Anyone covering the Ukrainian presidential election for the Western media during the last few days has had to perform a complicated balancing act. How else could you explain President Poroshenko’s underwhelming finish to a trusting reader of the New York Times or the Washington Post, despite the fact that the president was proclaimed a hero in both the US and the EU for his role in the Maidan “revolution” of 2014? Poroshenko got a mere 15.96% of the ballots cast, and many voters openly expressed doubts over his ability to make it into to the second round. How could television comedian Vladimir Zelensky overtake Poroshenko by almost 15 percentage points (30.4%) after Poroshenko’s supposedly “heroic” war against “Russian aggression”? And how could Yulia Tymoshenko, who was “imprisoned by that pro-Russian crook of a president” Viktor Yanukovych from 2012 to 2014, finish a distant third with just 13.4%, after two years in jail and an active fight against what she calls “Russian aggression” in eastern Ukraine?
The verdict of the voters
The truth is that while the final outcome of the Ukrainian election has not yet been made public, the moral, political, and economic bankruptcy of the crudely nationalist regime that established itself in Ukraine after the Maidan coup of 2014, is plain for everyone to see. This article will demonstrate that even the Western media indirectly acknowledges this fact. Only Western and Ukrainian sources will be used to prove two devastating truths about the violent “revolution of dignity” on Maidan Square in Kiev, which the US and the EU openly supported in 2014.
Here are the facts that the Western press also acknowledges. First of all, over the course of the last five years of IMF-led reforms, Ukraine has become the poorest nation in Europe (as Der Spiegel reports); second, Maidan gave rise to “the dirtiest and most shameful” presidential race in the history of Ukraine as an independent nation (as Bloomberg was forced to admit, after many years of praise for the “revolution of dignity”). In fact, the West itself has already handed down a “guilty” verdict in regard to the regime of President Petro Poroshenko. The US and the EU are just unwilling to admit their share of the responsibility for the ongoing disaster, preferring to talk about Russian “aggression” in the Donbass (the Russian-speaking population of which were lovingly described as “subhumans” by the first post-Maidan Ukrainian prime minister, Arseny Yatsenyuk). The second favorite topic of the Western media is the “occupation” of Crimea (whose autonomous status inside Ukraine was slated for elimination by the far-right members of the post-Maidan Ukrainian government immediately after taking power in 2014).
The poorest nation in Europe
The economic collapse of Ukraine is plain for everyone to see. It is so indisputable that incumbent President Petro Poroshenko did not even dare bring up the economy during his campaign, preferring to focus on his confrontation with Russia. “The real choice [that voters have to make] is between me and Putin,” Poroshenko said at the peak of his campaign, offering the rather puzzling choice of: “Either Poroshenko or Putin” — a slogan that was reprinted in millions of campaign posters, numerous ads on TV, and in newspapers. Poroshenko’s alternative was so absurd that even Euronews decided to publish a remark by Yelena Bondarenko, an anti-Maidan journalist and former deputy of the Ukrainian parliament (during the administration of the much-maligned Viktor Yanukovych, the president ousted after Maidan), quoting Bondarenko’s Facebook comment: “Does Putin know that he is running for office in March?” But of course Euronews refrained from interviewing Bondarenko, whose views run counter to the mainstream Western narrative about Ukraine. During her brief visit to Moscow, Bondarenko shared with this correspondent her views on the reasons for Ukraine’s economic impoverishment.
“The Ukrainian economy is being destroyed not only by corruption, as the Western media report, but also by Kiev’s self-imposed isolation from the traditional Russian market. This misfortune is self-inflicted, since it was Kiev that declared Russia a hostile country and imposed sanctions first, long before Russia fought back,” Bondarenko said. “Contrary to Poroshenko’s promises, the association agreement with the EU did not make up for the Russian market that was lost to Ukraine. In fact, Ukrainian exports to the EU diminished by 36% in the first year after Yanukovych was ousted.” Bondarenko’s bitter assessment of the state of the Ukrainian economy is corroborated not only by data from the Ukrainian Ministry of Economic Development, but also by none other than the Washington Post. That newspaper, once so enthusiastic about Maidan, reported the collapse of the Ukrainian currency (the hryvna) from 8.2 hryvnas to the dollar (under the much-maligned Yanukovych) to 25.3 hryvnas over the course of just one year of Ukraine’s exposure to Poroshenko’s “young reformers.” This downturn for the hryvna reflected the downturn of Ukraine’s economy after it forcefully “separated” itself from Russia’s, causing the Ukrainian GDP to plummet by 6.8% in 2014 and by 9.8% in 2015, as reported by Reuters.
Young reformers and old foreign policy
Immediately prior to the election, some in the Western media made a desperate attempt to rehabilitate the “young reformers” from Arseny Yatsenyuk’s government (most of whom were not Ukrainian citizens and were fired by Poroshenko after fights over systematic corruption in 2015-2017). Bloomberg trumpeted the inclusion of Yatsenyuk’s former economics minister, the Lithuanian banker Aivaras Abromavicius, as part of the team of candidate Vladimir Zelensky seeing in this a sign that Zelensky would fight the supposedly villainous “old system.” Zelensky, a Russian-speaking Ukrainian comedian, surged ahead of Poroshenko in the polls and started getting good press in the US and the EU after vowing total loyalty to Washington and Brussels several weeks before the election. Now Zelensky is viewed by Politico (for example) as a potentially good alternative to Poroshenko, simply because Zelensky (unlike Poroshenko) is not ashamed to speak in public in Russian, the native language of 36-40% of Ukraine’s population.
The fact that Zelensky is not even promising to change the disastrous anti-Russian foreign-policy stance of the post-Maidan regime is generally overlooked by newspapers both in the US and in the EU. However, without shifting from Poroshenko’s posture on joining NATO and other anti-Russian alliances, it simply won’t be possible to end what Kiev calls its “war with Russia” —Ukraine’s five-year-long military operation against the rebellious regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, generally known as “the Russian-speaking regions of the Donbass.” (Russia does not consider this military action to be a war with Ukraine, calling it instead a Ukrainian civil war and blaming the Maidan coup for escalating the political divisions between eastern and western Ukraine, which had previously been resolved during elections, into a bloodbath between people had gone to school together and were citizens of the same country.) So, Zelensky is not really suggesting a solution to the “war problem.” Meanwhile, ending the hostilities in the Donbass is seen as the highest priority by the majority of the Ukrainian electorate, as Reuters confirms in its report from the war-torn areas of Ukraine. So, Ukrainians’ hopes for peace will most likely also be dashed by the candidate Zelensky.
War enshrined in laws
Even if Poroshenko leaves office, his legacy will prevent Ukraine from ending the war anytime soon. The warfare in eastern Ukraine is the fruit of NATO’s eastward expansion that was launched by Washington and Brussels in the mid-1990s without buy-in from Moscow, as Counterpunch rightly admits. And during Poroshenko’s tenure, Ukraine’s path toward EU and NATO membership has become enshrined in its constitution, despite Russia having made no secret of its position that Ukraine joining NATO would be a “red line” for Moscow. So, even if we adopt the Western view that the war is actually between Ukraine and Russia, Poroshenko has done everything to make that war last longer. Back in 2018, the Ukrainian parliament, led by Poroshenko’s faction, adopted what is known as the law on the de-occupation of the Donbass, which brands Russia as “an aggressor” and makes it impossible for Ukraine to comply with the peace agreements that were signed by Poroshenko and the representatives of the Donbass rebels and were made public in Minsk in February 2015 (what are called the “Minsk Agreements”). So why, after adopting that law, is Ukraine unable to honor its commitments under the Minsk agreements? Because Ukraine’s new law on de-occupation makes amnesty for the rebels and a special status for the Donbass impossible, despite the fact that amnesty and that special status formed the core of the Minsk Agreements in 2015. The Economist magazine noted that the law on de-occupation “infuriated” Russia. Obviously, if something “infuriates” one party to a conflict and you are an intermediary or a benevolent observer of this conflict, you should reject that “something.” Not so for the Economist: it actually praised the law, saying that it “called a bully by its own name.”
This particular event exposes the problem: The Economist and the vast majority of other Western media outlets are not benevolent observers. They were on Kiev’s side from the very beginning of the post-Maidan regime. And they did so not so much out of love for Ukraine, but rather out of hatred for some evil entity that they call “Putin’s Russia,” but which is actually just Russia, pure and simple.
Western coverage: the facts belie the narrative
Now, as the Ukrainian election showcases the full extent of Ukraine’s impoverishment and the degradation of its political institutions, inconsistencies are beginning to emerge in the Western press’s narrative on Ukraine. In fact, attentive readers of Western reports on Ukraine might be feeling the same shock as that experienced by “Russiagate” believers after reading the conclusions of the Mueller Report. It was all a lie, as the American Conservative rightly put it. The facts (Ukraine’s impoverishment and corruption, the dirty and undemocratic presidential election, Kiev’s unwillingness to make peace in Donbass, and its provocative stand against Russia) — these facts are just incompatible with the prevailing narrative of the Western media about the nice young reformers fighting against the “old system,” which is somehow constantly being reinvigorated by Russia.
After the first round of elections in Ukraine, the holes in that Western narrative are now simply impossible to hide. It was Poroshenko’s fear of the West’s “treason” against him that revealed, for example, the unseemly links between the post-Maidan Ukrainian elite and the American embassy, which is still headed by Obama’s appointee Marie Yovanovitch, and the ensuing scandal. In an interview with the Hill, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Yuri Lutsenko, revealed that during a personal meeting Yovanovitch gave him a list of the individuals in the Ukrainian establishment who were seen by the US as allies and who should not be prosecuted under any circumstances. Here is a quote from the Hill:
“Unfortunately, from the first meeting with the US ambassador in Kiev, [Yovanovitch] gave me a list of people whom we should not prosecute. My response of that is: it is inadmissible. Nobody in this country, neither our president nor our parliament nor our ambassador, will stop me from prosecuting whether there is a crime,” Lutsenko said in his interview with the Hill.
The US State Department called Lutsenko's claim that he had received this list of untouchables "an outright fabrication," but the cat was out of the bag. The direct influence that the United States exerts on the post-Maidan regime has long been suspected, and for most Ukrainians Lutsenko’s statement was a “revelation” of a generally known “secret.”
So, as the Polish think tank Nowa Europa Wschodnia (“New Eastern Europe”) asks in a recent publication, what was the purpose of Maidan, if Ukraine is poorer and more corrupt than under Yanukovych? The answer is simple: its goal was to make Ukraine a country that is hostile to Russia, in a state of constant confrontation with its neighbor, and embroiled in a simmering conflict with a big segment of its own population. This goal was achieved through the joint efforts of the United States, the European Union, and Ukrainian ultra-nationalists. And this election offers no hope of changing this state of affairs anytime soon. The election simply exposed this terrible state of affairs — even to the Western media.