Yanukovych wanted by Interpol

Image: Viktor Kovalenko

Image: Viktor Kovalenko

One of the latest events in the ongoing Ukrainian conflict is a recent decision by the current Ukrainian government to ask Interpol to include ex-president Victor Yanukovych and other members of Yanukovych government, especially Azarov, on the Interpol wanted list. Yet, the question is still remains: is such a decision necessary at this point of time and what impact might it have on the ongoing Ukrainian conflict?

Firstly, at this point in time it might seem unreasonable. Undoubtedly, the Yanukovych government have possibly been involved directly in financial wrongdoings (which legally still remain to be proven), yet at the same time the developing Ukrainian state faces more pressing national concerns, such as ending the ongoing civil war, finding an effective peace settlement and creating efficient national frameworks in economic and industrial sectors.

Yet, beyond these concerns, the Ukrainian government faces the rising problem of democratic representativeness and accountability, which is rarely outlined by the mainstream Western media. The mandate and legitimacy of the current Ukrainian conflict is heavily based on the Euromaidan events of last winter. The central promise of the current Ukrainian leaders, which were heavily involved in last winter’s protests, was that they could re-structure the Ukrainian state from the corruption, structural deficiencies and mass corruption problems evident in previous Ukrainian governments.

This was its key electoral appeal, which helped it to gain mass popular support across different societal divisions. This electoral pledge remained largely unrealized due to civil war in the Ukraine alongside other internal problems, which places the current Ukrainian government in a potentially dangerous position in few ways.

Electorally, it knows that society has the capacity to organize mass protest and to oust the current government from power, as it did previously with the Yanukovych government. Politically, it is also wary of the existence of right-wing movements in Ukraine, which are using the growing political dissatisfaction to their advantage, increasing their impact on Ukrainian society and political life.

Thus, the current government desperately needs to take some steps to demonstrate to different sections of society that it is gradually dismantling the Yanukovych legacy and replacing it with a different system, which can simultaneously diffuse the political opposition from extreme right parties. Seen from this perspective, the decision to request the inclusion of Yanukovych in the “most wanted” list makes perfect sense: it is a largely symbolical step to demonstrate that Ukraine is involved in building a new system of political governance, identifying the individuals responsible for previous problems, demonstrating that it can legally persecute them regardless of their position in society and after that making an attempt to create an alternative replacement.

The second question is whether such a step could provoke dangerous development in the ongoing Ukrainian conflict, which at this moment seems highly unlikely.

In essence, Yanukovych’s government was predominantly based on the conflicting appeal to both pro-Russian and pro-European section of Ukrainian society, as well as being connected with the Ukrainian business and industrial elites. However, since Yanukovych became a leader of the Ukrainian state, this support rapidly became to unravel. The pro-Russian support felt incredibly alienated by Yanukovych’s moves towards Europe and his decision to move closer to the Ukrainian Association agreement with European Union. The pro-Western groups of the Ukrainian electorate were alienated by close relationship between Yanukovych and Putin, feeling particularly betrayed by Yanukovych’s refusal to sign the Ukrainian deal with the European Union at the last moment.

Most importantly, two groups, despite their ideological divisions, jointly were considerably dissatisfied with the corruption, political scandals and range of internal problems, which accompanied Yanukovych’s tenure in office. Lastly, the Ukrainian business and industrial elite, found a stronger (possibly more loyal, attentive and receptive) audience in the new Poroshenko government, who was himself previously heavily involved in Ukrainian business.

As a result, the Ukrainian decision in requesting Interpol to include Victor Yanukovych in wanted list is not only perfectly understandable from the electoral standpoint, but it is also highly unlikely to have any serious effects on the ongoing Ukrainian conflict.