Simultaneous Opposition Arrests in Three Slavic States Point to Their Possible Re-Integration

Paul Goble

Staunton, January 9 - The almost simultaneous arrests of opposition figures in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine - the same three republics which signed the death warrant of the USSR 19 years ago - points to their isolation from Europe and hence re-integration under Russian rule, according to a Moscow commentator.

On his Ekho Moskvy blog today, Yuri Magarshak, the president of the International Committee for Intellectual Cooperation, calls attention to "the striking synchronicity" of the arrests of the leaders of opposition groups in the three Slavic states and discusses the possible meaning of this pattern (

Magarshak points to the arrest and detention for 15 days of a former vice prime minister of Vladimir Putin, the arrest of leaders of the opposition in Belarus, including defeated presidential candidates, and the arrest of leaders of the opposition and moves against Yulia Timoshenko in Ukraine.

It is possible, he continues, that this of course "could be a coincidence, although (from the point of view of the theory of probability), the likelihood of these events being independent of one another is close to zero." And that in turn raises the question as to whether these events are being directed from a single center or even "by a single leader."

"If one abstracts from the terminology of good and evil, human rights and democratic norms and consider these things absolutely from a pragmatic and cynical point of view or as it is customary to say in contemporary Russia, 'from a political-technology point of view,' such synchonicity has political sense," ordered or not.

The arrests in Ukraine and Belarus effectively cut off any chance of rapprochement between these two countries and Europe "at a minimum" until there is a new leadership in one or the other. And as a result, "whatever they want, Belarus and Ukraine will grow closer to the [Russian] Federation," perhaps "more than they themselves have intended."

The three former Slavic republics of the Soviet Union are thus put in a position where they are in effect reversing the Beloveshchaya Pushcha accords by which they disbanded the USSR, a reversal that many in Moscow believe corresponds to the interests of the Russian Federation.

Indeed, in their eyes, this would be "a step of genius, for which one must give an order" - "openly or -- as with Soviet intelligence offices and the inventors of new forms of weaponry in Soviet times -- secretly, far from television cameras and journalists." But doing it publically or not is only a question of "current political" requirements.

Some may be pleased about this new unity as "a victory of Imperial Centripedal Forces" but others will regret that a unity based "on the repression of political opponents" cuts off "the prospects for all three countries together and separately to join the ranks of the industrially developed and socially advanced world."

Magarshak makes no secret that he is among the ranks of the latter, someone who will not be happy to see the emergence of a new power based on Soviet-style principles of repression, all the more so since it is very clear from their actions in the past month that the leaderships of the three Slavic republics have not forgotten just what those "principles" were.


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