Peter and Doris Kule, Erast Hutsulak, Ian Ihnatowycz, Maria Fischer-Slysch, James Temerty, the Stasiuk and the Wrzesnewskyj families, Petro Jacyk Endowment Fund, for supporting issues and institutions valuable to the global Ukrainian community.

11. The some 60 Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church youth from Canada who were among 2 million participants in the World Youth Day held in Barcelona for raising their Canadian, Ukrainian and youth day flags higher than any other hailing their commitment around the globe.


1. Ukraine’s political leaders, for failing to learn and apply the sine qua non of democracy: the separation of powers of parliament, the executive (administration) and the judiciary thus putting Ukraine at the top of the world’s corruption scale and losing its formerly high ”free” rating.

2. European thinkers and leaders (except Poland), for locking into the ‘old think’ regarding Ukraine and failing, for the last 20 years, to incorporate it into the European community, a mistake made after World War I and again after World War II ith disastrous consequences for Ukraine, Europe and the world.

3. President Viktor Yanukovych and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, for entering into agreements favouring Russia’s interests rather than Ukraine’s, specifically the Kharkiv Accords allowing Russia’s Black Sea Fleet prolonged usage of Ukraine’s space; the creation of Ukroboronprom to facilitate defense integration with Russia; and the free trade agreement aimed at Russia’s dominance of Ukraine’s economic sector.

4. Once again, Yanukovych, for failing to understand the negative implications of the Tymoshenko show trial to his governance and to Ukraine.

5. Former President Viktor Yushchenko, for squashing compatriots like Tymoshenko, being soft on Russia; claiming that he “must run” again in the next presidential election; and otherwise transforming himself from favorite son into a Judas Iscariot.

6. Judge Rodion Kireyev, for discrediting Ukraine’s judiciary via his verdicts in the Tymoshenko trial.

7. Women’s organizations in the diaspora and in Ukraine, for failing to support one of their own -- Tymoshenko. Their inaction on many aspects of this issue, including their silence after she demanded Azarov speak Ukrainian in court, is inexcusable in view of their commitment to Ukrainian as the country’s official language.

8. Ukraine’s Communist Party leaders, including comrades Petro Symonenko and Natalia Vitrenko, for saying the Holodomor, the famine orchestrated by the Soviet Communist Party, is history and no longer important, and Israel’s President Shimon Peres, for lecturing Ukrainians to forget their history, Holodomor included, motivated, perhaps, by the desire to protect Lazar Kaganovich, also a Jew, and a key architect of the genocide.

9. The Canadian Museum of Human Rights Board of Trustees, for selectively highlighting the Nazi genocide and under representing the equally brutal crimes of Communist and other dictatorial regimes thus undermining Canada’s law on equal treatment, and government policy on Holodomor, and tarnishing Canada’ role as a global human rights leader.

10. Signatories of the International Scholars Open Letter -- for falling into the same intellectual trap as the museum: selective focus on Nazi crimes against humanity while under-exposing Communist atrocities.

11. Ukrainian politicians, dignitaries and representatives, for failing to speak Ukrainian in international forums, including Ukraine’s representative and runner-up to the Miss Universe contest.

Oksana Bashuk Hepburn, former president of U*CAN Ukraine Canada Relations Inc. and senior policy adviser with the government of Canada, comments on Ukraine’s progress in democracy.
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