Ukraine: A Fight for Democracy?
The European society is following the development in Ukraine with great concern. While the fight for democracy in Ukraine rages on, there is a hidden war, happening behind closed curtains.
Whom is it, we can believe?
While Russian involvement in the Crimea region brought about economic and political stability to this Ukraine region, the developments in the eastern regions are more than alarming. Labelled off as terrorists by western media, militarised groups of separatist pro-Russians, who are standing up for more democracy in their region, as depicted by Russian meda, and representing the majority of their own communities, suppress the ethnic minorities anti-separatists in their region and increasingly start to act against all democratic principles. Quite frankly, revolutionists on the Maidan ignited the revolutionary fire by protesting against the illegitimate decision of president Yanukovich to partner up with Russia and overthrowing his regime. Therefore it must be concluded Maidan Ukrainians set the ground for further protests tearing the country farther apart, but there still are no grounds for militarised occupations of a country's territory in the twenty first century, or is there?
Whom is it we can trust? The video shows peaceful citizens trying to stop the Ukrainian tanks from advancing? Warning shots are fired by Ukrainian forces. (published: 2nd of May 2014)
Source: Youtube.com/sapankov licensed under Creative Commons Attribution.
In this point the opinions differ, as there are always two sides to a story. Western media reports about the horrific developments in Ukraine and how the Ukrainian government is trying to deal with them depicting Wladimir Putin and the Russian separatists as the solely responsible ones for the crisis in eastern Ukraine. Western countries imposing sanctions upon Russian officials draws quite the clear picture of who is right, and who is wrong on the situation.
Russian television in contrary shows a completely different Ukraine. The separatists are not hidden troops involved in a greater operation of Russia to reach world dominance, but locals, trying to defend their rights. Especially demanding their language to be recognised as an official language for their region and pledging for a federalisation of Ukraine. The Russian media bluntly disregards many well known facts about the Ukraine situation, but sheds some light on some very interesting new facts that the western public is not told about. The one-sided view of all the media in this crisis is the consumers greatest foe. Without analysing the situation from multiple perspectives one cannot conclude that a situation is one but not the other way.
But whom is it we really can believe? Is it the Russian mass media, that deliberately promotes the picture of a racist regime ruling Ukraine and trying to force Russian minorities into obeying them and sending armours to eastern Ukraine or is it the west which puts off the new pro-Russian movement as acts of terrorism and suspects Russian involvement in the crisis. But before answering any of these question let us first look at some arguments from both sides and shed some light on the situation at hand.
A chronological overview of the crisis in Ukraine
November - December 2013
On the 22nd November 2013, Yanukovich suddenly decided to partner up with Russia, instead of signing an Association Agreement with the European Union. Pressured from both sides, the western world and Russia: Worried about the good trading relations to Russia that were short of crumbling away, the only smart choice he could think of, was partnering up with Russia. It was the country, that delivered gas, oil and other products to Ukraine for far more than just affordable prices. Moreover Russia was the only creditor that did not impose any sanctions for late payments, as Ukraine failed to pay their bills to Russia in many instances, but was always pardoned. Signing an agreement with the European Union would have caused a dramatic increase in prices of almost all the cheap goods offered on the market initiating an inflation and thereby it would destroy Ukraine's economic cohesion. Through his decision, though, he was only able to postpone Ukraine's now inevitable fate the far, as needed for him to flee the country if his actions would have a negative effect.
December 2013: As Yanukovych could have predicted, massive protests soon emerged in December 2013 and spread like wildfire through the whole of Ukraine.
In the beginning of December 2013 the Ukrainian President Yanukovych decided to take a trip to China, completely ignoring the raging protests in Kiev. It was important to reassure one of Ukraine's biggest creditors, apart from Russia - Beijing, that Ukraine is still politically and economically able to cope with the protests and is still able to fulfill the terms of their credit agreement.
On the 6th December Yanukovych traveled to Russia to talk to Russia's president Vladimir Putin in Sochi and to "discuss trade and economic issues", as stated by Peskov and cited by the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS on the same day.
On the 11th December Viktor Yanukovych tried to forcefully wind up the Euromaidan by sending Berkut professional militarised police units and soldiers to bring away protesters from the main streets to the Bessarabska Square. Police units using gas against protesters, violent fights against their own citizens, but Berkut forces legitimised themselves by a resolution of the Pecherskyi District Court, which was later found to be illegtime as was read after 10p.m. rendering it useless. That is when the bell ringer of the St. Michael Golden-Domed Monastry decided to ring the bells of the church alarming reinforcements to join the fight. The bells could be heard throughout the night.
12th December 2013: Dnepropetrovsk workers of the communal services and employees of government funded firms were being forced to participate in the Anti-Maidan movement in Kiev.
14th December 2013: Supporters from Kharkiv voiced their indignation that authorities from Ukraine were fencing off Plocha Svobodi by metal fences from public view.
15th December 2013: US Senetor John McCain formally addressed the Maidan calling the actions of the Euromaidan an "incredible display of patriotism" and condemning the actions of the Ukraine government.
On the 17th December a treaty between Russia and Ukraine was signed according to which Russia would oblige itself to buy 15 Billion worth of Ukrainian Eurobonds. It also constituted that the cost of natural gas would be cut down to 268 USD per 1000 cubic metres. It was an attempt to cool down the pressure on president Yanukovich
21st December 2013: Ukrainian Prime Minister M. Azarov stated that the Ukraine could have had faced a crisis, if it had signed the Association Agreement in November 2013 according to reports of the Russian news agency Interfax.
25th December 2013: Students from Lviv, a western Ukrainian town, protest against Kievs decision to postpone the EU Association Agreement by going on strike.
On 29th December 2013: The Financial Times reports about "tens of thousands of government protesters" rallying in front the heavily-guarded Mezhyhirya estate in downtown Kiev, home to president Viktor Yanukovich.
On 30th December 2013: Ukrainian diaspora in Canada protests against the violent actions of the Ukrainian government against peaceful protesters. (reported by Andrey Vasiliev, CNN iReport)
The protest continue throughout the whole of December and January. Violent military involvement took place in many instances. An oppositional Journalist was savagely beaten as reported by Canadian cbcnews world.
The January abdication
01st January 2014: About two hundred thousand protesters gathered at the Euromaidan New Years Eve celebration dancing and singing together while protesting against the political regime in Ukraine (reported by the KyivPost on the 1st of 2014)
Simultaneously 15,000 people celebrated Stephan Banderas birthday. To the western Ukraine Bandera is a national hero. In general it is said, that western Ukraine has a rather right-wing view. In contrast to western Ukraine's understanding of Bandera's actions, he is regarded as a nationalist and racist by most of the eastern Ukrainians, Russians and Polish citizens. Many western and eastern world historians blame Stephan Bandera for murdering 7000 communists and jews before German troops invaded the former Soviet territory of Ukraine.
There is a huge gap in numbers! If any, then just 7.5 percent of the protesters, could be eligible to be classified as right wing populists. More than enough of a reason for the Russian state television channels to be talking about Ukrainian Nazis who wish death upon the Russian speaking Ukrainian - Russian ethnic group of the Ukrainian population. Their argument: 7.5 percent are 7.5 % too much. An argument, that should be carefully considered by the democratic thinking European populance and European politicians alike.
The recruitment of western Ukrainians was also reported by German favouriite quality magazine Der Spiegel in a SpiegelTV video. Western Ukrainians were being gathered in buses heading to the Maidan in throught the November and December 2013.
Between the 10th and 15th January 2014: Clashes between Berkut and the protesters continued on both days and brought up more violence and victims. Ukraine was slowly approaching a civil war
On the 16th January 2014: New anti-protest laws were adopted by the Ukrainian parliament. Protesters do not budge, although continuously breaking the newly introduced anti-democratic laws.
21st - 22ndJanuary 2014: Three people were killed in riots continued. Many were injured.
22nd January 2014 The two parties in the crisis negotiation talks fail to come to a consensus.
23rd January 2014: Kharkiv / Kharkiv residents opinions split. The pro-Russian or like the BBC named them - anti-revolutionaries, decided to stop the, as they call it, "Fascist invasion". Tensions between the pro-Russian and pro-European groups rise.
Early morning: The polices raided and destroyed the Euromaidan red cross centre.
Members of the internal army units VV were awarded with medals.
25th January 2014: Yanukovych offers the Prime Ministers post to opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk, which he gladly accepts.
28th January 2014: The prime minister of Ukraine Mykola Azarov resigns. Simultaneously Time magazine reports about right-wing thugs hijacking Ukraine's Liberal uprising. While it is commonly known, that Wikipedia cannot be used as a biased source to reference, it is interesting to note, that it provides the organisations description as centre-left radical, while the Time magazine calls them right-wing thugs. Confusing, isn't it?
At this point at the latest one must have noticed, that the Ukrainian protests on the Euromaidan had nothing to do with the right-winged sectors uprise in the first place, but were a liberal peaceful movement.
A captain leaving the sinking ship
An intercepted phone call between Victoria Nuland and the US ambassador to Ukraine was leaked on the video platform Youtube on the 7th of February, in which the Assistance Secretary of State used explicit language in connection with the EU. Very soon she apologised for it. The authenticity of the recording has not been denied. She also stated that the US is to provide Ukraine with support "if it moves quickly in the direction of the protection of human rights, dignity, conflict de-escalation, and political reform. Otherwise the EU, the International Monetary Fund, and the U.S. will not provide financial assistance to Ukraine".
9th February: The opposition leaders start to promote their self-defense units through the UDAR party.
16th February: Anti-government protesters leave the long time occupied city hall building in exchange for their associates.
19th - 22th February: Yanukovych declares a ceasefire for further negotiations with the opposition, but clashes break the truce. One day later, on the 21st, the two parties agree upon a deal: Yanukovych agrees to sign a number of pacts with the opposition leaders. Tymoshenko is being released after a resolution passed by the Ukrainian parliament on the and Yanukovych declares the 22nd and 23rd to be new days of mourning for the victims during these two days of protests.
Meanwhile Viktor Yanukovych disappears, leaving the sinking ship behind and allegedly fleeing the country and Yulia Tymoshenko emerges as the new opposition leader replacing former UDAR party leader Vitali Klitshko iconic position.
The Washington Post later on revealed on the 12th of March 2014 a number of CCTV footage from Yanukovychs private estate, proving that his disappearance was thoroughly planned and prepared.
Due to his prolonged absence the Verkhovnaya Rada (Ukrainian Parliament) decides to degrade him. On the 23rd of February Turchynov gets chosen as temporary president of Ukraine.
When Yanukovych reemerged on Russian state territory, he stated, that he did not flee state territory and thus all the decisions taken by the parliament in this aspect as well as the appointment of a new Ukrainian Prime Minister were illegitime and can be considered void.
Yanukovych could be a promising chess figure in Putin's and the Russian governments' strategic plans for the future of Ukraine.
The Roots of the Crimean crisis and its consequences in the east
The roots of the Crimean crisis, which were mostly provoced by the Ukrainian parliament's decision to revive the 2012 Law "On the principles of the state language policy" abolishing Russian as an official language of Ukraine and making Ukrainian the only governmental language. The Russian speaking population, that can be found all over Ukraine, but especially in the south and east of Ukraine protested against this, as they called it, racist move of the Kiev government.
On the 1st of March though, acting President of Ukraine Turchynov vetoed the bill, rendering it useless. This move did not have any effects on the anti-governmental protests in the eastern and southern regions.
Additionally there many unverified reports stated, that right-wing groups patrolled the streets of Ukrainian cities knocking on doors, asking where Russians live and if so, marked those buildings with the lettering "Moskals are leaving here".
Russia in fear of losing its Black Sea Fleet to the NATO friendly new Ukrainian government, was ready to protect it by all means. It came in handy, that locals from the Crimean peninsula disliked the current government. So called masked and unidentifiable Self-Defense-Units started roaming the streets of Crimea. Western media stated that those were Russian soldiers, while Russian media opposed this by claiming that those units had nothing to do with Russia, but were solely locally organised defense units.
The same unidentified forces were said to have seized control over the Supreme Council of Crimea. Russian media outlets either do not comment on the situation calling it a "local uprising", It has to be noted, that the majority of the population of Crimea is Russian-Speaking. Altering the decisions of the Supreme Council of Crime therefore can be considered as a completely useless move, that Russian forces would not consider to take and thereby making it obvious, that the Russian involvement in this takeover was highly unlikely.
In an emergency session the Supreme Council to disband the Crimean government. On the 11th of March the Crimean parliament also decides to hold a referendum.
On the 16th of March the referendum is held and returns a 96% in favour of a secession from Ukraine.
In consesus with the newly formed nations' goverment's decision, Russia annexes the Crimean peninsula as a Russian Federal Okrug (region).
These developments inspired eastern Ukrainian pro-Russia separatists to continue fighting for their annexion from Ukraine. The Ukrainian government is said to be blocking Russian television channels because of their heavy pro-Russian propagandising content. This can hardly be considered a democratic decision.
What conclusions can we draw and whom is it finally we can believe?
Certainly Russia does not have any interest in annexing the eastern Ukrainian region, as it has no motive for it, which does not mean, that Russian forces wouldn't take the possibility of showing their little brother some brotherly love by intervening in the conflict in Ukraine, if it jeopardizes their future interests.
The number of right-wing party members in the parliament and the decision of the Ukrainian government to send tanks with and heavy armed soldiers against slightly armed locals and peaceful local protesters is dispicable and unworthy of a democratic state in the 21st century. Calling the protesters terrorist is also one thing that could be subject to rational criticism. Finally Putin's recent statement on the military involvement against protesters comparing the uprisings on the Euromaidan to the eastern Ukrainian protests can be logically assessed as very biased.
The IMF also submitted an indirect demand during the last weekend that the investors would only be willing to pay, if the Kiev government is able to cool down the protests in eastern Ukraine applying more and more pressure on the already protest riven country.
Russia is in turn infringing its obligations to reduce gas prices, that it undertook in December in consensus with the Ukrainian government. Furthermore reclaiming past gas deductibles could also be considered as an act of pressure on Ukraine.
Local residents of the eastern Ukrainian regions have different opinions on this question. Some are disapproving of the local self defense units actions, others welcome their involvement and support the movement. German television channel Ukrainian reporters stated in a live transmission from eastern Ukraine, that tensions are high, but no clear picture can be drawn until now.
To conclude this short review and returning to the initial question, it becomes evident, that there is no royal way to answering it and any opinion cannot be proved right or wrong until the conflict is properly resolved.