It seems that certain Ukrainian circles close to national politics really enjoyed the August show in Yalta and want a continuation. A reminder: during the summit of the presidents of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which this year took place in Ukraine, the National Security Service (SBU) prevented an attempt to kill Russian president Vladimir Putin (see back issues).
Several people of "Caucasus appearance" (ie citizens of Chechnya) were expelled from the country, Putin returned to Moscow several days earlier than planned due to the Kursk submarine tragedy and his murder did not take place. However, the accident itself resonanted in Russian and Ukrainian media for a few days and then seemed to be over. But no! It appears somebone was deeply touched by the idea of a political murder and the impact it might have on society. Last week, the country learned that Ukraine was on the verge of a coup d'état.
Last Friday (22 September), the National Security Service SBU announced sensational news about the exposure of a group of people who "have been consciously preparing for the violation of the constitutional order in Ukraine," the Security Service's press-centre reported.
Soviet restoration planned?
According to the SBU ,several citizens from the Chernihiv, Zaporizhzhya and Sumy regions (the central-eastern part of Ukraine) were found to be plotting during a search operation. All are members of the All-Ukrainian Union of the Soviet Offices and planned to restore the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (Rus') and return power to the Communist Party.
"They have developed a plan of action, started the formation of military groups, checked the disposition of army forces and locations of weapons stocks, discussed means of their capture, defined targets of terrorist diversion (the Chernobyl nuclear power station, the Kyiv reservoir's dike and major gas pipelines) in order to destabilise the situation in the country. Besides that, they have printed leaflets which call for armed protest and prepared draft documents which should be signed by new authorities," the SBU press centre informs.
Witches are almost real, however...
Terrible fear may strike people while reading the SBU press release: something very well-known from Stalinist times come to the mind of trained post-Soviet citizens. This precedent could produce confusion or even panic in society, if not the reaction of media, politicians, potential terrorists and the country's president.
The day after the sensation, national journalists sought presidential comments concerning the successful operation conducted by the SBU. President Leonid Kuchma was on a working visit to the western part of the country and his answer shocked journalists no less than the previous statements from the Security Service. "I practically know as much as you do," was Kuchma's answer. He advised journalists to talk to Leonid Derkach, the head of the SBU, who accompanied Kuchma during that trip. However, Derkach refused to reveal details of the action and promised to hold a press conference later.
Majority of Ukrainian politicians met the SBU news with irony and sometimes even sarcasm. Commenting on his possible connection to the terrorists, the leader of the Ukrainian Communists (who according to the SBU press-release was to be handed by the rebels) not only denied the seriousness of the SBU claims but also suggested the entire affair was an SBU fabrication. According to his version the SBU is so active nowadays because "rumours have appeared that Derkach will be dismissed soon, so he demonstrates hectic activities," Russian newspaper Vremya MN speculated.
The leaders of the All-Ukrainian Union of the Soviet Offices, whose members are accused of the attempted coup d'état, were even more critical. According to them, the whole story is not more than "inflamed delirium." Even leaders of the right opposition—the real rivals of the leftists—could not co-opt the information to use it against their opponents.
A reminder of Stalinist times
Yuriy Kostenko, leader of the RUKH (right-centre) said that the situation with the SBU operations reminds him of Stalinist times, and spoke of national illness because "almost crazy people must be treated by doctors and not by the security service," he told Ukrainiska Pravda. Since the SBU news has been received very critically by society, the action itself requires explanations from responsible officials.
This Wednesday, the President's press secretary informed society that the SBU was not correct in the way which it presented the anti-constitutional collusion to the public. He underlined that it was no real threat to the constitutional order in the country, but at the same time he confirmed that people who had plans to change the order existed.
The SBU also had to explain the necessity of its actions, and outlined the legal and objective background to the action, and radically denying an option that its activities have had a propagandistic character.The whole situation is unclear and requires further investigation. It is rather possible that, sooner or later, we see future development of the anti-constitutional story. At the present moment, it is worth reflecting on this comment offered by Ukrainska Pravda, which said, "It seems that something has really happened in the country. Just think about it seriously—nobody trusts the words of the SBU leader even when he announces a constitutional coup d'état."
In other news
Georgy Gongadze, project manager of the independent online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda, has not yet been found. A lack of any positive results in the investigation into the background of the successful SBU operation agains the coup has led some journalists to believe that a direct connection between the two events exists: being unable to find the journalist, the Security Service tried to turn public attention away from the case, presenting a threat to the country and its successful prevention.
However, it is quite possible that Ukrainian citizens will be deprived of the chance to follow both successful and unsuccessful actions of the Security Service on their television screens in the nearest future. Two national television channels, UT-1 and UT-2, may go off the air if the Ukrainian National Television Company does not pay its debts to the Radio Broadcasting, Radio Communications and Television Concern (RRT). Because of this huge debts bill the Concern itself is unable to pay for electricity which may leave several regions without television broadcasts.
RRT announced that UT-2 would be taken off the air on 2 October and UT-1 on 12 October. Taking the seriousness of the situation into account, President Kuchma has ordered Prime Minister Victor Yushchenko to find a solution and repay the debts by 1 October.
Natalya Krasnoboka, 29 September 2000
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