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How Kremlin’s “minority rights” defenders are supporting Russian expansionism in Ukraine

REUTERS: Mykola Azarov, Moscow February 4, 2015.
How Kremlin’s “minority rights” defenders are supporting Russian expansionism in Ukraine
Article by: Taras Marusyk
Translated by: Anna Mostovych

Moscow relies on endlessly inventive rhetoric when it is a question of defaming its real or imaginary enemies or exonerating itself. There are no boundaries. Some 150 years ago, Moscow proclaimed that the Ukrainian language “did not exist, does not exist and cannot exist,” that the so-called Ukrainian language was invented by Little Russians and especially the Poles, since it is “the Russian language only spoiled by Polish influence”. And some 100 years ago, Moscow stated that Ukraine is an Austrian invention. Now this rhetoric has been successfully developed by Maria Zakharova, the understudy of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

But the repetition of the earlier clichés today, after the failure of one of the key Kremlin plan codenamed “Novorossiya,” means appearing both outdated and trivial. And Maria Zakharova, a diplomat with a doctorate in history, does not want to view herself that way. Therefore, she has creatively expanded the theories of her chauvinist predecessors at the Kremlin.

Maria ZakharovaShe has proposed engaging “international experts” to “analyze who the Ukrainian people are and to determine their real primordial interests.” And though this work is “serious, difficult, painful and enormous” she has already identified what errors need to be studied, even without the help of experts.  The Ukrainians, obviously, must follow Russian guidelines: “rejection of nationalism, rejection of reliance on radical forces, search for national consensus, cessation of methods that split society … especially on linguistic grounds…real efforts to analyze Ukraine’s interests and  the identity of the Ukrainian people (to determine) who they are and how to ensure the rights of all classes of the population.”

The Asian Studies scholar and researcher of the symbolism of traditional New Year celebrations in modern China and now the “star” of Kremlin diplomacy, has also expressed her views on the topics of Ukrainian law and philology. She decided to analyze the proposed No. 5670 bill on state language. (bill, introduced in January 2017,  designed to provide greater protection for the Ukrainian language —  Ed.). She read it very carefully, not overlooking the passage that says that attempts to establish multilingualism in the country are equivalent to attempts to overthrow the government and are subject to criminal prosecution. After reading it, she issued her judgment: “linguistic genocide.”

I would not analyze the statements of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in such detail if they did not display obvious signs of coordination with a large and heterogeneous group, composed not only of Russian deputies and officials in the executive branch, but also of Ukrainian fugitives to Russia and representatives of the fifth column in Ukraine. This is a kind of international group supporting Russian expansionism.

The day before Zakharova made her “original” statements, the former prime minister of Ukraine Mykola Azarov posted a sizable message in his Facebook, attacking the No. 5670 bill: “mentally ill morons in the so-called Verkhovna Rada,” he wrote.

He appeared for a reason and according to a plan. Another phase  in the deliberate aggravation of the language issue is now being prepared by the Kremlin, although this process has never really ceased since Ukraine gained independence. When it became clear that Ukraine was finally escaping from the Russian embrace, the Kremlin, with the help of a convenient president of Ukraine, arranged a special operation that resulted in the scandalous adoption of the law “On the principles of state language policy” — the so-called Kivalov-Kolesnichenko law. (law passed during the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych that granted the status of “regional language” to Russian, thus giving it extensive rights to usage in official documents, in education, the judiciary, and mass media — Ed.).

Vadym Kolesnichenko

The co-authors of this law, except for the former deputy Vadym Kolesnichenko, who today is a member of the Russian Rodina party and hiding from Ukrainian justice in Crimea, have not gone anywhere and are back “at work” — at Russia’s work. Again they are trying to slow the granting of constitutional protection for the use of the Ukrainian  language. A few of them are in the executive branch of Ukraine. A paradox? Yes, a Ukrainian paradox.

Even though Yana Salmina, Vadym Kolesnichenko’s former assistant, was not  listed as the formal co-author of the language law, she took part in press conferences on the law and was in the direction of the “Russian-speaking Ukraine Fund “(incidentally, the site of this “human rights” organization was “cleaned” by mid-2014). Now she heads up the “Center for minority rights” but has a direct relationship with the “Russian-speaking Ukraine Fund.” As Mykhailo Kovalchuk notes on the InformNapalm site, the Kremlin’s “Fund for the support and protection of the rights of compatriots living abroad continues to finance “Russian-speaking Ukraine and Yana Salmina expressed concern about the return of 500,000 rubles sent to this organization in September 2016. In addition, she has been hiring writers to create articles on the abuse of national minorities in Ukraine. Thus, for 2500 hryvnias, she orders materials where the main themes are “the government’s negative rhetoric on national minorities,” “everyday discrimination,” “expressions of intolerance by Ukrainian media” and so on.

Yana Salmina has also provided detailed instructions on how to influence the review of the bill “On principles of state language policy” by the Constitutional Court.

Ruslan Bortnik, another former aide to Vadim Kolesnichenko and the main co-author of the law “On principles of state language policy,” has now become a political scientist who heads up the Ukrainian Institute for Analysis and Management of Policy. He not only actively comments on new language bills but political events as well. For example, he gave an interview to the propaganda film A Call to a Friend by Belarusian state television. However, he was “surpassed” by the commentaries of yet another “old friend,” Vladimir Kornilov, the former director of the Ukrainian branch of the Russian NGO “The Institute of the CIS countries” and a member of the board of the “Russian-speaking Ukraine.”… Incidentally, Kornilov now resides in the Netherlands, where he has created the Center for Eurasian Studies. The New York Times has written about his active campaign against the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement during last year’s referendum in the Netherlands.

Arkady Monastyrsky, another co-author of the language law, heads up Jewish organizations as well as the Council on National Minorities at the Ministry of Education of Ukraine.

Radio Liberty: Vladimir Kornilov

Recently, with the help of financing from the Kremlin’s “Fund for the Support and Protection of Compatriots,” Yana Salmina organized a “round table” on the “Social and human rights in Ukraine” at Ukrinform. In addition to Monastyrsky, others have also attacked  Ukraine’s policies, especially on language. They include another co-author of the language law, Mykhailo Tovt, former deputy from the Party of Regions and the honorary president of the Democratic Association of the Hungarians of Ukraine; Mykhailo Pohrebynskyi, the pro-Russian political scientist who is predicting the collapse of Ukraine; Ihor Pilialiev from the “famous” Averroes Ukrainian-Arabic Institute institution; Leonid Kozhara, a former minister of foreign affairs and yet another member of the Party of Regions; and even the representative of such an exotic organization as “Union of the Ural Peoples of Ukraine.”

The head of the “Russian School” NGO, Oleksandr Kondriakov, has been spreading the well-known Kremlin theory that the abolition of the law “On principles of the state language policy” would provoke war. Furthermore, he has declared that certain people want to burn books that describe Novorossiya (!) and also has repeated Kremlin’s rhetoric that in Minsk  it is necessary to negotiate with the representatives of DNR and LNR, who are considered terrorists in Ukraine.

The facts cited here prove once again that the defenders of the “rights of the Russian-speakers” are more troubled by Ukraine’s right to exist separately from Russia. Let us at least recall the exhibit “Volyn Massacre: Polish and Jewish victims of OUN-UPA” organized by Vadym Kolesnichenko, who is suspected of violating Ukrainian law. Perhaps the Ukrainian authorities should look more closely at the other accomplished  “defenders of minority rights.”

Taras Marusyk, Deputy Chairman of the Coordination Council on the Use of the Ukrainian Language in all Spheres of Public Life, The Ministry of Culture of Ukraine

Translated by: Anna Mostovych
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