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New generation of Kyiv politicians offers hope for Ukraine

New generation of Kyiv politicians offers hope for Ukraine
Almost a third of the members in the incoming Verkhovna Rada are young people who do not have ties to pre-Maidan regimes and who identify themselves instead as part of the country’s new civil society and thus are emerging as a major force for change in the way in which things are done in Ukrainian political life.

Because of their numbers, their experiences and their youthful activism, they are likely to set the weather in the new parliament, pushing for reforms that will lead to European integration and thus representing simultaneously a great hope for Ukraine and a clear if not adequately appreciated threat to the goals of Vladimir Putin.

The “Profile” portal has begun to interview members of this cohort, and today published one with Svetlana Zalishchuk, a 32-year-old journalist who taught at Kyiv’s Shevchenko National University and worked for President Viktor Yushchenko.

The young cohort in the parliament, Zalishchuk says, is linked together by its commitment to civil society and Europe and by its experiences of two revolutions and repression in between over the last decade.  As such, “it is a destructive factor for the old system as a whole” and not just that of “the Yanukovych regime but [that of all] the old political culture.”

She and her young friends who come out of a coalition of some 50 civil society institutions hoped to enter parliament as a single voting bloc, but the existing electoral rules, including the five percent barrier, and the costs of campaigning prevented that from happening. Instead, “our plan has become to enter parliament through the old parties, in order to change the rules and allow new parties to enter the Rada.”

Her fellow members of this cohort, Zalishchuk continues, will work together as a group even though they were elected on various lists.  She herself was elected on the Poroshenko Bloc, but she tells “Profile” that she “is not a member” of that party. Instead, she will work with those who share her positions.

Zalishchuk says that she and her cohort favor integration with the European Union but notes that the world is changing so rapidly that a decade from now, Ukraine may have to deal with “a completely different world order.” Nonetheless, “the democratization of the post-Soviet countries is inevitable.”

As far as relations with Moscow are concerned, the new deputy says that no one can establish relations with someone “who wants to destroy you.”  Thus, there is no chance for relations with the current leadership in Moscow. “Putin is not interested in playing by the rules; instead, he plays with the rules. And that is the problem.”

At the same time, she notes, there is a Russia far larger than Putin, and “five years from now we will have another Russia,” one that Ukraine can have good relations with.  “The experience of the 20th century shows that any authoritarian regime sooner or later exhausts itself,” and then the country which remains moves toward democracy.

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