George Ciccariello-Maher / CounterPunch.org & Ramsey Clark / IAC – 2007-04-16 23:16:33
DONETSK (April 17, 2007) — The decree issued by Ukraine’s president Viktor Yushchenko earlier this month to dissolve parliament and hold early elections is no less than an attempted coup d’etat, apparently aided and abetted by Western powers.
Last year’s elections brought Viktor Yanukovych — Yushchenko’s nemesis during the rigged presidential elections of 2004 which led to the country’s so-called Orange Revolution — to power as prime minister at the head of a coalition government. Yushchenko’s party, Our Ukraine, meanwhile straddled government and opposition, while his close collaborator during the Orange Revolution, Yuliya Tymoshenko, went into opposition and campaigned for new elections.
The complex power-sharing arrangement that emerged resulted in a power struggle between government and president, which the government, backed by the parliament, had been winning.
But while Russia welcomed the Russophile government’s newly dominant position, elements in the West feared the strong parliament would undermine Yushchenko’s pro-Western foreign policy. For Yushchenko, the attempted coup is a means to recover some lost power from parliament. For his Western backers, it is a way of irreversibly locking Ukraine into Western geopolitical and geo-economic structures.
The president has resorted to such a high stakes gamble because of his domestic political weakness. Even if the constitutional court rules in his favour, early parliamentary elections will almost certainly result in his party winning fewer seats than they did last year. Our Ukraine, with its neoliberal and pro-Western outlook, came a poor third place, drawing support mainly in the West and centre of the country.
Should new elections take place, the largest party is likely once again to be Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions, a corporatist party which polled 32% last year, mainly in the Russian-speaking east and south of the country. Of the major parties only former prime minister Yuliya Tymoshenko’s parliamentary bloc, with its pragmatic populism and strong pro-Western outlook, can expect an increased share of the vote.
Since the Yanukovych government was formed last summer, Ukraine has begun to be the author of its own democratic future. The power struggle has been a contest for the right to consolidate the state bureaucracy and the political system to enable strong and effective government. This has been accompanied by a booming economy and a pragmatic foreign policy that combines cooperation with Russia with closer integration with the EU — but not with the unpopular NATO.
Consolidation of the state and political system is a necessary prerequisite, not only for further political and economic reform but also for Ukraine to withstand geopolitical pressure and economic competition from east and West. Russia wants to establish a consortium with Ukraine to jointly own and manage the pipeline network that takes Russian gas to the EU, while Russian business has been seeking to acquire large Ukrainian businesses.
For its part, the West would like Ukraine to adopt neoliberal economic reform, join NATO and deepen its relationship with the EU as a bulwark against a reinvigorated Russia.
Should large parts of the political and economic elite, and the country at large, regard early elections as illegitimate and boycott them, Yushchenko and his renewed ally Tymoshenko would be unable to negotiate any form of political compromise, weakening Ukraine’s ability to withstand external pressure. A combined political and legal solution preventing the need for early elections is more likely to emerge.
Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, who led the street protests during the Orange Revolution, have morphed into counter-revolutionaries, intent on crushing the parliament they ensured was elected in Ukraine’s freest and fairest elections since independence. Their Western backers, with their own geopolitical agenda, hope neither will emerge as Ukraine’s equivalent of Boris Yeltsin and that the international community will not notice their improbable reincarnation.
Paradoxically Yushchenko has returned to the failed authoritarianism of the past, and jeopardised not only his but also his country’s democratic future. In so doing he has renounced his right as heir to the Orange Revolution and transformed Yanukovych into an unlikely defender of Ukrainian democracy.
Adam Swain is a lecturer in geography at the University of Nottingham. He is editor of Reconstructing the Post-Soviet Industrial Region: the Donbas in transition (Routledge)
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommericial, educational purposes.
Is US behind ‘Quiet Coup‘ in Ukraine?
Ramsey Clark, International Action Center Special Report
February 1, 2000—As of this writing, Tkachenko is refusing to leave his office. His phone and fax have been disconnected and state television is refusing to air his statements. His official security has been removed and he is being guarded by Communist, Socialist and Peasant Party deputies.
Tkachenko is a member of the Peasant Party and Martynyuk is in the Communist Party. The rightwing pro-U.S. bloc is continuing to boycott Rada meetings in an attempt to give Kuchma an excuse to dissolve the body.
On Feb. 1, thousands of pro-Tkachenko demonstrators gathered outside the Rada building to show their support for the sitting parliament. A reported 600 rightists gathered outside Ukraine House, where the pro-IMF, pro-NATO bloc was meeting.
IAC Protest Move to Set Up Presidential Dictatorship
KIEV, Ukraine (January 30, 2000) — US officials and Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma are collaborating in an effort to break up Ukraine’s parliament and concentrate power in the president’s hands, Ukrainian opposition leaders told International Action Center representatives last week. IAC members Larissa Kritskaya and Bill Doares were in Kiev to attend a hearing of the International Peoples Tribunal on NATO War Crimes in Yugoslavia (English translation; see accompanying dispatch).
It appears that Washington’s goal is to bring Ukraine into NATO and to smash parliamentary resistance to the privatization of land and other measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund.
This former Soviet republic now has two rival parliaments in the wake of an attempt by Kuchma to illegally oust parliament speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko and deputy speaker Adam Martynyuk. The two have accused Kuchma of falsifying the results of last November’s presidential election. Their charges were borne out by European Union electoral observers.
GORE AND KUCHMA—PARTNERS IN CRIME
The regime’s action came on the heels of a private meeting in Washington between Kuchma and US vice president Al Gore. Kuchma was first elected in 1996 with considerable support from the CIA-linked Soros Foundation.
To engineer Tkachenko and Martynyuk’s removal, rightwing Verkhovnye Rada (parliament) deputies and their allies held an extralegal gathering in a nongovernment building Jan. 21 at the same time as an official Rada session was in progress. The unconstitutional gathering voted to oust Tkachenko and Martynyuk and replace them with Kuchma allies and to abolish the basic democratic right of parliamentary immunity.
It also named a new head of the central bank. Tkachenko and Martynyuk were not invited to the session or told of the charges against them. The only record of the vote and attendance at the rightwing gathering is the claims of its organizers. Previous attempts to remove Tkachenko and Martynyuk by constitutional means had failed.
As of this writing, Tkachenko is refusing to leave his office. His phone and fax have been disconnected and state television is refusing to air his statements. His official security has been removed and he is being guarded by Communist, Socialist and Peasant Party deputies. Tkachenko is a member of the Peasant Party and Martynyuk is in the Communist Party. The confrontation may come to a head Feb. 1 when the Rada is scheduled to reconvene after winter recess.
“There has been considerable pressure to forcibly Westernize Ukraine,” speaker Tkachenko told the IAC. “The presidential election was determined by force and now the president wants to use force against parliament. He is trying to create an artificial majority in order to concentrate power in his hands. Our constitution has been violated at every step.”
Kuchma’s ultimate aim is to abolish the existing single-chamber Rada where many “reforms” demanded by US bankers and Kuchma’s wealthy allies have been blocked. He wants to replace it with a a smaller, two-chamber body with an upper chamber comprising regional governors appointed by himself. To achieve this, he has ordered a “popular referendum” that will presumably be as controlled as last year’s presidential election.
WALL STREET RULES
With nearly 50 million people, Ukraine is the second-largest former Soviet republic. It was one of the USSR’s most productive agricultural and industrial regions. Today, like other former Soviet republics, it has been devastated by “economic restructuring” dictated by the International Monetary Fund. Since the fall of the USSR, Ukraine’s industrial production has dropped 70 percent.
Its population has fallen by 2 million in just the past two years. The old-age pension is $13 a month and millions of workers are not being paid. While hunger stalks many regions, one-third of the state budget goes in interest payments to Western banks. The country’s debt has risen 30 times since Kuchma took office in 1996.
The Kuchma regime has tried to create a fascist-like atmosphere by exploiting divisions similar to those used to break up Yugoslavia. It has whipped up Ukrainian nationalism on an anti-Russian basis (one- quarter of the population is Russian). Soviet-era books have been burned in public squares and opposition activists attacked by fascist gangs.
The regime’s alleged nationalism does not stop Wall Street from dictating its economic policy. It has agreed to raise food and fuel prices, rents and gas and electricity rates on a schedule dictated by the International Monetary Fund.
“It is obvious that the United States has designed the Ukraine’s political landscape,” Oleg Grachev, Kiev regional secretary of the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU), told Kritskaya and Doares. “You cannot speak about injustice and electoral falsification in this country without speaking of the domination of the International Monetary Fund.”
MARKED BALLOTS AND HAND GREANDES
KPU general secretary Petro Simonenko, who calls for Ukraine to withdraw from the IMF, was the runner-up in November’s presidential election. He got an official 38 percent of the vote. The KPU brought evidence of marked ballots, ballot-box stuffing and vote-buying to Ukraine’s criminal court but was told such matters were outside the court’s jurisdiction.
In the first round of the presidential election, Progressive Socialist Party candidate Natalia Vitorienko, who also condemns the IMF, was injured by a hand grenade tossed into a rally she was addressing.
“Kuchma is trying to make a coup to gain absolute power,” said Ukraine Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz. “He is acting on behalf of powerful private groups that support him. Since Kuchma came to office, Ukraine has gotten poorer but his friends have gotten rich.
They now want to get even richer by selling shares in land and grabbing control of basic industries like steel, petrochemicals and even oil and gas, which is now forbidden to be privatized.”
On Jan. 29, workers across Ukraine marched to protest the IMF- Kuchma program and to demand unpaid back wages. Jan. 29 is the anniversary of the 1918 uprising by Kiev’s Arsenal workers that was drowned in blood by the Western-backed regime that then ruled Ukraine.
Former US attorney general and IAC founder Ramsey Clark sent letters of protest to president Kuchma and the Rada.
An IAC statement said, “Like the war against Yugoslavia, the attempted presidential coup in Ukraine is part of the NATO-Pentagon drive to the east, which carries great danger for all humanity.
The US corporate media, which so obediently repeated Pentagon-State Department lies about Kosovo, appears to have imposed an information blockade on the events in Ukraine and US involvement there. We must break that blockade. The democratic forces in Ukraine deserve the support of antiwar and justice-loving people in this country and around the world.”
Letters of support can be faxed to Deputy V.N. Romashenko at 011 380 44 293 2792 or 011 380 44 229 7228.
International Action Center
39 West 14th Street, Room 206
New York, NY 10011
phone: 212 633-6646
fax: 212 633-2889