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Author: Olexander Hyrb
Editor: Bogdan Szajkowski
Date: 2004
Revolutionary and Dissident Movements of the World
Publisher: John Harper Publishing
Document Type: Topic overview
Pages: 4
Content Level: (Level 4)

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Page 493


Capital: Kyiv (Kiev)

Population: 48.5 m

Ukraine declared its independence from the disintegrating Soviet Union in August 1991. It is a unitary republic with an executive President elected for a five-year term, and a 450-member unicameral Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) elected for a four-year term, both on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot. The President of Ukraine is a head of state with extensive powers, including that to nominate the Prime Minister with the consent of the Verkhovna Rada. Half the members of the Parliament arePage 494  |  Top of Article elected directly from constituencies and half through party lists.

In November 1999, in a second round of balloting, President Leonid Kuchma, standing without party affiliation, was re-elected for a second term, taking 56.3 per cent of the vote, compared with 37.8 per cent for the candidate of the Communist Party. As a result of legislative elections held in March 2002, the principal party formations in Parliament were as follows: the pro-presidential centrist block "For United Ukraine", 102 seats; the national-democratic centre-right block "Our Ukraine", 111; the Communist Party of Ukraine, 66; the Socialist Party of Ukraine, 24; the centrist block of Yuliya Tymoshenko, 21; and the Social Democrats (SDPU-O), 22. The pro-presidential forces of "For United Ukraine" and SDPU-O, together with independent MPs, formed an unstable majority.

Ukraine inherited from the former Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine not only extensive communist legislation, but also ex-communist ruling elites and such institutions as parliament, central and local government, army, police and courts. National-democratic forces enjoyed overwhelming support in the Western and to some extent the Central regions of Ukraine but failed to penetrate the highly russified East and the South, including Kharkiv (Kharkov) and the Donbass industrial region, where ex-nomenklatura functionaries remained in power. National revolution, therefore, was not completed in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. National democrats, notably members of the mass movement Rukh, achieved some degree of influence in the Ukrainian government, although never formally forming the government. Tension between the pro-Western, EU-orientated national-democrats and pro-Russian "oligarchs", as well as Communists, remains high. Ukraine became a de facto presidential republic with limited or managed democracy and some form of state capitalism, a buffer state between Russia and the West.

Soviet legacy and post-Soviet reality

Anti-Soviet armed struggle in Ukraine was not totally suppressed by the Soviet security forces until 1956 when the last units of the UPA (Ukrainian Resurgence Army) were finally defeated in Western Ukraine. Some individuals managed to stay in underground bunkers, mostly in rural areas, up until formal independence in 1991. After the establishment of the independent Ukrainian state, former UPA combatants who had fought against the Soviet Union during World War II and after that for independence, were neither prosecuted nor recognized as war veterans. The UPA Brotherhood is actively campaigning for the recognition of UPA fighters as World War II combatants, but is not likely to succeed in the near future.

During the 1960s to 1980s, the dissident movement in Ukraine consisted mostly of members of the Ukrainian intelligentsia trying to protect the status of the Ukrainian language and culture by establishing human rights groups such as the Helsinki Union, led by Viacheslav Chornovil. However, no armed struggle was possible or attempted between 1956 and 1991 when formal independence was achieved. Gorbachev's programme of perestroika, however, provided the opportunity to create paramilitary organizations while general liberalization combined with economic decline led to a sharp increase in organized crime.

When Ukrainian law enforcement bodies refer to terrorist activities, they usually mean the activities of organized criminal groups using firearms or explosives against businessmen, officials or policemen. The vast majority of such instances are not of a political or religious nature and, therefore, would not be considered necessarily as "terrorist" in the Western sense of the word. Politically motivated "terrorist" activities in Ukraine, therefore, by any standards are rather low. When the Ukrainian government approved a new law on the "Fight against Terrorism" at the end of 2002, the opposition accused the President of seeking to provide even wider powers to the security services to subjugate the opposition movement. The only terrorist act reported by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) in 2002 was an explosion at Odessa international airport. The "terrorist" involved was sentenced for an attempt to extort money from Austrian Airlines.

The major divisive issue in political life in Ukraine since 2000 was the "cassette scandal" when Maj. Mykola Melnychenko, a bodyguard of President Kuchma, published secret tape-recordings implicating the President and his inner circle in corruption and involvement in the murder of an opposition journalist. The mass protest movement "Ukraine without Kuchma", that briefly united the Ukrainian political spectrum from the right to the left, culminated on March 9, 2001, when a demonstration by up to 150,000 protesters clashed with special police units and was violently dispersed. Two of the most radical para-military organizations, the Ukrainian National Self-Defence (UNSO, see entry) and Tryzub (see entry), were held responsible for provoking violence; however, only UNSO members were tried in the courts and given various sentences of imprisonment.

Until then, the most high-profile terrorist act in Ukraine was attributed to a member of the left-wing Socialist Party of Ukraine (SPU). During the 1999 presidential campaign grenades were thrown into a crowd of supporters of the leader of the Progressive Socialists (PSP), Natalia Vitrenko, with a number of people, including Vitrenko, injured. The PSP had been launched by Vitrenko in 1996 as a breakaway from the SPU. The Ukrainian Security Service arrested Sergiy Ivanchenko and two other individuals who confessed to having organized the terrorist act in order to prevent Vitrenko from running for the presidency. The leader of the SPU, Oleksandr Moroz (the former chairman of the Ukrainian legislature in the Soviet period), claimed that confessions were extracted by torture to discredit him as a presidential candidate, and later provided tape-recordings from Major Melnychenko suggesting that the presidential administration was behind the plot.

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Right-wing and ultra-nationalist groups

Ukrainian National Self-Defence (UNSO)


The UNSO was organized by the ultra-nationalist Ukrainian National Assembly (UNA) and has been considered by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) as one of the major terrorist threats. However, there has been no evidence of UNSO terrorist activities on the territory of Ukraine although 17 UNA-UNSO members received substantial prison sentences after the violent demonstrations of March 9, 2001.

The Russian government complained about UNSO members serving as mercenaries in Chechnya during the first and second Russian military campaigns in the republic. One of the UNA/UNSO leaders, Dmytro Korchynsky, supported such claims in his book "War in the Crowd", freely available in bookshops. UNA, under the leadership of Andriy Skil, officially denied any involvement in the second Chechen war, but it openly admitted its involvement in earlier conflicts in Moldova, Georgia and Chechnya. The fact that UNSO members continue to serve as foreign mercenaries, which is explicitly forbidden by Ukrainian law, supports the claim that the Ukrainian Security Services either ignore them or have some sort of control over the organization. The former head of the Ukrainian military intelligence, Gen. Oleksandr Skypalsky, has said that UNSO was created by the Soviet KGB with support of the local cadres in Ukraine that now constitute the core of the SBU.

Tryzub ("Trident")

Leadership. "Colonel" Yevgen Fil


The S. Bandera Patriotic-Sports Association Tryzub was originally created as a branch of the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists (KUN), itself organized in 1993 by the émigré Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (Stepan Bandera faction) or OUN (b). The KUN was hostile to the Ukrainian National Assembly (UNA) and created Tryzub in opposition to the UNA-backed Ukrainian National Self-Defence (UNSO, see entry).

By the late 1990s, however, OUN(b) lost its influence on KUN and reverted to being an émigré organization in 2000. Tryzub, effectively, also drifted away from KUN, being led by "Colonel" Yevgen Fil. Tryzub collaboration with "Rukh for Unity" and "OUN in Ukraine" suggests that the organization was influenced by the pro-presidential forces and, possibly, controlled by the SBU. Tryzub members were involved in the clashes with police in the anti-presidential demonstration of March 2001 (see above), though none were subsequently put on trial.

Cossack organizations

The Ukrainian Cossacks (Ukrainske Kozatstvo)

It is the largest organization of the Ukrainian Cossacks and has local branches in every oblast of Ukraine. It was established in 1990 by the activists of Rukh, who elected Viacheslav Chornovil as its first Hetman (Commander). Unlike UNSO and Tryzub with their unmistakably right-wing ideology, the Ukrainske Kozatstvo follow the more state-centred ideology of the Ukrainian centre right. It is registered as a sports-patriotic public organization of Ukrainian patriots in support of the military traditions of Ukraine and pre-conscript military education.

The Ukrainske Kozatstvo alone claims 300,000 members, while there are a number of other All-Ukrainian Cossack associations also claiming a substantial membership, which is difficult to prove. The Cossack movement enjoys support in all regions of Ukraine and not only in the Western, traditionally more nationalist, parts. Cossacks claimed to have participated in various armed conflicts, including Transdnistria, Bosnia and Chechnya and are active in Crimea. Being ideologically varied, the Cossack movement in Ukraine includes some pro-Russian organizations or even units of the Russian Cossacks in Ukraine. Some of these pro-Russian Cossack organizations were banned by the SBU for alleged anti-Ukrainian orientation. The latest Hetman of Ukrainske Kozatstvo, Gen. Ivan Bilas, represents a pro-presidential, state-centred policy orientation, while some other smaller Cossack associations, such as Zvychayeve Kozatstvo tend to support the centre-right opposition.

The website of the Ukrainske Kozatstvo is

Left-wing revolutionary organizations

The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) claimed in 2000 to have uncovered a plot to overthrow the Ukrainian government by military force by the previously unknown Union of Soviet Officers in Ukraine, based in Chernihiv and Sumy. A group of such officers was arrested by the SBU in September 2000, for conspiracy to form military units, and planning to carry out terrorist explosions (e.g. at the Chernobyl nuclear plant) to destabilize the state and overthrow the government. The union's council, "Revvoyensovet", included 18 officers, but only their leader Yuriy Pertovskiy was sentenced to six years' imprisonment.

The SBU also announced that a bomb was planted in Kharkiv by another group of former KGB officers, protesting against corruption in the Ukrainian government and the security forces. The fate of those self-proclaimed "ex-KGB terrorists" remains unknown. An explosion near SBU headquarters in October 2002 was attributed to the previously unknown radical Komsomol organization (Communist Youth League), whose members were based in Odessa and Mykolayiv. The arrested group of Komsomol members confessed to planning terrorist activities; however, the Komsomol and the Communist party claimed that such confessions resulted from torture. National-democrats accused the SBU of "inventing" fictional terrorist organizations in order to distract the attention of the Ukrainian public from the "cassette scandal" involving the President.

The Muslim Factor

Ukraine has a growing Muslim population, due largely to resettlement of the Crimean Tatars returning from Central Asia to which they were deported by StalinPage 496  |  Top of Article after World War II. Mostly secular, the 250,000 Crimean Tatars formed a representative council (Majlis) that allied politically with the Ukrainian national democrats as opposed to the Russian majority of the Crimean Autonomous Republic. However, high rates of unemployment and poverty, missionary activities by foreign Islamic organizations, together with a profound sense of historical injustice have radicalized some parts of the Tatar movement. The Crimean SBU accused "local Muslim extremist groups" of providing support to the Chechen fighters, whose presence was established through the Chechen cultural centres in Ukraine. There are increasing reports of violent confrontations between Tatars in Crimea and the local Russian-speaking population. Active involvement of the Russian Cossacks in such confrontations might prove a source of increasing Crimean Tatar militancy in future. Members of the (Russian) Crimean Cossack Union have repeatedly described the Crimean Tatar Majlis as a "pro-fascist" organization and urged Crimean Cossacks to "fight the Majlis". The Crimean Cossack Union has also demanded suspension of the Ukrainian Cossacks' organization in Crimea saying their activities are "provocative" and accusing the Ukrainian Cossacks of contracting an alliance with the Crimean Tatar Majlis.

In March 2003, the Ukrainian Security Service also reported concern over some refugees arriving in Crimea from Arab countries who were allegedly involved in illegal arms sales, drug-trafficking and fraud. According to the SBU's directorate in Crimea, some foreigners seeking refugee status in Ukraine are suspected of being members of "terrorist Islamic bases and criminal clans".

Olexander Hyrb

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3466100193