war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.


Myroslav Marynovych

October has arrived – the month we use in talking about a revolution. Even when the final act is played out in November. They’re saying that movements of troops have been noticed in Ukraine – only this time, of course, the post office and telegraph won’t be taken, but protected. The vows by those who hold the reigns of power that in Ukraine they won’t permit a Georgian variant of events, are an indirect acknowledgment that we are standing on the brink of revolution. In any case, those in power can clearly feel the earth burning beneath their feet. Those who in their lives had to study the theory of revolution according to Lenin know that a revolutionary situation arises when «the powers cannot live by the old rules, and the masses don’t want to». Is it possible to find verification of this theory in the example of today’s Ukraine?

It seems that the signs that the regime is experiencing its death throes are by now obvious to everybody, and the daily escalation of hysteria from the state powers and criminal violence intensify the sense not so much of fear, but that the end is in sight. Of course, the powers ‘cannot’, because in the state-social sectors the inertia of obedience and discipline is always present. However, I am convinced that the majority of people in these sectors are simply waiting for a good moment to sprint from a sinking ship. For the regime, the only solution would be to use savage punitive measures to try to prevent a chain reaction of insubordination. However in this very point we see the Achilles heel of evil. For a heightening of repressive measures, while having a temporary effect, only strengthens the impression that the end is near.

The political processes in Ukraine have ceased to be purely political and have taken on a typical criminal character. And although in its day the Soviet State did everything to send through their camps virtually all the population of that giant state, they could still not succeed in inculcating their criminal logic. The desperate self-defence of the regime is driving them into a dead end: in October – November people will not so much choose the best of a wide choice of candidates, as defend themselves against the criminalization of the whole country. The regime has forgotten Mephistopheles’ bitter discovery that he is the force which, while always seeking evil, unexpectedly does good. The election campaign which began with lively discussions about the qualities of particular candidates, through the will of the regime has turned into a battle between good and evil, a competition between the logic of politics and the logic of a criminal penal zone. As an old supporter of Viktor Yushchenko, I would just like to acknowledge the good service of the pro-regime political technologists in employing such tactics to attempt to discredit their main opponent.

The regime, it would seem, is burning all its bridges. Several months ago the discussions in the press about a possible agreement between Yush­chen­ko and Kuchma to give the latter immunity seemed entirely realistic: it was well-known that Yushchenko was determined to avoid an escalation of political tension. Today, after the poisoning of Viktor Andriyevych, such options have lost any sense. The regime itself has, with its own hands, molded out of Yushchenko a warrior, and has thus itself discredited its own propagandistic clichés as to his indecisiveness and political limpness. Even former skeptics from the opposition camp are forced now to ask themselves whether it is legitimate to use a term like ‘weakling’ about a man who has endured such an incre­dible terror campaign to discredit him and now a threat on his life as well. Let mothers and wives ask themselves whether they would agree to let their loved ones continue an election campaign under such brutal conditions, as have Yushchenko’s mother and his often insulted, but never degraded wife – Katerina. One can only bow in deepest respect before the heroism of this family.

Obviously, not all the regime’s moves have been failures. Certainly, enlisting a «Halychyna[1]» force in the campaign on Yanukovych’s side has been an undoubted success for the pro-regime political technologists. And if the change of orientation of Vasyl Baziv or Hanna Stetsiv provoked more jibes from people in Halychyna than real despair, then the transformation of Taras Chornovyl[2] hit much harder. His impassioned speech (on Channel 5) against the background of the recent egg spectacle[3] was particularly depressing. One feels sorry for the chap. Dreaming of making a name for himself as an independently thinking state figure, worthy of the highest posts, all he proved was that he still remains a political infant, who just can’t find a worthy way out from his father’s shadow, even though he had begun to shine with his own light. And Ukraine just can’t seem to escape the fatal inevitability of all these father and son crises of identity. (As for any attempts to use my name for Viktor Yanu­kovych’s benefit, I trust this article will be convincing response). In the above-mentioned parade of Halychan servility there is, however, one positive side: it provides a good cure for the chronic «piedmontism» of people from Halychyna.[4]

In speaking of a premonition that the end is imminent, I do not wish in any way to minimize the threat which faces Ukraine. In 1991, it was largely the well-known administrative team «Vote for independence and for Kravchuk» whom we had to thank for Ukraine’s independence. Yeltsin’s Russia then seemed too revolutionary to serve as a refuge for the Ukrainian elite. However independence, achieved with the blessing of the State powers, can perish too by its hand. I have long dreamed of a time when the President of Ukraine, going to a meeting with the President of Russia, will put on a tie. All of these ‘meetings without ties’ could, if we don’t watch out, mean that Ukraine will end up «without its last shirt». The sale of Ukrainian interests has long slipped out of the control of either parliament or of society, and therefore the regime can try to continue its existence only by relying on a ‘stable’ Russia, which so efficiently defeated its own hostile opposition. However all this inevitably brings the Ukrainian regime to the development of precisely the revolutionary situation, which it is trying to frighten its people with today – the threat of a state of emergency, civil war, etc (as far as I know, this was in fact one of the variants for the development of the election battle in Ukraine drawn up by Russian political technologists.) In any case, I am not prepared to believe that the ruling elite, however events develop, is even considering the possibility of handing over power and standing before inevitable judgment. Therefore, wanting to live according to the old rules, the regime is, with its own hands, making the old ways impossible.

Let us analyze the second part of Lenin’s formula for revolution, namely: do the masses really not want to live by the old rules? It looks as through it’s possible to talk about us all with, at once, sympathy and reproach. Today the people have gone quiet, hoping for the salvation of a secret ballot booth and transparency of ballot boxes[5]. Therefore, while this hope remains, there will be no revolutionary situation. Well then, God grant that the West will be able to force our regime to not manipulate the voting too much. However, I fear that fate is preparing bitter disillusionment here also. Yanukovych spelled out his attitude to people with blunt clarity at a rally in Rivne: «Continue crawling» People whose silence is interpreted as crawling will not be given the opportunity for normal expression of their will. Therefore it is possible to predict with a great degree of likelihood that the regime will in this case also create a pre-revolutionary situation.

However, I fear, nonetheless, that there are a lot of people in Ukraine who, while no longer wanting to live by the old rules, are not ready to live in a new order. The fact that the regime is again playing the Ukrainian East off against the «Bandera-supporting»[6] West shows that this trick still brings results. They say that even in Norilsk Ukrainians (mainly from Halychyna!) are frightened that Yushchenko will win, because they think that this will lead to borders being closed with Russia. My fellow Ukrainians just can’t fathom what one Russian understood very well recently: today the Ukrainian opposition is fighting for the future not only of Ukraine – the fate of Russia is also on the line. For it is only Ukraine (we will not consider the Baltic States here) that has developed enough native backbone to not give in to the cemetery-like «stability» of the Putin model. It is specifically Yushchenko who provides a real chance for relations with Russia to some day take on a civilized form. In other words, Great Ukraine needs to go through a certain psychological shake-up so that stereotypes so dear to the heart prove their total impotence.

Our people have also not fully understood the obvious fact that they too bear not a small degree of guilt for the present moral degradation of the regime. The regime takes from us precisely as much freedom as we will hand over. The regime becomes corrupt precisely to the degree that we ourselves feed corruption. The regime plays on our small-minded stereotypes only as long as we cherish them in our hearts. These are axioms of conscious civic life that the Ukrainian nation just cannot cope with. We will not change our government until we change ourselves. It would be good if we understood that precisely now, when we are trying with some effort to change a government that in part we let get so out of control.

Following the death throes of the regime, the majority of people are concerned to not get under their feet, and not to plunge with them into the abyss. The people do not indeed want to live by the old rules – a first round would really be quite sufficient for making the will of the people clear on this score (obviously on condition that the elections were fair) However it is equally obvious that the people do not want to sacrifice themselves as before. There will be no revolutionary situation, therefore, so long as people retain the illusion that they can hide from a criminal world behind their own four walls. The majority of us today are only capable of watching on as the priests of power ever more forcefully push Yushchenko on to the altar of the State Moloch. In the same way we sat and did nothing when from that sacrificial stone flowed the blood of journalists and other «dangerous elements». However, paraphrasing the well-known saying: «A Ukrainian will tolerate any unjust treatment up to a point». The regime cannot stop – as we have already said, it must resort to terror because otherwise a chain reaction of insubordination will be triggered off. However this reaction will begin regardless, because just as inevitably, people’s fear will reach the point of «critical mass», and the people’s sense of injustice will overflow. Therefore we again have the same fatal truth: the regime is with its own hands creating a revolutionary situation.

During my student days the lecturers of historical materialism assured us: «Every social order prepares its own gravediggers».

3 October 2004

[1] Halychyna is Western Ukraine, considered staunchly pro-Yushchenko. The people mentioned became open advocates for Yanukovych. (translator’s note)

[2] Taras Chornovyl, son of a famous and respected dissident, unexpectedly changed political affiliations and eventually became a key spokesperson for Yanukovych. (translator’s note)

[3] «On 24 September, in western Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych was struck in the chest by an egg. Despite having no apparent injury, he was hospitalized for some hours» (from the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Final Report) (translator’s note)

[4] Without going into historical detail, this is referring to the attitude held by some in Halychyna that specifically they should be the spiritual and political leaders of the new Ukraine. (translator’s note)

[5] This may seem illogical, but there were reasons why it seemed to many safer to have transparent ballot boxes: one can see, for example, that ballots have not been put in earlier, in bulk, etc (translator’s note)

[6] Stepan Bandera, one of the leaders of the «Organization of Ukrainian Nationalist» which fought against Soviet rule (during WWWII .against Nazism also) Most of his supporters were from Western Europe. In Soviet times, he and the UPA were consistently presented as fascists and traitors. (translator’s note)

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