Ukraine’s #TrashBucketChallenge

Ukrainians Throw Their Politicians In Trash Bins. For Real.

Ukrainian activists and radicals have devised a challenge of their own, throwing politicians in dumpsters to protest Ukraine’s rampant corruption.

by Devin Ackles, Chris Dunnett, Hromadske International

What you need to know:

✓ The new government has not come through with many of the reforms it promised to the revolutionaries

✓ The current parliament is widely discredited for its past support of disgraced ex-president Viktor Yanukovych and corruption

✓ 8 individuals have fallen victim to the so-called “trash bucket challenge” throughout the country

✓ The targets are government officials who activists believe have committed corrupt acts or have abused their office;

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Why politicians are being attacked?

As activists gathered in front of the Ukrainian parliament on 15 September to push lawmakers to pass a crucial reform, the crowd seized a former Party of Regions deputy, Vitaliy Zhuravskiy, and forced him into a trash bin. They would proceed to hold him there for several minutes, much to the approval of many in the crowd.

A mob attacks an ex-Yanukovych ally and MP in Kyiv on 9/16/2014

This was no ordinary gathering of activists in front of the Verkhovna Rada. These were supporters of a draft law entitled ‘Cleaning Up the Government”, more commonly known as the ‘lustration law’, one of the key demands of Maidan. The law, which was voted down three times prior, was on its last legs and activists had shown up to make sure no one left parliament until it had passed (which it was, in the end).

The draft law has been one of the centerpieces of the EuroMaidan revolution.

Acts of so-called ‘people’s lustration’, also known as the ‘trash bucket challenge’, have become almost a weekly event since mid-September

Mr. Zhuravskiy, ironically, was one of the sponsors of the “lustration” draft law, but this did not save him from a handful of people from a charged up mob humiliating him on national television. It seems that it was the deputy’s affiliation, as a former Party of Regions member, that was the primary accusation lobbed against him and the reason for his being so roughly handled.

https://twitter.com/Hromadske/status/511930034336985089

Acts of so-called ‘people’s lustration’, also known as the ‘trash bucket challenge’, have become almost a weekly event since mid-September when the lustration law was passed by parliament, but no event was more shocking than what happened to ex-president Yanukovych’s former ally, deputy Nestor Shufrich in Odesa on 20 September.

Kirit Radia, ABC News Moscow correspondent

Some politicians, however, are themselves participating in the so-called ‘people’s lustration’. Oleh Lyashko, whose Radical Party is set to make a strong showing in October parliamentary elections, brought his uber-populist brand of politics to Kirovohard recently.

#TrashBucketChallenge in Kirovohrad. Oleh Lyashko rules the mob that humiliates, throws Kirovohrad top-official in a dumpster

Since then, a number of Ukrainian politicians and bureaucrats have fallen victim to the practice, most of whom associated with Yanukovych’s Party of Regions or the Communist Party:

“Ukrainian activists are increasingly taking the matter of punishing officials from the old regime into their own hands.
…It signals a growing frustration in Ukraine with what’s widely seen as enduring corruption, abuse of power, and foot-dragging on political reforms by the new authorities.”
#TrashBucketChallenge mob attack in Rivne, Western Ukraine. Deputy speaker of local parliament is the victim.

What’s Lustration?

The concept of lustration has been one of the most crucial reforms undertaken by former communist nations such as Poland and the Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia) in order to begin the transition to a democratic, transparent government.

Lustration for Ukraine, which up until this year had no serious public support, differs from its predecessors in that it seeks not to simply eliminate ex-communist era officials. Its goals are considerably broader. As Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk has said, the law will subject a million people to background checks to determine whether or not they are fit to work for the state. For Ukraine, this would mean judging whether or not government officials had abused their station or collaborated with individuals who had in the past.

Where it all began: Ukrainian frustration with politicians swelled in the summer after parliament rejected several attempts to pass a bill that would permanently remove from office certain officials connected to past wrong-doings. In this video, activists protest former Yanukovych supporters outside the Rada in August.

Mob Thuggery or People’s Justice?

Many outside Ukraine have viewed these events as backsliding on democratic values for a nation striving to become a true Western-style democracy.

Pete Leonard, AP’s correspondent in Ukraine
Many outside Ukraine have viewed these events as backsliding on democratic values for a nation striving to become a true Western-style democracy.

Foreign media have called these and other similar events as “brutal”, and Ukrainian officials on both side of the fence have decried the actions. Commenting on the attack in Odessa, the Minister of Internal Affairs in a Facebook post stated, “Gentlemen radicals, don’t behave like marginalized imbeciles” saying that their actions would lead the West to turn away from Ukraine if they continued to behave this way.

“A couple more broken faces…and Europe will turn away from our victorious revolution. I fear America will as well.”

Others point to the central role of nationalist and far-right groups in Ukraine’s brand of vigilante justice. Right Sector claimed responsibility for Nestor Shufrych’s humiliation in Odessa, and videos of other attacks show activists in Right Sector armbands accosting politicians. Nationalist activists said that they would continue the vigilantism until they see the results of lustration.

Right Sector activists have also been observed administering other forms of extrajudicial justice, making arbitrary arrests and other actions usually entrusted to trained police forces.

Right Sector activists arrest suspected drug dealers and destroy narcotics in the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa. Although Right Sector nominally operates as a sanctioned police force in combat areas of eastern Ukraine, the groups tactics are increasingly drawing fire as extrajudicial.
There is understandable anger directed towards those who are perceived as responsible for Ukraine’s troubles.

Ukraine is experiencing an extraordinary amount of external and internal political pressure. Russian intervention in the Donbas and military support for rebel forces has contributed to the death of roughly 3000 Ukrainians. Crimea was annexed. Some parts of 2 large regions of Donetsk and Luhansk are more under the control of Moscow than Kyiv. The Ukrainian economy shrunk by an alarming 7 percent this year. There is understandable anger directed towards those who are perceived as responsible for Ukraine’s troubles. Ukrainians are becoming disillusioned, as Todd Wood, formerly director, emerging market debt capital markets at Cantor Fitzgerald in New York, puts it in the Moscow Times:

“Despite winning closer relations with the EU, many Ukrainians are losing faith in the Maidan revolution as war rages in eastern Ukraine. Their future is dependent on the duration and outcome of a civil war, that, no matter its conclusion, has already significantly damaged the country’s economy.
…Not long ago I spent some time in Kyiv and other areas of Ukraine, talking to citizens about their experiences. “We all had such high expectations. Now we now realize, whatever happens, it is going to take a long time to for things to get better for us, even if we partner with the European Union,” one young man complained.”

There is also growing public’s dissatisfaction with the speed of crucial reforms, particularly the lustration reform.

Indeed, it is hard to call the passing of the lustration law a victory at all at this point. In fact, it appears that the law may well become just another piece of well-intentioned legislation doomed to gallows of the Ukrainian bureaucratic machine. All signs appear to be pointing to the law being, at best, selectively applied or, at worst, stalled up for the foreseeable future.

Ian Bateson, Kyiv Post’s correspondent

With the draft law sitting on his desk for nearly two weeks, Poroshenko finally stated on 2 October that he would sign the lustration law, but he had his reservations, adding that it might need to be amended. Activist Egor Sobolev, the main author and driving force behind the law, had stated earlier that the only way the law would be passed was if it made an exception for the president. It also appears that deputies in parliament brokered a deal and will also be able to skirt a background check. While this makes sense for Poroshenko, who served as the Ministry of Economy under Yanukovych, it creates an air of mistrust among voters.

https://twitter.com/Hromadske/status/517084729363808256

Other disturbing signals have been slowly coming out that the law, even if signed by Poroshenko, will be subject to challenges to the point of making sure it is never actually enforced. Poroshenko’s team is not inspiring much confidence that the law will live up to the demands of the Ukrainian public. Recently General Prosecutor, Vitaliy Yarema, said that the law was not consistent with the Constitution and violated international law, giving reason for further concern.

Also responsible are the country’s current leaders, who have preferred to slide back into the norm of political infighting and backroom deals than heed Ukrainians’ demand for change.

The existence, and popularity, of the “Trash-Bucket Challenge” should alert Ukraine’s policy-makers to the need to both ensure equal protection under the law, and press forward with promised reforms. Many of the targets of the “Trash-Bucket Challenge” are undoubtedly past enablers of Ukraine’s venal political culture. But also responsible are the country’s current leaders, who have preferred to slide back into the norm of political infighting and backroom deals than heed Ukrainians’ demand for change. Moving forward will require painful reforms, and also assurance from the Ukrainian authorities that political violence is intolerable no matter the perpetrator and the victim.

Unfortunately, more ‘trash bucket challenges’ are likely to be issued in the weeks leading up to the parliamentary elections slated to take place on 26 October. With the one year anniversary of EuroMaidan on the horizon, if the new parliament is unable to carry out meaningful systemic reforms immediately, there may yet be a third Maidan – something which no one appears to be eager for at the moment.

https://twitter.com/MaximEristavi/status/515217219048189953

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