The Day invited lawyer Hennadii Druzenko, entrepreneur Oleh Matsekh, and public figure Hanna Hopko, who were Maidan activists for three months and sometimes even set the tone of protests (the idea of a piano in front of the riot police was conceived and implemented by Matsekh) to discuss the post-Maidan and its new challenges.
This is our third attempt to take a sample of public sentiments around the Maidan. The first roundtable, “Systemic Political Crisis in the Country: Euromaidan Phase,” showed that the public was sincerely convinced that the protest that had begun on November 26 and widely escalated after November 30 would surely reset Ukraine’s degraded governmental system.
The second roundtable, “Euromaidan: what next?” showed that people were sure that the Yanukovych government was the worst that could have happened to Ukraine and must be toppled at any cost and we would sort out the whole thing later. (To warn how dangerous this narrow interpretation of the problem is, Den has published a lot of front-page articles, including “How to Struggle for Europe without Falling into Asia?”). And here is the conclusion of the third roundtable – the public is not satisfied with what happened after Yanukovych had fled and says that the Maidan is still on and the Ukrainians should unite, make a joint effort, and form a movement or a party that will politically represent the Maidan.
Some ideas of Den’s editor-in-chief Larysa Ivshyna – the necessity to achieve integration in Ukraine itself before integrating into Europe, create a new reality and senses for Lviv and Donetsk, weed out the political forces that parasitize on the ideas of nationalism, and modernize the national character – have been taken into account. In particular, Hanna Hopko has already spotlighted them on her Facebook page, which triggered a debate. But we will deal with this later – perhaps by way of a fourth “sampling.” Here follow the topical opinions and ideas of the roundtable participants.
Alla DUBROVYK: “Where are we today? Have we achieved what we aspired for when we came out on the Maidan on November 26?”
Hennadii DRUZENKO: “I think the state is now in a situation of half-disintegration. Most of the governmental institutions are inadequately performing or not performing at all their functions – from the angle of both the law and common sense. If you dial 102 [police. – Ed.], some civilians will answer. Law-enforcers are unwilling to tackle most of the difficult cases.
“Unfortunately, most of the ministries are showing no qualitative changes – new people control the old financial flows and have even given cushy places to those who have handled these flows before. The situation is even more alarming than during the Maidan protests.
“On the other hand, the Russians are actively trying to destabilize the situation, while our state has a too weak immunity to respond to this. It is self-organization of the populace that can save the state from a total collapse.”
Hanna HOPKO: “Hennadii is describing a somewhat pessimistic scenario for a crisis-ridden Ukraine. But I still remain optimistic and believe that, in spite of total chaos in the regions, lack of control over the law-enforcement bodies, and Russian aggression, these are temporary problems that can be settled provided there is a strong hand, a principled position, and professionalism.
“I distinguish between several phases of the protests. The Maidan was first against the regime, then against a part of the opposition, and now against irresponsibility and indifference of every individual who will allow the newly-elected authorities to do what has been done in the past 22 years. So everybody must make sure that the ‘latter’ Maidan spreads from the capital’s center to all squares of this country.”
A.D.: “A strong-will line requires a ‘desire.’ Judging by Hennadii’s answer, this desire is not in sight.”
H.H.: “Had it not been for public pressure, the newly-formed government would be even worse professionally. I am not saying about the presence of stars that represent the Maidan. I mean people who are ready to serve the people in this crisis situation and have certain professional experience and reputation to do so. The main criteria are probity and professionalism. It is this kind of people who will be able to explain to Ukrainians that unpopular steps are indispensable and we are unable now to reduce the pension age, the gas price, or the subway fare.”
Oleh MATSEKH: “In my view, we have not yet passed the Maidan stage.
“The change of faces has not stopped revolutionary processes in society – activity only increases with every passing day. The Maidan is turning into one of changes, reforms, control, and responsibility.
“I do not agree that the state is collapsing – on the contrary, it is in the making. What we have had up to now can hardly be called state. It was a mafia-type entity that had seized national resources and used them for its own purposes. And we can see today the revival of the institutions of a state which will function for the individual, in which the individual and their life will be the basic value. Besides, we can see the formation of the citizen and spirituality as well as revolutionary changes in people’s self-organization. A true revolution is taking place in many spheres of life. I do not consider the aggression, now underway in the south, as a war between Ukraine and Russia – it is a war between autocracy and democracy.”
H.D.: “I no longer give any expert advice today, for I don’t see the point – the government has no critical mass of people prepared to put something into practice. Advice and expert support are only worthwhile if there is a political will. But nothing has changed in parliament, as Inna Bohoslovska said from its rostrum. Well-informed people are taking a dim view of [Interior] Minister Avakov. It is anybody’s guess how offices are being dished out in the law-enforcement bodies. The National Security and Defense Council is staffed with incompetent people who lack a systemic vision.”
A.D.: “How come the ‘new’ people have regained control of the ‘old’ flows? How could the progressive public overlook this?”
H.D.: “From the angle of constitutional law, we have a far from the best situation. None of the four provisions for presidential impeachment was applied. The claim that Yanukovych did not sign the law is absolutely wrong – he was toppled 24, not 48, as the law prescribes, hours later. And this lie produces a fantastic tangle of problems. The new government says the president can be dismissed ‘by a show of force’ and, likewise, the Constitution can be changed by a Verkhovna Rada resolution, but they still think parliament remains legitimate. This is schizophrenic.
“We must admit that there was a revolution in this country, the current Constitution is on its last legs, and we need a transitional period, which in fact cancels the legitimacy of this Rada which was elected by the old and equally criminal rules, schemes, and principles.
“There should be a caretaker government and a transitional parliament, which will be functioning as long as it is needed to make necessary changes, and it would be good to adopt a new Constitution.
“But if you are saying there was no revolution, bring back Yanukovych, for he did not resign on his own.
“Doing these splits, when you want to be legitimate by the old logic and to wield power by a new revolutionary one, has nothing to do with obeying the law.”
A.D.: “And this exploded Eastern Ukraine…”
H.H.: “Those who have come assumed their offices in a not so legitimate way. It is sad that these ‘new’ people have in fact taken advantage of the efforts of the millions of people who stood on the Maidan round the clock. They knew how to manipulate public opinion and coordinate Maidan emotions.
“Take, for example, the cynical appearance of Tymoshenko after a sacral moment, when the overcrowded Maidan was mourning for a Heavenly Sotnia hero. The methods they employ to seize power expose their true goal.
“We can see a host of negative processes and incomprehensible governor-appointment decisions – there are former Lytvyn Bloc committee heads among them. The old clans are elbowing their way to the feeding trough.
“But people are conscientious and experienced enough to work out their own counteraction strategy. There are two key directions. The first is to establish broad-based public control perhaps in the shape of a movement. The second is to form a political entity that will be an alternative to the government and the opposition consisting now of the remaining Regionnaires and Communists.
“It is very important for us now not to repeat the mistakes of Maidan 2004, when everybody was crying out ‘Yushchenko – Yes!’ and then, when he came to power, decided that their responsibility for the country had come to an end. In reality, personal responsibility of everybody is only beginning.
“A Vinnytsia woman has said that every spoonful of blood spilled on the Maidan is a spoonful of the buckwheat which we took, selling out our votes in the elections [some election campaigners used to issue free buckwheat packages to win over votes. – Ed.]. The current Maidan is a result of our indifference and complacency in all the years of independence. We have all been parties to certain protests and brought the country to this Maidan.
“We are going to have very important presidential, mayoral in Kyiv, and perhaps early parliamentarian elections. If people think they fulfilled their mission by coming to the Maidan, they are mistaken. Such things as voting in the elections and political knowledge are supposed to teach people to think, analyze, and see more than just slogans and expensive suits.
“We have begun to draw up a revitalization reform package, in which we are trying to synergetically gather the best ideas.
“It is important to draw up new election laws, for alternative forces will not be able to come unless they are millions in number – therefore, the current legislation needs to be changed. This means open lists, equal access to the media, or a ban on political advertisement.”
A.D.: “It has been claimed that one of the reasons why the fruits of the revolution were not tasted by those who took an active part in it is absence of a political representative of the Maidan itself. Do you agree to this? And can the Maidan still turn into a political movement? Who can lead it?”
O.M.: “The reason why is very simple – we all existed in a certain matrix which could only produce the political forces that we have. The Party of Regions or somebody from the opposition – they are all the same. The system used to oust the people who thought differently and tried to oppose it.
“I once noted that the opposition was as much an enemy of the Maidan as was Yanukovych. They were no leaders. They were not in vanguard all the time. The Maidan was constantly pushing them and correcting their mistakes. Ordinary people were more aware of things.”
A.D.: “Why couldn’t they put forward one out of them instead of pushing the opposition?”
O.M.: “They could, but they were afraid a little. One more effort – and the opposition could have repeated the destiny of Yanukovych.
“We, the post-Maidan, in fact began with lies. Instead of resetting the system, we misplaced ideas. Like it was after the decline and fall of the Orange Revolution, nobody made an in-depth analysis or admitted mistakes. So I am sure that the Maidan as catharsis still stays on.
“But this upheaval radically differs from the Orange Revolution. We came to the line, when it was clear to all that the way we had been following was wrong. We toppled the regime at a high price, and this price is becoming a point of no return to the previous system.”
A.D.: “What juridical instruments can people influence the authorities with?”
H.D.: “Formally, we have zillions of them, for we lived in an ostentatious democracy.
“Whenever the head of a civic sector joins the arms and legs of a right-wing sector, the latter does not loot and the former becomes more persuasive.
“In the public administration sector, all the people were doing for more than four years was ‘to milk the cow.’ People forgot how to work. This reminds me of a physical training teacher who sits, sips beer, and shouts to his pupils: ‘Keep on running!’ But when he himself suddenly has to run, he can’t do this, for his paunch overhangs his knees. This also applies to our state apparatus. Naturally, there are some ministries and agencies that have not degraded so much. I have noticed a tendency: the fewer critical functions a ministry has, the more it degrades.
“The first analysis the new government should make if it were really new is to understand where the state is or is not needed. Do we really need the Ministry for Youth and Sport? Longing for the good Maidan evenings, [Minister] Bulatov keeps coming to Ukrainian House to discuss news with the guys. I saw this twice with my own eyes. He is a newly-appointed minister who has not yet got the hang of things. And do we need the Ministry of Culture? Has it ever done any good for culture? Let it be a trust of sorts, perhaps like the BBC, etc. Cut the staff to the critical minimum. Our state was turned into a cash collection scheme, and this cancerous tumor must be excised wherever possible.
“The Maidan is also a lesson in direct democracy. We had to take people to the hospital or call the police by all the rules. It was forbidden to bring weapons, but only a Kalashnikov rifle burst could stop a riot police attack. In reality, there was complete lawlessness on the Maidan from a formal viewpoint, but this very thing led to the victory. If we had obeyed the law, we would have lost. And this changed the awareness of many people. Only very fair appointments can help bring them back to law abidance and regulation. I can’t see this so far. This is why people are prepared to take the next step, perhaps including the use of force. And the authorities are provoking them as much as they can do so. This can be restrained for some time – as long as Putin rattles his saber. But once the foreign threat diminishes, it will be difficult to restrain.”
A.D.: “By your logic, a Batkivshchyna or Svoboda candidate stands no chances to win the presidential elections?”
H.D.: “They do – owing to the still existing conditions. The ‘TV box’ still remains monopolized. The impact of capital is unlimited. There is no joint candidate who would represent the Maidan.
“It would be very symbolic if catharsis in this country began with the presidential elections. It would be a good idea to publicize the emergence of new people in the government, who know [foreign] languages, have a good education, can think systemically and speak well, as well as can explain the origins of the car that brings them to their office.”
Anna CHEREVKO: “Do you know any?”
H.D.: “The Maidan has produced a lot of new faces. These people have self-organized and launched the processes that are now in fact the crutches of our tattered state. Are these people likely to evolve into national leaders in a three months’ time? It is difficult to answer.”
O.M.: “It takes society time to handle such processes.”
A.D.: “How much time? We have been struggling so much that we will have again to choose the lesser of the two ‘evils’ in the presidential elections only because we still can’t present a candidate who meets our demands and principles?”
O.M.: “For a Maidan candidate to win, the circumstances under which these elections will be held should change. I have the experience of working in this field and know very well that there are absolutely unequal rules there for young leaders and ‘heavyweights.’ Access to public resources is just incommensurate.
“The participation of our candidate in the elections will mean that we accept the rules of the game the old system dictates to us: to bring buckwheat, open charitable foundation, and chant crowd-pleasing slogans.
“The ‘old’ politicians who have come to power are not interested today in changing this system. And we will be unable to do this in three months, also taking into account the Russian aggression.”
A.D.: “You mean we will again elect a ‘wrong’ president in May? There are some young people who have political experience, such as Vasyl Hatsko, Democratic Alliance leader, or Oleksandr Solontai, one of the founders of the political movement Force of the People… What are their chances?”
H.D.: “I think we are unprepared to obtain a president of our own. It took Mandela about 30 years to mature. Havel also went a long way to become a leader. The guys you named will be a variety of Bulatov at the Ministry of Youth. We should not hurry, for we are running the risk of aborting these leaders. They must not be born prematurely.
“Let’s face it: while we have three atamans in the opposition, there are 33 little atamans in civil society. The Maidan has taken an important step today to rally these people together.”
H.H.: “There is such a biblical notion as ‘fullness of the time.’ We will have an opportunity to elect our candidate in the coming presidential elections.
“It is time to learn to be responsible citizens, exacting voters, and patriotic consumers. It is time for a domestic Ukrainian integration.”
H.H.: “The world of today is going through an ecological, moral, philosophical, and spiritual crisis. The Ukrainian Maidan has shown solidarity, self-sacrificingness, simplicity, and spiritual height. Let us wait for the fullness of the time. I don’t know how much real time the ‘nine months’ before the birth of our president will take. But we are on the right track now, and it is important to conserve the moral capital the Maidan has accumulated.
“I wrote on my Facebook page: ‘The Maidan is the beginning of the end of Putin.’ I mean that Ukraine will break the chains Putin has put over the world. Somebody wrote in reply that Kyivan Rus’ would ruin Putin’s Muscovy. St. Michael’s Cathedral, which gave refuge to Maidan protesters, is a powerful sign. A thousand years on, we are becoming again a subject in the world’s geopolitical game. And we began to do so where Kyivan Rus’ is speaking to us with the walls of its religious shrines.”
H.D.: “We are still unaware of what a portentous upheaval we have staged in the past three months. Suddenly, against the backdrop of Ukrainian infantilism that had been pressing us since the mid-17th century, we felt we were a hub in which history was being forged. I said in my latest interview with the French that the barricades, on which Europe’s history was being shaped in Paris, are in Kyiv today. Ukrainians are the only people today who still cherish the basic values of Western democracies. Europe’s best thinkers and philosophers are coming here for a breath of fresh air. A Polish friend of mine, once a fellow student and now a reputable lawyer, emailed me a message that I always carry with me: ‘Hennadii, fight on. We are with you. You are saving not only your freedom, but also the entire Europe. In reality, you are the only ones who still remember the values on which Europe was once being built. We need you badly so that we could think of freedom rather than on the preferable shape of cucumbers and tomatoes.’”