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«Ruban's case» in Ukraine: political aspects and consequences

Volodymyr Ruban. Photo: svoboda.org

One of the most covered issues in the Ukrainian media is detention of Volodymyr Ruban, the head of the Officers' Corps center for prisoner exchange. Ruban who transported weapons through the demarcation line in Donbass and had been engaged in exchange of captives since the beginning of the conflict, was arrested for 60 days with no right to bail. Petro Poroshenko charged the chief of National Security Service to take «Ruban's case» under personal control and asserted that the detained head of the Officers' Corps planned large-scale terrorist attacks to destabilize the situation in the country. Some other pro-governmental officials have made assumptions that Ruban and his supporters prepared a state coup.

Evidently, one should be judgmental about such statements considering Ukraine Security Service’s statements on prevention of 15 terror attacks during EURO-2016 in France and prevention of coup d'état in Montenegro in late 2016 — early 2017. Besides, in «Ruban's case» there are a series of blind spots that cast doubt on the official theory of the prosecution.

In particular, why did Ruban cross official checkpoint when leaving territories of Donbass not controlled by Kiev, if he was banned from those territories yet one year ago? Why should his deliver weapons from the territories not controlled by Kiev, while there are so much unregistered weapons in the territory of Ukraine? In an interview, Vladimir Zamana, chief of Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff under Viktor Yanukovych, told how security services «combat» illegal arms traffic: «Ukraine's Security Service, the chief of which also reports to the president, nearly every day says allegedly they found illegal arms depots, detained someone when taking a bribe. Security officers hide weapons and then suddenly find them in a few days in front of TV cameras. They should stop hyping.»

Ruban, in turn, says he had no idea there were weapons in his car. He says he delivered furniture. In fact, Ruban could just occur in the wrong place, in the wrong time and fall victim to circumstances.

There are some noteworthy political aspects of «Ruban's case.» First and foremost, Ruban has close ties with many Ukrainian politicians, including MP Nadezhda Savchenko, Dnepr (Dnepropetrovsk — EADaily's note) Mayor Boris Filatov, one of Ukrop Political Party leaders Gennady Korban. Consequently, «Ruban's case» may become an instrument of pressure on the above persons.

In particular, they can use Savchenko to press Yulia Tymoshenko, the key rival of incumbent president in the upcoming presidential race. Savchenko was in Russian prison when she was elected to the parliament in Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna Party list. Besides, Savchenko is an outspoken critic of Kiev government and plans to run for president.

Having ties with tycoon Ihor Kolomoisky, Filatov and Korban, in turn, may be used to press Kolomoisky, whose relations with the authorities are not good. Besides, ahead of elections, the authorities need loyalty of local elites: it is no secret that approval ratings of such mayors of Boris Filatov (Dnepr), Hennadiy Kernes (Kharkov), and Hennadiy Trukhanov (Odessa) in their regions is much higher than those of all-Ukrainian parties and key political figures.

Yet, pro-governmental journalists and experts tried to find ties between Ruban and Viktor Medvedchuk, the head of Ukrainian Choice organization and special representative of Ukraine for humanitarian issues in the Tripartite Minsk Contact Group. A thorough analysis will show that Ruban and Medvedchuk had serious discrepancies. Ruban used to organize individual exchanges of captives and has never claimed more. Meantime, Medvedchuk had a strategic plan to implement Point 6 through exchange of captives and then «relaunch» implementation of «Minsk-2.» Eventually, as one can see, Medvedchuk is now responsible for large-scale exchanges of captives between Kiev and DPR/LPR. As for Ruban, no longer deals with exchanges of captives and illegally detained persons since 2015.

Yet in 2015, Ukrainian Choice published a material yet in 2015 saying that Ruban is an impostor who pretends to be a colonel general. As for Korban, he openly said in April 2015, «Ruban has no ties with Medvedchuk, he is our man.» Probably, Kiev elites are not happy with Medvedchuk’s recent successes in exchange of captives.

Another political aspect in «Ruban's case» is that Ukraine’s ruling class faced more and more difficulties in managing the society with quasi-democratic instruments amid shrinking «feeding trough.» That is why, they started managing the public by means of frightening. Recall the searches at homes of opposition journalists and public figures «who help aggressor-country hold anti-Ukrainian campaigns» after Ruban’s detention. «Ruban's case» may become an ideal instrument for «sterilizing» media and taking it under full control amid de-facto launched election campaign.

Yet, the campaign may not happen, as the top leadership has at least theoretical opportunity to postpone elections by means of martial law or state of emergency. In fact, the authorities have no other goals but to retain power — defeat in upcoming elections will be rather costly for them.

As for Ruban, he will hardly serve a full sentence, even if the court brings in the verdict of guilty. He is very likely to be put on the list of captives and exchanged with Ukrainian fighters in the territory of Donbass not controlled by Kiev — if the verdict is brought before the upcoming elections. If the government is changed after elections, Ruban has a good chance to be justified.

Denis Gayevsky, Kiev

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25.04.2018

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