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Ukraine's Party of Regions Versus Truth, Decency, and Competence

Still think that Regionnaire rule in Ukraine might be compatible with truth, decency, and competence? Here are four more pieces of evidence that’ll lay to rest whatever residual hopes you may still possess.

The first consists of two photographs depicting the crowds that attended the May 9th Mass celebrated by Kirill, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, in the Regionnaire-ruled eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. The organizers chose the city’s huge Liberty Square as the site of the ceremony, in the expectation that attendees would number 100,000. As you can see from the top photograph, the altar is to the right, the towering statue of Lenin (sic!) is in the background, and the crowd is clearly far less than 100,000—even if you count Vladimir Ilich. Journalists estimated some 5,000, which looks about right. Now look at the photograph just below it. That’s the one the Ukrainian branch of the Russian Orthodox Church published on its website. Thanks to the miracle of Photoshop, the crowds look at least twice as large. More important, they trail off the bottom of the shot, suggesting that countless thousands might have been beyond the reach of the photographer. Now here’s a question for the good Kirill. Ready? Which commandment says, “Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”? You have ten guesses.

The second piece of evidence is an angry letter to President Viktor Yanukovych and other government luminaries denouncing the head of the Museum of the Soviet Occupation in Kyiv for engaging in treasonous activities and being on the payroll of the CIA. Wow, that’s quite a charge. So who exactly is the outraged citizen? Turns out the author is one Anna Zhuravska, resident of a tiny village in the middle of nowhere in Sumy Province, northeast of Kyiv. Now, why would someone like that get incensed about a museum on the other side of the moon? Investigative reporter Vakhtanh Kipiani decided to visit Zhuravska, to find out just what her beef was. And guess what? Her house is abandoned and she’s been missing for two years. Scroll down to the bottom of Kipiani’s article and you’ll see the missing persons flyer with her photograph. So who really wrote the letter? Take your pick: some Regionnaire flunky, some agent of the Ukrainian Security Service, some admirer of Yanukovych’s grand style of democracy. The one thing we know for sure is that the author was a dolt. After all, resorting to Stalinist tactics is bad enough, but transparently stupid Stalinist tactics?—well, that’s just unforgivable.

The third bit of evidence is my favorite, showing just how far some parts of Ukraine still need to go to approach some measure of universally recognized ethical norms. It features a veteran of the murderous Soviet secret police, the NKVD, at a meeting of the May 11th session of the provincial council of Luhansk, the capital of Ukraine’s easternmost province. If you understand Russian, you’ll notice that the bemedaled gentleman is enthusiastically describing how the NKVD crushed the postwar resistance movement in the Carpathian Mountains and expelled its population. “We caught them and placed them in train cars and off they went, all those bastards, to Siberia!” Now, crimes against humanity are generally frowned upon in most civilized countries, but not among the political elites of Luhansk. There, instead of being encouraged to hide out in dusty corners of Paraguay, the USSR’s version of the SS gets feted at official meetings of the provincial council. Oh, and listen to the applause. The only good news I can think of is that most residents of Luhansk are just hard-working people and that its intellectuals haven’t lost their marbles.

Finally, take a look at this satirical English-language expose of Regionnaire democracy. It’s about the Regionnaire practice of “piano playing,” or having one parliamentary deputy vote multiple times for absent comrades. Watch carefully and you’ll see Viktor Yanukovych Junior busy at work demonstrating his dad’s commitment to people’s rule. Who cares that this practice directly contravenes Article 84 of the Ukrainian Constitution, which specifically states that voting must be performed “in person”? And why be surprised that the Regionnaires proudly staged a performance of their virtuosity for a bemused delegation of Polish parliamentarians a few months ago? After all, Constitution Shmonstitution in Yanukostan: Got a problem with that? To tell the truth, what really worries me is that a few Regionnaire deputies are getting lots of exercise and most are not. Now, that may explain why thick jowls and dull gazes are so widespread in Yanukovych’s party, but the real issue is this: If the Regionnaires all become couch potatoes, who’ll inflate Kirill’s ego, write dubious denunciations, and applaud Stalinists?

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