Monday, January 20, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Yanukovich Imports Putin’s Repressive Laws to Ukraine

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 20 – Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has chosen not only to turn away from Europe by moving toward Vladimir Putin’s customs union but also and more disturbingly is copying Putin’s increasingly repressive laws, a step that speaks volumes about what Yanukovich is about and points to more clashes ahead in Ukraine.

            And at least equally important, Yanukovich’s actions undercut the arguments of those in the West who have suggested that Ukraine isn’t “ready” to join Europe, that its rapprochement with Moscow is at worst only “temporary,” and that the events in Ukraine in recent months are not about the restoration of a divide between the West and Russia.

            In a lead article of “Vedomosti” today, the editors of that Moscow paper, says that Yanukovich’s signature on Friday of a series of “repressive laws, which in many respects copy corresponding Russian legislation” show that the Ukrainian president “has finally chosen the Belarusian-Russian path for Ukraine” (

            “It is obvious,” the editors say, “that the tightening of laws was not simply the good advice of Moscow to Kyiv.  This is necessary, in Moscow’s understanding, for the defense of its investments: Yanukovich as a minimum must preserve power” probably with Moscow-imposed cadres choices.

            And it is equally obvious, the “Vedomosti” editors say, that Ukraine under Yanukovich “has finally said goodbye to the European Union,” which has condemned these laws, even if Kyiv tries to maintain the rhetoric of its “willingness” to move toward Europe at some point in the future. 

            The editors suggest that Moscow imported its repressive laws from Belarus and is now exporting them to Ukraine, but they note that “in the current situation, the literl borrowing of Russian-Belarusian experience will become for Ukraine a political anachronism so that the political crisis” in Kyiv will continue.

            The Ukrainian opposition has already declared that it will not follow the new laws and clashes between the people and the Yanukovich regime have broken out with new force.  Neither side appears likely to back down, Yanukovich because Moscow would oppose it and the people because they do not want the Lukashenka-Putin model of governance he offers.

            Consequently, it is almost certain that this latest step, one Yanukovich and Putin apparently assume they can get away with at little or no cost is likely to backfire on both men, with Ukrainians taking to the streets as they are already doing and ever more Western leaders recognizing just what Putin is really about.

            Whatever their wannabe masters in Kyiv and Moscow are about, Ukrainians want to be free and part of Europe, and it is worth noting that one opposition report about Yanukovich’s latest steps described them as “signing” Ukraine” into “a dictatorship.”  The Ukrainians escaped one in 1991; they are not willing to go back (

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