Several leading Russian liberals have strongly criticized Russia’s role in Ukraine’s ongoing election crisis. On December 2, Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky accused Russian authorities of interference in Ukraine’s internal affairs. “Russian ruling circles should stop facilitating a split in Ukraine and provoking clashes there,” Yavlinsky told a Moscow press conference. The Yabloko leader also warned that Russia’s policy towards Ukraine could lead to the “collapse” of the entire Commonwealth of Independent States. “The instigation of Ukraine’s disintegration could return to Russia in a year, by way of the domino principle,” he said.
As to the causes of Ukraine’s crisis, Yavlinsky said that the Ukrainian government’s falsification of the results of the presidential election underscored “the obvious contradiction between the democratic form and the clan, criminal-oligarchic substance of the system” in Ukraine. “That contradiction is characteristic not only of today’s Ukraine, but of other CIS governments. The ideologue and inspirer of that system is Russia. It is precisely for this reason that Russia’s leadership and many Russian politicians have actively interfered and are interfering in the events in Ukraine. At the same time, they wanted to demonstrate to the citizens of our country the fundamental impossibility in the post-Soviet space of forming a government as a result of elections and thereby nip the political opposition in Russia in the bud.”
In an apparent reference to threats by some eastern Ukrainian regions to push for autonomy, Yavlinsky said that when “the attempt to falsify” Ukraine’s presidential election failed, “the Russian and Ukrainian nomenklatura” tried to preserve the existing regime “by putting into play the extremely dangerous idea of the split or partition of Ukraine. Without question, there are many objective problems in Ukraine, as in Russia. It is impossible not to notice significant differences between the eastern and western regions of Ukraine. However, democratic mechanisms, which really work in many countries, exist precisely to mitigate and solve such problems. Russia’s main strategic interest is an economically thriving, united, democratic Ukraine as an independent, friendly, European state. Without a recognition of this objective historical truth, the policy of Russia’s ruling circles is doomed to remain provocative and destructive.”
Yavlinsky warned that Leonid Kuchma’s successor as Ukraine’s president — whoever that person may be — will not easily dismantle the country’s “criminal-oligarchic regime.” Such a regime, the Yabloko leader said, “you don’t change just like that, and in the event of his victory, Viktor Yushchenko will have before him the task of liquidating that regime” (Podrobnosti.ua, Interfax, December 2).
In an interview with the Liberal.ru website published on December 1, Yabloko vice chairman Sergei Mitrokhin called the events in Ukraine “an anti-bureaucratic revolution” and “a peaceful revolt against an ineffective corrupt nomenklatura that led the country to a crisis and exhausted its resources for manipulating public opinion . . . In fact, people rebelled against the Ukrainian version of a managed democracy,” Mitrokhin added, employing the term frequently used to describe the political system that has emerged in Russia under Vladimir Putin.
Mitrokhin said that Russian liberals must demand that events in Ukraine unfold according to a “non-violent scenario” and that the will of the Ukrainian people be permitted a “strict” and “authentic” expression. “We must not support any manifestation of separatism in Ukraine — western or eastern — and must also demand from the Russian authorities that they reject impudent interference in the situation in Ukraine that will lead to such grievous consequences as a split in the country,” he said.
Boris Nemtsov, a leader of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) who backed Yushchenko and joined opposition demonstrators in Kyiv following the second round of presidential elections there, said in an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio on November 30 that Russian President Vladimir Putin must stop supporting one of the candidates in the Ukrainian presidential contest — a reference to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych — because, “The choice of the Ukrainian people, whatever it is, must be respected even if the Kremlin doesn’t share it.” Putin visited Ukraine twice during the presidential campaign in a show of support for Yanukovych and congratulated the prime minister on his “victory” in the runoff even before the contested official results were announced. Nemtsov also called for a halt to “censorship” on Russia’s state television channels, which, he said, “are completely distorting the picture of what is going on in Ukraine.” Warning that “the collapse of Ukraine could, in the end, lead to the collapse of Russia,” Nemtsov argued that any Russian involvement in any “separatist” activities in eastern Ukraine “is very dangerous, above all to us.”