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Friday, February 21, 2014

Ragnarok

Tomorrow is the date Ragnarok is supposed to begin.
Ragnarok, the final bloody battle predicted in Norse mythology approaches on February 22.

Believers say that when the fateful day arrives Earth will split open, unleashing the inhabitants of Hel.

The wolf, Fenrir, son of Loki, will break out of his prison and the Midgard snake Jormungand will rise from the sea.

Nidhogg, the dragon of the underworld, will gnaw at the world tree, Yggdrasil, until it groans and wilts.

Then as the ice giants of Jotunheim come thundering over the horizon, the dead heroes of Valhalla will descend from heaven to fight them.

These events were prophesied by the god Odin who had hung himself from Yggdrasill for nine days so he could die and be re-born with wisdom and foresight.
The Viking apocalypse may not be starting tomorrow, but events in the Ukraine are heating up, and could possibly lead to a civil war ... or worse. Earlier it had appeared that the protests in Kiev might simmer down, as opposition leaders signed an agreement with Ukrainian President, Victor Yanukovich. That is not what has happened. Rather, protesters have denounced the deal. The Globe and Mail reports:
The future of Ukraine appears more uncertain than ever after thousands of protesters angrily denounced an agreement aimed at ending months of unrest.

While politicians managed to reach a deal on Friday that will see the removal of embattled President Viktor Yanukovych by December, the thousands of protesters still on the streets here made it clear they want him out immediately and some vowed to take up arms if that doesn’t happen.

“The Right Sector is not putting down our weapons,” said Dmytro Yarosh, who leads the right-wing organization which some have labelled extremist. “We are not going to stop any of our activities until Yanukovych resigns.”

It was a day of drama and intrigue in Kiev. Under intense pressure from European diplomats alarmed at the increasingly violent confrontation between the Moscow-backed government and its opponents, Mr. Yanukovych and the three main opposition party leaders emerged with an agreement to set up a unity government and hold early elections.

The negotiations were aimed at calming the popular uprising – dozens of people were killed in the now wrecked centre of the capital this week – but they risk exacerbating tensions between the West and Russia over the future of Ukraine.

A Russian envoy in Kiev refused to sign the accord, although EU mediators signed as witnesses. But whether Russia will accept the concessions is unclear. Later on Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin had what was described as “constructive” discussions, speaking by phone for about an hour, mainly about the Ukraine crisis.
Given Obama's record at foreign relations, I'll hazard a guess that nothing in the conversation was "constructive," but it was a complete disaster.

Meanwhile, the rats have begun to flee the sinking ship, so to speak. Mediaite and Hot Air both indicate that Yanukovych has fled Kiev. From Mediaite:

The Russian-backed president of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovich, fled the capital city of Kiev on Friday evening shortly after signing a deal with opposition protesters aimed at ending the months-long standoff. The protests in Ukraine against the government’s proposal to avoid integrating with the European Union in favor of strengthening ties with Russia have grown deadly in recent days.

The State Department confirmed on Friday that Yanukovich left the city of Kiev to hold meetings with officials in the nation’s second largest city, Kharkiv. There, the Ukrainian president would be greeted with anti-Yanukovich protesters.

Some, however, are suggesting that Yanukovich’s move may not be as innocent as his office is leading the international press to believe. A Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reporter tweeted on Friday that the Ukrainian president’s belongings are being prepared for travel as well.
And he is not the only one leaving. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports:
... However, charter flight records published on Twitter and by Ukrainian media suggest that dozens of Yanukovych allies appear to have fled -- or attempted to flee -- the country as the president's regime has grown increasingly shaky.

With the current death toll from protest violence at nearly 80, Yanukovych announced a peace deal on February 21, establishing early presidential elections, a national unity government, and reduced presidential powers.

But even before Yanukovych revealed the terms of the deal, the prospect of such an outcome was reportedly enough to send regime stalwarts scurrying to Kyiv's Zhulyany airport, where records indicate that as many as 180 charter flights have been registered since February 19. (A roll call at the parliament session on February 21 showed only 131 of the Party of Regions' 204 deputies in attendance.)

One log, published online, showed flights to international destinations as well as locations in Ukraine's Russian-speaking south and east. The destinations include Moscow, Frankfurt, Budapest, Istanbul, Kharkhiv, Zaporizhzhya, Donetsk, and Simferopol.

Many of the surnames on the passenger list appear to correspond to those of high-ranking members of the Yanukovych regime, as well as police officials and oligarchs.
The Daily Beast reports on a law passed by the Ukrainian parliament that would require an investigation into violence against protesters. The same news story goes on:
The second group of MPs took to their heels to the airport with their families and big suitcases, undoubtedly stuffed with cash. They have lots of places to escape to. One of those rumored to have fled: Serhyi Klyuyev, who has close ties to D.C. lobbying firms and who is the brother to Andryi Klyuyev, one of the country’s most powerful politicians. Serhyi’s daughter is said to have an apartment in a luxury building at Clearwater Beach, Florida. Meanwhile, the parents of Yevhen Heller, a key member of the Yanukovych-Ahmetov clan, reportedly live in Brooklyn. While snipers are shooting students in Kiev on the orders of Heller’s boss, his family gets to take advantage of American democracy. If civil war starts in Ukraine, Heller could even ostensibly try to flee to the U.S. through America’s Family Reunion program.

Meanwhile, Yanukovych looks to be increasingly alone. State media reported that he had been prepared to declare a state of emergency, but nobody from the National Security and Defense Council signed the papers for the decree, and so he left his signature off, too. Meanwhile, someone for the opposition drafted a document for the president to read—it accused him of acting like a tyrant. Foreign diplomats have visited Yanukovych to try to persuade him to stop the carnage. But it’s clear who is real friend is: earlier, he allegedly put in a call to Moscow asking Putin if it would be possible to get some guarantees in case he needed to escape. It’s said Putin gave an evasive answer. Yanukovych was left as alone as a F├╝hrer in his bunker.
 Allahpundit, writing at Hot Air, warns that the result may be a division of Ukraine along ethnic lines, with a portion of the country seeking to join Russia. This could lead to a civil war. Moreover, he quotes from the Financial Times:
Russia is prepared to fight a war over the Ukrainian territory of Crimea to protect the ethnic Russian population and its military base there, a senior government official has told the FT.

“If Ukraine breaks apart, it will trigger a war,” the official said. “They will lose Crimea first [because] we will go in and protect [it], just as we did in Georgia.” In August 2008, Russian troops invaded Georgia after the Georgian military launched a surprise attack on the separatist region of South Ossetia in an effort to establish its dominance over the republic…

However, many government officials say in private that Ukraine falls inside Russia’s sphere of influence. “We will not allow Europe and the US to take Ukraine from us. The states of the former Soviet Union, we are one family,” said a foreign policy official. “They think Russia is still as weak as in the early 1990s but we are not.”
 And there is this op-ed from Reuters:
Ukraine has had two weeks to find a compromise in its Russia versus the West dispute. Russian President Vladimir Putin has been focused on promoting his soft image with the Winter Olympics in Sochi. With the games ending Sunday, however, time has run out and the crisis in Kiev and other cities is only getting worse.

If Putin uses Russian history as a guide, it would not be out of the question that Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine. After all, Soviet leaders did just this to retain control during the Hungarian uprising in 1956 and the 1968 Prague spring in Czechoslovakia.

For Putin stands to lose influence and his ability to affect policy in Ukraine if the opposition gains control. This is at the core of the current Ukraine crisis.

Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich disregarded a much-anticipated association agreement with the European Union in November to sign a $15 billion bailout deal with Russia. It was this Kremlin-influenced act that sparked the protests — first peaceful but now increasingly violent. Ukraine now appears divided into an eastern part that supports Yanukovich and the Russian deal, and the Europe-prone western half.

So the real question may well be: What does Russia want?

Looking to history, Moscow wants what it has always wanted — Ukraine, translated as the Edge (of Russia) and also known as Malorossiya or Small Russia. ...

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