Leather shoes are not the only thing that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has in connection with an ostrich. His recent attitude is similar to that of burying his head in the sand. The Ukrainian leader has yet to respond to the possible boycott of the Euro 2012 Football Championships, as a result of the alleged abuse of the jailed former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko.
In Poland, several people including President Bronisław Komorowski, Prime Minister Donald Tusk, representatives of the Foreign Ministry and even the stand-up comedian Krzysztof Materna, have all responded or remarked about the possibility of threats by European politicians cancelling their Euro 2012 appearances. Television and radio news begin with this issue and we constantly read about it in the Polish press.
Across Poland’s eastern border, on Thursday May 3rd (after the May Day holiday), the majority of Ukrainians went to work, even if some were not quite fit for it. This included the deputy prime minister for Euro 2012 Borys Kolesnikov, who responded to European politicians that watching Euro matches was not an onerous duty but a pleasure. In other words, if you want to come, please do, if you don’t, then don’t.
He was the first representative of the Ukrainian government to make a pronouncement on this issue. A day later, in the evening, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov finally joined the discussion. Of course not officially, not during a press conference, but on his profile on one of the social websites. In his opinion European politicians were too hasty with their boycott. According to Azarov, they should wait for the conclusions of the Ukrainian prosecutors, who announced on Friday that no one had beaten Yulia Tymoshenko and that she might have even “beaten herself”.
But President Yanukovych remains silent. He has concentrated all the power (and responsibility, which he seems to forget) in his hands and he should finally make a comment on the fact that many important figures have cancelled their visit to Ukraine. But the head of state is doing no such thing. The question is – why?
It seems that Ukrainian authorities are using their preferred strategy – silence. Investigative journalists Serhiy Leshchenko, Mustafa Nayem and Tetyana Chernovil may write whatever they want. The authorities will not comment on their articles and the prosecutors will not start investigations. But they do not intend to listen to the journalistic noise. And neither does Viktor Yanukovych. After all, who is the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, or some other German politicians for the Ukrainian president to worry about? “They don’t want to come? Let them stay home!” is what Yanukovych seems to be saying while taking a his long walk in the large grounds of his residence at Mezhyhiria Estate near Kyiv.
Yanukovych’s behaviour may be explained in yet another way. By maintaining silence, the authorities avoid giving the pretext to the main Ukrainian television and radio channels – most of which prefer to remain loyal – to cover these issues. There is no comment from the president or prime minister so there is no news. And in this way, no one will know that somewhere in Europe they want to boycott the Euro Football Championship because of Tymoshenko. And even if people will learn about it, they will know it is not important if the president has not even commented on it.
Yet again, Polish politicians are keener to defend their Ukrainian colleagues than the latter are willing to do it themselves.
Piotr Pogorzelski is a Polish Radio correspondent in Kyiv.
Translated by Tomasz Bieroń