In the News March 23
Opposition Parties Ordered to Suspend Activities
On March 20 President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that by decision of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council 11 political parties have been ordered to suspend all political activities as long as martial law is in effect. Currently that means till at least the end of April. The reason he gave for the ban is the parties’ alleged ties to Russia. The same day Zelensky signed a decree to move all national TV channels onto a single government-run platform as part of a “unified information service” policy.
Regarding the banned political parties Zelensky said any activities aimed at creating division or collaborating [with Russia] on the part of politicians would be met with a harsh response. 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 communist organizations are already illegal, having been banned in 2015 by Zelensky’s predecessor Petro Poroshenko as part of a policy of “decommunization.” On March 6, the brothers Aleksandr and Mikhail Kononovich, leaders of the Leninist Communist Youth Union of Ukraine, were arrested by Ukrainian security forces and have been in jail since then. Information about their status has been scant, but after a few days reports emerged of them having been severely beaten in prison, and that there is concern for their lives as they have long been targeted by neo-Nazi groups which, as is common knowledge, are integrated into the state security forces.
Most of the parties subject to the new ban are described as small and as having no seats in the Rada, Ukraine’s unicameral parliament. However the Opposition Platform – For Life is the country’s largest opposition party, with 44 seats in the 450-seat Rada, second only to Zelensky’s Servant of the People Party which has 254 seats. It has a substantial base in the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine’s east. In the 2019 election, in Donetsk, it received 43.41 per cent of the vote while Zelensky’s party received 27.19 per cent. In Luhansk the results were 49.83 per cent to 28.83 percent.
A report from the Institute of East European Studies at the Free University of Berlin carried by Al Jazeera notes that three of the suspended parties participated in the 2019 parliamentary elections, obtaining a combined 2.7 million votes (18.3 per cent). With respect to the 11 listed parties banned for their alleged ties to Russia, the author of the report notes that “practically every leader and sponsor of these parties with any real influence in Ukraine condemned Russia’s invasion, and are now contributing to Ukraine’s defence.”
In a statement issued in response to its banning, the Opposition Platform – For Life said that “the only explanation for such a move by the ruling team is unlawful political raiding and unfair political struggle with their key opponent. Instead of political dialogue, search for a compromise and ways to unite the country, the authorities have resorted to 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 with all possible in the most difficult time for the country, as we did before. To defend the state sovereignty of Ukraine, the ideas of peace, democracy and human rights. To continue the struggle for peace, improve people’s lives, raise the domestic economy, overcome devastation and poverty, prepare for the post-war reconstruction and development of our country.”
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!”
Opposition Platform – For Life co-Chair Viktor Medvedchuk, an elected deputy, has been under house arrest since May 2021, allegedly under investigation by state authorities for “treason.” In 2014, while orchestrating the violent Euromaidan coup against a president it considered “too friendly with Russia,” the U.S. imposed sanctions against Medvedchuk, a prominent Ukrainian lawyer and businessman, 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 was emphatic in saying he stood for a sovereign Ukraine, but that language and cultural rights for Russians and other minorities must be upheld. His party’s program calls for repealing the contentious language law passed in 2019 by Poroshenko making Ukrainian compulsory in all spheres of life. It would return to Ukrainian citizens the right to speak, communicate and study in Russian and other languages of the country’s national minorities. Russian speakers are said to make up some 30 per cent of Ukraine’s population.
The party’s program also calls for the reintegration into Ukraine of Donetsk and Luhansk in the Donbass that have declared their independence — not by using force, but through dialogue and compromise and by providing security guarantees and recognition of their autonomous status (essentially the terms agreed to in the Minsk Accords that Ukraine never honoured).
In an interview with Politique Internationale in January 2021, Medvedchuk said Ukraine was being used by Washington 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 an American 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 other parties like it, were not ordered to suspend their activities. Far from it, these “freedom fighters” have all along been key players in the U.S./NATO plan of brutally crushing opposition inside Ukraine to the country being used as a forward base for attacking Russia.
(TML Daily, posted March 23, 2022. With files from Ukrinform, Daily Mail, EFE, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, U.S. Treasury Department)