Monday, January 24, 2005

Changing the Game - III

Writing in EDM, the Ukrainian historian Taras Kuzio has some criticisms of the recent New York Times article by C.J. Chivers:
On January 17, the New York Times published a sensational expose alleging that the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) had been key to preventing bloodshed during the Orange Revolution. The article was translated for Ukrayinska pravda the same day and has unleashed a debate as to whether the allegations are true or an attempt at whitewashing the SBU in time for Viktor Yushchenko's presidency.

The issue of whether bloodshed was contemplated is crucial to understanding the success of the Orange Revolution. In both the Serbian (November 2000) and Georgian (October-November 2003) democratic revolutions the security forces either stayed neutral or defected to the opposition. In October Russian political technologist Marat Gelman, who worked on Viktor Yanukovych's campaign, ruled out a Georgian scenario in Ukraine, predicting that the security forces would stay loyal to the authorities (Ukrayinska pravda, October 29, 2004). This prediction was wrong, and Eurasia Daily Monitor (December 1) was the first to identify the growing defection of security forces as likely to lead to a victory for the Orange Revolution.
Kuzio is, however, sceptical on four basic points relating to the New York Times article's attempt to "improve the image" of the actions and intentions of Ihor Smeshko, head of Ukraine's secret service (SBU). In particular, Kuzio notes,
the expose raises suspicions that Smeshko is seeking to distance himself from his former deputy chairman, Oleksandr Satsyuk. Yushchenko believes he was poisoned during a dinner at Satsyuk's home; Smeshko also attended that fateful dinner. Satsyuk resigned from the SBU and has returned to parliament, where he enjoys immunity.
under Smeshko the SBU began to return to KGB-style tactics against the opposition. Instructions were sent to SBU officers stationed in Ukrainian embassies to place opposition members and even parliamentary deputies under surveillance if they visited abroad.
And he concludes:
The New York Times expose brings together many different strands concerning the attitudes of the security forces to the Orange Revolution. But it fails to make a convincing case that Smeshko saved Ukraine from bloodshed. The credit for this should go to Yushchenko and Ukraine's Orange Revolution protestors who practiced non-violence.

See also this post.

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