The Slow-Motion Dismemberment of Ukraine Continues

Source: Joshua Keating in Slate Magazine, October 30

Pro-Western parties swept Ukraine’s parliamentary elections on Sunday, which isn’t a great surprise given that not that many people in the more pro-Russian eastern part of the country voted. Turnout was low in areas of Eastern Ukraine that are under Kiev’s control and didn’t happen at all in the self-declared independent republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Those places are holding their own elections this Sunday, with Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov saying on Tuesday, “We will of course recognize the results.” The announcement was condemned by the government in Kiev, as well as the EU and UN, who accused Moscow of undermining the terms of a peace deal it supported in September.

This is a bit of a change of tack for the Russian government, which has previously stopped short of recognizing the “republics” as independent. For instance, after separatists in Luhansk and Donetsk held secession referendums in May, the foreign ministry didn’t respond to requests for Russia to absorb the regions as they had with Crimea earlier this year.

The Putin government’s on-again, off-again relationship with the separatists makes some sense if the end goal is not actually to create new states in Eastern Ukraine or to absorb new territory into Russia, but to keep the pro-Western government in Kiev permanently destabilized and unable to control large portions of its territory.

Under the Minsk Protocol, the agreement hammered out by representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the separatists, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe last month, Kiev agreed to cede power to the regions so long as they stayed part of Ukraine. Separate unrecognized parliamentary elections certainly seem to undermine that goal, as does continued shelling.

With voters in Eastern Ukraine either cut out of the process entirely or ambivalent about it, the polls did indeed give “strong and irreversible backing to Ukraine’s path to Europe,” as President Petro Poroshenko put it. But the country’s de facto dismemberment also seems to be accelerating.

Where Are the Rewards for Luring the Young?

For years, CBC Radio has performed acrobatics to attract young audiences. It has paid the price of antagonizing its “base” – mature Canadians. The Corporation has banished classical music from Radio Two (fortunately, with important exceptions) and presented, instead, pop music, much of which can be heard on private stations, though less so Canadian bands.

The rewards for these efforts were respectable ratings and the creation of a celebrity, Jian Ghomeshi, an excellent interviewer who has regiments of fans, including some adventurous young women who were prepared to do anything for him. Who would have thought that CBC Radio was still able to generate such a phenomenon the old-fashioned way? Well, it has.

But look what happened. CBC management found itself in a position where it had to fire him, no doubt most reluctantly and no doubt after consulting lawyers. We have not yet heard the CBC’s position, but we may assume that it has done so because in its judgement the celebrity’s sexual behaviour was on the wrong side of the line that separates the acceptable from the unacceptable, and perhaps because some women were hurt. If management was to blame for this latest CBC crisis, its offence was that it tolerated this behaviour too long. The society in which we live is permissive but, finally, somebody said, for reasons we don’t know yet, enough is enough.

In 1966, CBC President Alphonse Ouimet took steps to change the producers and hosts of the immensely popular public affairs show This Hour Has Seven Days. It was not his intention to terminate the program but that is, in fact, what he did. He did so because he could no longer tolerate the producers’ open insubordination and because the program infringed CBC journalistic policies.

It is not known whether Hubert Lacroix, the current president, played a role in the current crisis. Let us assume he did. In that case he, too, acted to maintain standards.

In the eyes of the public, Alphonse Ouimet was the villain. Will the young, whom Hubert Lacroix and his predecessor have tried so hard to win over, give him credit for acting as a defender of decency in human behaviour?