The image war between President Viktor Yanukovych and imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko continues.
Ukraine’s hapless leader suffered another knock-down punch on September 29th, when the online press published two sets of contrasting images: a video of the imprisoned Tymoshenko enjoining Ukrainians not to submit to dictatorship and a series of photos of Yanukovych’s lavish digs. Tymoshenko comes across as impassioned, brave, and principled. Yanukovych comes across as a spoiled brat with megalomaniacal fantasies of ruling over Never-Never Land.
She calls Ukraine “a criminal country built by Yanukovych.” As far as human rights are concerned, “the Yanukovych mafia has no regard for the law. They care only about self-enrichment and corruption.” Who could disagree?
As to herself, Ukraine’s most prominent political prisoner says, “Everyday not only do they exert psychological and physical pressure, but they also transform, consciously and purposefully, every day into hell. And this is Yanukovych’s design.” And even if it isn’t his design, it’s certainly his responsibility.
What’s next for Ukraine? “Either people will rise up and overthrow this criminal grouping at the elections or [this grouping] will treat everyone in its possession, every person, just as they treat me.”
And if Ukrainians don’t heed her advice? “If you don’t immediately realize that Ukraine is run by criminals, by the mafia, then nothing will be able to protect you from the goings-on led by Yanukovych.”
Who could disagree?
While Tymoshenko is progressively becoming Ukraine’s Nelson Mandela, Yanukovych seems determined to become its Nero.
Ukrainska Pravda, an online democratic newspaper, managed to acquire several clandestinely taken photographs of the president’s palatial residence north of the capital city. As it turns out, the plantation-style building Yanukovych let some journalists view last year was just a temporary abode. The real residence is a bona fide palace set within a palatial compound. As befits a Regionnaire with questionable taste, everything is in marble, and no inch appears to be spared some excessively florid design. Yanukovych even has columns on the inside of his abode, and they’re some weird combination of Ionic plus Corinthian styles.
It all amounts to a nightmarish amalgam of nouveau riche kitsch, late Ottoman excess, Disneyland vulgarity, and Donald Trump tastelessness. I’ve often stated that Yanukovych has constructed a highly personalized, authoritarian “sultanistic” regime and that he himself is a sultan. I’m proud to report that Ukraine’s president obviously agrees. No one but a self-styled Donetsk sultan could possibly have concocted something this awful. And no one but a historically ignorant sultan would be imitating a regime that went up in flames.
Having suffered a knockdown punch, Yanukovych must have decided to strike back with Tymoshenko’s own methods: a video of her banging on a prison hospital door, trying to get access to her visitors.
As the accompanying prison press service put it, Tymoshenko, “violating the prison regime and civic order and ignoring the requests of medical personnel not to violate peace in the medical facility as well as all the comments and requests of the Kachaniv prison personnel, attempted to damage the door in a section of the hospital with her heels.”
The bit about “civic order” in, of all places, a Ukrainian prison is just too precious. And just imagine how downright evil Tymoshenko must be to take off her shoe and bang on a metal door. Dang, you can just imagine what must’ve been going through Viktor’s head when he saw the video: No way am I ever letting that broad into my house!
Of course, the actual effect of this video is just the opposite of its intended effect. Once again, Tymoshenko looks determined, while the regime looks stupid.
A Ukrainian friend of mine, a professor, thinks that Tymoshenko may be released after the October 28th parliamentary elections. His reasoning is that things have gotten so bad for the regime that they have to do something to save face. Could be. On the other hand, such a move would require lots of guts, a bit of intelligence, and some minimal appreciation of reality.
The emperor Nero supposedly fiddled while Rome burned. Well, at least he saw that it was burning, while deciding not to do anything about it.
Is Ukraine’s sultan even aware that his regime is burning? The columns in his palace suggest that the answer is no.