Remember all the frothy praise of Viktor Yuschenko and what a great democrat he was — back when he was the leader of the so-called Orange Revolution that toppled the corrupt Ukrainian regime of President Leonid Kuchma — from George Bush, the neocons, Freedom House, and the Western press in general? Well, this week a little-noticed dispatch from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (the worldwide Jewish news service founded in 1917) related how now-President Yushchenko has just awarded Ukraine’s highest honor — the “Hero of Ukraine” medal — to a notorious anti-Semite, Ivan Spodarenko. But not a word of this outrage has appeared in the major U.S. dailies.
“Spodarenko, a Socialist lawmaker, is the head of the editorial board and former longtime editor of Silski Visti. In 2004, the newspaper published an article asserting that 400,000 Jews served in Nazi SS forces during the German invasion of Ukraine in World War II,” the JTA reported. “With its circulation of 500,000, Silski Visti is one of the most widely read Ukrainian newspapers, catering mainly to rural readers. In 2002 and 2004, the newspaper published a series of anti-Semitic articles that outraged the Jewish community. The paper was sued over anti-Semitic articles in 2004 but the case was closed in 2005 without a verdict. Last April, Spodarenko was among the signatories of an anti-Semitic letter calling ‘to stop the criminal activities’ of the organized Jewish community in Ukraine.’”
The leader of the Social Democratic Party of the Ukraine (SDPU), Victor Medvedchuk has also denounced the awarding of the country’s most important decoration to Spodarenko. “I am ashamed of Yushchenko who conferred the title to this person who is known for his xenophobic ideas just a few days before the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.Today the whole world is mourning over the Holocaust victims. And our ‘moral’ authorities confer the country’s highest title on the person who is widely known for his chauvinism and anti-Semitism, the leader of the scandalous newspaper known for its libels,” said the SDPU chief in a release on his website. The SPDU is the Ukrainian affiliate of the Socialist International, the world-wide federation of democratic socialist parties.
During the presidential election runoff that resulted in his victory, Yushchenko — in December 2004 — tried to calm Jewish fears about his accepting support from anti- Semites by visiting the central synagogue in Kiev, donning a yarmulke, and lighting a menorah. But the award to Spodarenko turns that campaign appearance into a masterpiece of hypocrisy. Indeed, the British Helsinki Human Rights group reported at the time that “Western media and governments…edited out the manifestations of extreme nationalism and anti-Semitism which disfigure the Ukrainian opposition’s rabble-rousing, but history will record that, in the run up to the disputed presidential elections, key opposition leaders, including Viktor Yushchenko, Julia Timoshenko and Alexander Moroz, defended anti-Semitic publications [including Spodarenko's Silski Visti] and accepted the backing of neo-Nazi groups …Nor were the anti-Semitic apologetics of the Ukrainian opposition unknown to key OSCE observers and European Union parliamentarians who nonetheless ignored the dark shadow across Yushchenko’s campaign, preferring instead to abuse his rival.”
Is it Back to the Future time in Ukraine? Elections are schedule for the end of March, and yesterday’s Times of London reported, under the headline “Ukraine turns back to Moscow as Orange Revolution is betrayed,” that the man Yushchenko defeated for president — Kuchma’s hand-picked successor and the pro-Russian pawn of Vladimir Putin, Victor Yanukovych — is making a comeback, so great is the disillusionment with the corrupt and bumbling Yushchenko regime. Yanukovych “is on the verge of snatching back power from under the noses of the Western governments that so enthusiastically embraced the Orange Revolution,” the Times of London reports. Corruption is so rampant that Yushchenko fired his hand-picked Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, an oil business millionaire, “when civil servants in Ms Tymoshenko’s inner circle blew the whistle on corruption among key figures in President Yushchenko’s clique, including steel baron Viktor Pinchuk [Kuchma's son-in-law -- D.I.],” the E.U. Observer noted in an interview published Friday with the ex-P.M., who has now founded her own party and joined the opposition. Yushchenko’s failings also extended to his choice of a Justice Minister who never apologized for being very economical with the truth when he claimed he had an MA and PhD from Columbia University — he didn’t — and who had zero legal experience. And Yushchenko’s giving away the store to the corporate oligarchs and the multinationals hasn’t helped Ukraine’s sagging economy.
“The latest polls give Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions 25 per cent of the vote, Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine party only 15 per cent and Mrs Tymoshenko’s bloc 12 per cent,” the Times of London reported.
Another Bush foreign policy “success” down the drain…..
Doug Ireland, a longtime radical journalist and media critic, runs the blog DIRELAND, where this article appeared Feb. 4, 2006.