KIEV, Ukraine – In his new book, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych shares his dreams about the future of his country. But are they his?
Some parts of “Opportunity Ukraine” bear a striking resemblance to magazine articles, a lawmaker’s speech and even a college term paper. Opponents accuse Yanukovych of plagiarism, and an influential writers’ union in Austria, where the book was published, refused to support its presentation at the Frankfurt Book Fair this month.
Yanukovych’s office first denied the accusations of plagiarism, calling them a “provocation” against the president sponsored by his critics. But then the translator of the book into English took the blame upon himself, saying he had inadvertently deleted most of the footnotes from the book and apologized to the president.
The book scandal is a further embarrassment to the often crude and ill-mannered Yanukovych, who is famous for gaffes and blunders such as making spelling mistakes, confusing genocide with genetic pool, and mixing up the Balkan states of Kosovo and Montenegro.
It also undermines his efforts to portray himself as a Western-minded leader as he seeks European Union membership for Ukraine.
“A book by a president is the height of his career, his life’s path,” said Serhiy Leshchenko, a reporter with the online newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda, who broke the story. “This could have been Yanukovych’s literary embodiment, but it turned out to be banal plagiarism. They grabbed pieces from various sources.”
The scandal also comes at a time when the United States and the EU are condemning authorities in Ukraine for the prosecution and imprisonment of a longtime Yanukovych foe – former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Leshchenko said he became suspicious when the book compared reforms in Ukraine not to those in other ex-Communist East European nations, but to reforms
in a country as distant and unlike Ukraine as Singapore. After some research, Leshchenko traced those descriptions to a March article by the Ukrainian weekly magazine Korrespondent.
The Korrespondent story and the passage on reforms on Singapore in Yanukovych’s book are indeed nearly word-for-word the same.
“Whatever excuses the presidential administration is making, the fact of plagiarism is obvious,” Vitaly Sych, the magazine’s chief editor, wrote in his blog.
Furthermore, a page-and-a-half-long discussion of party affiliations in Ukrainian politics is uncomfortably similar to a political science college paper posted on the Russian essay-sharing website Referat. ru in 2007. A reflection on land reform appears to borrow from a speech by Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko. Recollections of the Orange Revolution rely on a 2004 piece in a weekly called 2000. A discussion of separatism mimics a passage in an article published by Vasily Volga, a former senior financial official, now under arrest.
Seeking support in writing a book is common practice in the West, where many politicians rely on collaborators to help with the research or assist in much or all of the writing. But Leshchenko suspects that Yanukovych simply hired a team of poorly skilled writers who copied and pasted much of the book from various sources without giving attribution.
By Associated Press, Updated: Thursday, October 27, 1:37 PM