Ukraine’s Friend & Foe Of The Week

Kyiv Post - - Opinion - – Euan MacDon­ald – Euan MacDon­ald

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.

Peter Sz­i­j­jarto

Ed­ward Lu­cas

Or­der of Yaroslav The Wise

Or­der of Lenin

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