Human Rights in Ukraine. Website of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
12.12.2001 | Ludmila Klochko, Kharkov

Not all the present at the meeting held in Kharkov understood whether they came to defend Kuchma or to demand his retirement...


On 10 January a meeting in support of the President was held in Kharkov. According to some data, it was the largest in Ukraine (from 50 to 80 thousand participants according to various estimates).

On the day before the meeting some people phoned to us and informed us in which way the preparation to the action was going. Some street sweepers called to us and said that they are forced to be present at the meeting, otherwise they must hand in explanatory papers. We proposed to write a complaint to human rights protection organization, but they answered that they were afraid to loose their jobs. They gave other reasons: for example, one said that he was the first in the line for living accommodation and could not risk. The local conference of teachers that had to begin in the morning was quickly postponed to the afternoon in order to give the teachers the opportunity ’to defend our beloved President’. Rector of the National juridical academy ordered all the post-graduates to take part in the meeting by all means. We got the information from other higher and high schools about the insistent piece of advice to take part in this action. Several students were promised to give credits for coming to the meeting. Medical establishments were not forgotten either. A doctor told us that his hospital got the order fir 120 persons. In some hospitals the participants were given money for transportation. The obedient military were recommended to come to the meeting in the civilian clothes. Another story was told to us by a representative of a commercial firm: in a trembling voice he informed his relative, our colleague, that their firm also got an order for several people. One must be objective, the administration was reticent. When one of our acquaintances, a teacher in a higher school, declared that he could not come to the meeting because of his ideological convictions, nobody pressed upon him and even did not show any interest to his convictions. All this paragraph is written by rumors – we have not received any complaint in writing.

The meeting was appointed at 10 a.m. at Nezalezhnist Square. Just at this time I and my colleague were going out of the metro station at the square. We saw a large stream of people walking from the square. We decided that we mixed up the time, and the meeting already ended. But soon we came to the square and found out that the meeting was just beginning. The stream of the people consisted of those citizens, who had already marked their presence, thus proving their loyalty, and now went whither they wanted with the feeling of completed duty. But even without them there were many people on the square. Most of the participants separated into groups and communicated with each other. I got an impression that they were indifferent as to the reason of their being driven top the square. Many participants did not know at all what was going on: some said that it was the meeting against Kuchma, some – against the Supreme Rada, but the majority did not know the reason and stared at us as at Hamlet’s father’s ghost. As if they wanted to ask: who are you fidgeting? The live is improving, the pay arrears almost disappeared, this year electricity was not switched off yet, hot water is given to all the city for more than ten days on end…

The square, being decorated to the New Year, looked well, and the brought bright posters and yellow-blue state flags made the square even smarter. We seemed to return to holidays of the far away seventies. Either the rain, or the spirit of the gathered, or our own nostalgia transferred us to the happy childhood. But we did not feel happy. My colleague, who had marched on this square under the yellow-blue flag in the early 90s almost wept: ’Look, what they have done with our banner!’ Posters with inscriptions ’For stability’ acutely contrasted with some speakers’ demands to disband the Supreme Rada. Perhaps, these people never read the Constitution, otherwise they would know that there was no reason to do so. Nobody was surprised that the parties, which belong to the parliamentary majority and had organized the meeting, proposed to press on the Supreme Rada at meetings. The speakers used the terms democracy, stability, constitution and fooled indifferent participants to such a degree, that many, having stayed at the meeting to the very end, did not understand what it was about. Certainly not all willing to speak had the access to the tribune. When O. Kopeliovich, the head of the Kharkov branch of the liberal-democratic party, turned to the chairman with the request to give him the floor, he was refused and explained that the list of the speakers was approved five days before, and it was impossible to introduce any changes. That is a usual ’vox populi’.

The buses that were waiting for the participants on the same place as in ’old merry years’ transported away flags, posters, Kuchma’s portraits and other paraphernalia of the trade to the proper places dropping on the way the most patient backers of the President.

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