News of Kuchma’s demise
A tired and worn quote even when paraphrased, the immortal words of Mark Twain dismissing rumors of his demise (Twain did die eventually) are a fitting expression of the rumors that until today were circulating about the Ukrainian president. Kuchma will return to his homeland from Germany by today. And he has done exactly that.
Whether this news is met with joy or disappointment, what’s interesting is that the President’s administration felt it necessary to issue a statement a day before his return a rather late date, considering that no news about the president’s health had been released during his stay abroad. It is odd, after all, that in this day and age of instantaneous communications not a single ‘live’ image of the president has been aired since his New Year’s message on January 1, and even that was a prerecorded tape reportedly made some weeks earlier.
The entire situation becomes all the more ambiguous when taking into account the reports that the president was actually recuperating from an emergency surgery that he underwent on November 17, 2003 (reportedly to remove an ‘obstruction’ in the small intestine). Photographs of the president taken more than one month after the surgery while still in Ukraine do not show the usual signs of fatigue or stress one expects to see after an operation. Could this have been a tribute to the skill of a good make up artist?
Assuming that Kuchma really was recovering from his November surgery, the presidential administration was oddly secretive before and during his stay in Germany. Setting aside the concerns about who was covering the costs of the expensive sojourn to Baden Baden a question that has also been dominating the Ukrainian press the administration’s reticence with respect to media coverage of the president’s convalescence was troubling. The red flags went up among the Ukrainian media and with good reason. One correspondent for Ukrayinska Pravda, an Internet news service that is unpopular with the present administration, was thwarted at every turn when he attempted to track down the whereabouts of the president. His search yielded an interesting comment from a German news editor that he learned of the Ukrainian president’s presence in Germany from the political opposition in Ukraine.
In contrast, in the interests of national security (not to mention stock market stability) American presidents tend to show themselves publicly as soon as possible after an operation or mishap. When not possibl Louboutin Outlet e, their press secretaries and close officials preclude rumormongering by staging frequent photo ops assuring the country’s citizens that all is well. Even Osama Bin Laden, who we are told is hiding in the hills of Afghanistan and living under the most desperate and primitive conditions, has managed to record the occasional video in his hiding places which are then routed via secret channels to Al Jazeera television news (thus comforting his ardent supporters who must be in a state of “high terror” over the fate of their leader). Surely then, a small camcorder outside President Kuchma’s room would not have been too intrusive, especially when the national interests are at stake.
True information about the emergency operat Louboutin Outlet ion in November was revealed on the day it happened.
True Kuchma made a public appearance shortly after the surgery.
True prior to President Kuchma’s departure for Germany, we were told where he planned to spend the winter holidays.
Why, then, all the secrecy surrounding his stay in Baden Baden?
To be sure, the president has signed several decrees over the last few weeks, as his website will attest, but these could easily have been prepared in advance for release on carefully selected dates. For that matter, they could have simply been rubber stamped by a staffer at anytime. Perhaps his spin doctors thought that between the Christmas hol Louboutin Outlet idays and all the attention that’s been heaped on the parliamentary crisis, no one would raise a question about the president’s whereabouts and his well being. If so, they were dead wrong. Three days later Brezhnev was dead. Confused communist officials waited until the next day to release the news, and only much later did the public learn from the memoirs of another leader that Brezhnev had been suffering from a prolonged illness. Postup embellished the piece with a photo of a wax figure of Leonid Kuchma, reminiscent of the wax like body of Lenin in the Kremlin, thus adding to the air of mystery.
A sensational article published late last night on a reporting that Kuchma had succumbed on an operating table in a Baden Baden hospital at approximately 10pm (Moscow time) Friday, January 16, 2004, caused a huge stir. It is not unusual for Russia based news resources to scoop the hot stories from Ukraine. Telephones started ringing all over Ukraine and even abroad transmitting whispered comments about the status of the president. Many who believe that the truth is found not in the press but by word of mouth accepted the morbid news as fact and then waited to see the confirmation in print. It did not come.
Instead, a mildly amused Kuchma made a personal appearance in Kyiv today as promised. According to the president’s website, he is not only alive and well, but fit as a sprightly 45 50 year old belying his true age of 66+ years.
Still, doubts remain that the country’s leader is healed. Rumor has it (!) that he is suffering from cancer and will not live out the year. Thus it is safe to say that suspicions and hearsay will continue to fester. Distrust of the leadership grounded in decades of experience with disinformation by the governing regime will keep growing. With the increase in distrust, expect a corresponding loss of hope. after 9 11) then Ukraine’s future may be hopeless.