THE SITUATION IN UKRAINE: STILL 'NAS NE PODOLATY'?
"Ukrainian opposition leaders emerged from crisis talks with President Viktor Yanukovich on Wednesday saying he had failed to give concrete answers to their demands, and told their supporters on the streets to prepare for a police offensive. Using emotional language following the deaths earlier in the day of at least three protesters - two of them from gunshot wounds - the three opposition leaders who met Yanukovich said they were ready to face police bullets. Boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko told the thousands of protesters gathered on Kiev's Independence Square that during three hours of talks the president had given no clear response to their demands that the government be dismissed and sweeping anti-protest laws ditched. "Today they (the police) are preparing to clear us out of the 'Maidan' (Independence Square)," Klitschko declared. "We must do all we can to stop them clearing us out," he said. He urged people to stay overnight and defend the square in central Kiev, and drew a roar of support from protesters when he declared: "If I have to go (on to the streets) under bullets, I shall go there under bullets. "Tomorrow if the President does not respond ... then we will go on the offensive," he said. Former economy minister Arseny Yatsenyuk echoed his words, and referred to the overnight shooting deaths which the opposition has blamed on police despite official denials. A third man died after plunging from the top of Dynamo football stadium while fighting with police.... The protesters, inflamed by news of the deaths, faced off again on Wednesday with riot police, whom they have battled near the government headquarters since Sunday night. Though repelled by occasional forays of baton-wielding riot police, they have continued to return to the spot, setting tires ablaze and sending clouds of black smoke wafting into police lines. Fifty people were detained overnight and 29 of them were officially charged with taking part in mass unrest, police said. A total of 167 police have been injured, officials said. There was no estimate of the number of civilians injured. Ahead of the talks with Klitschko, Yatsenyuk and far-right nationalist Oleh Tyahnibok, Yanukovich issued a statement deploring the overnight loss of life. Urging people not to heed the calls of "political radicals", Yanukovich said: "I am against bloodshed, against the use of force, against inciting enmity and violence." But his prime minister, Mykola Azarov, took a tough public line before flying off to the economic forum in Davos, denouncing the protesters as "terrorists" and "criminals". He blamed opposition leaders for inciting "criminal action" by backing the protests, which he said had destabilized Ukraine, a country of 46 million people."Richard Balmforth and Pavel Polityuk. "Ukraine opposition say they'll brave bullets after talks with Yanukovich fail". Reuters. 22 January 2014, in www.reuters.com.
"Razom Nas Bahato! Nas ne Podolaty!" ["Together, we are many! We cannot be defeated!"].The slogan of the crowds in Kiev during the Orange Revolution of November 2004. Cited by Adrian Karatnycky."Ukraine's Orange Revolution." Foreign Affairs. (March / April 2005): p. 35 and passim. It is crunch time in Kiev. Of that there is no doubt. At this juncture, either the ruling clique around Yanukovich keeps their nerves and employs brute and unmitigated force, resulting in (at the very least) hundreds of deaths and perhaps thousand of injured people or he will be ousted from power. There does not seem to be any alternative scenarios available herein. Judging from the recent dismissal of the Army chief and the cajoling (or should we say 'bending') of the leading oligarchs to take his side, Yanukovich seems prepared to employ force on a scale which one had hoped that European civilization would never again see 1. The other key variable is how will the masses of Ukrainian citizenry react to the recent events. Obviously, if the opposition can mobilize on a scale similar to that of November 2004, when millions of people protested in the streets of the country then it does not appear likely that Yanukovich's attempted auto-coup will work. However, one should recall that in the case of the Orange Revolution, that Yanukovich was in favor of employing force to crush the demonstrations and was only stopped by the fact that elements of the security forces and the army made clear their determination to prevent such a scenario occurring 2. Whether after his more recent purges, the same scenario will play out is while likely (to my mind) not entirely certain. One can only hope that for the future of Ukraine and its people that history will indeed repeat itself. 1. On the recent dismissal of the Army chief. see: Leader, "Pulling Kiev back from the brink." The Financial Times. 20 January 2014, in www.ft.com. On the 'bending' of the Oligarchs in the past two months, see: Ievgen Vorobiov, "Ukraine’s Oligarchs Distance Themselves from the Protest Movement." The Bulletin of the Polish Institute of International Affairs. 20 January 2014, in www.pism.pl. 2. Karatnycky, op. cit., pp. 44-45.