Thursday, 1 July 2010
SBU Versus Western Analysts
KIEV, Ukraine -- The 10-hour detention on June 26 in Kiev’s Boryspil Airport of Nico Lange, Ukraine director of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation -- together with a range of new policies directed at the opposition and journalists -- signifies a return to pre-August, 1991 KGB tactics. The foundation's mission is to promote freedom, liberty, peace and justice
This worrying development shows the degree to which Ukraine’s young democracy is threatened by a return to neo-Soviet semi-authoritarianism.
The only time a foreigner was prevented from entering Ukraine under President Leonid Kuchma was in 2000 when Jed Sunden, owner of the Kyiv Post, Korrespondent and other publications, was detained but then, like Lange, allowed to enter the country.
In the Soviet Union, the KGB had blacklists of foreigners and it would seem from the Lange detention that the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has, for the first time in Ukraine's two decades of independence, drawn up similar KGB-style lists of Western analysts.
The co-author of this article, Taras Kuzio, was on the KGB blacklist and was expelled from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in April 1990 on his way to attend the inaugural congress of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union. These KGB blacklists disintegrated at the same time the KGB disintegrated after the failed August 1991 hard-line putsch.
Will Western academics and experts now be prevented from visiting Ukraine, as before August 1991?
The return to KGB-style tactics is aided by the SBU's cooperation with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and the re-definition of what constitute threats to the Ukrainian state. The current authorities have adopted the Russian-Belarusian threat perception that sees the West, especially the United States, as the main threat to Ukrainian national security.
Anti-Americanism resurfaced in Ukraine in response to the Kuchmagate crisis – including the release of secretly recorded audiotapes implicating the ex-president in plotting numerous crimes, allegations he has denied. This sentiment led to the rise of Viktor Yushchenko and Our Ukraine, which won the 2002 parliamentary elections.
But this anti-Americanism was tempered by Kuchma's support of NATO membership. He twice sought membership action plans in 2002 and 2004 to join the military alliance. And Ukraine sent the third largest contingent of troops to support the U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq in 2003.
Today, Yanukovych's re-orientation towards Russia and anti-Westernism is no longer tempered by pro-Western foreign policies, as they were when he was prime minister under Kuchma in 2002-2004.
In effect, we now have the “Putinization” – or state control -- of the media (as Natalia Ligachova, editor of the Telekritika media watchdog has written) and of Ukraine's security forces. The Lange detention is confirmation that independent Ukraine, for the first time in its 20-year history, is pursuing a single-vector pro-Russian foreign policy, and not Kuchma's multi-vectorism.
Yanukovych is the first president to oppose NATO membership and not to see it as a stepping stone to European Union membership (as all Eastern European countries did). But, how serious is the claim that Ukraine seeks EU membership?
If one really wants to join the EU, one doesn't spoil relations with Germany by detaining one of its analysts. Nor does one pursue semi-authoritarianism if one is serious about European values.
Ukraine has given away its “NATO card” to get Moscow to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Damaging relations with Germany and undermining Ukraine's integration into the EU, ahead of Yanukovych's August visit to Berlin, is tantamount to giving away Ukraine's “EU card.”
The SBU under Yushchenko was never reformed into an institution under democratic control and continued to be an extension of the presidential apparatus. The lack of reform in the SBU is evident in the speed with which it has quickly returned to KGB-style operating tactics under Yanukovych.
In the meantime, Western experts traveling to Ukraine would do well to heed the following rules if detained by the authorities:
1) Do not sign any Ukrainian document.
2) Do not let them have your passport or other form of identification.
3) Call your embassy or consulate immediately. Ensure you have names, mobile telephones and emails of embassy personnel with you.
4) Telephone, text or email Ukrainian and Western politicians and journalists immediately when you are denied entry. Ensure you have names, mobile telephones and emails contacts of Ukrainian parliamentary deputies, journalists and NGO leaders. Bring contact numbers of Western journalists living in Kiev (Reuters, Associated Press, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Kyiv Post).
5) Ensure you have a mobile telephone with a built-in camera and email and/or texting capability. Make sure it is fully charged and bring one extra battery. Ask another Westerner in line at passport control to take a photo or video of you and send these to Ukrainian or Western journalists.
6) Ensure you have some cash with you for essential purchases. Most facilities in Kyiv's Borispil airport do not take credit cards.
7) You do not know when you will see your luggage. Include basic toiletries in your hand luggage.
8) Bring reading and writing material with you. Detention can be for up to 10 hours. Keep a log of what is taking place and what is being said. Use this log to write a blog and/or article afterwards. Publicity is good for your plight.
9) Use twitter or texting to keep people informed. To save time, prepare a mailing list on your mobile phone of key people (embassy/consulate officials, Western/Ukrainian journalists, Ukrainian politicians and NGO activists) you would wish to keep informed of your plight.
10) Before traveling to Ukraine, ask your colleagues for contact details of a Kiev-based lawyer whom you could telephone if you are detained.