A reminder to Western democracy cheerleaders: the political reality in western Ukraine is not all sunshine and roses. Dissent by politicians and the media is being quashed, even if it is expressed peacefully. Censorship and even disenfranchisement of anyone who exudes even a whiff of “pro-separatist” views are on the rise. The Christian Science Monitor reports:
A crackdown on what authorities describe as “pro-separatist” points of view has triggered dismay among Western human rights monitors, and at the very least played straight into the hands of Kremlin propaganda.
For example, the Sept. 11 shutdown of the independent Kiev-based Vesti newspaper by the Ukrainian Security Service for “violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity” brought swift condemnation from the international Committee to Protect Journalists and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Ukraine has also shut down most Russia-based television stations on the grounds that they purvey “propaganda,” and barred a growing list of Russian journalists from entering the country. In July it banned the parliamentary faction of the Communist Party, which won 13 percent of the vote in 2012 elections, on the grounds that its members had spoken in defense of eastern Ukraine’s rebels.
As Ukraine heads into parliamentary polls, any questions touching on the country’s territorial integrity appear to have become an unspoken “red line” for all candidates. “Any politician who declares that Ukraine should be willing to sacrifice any part of its sovereignty might come to a hard end, very quickly,” says Viktor Zamiatin, a political expert with the Razumkov Center in Kiev.
War is hell, and liberal ideals are often among the first casualties when a country is in its throes. Nevertheless, that’s ultimately not a good enough reason for Ukraine’s supporters to avert their eyes and make excuses.
Ukrainians, especially in the western parts of the country, have strong aspirations to join the Western club of nations, broadly defined. Indeed, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced today that he hoped to enact a series of reforms that would have his country applying for EU membership by 2020. Putting brakes on these kinds of chauvinist shenanigans ought to be a top priority.