TERROR AND SOVEREIGNTY | Vitaliy Portnykov

You also can read this article in Ukrainian by following the link |


The main event of July, without a doubt, can be considered the situation with the terrorist hostage-taking in Lutsk. The man, who held the passengers of the bus all day, made senseless demands not only to the authorities, but also to the hierarchs of the church denominations. Despite the presence of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and other law enforcement officials at the scene, the situation was resolved only after President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke with the terrorist. After this conversation, the president read a phrase demanded by the terrorist about watching some movie, and the terrorist released his hostages.


Ukrainian society, as it usually happens, is divided in its assessment of what happened in Lutsk. Some believe that we have encountered the behavior of a dangerous psychopath and that the authorities have had to make every effort to prevent the possible death of people. Others are convinced that this was not a hostage-taking at all, but only a staging. There is only difference in versions of who organized this staging ‒ Interior Minister Arsen Avakov to increase his political influence or President Volodymyr Zelensky himself to increase his ratings.


Be that as it was, the main danger of what happened in Lutsk is not even whether it was a real or staged terrorist act. And that now any criminal or psychopath may be tempted to "talk" to the authorities by taking hostages, mining strategic objects or other similar actions. The demand of the Lutsk terrorist, which was satisfied by Volodymyr Zelensky, was really strange and did not lead to any consequences. And what will happen if much more serious demands are made, which the head of state would not want or simply would not be able to fulfill? What will happen if the Russian secret services want to stage such a terrorist act ‒ and they have extensive experience in such productions, as well as real terrorist acts, from blowing up houses in Moscow to poisoning in Salisbury.


Russian propagandists, by the way, have their own logic regarding Zelensky's actions. They ask why it is possible to talk to a terrorist from Lutsk and not to talk to the leaders of the "people's republics" who are considered terrorists in Kyiv. This issue became relevant after the talks in the Tripartite Contact Group agreed on a ceasefire in the conflict zone in Donbas on July 27. For the first time in five months, Vladimir Zelensky talked about this ceasefire with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the Ukrainian authorities have high hopes for this ceasefire. But is it really possible to get Russia to stop shelling Ukraine from the occupied territories?


It is critical for Ukraine that the shelling of the controlled territory from the occupied territories ceases. Volodymyr Zelensky spoke about this during his last trip to Donbas, which he made together with the President of Switzerland Simonetta Sommaruga. After all, these shellings create tension both on the line of demarcation and in society. The shelling will stop ‒ and most Ukrainians will "forget" about Donbas, as they "forgot" about Crimea ‒ the occupied peninsula becomes a news topic only when discussions about water supply to Crimea resuming. But Crimea is not a political lever to put pressure on Ukraine. On the contrary, Ukraine constantly reminds Russia of Crimea and irritates the aggressor so much that in July they decided to introduce a criminal penalty for actually recognizing Crimea's belonging to Ukraine. But this is exactly Russian, not Ukrainian history. And even more, not a story about the lever of pressure on Ukraine. If the shelling stops, Donbas will cease to be such a lever.


That is why the shelling will not stop ‒ there are no idiots in the Kremlin who are ready to give up such an effective lever without the surrender of the Ukrainian side. That is why no ceasefire agreements have lasted more than a few weeks or even days. And new arrangements can expect the same unenviable fate.


Why then does Russia agree with them? Because it seems to win with any outcome. If the Ukrainian military continues to respond to the shelling, it will allow the occupier to accuse the Ukrainian side of violating the agreement and accuse Zelensky of not wanting to end the "civil war in Donbas". This is, of course, a signal from the pro-Russian part of Zelensky's supporters that they should vote for the Opposition Platform ‒ For Life in in the local elections and now rely only on Viktor Medvedchuk and other openly pro-Russian politicians.


And if the Ukrainian military does not respond to the shelling and turn into cannon meat for the occupiers, it will only intensify the confrontation between the government and the patriotic part of society, will inevitably lead to an explosion ‒ well, not after the first, but after the tenth or twentieth death or arrest of that soldier who decides to respond to the shelling. Which is also in Moscow's favor, because its main goal is to destabilize the Ukrainian government and collapse the state. And this is by no means an unfounded calculation. The deaths of Ukrainian servicemen in July, including a military medic who was part of the mission to evacuate the bodies of fallen soldiers, and a lack of response from the Ukrainian authorities to the tragedy again led to a radicalization of public sentiments. Once again, the question arose: who will actually adhere to the ceasefire? Will the Ukrainian military be able to answer if the occupiers shoot at them? And if there is no answer ‒ how will it affect the mood in the army and the mood in society?


These, of course, are by no means accidental questions. And some of the problems that Ukraine will have to face in the coming months. After all, the coronavirus epidemic in the country has not yet been defeated, the numbers of patients look stable, the borders of the European Union are closed to Ukrainian citizens. And the issue of overcoming economic difficulties will be the main issue of this fall. And many experts believe that the change of the head of the National Bank of Ukraine has become an indicator that these problems will be solved through the stability of the national currency and the welfare of citizens.


However, even against the background of these events and the anticipation of new problems, we must not forget about another event, which was the main one for Ukraine in July ‒ but not in 2020, but in 1990. It was the month and year of the adoption of the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine. And although this document still talked about the need for self-determination of Ukraine in the framework of the adoption of a new Union Treaty, nevertheless an important step towards Ukrainian independence was made just then, 30 years ago. Literally a year later, on August 24, 1991, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the Act of State Independence and a new state appeared on the political map of the world.


The Verkhovna Rada (parlament – ed.) of Ukraine convened for a special session, at which President Volodymyr Zelensky, Leonid Kravchuk (a few days after the Declaration of State Sovereignty was elected chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of the USSR) and Igor Yukhnovsky, then chairman of the opposition People's Rada, spoke. These speeches reminded that the adoption of the Declaration of State Sovereignty was made possible only by a joint vote of the National Democrats and the Communists in parliament. But why did the Communists vote for sovereignty? Why did they vote for independence on August 24?


Perhaps precisely because the Communists had their own idea of Ukrainian sovereignty? In July 1990, they wanted to gain a more stable position in negotiations with the Union Center and in relations with Yeltsin's Russia, which was becoming an increasingly important political factor. They hoped that if real reforms began in the Soviet Union, those reforms could be stopped in a sovereign Ukraine. The same logic prompted their actions in August 1991 ‒ the collapse of the putschists and the banning of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union created hope that in independent Ukraine it would be possible to stop the time.


And that means a simple truth. For the National Democrats, for all supporters of Ukrainian independence, a free Ukraine was the goal. And for communists and ‒ broadly speaking ‒ adapters ‒ Ukraine was just the means to achieve their own goals.


So, the real split in Ukrainian society began then, 30 years ago. Appearing on the podium on the anniversary of Zelensky, Kravchuk and Yukhnovsky simply reminded us again of the schism in which we continue to exist.

DONATE

Copyright © 2019 HROMADA in San Francisco
All rights reserved