As you know, Augius, Elis ruler, had a vast amount of cattle, the stalls of which were not cleaned for 30 years. Since Elis men of mould were no longer able to cope with such an incredible amount of mud and manure, the help of hero Heracles was needed — relieve of Elida from garbage and sewage became one of his heroic things.
The young Ukrainian state is exactly 30 years old and has its own “Augean stables” — a large and influential “fifth column” — separate organizations and numerous individuals, directly or indirectly controlled by Russia, pursuing to undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty by destroying state institutions, destabilization of the internal situation and formation of a negative image of Ukraine on the international arena. Most of the representatives of the Russian “fifth column” try to stay within the legal framework, using some gaps in the legislation of Ukraine or provisions that provide for double interpretation to cover. However, individuals, no matter how incomprehensible, conduct subversive activities quite overtly, using their connections, which, like the tentacles of a monster, reach various business structures, law enforcement agencies, ministries, parliament, government agencies and judges.
Well then, the collective Ukrainian Heracles — represented by the President Volodymyr Zelensky, members of the National Security and Defense Council, intelligence officers, investigative journalists and civil society — set a goal: to clear the Augean stables over the Dnieper. Sure enough, this is not the first time such an ambitious task has been proclaimed in Ukraine, however, so far any attempts to this end have invariably failed.
The situation is a result of the fact that following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, political chaos reigned within all its former territories. At the same time, the residents of 15 ex-Soviet republics, disoriented after 70 years of living under totalitarianism, were in no way ready for the new reality. However in Moscow, the former Communist Party and KGB leaders surprisingly easily joined the new Russian leadership feeling themselves great in the chaos. If the national governments of the young states did not know how to get out of the swamp on solid ground, the Russian politicians in the Kremlin did everything in this murky waters to keep the former republics (i.e., internal colonies) out of their sphere of influence.
The joyful people of most countries within the framework of Euro-Atlantic civilization have an opportunity to get used in dribs and drabs to party competition and parliamentary debates for several centuries. On the other hand, no such political culture that flourished in the West was possible within the territory of the Russian Empire, which was an absolutist monarchy by its state structure, and its modern reincarnation in the form of the USSR.
Thus, in most Western world states, a minority participates in active political life, has a clearly structured value system, keeps a close eye on the news, reads party programs, is aware of the differences between ideological lines and joins campaigns of agitation. The majority, to one degree or another, is usually indifferent to all sorts of conflicts in domestic political life. However, the crucial thing in this case is that no citizen in the West would even think of questioning the legitimacy of their state.
Perhaps this ratio of active minority to passive majority is not very presentable compared to the idealized polis of ancient Athens, where all citizens came to the agora and expressed their own opinion regarding one matter or another. However, generally this situation is fully normal, as it does not hinder the development of Western countries.
During their term of office, government officials and parliamentarians usually rely on the reliable parties’ electorate, and during election campaigns they compete with other political forces for the sympathy of other voters. It is important to emphasize once again that no matter what battles unfold between political opponents within any of the Western states, no one ever questions the very existence of their state. If the state has any overtly aggressive or covertly insidious enemies, they originate from outside.
Instead, after the end of the Cold War, a number of revived Eastern European and Baltic states faced a unique but extremely sorrowful situation when a certain part of the population of these newly created states immediately refused to recognize them. These segments of the population argued that the declaration of independence of the USSR republics was inexpedient, fiercely denied the historical justice of the formation of new states and stated the need for an immediate return to the bosom of yesterday’s metropolis, at least as an autonomous entity.
In 1991, prominent and influential groups of ethnic Russians, pro-Russian individuals deprived of their own national identity by the Soviet government, and members of the so-called Soviet people, that is, ardent admirers of the USSR and unflinching opponents of the West in general and the North Atlantic Alliance, in particular, have quickly mobilized along the borders of the Russian Federation. Moreover, in fact, the concept of the “Soviet people” was a rather successful hybrid form of Russian nationalism, as only ethnic Russians could rule the Soviet people, all power was concentrated in Moscow, and the only (international) language of communication of the Soviet people was Russian.
In this context, the most dramatic situation has developed in Latvia, where 48% of the country’s population — definitely a fantastic figure preferred not to play the master in their own country, but to become a part of the Russian Federation or at least to join the Commonwealth of Independent States (a dead on arrival international organisation, as it appeared) at the first moment of restoring state independence. As noted, this figure consists of two components: 34% of ethnic Russians and 14% of pro-Russian residents and people with Soviet identities (while 52% of the population were ethnic Latvians).
However, generally, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania were lucky, given the fact that the United States has never officially recognized the occupation of the three Baltic states by the Soviet Union in 1940. For this reason and due to their small size, these three countries relatively quickly (14 years after the declaration of independence from the USSR) became full members of NATO and the EU in 2004. Riga, Tallinn and, to a less degree, Vilnius still keep hard interaction on the domestic political front with a part of their own population that does not share patriotic views. However, as members of NATO and EU common security and defense policy, it is immeasurably easier for Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania to counter the anti-state aspirations of their (pro-)Russian minorities.
Instead, other previous colonies of Moscow — the countries of Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus (in particular, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia) — were not as lucky as the Baltic countries. These countries inherited from the USSR a part of the population given to the Kremlin. At the same time, neither NATO nor the EU were in a hurry to extend their collective defense systems (in this case, from Russia) to these regions. As a result, in 2008 Russia occupied 20% of Georgia’s territory, and in 2014 it annexed Crimea and started a war in eastern Ukraine. Back then, even the Baltic states, being under the NATO umbrella, were frightened and began to assure the West that they would be Russia’s next targets after Ukraine. However, the Ukrainians managed to withhold the Russian aggression on their territory for a long time — both the hybrid war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine and the “hot conflict” in Donbass have been going on for seven years.
In 1991, Ukraine inherited about 35% of the hostile population from the USSR: about 22% were ethnic Russians and 13% were pro-Russian residents and people with Soviet identity. For these people, neither democracy nor state independence has any value, however, they depended on a high level of their own comfort, even if access to it would be provided by an authoritarian regime in neighboring Russia. For 30 years now this fifth column, in close cooperation with its advisors and curators from Russia, has been carrying out subversive activities within Ukraine and serving as a mouthpiece for Kremlin propaganda.
Is there any chance that this time the collective Ukrainian Heracles will still be able to get rid of those impurities that make it impossible for Ukraine to develop normally? At least in 2014, the situation changed dramatically, as the “fifth column” inside Ukraine ceased to be a covert element, and its activities became an important component of Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine. Thus, the matter of cleaning the Augean stables over the Dnieper turned into a question of survival of the Ukrainian state!
In this context, the Ukrainian authorities have taken a number of decisive steps. First of all, three TV channels — “NewsOne”, “ZIK” and “112 Ukraine”, which focused on news and information and news and talk format, were shut down. Against the background of military conflict continuing for 7th year, all these TV channels conducted powerful propaganda work in favor of the enemy (that is, Russia) and constituted a large-scale Kremlin media resource within Ukraine.
De jure, they belong to Taras Kozak, a member of parliament from the pro-Russian Opposition Platform — For Life party. This is a well-known person to the Ukrainian law enforcement agencies — in good time he was accused of attempted murder of his business competitor, stealing of budget funds paid at customs, creation of large-scale smuggling flows, tax evasion, buying land which belonged to the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine for a song using shadow schemes, and participation in various financial frauds and corruption schemes.
In turn, de facto, the ultimate beneficiary of this media holding is Viktor Medvedchuk — a man on friendly terms with Vladimir Putin. It is remarkable that back in 2014, the United States imposed sanctions against V. Medvedchuk, his business and the “Ukrainian Choice” NGO headed by him because he posed a threat to peace, security, stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, as well as for subversive activities against democratic institutions in Ukraine. Thus, Kyiv was, in fact, seven years late in imposing similar sanctions. Apparently, all these years the Ukrainian authorities were afraid of initiating a criminal case against the pro-Russian oligarch because of his widely advertised close relations with the President of the Russian Federation. At the same time, law enforcement agencies have always been well aware of many facts of his illegal activities.
Even during the Russian war against Ukraine, V. Medvedchuk managed to appropriate the Samara-Western Direction oil product pipeline and set up (in fact, rescue) three networks of gas stations in Ukraine, which belonged to the Russian state corporation Rosneft. Owning the Lysychansk Oil Refinery and a number of legal and fictitious companies, V.Medvedchuk did his best to create a monopoly dependence of Ukraine on Russian diesel fuel supplies. Also, the companies controlled by him smuggled light oil products and natural gas from Russia to Ukraine. In addition, both V. Medvedchuk and his trustee — T.Kozak, keeps running business in Russia and in the occupied Crimea after 2014, paying taxes to the budget of the aggressor state.
However, the most important thing is that V. Medvedchuk and his party fellows (V. Rabinovych, Yu. Boyko, N. Shufrych, S. Lyovochkin, N. Korolevskaya) direct part of their own profits and regular generous financial injections from the Russian Federation to information campaigns with the purpose of spreading the Kremlin’s interpretation of the international agenda, imposition of Kremlin’s narrative of Russian-Ukrainian relations, distortion of the image of Ukraine and its citizens, manipulating the sentiments and political preferences of Ukrainians, and supporting Ukrainophobic parties, organizations, and movements.
If truth be hold, it should be noted that the leader of the Russian Federation and his close friend are adherents to various courses within the Ukrainophobia policy. Thus, Vladimir Putin fiercely refuses to acknowledge the fact that Ukrainians (and Belarusians) are a separate nation, different from Russians. Instead, V. Medvedchuk still recognizes the separateness of Ukrainians, though propagates the view that Ukraine and its inhabitants came into being only to join Russia as soon as possible (separation of Ukrainians from Russians is self-defeating for the first).
Sure enough, the Opposition Platform — For Life party and virtually all Russian media outlets immediately claim that by shutting down three TV channels Kyiv oppresses ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the issue of language and violated the freedom of speech principle. However, the ambassadors of the G7 member states confirmed the propaganda (rather than journalistic) nature of these channels and supported this step by Kyiv.
Keeping up, the Ukrainian authorities further cleaned the Augean stables — sanctions against the commercial structures of V. Medvedchuk and his business partners were imposed, raised the suspicion of treason against Ukrainian citizen Anatoliy Shariy, salaried Kremlin propagandist and well-known Ukrainophobe, initiated searches in the offices of the pro-Russian Opposition Platform — For Life party and Shariy Party.
It is possible that the collective Ukrainian Heracles may not cope with his task, therefore, the help of the collective West would be required. No doubt, the Russian authorities and Putin personally will take revenge upon Kyiv for trying to get rid of the Kremlin-controlled “fifth column” within the Ukrainian state. In any case, Russia’s war against Ukraine continues, therefore, even following partial cleanup of their Augean stables, the Ukrainian people will be able to resist more effectively the neo-imperialist political strategy of the neighboring state.