The founder of the Donbass volunteer battalion, Verkhovna Rada member, Semen Semenchenko is preparing a law that will strip Ukrainian citizenship from the population of Donbass, just like in Latvia. During the war on the Southeast, this not the first attempt of this kind: the Baltic experience is frequently remembered in Ukraine, when discussing repressions for the population of the unrelenting region in case that they will achieve a complete and decisive victory.
“Out of 7 million voters in Crimea, Sevastopol, Donetsk and Lugansk regions, only 4 million came in to vote in previous elections. However, during the latest elections, only 200 thousand people from Donetsk and Lugansk regions, with a small part of Crimeans, managed to vote in other parts of the country. This negative force majeure nevertheless was beneficial to Ukraine in order to cut ties from its post-Soviet past almost as much as the many months of the Euromaidan. Ukraine accidentally played the banned card, which was previously used only by Latvia and Estonia. These countries took the right to vote from the Soviet nostalgia-ridden Russian-speaking minority in order to make the Euro-Atlantic integration easier” wrote Vyacheslav Sadovnichy of UA.info, an influential Ukrainian media outlet.
The article was the perfect example of the initial planting of the unthinkable and insane idea into the social consciousness as part of the Overton window technique – because for 25 years of post-Soviet development Ukrainians never would have thought that people disagreeing with the political course might be stripped of citizenship, like in the Baltics.
And the author of the article is not even suggesting anything like that, on the contrary, he is warning off the temptation of taking the shortcut of stripping voting rights in order to go the “European” way. But the conclusion made the article is quite the opposite: it turns out that in order to cast aside the post-Soviet past and make the European choice, Ukraine needs to implement electoral censes, strip political rights and choose the path of discrimination towards the “wrong” kind of people.
“I hope we all understand that everyone who voted on the DNR referendum must be stripped of their voting rights and their right to run for office in national and local elections. We must start a policy of non-citizenship like in the Baltics in order to solve the “vatnik electorate” problem.” stated a few months later by Ukrainian political scientist and Hvylya editor-in-chief Yuri Romanenko, being more clear on the subject and without any discussion of whether it was acceptable or not.
“Gentlemen, I think it is time to think of citizenship not as a given, but as a privilege. And somebody still has to do a great deal to earn this privilege,” as was said a few months later by the host of the Ukrainian “Fifth Channel”, which is owned by Petro Poroshenko. He was opening a political talk show with a discussion on the topic on whether they should follow the Baltic example and take the Ukrainian passports away from the rebelling Donbass people.
This proposition seems to have sparked the interest of the founder and commander of the Donbass volunteer battalion and Verkhovna Rada member Semen Semenchenko, who stated “I like this idea, we should work on the legal side of this question.” There, in the studio, Semechenko said he would be willing to prepare the corresponding legal draft.
This week it turned out that the former battalion commander and acting parliament member Semenchenko was not just babbling. The photographers working in the Rada have taken pictures of his schedule. Among other things, on 1 July Semenchenko planned to “Bring up the law of stripping away citizenship (like in Latvia)” Semenchenko has yet to comment on the “leak”, but he doesn’t have to: he already spoke out in favor of the non-citizen institute and promised to make the legal draft, why should he deny it?
So all of this is building into a straight logical chain.
First the planting of the issue as part of media musings, then the statements by influential publicly known experts, then whole TV shows dedicated to the possibility of stripping away the citizenship of the Donbass people, then a legal draft. Even if this logical chain is incidental and there is no coordinated central plan, then this means only that the idea of using the Baltic experience and taking away the Donbass people citizenship is spreading like a virus in Ukrainian political and expert communities.
Because as soon Ukrainian politicians, journalists, bloggers and other “patriots” get the feeling that they are winning the war on the East, then begins the competition of ideas on how to better enact a Vae victis principle (woe to the vanquished). By the way, this also proved that Ukrainian “patriots” don’t believe in their own mythology on a subconscious level, the myth that Donbass was always for Ukraine and it is not a civil war, but just Putin’s hybrid war against the Ukrainian people, who sent his “terrorists” to Donetsk and Lugansk. If that is so, then why is all (!) of the Donbass population, which is supposedly pro-Ukrainian and suffering in occupation, is being branded as “vatniks”, “downbass” and “Colorado beetles”? It was already proposed sending them to filtration camps, populating their lands with racially-pure Western Ukrainians, they proposed just killing them, for heaven’s sake.
Chances are high that if the Ukrainian hawks had a chance to execute their animal instincts unpunished, then they would have. But here is the catch: how would they kill all of the “unneeded” people there after they restore their rule in Donbass if they are such progressive Europeans? And even though they would always find a justification for themselves, they would still be left with the question: what would the “Europe-minded Ukrainians” think? (They are not even thinking about Russia: it is assumed that if Ukraine wins the war completely, then Russia would never again interfere in their affairs). Even if the Europeans will close their eyes as they have before, they will still start avoiding Ukrainians after this. They avoid them even now, despite their words of support: they keep the borders closed, getting a visa is not becoming easier, but more difficult. And if they start building filtration camps…
This is why the Ukrainian politics is close to the conclusion that the non-citizen institute like in the Baltics is the optimal solution to this task. Latvia and Estonia are NATO members, EU members and no one has barred them from enlightened Europe for the non-citizens, on the contrary: they were taken into the European Union with non-citizens.
For the radically-minded Ukrainians the Baltics are the paragon of post-Soviet development. That is how Ukraine should have acted since 1991 in their eyes. The comparison with the Baltics is also frequently used to justify the events in Ukraine today. Destruction of the economy? What of it – the Latvians even literally scrapped factories, but now they are real Europe. Destroying monuments of Lenin? And what of it – this is not vandalism: Lithuanians took all of them to a park near Vilnius, but they are European people. Strip the citizenship from all of the “vatniks”? And what of it – Latvia and Estonia stripped Russians of their citizenship so they wouldn’t stop them from entering Europe, and now they are Europe.
If you tell such a Ukrainian that his country is following in the Baltics footsteps, it will be a compliment to him. So “Baltization” has no negative connotation for a Ukrainian: the Baltics are prospering, right? And the Baltics are Europe. If you tell him that both of those are lies, he would never believe you.
So the idea of borrowing the non-citizen institute from Latvia and Estonia is gaining weight in Ukraine’s political and expert circles: we are going to Europe after all, and Latvia and Estonia – they are European countries, yes?
But in order to borrow the Latvian and Estonia experience, the newfangled “Europeans” must first win the war. And judging by Semenchenko’s legal draft, Kiev is once again under the impression that they are winning. Is it not too early for that?
Translation by Pavel Shamshiev.