Civil Unrest in Ukraine

January 23rd, 2014   Submitted by Roman Skaskiw

UKRAINE2Wars and revolutions, regardless of their soundness, gain legitimacy when sprinkled with the blood of good people, a baptism of sorts. Think back to 2003 when the war makers celebrated the first American casualties in Iraq. Their youthful, smiling images appeared everywhere. What tragedy! How dare the enemy do this? In the name of fallen, we shall proceed ever more boldly!

As wars drag on, the dead and suffering put increasing pressure on the war makers to justify the cause. So, instead of being paraded as sanctifying relics, military remains are quietly dumped into landfills. But the soldiers’ role in propaganda is an issue I’ve covered before. Let’s talk about Ukraine, where I live.

On January 22 three Ukrainian protesters were killed by riot police, two by gunshot. It happened, strangely enough, on Unity Day. The holiday marks a proclamation of unity made in 1919 between the short-lived Western Ukrainian government, who was then battling Polish forces for control of Eastern Galicia, and the similarly short-lived government in Kyiv, which was soon overrun by Bolshevik forces. Tragedy has been the hallmark of Ukrainian history since the Mongols sacked Kyiv in 1240.

So we now have the blood of good people, but what exactly has it baptized? This remains up for grabs.


The current protests began on November 21st after Ukraine’s President Yanukovych announced he wouldn’t be signing an anticipated accession agreement, which would have begun a long process leading, theoretically, to Ukraine joining the EU. My early argument for self-reliance ahead of EU accession angered a few Ukrainian friends. Ukrainians generally blame their economic morass on corrupt and predatory politicians. The political class is known to raid successful businesses with assistance from the courts, and a blind eye from the police. Protesters consider accession to the EU the only remedy. I sympathize, but disagree in two ways. I’d put some of the blame on societal corruption down to the lowest levels, and I think gun ownership is a surer protector of property rights.

The protests escalated after a violent and unexpected pre-dawn raid by the “Berkut” riot police on November 30. The purpose of the raid was unclear. The protesters were stationary and unorganized. Some were sleeping. Reports circulated that some of the injured were kidnapped from the hospitals where they sought treatment, and others were detained immediately and denied medical care even for severe injuries. Three protesters remain missing.

Following outcry over the raid, between 300,000 and a million protesters flooded into the capital, many from the nationalistic western part of the country.
There was live music, free food, and distributions of winter clothes. There was much taunting of the police. Provocateurs among the protesters caused some (not all) of the physical confrontations. Protesters built barricades. They toppled the monument of Lenin near the city center. Soviet-Afghan war veterans organized camp security. They gained control of a few government buildings and camped out, waiting for change.

For almost two months, not much happened. The protesters dwindled but remained. During my visit to the capital the camps seemed to co-exist with Kyiv’s normal city life (my photos).

During the lull Russian President Putin and Ukrainian President Yanukovych agreed that Russia would buy $15 billion worth of Ukrainian debt, likely forestalling the consequences of the government’s insolvency. Both presidents insisted no other conditions were attached to the deal.

On January 20th the Ukrainian legislature, without following legislative procedures, criminalized virtually every conceivable form of protest. The flood of new legislation also requires future buyers of sim cards for cellphones to present passports. This triggered the violence taking place now.

The protesters are using stones, fireworks, Molotov cocktails and, famously, a catapult (which has its own Twitter account). In addition to clubs, the riot police have begun employing “flash-bang” grenades and rubber bullets. Eyes have been lost. Also, two protesters have been killed by live ammunition.
Thousands of additional Titushky (government sponsored hooligans) have arrived. Strangely, several hundred of them deployed to surround the US Embassy.

Injured protesters continue to disappear from hospitals. Protesters emerging from custody show signs of brutal beatings and report various tortures and humiliations. They report having seen others either dead or unconscious.

Several Perspectives

The EU

It seemed the EU was facing the perfect storm: unemployment the highest ever, governments teetering on the brink of insolvency, anti-EU sentiment rising everywhere, and numerous countries threatening to leave. Then Ukrainians burst onto the scene risking their very lives, seemingly, for a chance to join.
This will likely be the popular portrayal in the west. Western news stories lead with the “desire of Ukrainians to join the EU.” The west seeks to expand their sphere of influence and diminish Russia’s, and it is only to this extent that Ukraine’s civil unrest matters. Ukrainian news coverage no longer even mentions it.

The Protesters

The November 30 raid seemed a pivot point where the purpose of the protest switched from advocating EU accession to topping a hideously corrupt and abusive regime. Here is a picture of the construction of the President’s third residence. His son recently became one of Ukraine’s richest men.
Ukrainians are tired of feeling humiliated, as evidenced when they voice their desire to have a “normal” country. After the latest violence, any agreement which keeps the President and Party of Regions in power is intolerable.

The Regime

To be honest, I somewhat like President Yanukovych. He strikes me as a bumbling hooligan of dim intelligence doing what he knows best: making himself rich. I prefer this type of politician to the ideologues in the west, because the hooligan only wants material wealth. If I stay out of his business and keep my own success inconspicuous, he’ll leave me alone. By contrast, the ideologue demands my heart and soul.

President Yanukovych had been flirting with both Moscow and Brussels, leading them on like a champion stripper, trying to finagle the best deal for himself. I think the protests in response to his latest stall caught him by surprise. The tragedy for him was that they revealed the brutality of the system.
Many protesters incorrectly regard Russia and the Yanukovych regime to be one big evil empire seeking to eliminate Ukraine. While it’s true that Yanukovych’s Party of Regions has been massively supported by Moscow, the last thing the regime wants is supervision. They have a resource-rich country of their own, and they want to continue treating it like a gigantic ATM. Unfortunately for them, the government is bankrupt and ineffective, and riddled with the same myopic opportunism you find at its head.

They needed a bailout to keep the party going, and it seems like they just got it from Russia.

The Russians

The dynamics between Russia and Ukraine are very complicated, and seeped in controversial interpretations of history. Here’s my take:
Protests like this do not happen in Russia, and the Kremlin wants to keep it that way. The state took tighter control of Russian media when violence first flared in Kyiv. Newsmen ridiculed the protests, even claiming that cold weather caused the unrest.

Russia wants to expand its empire. They are building dependency by buying Ukrainian debt, similar to how they do with subsidized gas deals. There is also a long-standing plan to divide Ukraine, and absorb parts of it into the Russian federation. WWII history is used to divide Ukrainians.

Lastly, there is much speculation that Russian agents are actively trying to escalate the situation to the point that Russian security forces have an excuse to intervene.

Eastern and Russian-Ukrainians

Some are supportive of the protesters rebelling against a corrupt regime. Others feel threatened by the nationalism of the protesters, which can take a pointedly anti-Russian tone. Still others are afraid to voice their opinions for fear of losing their jobs. That was the conclusion of a very affable friend of mine who regularly travels to Donetsk on business. He said he couldn’t even get anyone to express an opinion.

The Berkut riot police from Russified parts of Ukraine have been known to express anti-Ukrainian, pro-Russian, and pro-Soviet views. It may be confusing for western observers to see Ukrainian police angrily tearing down Ukrainian flags.

The Opposition

The three opposition politicians are former heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko, lawyer turned politician Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and nationalist firebrand Oleh Tyahnybok. They called for a general strike in response to the latest violence. Earlier, they had appeared in plastic helmets in defiance of the anti-protest laws.

The protesters don’t trust any of them. Klitschko seems to be the least mistrusted, and he was sprayed in the face with a fire extinguisher when he spoke among the protesters. Despite the lack of trust, there doesn’t seem to be anyone else, so any solution of the sort the protesters are seeking will likely involve these men.

The Violence

The official death count at the time of this writing is five. Judging by reports of protesters released from custody, and reports of missing people, it could be in the dozens.

Nevertheless, I do not yet consider this a war or a rebellion. It remains civil unrest, masses of riot police confronting masses of protesters. With such a density of people, a single armed person on either side could kill numerous opponents. It took my military mind quite a while to realize what each side was doing.

The protesters strive to create a spectacle and discredit the regime by demonstrating their powerlessness. They are also striving to win and maintain sympathy. The regime, through the riot police, is attempting to demonstrate that they are, in fact, in control, and that the protesters are outliers of public opinion.

The worst possible outcome for the protesters, with whom I’m sympathetic, is the establishment of a Belarus-style dictatorship.
The most realistic expectation is forcing a change of regime, perhaps through a snap election, though that would be difficult because the Party of Regions is very good at election fraud. A new regime would likely be just as corrupt, but power structures in Ukraine are very vertical. So, it really would be a new set of power brokers. More importantly, the fact that the people changed the ruling party would itself restrict the arrogance of future regimes.

Of course, a much sounder foundation for a free society with lasting property rights would rely on the principles of local autonomy through secession, sound money through competing currencies, and property rights through gun ownership. Sadly, these ideas aren’t yet popular enough in Ukraine, which is why the greatest dream of so many protesters is of European politicians protecting them from Russian ones. A sad state of affairs indeed.

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26 Responses to “Civil Unrest in Ukraine”

  1. Great collection of links about the protests here, including evidence of provocateurs, targeting of journalists, dramatic videos and live streams: aine/

  2. HReardenNo Gravatar says:

    I have not heard media reports of the protests in Ukraine. Notice I did write “the” before Ukraine. I suppose the western media doesn’t find the protests news worthy.

    • Gyorgy FuriosaNo Gravatar says:

      Mass protests and violence against the State? Why on Earth would the US media promote that … it’s huge news in the UK though so dont lump EUropean media in with ‘the West’ …

    • FranzNo Gravatar says:

      United States news outlets are only concerned with entertainment, not news per se. I depend almost entirely on the foreign press for real news.

      Here are some websites in English that carry international news: Russia Today (Hard to determine their politics) Daily Telegraph (UK — Statist, ‘conservative’) Manchester Guardian (UK — Statist/Socialist/Fascist) Deutsche Welle (Germany — sort of like NPR in the US) E-Kathimerini (Greece)

      I check all of these regularly, plus a slate of German-language publications.

  3. Apparently, the Titushky who surround the US Embassy started complaining amongst themselves that they weren’t getting paid. Article and raw footage:

  4. I love the Anarcho-Communism flags flying (Red/Black)….i get a laugh out of that. Not bashing it but I’m a Rothbardian so i just get a kick out of it.

    • Andrii DrozdaNo Gravatar says:

      Kirk, it’s not the Anarcho-Communism flags. It’s Ukrainian Insurgent Army flags. UIA fought against Nazis and Soviets (till 1952) in Western Ukraine.

  5. Alex ZNo Gravatar says:

    As a resident of the planet Earth and of Ukrainian descent, you have know idea how much I appreciate your Boots On The Ground views of the situation.

    Living in North America, I briefly toyed with the idea of returning to Ukraine to get out from under the Police States here. It seems my Romantic notions were ill-founded.

    So South America it is.

    I wish you and all my unknown relatives the best in the face of this tyranny.

    Thank you again for sharing information and analyses that are non-existent in the West.

    The Boot-Strap Expat

    • I don’t know. I feel pretty free here. You should at least come visit me before making your final decision. 🙂

      • Alex ZNo Gravatar says:

        Thanks for the invite, Roman!

        Pierogi (sharp cheese and potato with lots of salt pork an sour cream) is my perennial Birthday Meal, so hopefully you’ll have some lying around.

        I could be persuaded!

      • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

        You feel free even though your government is thought to be involved in mass forced disappearance?

        • Good point. Though I’m not sure the disappearances can be called ‘massive’ yet. We also don’t know whether they’re temporary. Also, I qualified my statement — *pretty* free.

          I think when you move to a different country, you see freedoms you’re not used to having. (Like buying hot wine from street vendors in the winter.)

          On the flip side, you also see restrictions you haven’t encountered before. For me personally, it’s been a dense, monstrously incompetent bureaucracy.

          What’s refreshing here is that the tyrants aren’t ideological. Mostly they just want to enrich themselves and protect their privileged position.

          The ideology is limited to arguing about Russian vs Ukrainian interpretations of history. Important, but nothing compared to the constant pulling twisting the US media subjected me to. It’s so clever and subtle. I didn’t appreciate how powerful it was until it vanished from my world. Now I’ll sometimes encounter a little new clip on youtube and think to myself: “gosh, that’s a whole bunch of stupid.” Now that it doesn’t effect me so much, it seems comical and unimportant.

          • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

            I stopped watching the propaganda several years ago. Now and then when I catch some of it I feel the same way you do.

        • Alex ZNo Gravatar says:

          And the USSA is innocent of such charges?
          Not so much.

          The Boot-Strap Expat

          • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

            I find it highly amusing that your indoctrination is such that you assumed that my position must automatically be one comparing freedom in the US to Ukraine.

            Just because I don’t think Ukraine is free, that doesn’t mean I think the US is.

            • Alex ZNo Gravatar says:

              I apologize for presuming anything.

              As a Reg’lar Joe expatriating from the States, I encounter a lot of USSA, rah! rah! propaganda.

              Please forgive me.

              • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

                I know what you mean lots of folks here like to say “Murca freest country” Nope sorry.

        • Alex ZNo Gravatar says:

          Rendition, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Japanese Internment Camps, The Trail of Tears, Wounded Knee, “Indian” Reservations, Infecting Citizens with Syphilis, MK Ultra…

          …Your “high horse” is not so high. The States don’t have much to “brag” about in terms of Human Rights.

  6. Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

    I watch RT’s world news every day. They show lots of great footage of the riots in Kiev. They aren’t afraid to show the brutality of the police, but they often get Russian stooges on that brand the protesters as terrorists. It’s very refreshing to have a voluntaryist slant on what’s going on. Keep us updated as things progress.

  7. I should have added to my analysis of the Russian perspective that they are sensitive to the involvement of western intelligence agencies in these protests. The fact that western intelligence is involved is probably a given, it’s only a question of degrees. Aside from expanding their empire, the Russians also the more modest and very reasonable goal of wanting a buffer between themselves and NATO.

  8. Janos SzaboNo Gravatar says:

    “…between 300,000 and a million protesters flooded into the capital, many from the nationalistic western part of the country. There was live music, free food, and distributions of winter clothes.”

    Is it a protest, a party, a hippie convention, an expression of cultural autonomy, or just another unwitting endorsement of the political map of the world?

  9. celil kekecNo Gravatar says:

    Yulia is a hero. Russia is the killer. Yanukovhic is a servant. 76 million Turkish people support you. God be with you

    • PedroNo Gravatar says:

      Yulia is a notorious “Western” puppet like your Globalist-tool Erdogan is. Erdogan ganging up on Assad tells you everything you want to know about how really pulls his strings…

  10. PedroNo Gravatar says:

    It’s simple, Ukraine has fallen victim to the “4th Generation Warfare” of the Globalist-Illuminati Empire. I hope Russia (the last bastion against the Globalists) saves the Eastern part from being enslaved.

    As for the Western part, they will get a totally crypto-dictatorial “leftwing vs rightwing” regime, corporate-socialist economic enslavement, corrupt news media serving the “leftwing vs rightwing” regime, corrupt entertainment media spreading scientifically designed filth (the “Against THE MAN (made by THE MAN)” and will start being flooded by mass immigration (the importation-creation of hyper-ethnocentric non-whites hiding behind “anti-racism”). It’s over for them…