Yanukovich the Gangster, Tymoshenko the Savior

Nina Khrushcheva, writing in the Moscow Times:

A pox on both your houses” may be an appropriate individual response to frustration with the political candidates on offer in an election. But it is a dangerous sentiment for governments to hold. Choice is the essence of governance and to abstain from it — for whatever reason — is to shirk responsibility.

But that seems to be the stance of the entire West regarding Sunday’s second round of Ukraine’s presidential election. Because the Orange Revolution in 2004 turned out to be a seemingly unending series of disappointments, most Western leaders are acting as if it makes no difference whether Prime MinisterYulia Tymoshenko or her rival, Viktor Yanukovych, wins.

They are wrong — not only about what the election will mean for Ukrainians, who have stoically endured so much, but also about what it will mean for security and stability across Eurasia. If the Orange Revolution demonstrated one thing, it is that Ukraine’s politics are not those of a pendulum, swinging predictably between opposing forces that agree on the fundamental rules of democracy. Indeed, it is patently clear from his own words that Yanukovych does not accept the legitimacy of the Orange Revolution, which means that he does not accept the bedrock principle of democracy that you cannot cheat your way to power.

Yanukovych’s anti-democratic position should come as no surprise. His criminal record is often noted, but the particular crimes that sent him to prison are rarely spelled out. Let me do it.

On Dec. 15, 1967, Yanukovych (then 17 years old) was sentenced to three years in prison for robbery and sexual assault. He was back in prison three years later, convicted of manslaughter. But, for reasons that remain unexplained, the Soviet courts expunged his criminal record in 1978, shortly before he joined the Communist Party.

But in 2006, Yanukovych was charged with falsifying the very documents used to expunge his earlier convictions. Two key documents used to overturn his conviction for rape and robbery had been forged. Moreover, the signature of the judge in his case was also forged.

It is mind-boggling that an unrepentant, twice-convicted violent felon, a man who had sought to steal a presidential election — and who advocated a violent crackdown on the men and women peacefully protesting against his electoral fraud — should be a candidate for any office, let alone the presidency of a country of nearly 50 million people. Yanukovych’s candidacy thus reveals much about the nature of the people who back him — and also about the fragility of Ukraine’s democracy.

Of course, Tymoshenko is no saint. She carved out a successful business career in the rough and tumble of the post-Soviet gas industry. And her opponents have consistently tried to tar her business career with a taint of criminality. But not even when they controlled the entire apparatus of Ukraine’s justice system were they able to make any criminal charges stick.

What is more important about Tymoshenko is her record in government. In September, the world stood on the edge of a global financial meltdown. In the year since, Tymoshenko’s government has consistently acted to preserve international stability, even if that meant taking political hits at home. Within days of the crisis, her government was in talks with the International Monetary Fund to secure a loan to backstop Ukraine’s economy against the worst. Kiev reached agreement in near-record speed, despite domestic political objections to the rigor of its terms.

Although the whole world has suffered severely from the crisis, Ukraine was hit worse than most countries, as international demand for steel, which accounted for 42 percent of exports in the first half of 2008, collapsed. As the crisis gathered pace, Ukraine was completely cut off from international financial markets, despite sound public finances and low foreign debt.

Under tremendous strain, Tymoshenko’s government succeeded in keeping the budget deficit under control. Inflation was halved from 31 percent in May 2008 to about 10 percent today. The current-account deficit has been almost eliminated, and the banking crisis contained. Ukraine’s international reserves are a reassuring $26 billion, roughly one-quarter of the country’s gross domestic product. The exchange rate, which has been adjusted, is relatively stable, and it could help improve Ukraine’s competitiveness, given international conditions.

Tymoshenko’s government also made a clean break with the ancien regime in the gas business, increasing Europe’s energy security in the process. At considerable domestic political risk, Tymoshenko concluded a long-term gas transit and purchase agreement with Russia that is transparent and market-oriented, as well as a far-reaching agreement with the European Union, the World Bank and the European Investment Bank on reform of Ukraine’s gas sector and gas-transit system. Yanukovych, whose campaign relies on financing from the main beneficiaries of the old, corrupt energy system, seems certain to undo these reforms, thus reintroducing grave risks into European energy markets.

Moreover, Tymoshenko managed Ukraine’s crisis despite the tremendous and often irresponsible resistance of her political opponents, who frequently paralyzed the parliament when the government refused to accept populist proposals that would undermine efforts at financial stabilization. Amazingly, PresidentViktor Yushchenko regularly vetoed decisions necessary for that stabilization, including every effort at privatization.

Tymoshenko deserves the West’s thanks — not the cynicism that we are currently seeing — for keeping Ukraine afloat over the past 15 months. Yanukovych’s record of violence and disdain for democratic norms is too entrenched to think that, should he win, he will ever allow his position to be challenged again. A victory for Yanukovych now may be the last free vote Ukraine sees for a long time.

23 responses to “Yanukovich the Gangster, Tymoshenko the Savior

  1. Looks like average Ukrainian voters have soundly repudiated this type of political hatemongering.

    • Soundly? The margin of victory was very narrow. Do you admit that when Yushchenko was elected Ukrainian voters repudiated Russia?

      You’re a very ignorant little child, babbling the Kremlin’s propaganda like a parrot. It’s amusing, but still pathetic. So it goes in Russia.

  2. [Yanukovich the Gangster]

    I wonder: did the Right Wing in Ukraine also paint Yanukovych with Hitter’s mustache, like the US Right Wing paints Obama?

    • Paint? Are you denying this man’s extensive criminal record? Are you saying it gives you no pause? Would you say the same if it were true of Russia-bashers Yushchenko or Saakashvili?

      Seems to us you don’t think all before you spew out your nonsense. Makes Russia look like a nation of apes.

  3. Yushchenko needed to be more than gorgeous. She had to get a grip on budget. Voters do not like it when a country is not balancing the budget. Bush found that out. Unfortunately the successor to an irresponsible spender is often much worse.

    • [Yushchenko needed to be more than gorgeous. She had to get a grip on budget.]

      Yuschenko is a woman?!

    • [A pox on both your houses]

      That’s PLAGUE not POX.

      • Don’t you just love a muscovite who corrects a native speaker of English? So typical.

        The desire for control in the perpetually emasculated ‘micro tsarist’ Russian male is a source of constant amusement.

      • Relax, Wal.

        The phrase ” A plague on both your houses!” originates from the famous English playwright William Shakespeare:

        Romeo and Juliet: Act 3, Scene 1

        105 A plague o’ both your houses!

        Even you must have heard about Romeo and Juliet, Wal.

        • Ґуґл works in Russia?


          • Wal, unlike russophobes like you, normal people are familiar with Romeo and Juliet even without Google.


            You are testing the limits of our patience with your ignorant childish drivel, Artie, by violating our rules in this way. If you want to banned, just keep it up.

  4. I will have to stop posting for the Ukraine until I can get a grip on the names.

  5. Ron,

    Stop saying ‘the’Ukraine. It’s not ‘the’ America etc.

    It’s a manipulation implying regionality as opposed to country status.

    Look up the difference between: НА and У/В to learn more.

    • Разминка харьковской команды КВН.
      Вопрос: Как правильно сказать: “В Украину” или “НA Украину”?
      Ответ: Зависит от позиции.

  6. Oh!

    The rat pounces again!

    Surprise surprise!

    And what is your position Arty? On hands and knees ready to receive?


    • Вал, ты не любишь КВН или город Харьков? Или с чувством юмора напряг?

  7. Gee Wal have you upset dear Arthur’s apple cart! I can imagine him frothing at the mouth speechless at your remarks.

    Well, well so Arthur’s (obviously not his real name because he has to hide something in his life) true colors have finally come to the surface. Surprise, surprise!

    It now appears that this little worm is in reality a KaGeBist, who most probably moonlights as an OMON thug for extra cash and uses La Russophobe to improve his command of the English language.

    I stopped reading his worthless official Putin propaganda spiel quite some time ago, but after reading your wonderful articles decided to tell you how much I enjoy them.

    By the way, can you imagine if Arthur was on Dr Goebbel’s propaganda ministry? You and I (and the rest of the world) would not know to this day that Nazi Germany had lost WWII.

    • I would not give Arthur too much credit, since there is a waiting list to join the new KGB.
      Moscali being skinheads, it is easy to call someone a Nazi or Ukrainian Nationalist if they have experienced Rooski personally. Not much talent for recruitment in that line of work needed, that is unless pimped off by NCO’s in the Army.

      Mostly every non Roosiyski is a nationalist that neighbors Rooshan cesspool. On that point I would have to agree, since the differences are so apparent. NATO is really an alliance of 28 Nationalistic countries. This year we will have another more Rooshan Riots. Maybe shelling thier own capital again, or something else completely over the top. To bad that Russian publishing business is dying, we need more laughs.

  8. Here grandfather Nikita as an associate of Stalin is responsible of the death of millions of citizens and now his grandaughter is lecturing about democracy…Funny…

  9. How is that at all ‘funny’ as you so eloquently put it?

    She has a PhD and I dare say the brains to realise what her grandfather was.

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