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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Recent News about the Ukrainian Protests

I've been holding off on blogging about this because the death toll killed keeps going up. However, this is from the New York Times this morning:
The security authorities in Ukraine offered the first indication on Wednesday that the deadly political violence afflicting Kiev had spread far beyond the city limits, announcing a crackdown on what the Interior Ministry called “extremist groups” that had torched buildings and seized weapons nationwide.

The Interior Ministry announcement of an “anti-terrorist operation” across the country came a day after Kiev was gripped with the most lethal mayhem since protests erupted in November, leaving at least 25 dead including nine police officers. The Health Ministry said that 241 people had been wounded.

... “In many regions of the country, municipal buildings, offices of the Interior Ministry, state security and the prosecutor general, army units and arms depots, are being seized,” Oleksandr Yakimenko, the head of the SBU, the Ukraine state security service, said in a statement quoted by Reuters.

“Courtrooms are being burned down, vandals are destorying private apartments, killing peaceful citizens,” he said in the statement. Mr. Yakimenko said the past 24 hours had shown “a growing escalation of violent confrontation and widespread use of weapons by extremist oriented groups.”

In Kiev on Wednesday, protesters stoked what they are calling a “ring of fire” separating themselves from the riot police in a desperate effort to defend the remnants of a stage on Independence Square that has been a focal point of their protests.

Men staggering with exhaustion dismantled the tents and field kitchens from the protest movement’s earlier and more peaceful phase and hauled their remnants onto the fires. They piled on mattresses, sleeping bags, tent frames, foam pads and whatever else looked flammable, burning their own encampment in a final act of defiance.

... The Interior Ministry’s announcement of a nationwide crackdown came after witnesses and unofficial news reports from outside the capital said protesters had seized provincial administrative buildings in several regions, including Lviv, a bastion of anti-Yanukovych sentiment in western Ukraine near the border with Poland.

Andriy Porodko, a 29-year-old antigovernment activist in Lviv, said by telephone that protesters had taken control of the central government’s main offices in the region, resuming an occupation that had ended last Sunday, and had also raided the local headquarters of the state prosecutor, the Ukrainian security service and several district police stations.

Most ominously, said Mr. Porodko, who last month organized a blockade of an Interior Ministry garrison on the outskirts of Lviv, around 1,000 protesters had stormed the garrison, which serves as the headquarters of the Interior Ministry’s western regional command, seizing control of barracks and weapons stores. In addition, a local journalist said that around 140 guns were seized from Lviv’s central police station.
The Russians are getting excited about the situation, as well they should since these protests are rooted in policies carried out by Stalin:
The statement on Wednesday from the Foreign Ministry described the violence as an attempted coup and even used the phrase “brown revolution,” an allusion to the Nazi rise to power in Germany in 1933.

The ministry said Russia would use “all our influence to restore peace and calm.”

President Vladimir V. Putin’s spokesman said that the Russian leader had spoken by telephone with Mr. Yanukovych and expressed support for a swift settlement, but said it was up to Ukraine’s government to resolve it without external interference. “In the president’s view, all responsibility for what is happening in Ukraine rests with the extremists,” Dmitri S. Peskov, the spokesman, told reporters, according to the news agency Interfax.
 I interpret this as Russia will lend clandestine support against the protesters, but can't yet do anything openly because of the Olympic Games.

Government officials have also claimed that police had been killed by the protesters' weapons. However, the NYT article also states:
The Interior Ministry said all the police officers killed on Tuesdayhad died from gunshot wounds, although witnesses said it appeared that several officers had been trapped in a burning armored vehicle.
Last night, the BBC had reported:
Police are storming the main protest camp in Ukraine's capital, Kiev, which has been occupied since November.

Explosions are taking place, fireworks are being thrown and large fires have broken out in Independence Square.

On Tuesday at least 18 people were killed, including seven policemen, in the worst violence seen in weeks.

President Viktor Yanukovych blamed the violence on opposition leaders, but said it was still "not too late to stop the conflict".
 Obviously the police have failed to do so. My guess is that the military will now become involved.

And, finally, from a Time Magazine report this morning:
On Tuesday night, police in Ukraine began to storm the protest camp in the center of the capital, Kiev, using water canons, tear gas, truncheons and rubber bullets. In the course of the day, which was the most violent in Ukraine’s post-Soviet history, 20 demonstrators were killed reportedly alongside seven members of the security forces. But the dilemma now facing the state and the police is far more complicated than clearing a city square filled with thousands of people. They also have to dislodge the intricate community of revolutionaries that has taken root there over the past three months. In the space of roughly 10 city blocks, the uprising has established a city within a city, a barricaded fortress with its own police force, its own economy, its own hospitals, a parliament, a cathedral, even a library and, most importantly, its own political ideals. Those cannot be chased away with rubber bullets. 
The revolutionary fortress, which is known as the Maidan (Ukrainian for city square), also had its own command structure, independent of the political leaders of the revolution who have been trying in vain to negotiate an end to the crisis. One of the three overseers of the Maidan, known as commandants, is Stepan Kubiv, a lawmaker in the national parliament for the pro-Western Fatherland party. On Tuesday, as the government troops surrounded the Maidan and tire fires raged along its perimeter, he got on the stage in the center of the square to explain what was at stake. “Stand up, Ukraine!” Kubiv shouted into the microphone. “Today the fate of our children and grandchildren is decided. The fate of all of us!” Then, in a hint at the bloodshed likely to ensue by morning, he told the armed men guarding what was left of the barricades, “Death to the enemies!”

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