In Dmitriy Kovalevich, Ukraine, Ukraine Updates

Woman begs for money as people pass by, with the air temperature at about minus 13 degrees Celsius, in Kiev Photo: Reuters

Our regular monthly news roundup from Ukraine, written exclusively for the NCW website, covers events during January 2019 including far right marches, the news that 2019 would be ‘Stepan Bandera Year,’ a move criticized by Israel, the unveiling of a bas-relief in honour of anti-semite and Ukrainian nationalist Symon Petliura, preparations for the upcoming presidential elections, the case of the overthrown president Victor Yanukovich, extortionate gas prices resulting in huge debts and even people dying from the cold, and migration.

By Dmitry Kovalevich
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In Ukraine, the beginning of the year was marked with an official celebration on January 1st of the leader of Ukrainian WW2 fascists and German Nazi ally, Stepan Bandera. Although Ukrainian nationalists used to organize torch-lit marches on the preceding day, this year it became an official holiday [1], celebrated by the government.

While thousands of Ukraine’s far-right marched through Kiev [2] and other cities; predictably, the fascist march was underreported by western media. The Ukrainian city of Lviv, which is S. Bandera’s home city, also announced this month that 2019 would be ‘Stepan Bandera Year,’ in a move criticized by Israel, since Bandera’s fascists were involved in the Holocaust. Nevertheless, this criticism didn’t prevent Ukraine’s president from visiting Israel later this month and his signing of a free-trade agreement [3]. During his visit, Poroshenko also asked the Israeli government to help him in his conflict with Russia. Poroshenko’s blatant hypocrisy was also made clear by the fact that on the very same day, January 21, a bas-relief was unveiled in Kiev honouring the Ukrainian nationalist Symon Petliura [4], whose troops had launched mass pogroms in 1919-1920, against Ukrainian Jews.

“It was hypocritical that just as Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko was in Jerusalem, at the Wailing Wall, a memorial plaque was being unveiled in Kiev for Symon Petliura. “The very man, under whose leadership numerous pogroms were carried out in 1919, and who debased himself and the movement he led back then in Ukraine, with the blood of peaceful citizens, mainly Jews. And this is not double standards, but an absence of standards, which is commonplace and a common characteristic of today’s situation in Ukraine,” so said the head of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FJCR), Aaron Gurevich, while commenting on the visit [5].

Meanwhile, Ukraine continues to make preparations for the upcoming presidential elections, scheduled for March 31. An unprecedented decision of Central Electoral Committee rejected [6] the right to vote for millions of Ukrainians who had migrated to Russia (approximately 3.5 million). This is an outright violation of their rights and a clear example of discrimination. Furthermore, the Central Electoral Committee has no constitutional right or authority to disfranchise anybody. However, the Kiev authorities realize that Ukrainians, based or working in Russia, are less loyal to the current government.

Another unprecedented move was the registering of an outright neo-Nazi organization, the National Corps (the civil wing of the Azov regiment, recruited from neo-Nazis), as observers [7] of the presidential elections. At the same time Kiev refused to register Russian observers from OSCE [8].

At the same time, as reported [9] by Ukraine’s police on January 28th, there will be some 850 international observers during the presidential elections and most of them – from Canada and USA. But who will most of the western observers be? It turns out that they are people who are far from being unbiased.

As stated [10], the director on communication for the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA) Andrei Dobryanski, they are the only US organization registered to be observers from the USA in Ukraine. What kind of organization is it? UCCA mainly consists of far-right Ukrainian nationalists. “In 1980 the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America was taken over by the OUN (B)”[11], as states the Ukrainian encyclopaedia. This is an organization of Ukrainian fascists, which supported German Nazis at the time of WW2, and later was used by the CIA during the Cold War[12].

As UCCA states, it “remains the only community organization that has sent a delegation of election observers to every Ukrainian presidential and parliamentary election, the largest consisting of over 2,500 observers during the historic 2004 Orange Revolution,” while its activity is actually focused on praising the leaders of Ukrainian fascists and anti-Semites.

In fact, UCCA “co-produced feature films on the lives of Stepan Bandera (1995), General Roman Shukhevych (2000), and Symon Petliura (2018)”[13]. All these personalities were the organizers of pogroms or involved in the Holocaust.

Given that far-right nationalist organizations like UCCA will be the only observers from the USA and Canada, we can only expect their opinions to be deeply biased. But eventually the US government and the rest of ‘international community’ will judge and base their reports on democratic standards and norms.

This actually reveals a plan that will give only the loyal (pro-Maidan) section of the society the right to elect the president or government, in order to perpetuate the current pro-NATO and anti-Russian course, as well as neoliberal reforms.

To legitimize the rule of the Maidan coalition, in January the Ukrainian court finished hearings on the case of the overthrown president Victor Yanukovich. Hearings that lasted 18 months and shortly before the new elections – on January 24 – the court recognized [14]the former president guilty of treason, sentencing him in absentiato 13 years in jail (he fled to Russia and beyond the reach of the Kiev authorities). The only proof of ‘guilt’ was an alleged letter from 2014 where he asked Russia for help to restore order. Although, Yanukovich denied that he had written the letter (the court only dealt with a copy).

The farcical court show and electoral tour of president Poroshenko around Ukraine, with clerics blessing him, should distract the Ukrainian population from their main problems – high prices, low salaries and mass indebtedness. Following the recent rise in gas prices at the demand of the IMF, Ukrainian households have begun to accumulate enormous debts, as most people are unable to pay for their gas, the price of which exceeds their monthly salary. For instance, my father, a 73 year old pensioner with mobility problems, received a gas bill for $320 last month, while his monthly pension is just $125. Definitely, the current cost of gas prices will lead many to freeze. Just today, on January 25, the Ukrainian media has reported the death of a 92 y.o. WW2 veteran – he froze to death in his apartment. The gas supply, as reported [15]in the Ukrainian media, was cut at the house but not because of the veteran’s debts but because of his neighbours’ debts.

However, we cannot look forward to mass protests, because the core part of Ukrainian labour force has already emigrated from the country. The remaining pensioners and children survive largely due to money transfers from their relatives working in other countries. Emigration is even officially promoted by the authorities, as they are trying to diffuse the situation. Furthermore, this policy is also promoted by numbers of ‘pro-European’ NGOs – the EU requires cheap labour and strike-breakers from other countries, to lower EU workers’ wages and social standards within neoliberal reforms.

When they complain about their standard of living, Ukrainian workers increasingly hear a single argument: “Move to Poland!’, “Move to Russia!”, Move to Germany!”, “Move anywhere!”

Currently, some 7.5 million Ukrainians have left the country in the search for jobs, and they are the most productive and active part of the population. Their absence makes the society more governable and mass social protests less likely – at least in Ukraine – since millions of Ukrainian workers have de factobecome part of another country’s labour force.

But the absence of a work force also perpetuates Ukraine’s economy dependence on foreign financial aid, without even the prospect of paying off the foreign debts. This economic dependency makes Ukraine a tool of large western powers. That’s also why Ukraine quickly followed the US to welcome the coup attempt in Venezuela and blamed the elected Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro.

“We want to build a healthy western economy, based on entrepreneurship and SMEs. We do not want to return to a centralized economy. Western standards of living need a western economy… Maduro’s style of ruling the country brings Maduro’s results,” claimed Poroshenko at the recent meeting in Davos [16].

However, this ‘western economy’ in Ukraine implies not only freezing pensioners or mass escape from the country. Neoliberal healthcare reforms have led also to the epidemic of measles [17] which is spreading all over the country.

Ukraine has in fact sacrificed its healthcare system, its work force, production sites, human rights and a significant part of its territories – merely in order to become an anti-Russian state – but without any significant gain for all this. It leads many Ukrainians to consider the essence of their regime, but as they don’t see the means to influence the situation, they prefer to migrate in order to guarantee a better future, at least for their children, who will be Poles, Russians, Germans or Canadians.

References

[1]https://www.newsweek.com/ukraine-nazi-collaborator-birthday-holiday-anti-semitic-1272911

[2]https://strana.ua/news/179220-den-rozhdenija-bandery-1-janvarja-marsh-vo-svoboda-i-natskorpusa-v-kieve-onlajn.html

[3]https://www.unian.info/politics/10414953-poroshenko-to-visit-israel-on-jan-20-21.html

[4]https://112.ua/kiev/v-centre-kieva-otkryli-memorialnyy-barelef-simonu-petlyure-477664.html

[5]http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=14881

[6]https://www.obozrevatel.com/politics/tsik-lishil-ukraintsev-v-rf-prava-golosa-oppoblok.htm

[7]https://delo.ua/econonomyandpoliticsinukraine/nacionalnye-druzhiny-budut-oficialno-nabljudat-349247/

[8]https://nv.ua/ukraine/politics/ukraina-otkazala-rossiyskim-nablyudatelyam-obse-v-monitoringe-vyborov-prezidenta-klimkin-50001106.html

[9]https://korrespondent.net/ukraine/vibory2019/4058469-na-vybory-pryedut-bolee-850-nabluidatelei-polytsyia

[10]https://day.kyiv.ua/ru/news/270119-v-ukraine-na-prezidentskie-vybory-pribudut-bolee-100-nablyudateley-iz-ssha

[11]http://www.encyclopediaofukraine.com/display.asp?linkpath=pages%5CO%5CR%5COrganizationofUkrainianNationalists.htm

[12]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organization_of_Ukrainian_Nationalists

[13]http://ucca.org/about/?doing_wp_cron=1548684497.7881150245666503906250

[14]https://www.unian.ua/politics/10420596-vinen-yanukovichu-dali-13-rokiv-za-derzhzradu-i-posobnictvo-u-vedenni-agresivnoji-viyni.html

[15]https://antikor.com.ua/articles/283134-zamerz_v_holodnoj_kvartire_v_dnepre_92-letnij_veteran_vojny_umer_iz-za_otkljuchenija_gaza_kompaniej_

[16]https://www.president.gov.ua/en/news/prezident-pro-nebezpeku-populizmu-stil-pravlinnya-maduro-pri-52722

[17]http://outbreaknewstoday.com/measles-continues-strong-ukraine-2019/

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