Shame­ful si­lence

Kyiv Post - - Opinion -

It is com­monly ar­gued that Rus­sia’s war against Ukraine is a war fought “by politi­cians” and there­fore shouldn’t con­cern reg­u­lar Ukraini­ans and Rus­sians. In re­al­ity, it’s the other way around.

While reg­u­lar Ukraini­ans are killed in the trenches in the Don­bas, Ukrainian lead­ers are sur­pris­ingly un­con­cerned about main­tain­ing close links to Rus­sia, it seems.

The most fa­mous case has been, of course, Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko’s con­fec­tionery fac­tory in Rus­sia’s city of Lipetsk. The fac­tory had worked — and pre­sum­ably paid taxes to Rus­sia’s bud­get — for three years of Rus­sia’s war against Ukraine, fi­nally stop­ping in 2017.

Speak­ing at an in­vest­ment fo­rum in Kharkiv on Sept. 29, Poroshenko said proudly he didn’t have busi­ness in Rus­sia. “I used to do busi­ness in Rus­sia, but war changed ev­ery­thing,” he said. It took three years for the war to “change ev­ery­thing” for Poroshenko. And for some in Ukraine, the war hasn't changed any­thing at all. The rel­a­tives of Ser­hiy Se­mochko, the first deputy head of the For­eign In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice of Ukraine, fre­quently visit Rus­sia-oc­cu­pied Crimea, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by jour­nal­ists from Ukrainian in­ves­tiga­tive project Bi­ They found that mem­bers of Se­mochko’s close fam­ily also hold Rus­sian pass­ports and own busi­nesses ei­ther in Crimea or Rus­sia. Se­mochko told re­porters he wouldn't com­ment on his pri­vate life. More­over, in the three days since the re­port came out on Oct. 1, not one top Ukrainian gov­ern­ment or law en­force­ment of­fi­cial has com­mented on the dis­cov­ery ei­ther.

Poroshenko, who ap­pointed Se­mochko in July, kept si­lence, and In­te­rior Min­is­ter Arsen Avakov was busy tweet­ing about the death of French singer Charles Az­navour on the day the re­port was pub­lished.

The only re­ac­tion came from the Na­tional Anti-Cor­rup­tion Bureau of Ukraine, whose in­ves­ti­ga­tors opened a probe into Se­mochko.

This shame­ful si­lence was rem­i­nis­cent of the sim­i­lar lack of re­ac­tion to the dozens of at­tacks on ac­tivists in var­i­ous parts of Ukraine, some of them deadly, that have taken place since 2017.

The at­tacks con­tin­ued for months with­out any re­ac­tion from the coun­try’s lead­er­ship. Only when ac­tivists sched­uled a protest near the Poroshenko ad­min­is­tra­tion in late Septem­ber did the pres­i­dent make a writ­ten state­ment about the at­tacks. He “shared the ac­tivists’ con­cerns” and asked the po­lice to in­ves­ti­gate the at­tacks, but that was all.

Iron­i­cally, it comes as Poroshenko is start­ing a re-elec­tion cam­paign that cen­ters on the idea of him as Ukraine’s sav­ior against Rus­sia.

With in­tel­li­gence like this, Ukraine may in­deed need sav­ing.

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