Forgotten Voice From Behind Front Line

Viktor Yanukovych

The ex-president of Ukraine took part in the Kremlin’s propaganda campaign

Ahead of the celebration of the 30th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence, former president Viktor Yanukovych released a text pointing out the main mistakes of the country he once ruled and from which he had to flee to Russia. Not surprisingly, the key theses of his “address to the Ukrainian people” resonate with Vladimir Putin’s article “On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians.”

“The West, mainly in the United States, saw Ukraine’s normal partnership with Russia as a threat of Russia’s return to the international politics in the role once played by the Soviet Union. In the end, the growth of domestic political tensions in Ukraine and their escalation into an open conflict between the opposition and the incumbent government was only a matter of time,” Yanukovych has no doubts about the real culprit of the conflict and its real causes. Of course, it is an insidious West.

“The coup d’etat that took place in 2014 was predetermined by the implementation of ‘Ukraine as Anti-Russia project’ and if we take this postulate for granted, everything will fall into place,” Yanukovych wrote. “Step by step, Ukraine was drawn into a dangerous geopolitical game aimed at turning Ukraine into a barrier between Europe and Russia, a springboard against Russia. Inevitably, the time has come when the concept of ‘Ukraine is not Russia’ was no longer acceptable. ‘Anti-Russia’ was needed,” Putin wrote. Almost word for word.

“I strongly believe that the main mistake of our 30-year history was not a deceived trust in Russia, but a refusal to be good neighbours with it… What is the result? War, split of Ukrainian society, permanent social instability, deep economic crisis, rampant radical nationalist organisations, persecution of the opposition, closure of TV channels undesirable to the regime,” wrote the ex-president. “I believe that it is in partnership with Russia that the real sovereignty of Ukraine is possible … Together we have always been and will be stronger and more successful. After all, we are one people,” concludes the Russian president, who also listed all the existing and imaginary troubles of present-day Ukraine.

One can only wonder whether both texts were written by the same author. Still, Viktor Yanukovych’s reputation as a tongue-tied, slow thinker is well known, so his “address” is made much simpler than the reasoning of the Russian leader whose wisdom must be bowed to. But it is quite clear that the initiative for the appearance of the fugitive leader of Ukraine in the media landscape did not come from him. Obviously, it was necessary to “highlight” Vladimir Putin’s theses ahead of Ukrainian Independence Day as rather modest interest sparked immediately after the publication, which has completely faded by now.

It is amusing that Yanukovych’s “address” to the Ukrainian people was published in the Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti exclusively in Russian, while Putin’s article on the Kremlin’s website was also translated into Ukrainian. This can be explained by the fact that the ex-president and those behind him see the target audience only in those citizens of Ukraine who do not read Ukrainian, agree with Putin’s thesis about “one nation” and dream of “fraternal” relations. Then, however, it is unclear how the changes predicted by the exile will take place: “It does not take much: to vote in elections for those who know how to run the state…” The electoral potential of pro-Russian forces is definitely not enough. According to the latest poll by the Rating Sociological Group, the question “Which foreign policy vector is optimal for Ukraine?” only 9% answered: “Towards Russia;” 50% believe that Ukraine should focus on Europe.

A much more interesting point is that Viktor Yanukovych’s reputation among the electorate who would prefer to restore relations with Russia is very bad. Thus, Yuri Boyko, the leader of the “Opposition Platform – For Life,” was forced to support Yanukovych’s statement when asked directly by the Russian media and condemned the “anti-Russian trend prevailing in the country,” but his entourage actually considers the former president a coward and a traitor who left the post at the most difficult moment and handed over power to the “Bandera followers.” Back in 2017, the late head of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” Oleksandr Zakharchenko suggested banning Viktor Yanukovych from entering the “DPR,” saying “We have nothing to do with traitors.” There is no need to say how Yanukovych is treated in post-EuroMaidan Ukraine. Any public reasoning of a person with such a reputation makes no sense.

The fact that, covered with dust, Yanukovych was pulled out of the pantry to allegedly emphasise Putin’s rightness seems a completely absurd step. There can be many explanations for this. Either this is unnecessary evidence of the Kremlin’s complete misunderstanding of what is really happening in Ukraine, or maybe it was just another propaganda event just to check the box, or there are no collaborationists left who could attract some attention. Alternatively, this might be an attempt to check if Ukrainians could miss Yanukovych. No, they didn’t miss him. His “address” caused no outcry. A voice from the distant past, especially one that sounds from the other side of the front line, is doomed to remain unheard.

Leonid Shvets

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