Is this just another election?
Ukraine is at the crossroads. The country is being pulled in two very distinct directions – one path leading to the European community and the other back into the Russia-dominated sphere of influence. Without doubt, the ultimate choice of direction belongs to the citizens of Ukraine. There is growing concern, however, that the option to choose that direction is being stolen from them.
Some of the most worrying developments of the last 18 months include:
1. Constitutional Amendments
– The restrictions on the powers of the presidency have been removed; a pro-presidential majority was formed in Parliament unconstitutionally. President Yanukovych now enjoys more de facto unchecked power than even former president Leonid Kuchma (1994-2004), who was never able to rely on a pliable, unquestioningly loyal majority in Parliament;
2. Politically Motivated Selective Justice and Crackdown on Opposition politicians
– The conviction of former Prime Minister and leader of the largest opposition Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko was universally condemned as politically motivated.
– Former Minister of Interior and opposition leader Yuri Lutsenko has been held under arrest for over ten months; his trial is also widely considered to be politically motivated.
– The fact that two of the country’s three most popular opposition politicians currently find themselves in jail is indicative of a larger process of systematic intimidation and attacks on the political opposition.
3. Threats to Media Freedoms; Coercion of Journalists
– At least ten radio, television and newspaper journalists have reported being physically attacked throughout Ukraine. On 16 October, investigative reporter Oleksandr Vlaschenko was shot in the head in Mykolaiv. He survived but remains in critical condition. Censorship is acknowledged to be a rapidly growing problem.
– Independent TV channels (TVi, 5 Kanal) have had their broadcasting licenses suspended by government regulators;
– The country’s most powerful media baron, Valeriy Khoroshkovskyi, who controls Inter Media Group, is also the head of the State Security Service of Ukraine, and holds posts in the National Bank and the Judiciary Committee, which is responsible for appointing judges.
4. Rights Abuses and Intimidation
– Father Borys Gudziak, Rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University, Ruslan Zabilyi, Director of Lonskyi Prison Museum, and Roman Krutsyk, Chairman of the Kyiv City Chapter of the All-Ukrainian Memorial Society, among other community leaders, have reported incidents of intimidation and harassment by the Security Service of Ukraine and government agents.
In the months leading up to the Parliamentary elections UCC and CUF will be issuing Democracy Updates to keep Canadians informed on the pre-election climate in Ukraine. The next few months will prove critical in shaping Ukraine’s socio-political landscape for decades to come.
This is not about just another election. This is about Ukraine’s future. This about the right of Ukrainians to live freely in a democratic state that respects fundamental human and national rights. This is about the rights that we, Canadians, cherish and yet, so often, take for granted.
We need your support!