Kiev's On Fire - Protests In The Ukraine

23 January 2014 Last updated at 10:30 ET
Ukraine protests: Crisis talks after day of bloodshed

Daniel Sandford in Kiev: ''Nobody knows how long [the truce] will hold''

Continue reading the main story
Ukraine's protests
Ukrainian opposition leaders are due to meet President Viktor Yanukovych, a day after the first deaths in protests that have gripped Kiev for two months.

A fragile truce is being observed but opposition leader Vitali Klitschko said he would lead pro-EU protesters "on the attack" if elections were not called.

Mr Yanukovych has asked the speaker of parliament to hold an emergency session next week to discuss the crisis.

Two activists were killed in clashes with police in Kiev on Wednesday.

Prosecutors confirmed they had died from gunshot wounds. They were the first fatalities since the anti-government protests flared up in late November over Mr Yanukovych's decision to pull out of a landmark treaty with the EU.

Continue reading the main story
Torture allegations
Duncan Crawford BBC News, Kiev
The allegations made by a 17-year-old student, Mikhail Nizkoguz, are extremely serious. He says he was tortured for hours. He claims riot police arrested him and beat him with batons; that he was forced to strip naked in the freezing cold and sing the national anthem; that they then cut him with knives.

He was eventually taken to hospital. His face and body are covered in cuts and bruises. He has a deep gash across his forehead covered in green medical fluid. His arm is broken and bandaged. He told me that when he looked into the officers' eyes he "could see they were enjoying it".

The police have accused him of firing fireworks at them - something he denies. A Ukrainian MP is going to raise these allegations of torture with the police and government on Thursday.

A third activist, Yuriy Verbytsky, has been found dead in a forest outside Kiev, after reportedly being abducted along with fellow activist Ihor Lutsenko earlier this week. His body is said to bear signs of torture.

The centre of the capital remains extremely tense, the BBC's Daniel Sandford reports.

Ukrainian media now say that protesters have taken over the regional state administration buildings in the western cities of Lviv and Rivne, and that the governor of the Lviv region, Oleg Salo, has been forced to resign.

Other unconfirmed reports spoke of attacks on the governor's offices in Zhytomyr, Khmelnytskiy and Ivano-Frankivsk.

Dead men named
President Yanukovych has assured the head of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, he will not introduce a state of emergency. The two had spoken by phone, the Commission said on Thursday.

But Mr Yanukovych said he had asked the speaker of Ukraine's parliament to hold an emergency session next week.

The speaker said the session would discuss opposition calls for the government to step down and recently-passed anti-protest laws.

Before heading to his talks with Mr Yanukovych, Mr Klitschko urged both the protesters and police to refrain from any further use of force until he reported back on Thursday evening.

Protesters in Kiev, where the situation remains tense
Protesters in Kiev take shelter from a water spray
Protests are spreading outside Kiev - including this attack on the governor's offices in Lviv
He is bringing three main demands to the talks: a snap presidential election, the cancellation of the new anti-protest laws and the resignation of the government.

Addressing protesters on Wednesday, he said the president could end the stand-off "without bloodshed". Otherwise, he added, "we will go on the attack".

Continue reading the main story
Key dates
21 November 2013: Ukraine announces it will not sign a deal aimed at strengthening ties with the EU

30 November: Riot police detain dozens of anti-government protesters in a violent crackdown in Kiev

17 December: Russia agrees to buy $15bn (£9.2bn, 11bn euros) of Ukrainian government bonds and slash the price of gas it sells to the country

22 January 2014: Two protesters die from bullet wounds during clashes with police in Kiev

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said opposition leaders should be "more humble" and "move away from the language of ultimatums".

Russian news agencies quoted him as saying that "a genuine attempt at a coup d'etat is being carried out".

Hundreds of protesters and scores of police officers have been injured in clashes around Kiev's Independence Square this week.

Officials confirmed two bodies were found with bullet wounds close to the scene of clashes on Wednesday.

One of those killed was identified as Serhiy Nihoyan, the 20-year-old son of Armenian refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh, who travelled from his home in eastern Ukraine in December to join the protests.

The other man shot was named as Belarusian citizen Mikhail Zhyznewski, who was at the protest with Una-Unso, a Ukrainian far-right group.

BBC journalist: "I saw a body right beneath the window"

Another man was also reported to have died after falling from the top of the Dynamo football stadium. However, a spokeswoman for Kiev's health department said he had survived the fall.

Mr Azarov denied that police were responsible for the deaths, saying they were not carrying live ammunition.

The BBC's Duncan Crawford spoke to a student, Mikhail Nizkoguz, 17, who accused riot police of dragging him from the street on Monday and torturing him by beating and stabbing.

His face and body is covered with cuts and bruises. He said police accused him of firing fireworks at them - but that he was only taking pictures.

PM Mykola Azarov: "Shots which killed those people were made from above"

A police press spokesperson in Kiev told the BBC they know nothing about any cases of alleged torture.

According to a list on the website of Ukrainian media non-governmental organisation Imi, 42 journalists were also hurt this week alone.

Visas revoked
The European Union said earlier it would "rethink" its relationship with Ukraine if there was a "systematic violation of human rights".

The US accused the Ukrainian government of failing to "engage in real dialogue" and revoked the visas of "several Ukrainians who were linked to the violence". It did not give names.

Russia has accused the EU and US of "outside interference" in Ukrainian affairs.

"The extremist part of the opposition is crudely violating the country's constitution," said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin.

I sort of have a sense that this division is large between the eastern and western parts of the country. The most sensible solution might be to divvy up the country, let the eastern part merge with Russia and let the western part go its own way. Probably won't happen, though.
Jan Libourel Jan Libourel you're a sight for sore eyes. I figured I would have seen you in the bears thread before this.
Well, I did turn up in the bears thread as of a few minutes ago. Truth be told, I had only heard the term "bears" used in a sexual sense to refer to hairy-bodied male homosexuals, a class of people I positively would not wish to feast my eyes upon!
Shit's on fire, literally, today:

We're Glued to This Terrifying Livestream of Kiev's Fiery Protests

The months-long standoff between Ukraine's strongarm pro-Russian president and opposition protesters in the streets of Kiev, the capital, has turned grisly in recent hours, with nine deaths reported in clashes between police and the demonstrators. Here's a live feed from Kiev:

We'll be updating with more info shortly.

What the Hell's Going On in Ukraine, Explained
Stuff's rapidly getting real in Russia's largest neighbor to the West. Here's what you need to know. Read…

Update, 2:17 p.m. EST: The most recent round of intense violence apparently began when government authorities tried and failed spectacularly to regain control of Kiev's main square from the demonstrators who have camped there since late last year. Via the New York Times:

Mayhem gripped the center of the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday evening as riot police officers tried to drive two armored personnel carriers through stone-reinforced barriers in Independence Square, the focal point of more than two months of protests against President Viktor F. Yanukovych.

Pelted by rocks and fireworks, the vehicles became stuck in the massive barricades outside the Khreschatyk Hotel and burst into flames, apparently trapping the security officers inside, prompting desperate rescue efforts from their colleagues.

All hell subsequently broke loose. Some images from the day's events:


Protesters apparently attempted to improve on barricades blocking the progress of government forces.


When the forces clashed, many protesters did so armed with improvised weapons.


Here, a protester armored in a motorcycle helmet lobs a stone.


Some protesters have improvised flame throwers and firearms from what appear to be flares.


The clashes have been hazardous to police and protesters alike.


It's not clear how the standoff will end now that it has entered a more dynamic, more violent stage.

Kiev's Independence Square, the site of a bloody, fiery battle between riot police and anti-government protesters yesterday, is still smoldering.

Hundreds were injured and dozens were killed on Tuesday as authorities attempted to rout protestors from their camp in Maidan, as the square is called; on Wednesday morning, the livestream—which many of us found ourselves unable to turn off—showed calm crowds amid billowing smoke and remnants of fires.

Protestors have been occupying Maidan for months in protest of the government of Ukranian president Viktor Yanukovych, whose strongly pro-Russia policies have divided Kiev.

Below, a selection of images from the clash.


Anti-government protesters protected themselves with shields during clashes with riot police. Image by Sergei Chuzavkov via AP


Anti-government protesters sleep on the floor inside the Mikhailovsky Monastery, which has been converted into a makeshift hospital. Image by Brendan Hoffman via Getty


Anti-government protesters walk amid debris and flames near the perimeter of Independence Square. Image by Brendan Hoffman via Getty


Anti-government protesters guard the perimeter of Maidan. Image by Brendan Hoffman via Getty.


Anti-government protesters. Image by Brendan Hoffman via Getty.


Independence Square seen from above. Image by Alexander Koerner via Getty.


An anti-government protesters throws a Molotov cocktail. Image by Alexander Koerner via Getty.


Anti-government protesters guard the perimeter of Independence Square. Image by Brendan Hoffman via Getty.


Fires burn in Maidan. Image by Alexander Koerner via Getty.


An auditorium inside the Trade Unions Building, which has served as the de facto headquarters for the anti-government protest movement, is filled with smoke and flames as the building burns. Image by Brendan Hoffman via Getty.


Anti-government protesters use a catapult during clashes with riot police. Image by Efrem Lukatsky via AP.


Riot police clash with anti-government protesters outside Ukraine's parliament. Photo by Efrem Lukatsky via AP.


An anti-government protester throws a stone. Photo by Efrem Lukatsky via AP.


An anti-government protester finds cover. Photo by Efrem Lukatsky via AP.


Anti-government protestors carry a wounded policeman. Photo by Efrem Lukatsky via AP.
I know and care nothing about this conflict, but am glad that it shows that paramilitary enforcement is by no means invulnerable to the will of the people.

Dozens More Killed in Fiery Battle for Kiev's Independence Square

As many as 35 people were killed in new clashes between police and anti-government protestors in Kiev, Ukraine, hours after a truce had calmed the bloodiest week in the city since the fall of the Soviet empire.

Mashable's Christopher Miller counted 35 bodies in the Kiev City Hall and Central Post Office, both of which are used by protestors as headquarters and medical offices. The buildings are adjacent to Independence Square, called Maidan, where the majority of fighting has taken place, and control of which was the main focus of Thursday's fighting.

The image above was taken by AFP photographer Bulent Kilic. "'m not sure how they caught fire," he writes. "ome claimed it was the police who'd thrown the petrol bombs, others said it was the protesters.

A truce had been called between President Viktor Yanukovych and opposition protestors late Wednesday night, but was broken, the New York Times reports, by protestors who thought it was a "ruse":

The fighting shattered a truce declared just hours earlier. Just after dawn, young men in ski masks opened a breach in their barricade near a stage on the square, ran across a hundred yards of smoldering debris and surged toward riot police officers who were firing at them with shotguns. [...]

"A truce means real negotiations," [protestor Anatoly] Volk said. "They are just delaying to make time to bring in more troops. They didn't have the forces to storm us last night. So we are expanding our barricades to where they were before. We are restoring what we had."

The protestors managed to regain control the square, but at the cost of several more lives, making this week by far the most violent in the two months of protests against Yanukovych's strong pro-Russia policies. The U.S. and E.U. have called for sanctions against Yanukovych's regime.
Unless you want other nations telling yours what to do, don't go around telling other nations what to do.
Updates for anyone not keeping up:

Yanukovich (the current PM) has stepped down and fled. He's currently missing (most likely in Putin's breast pocket)

Vote setup for May

Timoshenko (the old PM) released from prison

Rumors of a split country with the western half splitting off from the eastern, more pro-Russia half.

This place is a powder keg that could go up at the first wrong move.
Ukraine's acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov says police have issued an arrest warrant for ousted President Victor Yanukovych over the mass murder of peaceful citizens.

Embedded media from this media site is no longer available

Scenarios for Ukraine’s Future
With the new Ukrainian government taking charge, the Crimea warning that it may leave the Ukraine and that it does not recognize the legitimacy of the new Ukrainian government, and the new government asking the West and the IMF for aid in paying 17 billion dollars of debts it’s worth considering what the future may hold.

Largely Peaceful Partition

The Crimea was given to Ukraine by Khrushchev in 1954. The majority of the population is Russian, and it is already an autonomous region. The Speaker of Parliament has spoken of the possibility of leaving Ukraine. One suspects that if it does, it will quickly be reabsorbed back into Russia. There are many in Crimea who don’t want this, including the Crimean Tatars and a Ukranian speaking minority, but they are the minority.

Civil War

On the other hand, Kiev may not be willing to let Crimea go. The armed forces have pledged their loyalty to the new order.

Russian Intervention

Russia has been very generous with passports to people of Russian extraction. They could easily use the same justification they did for their war with Georgia (protecting our citizens) and intervene to enable the partition. Ukraine’s army may be less of a joke than Georgia’s, but if NATO doesn’t intervene, the outcome isn’t really in doubt. This intervention could just be for the Crimea, or Russia might want to peel off the parts of eastern Ukraine in which the population still mostly speaks Russian and supports Russia. From a strategic point of view, Russia needs room on its western border in case of any war. Ukraine holding all its current territory and essentially or actually part of NATO is simply not acceptable.

The Long Game

Why bother intervening? Let the rebels have their day, and their government. Let them get their money from the EU and from the IMF. That money will come with conditions, those conditions will be “reform”, and reform, these days, never means good things for ordinary people. The economy may improve briefly, but it will not improve in the long run.

Ukrainians admire and envy Poland’s success and believe that if only they were facing West rather than East, that would be them, but they are two very different countries. Poland has very low levels of inequality, Ukraine has some of the highest inequality in the world and an economy controlled by rich and powerful oligarchs. Europe loves oligarchs, so does the US and the IMF, and the oligarchs removed their support from the old government. The West isn’t going to allow the new government to take away the oligarchs money, power and control over the Ukrainian economy.

Ukraine can try to run a housing bubble for as long as the West is willing to give them free money, but they will not gain long-term prosperity from integration with the EU. Their fate is more likely to be Greece, or Spain, or Portugal, than it is to be Poland.

Russia won’t give up Sevastapol. But if an agreement is reached letting them keep using it, well, let the Ukrainians have their Europe centered government, for however long it lats. It didn’t last long before, it probably won’t this time.

Most of this is a guessing game about what Putin is thinking, because the decision is his. The Crimea won’t declare independence if they don’t know for sure that Russia has their back, and obviously the decision to intervene militarily is Putin’s. The West may be willing to help the Ukrainians with money, with weapons, and so on, but they aren’t going to get into a direct war with Russia over it.
How did I guess yet another post Soviet Republic would take after the Russians and try to kill everyone and then probably realise that they have no idea how to run the country afterwards.
Updates for anyone not keeping up:

Yanukovich (the current PM) has stepped down and fled. He's currently missing (most likely in Putin's breast pocket)

I have read that Yanukovich and Putin positively loathe each other.

You will note that I suggested a month ago that it might be for the best if the country split. It might bring some stability to such a deeply divided country.

Ukraine Fears Separatism as Pro-Russia Protests Erupt in Crimea

At a press conference on Tuesday, Ukraine's acting president Olexander Turchinov warned that the country faced a "serious threat" from separatism, especially from its southern, Russian-speaking regions. Turchinov also announced that the formation of a permanent government would be delayed until at least Thursday.

The ousting of former President Viktor Yanukovich—and the subsequent warrant for his arrest—was met with widespread protest in parts of Ukraine's Crimea region, which is predominantly pro-Russia.

Monday night, the city council in the Crimean city of Sevastopol elected Aleksei Chaliy, a Russian citizen, as mayor as more than a thousand supporters gathered around city call, chanting "Russia, Russia, Russia" and "A Russian mayor for a Russian City." And earlier Monday, Sevastopol police chief Alexander Goncharov said his forces would refuse any "criminal orders" from Kiev.

A Sevastopol-based advisor to the government in Kiev described the move as a coup "represent[ing] the interests of the Kremlin."

Russian officials, however, have denied having any plans to explicitly intervene in Ukraine. Russia will continue its "policy of non-intervention," according to Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, who spoke to Reuters. "It is dangerous and counterproductive to try to force on Ukraine a choice according to the principle of either being with us or against us," he added.
So let them go. I really don't understand why preserving a nation-state that doesn't want to exist together is such a big thing.
This is a GREAT piece by Mark Ames:

Everything you know about Ukraine is wrong
By Mark Ames
On February 24, 2014

Although I’m deep into the reporting of my next story about the Silicon Valley Techtopus, it’s hard for me not to get distracted by events in Ukraine and Russia.

I haven’t lived in that part of the world since the Kremlin ran me out of town, so I’m not going to pretend that I know as much as those on the ground there. Still, I’ve been driven nuts by the avalanche of overconfident ignorance that stands for analysis or commentary on the wild events there. A lethal ignorance, a virtuous ignorance.

Virtuous ignorance about world affairs used to be the exclusive domain of neo-con pundits, but now it’s everywhere, especially rampant on the counter-consensus side — nominally my own side, but an increasingly shitty side to be on.

Nearly everyone here in the US tries to frame and reify Ukraine’s dynamic to fit America-centric spats. As such, Ukraine’s problems are little more than a propaganda proxy war where our own political fights are transferred to Ukraine’s and Russia’s context, warping the truth to score domestic spat points. That’s nothing new, of course, but it’s still jarring to watch how the “new media” counter-consensus is warping and misrepresenting reality in Ukraine about as crudely as the neocons and neoliberals used to warp and Americanize the political realities there back when I first started my Moscow newspaper, The eXile.

So, yes, I wanted to comment on a few simplifications/misconceptions about Ukraine today:

1. The protesters are not “virtuous anti-Putin freedom fighters,” nor are they “Nazis and US puppets”

In fact, the people who are protesting or supporting the protesters are first and foremost sick of their shitty lives in a shitty country they want to make better—a country where their fates are controlled by a tiny handful of nihilistic oligarchs and Kremlin overlords, and their political frontmen. It’s first and foremost a desire to gain some control over their fate. Anger at Kremlin power over Ukraine is not necessarily anti-Russian—although the further west you go in Ukraine, the more this does become about nationalism, and the further east you go—including Crimea and Odessa—the more the politics are a fearful reaction against west-Ukraine nationalism.

This is kind of obvious to anyone who’s spent time in that part of the world. I’ll quote from Jake Rudnitsky’s great piece about the Orange Revolution published in The eXile nearly a decade ago, which aptly describes both what an awful political figure Yanukovych is, what role the US played in that “revolution,” and the aspirations of most Ukrainians who took to the streets. It’s amazing how little has changed in this dynamic:

“Almost all of Ukraine’s oligarchs are from the east or Kiev, and they almost exclusively lined up in support of Yanukovych, a Donetsk native. There are a few exceptions, notably Petro Poroshenko, the owner of car and candy factories and a ship-building yard. He also owns Channel 5, which was an invaluable tool in helping Yushchenko [the pro-West leader of the Orange Revolution] compete….A large part of [Channel 5] programming consists of watching Yanukovych’s team make asses of themselves. They often repeat a speech Yanukovych gave where he was gesturing with his fingers in the air, “paltsami,” a classic bandit gesture. Still, the biggest and most powerful clans are still behind Yanukovych, who is their man.

“Yanukovych is a truly loathsome character. Most Ukrainians agree that if a more palatable candidate had been given the nearly unlimited access to “administrative resources” that Yanukovych had, he would have won handily. But Yanukovych twice served jail time in the Soviet Union, he has no charisma, and is obviously a tool of powerful Russian and Ukrainian interests. Yushchenko, on the other hand, is considered by most western Ukrainians to be something between Gandhi and Christ, while many people in the east worry he has it in for everyone who speaks Russian. Many people who voted for Yanukovych did so out of suspicion of Yushchenko, not because they like Yanukovych (except perhaps in his home turf, Donetsk).”

As for the US role in the Orange Revolution, what Rudnitsky wrote in 2004 applies to the US/EU role today:

“The protests have come under fire as an American-funded coup, particularly in the Russian media. And there’s some truth to it — the US has been bringing in Serbs and Georgians experienced in non-violent revolution to train Ukrainians for at least a year. One exit poll — the one finding most heavily in favor of Yushchenko — was funded by the US. The smoothness and professionalism of the protest, from the instant availability of giant blocks of Styrofoam to pitch the tents on to the network of food distribution and medical points, is probably a result of American logistical planning. It’s certainly hard to imagine Ukrainians having their act together that well. The whole orange theme and all those ready-made flags also smack of American marketing concepts, particularly Burson-Marstellar.

“But the crowds in Kiev, which can swell up to a million on a good day and are always in the hundreds of thousands, are there out of their own homegrown sense of outrage, not because some State Department bureaucrats willed them there. The meetings that happen every day in virtually every city in Ukraine (and in literally every western Ukraine village) are not the result of American propaganda. Rather, they are the result of the democratic awakening of a trampled-on people who refuse to be screwed by corrupt politicians again.”

2. About Ukraine’s neo-fascists:

They’re definitely real, they’re a powerful minority in the anti-Yanukovych campaign—I’d say the neo-fascsists from Svoboda and Pravy Sektor are probably the vanguard of the movement, the ones who pushed it harder than anyone. Anyone who ignores the role of the neo-fascists (or ultranationalists, take your pick) is lying or ignorant, just as anyone who claims that Yanukovych answered only to Putin doesn’t know what they’re talking about. The front-center role of Svoboda and the neo-fascists in this revolution as opposed to the Orange Revolution is, I think, due to fact that the more smiley-face/respectable neoliberal politicians can’t rally the same fanatical support they did a decade ago. Eventually, even the co-leader of the Orange Revolution, Viktor Yushchenko, moved from “respectable” pro-EU neoliberalism to rehabilitating western Ukraine’s fascist mass-murderer, Stepan Bandera, which I wrote about in The Nation.

What role the neo-fascists and descendants of Bandera will play in the near-term future is the big question. Their role in the protest’s vanguard is definitely scaring a lot of people in the east of Ukraine and Crimea, and could precipitate a violent split. On the other hand, by far the most likely scenario is that the neo-fascist/ultranationalists in Svoboda will be absorbed into the pro-West coalition and politics, as they’re still a minority in the coalition. Neoliberalism is a big tent that is happy to absorb ultranationalists, democrats, or ousted president Yanukovych.

The power that the neo-fascists already have is bad enough, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a ton of bullshit hype and propaganda about the neo-fascist threat. A perfect example of fascist-hype propaganda was recently published in Ha’aretz, headlined: “Ukrainian rabbi tells Kiev’s Jews to flee city”:

“Fearing violence against Ukraine’s Jews, the Jewish community asks Israel for assistance with the security of the community.

“Ukrainian Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman, called on Kiev’s Jews to leave the city and even the country if possible, fearing that the city’s Jews will be victimized in the chaos, Israeli daily Maariv reported Friday.

“‘I told my congregation to leave the city center or the city all together and if possible the country too,’ Rabbi Azman told Maariv. ‘I don’t want to tempt fate,’ he added, ‘but there are constant warnings concerning intentions to attack Jewish institutions.’”

Sounds scary in a Schindler’s List sorta way, doesn’t it?

Later that day, Ha’aretz published this correction, admitting it’d been duped by a Kremlin tool:

“Correction (Feb. 22, 4:20 P.M.): An earlier version of this report incorrectly described Rabbi Azman as the chief rabbi of Ukraine. Azman is not the country’s chief rabbi, but one of two rabbis challenging the official chief rabbi, Yaakov Bleich, in Kiev, and like most Chabad rabbis, is aligned with the Kremlin.”

(If you want to read more about Chabad, read Yasha Levine’s investigative report on the right-wing Jewish cult, and its role in Cory Booker’s rise to power.)

The point is this: What’s happening in Ukraine is not a battle between pro-fascists and anti-fascists. There are fascists on both sides; the opposition happens to like fascist costume parties more, but watch this video of Yanukovych’s snipers murdering unarmed protesters and tell me who the real fascists are in this fight… [WARNING: BRUTAL VIOLENCE]:

3. Everything you think you know about Ukraine is wrong.

Everyone looking for a proxy side to support or oppose in the Ukraine political dynamic will be disappointed. Ukraine politics go by their own rules. Today’s neoliberal ultranationalist could be tomorrow’s Kremlin ally, and visa-versa. Just look at what happened to the Orange Revolution—nothing. To wit:

a) One Orange Revolution leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, wound up turning against her partner Viktor Yushchenko and allying with Yanukovych to strip Yushchenko of presidential powers; later, Tymoshenko allied with the Kremlin against Yushchenko; now she’s free from jail and the presumptive leader of the anti-Yanukovych forces.

b) The other Orange leader—the pro-EU, anti-Kremlin Viktor Yushchenko—wound up allying with pro-Kremlin Yanukovych to jail Yulia Tymoshenko.

c) John McCain has been the big driving force for regime change against Yanukovych, but McCain’s 2008 campaign chief’s lobby firm, Davis Manafort, managed Yanukovych’s political campaigns and his lobbying efforts in the US.

d) Anthony Podesta, brother of President Obama’s senior advisor John Podesta, is another Yanukovych lobbyist; John Podesta was the chief of Obama’s 2008 transition team.

4. Yanukovych was not fighting neoliberalism, the World Bank, or oligarchy — nor was he merely a tool of the Kremlin.

There’s another false meme going around that because the World Bank and IMF are moving in to “reform” Ukraine’s economy — for the umpteenth time — that somehow this means that this was a fight between pro-neoliberal and anti-neoliberal forces. It wasn’t.

Yanukovych enthusiastically cooperated with the IMF and pledged to adhere to their demands. Six months after Yanukovych was elected president, the headline read “International Monetary Fund approves $15 billion loan to Ukraine”. As the AFP reported,

“President Viktor Yanukovych had made restoring relations with the IMF a major priority on taking office.”

Later that year, the Wall Street Journal praised Yanukovych’s neoliberal reforms as “truly transformational” and gushed that Yanukovych “may soon become Europe’s star economic liberalizer.”

The problem was that last November, the Kremlin offered Yanukovych what he thought was a better deal than what the EU was offering. He bet wrong.

The point is this: Ukraine is not Venezuela. This is not a profoundly political or class fight, as it is in Venezuela. Yanukovych represents one faction of oligarchs; the opposition, unwittingly or otherwise, ultimately fronts for other factions. Many of those oligarchs have close business ties with Russia, but assets and bank accounts—and mansions—in Europe. Both forces are happy to work with the neoliberal global institutions.

In Ukraine, there is no populist left politics, even though the country’s deepest problem is inequality and oligarchy. Memories of the Soviet Union play a big role in turning people off to populist-left politics there, for understandable reasons.

But the Ukrainians do have a sense of people power that is rare in the world, and it goes back to the first major protests in 2000, through the success of the Orange Revolution. The masses understand their power-in-numbers to overthrow bad governments, but they haven’t forged a populist politics to change their situation and redistribute power by redistributing wealth.

So they wind up switching from one oligarchical faction to another, forming broad popular coalitions that can be easily co-opted by the most politically organized minority factions within—neoliberals, neofascists, or Kremlin tools. All of whom eventually produce more of the same shitty life that leads to the next revolution.​

Ukraine: Pro-Russia Gunmen Seize Government Buildings In Crimea
Posted: 02/27/2014 5:52 am EST Updated: 02/27/2014 12:17 pm EST
Print Article

By Alessandra Prentice

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Armed men seized the parliament in Ukraine's Crimea region on Thursday and raised the Russian flag, alarming Kiev's new rulers, who urged Moscow not to abuse its navy base rights on the peninsula by moving troops around.

Crimea, the only Ukrainian region with an ethnic Russian majority, is the last big bastion of opposition to the new leadership in Kiev since President Viktor Yanukovich was ousted at the weekend and provides a base for Russia's Black Sea fleet.

"I am appealing to the military leadership of the Russian Black Sea fleet," said Olexander Turchinov, Ukraine's acting president.

"Any military movements, the more so if they are with weapons, beyond the boundaries of this territory (the base) will be seen by us as military aggression," he said, a day after 150,000 Russian troops near Ukraine were put on high alert.

The Ukraine Foreign Ministry also summoned Russia's acting ambassador in Kiev for immediate consultations as the face-off between Moscow and the West over Ukraine revived memories of the Cold War.

The United States called on Moscow to avoid doing anything risky over Ukraine, which has been in crisis since November, when Yanukovich abandoned a proposed trade pact with the EU and turned instead towards Russia.

The fresh turmoil in Crimea sent the Ukrainian hryvnia tumbling to a new record low of 11 to the dollar on the Reuters dealing platform.

The International Monetary Fund said it would send a team to Kiev in the coming days.

Ukraine's new finance minister, Oleksander Shlapak, said he hoped the IMF would work on an aid package of at least $15 billion. Ukraine says it needs $35 billion over the next two years to avoid bankruptcy.

The minister also said he expected the hryvnia to strengthen soon at around 10 to the dollar.


Ukraine's new rulers pressed ahead with efforts to restore stability to the divided country, approving formation of a national coalition government with former economy minister Arseny Yatseniuk as its proposed head.

Yatseniuk told parliament that Yanukovich had driven the country to the brink of collapse. He accused the deposed president of stripping state coffers bare and said $70 billion had disappeared into offshore accounts.

"The state treasury has been robbed and is empty," he said.

Yanukovich said on Thursday he was still president of Ukraine and warned its "illegitimate" rulers that people in the southeastern and southern regions would never accept mob rule.

In a statement sent to Russian news agencies from an unknown location, Yanukovich railed against the "extremists" who had stolen power in Ukraine, threatened violence against himself and his closest aides and passed "illegal" laws.

As the drama unfolded in Crimea, there were mixed signals from Moscow, which put warplanes along its western borders on combat alert. Earlier it said it would take part in discussions on an IMF package for Ukraine.

The fear of military escalation prompted expressions of concern from the West, with NATO urging Russia not to do anything that would "escalate tension or create misunderstanding".

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski called the seizure of government buildings in Crimea a "very dangerous game".

"This is a drastic step, and I'm warning those who did this and those who allowed them to do this, because this is how regional conflicts begin," he told a news conference.

It was not immediately known who was occupying the parliament and government buildings in the regional capital Simferopol and they issued no demands, but witnesses said they appeared to be ethnic Russian separatists.


Interfax news agency quoted a witness as saying there were about 60 heavily armed people inside. No one had been hurt when the buildings were seized in the early hours by Russian speakers in uniforms that did not carry identification markings.

"We were building barricades in the night to protect parliament. Then this young Russian guy came up with a pistol ... we all lay down, some more ran up, there was some shooting and around 50 went in through the window," Leonid Khazanov, an ethnic Russian, told Reuters.

"I asked them what they wanted, and they said 'To make our own decisions, not to have Kiev telling us what to do'."

There was also anger at the invasion of parliament.

Alexander Vostruyev, 60, in a leather flat cap and white beard, said: "It's disgrace that the flag if a foreign country is flying on our parliament ... It's like a man coming home to find his wife in bed with another man."

About 100 police gathered in front of the parliament, and a similar number of people carrying Russian flags later marched up to the building chanting "Russia, Russia" and holding a sign calling for a Crimean referendum.

One of them, Alexei, 30, said: "Crimea is autonomous. The government in Kiev are fascists, and what they're doing is illegal ... We need to show our support for the guys inside."

About 50 pro-Russia supporters from Sevastopol, where part of Russia's Black Sea navy is based, lined up shoulder-to-shoulder facing police in front of parliament in Simferopol.

Gennady Basov, their leader, said: "We need to organize ourselves like this to maintain order while this illegal and unconstitutional government operates in Kiev.

Ukraine's new leaders have been voicing alarm over signs of separatism in Crimea. Acting interior minister Arsen Avakov said the attackers had automatic weapons and machine guns.

"Provocateurs are on the march. It is the time for cool heads," he said on Facebook.

The regional prime minister said he had spoken to the people inside the building by telephone, but they had not made any demands or said why they were inside. They had promised to call him back but had not done so, he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ignored calls by ethnic Russians in Crimea to reclaim the territory handed to the Soviet Ukraine by Soviet Communist leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1954.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Russia must be transparent about military exercises along Ukraine's border and not take any steps that could be misinterpreted or "lead to miscalculation during a delicate time".

But Russia's foreign ministry said Moscow would defend the rights of its compatriots. It expressed concern about "large-scale human rights violations", attacks and vandalism in Crimea.

Crimea is the only region of Ukraine where ethnic Russians are the majority, though many ethnic Ukrainians in other eastern areas speak Russian as their first language.
A respected Russian news organization reported that President Viktor Yanukovych, who was driven out of Kiev by a three-month protest movement, was staying in a Kremlin sanatorium just outside Moscow.

"I have to ask Russia to ensure my personal safety from extremists," Yanukovych said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies on Thursday. He said he still considers himself president and sees the new Ukrainian authorities as illegitimate.

Shortly after, the same three Russian news agencies quoted an unnamed Russian official saying that Yanukovych's request for protection "was satisfied on the territory of Russia."

Oleksandr Turchynov, who stepped in as acting president after Yanukovych's flight, condemned the takeover of government buildings in Crimea as a "crime against the government of Ukraine." He warned that any move by Russian troops off of their base in Crimea "will be considered a military aggression."

"Unidentified people with automatic weapons, explosives and grenades have taken over the governmental buildings and the Parliament building in the autonomous region of Crimea," he said. "I have given orders to the military to use all methods necessary to protect the citizens, punish the criminals, and to free the buildings."

In Kiev, lawmakers chose Arseniy Yatsenyuk as the new prime minister. He will face the hugely complicated task of restoring stability in a country that is not only deeply divided politically but on the verge of financial collapse. The 39-year-old served as economy minister, foreign minister and parliamentary speaker before Yanukovych took office in 2010, and is widely viewed as a technocratic reformer who enjoys the support of the U.S.

Shortly before the lawmakers chose him as the leader of the new Cabinet, Yatsenyuk said Ukraine doesn't want a fight with Russia, but insisted the country wouldn't accept the secession of the southern Crimea region.

He said Crimea "has been and will be a part of Ukraine."

Yanukovych fled after riot police attacked protesters in Kiev's central square, killing more than 80 people, and European and Russian officials intervened. He has not been seen publicly since Saturday, when he said he remained the legitimately elected president — a position that has been backed by Russia.

Russia's respected RBK news organization reported Wednesday evening that Yanukovych was staying at the Barvikha sanatorium, which is run by the presidential administration's property department. The spokesman for this department, Viktor Khrekov, told The Associated Press on Thursday that he has no information about this.

The RBK report was impossible to confirm, but security at the Ukraina Hotel was unusually heavy late Wednesday, with police watching from parked vehicles outside and guards posted throughout the lobby. Some of Yanukovych's allies, also reported to have been at the hotel, may have still been there.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman also said he had no information about Yanukovych's reported arrival in Moscow.

In a clear warning to Ukraine, Putin on Wednesday ordered massive military exercises involving most of the military units in western Russia. On Thursday, as part of the exercises, fighter jets were put on combat alert and were patrolling the border, Russia's Defense Ministry said in a statement. It didn't specify the areas where patrol missions were being conducted. The military also announced measures to tighten security at the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea Fleet on the Crimean peninsula in southeastern Ukraine.

The military maneuvers prompted a sharp rebuke from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who warned Russia that any military intervention in Ukraine would be a "grave mistake."

The Russian Foreign Ministry voiced concern Thursday about the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine and vowed to protect their interests. State-owned ITAR-Tass news agency quoted a statement read at a session of the ministry's board on Thursday, saying that Russia "will have a firm and uncompromising response to violations of the rights of compatriots by foreign states."

Russia has accused Ukraine's interim leaders of failing to control radicals who threaten the Russia-speaking population in Ukraine's east and south, which includes the Crimean Peninsula.

Witnesses said the gunmen in Simferopol, the Crimean regional capital, wore unmarked camouflage uniforms and carried rocket-propelled grenades, sniper rifles and other weapons. They raised the Russian flag over the local parliament building.

The men did not immediately voice any demands and threw a flash grenade in response to a journalist's questions. They wore black and orange ribbons, a Russian symbol of the victory in World War II, and put up a sign reading "Crimea is Russia."

Maxim, a pro-Russian activist who refused to give his last name, said he and other activists had camped overnight outside the local parliament in Simferopol when 50-60 heavily armed men wearing flak jackets and carrying rocket-propelled grenade launchers and sniper rifles took over the building.

"Our activists were sitting there all night calmly, building the barricades," he said. "At 5 o'clock unknown men turned up and went to the building. They got into the courtyard and put everyone on the ground.

"They were asking who we were. When we said we stand for the Russian language and Russia, they said: 'Don't be afraid. We're with you.' Then they began to storm the building bringing down the doors," he said. "They didn't look like volunteers or amateurs; they were professionals. This was clearly a well-organized operation."

"Who are they?" he added. "Nobody knows."

A convoy of seven armored personnel carriers was seen on a road near the village of Ukromnoye, about 10 kilometers (some 6 miles) away from the city of Simferopol. In Moscow, Russia's Foreign Ministry said that Russia was abiding by an agreement with Ukraine that sharply restricts troops movements, but acknowledged some unspecified troops movements, claiming they didn't violate the deal, the Interfax news agency reported.

In a statement, the local government said Crimean Prime Minister Anatoly Mogilyev had tried to negotiate with the gunmen but was told "they were not authorized to negotiate and present demands."

Ukraine's acting interior minister, Arsen Avakov, said on his Facebook page that police were sealing off the area.

"Measures have been taken to counter extremist actions and not allow the situation to escalate into an armed confrontation in the center of the city," he said.

Phone calls to the Crimean legislature rang unanswered, and its website was down.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's currency, the hryvnia, dropped further to a new record low of 11.25 to the U.S. dollar, a sign of the country's financial distress.

One of the new government's first tasks will be to seek rescue loans from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. The finance ministry has pegged the country's needs at $35 billion dollars for this year and next to pay salaries and debts and cover the large budget deficit.
My Cold War-geared mind needs a "right" side to support. Gosh dang it, the conflict makes no sense if there's no good vs. evil!

Gunmen Seize Crimea's Airports, Ukraine Warns of Russian "Occupation"

Friday morning, dozens of armed men in military uniforms without insignias surrounded two Crimean airports in what Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has declared an "invasion and occupation" by Russian forces. The incident comes one day after masked gunmen, believed to be pro-Russia militants, seized two government buildings in the region.

The soldiers have stationed themselves outside of airports in Simferpol, the region's capital, and Sevastopol. There's no sign they've entered any terminals, and flights are reportedly arriving and departing on schedule.

While Russia's Black Sea Fleet, which is stationed in Crimea, has denied any involvement in the incident, BBC reporters spotted eight Russian military personnel trucks heading towards Simferopol on Friday, and there have been multiple unconfirmed reports of eight Russian military helicopters in the area.

Oleksandr V. Turchynov, Ukraine's speaker of Parliament and its acting president, called a meeting on Friday of the National Security and Defense Council to discuss the situation in Crimea.

"Terrorists with automatic weapons, judged by our special services to be professional soldiers, tried to take control of the airport in Crimea," he said before the meeting, according to the New York Times.

His colleague, Ukraine's interior minister Aresen Avakov, described the incident in more detail on his Facebook page.

According to Avakov, at about 1:30 am Friday morning, several trucks carrying more than 100 troops entered the Simferopol airport with automatic weapons.

When Ukrainian security forces told the men—who Avakov said did not hide their affiliation to Russia— they did not have the right to be there and must leave, the men responded, "We do not have instructions to negotiate with you."

"Tension is building," Avakov wrote, adding: "I regard what is happening as an armed invasion and occupation in violation of all international treaties and norms. This is a direct provoking of armed bloodshed on the territory of a sovereign state."

Concerns about separatism and Russian intervention in Crimea, which, according to a 2001 census, is 58% ethnic Russian, have soared in Ukraine since last week's ousting of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and have slowed the process of establishing a new permanent government.

Russian Federation Council Okays Troop Deployment in Ukraine

After effectively taking control over the contested Crimean peninsula off the coast of the Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin formally submitted a request to send Russian troops to the mainland. His request has swiftly been approved by the Federation Council.

Coming merely hours after President Obama advised that "there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine," Putin's request was largely seen as a formality. After a unanimous response from Russia's upper house, the remaining decision comes from a final vote, which is still to come.

Unanimous vote in the Federation Council to send Russian troops to Ukraine. Here we go.

— max seddon (@maxseddon) March 1, 2014

Here is the text of Vladimir Putin's request to the upper house:

“Due to the extraordinary situation that has taken shape in Ukraine and the threat to the lives of citizens of the Russian Federation, our compatriots, and the personnel of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation who are deployed on the territory of Ukraine (the Autonomous Republic of Crimea) under an international treaty, I hereby introduce, under Clause (g) of Part 1 of Article 2012 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, an appeal for the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine pending the normalization of the social and political situation in that country.”

While the U.S. contributed its stance on the issue in Obama's press conference yesterday, members of the EU appear to additionally stand against the Russian intervention. Finland's Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen, perhaps a little too late, called for "cool heads" in the crisis.

"We wish to support Ukraine's interim government in bringing things under control," Mr. Katainen said.

While Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has also weighed in, saying that Putin's intervention breaks international law.

Russian military intervention in Ukraine is clearly against international law and principles of European security.

— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) March 1, 2014

Russian influence has already begun to taken hold, as a crowd in the center of Donetsk pulled down a Ukrainian flag and raised a Russian flag in its place.​

Some Perspective on Russian Intervention in the Ukraine
2014 March 1
tags: Ukraine
by Ian Welsh
1) The journalists talking about anschluss are morons. This is not Germany in the 30s, Russia is not going to try and conquer Europe.

2) The Ukraine was part of Russia for centuries, and has been independent for about 20 years.

3) The Russian Army is not the Red Army: it is not capable of conquering Europe.

4) The Crimea is majority Russian already and had been part of Russia, yes, for centuries.

5) Russia was NEVER going to allow Ukraine to kick them out of Sevastopol and the Crimea.

6) Americans spent 5 billion dollars promoting the Ukrainian revolution. That’s a lot of money. Granted that the Ukrainian government was a corrupt bunch of thugs, Putin is not crazy to think the West fomented the revolution. The West DID foment revolution. There was fertile ground, but 5 billion dollars is not chicken feed.

7) The West is not going to fight a war for the Ukraine. Russia is.

8) The East of Ukraine is still pro-Russia.

9) What the Ukrainian parliament did with armed protesters standing over them is not, ummm, necessarily what they would have done without guns being waved in their general direction.

Analysis: it is highly unlikely that Putin will go for Kiev, though I won’t categorically rule it out. Crimea will be part of Russia, whether de-facto or de-jure. The eastern parts (which is where all the industry is, by the way), may be partitioned off as a rump state, or brought into Russia. In both cases, if it happens, referendums will be held. They will not need to cheat on them, as long as they don’t go too far West, they’ll win them fairly.

I will be frank: the West needs to stop fomenting these revolutions. Russia is not going to allow NATO to creep up to their border without taking action. You’d have to be crazy to think that Russia was going to allow the Ukraine, including Crimea, to become part of NATO, and yes, that was the West’s (or rather, America’s) endgame. (The Europeans think the Americans are crazy to be baiting the bear like this. But the Europeans need Russian natural gas.)

Russia is no longer the USSR. It is not an existential threat to the West, or even to Europe. It is a corrupt resource state with a big army and nukes which controls a lot of territory, but the idea that it would win a full-on conventional war with America is deranged.

All the US is accomplishing here is driving Russia into the country which is actually a danger to American dominance: China. This was totally unnecessary, but the entire thrust of US policy since the USSR has been to try and cripple Russia, starting with the completely deranged “shock doctrine” economic policies foisted on Russia right after the USSR’s collapse: doctrines which lead to an actual collapse in Russian population.

Putin thinks the US and the West are Russia’s enemies. He is not wrong.

Can you imagine if Russia spent 5 billion dollars fomenting a pro-Russian revolution in Mexico? How would the US react? (And let us not forget the US invasions of Grenada and Panama). If the US had broken up and California was its own state, would the rump US state feel they had a right to intervene in it?

Also, once more, the IMF will give Ukraine money in exchange for “reforms”. If you think those reforms will be good for the Ukraine, you are not just sadly mistaken, you are an idiot, or I hope you’re well paid to have such opinions. IMF reforms do not help ordinary people.

Finally, if I were a Western Ukrainian, I probably would have supported the revolution: Yanukovych was just too corrupt and too brutal. This isn’t about choosing sides, this is about understanding them.
I really wish I understood more about eastern euro politics. In undergrad I focused on the Americas.
Watching John Kerry blow steam out of his ears on ABC about how vile Russia is for using "19th Century Tactics in the 21st Century"

What a tool. No one is going to do anything about this conflict b/c the world doesn't want to go to war over Ukraine. The Great Leader won't have any luck drumming up popular support for military-anything because of how he and his party have demonized the War on Terror (and actually "legitimate" reason to be in another reason playing nation-builder) and to now hear Dem talking heads spouting rhetoric about how Russia is behaving badly is just foolish.

FWIW, despite Putin's thug-status, I'm slowly coming to the opinion that he's a decent leader - he knows what he wants, goes out and gets it, and has the glory of Russia at the heart of most of what he does. Would rather have somebody putting the USA first than trying to cement their own legacy in the process of their job.
Watching John Kerry blow steam out of his ears on ABC about how vile Russia is for using "19th Century Tactics in the 21st Century"

What a tool. No one is going to do anything about this conflict b/c the world doesn't want to go to war over Ukraine. The Great Leader won't have any luck drumming up popular support for military-anything because of how he and his party have demonized the War on Terror (and actually "legitimate" reason to be in another reason playing nation-builder) and to now hear Dem talking heads spouting rhetoric about how Russia is behaving badly is just foolish.

FWIW, despite Putin's thug-status, I'm slowly coming to the opinion that he's a decent leader - he knows what he wants, goes out and gets it, and has the glory of Russia at the heart of most of what he does. Would rather have somebody putting the USA first than trying to cement their own legacy in the process of their job.

As the resident Poccnr expert here, I have mixed feelings about this. Putin is a corrupt ass motherfucker. I'm never going to share the opinion that he's a decent leader. He's decent as as motherfuckers go, though.

Users who are viewing this thread

Top Bottom