Valeriy Kucheruk on Ukraine

During the last couple of months Ukraine has seen an abrupt invocation of pro-Russian political projects. The reason for that is plain – the Ukrainian authorities, which were considered to be orientated exceptionally towards Russia in the public consciousness, had a sudden change of direction towards integration into Europe. Today, on the threshold of the Vilnius Summit of the Eastern Partnership, a paradoxical sight can be spotted in Ukraine’s information environment: yesterday’s opponents from the authorities and the opposition compete with each other in the best reasoning in favor of the EU Association Agreement, whose signing is scheduled in Vilnius.

It must be admitted, though: a part of Ukrainian society still has a demand for the pro-Russian vector of development. That is why it is natural that the political engineers from previously marginal political projects did not fail to use the geopolitical orientation of the pro-government Party of Regions.

There are three of such projects in Ukraine.

1. The non-government organization Ukrainian Choice. It is directed by the former Head of President Leonid Kuchma’s Administration Viktor Medvedchuk, who is also a father of Vladimir Putin’s goddaughter. Ukrainian Choice has been leading a so called enlightening activity to describe advantages of the Customs Union and to blackening the EU values for a long time. This activity consists of intensive advertising and media work, however, as many Ukrainian experts believe, it being extremely ineffective. The reason is an utterly high negative personal rating of Mr Medvedchuk, which he obtained in his previous job and while counteracting the Orange Revolution. Nevertheless, Putin has until recently used any opportunity to emphasize his favorable disposition to Mr Medvedchuk, in particular, during his visits to Ukraine, he spent much more time in conversations with him than with the incumbent President.

2. The Communist Party of Ukraine. It has traditionally used pro-Russian messages in its campaigns; however, by virtue of the peculiarities of its ideology, its progress was gradually reducing every year. Lately, the Party received significant financing from unknown sources, carried on a relatively successful election campaign and, in spite of the negation predictions of political scientists, entered the parliament again. The change of the vector by the Ukrainian leadership in the direction of European integration gave the communists an occasion to intensify their activity on the “pro-Russian front”. The communists initiated the holding of the all-people referendum “For the Customs Union”; however, not a long time ago the Central Election Committee had prohibited its holding – due to the legal violations in the procedure of filing the documents. Nevertheless, the communists are intending to further insist on the holding of the referendum “notwithstanding”. I think it needs no explanations that the endeavor in its core is merely quite a powerful technology to increase their electoral indicators.

3. Ihor Markov’s Motherland (Rodina) Party. In my opinion, it is the most dangerous pro-Russian project. Mr Markov, previously notorious for being a marginal pro-Russian chauvinist, according to the reports in many mass media is a former underworld leader, was elected into the parliament in one of the majority constituencies in the South of Ukraine. In the Parliament, in spite of having his own party, he joined the composition of the pro-government Party of Regions. At some stage Mr Markov started experiencing trouble of exceptionally business and criminal nature with other deputies loyal to the government in the same constituency. The confrontation resulted in Mr Markov’s opponents initiating a proposal to unseat this member of the parliament, which has recently been well accomplished. But Ihor Markov managed to use the repercussion of the story for his benefit. In spite of the obviously criminal nature of the disagreements with his opponents, he publicly stated that he had been persecuted for his pro-Russian views and unwillingness to vote for the laws, needed for the successful signing of the Agreement with the EU. Moreover, he held several press conferences and gave a lot of interviews with harsh critics of the Party of Regions, accusing it, among other things, of the betrayal of Ukrainian voters, having pro-Russian sentiments. It must be stated that, despite external lack of the proper organization structure and financial capacities, Mr Markov presents the most promising target for investment on the part of Vladimir Putin, who, evidently, cannot resist the temptation to have his own candidate in the upcoming presidential elections in Ukraine.

For Ukrainian people and, as a matter of fact, Europeans, the positive side of the situation seems to be the dissociation and common rivalry of the pro-Russian “fifth columns”. However, if urgent measures are not taken to neutralize those movements, the European vector of Ukraine may be again haunted by the ghost of the Russian “older brother”.

 

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