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Ukraine’s government has ventured into dangerous waters, but it’s not too late to set the boat on course – Marynovych

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Ukraine’s government has ventured into dangerous waters, but it’s not too late to set the boat on course – Marynovych
Article by: Myroslav Marynovych
Translated by: Christine Chraibi
Today’s generation of Ukrainians will go down in history. The only open question is how: as defenders of the Ukrainian state or its destroyers?

The social-political situation in Ukraine is changing rapidly. Until recently, the impression was that the country had no clear strategy, and was floating in limbo and trying to adapt to each new situation. Today the picture has changed dramatically, and it seems that the country’s leaders have made some important decisions. But, they’re not ready to tell us anything; all that is expected of us is to come to terms with the consequences of their decisions, which are becoming increasingly worrying.

Since the general situation constitutes a serious threat to the state, it is impossible to sit back and remain silent.

The Government

Today’s government is increasingly showing signs of revanchism. The Trojan horse, which first carried “new faces” into Parliament, is now discharging “enemy warriors” that were removed from power by the recent Revolution of Dignity. There aren’t many yet, but clearly more than should be allowed in terms of national security. Most Ukrainians (with the exception of a small group of people) resemble the inhabitants of ancient Troy, who stand by the wayside and curiously observe what’s happening.

But, when and if the Ukrainian people wake up, the second act of the Kremlin drama, which the Kremlin strategists have already prepared (as they once prepared for the occupation of Crimea), may come into force: namely, to come to the aid of the “legitimately elected Ukrainian government” by sending in troops of the “brotherly Russian nation”.

This is a great threat, so we should all rouse ourselves from our self-induced stupor to take it seriously!

Most Ukrainians have been reassuring themselves that Zelenskyy is basically a good person, that he doesn’t want to do bad things, that his advisors are shifty and dangerous. Today, this version is significantly outdated. The President has had ample time and every opportunity to understand the warnings about the inadmissibility of surrender to Russia. Unfortunately, he has surrounded himself with people he trusts and has given the green light to Yanukovych’s old pals. He has also concentrated too much power in his own hands, an unprecedented step for a democratic Ukraine. So, if wrong decisions are made, then the responsibility lies with President Zelenskyy, who has managed to create such a strong power vertical.

Once again, Ukraine is experiencing the sudden shift of politics that we lived through under Presidents Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yanukovych. Disillusioned with its Western partners and for other reasons, Ukraine’s leadership has become more and more submissive to Moscow, seeking to rely on its support and goodwill.

The shift in politics is also caused by Ukraine’s dire financial problems. Western money arrives in Ukraine only under the government’s commitment to initiate reform. Instead, neither the oligarchs nor Russia are pushing Ukraine towards reforms. On the contrary, they prefer to take the old, familiar beaten path. So, it looks like President Zelenskyy has already made his choice, and only the dangers posed by the coronavirus might force him to consider the IMF.

However, it seems that the ruling elite have never realized that Ukraine’s strength lies in its people. They should not forget one strange paradox: why in the world can’t a seemingly powerful Russia survive without a weak Ukraine? Is it because Ukraine has always been a source of strength for its oppressors? After capturing Ukraine, the conquerors became invincible. However, Kyiv has always maneuvered between the conquerors, without ever standing fast and deciding to use the nation, its own people, as a source of strength and power. There seems to be a standing rule: Ukraine’s leaders do not believe in the nation, nor have they ever been ready to trust its own people.

Myroslav Marynovych, vice-rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, social activist, co-founder of Amnesty International Ukraine, founding member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group

Ukraine doesn’t need spectacular “success stories”: a so-called “peace plan” concluded through total capitulation or higher pensions obtained by selling state assets. President Zelenskyy should be honest and admit that in the current circumstances, it is impossible to achieve his election promises without betraying national interests. The people will understand. Admittedly, Zelenskyy’s election slogan – “Out with the Party of War!” [Poroshenko’s party] has turned out to be very naive… because today, Ukraine needs a Winston Churchill, someone that defends national interests, and not a Lord Chamberlain, who came home with a shameful peace plan.

Of course, for a democratic country, it’s clear that security interests sometimes require non-standard solutions, just as decisive economic reform requires unpopular decisions. But, such decisions should be made with the support of the people or at least in dialogue with them, and not by hiding governmental actions and decisions from the people. Zelenskyy’s advisores should also refrain from posting presidential video “outbursts” to test the people’s reaction.

It seems that President Zelenskyy is obsessed with the idea of imprisoning Petro Poroshenko. I’m afraid that’s why the Prosecutor General has been changed. It also signals that Zelenskyy is back on the old beaten path: in his time, Viktor Yanukovych also wanted to imprison Yuliya Tymoshenko. However, Zelenskyy’s famous words, which he threw in Poroshenko’s face during the presidential campaign – “I’m not your opponent! I’m your sentence!” – may backfire in an interesting way: the condemned Poroshenko may become Zelenskyy’s sentence.

For President Zelenskyy, the moment of truth has arrived! If there’s a minimal chance of influencing his actions and decisions, then I’m ready to use it. Mr. President, stand by your people, feel their fears and anxiety, open your heart to the nation, to all our soldiers and volunteers, activists and volunteer fighters, ordinary farmers and villagers! If you have already concluded an agreement with “yesterday’s people”, who promise to support you, then break it off, otherwise you’ll go down in history as a tragic figure, like one of the recent presidents. When contemplating a rapprochement with Russia, I ask you to heed the words of the Hebrew prophet Isaiah: “Behold, you are trusting in Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to all who trust in him” .

But, the moment of truth never lasts long. That’s why it’s time to stop turning back to the old beaten path… and all the more so since the coronavirus poses new challenges for our country. We can overcome these new challenges if we stick together, restoring group trust and building on human solidarity. Given that the decline of the standard of living is inevitable in the context of a global pandemic, we need to build a secure partnership between government and society. Any other model of instigating order in the country will lead to disaster.


First, I would like to sincerely congratulate the MPs from the Servant of the People Party, who decided to express their disagreement with the party leadership and the state. Ukrainian MPs take an oath that carries some very important words: “I swear allegiance to Ukraine… I swear… to fulfill my duties in the interests of all my compatriots”. That is, they do not swear allegiance to the President and do not swear to act in the interests of their party leadership. Therefore, I’d like to thank all the MPs who placed their civic duty above party loyalty.

Today, as before, the old truth surfaces again: every crack in our national unity enables Russia to drag us further toward the precipice.  We all know this, but we aren’t able to overcome our historical fate: every divergence in political tactics, which is inevitable in a democratic state, generates animosity and strategic divide in Ukraine.

Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky diagnosed this ailment as “moral hemophilia”, a disease that is more frightening than COVID-19. It must be vigorously combated, and the chain of understanding, solidarity and strategic partnership must be consciously renewed.

However, it’s not necessary to launch a new Maidan; in fact, this is not the wisest way to join forces during the coronavirus pandemic. People must learn from the human body: blocking one sensory organ activates all others (for example, blindness activates the sense of touch and hearing). At one time, Ukrainian dissidents responded to soviet censorship by reproducing “samvydav” (a form of dissident activity in the USSR, whereby individuals reproduced censored and underground makeshift publications, often by hand, and passed the documents from reader to reader-Ed). Today, seeing that protest areas are blocked, Ukrainian society must be more creative and invent other forms of solidarity.

Ukrainian society may also make another important decision: not to follow the old beaten path. Ukrainians are very emotional, and it would be so easy for us to become alienated from the ruling elite. However, we must not forget that such a dangerous crack in society will be used most effectively by the Kremlin.

I don’t want my words of caution to divert people from action. On the contrary, only a consolidated and active civil society can stop our government from drifting towards Putin’s “trap”. However, let’s remember that a hot heart must be guided by a cold mind!

Once again, the Ukrainian government has ventured into dangerous waters. Indeed, the damaged boat may start sinking if the movements of the captain and rowers are too drastic or careless, and if the behaviour of the frightened passengers is too hasty and inconsistent.

In point of fact, it’s never too late for the rowers and the passengers to ward off the irreparable and reach safe shores.

Translated by: Christine Chraibi
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