Revered Ukrainian News Commentator and Anchor, Vitaly Portnikov, in New Exclusive Interview With Democracy4us.org

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In a no-holds-barred interview, one of the last of Ukraine’s independent news’ analysts, in expectation his own demise by the regime of President Viktor Yanukovych, anticipates the worst.

Vitaly Portnikov with Prime Minister of Poland Marek Belka

Vitaly Portnikov with Prime Minister of Poland, Marek Belka

Even weather forecasts have banned in Kiev, after one meteorologist began discussing politics.

Vitaly Portinkov, in a new exclusive interview, told Democracy4us.org, that he sees little hope for democracy in general, and press freedom specifically, in the immediate future of Ukraine. Portnikov, who is launching a new program, titled ‘Evidence’, this month, on Ukraine’s Channel 5, is overtly skeptical about the future of Ukraine. He expresses his disdain in regards to all the country’s post-Soviet leaders, comparing them to Hitler and Mussolini. He does not currently see any way out for Ukraine, except for the extremely active intervention of the West, which he also sees little reason to believe in. He states that the Ukrainian people at large do not understand what is going on, in a larger context, and are unlikely to stand in united protest, especially considering the tremendous let down they still feel from the collapse of the Orange Revolution, which they had hoped would finally assure democratic freedoms.

Portnikov said that he feels his negativity is warranted based upon the reality of the situation at hand. “Even weather forecasts have banned in Kiev, after one meteorologist began discussing politics. They simply do not forecast the weather anymore.” When asked about why certain journalists, specifically, have actually been tagged, followed and killed, like Vasyl Klymentyev, editor of the publication ‘Novii Stil’, translated as ‘New Style’, while others, including himself and a few select others, are still allowed to operate, he points out that Klimentyev was an investigative journalist, while he himself is simply a commentator. “The only reason why they have still not gotten to me is because I try hard to simply relate the news, without seeking to find hidden truths. I just repeat what is told to me.” Still, though, Portnikov remains the last TV personality of any stature who shows any proclivity towards saying anything other than what is mandated by the government.

When asked about then Russian President Vladimir Putin’s crack-down on the press, Portnikov says that he does not hold Putin exclusively to blame: “It was Boris Yeltsin, and not Putin, who paved the way for the demise of the Russian free press. Putin simply made the final moves necessary, in a more operative fashion.” Likewise, although he feels as though former President Viktor Yuschenko is the most appalling of all Ukraine’s post-Soviet leaders, as he alone had the potential power to restore democratic freedoms and instead chose to become a puppet of local oligarchs, he is fairly disgusted by all post-Soviet Ukrainian leaders. Although he does not blame Tymoshenko for being corrupt, or for her lack of desire to fight corruption, he feels as though she has taken too much of a hard-line stance, which has come across as non-compromising and haughty to many Ukrainians. “While Yanukovych may have the mind of Hitler, Tymoshenko has spoken in the voice of Mussolini.” Even Portnikov, however, seemed to feel as if he could accept Tymoshenko, should she be able to speak in a calmer manner, which the Ukrainian populous at large could understand. In his opinion, as much as her intentions may be pure, her attitude and demeanor have obscured this purity to a significant extent.

Portnikov feels as if it is only as matter of time before he himself is pushed off the air, or worse. “So what?" he says. “I’m not going anywhere. Let them do what they want to do. I only relate the news as I am told it.” Of course, the ‘last anchor’ may be significantly underestimating his significance, but he seems to want it this way. “I am quite sure that my country, for at least the next 25 years, will remain a corrupt dictatorship,” he comments, “where there is no freedom of the press at all. Serious Western intervention could help, but I am quite sure it will not happen.”

Portnikov works for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, As a free-lance journalist he has been publishing articles in Russian Russkij Telegraf, Kommersant, Vedomosti Vremya MN, Vremya Novostej, Moskovskiye Novosti, Obshaja gazeta, Ukrainian Den', Korrespondent, Profil, Delovaja Nedelja, Dzerkalo Tyzhnia Kontrakty, Novynar, Glavred, Latvian Biznes & Baltia, Telegraf, Estonian Estonia, Postimees, Polish Polityka, Gazeta Wyborcza, Polska, Byelorussian Belgazeta. In 2007, he was the editor-in-chief of the Media-Dom holding & the Ukrainian newspaper Gazeta24. Since 2008, he has been the author of the weekly TV-show "Kyivski pohliad". He is the columnist of Israel's most-popular Russian-language newspaper Vesti and Moscow-based Evreiskie novosti. In May 2010 Portnikov was appointed editor-in-chief of TVi (Ukraine’s Channel 5).

About Democracy4Us.Org- An independent organization, which has been formed in support of, and with the cooperation of, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and the democratic opposition forces with a goal of efficiently spreading information as broadly as possible about the circumstances she and the Ukraine currently face.

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