Sunday, February 23, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Unless Kremlin Learns Lessons of Ukraine, a Russian Maidan is Inevitable, Nemtsov Says



Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 23 – Viktor Yanukovich was “100 percent” responsible for the rise of the popular movement that overthrew him, Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov says, and unless the Kremlin learns the lessons from what has taken place in Ukraine, “a Russian Maidan is inevitable” and it will be the fault of no one but the Kremlin.

            In a blog post on Ekho Moskvy yesterday, Nemtsov lists six reasons for the rise and ultimate victory of the Maidan and considers the ways in which the current Russian regime of Vladimir Putin is behaving on each point in much the same, ultimately self-destructive way (echo.msk.ru/blog/nemtsov_boris/1264336-echo/).

            First, Nemtsov says, in Ukraine, there was boundless deception in which Yanukovich promised to pursue Euro-integration and then turned away at the last minute.  In Moscow, he suggests, “the deception is still more vile and cynical” not only about Ukraine but about Russia itself.

            Second, Yanukovich stole from his people in an unprecedented way. Indeed, it appears that the president of Ukraine may have “surpassed even Putin’s Russia.”  But it is a near thing, and of the amount of theft and corruption under Putin, Nemtsov says, he will not even on this occasion begin to speak.

            Third, Yanukovich oversaw “an economic crisis and the impoverishment of the people.” Ukrainians’ incomes are “several times lower than those of Russians, there is high unemployment, low pensions and poor pay for government workers.”  “There isn’t a deep crisis in Russia,” Nemtsov concedes, “but there is devaluation and the stagnation of the economy.”

            Fourth, Yanukovich showed himself unwilling to “conduct a dialogue with the people and reach compromises. The entire history of the Maidan beginning in November” reflected this. In Russia, the Kremlin behaves the same way: it engages in a monologue with the people: it talks and the people at all levels are expected to listen and obey.

            Fifth, the Ukrainian leader used against his citizens, “even when the protest was peaceful.” Under Putin in Russia, force is being used everywhere. There are political prisoners, and protest actions are suppressed by force.

            And sixth, Yanukovich “usurped power” by changing the constitution and “adopting dictatorial laws in the middle of January concerning foreign agents, the prohibition of meetings and so on.”  In Russia, Nemtsov says, “the usurpation of power is much more serious than in Ukraine.” Putin ... wants to rule until his death.”

            The only difference between Yanukovich’s Ukraine and Putin’s Russia is that Putin has “more money and [the Russians are more] patient.  “But patience isn’t infinite," and Putin needs to recognize this.

            The conditions in Ukraine led to “an uprising of the people and the overthrow of Yanukovich,” Nemtsov observes. The question now is “will the Kremlin absorb the lessons of the Maidan?”

            Nemtsov says that he “very much doubts” that it will.  Instead, he says, Putin and his reigme “will continue to lie, to steal, and to hold onto power more tightly, seeking to rely on repression.”  That may work for a time, but if the Kremlin does so, “then a Russian Maidan is inevitable – and all the responsibility for will lie on the greedy and cynical Russian authorities.”

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