(Be sure to read the updates at the bottom of this post. -Kovpak)

When it comes to politics and the moral high ground, all Ukraine has to do is basically hold onto the ball and run out the clock. Yes, there are economic problems, yes, there’s the threat to its territorial integrity, but the fact is that Russia’s ambitions have largely backfired and Russia is still assuming a rather large cost to prop up its pseudo-states in the Donbas. World sympathy is with Ukraine, almost uncritically so. Just hold onto the ball and run down the clock.


Earlier this year it was the ridiculous “decommunization” and “independence fighters” law that Poroshenko signed after being warned against doing so by a long list of Ukrainian and foreign history scholars. This time they’ve banned a long list of people from entering the country, with several BBC journalists among them. Two Spanish journalists on the list are actually still missing in Syria, possibly in the hands of ISIS. Nice move.

This kind of phenomenon makes you wonder who’s responsible for this. Who’s the mastermind? Who says: “Okay we’ve basically got the entire world sympathetic to us, so that means we can occasionally pass really idiotic laws and regulations every few months or so.”

Now I have looked at the list and a lot of the names on there are people you’d expect. You’ve got Russian state TV people, you’ve got Dmitriy Kiselyov himself. That’s the problem though- now those “journalists” are equated with the BBC and other legitimate media outlets who don’t invent stories about non-existent little girls getting killed by artillery or boys being crucified on billboards.

Once again, it’s that type of thing you’d expect Russia to do, and yet just as Russia hasn’t punished anyone for publishing critical material against the allied coalition in WWII (as per a law discussed in 2013), Russia also hasn’t gone after BBC or VOA- this in spite of the Kremlin’s belief that they are locked in an “information war” with the UK and US. So in other words, once again, Ukraine’s government, in what feels like an instant, manages to exceed Russian levels of hostility toward free speech and free press. Once again the law is passed with lightning speed and virtually no discussion, whereas reforms, anti-corruption measures, and even military reforms aimed at better supplying Ukraine’s soldiers at the front drag on.

For fuck’s sake, Ukrainian government- all you have to do is nothing. These fuck ups take deliberate effort. With the previous incident, all they had to do was tell Yuri Shukhevych and Volodymyr Viatrovych to shut up and sit down. With this all they had to do was maybe read the goddamned list a little more carefully. Maybe just stop…doing…things.

UPDATE: There’s been some talk that the Ukrainian government may be revising the list in response to the reaction. Let’s hope for the best.

UPDATE II: It looks like the BBC reporters will be removed from the list. It looks like this is going to turn out to be like that law the Rada tried to pass after Maidan, which was quickly repealed. The sentiment is still valid though- HOLD THE BALL AND RUN OUT THE CLOCK.


9 thoughts on “Choking

  1. gbd_crwx

    Yes, this certainly is an own-goal. Do you know if this is because they are being tone-deaf or are they trying to appease domestic opinion?

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      There’s speculation that maybe some interested party slipped it in due to buttrage about some BBC coverage. Others say it was about BBC reporters illegally crossing the border by entering DNR/LNR via Russia.

      1. Anonymous Expat

        It’s certainly an own goal as it stands, but I am gonna go against the grain and say that what’s appropriate actually depends on the reason for the bans.

        If the reason is due to the substance of reporting, then the bans were clearly inappropriate (even though the BBC is clearly a far bigger aid to Russia’s foreign propaganda than RT and its ilk).

        If the reason was illegal border crossing, to Donbass or Crimea, I would have prefer them to:
        a) Explain it clearly
        b) Point out that BBC, or other respectable journalists from friendly countries, are not above the law. Even those in horrible present circumstances they wish they could do something to help.
        c) Demand apologies from the BBC ombudsman.

        Coincidentally the security council did comment on reason collectively, but not on those of people in question in particular:

  2. Josh

    “Run out the clock” is a great metaphor. I seriously wonder sometimes why these guys don’t just hire a western PR firm to provide a reality check from time to time.

    Another problem – this nonsense overshadows any good news out of Ukraine. Example: Snapchat just purchased a Ukrainian startup yesterday for $150 million. To quote Joe Biden “that’s a big fucking deal”! A perfect opportunity to promote Ukraine’s IT capabilities and technical talent. Instead, barely any coverage outside the tech press. Why? Because everyone was covering the journalist ban.

    I really hope Ukraine achieves its European ambitions, but guys like Viatrovych and whoever had this brilliant ban idea are screwing it up.

  3. Callum Carmichael

    Ukrainian parliamentarians are spectacularly unprofessional.

    I happen to know that the Canadian delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly wanted to co-sponsor a resolution on Russian aggression (etc.) with the Ukrainian delegation back in July, and it took them almost two weeks to get in touch with the Ukrainians. None of the contact info for the parliamentarian in question was current, and nobody was available to pass on the message.

    I really wonder if any Rada members even bother reading any piece of legislation that’s introduced as anti-Russian or pro-Ukrainian unity.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      It can be a mess there sometimes. For example, to get my ATO card I had to go through the SBU press office and then I had to do this whole process again for my last trip, to get cards for my colleagues. It was a pain in the ass both times, because you have to deal with the SBU and MoD, but you always need to deal with SBU first and they take forever to answer anything, even when it’s written in Ukrainian(or more accurately for me, Surzhyk). Not to mention the fact that until the last time, the SBU press people were using a gmail address.

  4. gbd_crwx

    btw, has you “running down the clock”-analogy anything to do with the nfl season starting again? (How much did you get?)


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