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Who is Trying to Turn Kyiv into Donetsk?

Whatever the truth about the recent deaths of politicians and journalists in Ukraine, they can only harm the country. From Chetverta Vlada.

by Denis Kazansky 24 April 2015

An investigation starts with an obvious question: “Who benefited from the crime?” This is true also of the recent assassinations in Kyiv.




This idea is diligently promoted in Russian media and supported by pro-Kremlin speakers. For instance, the now-banned Russian Bloc political party blamed the murder of pro-Russian journalist Oles Buzyna on the Ukrainian government. The journalist was a member of the party and made a failed bid for parliament in 2012.


“The assassination of Oles Buzyna is part of a process of the physical elimination of political opponents in Ukraine. Oles had repeatedly claimed that Ukrainian intelligence services had been following him and knew his daily routine,” the former head of Russian Bloc, Gennady Basov, said.


Other “ukrainophobes” chimed in. Right after the murder was reported, the “bloody junta” was immediately blamed, as if people had expected the journalist to die. But what was in it for the government to kill an oppositionist?


For one thing, there is already plenty of opposition in the country. Shocking accusations by a former head of the State Financial Inspection, Nikolai Gordienko, that Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s government has robbed the state treasury are one example. Or even Yulia Timoshenko’s harsh critique. They have been a huge pain in Ukrainian government’s neck, much bigger than Buzyna’s articles. … And can we even talk about opposition when the president and the prime minister oppose each other?


Oles Buzyna
For another thing, the victim simply had no power in Ukraine. Of course, Oles Buzyna was more or less significant in the circle of Russian nationalists and ultranationalists. But everything he published was aimed at a foreign audience. He wrote for so-called vatniks (a slang term for a Russian patriotic redneck). Those were his Russian followers, who were always happy to read more dirty stuff about Ukrainians. Ukrainians, however, have always been sickened by his texts, since all of them were based on defamation of their motherland. That’s why the government had no reason to eliminate such a person: Buzyna’s assaults have always backfired. Each time the journalist slandered someone with his libels, it disgusted readers and created more defenders for his “victims.” To be honest, someone who loves wearing a tsarist uniform and a freak mustache (like a former commander of pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine, Strelkov) can’t be taken seriously.


It might sound cynical, but a dead Buzyna harms the Ukrainian government more than a living one. All the more so as his popularity had been waning lately, and he wasn’t very welcome on TV anymore.


The theory that some radical group is involved sounds more plausible. Political scientist Vladimir Fesenko, the head of the Penta Center for Applied Political Research in Ukraine, announced on his Facebook page that he had received an email from a nationalist group taking responsibility for the deaths of Oleg Kalashnikov, Buzyna, and [former Party of Regions officials] Myhailo Chechetov, Stanislav Melnik, and Oleksandr Peklushenko.


“I received an email from some Ukrainian Insurgent Army, in which it takes responsibility for the murder of ‘anti-Ukrainian bastards’ Kalashnikov, Buzyna, Chechetov, Melnik, and Peklushenko. There’s a remarkable fact in the letter. ‘To confirm that our warriors committed these assassinations we provide you previously unknown information about the gun that shot Kalashnikov. It had a gauge of 7.65 х 17 to 9 х 18. He also managed to shoot from his own gun.’ And most important in this announcement: ‘We are starting a ruthless rebel war against the anti-Ukrainian regime of betrayers and pro-Moscow lackeys. From now on we will use only the language of weapons until they are completely eliminated,’ ” Fesenko wrote.


According to him, the letter shows more the involvement of the Kremlin than it implicates any nationalists. Honestly, the message rings immature and unprofessional, as if it had come from some low-budget TV series. First of all, it’s very doubtful that the nationalists would call themselves the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, which seems calculated to upset the Russian public. In addition, the death of Chechetov, which was staged as a suicide, discredits this version: nationalists wouldn’t have done that if they were only going to claim it later.


Oles Buzyna lived and worked in Kyiv all his life. His first book was a libel about revered Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, published in 2000. After that, he released some other provocative texts, held press conferences, and had meetings with readers yet, had never had any problem except a cake that a Femen activist threw in his face in 2009. His popularity dried up a couple of years ago. His first two books, The Ghoul Taras Shevchenko and The Secret Story of Ukraine and Rus', were scandalous, but his later publications didn’t get much attention. So if Oles Buzyna were a real problem for Kyiv, we would have heard news of his death much earlier.




In this case, the Kremlin is a generalized character that includes Ramzan Kadyrov, the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Luhansk People’s Republic, and other tentacles. There’s definitely no problem in finding a motive for the Kremlin to commit the murder. For instance, it could be to destabilize the current situation in Ukraine or to distract from Russia’s political murders. Kremlin authorities might also do it with the intention of slandering the Ukrainian government and supporting Russia’s state propaganda about violent Ukrainian fascists.


All the accusations against Ukrainian authorities seem to be carefully prepared in advance. “They won’t stop with the assassination of Oles Buzyna and will continue murdering their political opponents,” pro-Russian separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko said, adding that there are going to be more victims. Indeed when a Kremlin-backed rebel confidently predicts new murders, everyone subconsciously starts expecting that he will do it himself.


It seems pretty obvious that Russia hasn’t given up on its plans to throw the political situation in Ukraine into disarray. Violence right in the capital of Ukraine discredits the country. Political murders are usually committed to ramp up hatred in society. They cause a reaction and become the impetus for another round of armed violence. The Kremlin would not mind causing something similar to Italy’s Years of Lead. To do so, “somebody needs to pull the trigger” as an organizer of the Donetsk People’s Republic insurgency, Igor Girkin [Strelkov], said. It might be that this murder was committed in an attempt to enact this scenario.


By the way, Kyiv journalist Olga Malysheva predicted in a Facebook post some provocation involving Buzyna back in January.


“Oles Buzyna was given the position of the editor in chief of the [pro-Russia] newspaper Segodnya in my opinion just to make him a scapegoat to be beaten or set on fire (together with the entire editorial staff of Segodnya) by ultranationalist boys and girls wearing fancy embroidery,” she wrote. “Some ‘Crimean Tatar Wahhabis’ may appear, too. In other words, we will witness the most disgusting parody on Charlie Hebdo, which will be perfectly documented, professionally filmed, and widely distributed. I bet on this scenario 3-to-1,” she predicted.


There were so many lies about pressure on Russian-speakers in Ukraine spread by the Kremlin media that one day someone would have to take responsibility for them. But then the assassinations of Buzyna and a scandalous redneck, Kalashnikov, became convenient examples of the bloody repressions that have been discussed in Russia for so long. Apparently someone is trying to turn Kyiv into another Donetsk, a city where street murders are common and fear keeps people locked inside their houses. This someone obviously doesn’t live in Kyiv, because people in the capital would never live that way.




This version is the most far-fetched but still deserves a mention. The deaths of the insignificant but popular and scandalous pro-Russian Buzyna and Kalashnikov would help to raise the fortunes of pro-Kremlin forces in Ukraine, mobilizing their supporters in upcoming local elections.


The Opposition Bloc would use these murders to pressure the government to prevent further court trials against former authorities. Moreover, the death of one of the most odious pro-Kremlin speakers helped society, which had demanded the arrests of authorities from the former government, to let off steam. Buzyna and Kalashnikov could become scapegoats, chosen by Party of Regions figures themselves to satisfy the need for revenge in society. It’s possible now that Ukrainians won’t be so furious if [former Party of Regions official] Oleksandr Yefremov faces acquittal [on abuse of power charges] or if [former Energy Minister] Yury Boyko’s frauds are not investigated.


To make a long story short, there’s plenty of room to guess about who needed the recent murders to happen. But the facts prove that whoever killed Buzyna and Kalashnikov harmed Ukraine. Regardless who the victims were, their deaths changed nothing for the better, because bloody corpses don’t make any city beautiful, especially European Kyiv.

Denis Kazansky is a columnist at Tyzhden and editor in chief of Chetverta Vlada (, where this commentary originally appeared. Translated by Evgeny Deulin.

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