The resignation of the Ukrainian Prime Minister and the revocation of the anti-democratic laws recently passed by that nation’s government are just the “first step to reducing the degree of tension” in that country, Oleh Tiahnybok, leader of the nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) party has said.
Tiahnybok said that the next step needed to reduce the violence was the resignation of the entire government.
His comments were made in an official statement issued after the resignation of Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and the Ukrainian parliament’s decision to overturn a series of laws designed to restrict democracy after weeks of violent protests in the capital city Kiev.
“We insist that the government has to bear responsibility for the current and past issues faced by Ukrainians,” he said.
According to the Svoboda leader, although the laws adopted on January 16 have been abolished, Parliament also passed a new set of laws which “can negatively impact the society.”
This was the reason, he said, Svoboda delegates in the parliament “did not vote for the draft law which may create serious problems for many patriots of Ukraine, especially those who believe that the warriors of the UIA and other freedom fighters are the heroes of our state,” he said, referring to militants involved in the recent protests.
“This is because the government calls them ‘fascists,’ including those who speak Ukrainian and wear vyshyvankas,”* Tiahnybok said.
Some 240 activists are currently either under arrest or in detention under the laws, and the Svoboda party is working full time to get them released.
According to Tiahnybok, the government has engaged in the “Bolshevik practice of taking political hostages, [and has] kidnapped activists and leaders from regional Svoboda offices.
“This Government’s conduct is very similar to Stalin-style repression,” he said, saying that they “come to arrest people early in the morning, deny legal representation, fail to inform relatives of detainees’ whereabouts, and they fabricate criminal cases based on made-up evidence.”
At least four members of Svoboda’s Political Council have been arrested and detained in recent times, none of whom have been granted access to legal representation or allowed to see friends or family.
“I demand from the authorities to free the members of Svoboda’s Political Council and to stop their persecution,” Tiahnybok said.
Kiev’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or Independence Square, has become the focal point for protests against the government of President Viktor Yanukovich.
Svoboda has formed a coalition with former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko’s Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (Udar) Party, along with jailed former leader Yulia Tymoshenko’s All Ukrainian Union Fatherland party, against the current government.
In the 2012 Ukrainian parliamentary elections, Svoboda won its first seats in the Ukrainian Parliament, obtaining 10.44 percent of the popular vote, which translated to 36 seats. The All Ukrainian Union Fatherland party holds 90 seats, and the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform 42 seats.
The Government, which is in an official alliance with the Communist Party of Ukraine, holds 248 seats, mainly made of support concentrated in the east of the nation, where there is a closer affinity with the Russian Federation. This split—between the pro-Russians and the nationalists—appears to be at the core of the unrest.
According to Igor Myroshnychenko, a Svoboda leader at the Maidan Square, Kiev, protests, the Ukraine is “on the brink of a partisan war. A lot of blood will flow, including the blood of innocent people. I have no hope that Yanukovich will meet even a single one of our demands.”
Myroshnychenko first sprang to national prominence when he was employed as press spokesman for the Ukrainian national football team in the lead-up to the 2008 European Championships—he famously remarked that he would like to see “foreign” professional football players deported because they “change Ukraine’s ethnic map.”
In a 2012 debate over the Ukrainian-born American actress Mila Kunis, he said that she wasn’t Ukrainian, rather she was a “Jewess.”
The Svoboda party has ties to Europe, and has observer status with the Alliance of European National Movements (AENM), an organization of nationalist parties in the EU. Founding members of the AENM were Hungary’s Jobbik, France’s National Front, Italy’s Tricolour Flame, Sweden’s National Democrats and Belgium’s National Front. (In 2011, the French National Front resigned from the AENM and joined the European Alliance for Freedom (EAF), a larger alliance which includes the Dutch Party for Freedom, the Flemish Vlaams Belang, the Freedom Party of Austria, the Sweden Democrats and the Italian Lega Nord.)
*Ukrainian traditional clothing which contains elements of Ukrainian ethnic embroidery.