An Intellectual Exercise for August What’s Coming Next?

Aug 5th, 2011 | By | Category: National Security, Politics, Ukraine

By Walter Derzko and Dr. Andriy Zhalko-Tytarenko

August has an almost “mystical record” in Russia. Since 1961, if “something big” happened, it happened in the month of August. And since 1986, “something” has happened almost every August. The first on record was the erection of the Berlin Wall on the 13th of August 1961. Then there was the invasion of Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968, the sinking of “Admiral Nakhimov” on August 31, 1986, and then we witness practically, non-stop, repeating August disasters that were capped off by the firestorms of August, 2010. There were 7 technology disasters (sinking ships, crashing airplanes, derailed trains, exploding turbines), five major terror acts, two military interventions (including the Russian Georgian war in 2008), which happened or were staged in the month of August since 1986. But the highlight is certainly the 1991 coup in Moscow, exactly 20 years ago this August.

The coup d’etat (also known as a putsch or over throw) seemed to put an end to the Soviet empire, but in reality, it did not. The empire is still very much alive in the minds of many Russians. There is a long list of “patriotic” organizations, that wave the white-yellow-black imperial tricolor, and are eager to carry their imperial ideology elsewhere, inside and outside Russia. Some of these paramilitary groups are even invited to the training grounds of the Russian GRU in the North Caucasus, while Moscow’s government is busy chasing members of one such organization, the “Minin and Pozharski” militia, across the country. The latest arrest took place on the 21st of June of this year. The head of this militia, GRU (Retired) Colonel Kvachkov is now behind bars and awaiting court hearings on new charges against him. Notoriously, all these groups and militia formations are faithful to Russian Orthodox Christianity, and demonstrate a crusader’s religious enthusiasm and even fanaticism.

The famous Russian writer Chekhov once wrote that if in the first act of the play there is the gun hanging on the wall, then it must be fired by the end of the play. Well, the conservative orthodox gun is certainly here, and sooner or later it will be fired. According to Russian “tradition”, it will likely be in August. Interestingly, some of the Russian army brigades of the new Russian South Defence Command are already planning huge field exercises, just as we witnessed in 2008. The territory of this command borders with Georgia. But it also borders with Ukraine, and with that part of Ukraine, which has a population that was always the base for traditional communist ideology – with Donbass.

Donbass oligarchs rule in Ukraine for now, and the former Governor of Donetsk Oblast, Victor Yanukovych, is “their” President. At least this is the common belief. Meanwhile, there are some irregularities that contradict this simple concept of the Presidency of Victor Yanukovych.

First of all, the oligarchs from Donbass, and across Ukraine, need European integration. Access to Russian markets is important, but European expansion for Ukrainian business is a priority. Nevertheless, Yanukovych pursues Tymoshenko’s “show” trial. Since the hearings started, the damage to Ukraine’s image is difficult to ignore and underestimate. Yanukovych has already lost an invitation to the USA, and Brussels is signaling that even if a free trade agreement will be signed, its ratification will be “very difficult”. That’s diplomatic code for a more direct “forget it”. By pursuing the Tymoshenko trial the way they are doing, Yanukovych, or more precisely – 1st Deputy State Prosecutor Kuzmin, is destroying Ukraine’s European integration chances, and is acting against the best interests of Ukrainian’s oligarchs.

Second, the Tymoshenko trial has destroyed Yanukovych’s relations with Putin. Recently Medvedev also canceled his next visit to Ukraine, and quotas for imports of Ukrainian steel pipes are now revised-the start of a new trade war. There are rumors that Firtash had found a way to deal with Putin’s friend, Rottenberg, but this does not guarantee better relations between Yanukovych and the notoriously vindictive Putin. Yanukovych may be adding unnecessary complications into the game.
The common denominator in these two developments is that Yanukovych is acting either “like there is no tomorrow”, or he knows that European integration will never happen anyway. In any case, he may suspect that if political realities suddenly shift in Russia, warming relations with Moscow’s current duo won’t matter anymore.

Third, Yanukovych has canceled the military parade on the 20th Anniversary of Ukrainian Independence. There may be different explanations for this. Maybe he’s read the biography of Anwar Sadat. Or maybe he doesn’t want to give the opposition a chance to express its feelings directly to his face on parade day. There may be many different explanations. The only theory that really “doesn’t hold any water” is the official version of the cancellation, that the “saved money” will be used for public good. The government had budgeted UAH177mln already for this event. It is a nice chunk to grab, because it would have been highly irregular if none of this cash would have been pocketed by each party that is involved in preparation of the celebration. The idea of the Ukrainian bureaucracy and “Party of Regions” missing such a lucrative “money grab” opportunity like this for the sake of supporting public social programs is something strikingly rare in Ukrainian’s present day reality. Note that Yanukovych did not hesitate to spend UAH 100mln for the “Formula-1” on water competition, which has no “public good” dimension what-so-ever. (Besides, what kind of President gives 100mln to support a sports event where no Ukrainian teams compete, and cancels the 20th Anniversary of National Independence parade for financial reasons?) In any case, money is not the issue here. It must surely be something different. Either Yanukovych is afraid of the parade, or the pro-Russian “talking head” of the
“Party of Regions” Vadim Kolesnichenko is right when he says that “there is nothing to celebrate on August 24”. This statement even triggered outrage inside the “Party of Regions”, and one of its sponsors, Vasyl Gorbal (owner of UKR GAZ BANK), spoke out against Kolesnichenko’s statement saying, that “Party of Regions” does not support Kolesnichenko’s idea. The resulting knee-jerk reaction of the Ukrainian regime was an audit of Gorbal’s business.

Fourth, the government canceled the World Ukrainian Congress, which was scheduled to take place in Kiev to mark the 20th Anniversary of Independence. Again, bureaucrats of all ranks have lost their “cut” from the budget that would have been allocated for this major event. This is very unusual.

Each of these developments may be explained on its own without bringing in the idea of a common “hub” or “single causal event” for them all. Yanukovych may be trying to suppress Tymoshenko, because of his own vindictive mentality, and because of his fear of the opposition. The parade may have been canceled due to Yanukovych’s own safety concerns or because he wants to avoiding offering a staging ground for another mini-orange revolution. The World Ukrainian Congress may have been canceled because Ukraine failed to prepare it or because the President is mitigating the opportunity for a gathering of patriotic Ukrainians and diaspora supporters all in one city on the same date, or Kolesnichenko may have overstepped his limits, and so on.

However, everything becomes very logical and crystal-clear, if one assumes that plans are in the works to attempt to restore “something” like the USSR, and that Yanukovych is part of the plot. This is pure speculation and conjecture, a kind of intellectual exercise to derive a “common denominator” for seemingly unrelated, and difficult to explain events. It is not more than a “wild guess”. But such “wild guesses” explains many things, that otherwise seem illogical.

For instance:

  • According to Tymoshenko’s own intelligence (her intelligence certainly is the best in Ukraine), the Ukrainian regime plans to sentence her before Ukrainian Independence Day, August 24th. Maybe they just want to get things all wrapped up before restarting work in Brussels after vacations. But if there is a plot, it will be more successful if the opposition leader ends up behind bars. That’s what the Russian Security and Defence Council recommended in Dec 2008…neutralize the opposition in CIS countries up to and including arrest. (see and .)
  • А group of very well informed bureaucrats from the education and science spheres have just signed а letter to Yanukovych, asking for more repressions against corruption. In today’s Ukraine, alleged “corruption” is used as the reason to prosecute the opposition. Maybe these people were forced to sign the letter, but some of them are not really dependent on the regime. One of these is Les’ Taniuk (After all, don’t you find it odd that a former dissident and activist from the organization “Memorial” should be asking for more and harsher repressions?) But maybe these very well informed people know that if there will be drastic changes, then they are simply warming up their seats for the future.
  • If there will be some massive surrender of Ukrainian independence before August 24, 2011, a military parade on this day would be exactly the wrong thing to hold. The same applies to the World Congress of Ukrainians in Kyiv.
  • If there will be some shake-up of some kind, Yanukovych’s passivity and disconnect from his daily duties is natural. Why bother?
  • Finally, if we speculate that there will be drastic changes, Yanukovych will not depend on Ukrainian oligarchs anymore, because his source of power will be in Moscow and not Donbass. If so, he doesn’t need to care about the oligarch’s Western aspirations, or about the whole “European Integration” agenda.

Interestingly, all the prosecutions, that are so damaging for Ukraine’s international standing, are handled by one person: 1st Deputy State Prosecutor Rinat Kuzmin. Kuzmin’s career has always gone hand in hand with the career of the former State Prosecutor Mikhail Vasil’jev. Vasiljev, Nusenkis, and Baisarov (“ENERGO” Group) are the most outspoken and wealthiest promoters of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and also the people who are behind the recent attempted coup inside the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchy), which has to eliminate its autonomy from Moscow. This “closes the loop”.

All of this of course is just a speculative hypothesis, a “wild card”, “what if?” -nothing more. In Canada, we have no access to any documents that are not in the public domain, and in the end, our “hypothesis” may prove to be wrong and you can simply discard these speculations. As we have mentioned, all these developments may be coincidental and unrelated. Finally, there may exist an alternative explanation for these events, which we missed. But this hypothesis does explain all the known irregularities, contradictions and anomalies in the actions of the Ukrainian regime. Watch out for surprise events in the month of August.

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