Yulia Timoshenko and the Death of Ukrainian Democracy

In the winter of 2004-5, the people of Ukraine demonstrated that democracy mattered to them and they were ready to defend it. For several months, people across the country protested in every major city and refused to leave until their rights to vote and elect their representatives were respected. Thousands of Ukrainians camped out in spite of the biting frost and stuck it out until they won. The election that had been stolen by Putin’s pro-Russian puppets was declared illegal and people finally had a chance to elect their representatives.

Yulia Timoshenko was one of the leaders of the protest movement. She became a rising start of Ukrainian politics. However, her and her colleagues’ attempts to get things right in Ukraine encountered a deeply entrenched resistance both within and outside the country. In a notorious meeting with the leading businessmen of the country, Timoshenko said, “Ukraine needs strong, healthy businesses. I promise to do everything to create an environment where you can work freely, legally, and with minimal impediments. Can you promise to pay taxes and avoid corruption?”

“No!” the businessmen (every single one of whom used to be a member of the Communist Party of the USSR and a powerful apparatchik) responded in unison.

At the same time, a massive anti-Ukrainian propaganda campaign was unleashed by Putin who wasn’t interested in having a functioning democracy so close geographically. Putin exploited the anxieties of the Russian-speaking Ukrainians by spreading rumors. One of such rumors was that the Ukrainian government was going to force everybody to read the Russian poet Pushkin in Ukrainian. For some reason, this idea (that had zero basis in reality, by the way) deeply traumatized people who never read any poetry at all, let alone the supremely outdated and boring Pushkin. As a result, the Russian-speakers of the country decided that it was very important to them to continue not to read Pushkin in Russian instead of not reading him in Ukrainian and voted for a pro-Putin government.

This new government started persecuting the former leaders of the democratic political movement. Among these people, Yulia Timoshenko had the highest approval ratings. She was imprisoned by the Putinoids and subjected to torture. The Putinoids are still so afraid of her that now the want to imprison her for good:

Ukraine’s former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is suspected of ‘ordering the murder’ of a member of parliament, the Posecutor General said. If found guilty, she will face a life sentence behind bars.

Ukraine’s State Prosecutor has completed its investigation of the murder of Deputy Evgeny Sherban, who was shot dead in 1996. Tymoshenko is alleged to have ordered the hit.

This Sherban character is from Donetsk, the seat of the most powerful organized crime organization in the country. He was killed in the 1990s, during the bandit wars. These mafia bosses were killing each other all over the place, and now the death of one of them is being used to silence the most powerful opposition voice in Ukrainian politics.

Of course, I’m not saying that Yulia Timoshenko is some sort of a saint who needs to be canonized. There are no saints in Ukrainian politics. However, while she lives, there is a hope that Ukraine will find its way out of a criminal quagmire it is in right now and start moving towards democracy.

This is why the Ukrainian government is trying to murder her.

And while the most popular female politician in Eastern Europe is being tortured, Ukrainian feminists of FEMEN are flapping their breasts around in Paris.

P.S. Thank you, Roberto Severino, for giving me the link and the idea to write this post.

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16 comments on “Yulia Timoshenko and the Death of Ukrainian Democracy

  1. Orange revolutionists were finished the moment they turned on each other during their power struggle; combined with Russian influence… it was quite embarrassing when our President had to greet Viktor Yanukovych (who was painted as a Russian puppet and attacked during Orange Revolution; polish media and government supported the movement).

  2. No problem, Clarissa! It sounds like the Ukraine is still under highly oppressive rule. What a shame the collapse of the USSR didn’t completely free the country from such totalitarianism. I’m amazed how the American media doesn’t really cover them much and if it weren’t for Russia Today (RT), I would have never known about this ironically.

  3. “What a shame the collapse of the USSR didn’t completely free the country from such totalitarianism”

    Well Ukrainians didn’t really do anything to get independence, it was more or less dropped in their laps (and the nonsensical Soviet borders were purposefully drawn to hinder nationalistic feelings and promote russophone and ukrainian hostilities.

    Timoshenko is too old news for the notoriously short-attention-span of western audiences and too many western powers are still in desperate denial of what an evil piece of scum Putin is to push the issue.

    “polish media and government supported the movement”

    For many years the Polish government spent quite a lot of money (as these things go) on trying to promote Ukrainian (and Belarussian) language media, obviously hoping that a shift in language could foster a shift in social and political values and make Ukraine and Belarussia less psychologically dependent on Russia. It hasn’t entirely failed but it hasn’t worked that well either (esp Belarussian which remains very much unloved and uncared for by most ot its speakers).

    • “Well Ukrainians didn’t really do anything to get independence, it was more or less dropped in their laps”

      - Ukrainians won their independence through democratic and peaceful means through a national referendum and massive peaceful protests. Are you saying this is somehow a worse way to win independence than slaughtering half of the population?

      “Timoshenko is too old news for the notoriously short-attention-span of western audiences and too many western powers are still in desperate denial of what an evil piece of scum Putin is to push the issue.”

      - I’m not very surprised about the Western journalists. I’m more shocked at the complete silence of the Western feminists who have raised a huge stink over the Pussy Riots clowns and are 100% silent on this issue.

      “For many years the Polish government spent quite a lot of money (as these things go) on trying to promote Ukrainian (and Belarussian) language media, obviously hoping that a shift in language could foster a shift in social and political values and make Ukraine and Belarussia less psychologically dependent on Russia”

      - Given that Poland was initially the reason that Ukraine even got into business with Russia, I don’t see any future for the Ukraine-Poland rapprochement. Plus the eternal issue of warring religions.

      • “Are you saying this is somehow a worse way to win independence than slaughtering half of the population?”

        I’m all for peaceful transitions. I’m just saying there was no Ukrainian organization like the Lithuanian Sajudis (or if there was it didn’t get any western press coverage).

        “the complete silence of the Western feminists who have raised a huge stink over the Pussy Riots clowns and are 100% silent on this issue”

        Now I’m not surprised at that. Pussy Riot are cool and awesome and sticking it to the patriarchy (so defending them = mucho capital social) and all Timoshenko wanted was to improve the economic situation of her country (and make a lot of money at the same time I’m sure).
        The feminism of recent years that’s visible on the internet is a very different (and tamer and lamer) version of the brand I used to know.
        And as for FEMEN it’s a lot easier (and safer!) to wave their boobs around in Paris than actually confront a government that won’t hesitate to play hardball (so to speak).

        “I don’t see any future for the Ukraine-Poland rapprochement’

        They’ll never be BFF’s (too many memories on both sides) but relations are reasonably good now, better than I’d have expected 20 years ago.

      • ” I’m just saying there was no Ukrainian organization like the Lithuanian Sajudis (or if there was it didn’t get any western press coverage).”

        - Yes, of course there were many organizations. Many people were jailed and tortured during the Soviet times for fighting for the Ukrainian independence. (Several of them became leaders of democratic organizations in 1991 and were murdered by the end of the 1990s.) There was even armed struggle well into the 1960s. Just like in the Baltic states.

        “And as for FEMEN it’s a lot easier (and safer!) to wave their boobs around in Paris than actually confront a government that won’t hesitate to play hardball (so to speak).”

        - Exactly. :-( :-(

  4. Thank you for writing about her … I had wanted to hear what someone actually from the Ukraine thought about Timoshenko and what’s happened to her.

    What I’d read in the news gave me a couple of conflicting impressions: that she is the rightfully elected leader, whom the people chose, but also that she had been accused of such nebulous but horrible things as “corruption” and “abuse of power.” I wondered whether these accusations were real, or had been trumped up by, as you call them, the Putinoids. (Good word! I’m going to start using it too).

    I had wanted to believe they were trumped-up charges, because I liked Timoshenko for my own shallow, silly reasons. (I like her hair).

    • She is more corrupt than her predecessors.She has siphoned off two billion dollars of gas money.She totally deserve the prison sentence

      • All corruption is not created equal. A quick (greatly simplified distinction):

        expanding corruption : corruption that does not impoverish the citizenry and which coincides with overall growth (see a lot of western europe, north america, east asia)

        extraction corruption : corruption that impoverishes the majority of the population while a small elite thrives (see latin america, former SSSR, Africa etc)

        Timoshenko seems more like the expanding type and janukovych is more the extraction type AFAICT. How anyone could vote for yanukovitsch and _not_ expect him to rob the country blind is a great mystery….

        Almost all politicians are corrupt to a significant degree. The alternative to corrupt politicians are bumblers (harmless) and idealists (vert dangerous).

      • The problem in Ukraine (and Russia) is not the corruption of the politicians (although it is very much there). It is the enormous, profound, complete corruption of every single person. People bitch about corruption all day long but a suggestion that they can stop offering and soliciting bribes, cheating on exams, stealing paper form the office, etc. makes them livid. Everybody wants everybody else to stop being corrupt but is not prepared to stop one’s own corruption for a second.

        This is the most tragic legacy of the Soviet times. People have lost even the slightest shadow of a moral compass.

  5. “People bitch about corruption all day long but a suggestion that they can stop offering and soliciting bribes, cheating on exams, stealing paper form the office, etc. makes them livid. Everybody wants everybody else to stop being corrupt but is not prepared to stop one’s own corruption for a second.”
    В десятку! Саме це є основною проблемою нашого суспільства сьогодні.
    Тож не дивно, що українські політики продажні в більшості своїй. А на їх фоні позитивно вирізняються націоналісти ВО “Свобода”, які залишаються, чи не останніми ідеалістами у парламенті які в більшості своїй, все ж, не продаються за гроші, і цим симпатичні виборцям.
    Щодо Тимошенко, то багато в Україні вважає, що вона, хоч і сидить за сфабрикованими справами, але зовсім не “біла та пухнаста”. Адже, тому, хто в Україні заробив мільйони у 1990-х роках, займав посади її рівня, апріорі є за що сидіти. Інша річ, що вона нічим не гірша від того, хто сидить сьогодні на золотому унітазі у Межигіррі. Якщо ж вона вийде, вони поміняються місцями. І Янукович також це розуміє. Він не Кучма, і так просто владу не віддасть і Тимошенко не випустить. Для усіх очевидно – шляхом мирних протестів можна пробувати тиснути на владу, але змінити її таким чином вже не вдасться. Тож Українське суспільство далі радикалізується і може статися вибух. Мирним він буде навряд-чи…

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