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додано: 19-09-2002

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In January 1972, a purge and arrest of dissidents later dubbed the
"General Pogrom" by the samizdat journal "Ukrainian Herald," began in
Ukraine. The journal's editor, writing under the pseudonym Maksym
Sahaydak, was believed to be Stepan Khmara, who later suffered
persecution himself and who this week attended mass demonstrations in
Kyiv as a member of Yuliya Tymoshenko's radical Fatherland Party.

During the "General Pogrom," which lasted through 1979, 70
Ukrainian dissidents were arrested and tried. But the real figure of
those dismissed from work, forced to recant, or harassed in other
ways was closer to 200 people, many of whom were involved in
education and culture. Today, the detention of 1,000 oppositionists
throughout Ukraine in the days preceding the 16 September protests is
even higher than the Soviet-era figure and represents the largest
crackdown since the Stalin years in the former Soviet region. The
size of the opposition crowds, estimated by the Kyiv State
Administration at 50,000, is also higher than the 20,000 during the
"Kuchmagate" crisis of March 2001. Hundreds of thousands demonstrated
throughout Ukraine.

The authorities are no more interested in dialogue with the
opposition than they were in the 1970s. Viktor Yushchenko, head of
Our Ukraine, Ukraine's largest parliamentary faction, has
differentiated himself from the three radical opposition groups
(Tymoshenko, Socialists, and Communists) by continuing to support a
"dialogue" with the authorities in the form of a roundtable modeled
on the Polish process of 1988. Yet there is no sign that Kuchma is
meeting them halfway. As in the 1970s, this refusal to agree to any
"dialogue" is pushing moderates into the radical camp; Our Ukraine
now wants to launch even bigger protests on 29 September.

The mass detentions and dirty tricks against the opposition
are two-pronged -- repressive and preventative. Every effort was made
by authorities to downplay reports of the size of the protests to the
lowest figures possible. Senior Justice Ministry and city officials
argued that there would be no room for them all in central Kyiv
(Tymoshenko claimed she expected 100,000-200,000 to attend the
protests). Meanwhile, the Traffic Militia (DAI) barred buses and cars
without Kyiv license plates from entering the capital, claiming they
had to prevent chaos if the roads were blocked by demonstrators. Bus
drivers trying to take protestors to Kyiv were stripped of their
licenses. Seemingly to facilitate later court action against
protestors, DAI handed out prepared complaint forms for drivers to

Tymoshenko was blocked from flying to Mykolaiv after airport
authorities claimed (falsely) that the airport was closed for safety
checks. Fake copies of the Tymoshenko newspaper "Vechirni visti" were
circulated, calling on Kyivites not to join the protests.

Students, many of whom would be expected to take part in the
demonstration, were threatened with expulsion from their universities
(a civic group called Ukraine Without Kuchma, mainly made up of young
people, was among key participants). Education Minister and Social
Democratic Party of Ukraine-united member Vasyl Kremen said he would
not allow students to disrupt their studies. The weekend prior to the
demonstration was designated as "sanitary day" for student
dormitories and students could not host guests. In Kharkiv, the
authorities took over the central square where a demonstration was
planned and substituted a carnival in its place. Other city centers
were suddenly put under "renovation" during the protests.

To scare the public away from the protests, television ran
regular reports by the Interior Ministry (MVS) about hospitals
stocking up on medical and emergency supplies. The MVS advised
parents to keep children at home and issued a special leaflet
outlining many different articles of the Criminal Code that could be
used against protestors. Oppositionists accused the MVS and Security
Service (SBU) of placing them under surveillance, which those
authorities denied. The MVS claimed it had information that "criminal
elements and mentally unstable people," unemployed persons,
hooligans, drunks, "those with aggressive intentions," and the
homeless would join the protests and cause disturbances, thereby
denigrating the protestors.

The Luhansk Oblast council demanded a referendum on the
Belarus-Russia union and on the issue of Russian as a second state
language, and said the protests would damage relations with Russia.
The Dnipropetrovsk Oblast state administration threatened to deal
with "revolutionaries" and refused to allow oppositionists the use of
any premises. In Kyiv, as in the Soviet era, those on state salaries
were strongly encouraged to turn out in "support of Kuchma."

Court action was undertaken to ban the demonstration in
central Kyiv. Opposition leaders were threatened with prosecution for
blocking traffic and calling for Kuchma's removal from power.
Some 1,000 activists, many pensioners and middle-aged people, were
rounded up throughout Ukraine from the Tymoshenko Bloc, the
Socialists, and the Communists just prior to the planned protests on
charges of applying "psychological pressure on the authorities and,
most importantly, on the Ukrainian president," according to Viktor
Medvedchuk, the head of the presidential administration. The would-be
demonstrators were asked to sign statements saying they would not
join the protests, threatened with charges if they did, and asked to
provide intelligence on how they were being organized and financed,
according to Interfax on 14 September. Opposition party offices were
raided and materials confiscated.

Parallel to the massive roundup, authorities worked hard to
downplay the significance of the planned rallies and tried to reduce
their visibility. The opposition was blackened on state media as
"extremists." A crashed car was found near Kyiv with Tymoshenko
literature suspiciously next to a box of Molotov cocktails. At least
one opposition leader, Socialist Oleksandr Moroz, suggested he
believed authorities planted hunting rifles and grenades in tents
erected during the 16 September demonstrations. Kuchma and other
senior figures accused the protestors of being paid to come to the
protests. The State Tax Administration arrested a Tymoshenko employee
allegedly with "hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Two hundred young athletes were bused from Kyiv to Western
Ukraine ostensibly in "support of Our Ukraine" and "Tymoshenko."
Rather than joining the authentic peaceful protests, they instigated
fights with local people and threw paint on Soviet monuments, acts
that were then replayed on Ukrainian television as the antics of the
"opposition." A similar provocation had been organized during riots
on 9 March 2001 in Kyiv when the extreme-right pro-Kuchma "Tryzub"
paramilitary group attacked the police on behalf of the SBU. (Twelve
members of the anti-Kuchma extreme-right anti-Kuchma National
Assembly are still in jail accused of instigating this violence.) In
2001, the tactic worked, as public support for the opposition
collapsed after the riots. During this week's protests, the only
violence in Kyiv came from MVS special forces who demolished 126
tents and arrested 54 protestors who are now charged with "blocking

While attempting to prevent Ukrainians from exercising their
right to hold demonstrations, the authorities simultaneously closed
all opposition access to the media. Starting this past summer, the
presidential administration sent instructions to television channels
instructing them on how to cover or ignore events. Material on
different television channels on the opposition was synchronized,
according to the "Telekrytyka" website. On the morning of the
protests, all television stations went off the air at once, something
unprecedented in Ukraine, where maintenance is usually undertaken one
station at a time. At the same time, pro-Kuchma "political
scientists" and sociologists, such as presidential adviser Mykhailo
Pogrebynsky, downplayed public support for the protests, which in
fact appears to be growing from all accounts.

These Soviet-era tactics were undertaken on the same day that
President Kuchma requested at the World Economic Forum in Salzburg
that the EU consider Ukraine for future membership. Perhaps
unsurprisingly, the EU turned Kyiv down.

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