Dear Viktor Fedorovych (Yanukovych), hello from America –
Please forgive me, Viktor Fedorovych. It has been a long time since I’ve written. Spring and summer has been very busy. No doubt it has been even busier and a bit hectic for you as leader of Europe’s second largest nation and potentially one of its wealthiest.
I hope you don’t mind my Open Letters. It’s important that you get an outside, well-intentioned perspective. Although I am part of the Diaspora, which as you know is not a big fan of yours; I do hope my observations are brought to your attention by senior advisors.
The last I knew your poll numbers were almost as low as sunken ships in the Black Sea. Perhaps my insights will benefit you politically. And I strongly believe some of my opinions may even help Ukraine. I want you to succeed if it helps nurture liberty, freedom, and equality in my ancestral homeland.
I have several things on my mind as of late that I need to share.
It pleases me and no doubt most of the Diaspora that Ukraine is attempting to gain energy independence from Russia. A+ for vision. Perhaps your eyes are slowly and FINALLY opening – Putin is not your friend. By the way, did you see the news clip of Mr. Putin at a Russian car show. He was invited to start a new Lada meant to impress the world. took him a while! almost didn’t start! It seems analogous to Putin’s friendship with you and Russia’s relationship with Ukraine … not dependable … not to be trusted.
You have been quoted saying that Ukraine can be “doomed” by its relationship with Russia. If you actually said it; if you actually meant it; if you actually take steps to protect Ukraine from Russia then you are showing yourself to be a real leader. I don’t want to get too excited about your statement since I may have read a poor English translation. Please clarify in the future. Yes, Ukraine will need to trade with its northern neighbor, but it should not be at Ukraine’s expense. I hope that’s what you meant.
Inviting outside investors to study the feasibility of Liquefied Natural Gas Plant(s) belonging to Ukraine is a marvelous idea. Just make sure these investors aren’t front men for Russian mafia or oligarchs. You need legitimate investors.
If energy independence is to succeed in Ukraine you need to cut red tape. Expedite the process. You must get dim-witted bureaucrats out of the way. Now that you’ve made Ukraine’s intentions known Russia will do everything to negate the project. Move fast. You’ll also need to show leadership and mediate some of the political arguments that are slowing an already too slow process. Getting this done and securing Ukraine’s energy independence could be part of your political legacy. Focus.
It also has been reported that Ukraine is pursuing energy diversification. Again, Viktor Fedorovych a very smart move. Very Good. A+ for vision. Now get it done! According to the President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine, Jorge Zukoski, you’re planning to open the energy sector to “reputable international companies.” Brilliant! Roll out the red carpet for Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell, among others. Just make sure they don’t exploit Ukraine the way Russia has so often in the past.
I know things move very slowly in Ukraine for a variety of reasons. But you need to figure out how to get this done quickly. It may even require you to build a broad political coalition that involves the opposition. That’s right. You might have to make nice with the party out of office that wants to throw you out of office. Remember, Viktor Fedorovych, it’s for Ukraine. It’s not about you. Stop the unfair investigations of the opposition.
I’m increasingly uneasy, as are Western democracies, in the treatment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Do strong women threaten you? If no, then stop acting as if they do. You’re looking silly in the eyes of the world. It appears you can’t handle the stinging tongue of a smart woman so you play dirty.
Of course there are other opposition leaders being harassed by a legal system that seems unfair and corrupt. She’s the most high profile. Victor Fedorovych there is so much at stake. Do not allow the legal system to be used as a political hammer to stamp out perceived or would-be challengers. This is paranoia. I’d like to think you’re better than this type of behavior. Try to stay out of your own way.
Are you aware of two groups: the American Bar Association and the Ukrainian American Bar Association? I’m sure both organizations would love to help you strengthen Ukraine’s legal system in a way that promotes justice, fairness, equality, and independence under the law. They would be a great resource. Use them!
You risk everything by allowing the current legal system to become unfair and ruthless. It is not there to serve you or any other politician. The European Union will not want Ukraine as a member if it happens. “Reputable” corporations in the West will be reluctant to help with energy independence and diversification. You risk causing social and political turmoil that will only get Russia more entrenched in a nation you’re trying to move out of Moscow’s shadow. That is what you’re trying to do? Move Ukraine into the sun?
It’s also troubling, Viktor Fedorovych, to still read about ongoing threats to the freedom of press in Ukraine. I know. I know. I know. You have publicly stated that Ukraine can’t be free without a free press. Well, I hope you’re not telling the public or the West what it wants to hear. If you’re telling a white lie your Russian Patriarch friend Kirill up in Moscow, when he sets up his traveling show in Ukraine, will scold you because it’s against God’s laws. He is against sin, right? And please don’t take any political advice from him. I know he’s your Staretz, but he’s not Ukraine’s.
You appear to be taking Freedom House’s recent report on the decline of human rights in Ukraine, which includes threats to a free press, seriously. Again, I hope you’re not just saying what people want to hear or you’ll have to go confess to Kirill with a large donation in hand. According to a U.S. State Department official, “We have concerns about backsliding in Ukraine and we have continual engagement with the government of Ukraine to express our concerns.” Do something about this backsliding! Work more closely with the U.S. government. It’s on your side. It wants you to succeed and Ukraine to prosper as a free, democratic nation.
Viktor Fedorovych, you keep talking about “order.” That troubles me. Are you trying to become the next Belorussia? Democracy isn’t necessarily orderly. It can be very messy, but free none the less. There is a reason why democracy gets messy. Many different voices need to be heard. There is a fine line, Viktor Fedorovych, between order and authoritarianism. You seem to get very close to crossing that line more times than not. You still have not found the right balance or formula between order and freedom.
Reporters are routinely complaining that since you entered office they are being pressured not to criticize you. They are being pressured not to report on the many problems in Ukrainian society and the government’s mismanagement. I’m reading about this regularly. In June and July the Western media had stories about the persecution of media outlets. If you are not aware of it then you are clearly out of touch. A free press helps to keep the government accountable to the people – not Russia, not oligarchs, and not to your friend Kirill in Moscow.
Like any good legal system the media must be free and independent. You need to safeguard journalists. Don’t let oligarchs buy media outlets to manipulate politicians to act in ways that are contrary to Ukraine’s best interests. Outlaw oligarch media monopolies. Prevent politicians, whether in your party or any other, from interfering or threatening the press.
You need to do a much better job in protecting the media. Make it a priority. Do you think nations like America, Canada, France, Germany, and others could be as blessed as they are without a free, independent media? It would be impossible. Although I confess, I do have doubts about Fox News.
There’s an expression in America’s capital, Washington D.C. – “If you want a friend, get a dog.” Personally, I think cats are much better, but I digress. I suppose you’ve felt like you needed a best friend in Kyiv. You’ve probably felt like that during visits to New York City where unfriendly American-Ukrainians have greeted you.
If you find yourself back in New York, one of the world’s greatest cities, and need a friend, look me up. Maybe we can stroll through Central Park, visit Lincoln Center, tour the Ukrainian Museum, or eat at Veselka’s in lower Manhattan and discuss a few things. Just remember, I prefer cats over dogs. I think felines are a lot more discerning.
Always remember, Viktor Fedorovych, Russia should be following your lead. You should not be following Russia’s. Set the standard. Think of Putin trying to start the .
Until my next letter or we meet in New York City, peace and blessings,
Bishop Paul Peter Jesep
Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC)-Kyiv Patriarchate Appointed U.S. spokesperson for Metropolitan Myfodii of Kyiv and All Rus-Ukraine
Views expressed here are personal & do not necessarily reflect those of the UAOC or Metropolitan Myfodii.