A woman journalist scaling a car and smashing the moon roof to get her hands on the surveillance equipment being used on anti-government demonstrators in Ukraine must incur the wrath of government. So did it happen with Tetyana Chornovol late on Christmas night. As most Western liberal democracies celebrated Christmas, Chornovol was chased by hoodlums who rammed their vehicle into her car and beat her black and blue. The assault left the 34-year-old with a concussion in the skull, a profoundly swollen face, highly bloated lips, and an eye so puffed up that it seemed not to open.
In August 2012, the intrepid Chornovol clicked pictures of President Viktor Yanukovych’s palatial galleon-styled house in Mezhyhirya. She was detained and most of the pictures deleted. However, she could still post some on the Internet.
The gruesome attack on the Ukrainian blogger came after she published in a Ukrayisnska Pravda blog pictures of Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko’s house on the outskirts of the capital Kiev. Hours after the photos appeared, Chornovol was attacked and beaten almost to death.
In Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych’s Ukraine, freedom, like in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, is fast becoming a dirty word. The home of controversial protest group Femen is seeing huge protests over the last few weeks over the failure of the government to sign an association agreement with the European Union. Russian coercion led to Yanukovych doing a volte face at the eleventh hour and going the way forced by the Kremlin. Putin, desperate to fend-off the growing influence of the West in its vicinity, has been trying to arm-twist its western neighbour and former Soviet republic to become part of a Customs agreement. The deal, forced on many a Caucasus nation, except Georgia, is a Kremlin strategy to wield power in the region.
In his country, Putin has freed 30 incarcerated Greenpeace activists after withdrawing criminal cases against them. He released two members of the infamous punk band accused of hooliganism in a Moscow cathedral. His biggest sleight has been to release oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkvosky, who was imprisoned for ten years over tax evasion. The influence of Moscow on Ukraine’s government is not hard to see. Yanukovych is using the same authoritarian techniques on the protests as often used by Moscow. Yanukovych has recently become intolerant of dissent in the face of the unending protests asking him to sign the association agreement wit the 28-nation EU. The poor former Soviet Republic’s economy has been saddled by debt, which has been used as a ruse by Yanukovych to warm up to Moscow. The attack on Chornovol is deplorable. Though Yanukovych has ordered an enquiry into the assault, it has left its already discredited administration desperate to stanch opposition to his policies•