Democracy Rising

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable" ~ President John F. Kennedy

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Ukraine, ITAR-TASS And Disinformation

Originally posted at Publius Pundit

Well, as we approach nearly 2 months since Ukraine’s first democratic elections of the century, the political wrangling continues. Any Kiev watchers will be familiar with the daily news stories coming out from Our Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko’s Bloc, The Party of Regions and the Socialists in regard to coalition building talks. Every evening a brief Google news search highlights constant backstabbing, foot-stamping and occasionally outright lies passed on to the international media.

Today, one such story emerged from the oh so reliable ITAR-TASS. For the busy, a brief summary: Our Ukraine (Viktor Yushchenko’s pro-European, Liberal Bloc) and the Party of Regions (Former Kuchma ally and Presidential candidate, Viktor Yanukovych’ pro-Russian, Industrialist Bloc) have allegedly agreed upon a new joint ‘neutral’ premier - Serhey Taruta.
The flaws in this item? Well let’s first look at the political issues associated with the article

This story for starters, leaves me feeling suspicious. For non-Ukrainian readers, just yesterday, Regions leader Viktor Yanukovych claimed he would accept nothing less than the Prime Ministers post in any future government - somewhat interesting when we consider today’s alleged announcement. A sudden U-Turn in the space of 24 hours?

Secondly during his trip to Latvia today, President Yushchenko claimed that Ukraine would join NATO by 2008. Somewhat at odds with the staunch pro-Russian position adopted by Yanukovych. I think it is fair to say that many core supporters of the Party of Regions would rather surrender their very houses than see Ukraine join such a pro-American organisation.

Moving on to the reliability of the original story. Despite ITAR-TASS claiming the ’sensational’ report was broadcast by ‘a number of electronic mass media organs’ I cannot find a single other site with such a story. Not Interfax-Ukraine, nor 5TV, not even the Kiev Post. Perhaps a story put-out by a partisan Russian news site?

Comparing the Russian and English editions of ITAR-TASS, the impartiality of the Anglo version seems to be much greater than the Russo counterpart. For example, readers of the mother tongue version will not be hearing the tales of the Belarusian opposition leader’s arrest, nor of the recent demonstrations by journalists in Moscow - all stories covered in the western-tailored English site.

The lessons of this story?

Ukrainian coalition talks are likely to drag on until Yushchenko accepts Tymoshenko’s Premiership. Afterall, even if another member of her party took the reigns over, they would be taking orders from party leader Yulia - someone they most likely share similar viewpoints with. The Yanukovych option is not viable in my opinion as Yushchenko would be alienating both his own voters and party’s representatives, and the Regions have not yet shown their full commitment to European politics.

As for ITAR-TASS…it is not of great concern for myself here in London, yet must be for Democratic forces in Moscow. The manner in which the state-run agency portrays one image to the West and another to it’s own people is a true demonstration of the downward spiral in Russian media pluralism. I guess just how far that spiral continues will be shown in 2008, but for now Ukraine’s Orange Revolution appears safe and sound.

28 April 2006


  • At 5:46 pm, Anonymous Matthew Shugart said…

    Yes, I believe you are right. What we are seeing is mostly posturing before a final agreement is reached with Yulia as PM. She leads the party that gained the most, and for the reasons you give, a coalition with Regions is not viable. However, it is certainly in Yushchenko's interest to make it appear as if such a coalition is viable, if only to increase pressure on Yulia to keep her demands for portfolios and policy concessions realistic. I suspect they are also playing a game of trying to split Regions, and talk about a "neutral" premier is probably part of that game.

    I must say I was really pleased to see--on my F&V blogroll--that this blog had "ripened" again!

  • At 3:04 pm, Blogger MattyJ said…

    Cheers Matthew. Certainly an interesting situation. Probably one of the most obvious things to have come out of the current developments has been the immaturity and egotistical nature of some of Ukraine's leading politicians.

  • At 9:50 pm, Anonymous Matthew said…

    "the immaturity and egotistical nature of some of Ukraine's leading politicians"

    Ah, then they must now have a mature democracy!


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