Vienna, August 27 – In response to Moscow’s continuing efforts to exploit ethnic Russians living in Ukraine in order to put pressure on the Ukrainian government, Kyiv is seeking to mobilize ethnic Ukrainians in the Russian Federation and elsewhere to defend Ukraine from Russian attacks and to promote Ukrainian interests as well.
On Tuesday, Vera Ulyanchen’ko, the chief of President Viktor Yushchenko’s secretariat, hosted a meeting with representatives of Ukrainians living outside of Ukraine and senior Ukrainian official, including acting foreign minister Volodymyr Khandogy and two deputy chiefs of the Presidential Secretariat, Andrei Honcharuk and Valentina Rudenko.
Ulyanchen’ko told the group that the Ukrainian government is committed to “activating” relations between Kyiv and Ukrainians living in other countries in order to support both their efforts to “preserve and disseminate Ukrainian culture” where they live and to “support democracy in Ukraine” (www.ia-centr.ru/expert/5659/).
The secretariat chief said that “state support for Ukrainians abroad as a powerful political and spiritual force is one of the priorities of President Viktor Yushchenko,” as is shown, she continued, by his frequent calls for the parliament to provide full funding for programs directed “at the support of Ukrainians abroad.”
In his name, Ulyanchen’ko expressed the gratitude of the Ukrainian nation for “the active support by Ukrainians abroad of the president’s initiative for honoring the victims of the Terror Famine of 1932-33” and for their efforts to secure “international recognition of the Terror Famine as a genocide of the Ukrainian people.”
But Ulyanchen’ko devoted most of her time to what she said are the “fundamental threats of a political, economic and international character” now facing Ukraine during the run-up to the presidential elections. These threats, she continued, include ones directed against “the existence of Ukraine itself and the existence of democracy in Ukraine.”
Discussing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s recent letter to President Yushchenko, Ulyanchen’ko said that the Russian letter had had the unintended consequence of “consolidating Ukrainians,” as was shown, she continued by “the activity and clarity of patriotic public actions during the celebrations of State Flag Day and Ukrainian Independence Day.”
Medvedev’s letter, she continued, was part of a continuing series of Russian statements and actions which highlighted Russia’s “imperial ambitions” and Moscow’s lack of respect for Ukraine and Ukrainians. Indeed, she noted, Russian leaders, including Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, have suggested that “Ukraine is supposedly a non-existent state.”
And she concluded her remarks by saying that the efforts of other government to influence “organization of Ukrainians abroad” against Ukraine were “impermissible,” an indication that such efforts may be taking place and that Kyiv is now worried about their consequences.
Tuesday’s meeting in Kyiv is intriguing for three reasons. First, it suggests that Ukrainian officials are now prepared to push even harder than they have in the past to get governments around the world to declare that the Stalin-era famine in Ukraine was a genocide, an effort that parallels longstanding efforts by Armenians regarding 1915.
Second, the meeting shows that Kyiv is now prepared to give Moscow a taste of its own medicine. Russia has regularly sought to use the dwindling number of ethnic Russians in Ukraine to put pressure on Kyiv. Now, Kyiv appears to be hoping that it will be able to use the more than six million ethnic Ukrainians in Russia, possibly leading Moscow to back off from its tactic.
And third, such activism by the Ukrainian government may lead more Russians to conclude, as one in three now does, that there is no need “to lobby pro-Russian forces in Ukraine since there are no real pro-Russian forces there” now.
Such Russians believe, according to a survey by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), an agency known for its close ties to the Kremlin, that Moscow “must work with the government Ukrainians have chosen themselves” rather than trying to push forward “pro-Russian forces” (wciom.ru/novosti/press-vypuski/press-vypusk/single/12331.html).