A government that has to resort to widespread demonization and repression of its opponents has already proven does not enjoy firm and widespread support
This article originally appeared at The Unz Review
The following leaflets are being spread in Slavyansk, a once focal point of the Donbass resistance that was recaptured by Ukrainian forces in July last year:
How to recognize your typical separatist?
- Calls for the entry of Russian troops or suggests surrendering to Russia.
- Propagandizes Russian symbols and spreads the idea of the “Russian world.”
- Denigrates the values of the Ukrainian people, expresses doubts about the fact of the existence of the Ukrainian nation, Ukrainian language, etc.
- Spreads rumors about the non-existent threats to the Russian language or Russian speakers in Ukraine.
- Denigrates Ukrainian state symbols – the flag, national anthem, coat of arms, etc.
- Praises the so-called DNR and LNR.
- Portests against military mobilization.
- Initiates events in which people call for overthrow of the government and mass riots.
- Spreads lies and inflames interethnic hatred (racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism).
- Promotes fear, panic, and defeatist attitudes.
A SEPARATIST IS EVEN SOMEONE WHO AGITATES AGAINST MOBILIZATION OR AWAITS PUTIN’S ARRIVAL! Punishment: 7-12 years imprisonment (Article 110 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code).
If you have encountered a case of separatism, please call the SBU or the government hotline and record the evidence on your phone, video recorder, photo camera.
0 800 507 309 – Government hotline
0 800 501 482 – SBU hotline
Toll free from landline phones.
Useless to argue the morals of this; it is justified or not depending on your particular partisan sympathies and the consistency of any convictions you might have on free speech, etc. So I won’t bother.
I will however make a few wider points:
1) The utter hypocrisy (and hardheaded practicality) of a regime that came to power through an illegal coup on a wave of mass riots now banning the same thing that got them into power in the first place. And of course the incredibly hardline restrictions on free speech implicit in all this, which are and will continue to be abused (Your neighbor’s dog is too loud? Maybe he’s a separatist!).
Lest one think this all just talk, consider the case of Ruslan Kotsaba, a (West Ukrainian!) journalist arrested for making a video in which he came out against mobilization, which is strictly speaking without legal basis during a time in which war has not been declared, i.e. up till now. He faces up to 15 years in prison. This is just what is probably the most visible case; there have been sackings, denunciations, business shakedowns, arrests, and imprisonments for non violent expressions of different opinion (or allegations of such) on a scale that would have saved Yanukovych’s “bloody regime” had he been even a tenth as ruthless.
2) A corrolary is that the results of opinion polls, which generally show drastic declines in attitudes towards Russia, while certainly real at some level, surely overstate the level of the decline. If you live in Kharkov and some unknown person phoned you and asked you for your opinions on Crimea then you’d have to be fairly brave or at least confident that you are dealing with an ethical pollster before voicing any opinion that goes against the Maidan party line.
3) As the Ukrainian economy plummets into the abyss with a helping hand from the IMF, the incidence of repressions (of which witchhunts for separatists is but a part) is ratcheting up and this process will continue further because after all they will have all been organized by Russia. After all, what possible valid reason could a pensioner with skyrocketing heating bills and devalued savings living on $50 a month have for opposing the oligarchs who rule Ukraine? And with the regime having promoted plenty of Neo-Nazis to positions of power, who’ll be happy enough to crack heads while the money continues flowing.
The fact that the regime is driven to such repressive measures is an indication that it does not enjoy firm and overwhelming support from the population. With things likely to get much worse before they get better, it is only a matter of time before the regime will have to drop what remains of its liberal democracy European values facade.
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