Seven years has passed, and I'm still trying to figure out what Ukraine has achieved in that relatively short time, though still more than a third as many years that the nation has been independent. This commentary may very well be disjointed in many ways, just as the people of Ukraine have been for so many years. Regardless, I and many Ukrainians will state that the Orange (R)evolution, and that short period of the nation's short history, was one of the nation's greatest and positive moments. Clearly the benefactor of the Orange (R)evolution, Viktor Yushchenko, enacted one of those symbolic decrees on the Day of Freedom on November 19, 2005 just short of a year of the first anniversary of an event that caught the eye of the world, that clearly could never be guaranteed in the future.
For many who have a relationship to the events of seven years ago, it is difficult to comprehend, that on November 22, 2011, that all that many could see around the downtown core of Kyiv was special divisions of militia units on what is dubbed the day of Freedom? Clearly there are many people who are just as disenchanted with the current regime, a regime and a direction which many opposed seven years ago – not for who they were as a political group backing then presidential candidate Yanukovych, but for the methods which they were using to try to come to power. I'm certain, that those who were on the central square, known as Maydan, in Kyiv on November 22, 2011, are many of those same people who were there seven years ago, and they are clearly not those who voted the current regime in. Though one must also remember the old adage, governments don't get elected in, they get voted out.
On the morning of November 22, 2004, after a very short night sleep and dealing with many international observers as well as journalists, and prompted by a phone call I headed down to meet a good friend and to be introduced to Judge Bohdan Futey by my friend, my Kum, the father of my godchildren. We stood in front of the Post Office on Maydan. We had a short conversation of what could happen in the next day as well as the days to follow, but none of us could have with any certainty predicted of what stood before us.
As a Canadian of Ukrainian extraction, who had already spent some time in Ukraine and working on Ukrainian issues for most of my life, I felt that somehow I would play my part. Be it lesser or greater, I did not know, though I think that all of those who I knew and encountered during the course of what peacefully transpired over the next two months, and who were more involved than I, can only be the judges of my contribution.
Like many of those individuals I had befriended long before and during what came to became known as the Orange (R)evolution became disenchanted with the inactivity of the President who came to power, Viktor Yushchenko, and the squabbles which he was having with his now incarcerated, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. However, the methods employed through the court to forbid the assembly on Maydan on November 22 of this year are as absurd as those taken in the winter of 2000 after the “cassette scandal” of 2000, while Maydan was beginning its transformation into the Globus Shopping complex; back then it didn't surprise me that such a post-soviet mentality and a total lack of understanding of the principle of the right to peaceful assembly took place. This year the court order had to do with the city's New Year Tree, which is do to be officially opened on December 17. Somehow, I fail to realize how the assembly of such a structure requires nearly a complete month to be assembled. Clearly, just an additional incompetency of the municipal administration.
As I viewed posted pictures on the Internet of the number of Berkut special forces on Kyiv's main thoroughfare, Khreshchatyk on November 22, I could only think of one thing. Ukraine, under the current administration has taken at least a dozen steps back from where it was seven years ago. However, even before this, in reviewing the situation and statements of individuals who truly have done their time for the Ukrainian cause, I am even more impelled to state that the only way things will change for the better in Ukraine is through a “New Revolution”, and if necessary it will be a revolution and not an evolution as has happened in the past.
Seven years ago I was there, on Khreshchatyk. I spent many hours and days there! It seemed like an eternity at times! Would there be an onslaught of troops against those peacefully protesting. Now, seven years later, the possibility of protest is becoming less realistic than it was, even under Kuchma.
Above I mentioned the term, “New Revolution”. It is not by chance, but more due to the historical events which have transpired. Ukraine to this day has not had a revolution, but rather an evolution. One which has unfortunately done little for the people of Ukraine with the exception of providing a segment of that population to believe it can change things; while at the same time it has allowed for those with capital to become wealthier and to conduct a variety of anti-national policies which diminish the rights as well as aspirations of the nation's citizens.
Political capture in Ukraine is a reality. It has become an obsession of those in power, not only to ingratiate themselves as much as possible, but also to ensure that they become the “untouchables” without any accountability. This is clear with the new election law which has no mechanism for the accountability of deputies to their constituents.
What will transpire when the populace realizes that once again their votes have been stolen in the upcoming elections? How will they react? Will they even have an opportunity to do so as the current regime steps up its physical authority as it has shown by its absurd use of the court system, and show of physical might?
On the Day of Freedom, there was one image that stood out a great deal regarding among so many others. It was a young girl on the shoulders of her father holding a sign which read, “The Government is Shit”. As an American friend of mine commented and I must paraphrase this. So what would they, the Berkut, who could see this do? I guess we will have to wait and see.
Maybe, a real Revolution awaits?
In my opinion, the current regime only understands force and strength and they seem to rely on that dangerous card much more frequently and much more assertively than any of the previous Ukrainian governments have done. This in turn makes it much more likely that the very same card could soon bounce back to them, and when in does, no one can really tell how the rest of it all could play out. One can only hope that, come a critical point, that those young men who at this time simply obey orders, will be governed by at least some sort of common sense or by some level of attachment to their own nation - a nation that is slowly but surely reaching the limits of what it can tolerate. The people of Ukraine have a government that is has been captured by the controlling interests of a few, they will have to call the shots on how to deal with them and it will have to be their choice. Lets hope that in whatever the path they choose that they have will find alliances from the young men who have been sworn in to protect the nation and its people, and who have some semblance of morality and believe in serving their country and not just the figureheads who are are now in control.
Vasyl Pawlowsky Independent Consultant