Ukraine’s Friend & Foe Of The Week
Editor’s Note: This feature separates Ukraine’s friends from its enemies. The Order of Yaroslav the Wise has been given since 1995 for distinguished service to the nation. It is named after the Kyivan Rus leader from 1019-1054, when the medieval empire reached its zenith. The Order of Lenin was the highest decoration bestowed by the Soviet Union, whose demise Russian President Vladimir Putin mourns. It is named after Vladimir Lenin, whose corpse still rots on the Kremlin’s Red Square, 100 years after the October Revolution he led. RT, the sham news channel set up by the Kremlin to foist its propaganda on the world, on Sept. 28 published a bizarre article entitled “Russophobia: RT rates the top 10 Kremlin critics & their hilarious hate campaigns.”
Top of RT’s list was Senator John McCain of Arizona, Ukraine’s Friend of the Week in the March 10 issue of the Kyiv Post. Also making it onto the list, at seventh position, was Morgan Freeman, our Ukraine’s Friend of the Week in the Sept. 29 issue.
So British journalist Edward Lucas, who came in at sixth on the list, joins good company in becoming our latest Ukraine’s Friend of the Week and recipient of the Order of Yaroslav the Wise.
But it is odd to refer to Lucas as a Russophobe. A senior editor at The Economist and a senior fellow and contributing editor at the Center for European Policy Analysis, a non-profit research institute, he has covered Russia extensively. He was The Economist’s Moscow bureau chief from 1998 to 2002, and he is a regular commentator on televi- sion and in print on Russia.
True, he has been sharply critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has been warning of Russian revanchism for at least 20 years. His book “The New Cold War,” first published in 2008 (the same year Russia attacked Georgia), urged the West to be more wary of Russia under Putin, years before others saw the danger of the Russian dictator’s growing power and confidence.
So it is fair to describe Lucas as a harsh critic of the Kremlin. But a Russophobe? Someone with an irrational fear of things Russian? Lucas says he speaks Russian, enjoys its literature and music, and he lived in the country for years. The Russophobe label won’t stick. RT tried to slap it onto him, however, because it simply has no factual, rational answer to his criticism of the Kremlin — and as far as the Kremlin is concerned, criticism of it is the same as criticism of Russia and Russians.
“This is a convenient trick; dismissing your opponents’ views as personal prejudice spares you the difficulty of engaging with their facts and arguments,” Lucas wrote in an article published on the website of the Center for European Policy Analysis on Oct. 3, rebutting RT’s accusations.
But Lucas, while rejecting the term Russophobe (and Russophile), suggested that if RT wanted to find some more fitting candidates to take place on its list, it should look no further than Moscow.
For there, behind the red, crenulated walls of the Kremlin, sit the real Russophobes, who kill critical compatriots, rob their people, and send their children abroad to live rather than see them grow up in Russia. Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto is one of the top public faces of Hungary’s right-wing government, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s water boy.
Even as Russia sent weapons, mercenaries and ammunition into Ukraine in April 2014, Orban talked of Hungary’s neutrality with regard to Russia’s war on Ukraine in the Donbas. Hungary also initially opposed sanctions against Russia in response to the Kremlin’s war, fearing for its own energy security.
But the issue that has strained relations between Budapest and Kyiv most recently has been Ukraine’s new law on education, which contains provisions that several of the country’s neighbors have complained restrict the rights of speakers of minority languages in Ukraine.
One of those minorities is the Hungarian one, and it was while on a visit to Ukraine’s Hungarian community in Zakarpattya Oblast on Oct. 9 that Szijjarto earned this week’s Order of Lenin.
Speaking to leaders of Ukraine’s 150,000-strong ethnic Hungarian community, Szijjarto said the new law made conditions for linguistic minorities in Ukraine “worse than in Soviet times.”
That is nonsense. The law allows teaching in minority languages in junior school, or for the first three years, but thereafter education must be conducted in Ukrainian, while minority languages can still be taught in individual classes. Moreover, this concerns only public schools. Ukraine insists the legislation is fully in line with the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, and has submitted the law to the Council of Europe for study to confirm this.
Nevertheless, Szijjarto said that if Ukraine did not change the law, he would during an upcoming meeting of EU foreign ministers ask the European Union to revise its association agreement with Ukraine. And earlier, in September, Szijjarto said Hungary would block any moves to bring Ukraine closer to EU membership.
Threatening Ukraine’s political and trade association agreement with the European Union is a particularly unfriendly move in the eyes of Ukrainians, who, to ensure that agreement was signed, and to shake off Moscow’s yoke and reorient the country towards the West, took to the streets in mass protests to overthrew the corrupt regime of former President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014.
Hundreds were gunned down in the protests, and the subsequent war unleashed by the Kremlin has killed at least 10,000 people. Ukraine’s association agreement, along with the visa-free regime for the countries of the European Schengen Zone, are among the few tangible gains of the EuroMaidan Revolution. One would not expect a friend to threaten them.
Order of Yaroslav The Wise
Order of Lenin