Censorship at Ukrayinska Pravda /Цензура на «Українській правді»

Censorship at Ukrayinska Pravda

It is rather strange but unlikely to be a coincidence that the removal of my blog on Ukrayinska Pravda took place at the same time as the Euro-Maydan and political crisis began in Ukraine. The removal of my Ukrayinska Pravda blog came not coincidentally at the same time as Regions deputy Oleg Tsaryev sent a blacklist of 15 people (myself, 2 Americans, 1 German, 11 Georgians) to the SBU to be prevented from entering Ukraine.
Already since 2010 there had been semi-censorship when the editor Olena Prytula (who makes these decisions arbitrarily) ordered that my blogs be not hosted on the home page of Ukrayinska Pravda. I did not publicise this semi-censorship because I did not seek a scandal or publicity.
Other things had long troubled me about the lack of objectivity of Ukrayinska Pravda journalists that are reflected in Prytula’s ideological control. At a recent conference in Ottawa I asked Serhiy Leshchenko why he focused his corruption investigations exclusively upon Pavlo Lazarenko when Ihor Bakay stole three times as much as him. He replied that there were documents in the Lazarenko case but not in the case of Bakay. But, this is simply not true as Wikileaks and the Melnychenko tapes are full of information about Bakay and other corrupt Kuchma era officials. Karoslaw Koshiw has just published a book analysing all of the Melnychenko tapes that has an entire chapter on Bakay (such a book analysis has yet to be published in Ukraine). Nevertheless, Leshchenko is focused exclusively on the hunt for Lazarenko’s and Tymoshenko’s corruption.
Prytula has used the political crisis to remove from Ukrayinska Pravda those whom SHE personally dislikes. I know this is the case with my other Ukrainian colleagues such as for example Dmytro Potekhin.
Prytula has used the political crisis unfolding in Ukraine to censor people for whatever strange and unknown reasons she dislikes from her personal publication. In my case one would think that having at least one member of the Ukrainian diaspora as a blogger might be of interest to Ukrayinska Pravda readers (no other Ukrainian diaspora leaders or journalists blog in Ukraine).
Worst still this was undertaken in a manner befitting those who are in power today in Ukraine. Firstly, the semi-censorship was undertaken without any prior notice and secondly the full censorship was undertaken using deceit and subterfuge. When I logged on I received the following message:
Шановний авторе!
Зверніться будь ласка до адміністратора. webmaster@pravda.com.ua
В цілях безпеки ми змінили паролі доступу.
З повагою, редакція
When I wrote to the web master I never received a reply. When an independent journalist organisation intervened on my behalf and enquired with Prytula what was happening she ranted that he is an idiot and does not understand anything and because of this she will remove me completely from Ukrayinska Pravda.  Democracy and free media a la Prytula.
This approach has of course nothing to do with European values of free media and independent journalism and is shameful and a dishonour to the founder of Ukrayinska Pravda Georgi Gongadze’s legacy. It is more akin with that of an ideological commissar from bygone Soviet days.
Ukraine’s media situation is terrible but I remain confident that despite the Prytula’s of this world the country will build an independent media free of ideological commissar’s in the inevitable post-Yanukovych era.

Цензура на «Українській правді»

Те, що ліквідація мого блогу з «Української правди» відбулася в той час, коли в Україні розпочався Євромайдан і набула обертів політична криза, досить дивно, однак навряд чи є збігом. Усунення мого блогу на «Українській правді» не випадково відбулося в той час, коли депутат Партії регіонів Олег Царьов надіслав «чорний список» з 15 людей (в тому числі мене, двох американців, одного німця і одинадцятьох грузинів) до СБУ, аби та заборонила їм в’їзд в Україну.
На «Українській правді» напівцензура з’явилася ще в 2010 р., коли головний редактор Олена Притула вирішила (без пояснень), що мої блоги не з’являтимуться на головній сторінці сайту. Я не піддав це розголосу, оскільки не збирався влаштовувати скандал з цього приводу.
Інша річ, яка турбувала мене, стосувалася нестачі об’єктивності журналістів «Української правди», яка відображалася в ідеологічному контролі Притули. В ході нещодавньої конференції в Оттаві я запитав Сергія Лещенка, чому він зосередив свою увагу на розслідуванні корупційних дій виключно Павла Лазаренка, в той час як Ігор Бакай украв приблизно втричі більше. Він відповів, що по Лазаренку є документи, а по Бакаю немає. Але це не так, адже документи Wikileaks і плівки Мельниченка містять украй багато інформації про Бакая та інших корумпованих чиновників епохи Леоніда Кучми. Ярослав Кошів недавно опублікував книгу, в якій проаналізував зміст усіх плівок Мельниченка (подібної праці досі немає в Україні). Один із розділів цієї книги повністю присвячений Бакаю. Тим не менше, Лещенко зосередив свою увагу виключно на корупції Лазаренка і Тимошенко.
Притула використала політичну кризу в країні для того, аби усунути з «Української правди» тих, кому вона особисто не симпатизує. Я знаю, що це стосується й декого з моїх українських колег, зокрема Дмитра Потєхіна. У моєму випадку здається, що мати хоча б одного представника діаспори серед блогерів було б цікаво принаймні для читачів «Української правди» (жоден інший громадський діяч чи журналіст з діаспори не веде блог в українській мережі).
Ще гіршим виглядає спосіб, у який це було зроблено, що своєю манерою нагадує тих, хто зараз перебуває при владі в Україні. По-перше, запровадження напівцензури відбулося без жодного попередження; по-друге, введення повної цензури було здійснено за допомогою хитрощів і обману. Одного дня, коли я намагався увійти в свій обліковий запис, я отримав таке повідомлення:

Шановний авторе!
Зверніться будь ласка до адміністратора webmaster@pravda.com.ua
В цілях безпеки ми змінили паролі доступу.
З повагою, редакція

Я написав адміністратору, однак не отримав жодної відповіді. Коли незалежний журналіст від мого імені втрутився в цю ситуацію та намагався з’ясувати у Притули, в чому річ, вона сказала, що він ідіот та нічого не розуміє і тому вона повністю усуне мене з «Української правди». Демократія і свобода слова а ля Притула в дії.
Зрозуміло, що такий підхід немає нічого спільного з європейськими цінностями свободи слова та незалежної журналістики та йде врозріз із репутацією засновника «Української правди» Георгія Гонгадзе. Він більше нагадує поведінку комісарів з ідеології радянських часів.
Ситуація з українськими ЗМІ жахлива, однак я лишаюся впевненим у тому, що незважаючи на Притулу та їй подібних в епоху після Януковича Україна зможе створити систему незалежних медіа, в якій не буде місця комісарам з ідеології.

Posted in General Articles | 1 Comment

Tymoshenko 2: Yanukovych 1

I always said Yulia Tymoshenko would not agree to go to Germany without getting something in return. She now agrees to go but the EU demands Yanukovych pardons her. The murder accusation has already collapsed with First Deputy Prosecutor Renat Kuzmin being removed to the National Security & Defence Council.

This is a win-win outcome for Tymoshenko:
1. If he pardons her, Tymoshenko wins both ways, receiving German treatment and the freedom to participate in politics and elections.
2. If he does not pardon her, she can point the finger and say “It’s not my fault the Association Agreement was not signed as I agreed to go to Germany. It’s his fault”.

Classic Tymoshenko – outwitting Yanukovych even from a prison cell.

Good analysis here:

http://foreignnotes.blogspot.ca/2013/10/tymoshenko-still-in-game.html

Vitaliy Portnikov: Тимошенко вже виграла

http://www.radiosvoboda.org/content/article/25127539.html

Posted in Ukraine and Europe | 2 Comments

There will be no Compromise Medical Solution on the “Tymoshenko Problem”

President Viktor Yanukovych’s stilted performance at last week’s Yalta European Strategy in front of Europe’s leaders confirmed that he will not release political prisoner, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko whose fate has become the major hurdle to Ukraine’s European integration.

There are two paths Yanukovych could take.

The first would be to order his Party of Regions to vote to remove two 1961 Soviet articles from Ukraine’s criminal code that were used to sentence Tymoshenko. This would overturn her October 2011 conviction for “abuse of office.” Yanukovych would have to take another step and order his pocket judiciary to close other criminal cases the most important of which is the murder of oligarch Yevhen Shcherban in 1996.

A second compromise path of permitting her to travel to Germany for medical treatment is in fact just as complicated as it requires Tymoshenko to agree to firstly, travelling without the overturning of an existing case and the closure of on-going criminal cases and secondly, to become a political hermit in Germany. Why would Tymoshenko help Yanukovych escape from his predicament without demanding an end to her political persecution and anybody who has watched her career must know she is not suited to live a hermit’s life.

Yanukovych is therefore faced with an impossible choice of either releasing her and receiving the AA but then facing the toughest political opponent he would ever face in the 2015 presidential elections or keeping her imprisoned and losing Ukraine’s chance of European integration.

Medical treatment is impossible because Tymoshenko would demand in return to agreeing to travel that all past and current convictions and charges be removed. In turn, Germany is a democratic country and could never prevent Tymoshenko from freely becoming involved in politics. If she no longer has past or current criminal charges she can be a candidate in 2015.

Therefore, whether Ukraine receives an AA in Vilnius is not dependent on Tymoshenko as for Yanukovych – and this is what the EU and US fail to understand – holding on to power and stealing trumps European integration. There are two scenarios:
1. The EU ignores its values and demands for Tymosenko’s release and signs the AA. This is the view of the majority of Ukraine’s so-called “experts”.
2. The EU abides by its values and benchmarks and does not sign the AA because Yanukovych has not ended selective use of justice.

There will be no medical compromise because Yanukovych is paranoid about Tymoshenko and scenario two is the most likely. One hopes that the Ukrainian media and think tanks will after Vilnius stop describing the so-called “experts” as “experts”.

http://dif.org.ua/ua/events/-absolyutna-bilshist-ekspertiv-perekonana——ukraina-ta-es-pidpishut–ugodu-pro-asociaciyu-na-vilnyuskomu-samiti.htm

Posted in Ukraine and Europe | 4 Comments

Adrian and Alex

 

Since 2010, two New Yorkers Adrian Karatnycky and Alexander Motyl, have gone their separate paths. Karatnycky went from the pro-Yushchenko Orange Circle to becoming an apologist for Viktor Yanukovych claiming that he was a reformer, he had changed since 2004 and that he was not as “pro-Russian” as people like me claimed.
Motyl moved in the opposite direction into becoming Yanukoych’s arch opponent and for the last three years he has been predicting, gloom, doom, violent rebellion, non-violent revolution and the rapid demise of weak regime.
Both experts on Ukraine were proven wrong. I wrote already in May 2011 about how Karatnycky had got every prediction wrong in an op ed entitled “Time for a reality check” (http://www.kyivpost.com/opinion/op-ed/time-for-a-reality-check-104145.html). I never wrote responses to Motyl although I often wrote to him privately to say he was wishful thinking.
Karatnycky was overly optimistic about Yanukovych whereas Motyl was overly focused on Yanukovych. Yanukovych was never a reformer and today he is not a European. Meanwhile, reading Motyl’s blogs you would come to believe that he is the only problem that exists in Ukraine today – which is not true. The main thing we learnt from the Yushchenko presidency was that Ukraine’s Soviet legacy is far deeper and broader than simply the Donbas, Party of Regions or Yanukovych.
Besides romanticism about Ukraine what else united Karatnycky and Motyl was their dislike of Tymoshenko, as seen in their jointly penned article in Foreign Affairs in May-June 2009 (http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/64953/adrian-karatnycky-and-alexander-j-motyl/the-key-to-kiev). This dislike of Tymoshenko influences their willingness to argue in favour of the EU signing the Association Agreement even if Tymoshenko is not released with the proviso that after Ukraine is “inside the tent” that Brussels then has the ability to impose conditionality on Kyiv. Russia’s undiplomatic and aggressive behaviour merely reinforces the geopolitical over human rights view among Ukrainian diaspora experts that we need to bring Ukraine into the West. I responded to this geopolitical argument in the New Atlanticist (http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/european-values-not-geopolitics-should-decide-ukraine-s-european-integration).
Motyl’s latest blog takes these arguments a step further while at the same time confusing everybody about his views of Yanukovych. Karatnycky gave up on Yanukovych after he put Tymoshenko in jail in October 2011 as even Adrian thought it would be too embarrassing to support Yanukovych after this show trial. Alex on the other hand is now pointing to how Yanukovych could become a new Richard Nixon (http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/blog/alexander-j-motyl/yanukovych-faces-eu-integration-and-history). Although he points to the fact that “Given the profoundly unexceptional nature of Viktor Yanukovych’s presidency, he has no right to stand face to face with history. He’s no George Washington. He’s no Charles de Gaulle. He’s no Margaret Thatcher. Heck, he’s not even Jimmy Carter.”
“Nothing in Yanukovych’s past suggests that he should be even remotely interested in Ukraine’s integration into Europe and eventual membership in the European Union.” That continues to be the case as Yanukovych wants to integrate into either the EU or CIS Customs Union without giving up sovereignty (i.e. a monopoly on power) and without changing his Eurasian domestic polices about which Motyl has often written.
The most bizarre section in the new blog is the following which contradicts everything Motyl has written about in the last few years:
“Two years ago, when Yanukovych first intimated that he’d pursue EU integration, it seemed like a bad joke or a sly ruse. Now, just a few short weeks before a November summit in Vilnius is supposed to decide whether Ukraine gets to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union, Yanukovych’s continued commitment to integration seems to be genuine.”
If his “commitment” was genuine Yaukovych would have followed up on his promise made on at least three occasions to Western leaders since 2011 to release Tymoshenko – even if to undergo medical treatment in Germany. Instead he has added even more criminal charges such as the murder of Yevhen Shcherban which I wrote about abut in this two-part article for Eurasia Daily Monitor (http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=40503#.UjtSlRCo2AQ; http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=40578#.UjtSuhCo2AQ).
More importantly when Yanukovych was asked at the Yalta European Strategy summit last week what would happen if Ukraine did not receive the Association Agreement in Vilnius in late November he replied: “It will not be a big disaster.”
As President Leonid Kuchma before him, Yanukovych’s Euro-pragmatism is defined by the view “Eta vsyo ravno” (It’s no big deal) if we go West or East. Nearly a decade ago I wrote that Kuchma’s foreign policy was neither pro-Western nor pro-Russian but simply pro-Kuchma and this is the same case today except that its now pro-Yanukovych (http://www.taraskuzio.net/media21_files/21.pdf). Motyl himself writes that “It’s highly unlikely that Yanukovych and his entourage care greatly about the Ukrainian population’s global integration or about European values.”
On a final note, Motyl simply exaggerates whether Ukrainian politicians and presidents give a damn about their legacy and more importantly whether they even understand how to even feel accountable for their actions. Surely the Yushchenko presidency would have taught us that.
“As the Vilnius summit approaches, Yanukovych should remember that the choice he makes will determine how history views him. If he stays the course, addresses the Tymoshenko issue, and opts for Europe, history will probably overlook most of his incompetence and underscore his bold Nixonian move, perhaps even calling it a stroke of genius. If he blinks and opts for integration with Russia, history will remember him as a Putin clone and consign both of them to the ash heap of failed dictators.”

Yanukovych could only become a Nixon because he adopts similarly undemocratic practices as Watergate – but not China.

Posted in Sovok Culture, Ukraine and Europe | 2 Comments

Why Yulia Tymoshenko should not Help Viktor Yanukovych

Speculation is becoming louder that the Ukrainian authorities will release Yulia Tymoshenko for medical treatment to Germany. On a visit to Lithuania, Parliamentary Chairman Volodymyr Rybak was reported as saying the Tymoshenko medical question would be resolved by October – only to deny he had discussed this after returning to Kyiv. Zhenya Tymoshenko said this week that she had received no proposal for her mother being permitted to travel to Germany.
There are three important points missing from this question.
Firstly, Tymoshenko has herself to agree to travel to Germany for medical treatment and yet why would she agree to this step if the main beneficiary of such a move would be her jailer, President Viktor Yanukovych? Before agreeing to such a step, Tymoshenko’s lawyers should demand that all pending criminal charges (including those pertaining to murder) be closed and her October 2011 case be overturned which would fulfill a key EU benchmark of ending selective use of justice in Ukraine.
Secondly, in seeking to deal with the “Tymoshenko problem” Yanukovych has not become a convert to European values, far from it. He still entertains the fiction that he can run his sultanate in a Eurasian manner while signing an Association Agreement whose core values he will continue to ignore.
Evidence for President Yanukovych’s Eurasianist policies is widespread in Ukraine. These include growing censorship problems within the media, black PR against Ukrayinska Pravda and violent attacks on journalists, attempts to remove front runner Vitaliy Klitschko from the 2015 presidential elections, violence against and planting of weapons at NGO offices (such as the Femen gender group), last November’s elections described as undemocratic by the OSCE and withholding the democratic right of residents of Kyiv to hold city elections. Internews reported that only Belarus and Azerbaijan have worse media records that Ukraine among the six Eastern Partnership countries.
Thirdly, Yanukovych is not choosing the European over the Eurasian Union because of an ideological desire to “return to Europe”, as was the case in Eastern Europe and the three Baltic states in the 1990s. His “Euro-pragmatism” is born out of personal frustration with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s disrespect for him and, as Yanukovych said last week, Moscow’s deceit over the April 2010 Kharkiv Accords.
In return for giving up Sevastopol to become a long-term base for the Black Sea Fleet, dropping the goal of three previous presidents for NATO membership, and Russianising Ukrainian national identity policies (such as on the holodomor) Yanukovych received no discount on the price formula in the 2009 gas contract. Ukraine has been paying the highest gas price in Europe since 2010 and has since last year began importing cheaper Russian gas from Germany, Slovakia and Hungary.
If Russia and Putin had treated Yanukovych differently (which would of course have gone against their character in dealing with their neighbours) Ukraine’s President would have oriented his country to the Eurasian Union – as his electorate would like him to. A staggering 40 percent of Ukrainian respondents in an August poll say they wish the USSR was still around which rises to 56 percent in Yanukovych’s Eastern Ukraine, a region where nearly half of the population feels closer to the Soviet Union than to Ukraine. Only a third of President Yanukovych’s home base of Donetsk actually supports Ukrainian independence.
Tymoshenko should not therefore help Yanukovych escape from a Pandora’s Box of his own making and releasing her for medical treatment would constitute a paltry step in meeting EU benchmarks. Instead, she should be released unconditionally with all existing and pending criminal charges removed and permitted to participate in elections.
Anything less than this shows Yanukovych to be the Eurasian leader he really is for which there is no room in Europe.

Posted in Ukraine and Europe | 1 Comment