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Monday, December 15, 2008

Yushchenko’s Guards Beat Up Elderly Orange Revolution Vet

Baba Paraska represents the Orange Revolution as Joe the Plumber represents the American middle class.

I last saw her on November 22, at the Holodomor commemoration service attended by President Yushchenko. On December 15, President Yushchenko came to lay flowers at the Monument to Vyacheslav Chornovil, the famous Rukh opposition leader. And so did Baba Paraska, except that she came uninvited. She’s now in the hospital — thanks to Yushchenko’s guards.

Her story epitomizes the plight of the Orange Revolution. It highlights the downslide of Yushchenko’s leadership: from the “People’s President” who mixed and mingled with Maidaners to one who shuns them.

Still, he has to live with increased freedom of the press, the salvage value of the Orange Revolution. Baba Paraska’s story gained wide publicity in the Ukrainian media.

Baba Paraska: Isn't it because of the presidential entourage that you don’t want to talk to me? I didn’t sell myself for money.

Narrator: Baba Paraska got beaten — by none other than the President’s security detail. The warrior woman is certain of that, as certain as she is of the ideals of Maidan.

Baba Paraska: So here I am standing. They all surrounded me real tight here. A car came and instantly they grabbed me by the shoulders and legs, and, folding me in half, they’re hauling me into the car, and from above, and mumbling and pummeling me with fists in the shoulders and kidneys. And from the back, one can’t see that the car has approached, and already they’re hitting me in the back and twisting me into a bow and throwing me into the car. Now I’m beaten and it’s been four years since they haven’t allowed me near him. I’m very upset about Na…because I don’t know if it’s Nasha Ukrayina or whatever that’s putting such entourage on me. I’ll tell the President what entourage…[incoherent]

Narrator: The President didn’t find any time at all for his fellow Maidaner. Yushchenko’s spokeswoman, Iryna Vannykova, did find the time: 2 minutes.

Iryna Vannikova: Hello?
Baba Paraska: Irusyu, good evening, sweetheart. This is Babka Paraska…

Iryna Vannikova: Good evening.

Baba Paraska: …calling.

Iryna Vannikova: Yes, please.
Baba Paraska: Do you hear me, sweetheart? Do you hear me? Hello? Hello? What’s up with her?

Narrator: Paraska is disappointed. She doesn’t have the courage to call the man himself, even though she says she does have the number. She dials Larysa Mudrak, chief of the presidential press service.

Larysa Mudrak: Don’t worry, don’t cry. Everything will be alright. Go get some rest and medical treatment. Everything will be alright. We’ll get the word out, we’ll file a complaint against the guards.

Baba Paraska: Don’t hang up on me, I’m begging you, because Irynka, the President’s secretary, hung up on me. They dumped me like a dog. Mr. President, did I really deserve this, darling?

A report in Segodnya quotes Baba Paraska as saying:

My back hurts, and so does something inside. It’s hard to get out of bed. Perhaps there’s a crack in a rib or some abdominal trauma. While being pulled away, I kept saying: Don’t beat me, I’m old enough to be your mother. But they just laughed and pummeled me with fists in the shoulders and kidneys, and then I felt that something cracked in my back.

I had an X-ray but the doctors aren’t telling anything. They only said that the treatment would take six weeks. I’m in a two-person ward. As for medications, they’ve mainly administered painkillers. I feel hurt and bitter to have been treated this way. I’m not a thug. The whole country knows me by face. I believe it’s a spit in the face of all who were at Maidan.

I believe she's right.

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Original sources:


elmer said...

What kind of training do these "guards" receive?

What on earth would compel them to beat up a defenseless old lady?

It's not clear why - other than she happened to be somewhere near Yushchenko.

Taras said...

Brutality training, I guess.

In Ukraine, law enforcement treats ordinary people heavy-handedly, Soviet-style.

As for those above the law, law enforcement either serves them or doesn’t notice them. When it does notice them, it lets them go.

I don’t think Baba Paraska posed any security threat. Nor do I think that the President ordered her beating. But I do think she became a pariah because of his emotional insecurity.

Anonymous said...

A lot of the media I've seen has been so hostile to Yushchenko and have written things that I've never seen in the western press about their leaders. The media might be free of official government interference but most of it is all owned and paid for by different interests and a lot of it by political opponants including the newspaper quoted in this case.

Also the television station - look at the way the narrator reports the story which makes it seem like there's no room for doubt:

"Baba Paraska got beaten — by none other than the President’s security detail. The warrior woman is certain of that, as certain as she is of the ideals of Maidan."

But how can she know who beat her up? A car came so how does she know who it belonged to and who got out of it? In fact she says she's not sure that it's Nasha Ukraine but in the story that's broadcast it's simply reported she's certain and moreover if she's certain then we can all be certain. Period.

In short it seems to be true that she was beaten but who knows who beat her up and why

Taras said...

Good point about the media bias.

STB reportedly belongs to Pinchuk while the loyalty of TRK Ukrayina and Segodnya lies with the Party of Regions. They all pursue their own agendas, but, as we also know, Yushchenko has shown interest in doing business with them.

Now, if we separate spin from substance, the “Yushchenko theory” still appears to be well founded.

Notice how Larysa Mudrak does not shrug off Baba Paraska’s grievances and even promises to lodge a complaint against the guards. If Yushchenko’s guards had nothing to do with Baba Paraska’s beating, the Presidential Secretariat would already be suing the media involved.

But instead of making a public statement and apologizing to Paraska, they pretend nothing happened. Soviet-style public relations dies hard.

It’s equally hard to find even a remote Western analogy for Yushchenko’s overall leadership. Jimmy Carter during the Iran hostage crisis, perhaps?

Anonymous said...

If Larysa Mudrak said what she did (and I agree she is quoted saying it then she ought to be fired immediately). If she doesn't know (and how would she know), she should say that there's no reason to suppose that it was the guards that the lady might be mistaken, but it will be investigated and if anyone belonging to the pres guard was responsible they will be dealt with all severity etc etc. If she does know for sure then she's a useless press secretary. She has to say the guards that did have been identified and they will be dismissed from the service. It's not part of their duty, not expected to behave like that etc etc. (Who's going to check up afterwards anyhow?).
As for suing what good will that do given the state of the country's courts. If they don't fix the court beforehand they won't get a verdict for and then nobody will believe it anyhow.
It also seems odd that, if it was the guard that somebody (who?) made a decision to be beat her up and for what? What was she doing that was annoying them so much?

Anonymous said...

Well, if to make a summary, there is some certain freedom of press in Ukraine, and - as correctly stated - one of the biggest achievements of the so called "Orange Revolution".

But as in lots of countries (mainly USA in the West), medias also represent certain interests. And as one can see, in Ukraine there is for a longer time clearly a fight for power. The main focus is not anymore on that what could and should be the opposition around Yanukovich, the power struggle is now in the middle of the so called "democratic coalition" (whatever that means here). And this is a clear fight for power.

But as against Russia, I am quite sure that in coming elections, it will not be possible for one side to gain upwing against the other and therefore to gain more authority and power. One has to face clearly, that Russia's authoritary power is only possible (at least until now) due to the strong economic growth in the last years. As soon as people reach some limit, protests may rise and then it will be seen, if people are still ready to accept some restrictions which they were ready to accept for a rising living standard.

The concrete article here just shows the weaknesses of the institutions. As against old democracies, Ukraine mainly lies on the people in the political system. The three democratic pilars (legislative, executive and judikative) are relativley weak and not independent.