In the News March 23
Opposition Parties Ordered to Suspend Activities
On March 20 President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that by decision of the Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council 11 political parties have been ordered to suspend all political activities during the period that martial law is in effect. Currently that means till at least the end of April. The reason given for the ban is the parties’ alleged ties to Russia. Also on March 20, Zelensky signed a decree to move all national TV channels onto a single government-run platform, effectively ending the operation of private channels in keeping with the government’s policy of a “unified information service.”
In speaking about the suspension the activities of the political parties, Zelensky said, “Any activity on the part of politicians aimed at splitting [society] or collaborating [with the enemy] will not succeed. But they will face a tough response. That is why the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine has decided that, given the full-scale war being waged by the Russian Federation and the ties that some political organizations have with that state, any activity of a number of political parties will be suspended pending martial law.”
No details about what activities are banned, and conditions that might to the leaders and deputies of those parties were provided. The parties affected are Opposition Platform – For Life, Shariy Party, Nashi/Ours, Opposition Bloc, Left Opposition, Union of Leftists, Derzhava, Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, Socialist Party of Ukraine, the Socialists, and the Volodymyr Saldo Bloc. The Communist Party and other organizations considered communist were already made illegal by Zelensky’s predecessor Petro Poroshenko in 2015.
Most of the parties subject to the ban are described as small and having no seats in the Ukrainian parliament (Rada). However the Opposition Platform – for Life holds 44 seats in the 450-seat unicameral Rada, second only to Zelensky’s Servant of the People Party which has 254 seats.
In a statement, the Opposition Platform – For Life said the ban on its activities had no legal grounds and that all allegations against the party were invented by the authorities to justify their inappropriate actions which it characterized as unlawful political raiding, intimidation, repression and reprisals against their opponents. It called on all its deputies, members and activists to continue their work, to protect the interests of people and help everyone in every way possible during this most difficult time. It called on them to defend the state sovereignty of Ukraine and to continue the struggle for peace. The statement concluded saying, “We will challenge any unlawful decisions. With our entire party team, we continue to elaborate an efficient updated party-political structure, the main goal of which will be uniting all citizens of Ukraine on the basis of peace, respect for the rights of everyone, regardless of nationality, beliefs and social status!”
One of Opposition Platform – For Life’s co-leaders is the deputy Viktor Medvedchuk, a lawyer and longtime president of the Ukrainian Bar Association as well as a prominent businessman. Since May 2021 he has been under house arrest, allegedly under investigation for “treason.” In 2014, in midst of orchestrating the violent Euromaidan coup against a president it considered “too friendly with Russia,” the U.S. imposed sanctions against Medvedchuk allegedly for “actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine” and that “undermine democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine.” In an interview with U.S. filmmaker Oliver Stone for the 2019 documentary Revealing Ukraine, the opposition leader, who did not hide his friendly relations with Vladimir Putin, was emphatic in saying he supported Ukrainian sovereignty but that language and cultural rights for Russians and other minorities in Ukraine must be upheld. The Opposition Platform – for Life’s program calls for repealing the language law passed in 2019 by Poroshenko that made the use of Ukrainian compulsory in all spheres of life in the country. It would return to Ukrainian citizens the right to speak, communicate and study in Russian and other languages of the country’s national minorities.
The party also calls for the reintegration of areas of the Donbass that have declared independence from Ukraine, not by using force, but through dialogue and comprise and by providing security guarantees and recognition of the autonomous status of Donetsk and Luhansk.
In an interview with Politique Internationale in January 2021, Medvedchuk said Ukraine was being used by the U.S. not to strengthen Europe, but to weaken Russia and the European Union. He said his party represented all those who do not want Ukrainians, Russians, and Belarusians to be played off against one another and made to dance to a U.S. tune. The party’s program indicates that it stands for mutually beneficial economic and trade relations with the Russian Federation and other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States of the region, as well as friendly relations with other neighbouring countries.
It is telling that Svoboda, the neo-nazi Banderite party which currently holds one seat in the Rada and won 19 mayoralties in the 2020 local elections, and is known for providing shock troops for the Ukrainian military’s eight-year killing spree in the restive Donbass region, and parties others like it, were not ordered by Zelensky to suspend their activities.
(TML Daily, posted March 23, 2022. With files from Ukrinform, Daily Mail, EFE, The Guardian, U.S. Treasury Department)