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15.05.2008

May 12, 2008 (the date of publication in Russian)

Alexander Sobko, Alexander Rublev

COFFEE IN THE VEINS

V-Day is a psychological challenge for Victor Yushchenko

Since the not very independent ascent of Victor Yushchenko to the post of President of the independent Ukraine, the traditional celebration of the Victory Day on May 9 has never taken place in a decent and solemn atmosphere. The same was true for this year's V-Day. In Sevastopol, Crimea, unidentified persons desecrated the graves of heroes of World War II and the memorial of mine-lifters who perished while clearing the Sevastopol Bay, while in Kiev, the plaque in memoriam of Marshal Georgy Zhukov was smeared with brown paint.

These actions could be easily ascribed to youth neo-Nazi groupings. However, Ukranian officials are not going to lag behind this revisionist trend. Two huge posters, placed on the Independence

Square, reproduced greetings used by Nazi collaborators from the Ukrainian Rebel Party (UPA). This decoration of the holiday ceremony echoes the recent decision of Mr. Yushchenko to bestow the title of Hero of Ukraine to the UPA boss Roman Shukhevich who had crossed the Soviet border on June 22, 1941, in the uniform of the Nachtigal battalion of Hitler's SS.

In his speech at the event, Mr. Yushchenko tried to describe the UPA as "fighters against Nazism". This effort could bring him a bit more popularity in Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk, while in other regions, the reaction was opposite.

Mr. Yushchenko's efforts to exonerate the Nazi collaborators, contradicting to his own political interests, has found an explanation in the recently issued book of Israeli historian Yury Wilner. This author suggests that Mr. Yushchenko's father, who allegedly spent most of the war as a POW, was at that time serving as a guard in a Nazi camp.

The author refers, in particular, to an interview of Mr. Yushchenko's brother who said that the whole of their family had a habit of drinking coffee to which their father had got hooked in bondage. Developing a taste for coffee was untypical for the time when three millions of Soviet POWs were dying from starvation. Obviously, the particular POW named Andrey Yushchenko was granted a certain privilege.

A flock of Roman Shukhevich's fans even surfaced in Sevastopol, an unsuitable place for pro-Nazi agitation. They initiated a fight near the office of the Black Sea Fleet's staff right at the beginning of the naval parade, organized on May 11 on the occasion of the 225th anniversary of the Fleet's foundation.

Crimea's regional officials did not dare to support the pro-Nazi youngsters. They invented an alternative revision of history, installing a memorial plaque at the place when in 1918, Vice Admiral Mikhail Sablin, then-Commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, ruled to raise Ukrainian flags on the ships – his order, however, being disobeyed by many crews. At that time, the former Imperial Fleet, in its post-revolution disarray, was expecting an attack from the Germans. Most of the ships then moved from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk.

In fact, Vice Admiral Sablin was trying to save the boats from the enemy by using the Ukrainian flag as a symbol of neutrality, and not as a symbol of Ukraine's independence. However, the historical innovation is regarded as expedient due to the ongoing debate over the status of Sevastopol. In 1954, when General Secretary Nikita Khrushchov donated Crimea to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Sevastopol, as a crucial military stronghold, retained the status of a city of central (i.e. Moscow) subordination. Since the declaration of Ukraine's independence, the suzerainty of Ukraine over Sevastopol has been a subject of a political debate.

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, arriving on May 12 in Sevastopol, was officially warned by officials from SBU (Ukraine's State Intelligence Service) from "illegal statements". In his address to the citizens, the guest from Moscow spoke of the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians, but did not assault Ukraine's sovereignty Ц with the only exception for Sevastopol, which, as he reminded, had never been a part of Ukraine in the times of the USSR. One more word, probably interpreted as assaulting, was "truth". Luzhkov used it for identifying the base for Russian-Ukrainian relations.

A day after, Mr. Luzhkov was officially declared a persona non grata by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. His merit of a major investor in Crimea was not taken into account, as well as the historical truth that Ukraine in its present borders emerged Ц and could only emerge Ц in the status of a part of the USSR.

Truth is not welcome in the offices of Mr. Yushchenko and his appointees. It makes the President so nervous that before the Russian event in Sevastopol, he insisted that the US Navy deploy a frigate to monitor the area.

Still, the World War II veterans invited the head of the state to the historical reconstruction of a battle on Elbe, in which the Soviet troops fought together with US and British allies. Mr. Yushchenko was late for three hours, and the indignant audience booed him off the stage.

Psychological problems, experienced by Ukraine's President on each V-Day, could be compensated in case historians decided to reconstruct some glorious battle, won by UPA. To his misfortune, there was none Ц except the massacre of the Polish population of Volyn, a region of Western Ukraine, since known as "ludoboistvo".

The only remedy for improving his mood on this uneasy date that could be proscribed is a good cup of coffee, reminding of the cozy times of his father’s life during his service of a Nazi POW with special privileges.


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