Behind the scenes: From Orange to Brown Revolution
A Comment by Ralph T. Niemeyer, retired Editor of Chief at EU Chronicle, Brussels
On 6th March 2014, I happend to meet both protagonists of the Ukrainian “Revolution”, Yulya Tymoshenko and Vitali Klitschko in Dublin at the European Peoples Party (EPP) convention. The antagonists, the right wing and fascist sector of the “Euro-Maidan” who dominate the junta government that ousted the democratically elected President Yanukovich by a constructive vote of no-confidence of 72% vote in parliament (required by the constitution would be 75% to unseat a president), did not show up. Maybe they were not invited as also the European right wing got something like cold feet when watching the Hitler-saluting government officials. But, I bumped into a man who told me straight into my camera that Putin was like Hitler: former Georgian President Saakashvili who once launched a war against Russia expecting NATO to jump to help him.
Vitali Klitschko, a boxing champion, who is supported by the German government and the “Konrad Adenauer – Stiftung”, a right -wing but not nationalistic foundation financed by Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), was handed the manuscript of his speech by Elmar Brok, a German Member of the European Parliament for CDU(EPP) and lobbyist for the German “Bertelsmann Stiftung”, a right-wing think tank financed by one of the five big German media consortia under the same name. Mr. Brok receives some 150,000 € per year from this “foundation” on top of his remuneration as German MEP of 7,800 € a month plus 4,500 € tax free “compensation” that does not need to be accounted for, plus the daily allowance for MEPs of 267 € per day that the European Parliament is on session plus travel expenses. When Mr. Brok came to the conference I quickly interviewed him on the leaked phone conversation of Lady Ashton in which she sounded astonished to hear from the foreign minister of Latvia that the snipers atn the Euro-Maidan in Kiev could have been from other agencies than President Yanukovich’s foes. Mr. Brok tried to laugh it away and said that this proves that one should not discuss anything over the phone. When I insisted to discuss the matter in a serious manner he understood and said that it could not be true because he had been on that day at the Maidan and saw the snipers shoot at the peaceful demonstrators. I wonder why none of my colleagues has seen them. Maybe Mr. Brok knows more about the identities of those snipers than he wants to tell us.
Mr. Klitschko sat down in the last row of the conference hall just two seats away from me. He started to read the manuscript of the speech he was going to deliver in front of 20 heads of state, among them German Chancellor Angela Merkel who had come to shake his hand just minutes before. He searched his pockets for a pen. I offered my ink pen and addressed him in German. He smiled. I introduced myself and he said that he had heard of me during the Bundestag-elections last summer. I don’t know what had struck my mind to offer him to help learn his speech, maybe it was because I had resigned as an EU-journalist after 31 years just a few days before, which had been planned for a few months already, so I could feel free to talk to whoever I wanted without necessarily putting it into interview- or article-format. There is nothing like “elder-journalist” but it is true, when I told President José Manuel Barroso (“JMB”) a few weeks before of my decision to resign as editor-in-chief after ten years during which I must have been his nightmare asking the impossible questions, he treated me like a retired head of state and not a critical journalist and took me to his office.
Our discussion took a philosophical route. We spoke about Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese Consul in the 1940ies in Bodreaux who rescued 30,000 lives by issuing visas irrespective of nationality, race, political view and religion for whoever had to flee from the NAZIs and about who my friend Henri Seroka shot a film to which I contributed as an executive producer. JMB had been at the Premiere of the film and told me in an interview that “we all had to stand up for our rights and question the legitimacy of state orders if these were so obviously anti-humane”.
I asked where this would put us now with Ukraine as I felt that we had found common ground. “I know what you think about Ukraine”, JMB said. “I am not pro-Russian by any means, I am rather neutral”, I replied but JMB shook his head. “You are German. But you are not like Germans usually are.” he said. “You put yourself into the shoes of the other”, JMB told me. I felt honoured. “Thank you Mr. President,”, I replied “but you see you are rather right wing, at least from my perspective and for you I must appear to be a notorious leftist, but isn’t it funny that we found common ground?” I asked. JMB nodded, “Yes, but we will never agree.” Then, the telephone rang. It was the President of the United States of America and suddenly JMB turned like in metamorphosis into the “European President” again. Our conversation had ended at this point anyhow, so I split the scene waving good-bye.
This went through my head as I passed my pen to Mr Klitschko and by offering my assistance crossed a line when saying in German that I was willing to assist him in learning his speech. Vitali Klitschko fully turned to me. “Would you really?” he asked and I nodded. Then, we went through the speech some German think-tank- bureaucrat had not only drafted but actually written for him. It was awful. I saw that Bertelsmann Foundation were playing him, using him as a charming puppet. I told Mr. Klitschko that if he held the speech in this way he might trigger a war with Russia as he was about to endorse the Junta in Kiev that was made from fascists and nationalists. The morning of that very day the parliament of Krim had decided to call for a referendum of the territorial future of the peninsula. I knew that we could not change the entire speech but we softend the tone over the next two hours. Then, some commotion announced to us that Yulya Tymoshenko arrived. Vitali Klitschko had to go to the front row as the speaker would welcome the two Ukrainian “revolutionaries”. We went to the front. Mrs. Tymoshenko was pushed in an wheelchair to her seat. “Don’t shake her hand, just say hello”, I whispered into Vitali Klitschko’s ear and he grinned. I also did not giver her my hand so she sat down without any handshake.
After Vitali Klitschko gave his speech in German language which he is not fond of when it comes to politics Elmar Brok came to him and looked very serious. Later Klitschko told me that he said that the changes he had made had been “superfluous”. I looked deep into Klitschko’s eyes. “When you are in the boxing ring you are a professional. What would you do with an amateur like me?”, I asked. Klitschko shrugged with his shoulders. “Now, you are an amateur in the political ring and I tell you they do what a professional is doing with an amateur in the ring. If you want to hear my advice: get out of it.” Klitschkos stared at the ceiling which was not too far from him anyway.
Former Prime Minister Yulya Tymoshenko who fell out with President Yushchenko, the man with his trademark orange scarf that became the symbol of the uprising in 2004 in which the at that time president Yanukovich had been branded with rigging the vote, ever since wanted to have her country join NATO and the EU while continously bashing Russia under President Vladimir Putin.
Mrs. Tymoshenko, through her husband who is a convicted criminal and has arrest warrants against him for money laundering in the US as well as Switzerland fled to Czech Republic, kind of a safe haven for fraudsters and oligarchs from the eastern hemisphere, made billions in the transfer pricing deals between Russia and Ukraine. Such arrangements offer Ex-Soviet Republics preferrential trading status that comes along with a sweet discount of 30% off world market prices. Ukraine enjoyed such discount for the domestic use and technically had to pass these discounts on to the consumers predominantly the citizens of Ukraine.
But, Mrs Tymoshenko and her husband felt that it would help the country more if they sold the Russian gas at regular market value to some off shore companies in Czech Republic and Cyprus which, as Interpol found out, belonged or where under the direct or indirect control of Oleksander Tymoshenko. In other words, Gazprom granted a generous price reduction to the Ukrainian state but Mrs. Tymoshenko’s husband pocketed the 30% difference. She probably found it unfair to be put to jail for this fraud alone while her husband fled the country, but she was clever enough to alarm EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso and German Chancellor Angela Merkel about her “politically motivated prosecution” under President Yanukovich who in 2010 again won the elections clearly.
Back in 2009, when Mrs. Tymoshenko was Prime Minister of Ukraine she came for a visit to Brussels and I asked her and President Barroso at the press point how they could hold an ‘Energy Conference’ without inviting Russia to which she replied that the talks with the EU Commission had been over investing into the pipeline network. So I asked President Barroso what good pipelines would be without gas. The press point turned into a diplomatic disaster and when the crisis in Ukraine took speed in November 2013, the video recording of the press point disappeared from the official EU Commission-website. Luckily, I got a few copies in save places so I uploaded my questions and the answers of Mrs. Tymoshenko and President Barroso on youtube and facebook again.
The video recording of the press point has been deleted from the EU Commission’s official website at the beginning of the Euro-Maidan crisis, probably because it has been too revealing.
A copy of the video was recovered and can be watched here:
Also quite revealing is the answer by Mr. Yushchenko to my question in October 2009 about the Russian oligarch’s business interests standing in the way of quick EU accession of Ukraine.
So what shall the western free democracies do with Ukraine? One could say that the West got the Crisi and Russia the Krim. But, things aren’t put to rest at all. Helmut Schmidt, the West-German chancellor from 1974 until 1982, who had become my ever first interview partner and since this time is kind of my oracle to turn to as he is now 95 years old surprisingly uttered sympathy for President Putin saying that one ought to understand Russia and not condemn it outright. Former Chancellor Schmidt made his point saying that Russia never was offered an active role in building the “European House” promised by Helmut Kohl and every western leader at that time. I remember that in Interviews with Helmut Kohl and Hans-Dietrich Genscher in 1990 they told me that it was certain that NATO would not expand towards the territory of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). When I spoke with Egon Krenz, the last SED General Secretary and Socialist Head of State of the GDR in the night of 9th October 1989 when it took tens of thousands of citizens in Leipzig and other parts of the GDR to the streets, and Hans Modrow, the last Socialist Prime Minister of the GDR who had together with Mr. Krenz worked hard to avoid clashes between the peaceful protests and the army (NVA) in Leipzig on 9th October 1989, they unilaterally told me that it was clear that all this was happening with the blessing of “Moscow”.
In Spring 1990 I asked Chancellor Kohl again whether a peace treaty would be signed with the four allied powers in order to replace the Potsdam accord that was due to expire in 1995 and he assured me that all aspects were covered by the Two Plus Four Treaty and that NATO would not move closer to the Soviet Union. At that time it was not imaginable for anybody that the entire Warsaw Pact would dissolve a year later, yes, but I was too young to understand the impact that the answers to my questions would have been. Nevertheless, I must have have found it reason enough to ask those leaders about exactly that. Today we know that nothing had been regulated at all. Truth be told: Germany is not sovereign. Failing a peace treaty that would put WWII to rest and make the Potsdam accord obsolete theoretically the four allied powers would still execute their rights over Germany. In fact, after 3rd October 1990 only the US does so as we learn by the nonchalance by which the US go by the spying on Germany and even Chancellor Angela Merkel.
At the G7 in Spring 1991 I spoke with President Gorbachev who told me in that interview that the Western powers where suddenly asking for the Soviet market to be opend unconditionally and immediately. I asked what would happen if he diasagreed and Mr. Gorbachev responded that then the West, the IMF and the banks especially, would support Yeltsin. The Coup on the Krim in August 1991 can be seen in this light. On Friday, 13th December 1991, twelve days before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, President Gorbachev in an interview lasting four and a half hours told me that he had been mislead by Western leaders as they had first, during Perestroijka and Glasnost, supported him and then turned against him as he was not willing to surrender the Soviet market just like that. Yeltsin did and the result could be examined in the loss of 70,000 industries, a doubling alcohol consumption, mass unemployment and a declining life expectancy sharply dropping to 58 years for men. President Gorbachev in the same interview also claimed that Western leaders had promised to him that NATO would not be expended. At that time the Warsaw Pact dissolution was already visible. I asked why this had not been put in writing but Mr. Gorbachev said that he had trusted his Western counterparts. Nowadays, I sense that Mr. Klitschko and Mr. Gorbachev have a lot in common and that it takes a Mr. Putin to put things right and put his foot down.
A few years ago, in 2010, I met Mr. Gorbachev again and asked him whether I could now publish our interview and he said that the time has not come, yet. I wonder whether now, in the severest crisis since the end of the Cold War, these revealtions might play a role. Especially so since some of our leaders seem to have forgotten where they were coming from and who made them advance. A few days ago, the German second tv channel ZDF interviewed the Siemens AG CEO who had just visited Mr. Putin. The Interviewer, not a journalist but rather a propagandist as even the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) ascerted, tried to impose his anti-Russian opinion onto the Siemens CEO who countered all the questions eloquently and smilingly, pointing out that Siemens did business in Russia for 160 years. It is true, the German – Russian trade balance reveals that 38 billion Euros of German export to Russia are meeting 43 billion Euros of Gas and Oil imports from Gazprom. To talk about economic sanctions is ludricous.
Instead, a brief history lesson might be prudent for those leaders of western free democracies that are today surprised about the ghosts of the past that are haunting the present Junta – government that they brought to power by means of a classical coup d’état.
Krim had been, as the German weekly DIE ZEIT pointed out, in 1954 handed over to Ukraine, a Soviet republic by Nikita Chrushchov, an act that had little more than a symbolic meaning as Mr. Chrushchov himself was of Ukrainian decent. In real terms this amounted to nothing concrete, just a few administrative powers that were decentralised and became more efficient. It had nothing to do with any sense of nationality as these national identities had been developed in the Soviet Union at best artificially in the 1920ies under the so called Korenisazija (‘Implanting’) when it had been considered important by the just recently successful Soviets to manifest the power of the revolution in the regions. It had become the intention of the new leaders to laud the local cultural givens and in some cases one even invented those in order to differ from the Tsarian Imperialism. But, neither Ukraine nor Belorussia were ever meant to become sovereign judicial entities or even states. That these are nowadays acting as such and are being accepted by others is the result of a major misunderstanding of the Soviet politics of nationality and minority.
But also such Soviet understanding of nationality could not create a non-Russian identity in Ukraine, other than in the far western parts which in history changed from Polish hands to Austrian-Hungarian and Russian frequently. Kiev and the East of what we call today Ukraine always have been Russian. Nevertheless, the West loves to play this card for geo-strategic reasons. It is part of the West’s strategy since the Yugoslavian and Kosovo wars of the nineties to play ethnic minorities against each other. Now, what has been proven successful against Serbia is being tried against Russia.Whatever is considered helpful to diminish Russia is useful in this propaganda.
In case of Ukraine the ‘misunderstanding’ containes a poison that dates back 100 years and should be seen by Germany especially as a threat to it’s own existence. Heros of ‘Ukrainian Independence’ that are today honoured by followers of the “Orange Revolution” of 2004 had been installed by Germany, such as Stepan Bandera for whom in 2008 an impressive monument was inaugurated in Ternopil. Mr. Bandera has been a collaborator of the German Wehrmacht who initiated in preparation of the German occupation the breaking off from the Soviet Union. He and his “Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists” (OUN) killed about 7,000 civilians, mostly Jewish and Communists.
The other great leader of Ukrainian independence, Simon Petljura, had to go to Exile to France in 1924. During the 18 months that he was head of state of Ukraine at the end of World War I at least 50,000 Jews were killed as Alexander Solschenizyn estimated. In 2009 a street in Kiev has been named after him while monuments were raised in Kiev and his hometown Poltawa. Petljura was not installed by the Germans but reached power through them. Before he became head of state he served as war minister in the cabinet of Hetmans Pawlo Skoropadski who had been a puppet of the German Empire. In 1918 a photo shows him proudly standing next to the German Kaiser Wilhelm. Once the Germans had to give up Ukraine he had to flee to Poland. Skoropadski promised western Ukraine to Poland in exchange for military help but the Russian Red Army freed Kiev and also finished with the Polish insurgence so that also Petljura could not resurrect.
On occasion of the 130th birthday of Petljura on 27th May 2009 at that time President Viktor Yushchenko lauded the courage of this nationalist and called on Ukrainians to abide by his teachings. Gas-Princess Yulya Tymoshenko and Boxing Champion Vitali Klitschko are being haunted by the legacy of the dark past of Ukraine. I asked both in their press conferences about the links to the fascists and Mrs. Tymoshenko denied outright that there were any fascists or anti-semites part of the Maidan or in government. She said instead I should not watch Russian news programs.
Mr. Klitschko, who I told the question I would ask in the elevator, something I never did when I was still an active reporter, came across quite honest when I reiterated that he wanted to fight against corruption. My remark that the villas of the leaders of the interim government were even bigger than the one of Mr. Yanukovich and in two cases had been found to be just across the street from the residence of the elected president went unnoticed as Vitali Klitschko can not comment on how rich a politician shall be, but at least he had earned his wealth by honest fights everyone could watch on TV.
I believe, Konrad Adenauer would turn in his grave if he knew what and who the foundation in his name supports. Bertelsmann-Lobbyist Elmar Brok (MEP) certainly is aware of what it means to stand on the wrong side after the end of a world war as his Bertelsmann Stiftung is also publishing history books about WWII. And, JMB, I think he also knows that he should be glad to finish his two terms as EU Commission President and not be drawn further into the Ukrainian conflict as I have just begun to respect him as an anti-fascist.