Putin's shadowRoman Tsymbaliuk
Tightened security measures outside the TASS news agency headquarters, double checks inside the building, no outside liquids allowed. Yanukovych enters the press room, accompanied by five bodyguards...
The PR reason to hold the presser is obvious. Team Yanukovych is once again trying to convince both itself and others that it's anyone but Yanukovych who is to blame for the Maidan killings in 2014. A fragment of an Italian documentary shows "snipers", allegedly Georgian nationals, admitting the guilt of shooting both at the Maidan protestants and Berkut riot police forces, and blaming current Ukrainian authorities for the carnage, claiming it was they who allegedly ordered the shooting.
There are dozens of journalists in the press room. The first four questions come exclusively from the Russian state-owned and state-affiliated media inquiring whether it was all really Maidan's fault. Viktor Yaunukovych, obviously pleased with this line, affirmatively, and extensively, responds that yes, of course, it is. Thus, he seals a sure spot for himself in the Russian Federal news prime time.
Basic messages of Yanukovych's speech completely copycat the Russian president's position. It's about Crimea, which "decided its fate itself," not a word about the Russian army, referred to as "polite people" back in the day…
One of my Russian "colleagues" went as far as claiming that, as it turns out, not only is the government illegitimate in Ukraine, mass protests are unfolding in the country's southern and eastern regions demanding the return of their "legitimate" leader. To think about where a parallel reality people create can lead them…
Basic messages of Yanukovych's speech completely copycat the Russian president's position. It's about Crimea, which "decided its fate itself," not a word about the Russian army, referred to as "polite people" back in the day. It's also about a "civil war" and the horrors of building up a state with the "Ukrainian core". Stones are thrown at the newly-adopted Donbas de-occupation law calling Russia an aggressor state and an occupier. Yanukovych, just like Putin, claimed the role of a major "peacekeeper" in Donbas – he seeks peace, but it can't be achieved "without direct dialogue" with Donbas "representatives". Yanukovych doesn't tell who these representatives actually are, only claiming that he is in a constant contact with them and even ready to initiate a meeting with Putin in this regard. By the way, the latter is not particularly interested in the life of his "guest", according to Yanukovych himself....
I managed to ask Yanukovych whether he feels fine blaming EU mediators and the Ukrainian opposition for violating the agreement of February 21, 2014. After all, on February 20, the Russian army had already launched a Crimea seizure operation, which is engraved on Russian military medals coined on the occasion. And on March 1, Yanukovych has already asked Putin to introduce troops to Ukraine. It turns out that the "legitimate one" requested that Putin "win back" Ukraine for him, bargaining off the Crimean peninsula.
The answer is almost a media sensation: Yanukovych claims he sent not one but two letters to his Russian counterpart.
One of them was the appeal which Russia's UN envoy Vitaliy Churkin waved at the UN Security Council. It said dead clear that Yanukovych was requesting that Putin "use the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation to restore legitimacy, peace, law and order, stability and protection of the Ukrainian population." Moreover, no matter how much Yanukovych tries to convince anyone today that he submitted his appeal to the Russian Foreign Ministry (this is the version of events that the Kremlin is promoting now), in March 2014 Putin said, "... We have a direct appeal ... of Yanukovych on the use of the Armed Forces to protect the life, liberty and health of Ukrainian citizens." In fact, Churkin couldn't be more clear either when he told the whole world, "Today I am authorized to report ... the President of Russia received the following appeal by President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych." Then he read the "appeal", adding that this is a photocopy of the original "appeal of the president of Ukraine to the Russian president."
The answer is almost a media sensation: Yanukovych claims he sent not one but two letters to his Russian counterpart
At the same time, the second document has never been published before, and Yanukovych's lawyers finally showed it. It justifies the deployment of occupation forces in Ukraine by the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Ukraine and the Russian Federation and the need to deploy a "peacekeeping police mission" with the help of the Russian army. Yanukovych asked to grant Russian armed forces the functions of evacuating and rendering humanitarian assistance to the population, tackling emergency situations and, what's especially spicy, ensuring the provision of "reliable information to the international community on the situation in Ukraine".
The experts are yet to assess the document closely. But both Viktor Yanukovich, who has long turned into Putin's shadow, and the Russian president himself, should refresh their memory a bit. The thing is that, immediately after Churkin's address at the UN Security Council in New York, on March 4, 2014, Putin held a special press conference in Moscow on the situation in Ukraine, where he publicly used the "Yanukovych appeal" to legitimize the invasion.
Both Viktor Yanukovich, who has long turned into Putin's shadow, and the Russian president himself, should refresh their memory a bit
Returning to the Yanukovych presser, it seems that over the past four years, he has come to almost believing in the total "righteousness" of the Kremlin, and now continues to be at their service. He neither repents, nor admits his guilt, nor even regrets that it was his policies that put Ukraine in 2014 on the edge of the abyss.
Roman Tsymbaliuk, Moscow