Ukraine: An Open Letter from Yuri Andrukhovych
Dear Friends, all foreign journalists and editors!
Recently I received requests from many of you to describe the current situation in Kiev and generally in the Ukraine, to present my judgment of what is going on, and to present my vision of the near future. Since it is impossible for me to write a separate long analytical article for each of your publications, I decided to prepare this concise appeal, so that each of you could use it as you think fit.
The most important issues are as follows. In nearly four years in power, the Janukowycz regime has brought the country and the society to the limits of strength. What is worse, he created a situation without an exit, in which he must hold on to power by all means possible, otherwise he will face a harsh sentence. The scale of corruption and power grabbing exceeded all imaginable levels of greed. The only response the regime has offered to peaceful demonstrations during the last three months are attacks on Majdan by special police units, combined with individual persecution of opposition activists, and force applied to common participants of the protests (spying, beatings, burning cars and homes, break-ins into apartments, arrests, and quick trials). Bullying is the key word.
Since this is not working and the protests escalate, the regime keeps making the repressions ever more restrictive. On January 16, violating the rules of order, voting procedures, and the constitution, in just a few minutes the regime created a “legal basis” by having the parliament members, who are totally dependent on the President, vote in by a show of hands a whole slew of new laws, thus introducing real dictatorship and martial law. And the martial law was not even publicly announced. For example, by writing and disseminating these few sentences I am breaking several paragraphs of the new law about “slander”, “incitement”, etc. In short, if we were to comply with these laws, we would have to consider that in the Ukraine everything is prohibited except what is permitted by the regime. And the regime permits only one thing – to prostrate oneself before it.
On January 19 the Ukrainian society again massively stood out against such “laws”, defending its future. Today, in television news from Kiev, you can see demonstrators in various masks and helmets, some of them carrying wooden sticks. Do not believe that these are “extremists”, “provocateurs”, or “revisionist radicals”. My friends and I now use such equipment when demonstrating. In that sense I am the “extremist”, as is my wife, daughters, and our friends. We have no choice: we are defending ours and our friends’ lives and health. Special attack police units shoot at us, and snipers kill our friends. The estimates of the number of the protesters killed only in our part of town are between five and seven. In the entire Kiev tens of people disappeared without a trace.
We cannot stop the protests because that would mean that we accept a life sentence for the country. The young generation of Ukrainians who grew in post-Soviet times naturally rejects dictatorship.
If the dictatorship is allowed to win, Europe may face the possibility of another North Korea behind its Eastern border, with 5-10 million refugees coming across. I do not mean to scare you. But it is a revolution of young people. The regime is fighting its undeclared war mostly against them. After dawn unknown groups of “civilians” wonder around and catch primarily young people, particularly those carrying emblems of Euro-Majdan and European Union. They catch them, transport them to forests, undress and torture them in freezing cold. Interestingly enough, the victims are usually young artists – actors, painters, and poets. It appears that “death squads” intend to destroy what is the most beautiful. One more characteristic detail: in Kiev hospitals police units set traps for injured protesters, catch them (I repeat: the injured ones!) and take them for interrogations at unknown destinations. It became extremely dangerous to seek help in a hospital even by common passers-by who became injured by a plastic police grenade. The doctors only shrug and have to deliver the patients to the “law officers”.
To summarize: Ukraine suffers from crimes against humanity for which the present regime is fully responsible. If any extremists are involved – they come from the highest levels of the regime. And responding to your most frequent two questions: I do not how the situation will develop, and I do not know how you can help. What you can do is disseminate this appeal broadly. And feel compassion for us. Think about us. We will win in spite of them getting mad. Without any exaggeration, the Ukrainian nation is spilling its own blood protecting European values of free and just society. I hope you appreciate this.
With warm regards,
Yuri Andrukhovych (Jurij Andruchowycz) is a major Ukrainian writer, and intellectual, recipient of the Herder Prize (2001) and the Erich Maria Remarque Peace Prize (2005); TCDS Democracy & Diversity Krakow alumni may remember him from a guest talk at the Przegorzaly Castle, where the Krakow Institute was located.