Eastern Europe Opinion

Ukraine Splinters

Ukraine Splinters
Image by Jindřich Nosek (NoJin)

In its drive to become a Western-style liberal democracy, Ukraine is heading in the wrong direction.

Systemic corruption, an economy dominated by oligarchs and factionalism are taking their toll, preventing a prosperous and free Ukraine from taking shape. There are many signs for those who look, bringing the ugly face of Ukraine’s undercurrents right out into the open. Car bombs are becoming commonplace. The recent fatal stabbing of Iryna Nozdrovska after she successfully fought to block the release of her sister’s killer under an “amnesty” program has shaken the population, sparking mass demonstrations in the streets of Kiev.

And now another intrigue is slowly building as Nadiya Savchenko, the celebrated former military helicopter navigator imprisoned by Russia for months before her release in the high-profile prisoner swap, stands accused of plotting to blow up the Ukrainian parliament. The plot supposedly was to employ mortars, machine guns and grenades meant to overthrow the government of President Petro Poroshenko.

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“The investigation has irrefutable proof that Nadiya Savchenko … personally planned, personally recruited, personally gave instructions about how to commit a terrorist act here, in this chamber,” Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko said Thursday.

For Ms. Savchenko, who was elected to parliament while being held in a Russian jail, was hailed as “Ukraine’s Joan of Arc” after she was freed in 2016, the accusations were shocking indeed. However, in a weak denial in which she welcomed the accusations, she admitted she wanted to see a military coup but denied she wanted the spilling of blood.

“As an officer of the Ukrainian armed forces, I swore an oath to the Ukrainian people to protect the Ukrainian land and certainly not the Ukrainian authorities …,” she said. “I know that there are a lot of servicemen who are listening to me who absolutely agree with the view that a military coup in Ukraine is rather expected and probably a fairly correct development.”

Mr. Lutsenko filed a request to strip Ms. Savchenko of parliamentary immunity after she failed to show up for official questioning on the subject.

He linked Ms. Savchenko’s suspected plans to those of Vladimir Ruban, a prisoner exchange negotiator who was recently arrested near at the separatist border in the east in a vehicle loaded with small arms and other weapons. He is accused of planning to blow up Ukraine’s parliament and assassinate government leaders, including Mr. Poroshenko.

After making her admission, however, Ms. Savchenko issued a stunning rebuke of the authorities. She accused Mr. Lutsenko and other lawmakers of arranging the deaths of the “Heavenly Hundred,” the protesters killed by sniper’s bullets during the 2014 Maidan Revolution that deposed pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia.

Mr. Lutsenko “issued a call to go on the offensive from the podium,” she said. “He promised weapons. I saw armed people arriving in a blue van. Those people are now in the parliament,” she said. She said she saw Rada Speaker Andriy Parubiy “leading the snipers to the Hotel Ukraine from which shots were later fired.”

The entire episode reminds me of the “Star Trek” episode where Kirk and Spock are transported to a planet where the only rules are those taken from a book about Chicago gangsters from the 1920s. When you take the nationalist fervor gripping Ukraine and couple it with resentment of U.S. assistance and rejection of International Monetary Fund demands to tackle corruption as a condition for more aid, the future does not look bright.

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A lot of players and agendas are involved, including Russian security services, all attempting to destabilize the country. Judging by the latest news, you would have to say they are succeeding.

Originally posted at The Washington Times

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