THE VIOLENCE IN KYIV: A COMMENT
"Tens of thousands of protesters were digging in for further clashes with Ukrainian security forces in central Kiev, as fears grew of a wider government crackdown against pro-EU demonstrations using the armed forces. As darkness fell in the Ukrainian capital, the country’s defence ministry announced that the military could be deployed in “antiterrorist” operations and President Victor Yanukovich replaced the head of the army. The warning came 24 hours after the most bloody day in Ukraine since pro-EU demonstrators began their occupation of the city’s centre more than three months ago, with 25 people killed. Earlier thousands of protesters wearing military helmets and bullet proof vests has clashed sporadically with riot police as tens of thousands more sprawled out along Khreshchatyk, the city’s main street and a popular hang-out during peace times.... We are digging up ammunition from the streets we walked on so many times before to use as ammunition against this criminal regime Demonstrators who had a day earlier retained control of Independence Square in the city centre in the face of a fierce onslaught from riot police were reinforced by newly arriving protesters from western Ukraine. Earlier Ukraine’s state security service (SBU) announced it had launched a criminal case against unnamed politicians for plotting a coup to overthrow the government and “seize state power” as police restricted vehicle access to downtown Kiev. But Ihor Smeshko, who steered Ukraine away from violent confrontation during the 2004 Orange Revolution while in charge of the SBU, warned according to local news reports that “anti-terrorist” operations against protesting citizens was a “direct path towards civil war”. Ukrainian television also showed anti-government protesters in western Ukraine – where support for EU integration is highest – seizing control of government buildings and forcing governors appointed by Viktor Yanukovich, the Ukraine president, to sign papers confirming their resignation.... After late negotiations on Wednesday evening, Mr Yanukovich’s office and opposition politicians backing the protest movement announced that both sides had agreed to end the bloody street violence, in turn setting the stage for compromise talks. But with stun grenades still heard exploding on Kiev’s main square and protesters expressing lack of trust in Mr Yanukovich’s intentions, the situation remained tense".Roman Olearchyk, "Ukraine protesters dig in fearing bigger crackdown." The Financial Times. 19 February 2014, in www.ft.com. The state initiated violence in Kyiv these past few days raises, but does not answer the fraught question of whether President Yanukovich will and can successfully employ massive violence to restore 'order' in Kyiv and once there in the rest of the country. Based upon both past form and historical experience the events of the past few days seems at worse to be a draw between the forces of Yanukovich and his opponents (au fond the great mass of Ukrainians). If one were to employ military metaphors for what occurred, Yanukovich had his forces engage in something akin to a 'raid in force'. Hoping that with a short, sharp and surprise attack, that his forces would regain the center of the city and oust the protestors. Once done he could either re-engage in negotiations from a position of strength or conversely forgo negotiations and engage in wholesale repression in the rest of the country, gubernia by gubernia. Well as the report in to-day Financial Times seems to indicate that expectation does not appear to have been bourn out. Hence, the offer to (which the opposition has agreed to) of a truce and a temporary halt to the fighting. However, per se the truce does not mean that Yanukovich is ready to seriously negotiate a settlement to the crisis. Indeed, with the deaths of over twenty innocent people on his hands, something unheard of in post-Soviet Ukraine, Yanukovich's room for maneuver has become infinitely more truncated. After the recent state violence it is impossible to imagine that in any peace settlement to the crisis will allow him to remain in power for more than a very short interval. And once out of power, Yanukovich would have no other future than exile in either Mosvka, Central Asia or Minsk. Accordingly, I for one do not believe that Yanukovich has given up the hope that he can settle the crisis in his favor by the employment of massive violence. The reason that Yanukovich has not cared to so deploy massive violence is that: a) the security forces are too small in number and too inexperienced to decisively defeat the protestors and clear the center of the city of their presence; b) the army which could very easily in the abstract do what the security forces are unable to do, is by its very nature a dangerous weapon to use in this situation. While there has been a purge of elements of the upper echelon of the army, it is doubtful that if ordered to engage in massive violence Yanukovich's nominees can be absolutely certain that the army would indeed obey orders and do as it was told. Indeed, history has too many examples of instances were an army in such cases would mutiny and revolt rather than engage in actions which it did not believe in. The events in February-March 1917 in St. Petersburg are of course the best example that history provides 1. Accordingly, it appears to me that Yanukovich has not ordered the army into action because he fears that it might not only refuse to obey orders but would on the contrary join the protestors and bring down the regime tout de suite. He will only do so, if and only if, there exists no other means of settling the crisis in his favor. Judging from to-day's events the peak of the crisis has not yet arrived. Yanukovich still wishes to hood-wink the opposition by engage in a bogus truce so as to allow the security forces to better prepare themselves for a much more ferocious attack on the center of Kyiv. Expect a few days of meaningless discussions with both the opposition and the (embarrassing toothless) European Union and Americans. Once preparations are in train for another, more certain heavier attack, it will commence like clock-work. Whether it succeeds or not, is solely in the hands of the courageous Ukrainian people and in particular Ukrainian youth who are willing to risk their lives for ideals that we in the decadent West believe in without either feeling or depth. Bog willing they will succeed. As a heroic (if deluded and historically erroneous) writer once aptly put it:
The masses are the crucial factor. They are the rock on which the ultimate victory of the revolution will be built.21. The very best account is by the White émigré Russian scholar, George Katkov, Russia 1917: the February Revolution. (1967). 2. Rosa Luxembourg, "Order Prevails in Berlin", (1919).