Two years ago, Victoria Nuland’s new puppet state, Ukraine, celebrated its freedom from the clutches of its recently deposed president Yanukovich, a coup which U.S. foreign policy experts said would end crony capitalism, government corruption and unleash democracy and prosperity. Two years later, the county is caught in a historic depression, its financial system only exists thanks to the generosity of the IMF, the government is on the verge of daily collapse, radical nationalists run rampant while corruption has never been greater.
Which is perhaps why consummating its transition into a complete banana republic, on Tuesday Ukraine banned government officials from publicly criticizing the work of state institutions and their colleagues, after what Reuters reported was “damaging disclosures last month that highlighted slow progress in fighting corruption.”
What it means is that criticism of any government entity in which mass corruption takes place by a fellow public worker is now a crime.
The move immediately drew criticism from some civil servants who saw it as a blow to freedom of speech at odds with the embattled government’s Western-backed reform drive.
For those who say this can’t be real, we assure you: it is all too real.
The rule on “loyalty” is one of several outlined in a new ethics code that civil servants must follow or face disciplinary action, according to a decree posted on the government website.
“The government has decided to introduce standards of ethical conduct for civil servants to restore public faith in the work of the state bodies and officials,” the decree said.
And it is doing so by criminalizing free speech.
According to Ukraine’s new code, government employees should “avoid any public criticisms of the work of state institutions and their officials,” alongside rules on the need for transparency and integrity.
Alas, the new “code of ethics” is not fooling anyone: the shock resignations in February of Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius and a top prosecutor shone a spotlight on the failure of the Kiev leadership to follow through on promises to eliminate the influence of vested interests on policy-making.
In a Facebook post about the new ethics code, Olena Minitch, a department head in the economy ministry, said the new rules appeared to have been “created hastily and adopted quickly” in the wake of Abromavicius’s allegations about corrupt state practices.
“The little document … is in the best traditions of the Communist period, more precisely in the traditions of Stalin and Beria,” Minitch said, referring to repressive Soviet leader Josef Stalin and his security chief, Lavrenty Beria.
She is right.
Others promptly poked fun at the state’s call for officials to toe the party line. “I’m a loyal public servant. I’m thrilled with the work of state bodies (and) their officials,” Ukraine’s Ambassador-at-Large Dmytro Kuleba tweeted, linking to an article about the ban.
It was unclear if sarcasm is also a crime in Ukraine: if so, Mr Kuleba is likely in prison at this moment.
The new “ethical code” may not last long: the future of the government itself is in doubt unless Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk can shore up the coalition and avoid snap elections, having barely survived a no-confidence motion in parliament in February.
In a surprising outcome, Yatseniuk’s approval ratings have plummeted to less than 1 percent since he came to office in 2014 after protests ousted the previous pro-Russian government, making him even less popular than the deposed president.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s economy has tanked and a conflict with separatist rebels has no end in sight, or as the US would call it, another foreign policy success.
Finally, for Ukrainian readers curious what to expect courtesy of US meddling in your affairs, look no further than Syria.