Published on openDemocracy (http://www.opendemocracy.net)
Ukraine: blackmail and bluff
Mykola Riabchuk, 18th July 2011
Under the direction of the new Polish presidency, the EU has dangled a huge integration carrot in front of Ukraine’s misbehaving political elite. The rationale, no doubt, is to win out in an us-or-Russia scenario. But Mykola Ryabchuk remains unconvinced the Yanukovych clan needs persuading which way to turn.
About the authorMykola Riabchuk is a senior research fellow at the Ukrainian Center for Cultural Studies, in Kyiv, and co-founder and member of the editorial board of Krytyka, a leading Ukrainian intellectual magazine.
For at least a decade, I have been hearing from my Polish friends – journalists, scholars, and politicians – a recurrent phrase: “You know, we cannot care more for Ukraine than Ukrainians themselves.” Yet, they still try.
When Poland assumed its six-month presidency of the European Union on 1 July, its leaders declared candidly that one of their priorities was the promotion of Ukraine to associate membership of the EU and finalizing, by the end of the year, the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) as part of it. The desire seems to be so strong that the Polish president Bronislaw Komorowski did not hesitate, back in June at the Global Forum in Wroclaw , to praise Ukraine’s democratization and European integration efforts.
It is very unlikely that Polish president or any other European leader has been unaware of what is really going on in Ukraine. No doubt, they have good advisers, savvy regional experts, and competent staff in their embassies. They have certainly noticed that in the eighteen months of Viktor Yankovych’s rule all civic freedoms in Ukraine have shrunk, corruption has skyrocketed, and justice has descended from low to zero. Actually, all these processes are aptly reflected in the annual reports of reputable international organizations like Freedom House, Reporters without Borders, Transparency International, and some others. All of them have significantly downgraded Ukraine’s score in every area.
“So, why the rush? Why should a country that is steadily sliding down to Russian-style or even Belarusian-style authoritarianism be embraced by a European Union that presents itself as a community of values?”
The political trials  with absurd criminal accusations against the leaders of the opposition and members of the former government are only the tip of the iceberg, even though they seem to have caught most of the attention in Europe. There are much more worrisome developments in Ukraine that remain much less discernible and are virtually unaddressed by the European partners. First of all, there is a very high number of people from Donbas , very often with criminal records or facing allegations, placed in various leading positions all over Ukraine, primarily in Kyiv and especially in the courts, the police, the taxation administration, and prosecutors’ offices. Secondly, the number of tax police and security service raids against disloyal businesses, including mass media companies, has escalated dramatically. People are often searched, detained, and interrogated without any legal grounds or documentation. The Kharkiv Human Rights Group , which tries to monitor all violations of this kind, has recorded a significant increase in the number of cases of torture and unexplained deaths in custody. And finally, there are more and more unidentified “hooligans” and Zimbabwe-style paramilitary gangs that intimidate and assault and destroy property of anyone who openly supports the opposition, especially in the provincial areas of central and south eastern Ukraine. Even Ukrainian priests and believers are targeted in order to “persuade” them to join the Moscow patriarchate favored by President Viktor Yanukovych.