Feb 4, 2011
Keeping Democratic Hopes Alive in Russia and Ukraine: Civic Leaders Compare Developments
Oleh Rybachuk – Chairman, Centre UA (Ukraine)
Andrei Piontkovsky – Solidarity (Russia)
Vitaly Portnikov – TVi (Ukraine)
Andriy Shevchenko – Member of Parliament (Ukraine)
Nadia M. Diuk
National Endowment for Democracy
Six years ago, it looked as though democracy had arrived in Ukraine on the wings of the Orange Revolution. Government leaders in Moscow looked across the border with apprehension and in a major move to stave off similar developments in Russia nongovernmental organizations were brought under control by means of legislation and direct pressure, pro-government youth groups such as Nashi were encouraged, and the media was reined in even more; all of these efforts became known collectively as the “backlash to democracy,” subsequently emulated in other countries where dictators feared popular uprisings.
The situation has reversed and today’s developments in Ukraine show that the current government is following the policies of its Russian neighbor with repression against the media, disenfranchisement of the parliament, and selective prosecution of leading members of the opposition. Popular discontent in both countries is rising.
Have the protesters in Russia learned from the mistakes of their Ukrainian colleagues? Will the governments in Russia and Ukraine finally merge businesses, energy systems, and security services? How should the democrats and activists in both countries respond? What prospects are there for a common agenda and actions? To address these and other questions, NED hosted a panel of civic leaders from Russia and Ukraine.
Andrei Piontkovsky is one of Russia’s foremost political analysts and commentators, author of more than a hundred articles and books on the theory of government and democracy related issues. He writes for Novaya Gazeta, the Moscow Times, Russian Journal, and online journals such as Grani.ru and Transitions Online. He has authored a number of books including Another Look into Putin’s Soul and Third Road to Serfdom. He was a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. and was a Reagan-Fascell Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy.
Oleh Rybachuk is Chairman and co-founder of the NGO "Centre UA," where he initiated the New Citizen Campaign in Ukraine, and Chairman of the Board of the "Souspilnist Foundation." He has served as a Member of Parliament and has held positions in government, including as Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine on European Integration and Chief of Staff and Advisor to the President of Ukraine under President Yushchenko.
Andriy Shevchenko is a Member of Parliament in Ukraine (Block of Yulia Tymoshenko) and serves on the Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information. He is also the President of Center for Public Media, an NGO that promotes public broadcasting in Ukraine. Previously, he worked as an editor and journalist for Channel 5 TV and Novyi Kanal (New Channel).
Vitaly Portnikov is Editor-in-Chief of TVi (Ukraine) and host of a weekly TV news affairs program. He is a columnist for Israel’s most popular Russian-language newspaper Vesti and the Moscow-based Evreiskie novosti. He serves as an analyst for Nezavisimaya Gazeta as well as the Ukrainian and Russian services of RFERL. He worked as a journalist in Moscow for twenty years before taking up his current position in Kyiv.