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Ukraine's Regionnaire Party Panics

The Regionnaires are panicking. They know they’re in trouble and they don’t know what to do about it.

On February 28th, the Donetsk provincial leadership met with local leaders. One of them, the mayor of Kramatorsk, Hennadii Kostyukov, informed the assembled big shots of the following:

Young people use the Internet today. I am more than certain that in no other country, aside from Russia and us, do they write such filth about the first persons of the state … They sow mistrust in young people and thereby raise an entire generation of nihilists … This is very serious. The year 2015 is before us, and we’re losing time.

Kostyukov doesn’t get it: the Regionnaires haven’t just lost time in the run-up to the 2015 presidential elections. They’ve lost the hearts and minds of everyone under the age of 50. In particular, Internet-savvy young people—and Donetsk, with its many universities, is full of them—know that the people running the Party of Regions (and, not incidentally, running the Donbas into the ground) just don’t measure up. The Regionnaires have lost that constituency and, thus, the battle for the future. Small wonder that, when Kostyukov finished his talk, someone from the audience drew the logical conclusion and cried out: “Kill them all!”

On March 30th, the Donetsk mayor, Oleksandr Lukyanchenko, gave the Donetsk provincial conference of the Party of Regions more bad news:

Mistakes and difficulties in the economy and the slow pace of reform have disappointed the population and sown popular mistrust of the authorities. The number of our supporters is declining. Some of the center’s decisions directly harm urban and rural territorial communities. Thanks to the center’s mistakes, the people in our region are suffering.

Ignore Lukyanchenko’s wooden bureaucratese, which is typical for old communist apparatchiks. Consider only that he is accusing the Yanukovych regime of failing its own voters. To be sure, he puts the blame on vague mistakes and difficulties and on “some” of the center’s decisions. But Regionnaire ex-communists know full well that those seemingly anodyne references conceal a blistering criticism of Kyiv’s incompetence. And the kicker is, of course, this sentence: “The number of our supporters is declining.” When a Regionnaire is forced to admit that his party’s hegemony may be impermanent, you can be sure that the situation is dire.

Then, on April 4th, a meeting of the Donetsk provincial council heard one of its deputies, a certain Ordash Dadashov, engage in this complaint:

After the provincial council voted on drilling for nontraditional gas in the region there was unleashed a campaign of discrediting the members of the Party of Regions who, as provincial deputies, voted for this decision. The Artemovsk city website contained a large portrait of our president and provincial deputies with the caption “Traitors of the Donbas.” I ask that you task the appropriate agencies to find out who’s behind this. As we approach important electoral events, the Party of Regions and the party’s members in the provincial council do not need this.

Dadashov is quite right: the last thing the Regionnaires need is free speech.

That Dadshov’s party agrees with him was made evident on April 3rd, when the Press Service of the Party of Regions interpreted an incident in which some of its members were pelted with snowballs in Kyiv as heralding the rise of fascism.

The Party of Regions will not ignore this occurrence and demands that the organs of order find these brutes and give an appropriate legal response to their crimes … Sowing enmity and hatred among Ukrainian citizens, the opposition leaders Tyahnybok, Yatseniuk, and Klitschko are pushing the country toward chaos, thereby satisfying their political ambitions. Promoting fascistically inclined fighters is nothing less than the demonstratively public manifestation of political terrorism and a resurgent neo-Nazism.

(Fascism, like nationalism, has obviously become a meaningless term in Ukraine. I’ll devote a few blogs to both concepts a few weeks from now.)

Meanwhile, one Regionnaire has decided to jump ship. Valery Konovalyuk, appointed President Yanukovych’s adviser in 2010, provided this spot-on analysis of the failures of the regime on his Facebook page in late April:

So there it is! I’m no longer an adviser to the president of Ukraine … And nothing connects me to the Party of Regions for the last year … I have nothing to say to Viktor Yanukovych … All my many statements and comments about the situation in the country, about the disastrous and ineffective economic policy, about the absence of real reforms, about the extent of corruption and abuse, about the low level of executive authority and discipline and much, much more … What is currently taking place (and I have issued many warnings to this effect) is the direct route to crisis and the country’s bankruptcy. It’s a complete rejection of the promises and commitments made three years ago, and a betrayal of those who for many years gave their support and believed in the development and blossoming of Ukraine!!!

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