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Ukrainian folklore and the Batkivshchyna kitchen

May 26, 2016

The 25th May, upon the anniversary of President Poroshenko’s winning the highest office in Ukraine, saw the less than timely release of Nadiya Savchenko from Russian captivity and return to Ukrainian soil.

Hurrah and huzzah!

May Nadiya and her family enjoy their future – whatever it may bring – together.

May this event, and the high profile prisoner exchange of which Nadiya was a part, be the start of further releases of those detained that are clearly politically motivated prisoners – for to be blunt none are particularly valuable chess pieces in the wider game, and the release of all those detained that are held with distinctly political overtones is not going to weaken the positions of those detaining them significantly – if at all.

Clearly there should be words of appreciation for those that spent many months facilitating the release/exchange of Ms Savchenko.  There is yet more work to do for those that remained wrongfully detained.

Politically, there is no denying that there will be many a keen ear awaiting the first Verkhovna Rada address of Ms Savchenko to her feckless peers – for there are none within that theatre of the absurd that have surrendered 2 years of their lives in a Russian prison for their nation – in fact the vast majority in that legislative asylum have done very little for Ukraine during the time of Ms Savchenko’s incarceration.  It is to be hoped that her first speech in the Verkhovna Rada is a very blunt, passionate and barbed occasion with the single aim of making the feckless wonders present squirm – both in the Verkhovna Rada session hall and in the media thereafter.

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This brings about Ms Savchenko’s place within the Verkhovna Rada as the Number 1 name upon Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna Party list.  Ukrainian folklore would have it that two housewives cannot exist in one kitchen (paraphrased and used at the risk of appearing wrongfully misogynistic).

Any regular reader will know that Batkivshchyna is nothing more than a vehicle for Yulia Tymoshenko.  It has but a single purpose, and that is to elevate Ms Tymoshenko and propel her to political glory.  Ms Tymoshenko controls the party – the party has absolutely no control over Ms Tymoshenko – sadly.  (Not that Batkivshchyna are alone in this democratic deficit.)

As such Batkivshchyna as a political party has only room for one woman in the party kitchen – Yulia Tymoshenko.

The arrival of Nadiya Savchenko with a huge amount of personal political capital with the public, and a personality that will simply not bend to the will of Yulia Tymoshenko is going to cause problems.

It was of course Ms Tymoshenko’s populist DNA that placed Nadiya Savchenko as Number 1 on her party list at the last Verkhovna Rada elections – perhaps a clever vote winning move if there is little expectation of Ms Savchenko ever taking her Verkhovna Rada seat when writing the party list n- not at all clever should events conspire that she would.

However, to employ the phrase attributed to Harold MacMillan when allegedly asked what he feared most in politics – “Events dear boy, events”.  Ms Tymoshenko’s populist nonsense now has the potential – and probability – of becoming an “event” that she will look back on ruefully in the months ahead.

It seems extremely unlikely that Ms Savchenko will play ball and follow the required unquestioning party worship of the leader, or indeed consistently vote the party line.  A contented second fiddle to a very poor Tymoshenko lead violin she will not be.

In short, however uncomfortable and irked Block Poroshenko and Solidarity may often feel with Messrs Nayem and Leshchenko being particularly barbed and consistent thorns in its side, Ms Tymoshenko is almost inevitably about to receive the same treatment from a no-nonsense Nadiya Savchenko – and it is not before time somebody within Batkivshchyna called out Ms Tymoshenko for her nonsense.

No differently from Block Poroshenko with Messrs Nayem and Leshchenko, Ms Tymoshenko simply cannot eject Ms Savchenko from the party without significant constituency implications due to the societal backing she has – no matter how difficult she will make life for Ms Tymoshenko by keeping her in the fold.

Further Ms Savchenko cannot simply leave the Batkivshchyna Party and hope to remain in the Verkhovna Rada as an independent lest the same fate as Messrs Firsov and Tomenko awaits her (Article 81 of the Constitution of Ukraine).

With the Article 81 precedent now set, the only way out of Batkivshchyna for Ms Savchenko, is by request of either party, and would require an understanding that Article 81 was not applied by Batkivshchyna if she is to remain a parliamentarian.

A reader may ponder, regardless of how much pain and difficulty Ms Savchenko may/will cause Ms Tymoshenko in the weeks and months ahead with undoubtedly candid and terse commentary, whether Ms Tymoshenko would actually remove Ukraine’s latest and best known heroine from her political ranks having previously made much from the populist decision to put Ms Savchenko as Number 1 on the party list.

However, what would be the societal perception if Ms Savchenko were allowed to leave Ms Tymoshenko’s party by her own request – with an Article 81 waver – and act as an independent or perhaps join another party in parliament?  How would that effect the Tymoshenko ratings and her on-going electioneering?

There seem to be no particularly good political options for Ms Tymoshenko when to comes to Ms Savchenko, and as has been written at this blog innumerable times, you either work for Ms Tymsohenko, or you work against Ms Tymoshenko.  Ms Tymoshenko does not do “work with”.  Thus the Batkivshchyna kitchen is simply not going to be big enough for these two Ukrainian women.

Whilst it is clear that Ms Savchenko will continue to work for the release of other prisoners incarcerated due to political expediency, and no doubt she will actively employ her Ukrainian PACE delegation position to that end, Ms Savchenko is not going to be missing that many Verkhovna Rada sessions.

Time will tell whether heroines should remain heroines, or if in time they become tarnished by politics, but in the immediate future, as tweeted upon receipt of the splendid news of Nadiya Savchenko’s release:

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