Marco Levytsky, Western Bureau Chief.
Documents discovered at former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s Mezhyhiria estate show he was willing to accept casualties of up to 5,000 in order to clear Euromaidan in February 2014, says the head of the Svoboda Party in Ukraine.
“They were to burn it…like they had burned the buildings of the trade unions. They had predicted 5,000 casualties. They predicted that about 5,000 people would die around Maidan. On every corner, on every gate. It was foreseen that some titushky (thugs) would be standing by to continue with the killing… it was going to be a massacre,” Oleh Tyahnybok said at a meeting with members of the Ukrainian National Federation, Edmonton Branch, August 6. He was answering a question regarding why Yanukovych had given up so easily and fled Ukraine, when he could have dispersed Maidan.
Tyahnybok explained that the protestors had worked on the various Berkut and other government forces and gradually succeeded in demoralizing them. Thus, Yanukovych could no longer count on their support.
The Maidan protests began in November, 2013 after Yanukovych did an about-face and rejected an association agreement with the European Union. Tyahnybok said he was initially all in favour of such an agreement, but changed his position after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Tyahnybok was in Edmonton for a personal visit but agreed to the meeting which was organized in less than 24 hours.
He stated that while Svoboda allied itself with the Batkivshchyna and UDAR factions, led in Ukraine’s Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, by Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Vitaliy Klitschko respectively, for the purposes of ousting Yanukovych and the Party of Regions (PRU, his party held radically different views from the other two and were constantly being told to tone down their rhetoric.)
Thus, they came into disagreement following the ouster of Yanukovych because while Svoboda wanted systemic change, the other parties were concerned only with attaining power, said Tyahnybok.
Foreign diplomats also put considerable pressure on the opposition groups not to engage in protest actions but try to work together with the PRU, he said.
Tyahnybok noted that Ukraine has yet to achieve a national revolution and needs systemic change which the politicians that have taken over are not prepared to do.
“We as members of Svoboda, as nationalists, clearly understood that this revolution has to be a national revolution. This was not simply a revolution stating that we as Ukrainians want some kind of European perspective. No, this is that revolution that began 100 years ago, to that point this year, 2017 is the year of the 100th anniversary of the Ukrainian revolution. The revolution has not been brought to a close, because a revolution simply is not standing on the Maidan, it is not songs and dances on the Maidan, it is not pickets, or protests, or marches. A revolution is a change in the system of rule. A revolution is a change in psychology of the people who find themselves in authority and a change in society. It is a change in mutual relations in authority. A change in the relations between the authority and the community, between the authority and society,” he explained.
Chief among his proposals for systemic change is genuine lustration – a process by which officials from former repressive regimes are banned from public office and criminal charges are laid against those who are guilty of criminal acts.
Tyahnybok said his party proposed a genuine lustration law based upon that which was enacted in former Czechoslovakia by President Vaclav Havel after the Communists were ousted, but that proposal was never enacted.
The failure to institute such lustration while protecting corrupt officials from the previous regime, proved to be the downfall of former President Viktor Yushchenko, who came to power following the Orange Revolution of 2004, Tyahnybok said.
He called Ukraine’s current lustration campaign a “pseudo lustration” with the government going after minor officials like secretaries, while the most powerful offenders remain in position of authority.
Another plank in Svoboda’s platform is a serious fight against corruption. This too has not been implemented under the current leadership of President Petro Poroshenko. Instead, Ukraine had become even more corrupt with the level of theft by government officials exceeding even that of the Yanukovych years, Tyahnybok said.
What makes it even worse is that Poroshenko takes the position that anyone criticizing him is acting as an agent for Russia, he added.
Tyahnybok said that five nationalist parties – Svoboda, Right Sector led by Andriy Tarasenko, National Corpus led by Andriy Biletsky, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists led by Bohdan Chervak, Stepan Bratsiun’s Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, and Serhiy Mazur’s C14 – have united and issued a common manifesto which calls for the above as well as other measures including:
- A stop to the privatization of strategic and profitable industries. The current system of privatization serves only to allow oligarchs to plunder the resources of the nation;
- Maintaining a moratorium on the sale of land. Instead Tyahnybok proposes the creation of a land bank which would buy the small plots of land peasants received after collectivization was disbanded for a fair market price and lease it back to farmers who are well-versed in agricultural techniques. With unrestricted sales, foreign conglomerates buy up Ukrainian agricultural land for a fraction of its actual value, taking advantage of the small landowners and exporting the resources;
- Give tax breaks to small business and clamp down on offshores and oligarchs;
- Stop trade with the separatists in Donbas.
Tyahnybok also called for a “Budapest Group” to replace the current “Normandy Group” in handling peace negotiations with Russia.
The “Normandy Group” consists of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France, the countries which negotiated the two Minsk agreements which were supposed to bring peace, but have been continuously violated by Russia.
The term “Budapest Group” refers to the four nations – Ukraine, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom – who signed the 1994 Budapest Memorandum by which Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in return for pledges of support for its sovereignty.
Such pledges have been violated and no one has done anything about it.
Tyahnybok nevertheless said the inclusion of the UK in such a group would be beneficial as that country remains a very consistent supporter of Ukraine. As for what Ukraine needs from the United States it is lethal defensive weapons.
“Give us ten anti-aircraft defense complexes of the fifth generation so we can place them in Sumy Oblast, in Chernihiv Oblast, in Kharkiv Oblast around Donetsk border, in Odesa, because when Putin sends bombers after us (in a an escalation of the conflict)… Kyiv will be gone in half an hour. And what are we supposed to defend ourselves with? If we still had a nuclear button, then no Putin would ever start any kind of war,” he said.
He also criticized the use of the term Anti-Terrorist Operation to describe the war in Donbas, stating it is a war and should be referred to as such.
Tyahnybok dismissed the argument that calling it an anti-terrorist operation as opposed to war allowed the government to continue receiving funding from the International Monetary Fund, stating the loans just drive Ukraine further into debt and the money is being stolen by corrupt officials.
“What does it mean to the soldier sitting in the trenches whether Ukraine owes 17 billion dollars or 16 billion?”