Ukraine: Minister’s departure signals new lurch into chaos

The shock resignation of Ukraine’s minister for economic development and trade, Aivaras Abromavicius, has exposed to light the festering stew of corruption, nepotism and backstabbing which passes for government in Kiev. In a parting shot, the aggrieved minister accused top officials of “blocking reforms” and “evil forces” of trying to “siphon billions from the public purse” (RT, ‘Denmark to Ukraine: Follow Minsk agreement, or we could drop Russia sanctions’, 6 February 2016).

Abromavicius, who hails from the Baltic state of Lithuania, was parachuted into the job to help implement the austerity programme dictated by the IMF as the price for massive bail-out loans. Yet it turns out that the West’s chosen hatchet man, whilst doubtless succeeding in deepening the misery of millions of Ukrainians, has got nowhere in terms of stabilising the economy, with the national currency in free-fall and the government currently being dragged through the London Court of International Administration to answer for its default on repayment of a $3bn loan from Russia.

Since the disintegration of the USSR, Ukraine’s state-owned industries have served as a slush fund for whichever gang of oligarchs currently rules the roost. The state natural gas giant Naftogaz was recently transferred from control by the energy ministry to control by the economics ministry, and the economics ministry was also put in charge of hiring and firing the bosses of sixty other state enterprises, including those in the defence ministry. This development sparked a stampede of rival oligarchs to get their placemen into the economics ministry and their snouts into the trough. As the departing minister acidly phrased it, the attractiveness of posts in the economy ministry “increased beyond recognition.”

He complained that Poroshenko had leaned on him to appoint “questionable individuals” to the ministry, or to key positions in state-owned enterprises, naming in particular one Igor Kononenko, Poroshenko’s close ally and former business partner. In a chilling reminder of the fascistic atmosphere within which such political battles are conducted, two weeks before his resignation/sacking, Abromavicius was stripped of his security detail by Ukraine’s interior ministry, on “cost-saving” grounds.

Whether Abromavicius has simply been backing the wrong gang of oligarchs, or whether his IMF-dictated brief to press on with privatisation has put him fatally at odds with ALL the rival gangs, the conclusion remains the same: by using Ukraine as a catspaw against Russia, imperialism has succeeded only in bankrupting and destabilising Ukraine herself. Under these circumstances, the departing Lithuanian’s helpful recommendation that US-born finance minster Natalie Jaresko should head up a government entirely staffed by technocrats will not do much to reassure America’s wavering allies.

Cold feet

In a joint statement, ambassadors to Ukraine from a number of Western countries, including the US, Britain, Germany and France, expressed “deep disappointment” with the shafting of Abromavicius. Some US ‘allies’ went further. Kristian Jensen, Denmark’s foreign minister, said that “If Ukraine doesn’t come through with the reforms linked to the Minsk peace process, it will be very difficult for Europe to continue united in support for sanctions against Russia… Ukraine has a deadline. They need to push those reforms now, they can’t wait” (ibid.). It is Kiev’s failure to adhere to the ceasefire prescribed under the Minsk agreement, and to engage positively in the political reforms through which a form of autonomy can be negotiated for the Donbas region, that stands in the way of an end to the armed conflict within Ukraine.

The Dutch too are less than enthusiastic about the EU’s flirtation with the Ukraine imbroglio. Ahead of the April 6 referendum on whether to ratify the EU Association agreement, a poll suggests that over half said they would definitely vote against it, and a quarter said they would be ‘likely’ to say no. The Association agreement is only provisional and needs to be ratified by all 28 EU member states. The Dutch referendum is non-binding, but referendum law says that in the case of a ‘no’ vote the government must “reconsider”. As the Dutch foreign minister has pointed out, a ‘no’ vote in the referendum could therefore put an end to the agreement, putting another huge dent in imperialism’s Ukraine strategy.

Communist party of Ukraine banned

A further embarrassment for the EU, conflicting with its supposed aim of exporting ‘European values’ of freedom and democracy to the Ukraine, came on December 16 when the District Administrative Court of Kiev, ruling on a lawsuit brought by the ministry of justice, liquidated the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU), a party which at the last legal election garnered 2.6 million votes, 13% of all the votes cast.

This banning order is the culmination of a long campaign of repression of the left. In April 2014 fascist thugs stormed and ransacked KPU offices across the country. In May 2014, the month of the Odessa massacre, Borotba (a pro-communist anti-fascist organisation) was forced underground. Demonstrations of the KPU and the left were banned by the authorities or broken up by armed gangs. In April 2015 the Rada passed a law banning communist symbols; the KPU accordingly abandoned the hammer and sickle and stopped singing the Internationale. Then in July 2015 the Interior Ministry banned the party from running in elections.

Now the outright banning of the KPU has sparked protests around the world, including a demonstration outside Ukraine’s London embassy supported by the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist). At a moment when the true worth of ‘European values’ is exposed by the daily toll of refugees washed up drowned on Greek shores, the last thing France, Germany and the rest want is to be bound irrevocably to a barbarous Kiev regime that is nearing the point of spontaneous combustion without any help from Donbas, though the latter is blamed for all the nation’s woes.

False friends

Pity the plight of those, like the misnamed Ukraine Solidarity Campaign, who are still stuck with the job of persuading trade unionists that the murderous Maidan coup d’etat was a popular revolution, that the Donbas resistance is just stooging for Putin and that workers should on no account take either side in the conflict (see the USC website, 7 February, ‘Lift the ban on the Communist Party of Ukraine! But oppose neo-Stalinism!’)!

Whilst every red-baiting instinct urges these campaigners to dance with joy at the news of the banning of the KPU, they are obliged for the sake of liberal propriety to mutter some mild formal reproofs at this infringement of freedom of speech – only in the next breath to vent the frothing anti-communist loathing which truly shapes their view of the world.

The block-capital title of their latest website offering says it all really:


Having performed the necessary genuflection in the direction of freedom and democracy, the author rapidly sniffs out a way of squaring the circle. One Halya Coynash of the ‘Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group’ is quoted as condemning the verdict, but then goes on to say this: “It may well be that the SBU [Security Service] can prove that there is a need in democratic Ukraine to ban the Communist Party on the grounds of danger to national security. Neither it nor the Justice Ministry have thus far done so.”

Please read that last sentence with the same care with which it was evidently crafted. The court’s banning of the KPU is condemned on a technicality: neither the secret police nor the court have thus far met the standard of proof required to appease a liberal conscience. But stay: itmay well be that the secret police and the court have missed some crucial detail by which it can prove that the KPU is posing a threat to democratic Ukraine. So really the report card for the secret police and the courts can be summed up as: must try harder.

The rest of the piece is then devoted to helping to draw up a helpful charge-sheet of supposed communist crimes in the clear hope of convincing even the most liberal of sensibilities that the KPU deserves hanging.

However the author is dogged throughout by the need to please two audiences: those who want to be seen to be defending freedom of expression, and those who are cock-a-hoop over the banning verdict and cannot wait to start hanging communists. It is presumably the latter audience he hopes to placate when he purrs that “We appreciate and understand why our friends in the Ukrainian labour movement have divided opinions as regards the judgements against CPU. But we say that the CPU’s loathsome political cocktail of neo-Stalinism and Russian chauvinism cannot be defeated by police methods.” Message: time for another ‘popular democratic’ Maidan movement to complete the ‘democratic revolution’. Then we can hang the communists.

Having done his best to dissuade workers from taking the side of the anti-fascist struggle in Ukraine, the author strives to conclude on a progressive-sounding note: “Our solidarity here should first and foremost be with the Ukrainian trade unions and efforts to develop an independent, non-Stalinist left alternative.” So what ‘solidarity’ advice would he give to the local head of the Trade Union Federation in Rivne, Mr Mykola Shershun, who was seized by Maidan activists on December 8, violently pushed out of the building in which he was working, beaten up so badly that he dislocated a shoulder and broke a leg, and dumped into a rubbish skip? Should he reserve judgement on the ‘Maidan revolution’ until such time as an “independent non-Stalinist left alternative” materialises out of thin air and comes to his rescue? Or should he not rather conclude that his broken leg tells him all he needs to know about the ‘Maidan revolution’?

Down with the fascist junta in Kiev and its NATO-fascist sponsors!

Victory to the anti-fascist resistance!

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.