What steps towards unity?
The “post-Orange” leaders having come to power have on a number of occasions stressed the need for Ukraine to be united, for the establishment of mutual understanding between its two parts, divided in mentality and ideology, either according to regional borders, or often independent of them. The intentions declared are good and timely – the “Orange” side had done a good job of fuelling Ukraine’s rift. It seemed that politicians, prone to pragmatism now hold the cards. It was about time since people were sick of ideologies proclaimed the only right ones, which at the same time divided the country.
Only how are they carrying out these intentions?
Not too well, it would seem. With respect to the task of uniting the country, the new regime is behaving like an elephant in a china shop.
Its first steps were appointments to key posts 1) Minister of Education and Science and 2) Minister of Internal Affairs. Dmytro Tabachnyk needs no introduction, everybody has heard the complaints. I would mention only one which I share: the clear “Halychyna phobia” in his articles.
People have spoken less about Anatoly Mohylev yet he deserves no less attention: support for Stalin’s deportation of the Crimean Tatars as “lackeys of Hitler” is more than you’ll hear from many a xenophobe. Half the inhabitants of Ukraine thus have grounds for regarding both as obnoxious figures. What was the President thinking of when he appointed them to key posts? What is really not clear that half the country would see this as a sign that we have no intention of taking you into account?
The author says that as a person concerned about the rights of Russian speakers, it was this that had disturbed him in the appointment of Tabachnyk. He considers that the Yushchenko regime, and even the Kuchma regime before, had done a lot of harm as far as pushing out Russian. He believes that it’s time to return to civilized language policy as in other European countries.
He believes that people are tolerant and that this could be done without conflict. However you can’t have people who are widely rejected. He considers the steps of Tabachnyk as Minister to be sensible, but considers that his reputation makes it impossible to view him calmly.
The Head of the Security Service [SBU] Valeriy Khoroshkovsky dazzled with statements about how the “security services should reduce work with archives”, that “a great deal of material has been declassified”; “a great deal of material has been declassified: the truth that needed to be made available to the Ukrainian people, that truth has been made available”. He also said that the “concern of the Security Service was primarily in protecting its secrets, protecting the laws which created these secrets”. The SBU has stopped work on declassifying and publishing archival material, has stopped building the database of the Open Electronic Archive of the SBU.
Historians and human rights activists have come out against these steps by Khoroshkovsky. In an open letter to the SBU Head a group of historians write “We consider that the termination of work on processing and publishing archival material of the SBU Central Archive would be a step backwards in the affirmation of democracy in our country”. Co-Head of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, Y. Zakharov in an analogous letter writes: “So it seems there is truth that doesn’t need to be given? Once again they are trying to decide for us what we need to know and what we don’t?” It would be hard not to agree with these assessments.
It is difficult to understand what motivated the new Head of the SBU. Maybe he worked on the principle that if former Head Nalyvaichenko opened the archives, then we’ll close them. This was when the opening of the KGB archives was one of the few really necessary initiatives of the previous management of the SBU. And a rejection of this from the outside looks like an attempt to muffle the crimes of the totalitarian regime, in this way protecting and tacitly rehabilitating it. Stalinists of course will be pleased. Was that really Khoroshkovsky’s aime?
The fight with the legacy of the Head of the MIA, Mohylev’s predecessors looks no better given his liquidation of the Department for Monitoring Human Rights in the Work of the Police. 30 human rights organizations addressed an open letter in protest. Noting the successes of the dissolved Department, they ask: “What are the priorities now for the MIA? Do the police really not need to fight racism and xenophobia on the even of EURO 2010? Will the police not develop cooperation with international institutions and human rights organizations? Is there no need for mobile groups? Are public councils also not needed? If you don’t need that, then you are building a police force for a totalitarian country working against the people and society”.
There is an interesting aspect to this initiative. President Yanukovych at a meeting with Mohylev called his decision ill-considered and stressed that measures on defending human rights needed to be extended, not reduced. And yet Mohylev just ignored this. At least since that time (and around 2 weeks have passed) there has been no reaction. In the latest reports on this subject there was mention of employees of the Department being thrown out of their offices. One wonders whether any minister showing such firmness on any other subject would have stayed in his post for long.
The dissolving of the Department demonstrates the indifference, if not the animosity of the new leadership of the MIA to the very issue being raised of human rights observance. In a country holding one of the first places in Europe for use of torture by law enforcement agencies, this is impossible to view as anything but a carte blanche for the continuation of such practice.
Fortunately these steps are not passing unnoticed by the public. Both groups of individuals and civic organizations are protesting. It is significant that the main critics are less now traditional nationalists, but rather people of a more liberal orientation.
It is unclear why they needed to issue a challenge to a considerable part of society in those spheres where one would have thought consensus had already been reached – the uncovering of the crimes of the totalitarian regime, restriction of unlawful actions by the law enforcement agencies. Not perhaps as a signal that a harsh vertical of power, one could taking the public into account, is to be created?