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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Yanuslavia Scenario

Back to the UkrSSR: The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic's coat-of-arms (

So what exactly does Viktor Fyodorovych hope to accomplish? In 50 short days he’s managed to roll back nearly all the advances made in desovietization in the five years following the Orange Revolution. In 2004 Yanukovych saw the presidency slip from his grasp... he obviously took the charges of election rigging very personally. But the indications so far are that 2004 isn’t far back enough for Yanukovych. It looks like he wants to roll Ukraine all the way back to the USSR of the 1930s.

Eighty years ago, the Ukraine we know today was split among Poland and the Soviet Union. Today, Yanukovych’s words and actions are dividing the country along similar lines. He couldn’t care less for the western oblasts. His appointments to the “governor” posts in the western part of Ukraine are jokes. Yanukovych and his handlers knew full well the reaction Dmytro Tabachnyk’s ministerial appointment would elicit in the western regions. (Tabachnyk has repeatedly claimed that “galicians” are not even Ukrainian.) He is just one example. In terms of a range of humanitarian issues from language to history to media access, the big bully Yanukovych is repeatedly slapping western Ukrainian faces. And like the true coward a bully really is, he’s doing do so from afar. He has yet to visit the western part of Ukraine since his election. He has been to Russia twice.

Yanukovych was not elected president by a clear majority of Ukraine’s 36 million voters last February. He beat Yulia Tymoshenko by fewer than a million votes. Yet he is ruling in complete disregard to the regions of the country that did not support him. He has failed to become president of the entire country.

It seems that Yanukovych is borrowing a page from Vladimir Putin’s playbook on Ukraine. Recall Putin’s words to George Bush when the two were presidents: “You don't understand, George, that Ukraine is not even a state. What is Ukraine? Part of its territories is Eastern Europe, but the greater part is a gift from us.” Yanukovych’s presidential policies in his first 50 days suggest that he subscribes to Putin’s view of Ukraine that corresponds to the way Ukraine was divided by the Soviets and Poles in the 1930s. Heck, Yanukovych thinks the idea of building a Stalin monument should be put to a referendum!

The 1920’s saw a period of ukrainization and economic boom in the Soviet half of the country while the Poles persecuted Ukrainians in the West. Lenin’s nationality and economic policies initially allowed Ukraine to flourish until Stalin took the helm to take his “great leap forward.” By the 1930s, Ukrainians were dying by design and non-Ukrainians were “resettled” from Russia and Belarus to populate the depopulated areas with more pliable ethnographic material.

Of course the likes of Yanukovych – the son of immigrants from Belarus and Russia – will deny that Holodomor was genocide! Otherwise, they would be admitting that their ancestors came to Ukraine as a result of Stalin’s evil plan. It causes them psychological discomfort to acknowledge that the Soviet Union did anything wrong.

In the 1930s the mass murder of Ukrainians was accompanied by the killing of the country’s “spirit” in its priesthood and “mind” in its intelligentsia. That defined the “Soviet genocide in Ukraine” according to Raphael Lemkin, the man who coined the term genocide and the father of the United Nations’ convention on genocide.

In 2010, Yanukovych only supports and enjoys the support of the Kremlin-loyal Russian Orthodox Church while snubbing the Ukrainian churches. In terms of the pro-Ukrainian intelligentsia, Yanukovych won’t let them anywhere near the reigns of political power. The intelligentsia writes open letters of protest that fall on deaf ears... its members might as well be dead.

Yanukovych is doing everything possible to appease the Kremlin in its efforts to recreate the USSR, but he is only creating instability in Ukraine. With Ukraine’s independence in 1991, the Soviet dream has been dying a slow death for nearly two decades. It’s taking that long because change was doled out in evolutionary, peaceful doses. Yanukovych’s presidency is a frantic final stab at making the Soviet dream a reality. "If he is stopped now, Sovdepiya will die in a couple of years!"

Instability in Ukraine can result in protracted chaos or swift regime change. The worst-case scenario would make the break-up of the former Yugoslavia look like a schoolyard spat. God forbid. A bad-case scenario would see the Ukraine reorganize itself into a federation (another one of Tabachnyk’s dreams), with its constituent parts in the east and Crimea legally joining Moscow’s orbit (via Russia’s 2001 law on accepting new member states – or parts thereof - into the Russian Federation*). The best case scenario would be the quick and painless toppling of the Yanukovych regime before things get out of hand. And, like Orange in 2004, may it be more Gandhi than Guevara.

But those with an ear to the ground are hearing different songs in response to Yanukovych’s rendition of the Beatles’Back to the USSR” and it isn’t “Give peace a chance” any longer. This time around the prelude is the distinct chords of The Who’sWe won’t get fooled again”...

Gandhi or Guevara? Victor Yanukovych hasn’t been president for 100 days and the opposition is already calling for his ouster. Does the opposition have staying power, or will it fizzle out? Will the protests stay non-violent in the spirit of Gandhi? The next major one is scheduled for May 11.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Black Sea Fleet vote: Know thy heroes

Smile of betrayal. Valeriy Pysarenko, 30, one of 9 Tymoshenko MPs who voted to support extending Russian's Black Sea Fleet lease until 2042. The vote would not have passed if it weren't for turncoats like Pysarenko.(

Eggs, smoke bombs, sirens and fisticuffs were not enough to stop Ukraine’s parliament from making a mockery of the democratic process on April 27. Without any debate or discussion, the legislature ratified an agreement that will allow Russian military maintain a presence in Ukraine until 2042 and adopted the state budget for 2010. Video footage of the Rada circus was carried by media worldwide as the Kremlin scored yet another victory in Ukraine in the 50 days since Victor Yanukovych became president.

In his first weeks in office Yanukovych was praised for the speedy consolidation of power. When he quickly formed a cabinet of ministers and cobbled together a majority in parliament using le$$ than constitutional means, most observers looked the other way. They reasoned that anything was better than the chaos that resulted from the standoff between president and prime ministered that characterized Yushchenko’s presidency. They looked the other way when Yanukovych secured a constitutional court ruling using le$$ than constitutional means. All three branches of government – executive, legislative and judicial – were brought under the control of a single political party (like the good old days of the Soviet Union - Back to the U$$R!).

So it should have come as no surprise that Yanukovych found 234 votes in the 450-seat parliament to vote for extending the Russian Black Sea Fleet lease. But in Soviet times, the party members would actually show up to vote, even if the results were fixed beforehand. In post-Soviet Ukraine, MPs do not have to be physically present in parliament to vote: it’s enough for their “voting cards” to be in the right hands under the dome on Hrushevsky Street. For example, where was Regions MP Serhiy Holovaty when he voted to ratify the Black Sea Fleet agreement? In Strasbourg, France. Ukrainian democracy allows for elected officials to perform their duties virtually.

Ask a Ukrainian who represents their community in parliament and they won’t know, because the current Rada was elected according to a proportional, closed list system. There is no direct representation. All a voter saw on the ballot when he/she voted in 2007 were the first ten names of every party of electoral bloc. Ukrainians not only do not know who represents them, they don’t even know who they voted for. As a result, a bunch of no names responsible to nobody except their party boss, who bought their way onto their party list are in parliament. This is the worst Rada ever, making some of the worst decisions – ever.

But Ukrainians did not give any one party the carte blanche to rule the country in the last presidential or parliamentary elections. In fact, Ukrainians cast their votes for political forces who would never trade Crimea for lower natural gas prices or adopt a state budget without any debate. They voted for pro-Western forces such as the Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko and Our Ukraine Peoples’ Self-Defense. But wouldn’t you know it? MPs from these parties were instrumental in making sure Yanukovych’s Kremlin-appeasing initiatives were successful in Parliament: 9 MPs from Byut and 7 MPs from OUPSD. Their combined 16 votes pushed the necessary number over the minimum 226 mark. They joined forces with Yanukovych's Party of Regions, the Communists and the Rada Speaker's Lytvyn Bloc, who did not have enough votes on their own.

Their names are: Valentyn Zubov (Валентин Зубов), Volodymyr Ivanenko (Володимир Іваненко), Petro Kuzmenko (Петро Кузьменко), Oleh Malich (Олег Маліч), Sviatoslav Olynyk (Святослав Олійник), Valeriy Pysarenko (Валерій Писаренко), Ihor Savchenko (Ігор Савченко), Ivan Sidelnyk (Іван Сідельник) and Oleh Cherpitsky (Олег Черпіцький) from Byut and from OUPSD Yuri Boot (Юрій Бут), Serhiy Vasylenko (Сергій Василенко), Stanislav Dovhy (Станіслав Довгий), David Zhvania (Давид Жванія), Oleksandr Omelchenko (Олександр Омельченко), Ihor Palytsia (Ігор Палиця) and Volodymyr Poliachenko (Володимир Поляченко).

These are the names of people who betrayed the people who voted for their party. Voters can’t recall them even if they know their names. They can’t be replaced by their parties. They are immune from criminal prosecution. They don’t even have to be in the Rada to vote. Their terms in office won’t expire until 2012. They answer to nobody. Except to Yanukovych. And he answers to nobody. Except Putin.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Katyn: more than a movie

As Moscow continues to score victory after victory in the geopolitical space it considers its own (Kyrgyzstan, Crimea to name two) it is not surprising to see how easy the Kremlin was let off the hook in the wake of the recent Katyn commemorations and ensuing plane crash. No, I’m not saying the KGB-FSB actually took out the Polish president’s twenty-year-old Tupolev. That would be way too much and overtop.... even for Putin.

But for what did the media praise Russia in the wake of the 21st century Katyn disaster? Transparency? Speedy investigation? No. For broadcasting a movie about the 20th century Katyn massacre on Russian State TV. And not just once. Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda’s film “Katyn” was aired twice after Lech Kaczynski and 95 others perished. Wow. How utterly humane. By broadcasting the film twice in prime time, Russia has somehow atoned for the massacre seventy years ago and made everything wrong right again.

I recall the Ukrainian premier of Andrzej Wajda’s film Katyn in Kyiv in 2008. It was a year of breakthroughs in Ukraine. The country was only beginning to come to terms with the darkest pages of its Soviet past, including the Holodomor that took X million lives in 1932-33. After the screening of Katyn, I was surprised to see what a profound impact it had on the post-Soviet viewer, who either a) knew nothing about the Katyn massacre, or b) believed the Soviet propaganda line that the Nazis executed thousands of Polish officers in Katyn. (And Kharkiv too. For the massacre of 22,000+ Polish officers was not limited to the forest outside of Smolensk.)

Growing up in Toronto in the 1970s, I recall my father taking me to the Katyn memorial at the foot of Roncessvales Avenue overlooking Lake Ontario where Ukrainian Canadians joined our fellow Canadians of Polish descent in honouring the memories of victims of Communist war crimes. At the time, the Soviet Union maintained that the Poles were massacred by the Nazis.

In Canada, we knew the truth decades ago. It’s only coming out now in the former Soviet Union and it’s like pulling teeth. It takes crashing planes and dying presidents. But it’s is going to take a lot more than showing a movie on Russian State TV.

I remember coming away from Wajda’s “Katyn” feeling like I had seen the film somewhere before. The execution scenes evoked a response similar to Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” when Jesus of Nazareth is lashed forty times. Forty means forty, but Gibson’s forty were a little too much for some people. So too during Wajda’s film you may feel like screaming “Okay!!! I get the point!!!” as the executions go on and on and on... but that is perhaps the “victims’ right” in the artistic portrayal of horrendous injustice and mass murder – the survivors and descendants decide when enough is enough. There will never be too many films about the Holocaust. And they can never be shown often enough in Germany, Nazi or not.

Then I remembered where I had seen Wajda’s “Katyn” before. Or at least something so similar that it can’t be a coincidence. Did Wajda purposefully copy the execution scene? Then again, there are only so many ways to shoot thousands of people with conveyor belt efficiency.

The movie is a little-known film by fairly well-known Russian director Aleksandr Rogozhkin. He’s the director who made the popular “Peculiarities of National Hunt” and “Peculiarities of National Fishing” vodkafests in ’95 and ‘98. The hilarity of those films stands in stark contrast to Rogozhkin’s 1992 film “Chekist” that shows how the Bolsheviks actually established rule in Russia. As in “Katyn,” Soviet justice in “Chekist” is meted out summarily by pistols. Over and over and over again.

So the Kremlin does not have to turn to foreign films to tell true tales. But you won’t see “Chekist” shown on Russian State TV during prime time. That’s too bad, because Russian won’t change until “Chekist” is aired like “Katyn.” And both are shown over and over and over again...

"Chekist" (1992) - 2 minute preview

"Chekist" (1992) - 8 minute preview

Friday, April 16, 2010

New Guinea Anti-Tobacco Appeal

Letter to a Prime Minister

“Chauvinist, No-filter.” Anti-Tabachnik spoof cigarette pack reads “Tabachnik is dangerous to the moral health of Ukrainian citizens.” Education minister Tabachnik’s surname means “tobacconist” in Russian.

To: The Right Honourable Grand Chief
Sir Michael Somare
Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea
Pot Mosbi, Tok Pisin
New Guinea

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

Kindly disregard the racist reference to the Papuan people made on April 15 by the current Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine, Mr. Dmitri Tabachnik.*

His supremacist views are not shared by the Ukrainian people. In fact, Mr. Tabachnik, whose name stems from the Russian word for tobacco, is more Homo Sovieticus than anything. His derogatory views of aboriginals are based on a Soviet imperialist mindset, one that he propagates in Ukraine today.

Unfortunately, Mr. Tabachnik promotes discriminatory policies against indigenous peoples. In Ukraine he actively denigrates the native population by portraying the native language, culture and history as second rate while introducing apartheid-like policies that favour the language, culture and historical narrative of the former imperial power and nomenklatura class whose bloody rule took the lives of millions of our fellow countrymen last century.

For example, Mr. Tabachnik is undertaking the rewriting of history textbooks to replace the term “Second World War” with the Soviet-only phrase “Great Patriotic War.” In this way, he seeks not only to downplay the contribution countries like Canada made in the defeat of Nazi Germany, but the sacrifices the brave warriors of New Guinea and Papua made to defeat Japanese fascism. (Hold on a second, were the Japanese “fascists” too?). An “anti-tobacco” campaign has been launched in Ukraine to prevent this revisionism to the detriment of our and your people, but its success can only be ensured through our coordinated and consolidated efforts.

Declaring Mr. Tabachnik persona non grata in New Guinea will not do much as his travel is limited mostly to Moscow. Should he decide to come, please don’t be fooled by his claim of having a Ph. D. as purchasing one in Ukraine is easy as 1-2-3 without actually having to know your a-b-cs. You should also ensure extra protection for all your archives because Mr. Tabachnik has been known to have sticky fingers when he covets rare historical documents.

Mr. Prime Minister! Mr. Tabachnik and his ilk will not be in power forever in Ukraine. But if he decides to flee to your country please take note of his antipapuanism and xenophobia. They have no place in free and democratic countries!

Please be assured that the freedom-loving Ukrainian people support the freedom-loving Papuan people in all your efforts! We hope you will support the Anti-Tobacco movement in Ukraine!

Glory to Papua New Guinea! Glory to Your Heroes!

Steve Andreyowitz

Cc: US State Department, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

* In an interview with the UNIAN news agency on April 15, Tabachnik said that Ukraine is a “Papuan country” because 28 “central organs” of executive government have higher educational institutions in Ukraine. See A quick survey of Internet information on the education system of Papua New Guinea showed that there is nothing terribly wrong with that country's system.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Donetsk court fails to ruin Easter

Lawyer Vladimir "Putin" Olentsevych:
What country is he working for?
Hint: The flag in the background is not an Aquafresh ad

Another letter to the same president

To: Viktor Yanukovych
President of Ukraine
Street of Bank, 11
Kyiv, Ukraina

Highly Esteemed Viktor Fyodorovych!

I never knew you had kangaroos in Donetsk. I learned that about your courts on April 2. We were on the way to church for Holy Great Friday Vespers when the telegram arrived stating “Your grandfather is no longer Hero of Ukraine.”

“Ha-ha!” I thought, “this April Fool’s joke is a day late,” and went to church where I reflected on the way Pontius Pilate washed his hands and thought of you. I remembered your promise to the Kremlin to strip Hero status from my grandfather before Stalin’s Victory Day on May 9. And then I understood that like Pilate you weren’t actually going to repeal the Hero title yourself. You would have a court do your dirty work.

Honestly, I didn’t think you were going to go through with it, because that would make a mockery of the Ukrainian judicial system. You see, we’ve been down this legal road before. Last year, the Donetsk Administrative Court ruled on a case filed by lawyer Vladimir Olentsevych who challenged the Hero of Ukraine title bestowed on UPA Commander-in-Chief Roman Shukhevych.

Olentsevych claimed that his rights as a citizen were violated because Roman Shukhevych was never a citizen of Ukraine. According to law, only citizens of Ukraine can be awarded “Hero of Ukraine.” Olentsevych argued that: a) Ukraine came into being in 1991 and b) Shukhevych was killed in 1951, ergo he was not a citizen of Ukraine. On Feb. 12, 2009, the Donetsk Administrative Court ruled against Olentsevych: Shukhevych’s Hero of Ukraine award did not contravene Ukrainian law. Case closed.

Fast forward one year. Same court, same plaintiff, same claim as in the Shukhevych case, except the target is Bandera. This time around, however, Donetsk Administrative Court Judge Karine Eskenderivna Abdukadirova ruled that Bandera cannot be a “Hero of Ukraine” because he was never its citizen. So what changed in the last year? The law is the same, a legal precedent exists. What’s different this time around? It’s you Mr. President. A new president is in office.

In functioning democracies where Rule of Law has been more or less established, judges are typically not influenced by or dependent upon those holding executive branch office. Even those people who absolutely despise Bandera and would like to see him stripped of Hero status have cause for concern. Ukraine’s court system is subject to the whims of whoever holds political power. The judiciary is a dependent joke.

Following the logic of the Donetsk court ruling, you will have to “de-heroize” at least 15 Heroes who died before 1991, including poets Vasyl Stus and Volodymyr Ivasiuk. Then there are the brave men who died fighting the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster in 1986. And the Red Army heroes who liberated Auschwitz, accepted the capitulation of the Japanese and raised the Soviet flag atop the Reichstag in Berlin to mark the end of the Great Patriotic War. They, like Bandera, died before 1991.

Sixty three days! That’s how long Stepan Bandera lasted as Hero of Ukraine... Tell me, Mr. President, what is he now: Enemy of Ukraine? Anti-Hero of Ukraine? Regular guy of Ukraine?

O Great Yanukovych! I will abide by whatever you decide in your infinite wisdom. But I accepted the Hero of Ukraine award on behalf of our family from the hands of a president, and I will only give it back into the hands of a president. No crowds. Mono e mono. For my part, I promise: No eggs.

Mr. President! You tried to ruin Easter for our family, but you failed. For the same day your court in Donetsk ruled to strip Bandera of his Hero title, God bestowed the best gift possible to our family: the birth of Stepan Bandera’s fifth great grandchild. The KGB succeeded in killing his great grandfather. But try as you might, you will never stop the Banderas: Coming soon to a gene pool near you!

Glory to Ukraine! Glory to Her Children!

In prostration,
S.A. Bandera
Grandson of Hero of Ukraine

PS: I heard your spokeswoman Hanna Herman called me a “bad grandson.” That may be so. Because if I was a “good son” then I most certainly would have a job in the government like her son Mykola who was magically appointed the Deputy Minister for Emergency Situations.