WORLD AFFAIRS.  A behind-the-scenes powerbroker most people have never heard of has some interesting things to say about the Yanukovych regime and the Regionnaires in a recent interview. The 63-year-old Hennadi Moskal has occupied a variety of highly placed positions in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Security Service and has also served as governor of Luhansk and Zakarpattya provinces and as President Yushchenko’s permanent representative to the Crimea. In a word, Moskal knows both the “power ministries” and the country. He also happens to have been a parliamentary deputy for a few years, most recently having been elected in October 2012 on the democratic-opposition ticket.

Yevgenii Kuzmenko, of the Social Communication website Obkom, interviewed Moskal on January 29th. What, Kuzmenko asks, does Moskal think of the fact that President Yanukovych is appointing “his exclusive little soldiers” to positions of authority?

I believe that today the president’s greatest mistake is to form his team on the basis of their common regional roots. That’s the road to nowhere…. Ceausescu also picked his team on that basis. And as soon as there appeared a revolutionary situation—when Ceausescu was met with shouts of “Down with Ceausescu!” at a meeting—within ten minutes the minister of defense, the minister of internal affairs, and the head of the Securitate ran away…. The same will happen in Ukraine! Someone will take a pot shot and you’ll see how quickly Yanukovych’s team will disperse.

But, says Kuzmenko, isn’t Yanukovych giving all the important positions to his son’s friends so as to avoid the Ceausescu scenario?

The people he appoints should be moral authorities. Just because they’re going to say something doesn’t mean anyone will follow orders! … You can’t appoint only people from Donetsk to the 300,000-strong militia. That’s impossible. So they replace the leaders. But are these leaders moral authorities for the rank and file? Of course they’re not! Do they provoke annoyance? Of course, they do! … I speak to these people every day. There’s no love for the party and no love for the leaders! The situation in the country is now such that we have people to give orders—the hierarchy has been formed—but there’s no one to follow them. And once the situation in Ukraine becomes more complicated, no one will follow orders!

Unfortunately, the interviewer says, the opposition looks weak and powerless.

So do you want the opposition to call for an armed uprising? Are Tyahnybok, Yatseniuk, or Klitschko supposed to climb atop a tank? 

So, wonders Kuzmenko, just how is the regime to be removed? By another colored revolution, via elections, or, “heaven forbid,” by means of violence?

There are several components here. First, the opposition in today’s Parliament is much stronger and much better than in 2007. Second, the economic situation in the country undermines the position of the authorities. And third, the government and presidential administration are sitting on a branch that they themselves are cutting with their incorrect internal and external policies. At some point these three factors will combine to form a powerful mixture. And I can state unequivocally that it’s inevitable…. I understand that people’s expectations today are more radical and that society is radicalizing, and that’s what they expect from the opposition. I understand that perfectly, but the fruit must ripen. It shouldn’t be eaten when it’s still green.

Then Kuzmenko shifts the conversation to the power ministries and the Regionnaires. So what’s going on in the Security Service?

Believe me, there are no pro-presidential attitudes there. Quite the contrary, there is hidden sabotage and lack of acceptance. But these are people who speak little. They’ll share their views only with people they know…. The country’s leaders also overstate the role of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Well, asks Kuzmenko, doesn’t Moskal think that the recently formed Ministry of Income and Taxes will become the key instrument of repression of the “late Yanukovych epoch”?

But how can you repress someone who has nothing? What will they take from me? My jeans, my jacket, my tie? … People like me comprise 99 percent of the country. Only 1 percent has something that can be taken. And they are the authorities and the Party of Regions.

So, says Kuzmenko, will they start expropriating their own people?

Who else? They’ll do what the Bolsheviks did: steal what was stolen. Who else can you steal from?

The Regionnaires, suggests Kuzmenko, can’t be too happy with the current state of affairs in the country.

Indeed, discontent is very large. They’ve understood that brute force no longer works…. Their attitude is defeatist, like that within the Soviet Army in 1941. I know many in the Party of Regions: there are enough smart, literate, and educated people there (it’s not true that the Party of Regions consists only of criminals, although it’s true that there have never been as many in the party as today). These people look around them and say: “Where is this all leading?” This is no longer the monolithic Party of Regions that came into Parliament in 2007.

Yanukovych must sense that his own cadres are grumbling and could at some point even be tempted to go against him. Why else would the Higher Administrative Court, which consists of Yanukovych flunkies, strip Yulia Tymoshenko’s defender, Serhii Vlasenko, and Regionnaire small-fry Andrii Verevsky of their status as parliamentary deputies on the grounds that the law forbids having outside jobs? Yanukovych is signaling to all disgruntled deputies that one false step could lead to their forfeiture of the goodies that come with deputy status. The opposition already knew that, just as they knew that opposition could land them in jail. Now the Regionnaires know it as well. Worse, Yanukovych’s Ministry of Income and Taxes can now swoop down on them and seize their assets.

Yanukovych’s moves are acts of desperation, and the Regionnaires, who are well versed in the art of treachery, know full well that the new ministry and the court’s decision are just signs of the regime’s isolation, illegitimacy, and weakness. Now is the time to start looking for ways to jump ship. Of course, Yanukovych knows they know, so expect him to react in the only way he knows how: by accumulating still more power, waving his fists, and retreating into even more complete isolation.

Moskal’s final two sentences nicely summarize the condition of the Yanukovych regime:

Well, since they’ve gotten into this dead end, it’s necessary to find a way out. Instead, they’re only making things worse…

Alexander J. Motyl's blog

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