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Friday, February 21, 2014

Dispatch from Kiev: "Special 'Death Divisions' Are Acting as a Supplement to the Usual Police Forces"

Posted by on Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 1:41 PM

Press the "cc" button for subtitles.

If you want a quick, visceral look at what's been happening in Ukraine, see these before/after images of Independence Square in Kiev that are making the internet rounds.

The New York Times reports that everyday folks—computer programmers and middle managers at telephone companies—are being militarized by the government's crackdown. Far-right, far-left, and solidly middle-of-the-road folks are showing up to these particular barricades. For another vivid dispatch, the Guardian reports on the Ukraina Hotel being turned into a makeshift hospital/morgue for demonstrators shot by specialty snipers as well as regular old law-enforcement officials with kalashnikovs.

You can check out this blog from the heart of the protests, translated into English: "Yanukovych fucks you all this time. He fucks us also, but we at least try to resist. But you, dear European politicians, seem to even like it. Otherwise, why are you calling again and again to initiate any dialogue with this thug?" And this analysis from Greg Satell, who lived and reported in Ukraine for over 10 years, says the struggle is not particularly about the EU or Russia—it's about greedy oligarchs who've decimated the country and civil society for the sake of profit. (Which might be why Putin is keenly interested in the demonstrators' defeat.)

Last night, someone forwarded me a direct dispatch from activists in Kiev. Consider the source, of course, and the inability of even its own author(s) to verify some facts, but it's an unfiltered snapshot of the mood:

Civil war began in Ukraine yesterday. A less than peaceful demonstration clashed with state defense forces and divisions formed by the adherents of the current government near the Vekhovna Rada (Parliament). On February 18, police, together with the paramilitaries, arranged a bloodbath in the governmental quarters during which numerous demonstrators were killed. Butchers from the special divisions finished off arrestees. Deputies of the ruling Party of Regions and their bourgeois lackeys from the “Communist” Party of Ukraine fled from the Parliament through an underground tunnel.

The vote for constitutional amendments, intended to limit presidential power, did not take place after all. After their defeat in the governmental quarters, demonstrators retreated to the Maidan. At 6 P.M., the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Internal Security Bureau (SBU) declared an ultimatum to the protesters, demanding their dispersal. At 8:00 P.M., special police forces and paramilitaries, equipped with water cannons and armored vehicles, began their raid on the barricades. Police, the special divisions of SBU, as well as pro-governmental troopers made use of their firearms. However, the protesters managed to burn down one of the armored police vehicles, and it turned out that governmental forces were not the only ones in possession of guns. According to the data released by the police (on February, 19, 4 p.m.), 24 people were killed: 14 protesters and 10 policemen. Thirty-one policemen received gunshot wounds. Even if their estimate of losses on the side of the police is accurate, the number of victims among the protesters was definitely diminished. Maidan’s medics cite at least 30 killed.

One gets an impression that President Yanukovich was certain that by morning the resistance would be crushed, and so arranged for the Opposition leaders to meet with him at 11 A.M. on February, 19. As the negotiations did not take place, we can conclude that the government’s plan had failed. During the unsuccessful operation to clear off the Maidan, the citizens of several western regions occupied administrative buildings and chased away the police. At the moment the police, as an institution, do not exist in L’viv. According to the SBU, protesters have captured 1500 firearms. In less than 24 hours, the central government lost control over a section of the country. Right now, the only solution may be the stepping down of the President, however, that would mean that he, his family, and their multiple acolytes and dependents, which form a rather large group in the ruling government, would lose their source of profit.

It is likely that they will not accept this.

In the event of Yanukovich’s victory, he will become a ruler for life, and the rest will be doomed to a life in which they face poverty, corruption, and the abolition of their rights and freedoms. Rebellious regions are now experiencing massive restorations of “the constitutional order.” It is not improbable that the suppression of such “terroristic groups” in Galicia will have the character of ethnic cleansing. Mad Orthodox radicals from the Party of Regions have, for a long time, seen the conservative Greco-Catholics as the aids of “Eurosodom.” Such an “antiterrorist” operation would be carried out with the assistance of the army, as the Minister of Defense, Lebedev, has already announced.

Today, Ukraine experiences a tragedy, but the real horror will start when the government breaks down the opposition and “stabilizes” the situation. Signs of the preparation of a mass-cleansing operation became noticeable as far back as early February, when criminal cases were opened against the Maidan self-defense divisions as illegal military formations. According to Article 260 of the Criminal Codex, members of such divisions may face imprisonment for 2 to 15 years. This means that the government was planning to put more than 10 thousand citizens behind bars. In the regions, as well as in the capital, special “death divisions” are acting as a supplement to the usual police forces. For example, responsibility for burning alive a Maidan activist from Zaporozhye was claimed by such a “death division,” calling itself “Sebastopol Ghosts.” They announced that they are ready to subject Maidan participants in the East to similar treatment.

In the event of the Opposition’s victory life would be far from perfect as well. Although fascists form the minority of the protesters, they are quite active and are not the sharpest tools in the shed. A few days of truce in mid-February lead to conflicts between the rightist groups, resulting in several pointless and violent confrontations, as well as attacks on ideological ‘heretics.’ Besides the fascists, old and experienced Oppositionists will also attempt to seize power. Many of them already have some experience with working in government and they are no strangers to corruption, favoritism, and the use of budget funds for personal purposes.

The “concessions” that the Opposition is demanding in Parliament right now are pitiful. Even the Constitution of 2004, that they are trying to restore, gives too much power to the President (control over the riot police and special forces is one example), and the proportional electoral system, with closed listings, hands parliament over to the control of a group of dictator-like leaders, who can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Together with the President they will rule without obstructions.

Their second demand – the appointment of a Cabinet of Ministers composed of Opposition leaders – is altogether shameful. Are people risking their health, freedom, and life for the sake of someone becoming a prime-minister, and someone-else getting an opportunity to control the flow of corrupt-money? This is the logical outcome of preferring pathos-ridden conversations on “the nation,” and focusing on vertical structures tied to the same hated politicians, instead of developing ground-up organizations around financial and material interests. This is the main lesson that Maidan is yet to learn.

However, we will be able to apply this lesson in practice only if the current government loses the battle.

The Opposition inside and outside of the Parliament is broken into multiple hostile and competing factions. If it wins, the ensuing regime will be unstable and lacking in coherency. It will be as bourgeois and repressive as was the Party of Regions before their first show of force against the protesters in November.

The guilt for the spilled blood is partially on the EU which gladly receives money from the corrupt scumbags in Ukraine, Russia, and several African countries, while diligently neglecting to check the source of such “investments.” It is only after seeing the dead bodies of the victims of such “investors,” that it gets so very sentimental and full of humanitarian pathos.

This is not our war, but the victory of the government will mean the defeat of the workers. The victory of the Opposition also does not promise anything good. We cannot call the proletariat to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the Opposition and its interests. We think that the extent of participation in this conflict is a matter of personal choice. However, we encourage all to avoid being drafted to serve in the internal military forces controlled by Yanukovich, and to sabotage by all means available the actions of the government.

No gods, no masters, no nations, no borders!

Kiev organization AWU (Autonomous Workers Union)


Comments (9) RSS

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Pope Peabrain 1
I'm surprised they haven't started blaming Obama. Like he can do a goddamn thing. Russia will always suck their blood.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on February 21, 2014 at 2:12 PM · Report this
Fnarf 2
I have a Ukrainian friend who's been explaining all this to me. It's pretty complicated. One of the problems with the protesters is, uh, Nazis. Like actual Nazis (Svoboda) who want to exterminate the Jews and restrict citizenship to ethnic Ukrainians. But you also have more liberal people who look to the West. On the other side, you have people who are either ethnically Russian, or think they are (is a Russian whose family arrived in the US in 1920 a Russian or an American?) and/or are economically dependent on Russia.

Both sides are led by fantastically corrupt people, including people Westerners are attracted to like Yulia Tymoshenko. There are responsible anti-corruption politicians but they do not have massive support.

The economic problem is that Russia is a collapsing shithole but it has offered Ukraine a deal that's pretty hard to turn down: cheap gas. Their economy is wholly dependent on cheap gas to power their iron and steel industries, for instance. In contrast, the EU is offering them...austerity, along with the frustratingly vague promise of a heavenly afterlife in the bosom of unspecific prosperity. And remember, only 13% of Ukraine's exports go to the EU; they're economically tied to Russia already.

In the long run, the EU is obviously the way to go. In the short term, Russia's offering a good deal for Ukraine, but for how long? Going with Russia includes all sorts of other negatives. The leaders on both sides are dickheads. The few good people are mostly sidelined -- my friend suggests Arseniy Yatsenyuk and/or Vitali Klitschko -- and it's not clear that they have any real answers either.

Do you go with Western liberalism if that means having Nazis in your midst and another five years or longer of economic slowdown? Or do you hitch your wagon to the Russians, who also have some pretty disgusting tendencies, are historically troublesome for half of all Ukrainians, and look to be headed into the toilet? Not a fun choice.
Posted by Fnarf on February 21, 2014 at 2:20 PM · Report this
Cascadian 3
Nice summary, Fnarf. I didn't even consider the fact that the EU's economic offer is one of austerity, though of course it's obvious when pointed out. It's easy to be sympathetic to Ukrainians who want to get some breathing room from Russia, but easy to forget that the EU is a bad choice economically, at least in the short term.
Posted by Cascadian on February 21, 2014 at 2:40 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 4
The EU offers something else. It offers civilization. It offers freedom. The exact opposite of Russia.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on February 21, 2014 at 2:47 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 5
I have nothing insightful to say about Ukraine. it's just horrible, the country got absolutely fucked by Stalin.
Posted by Max Solomon on February 21, 2014 at 3:14 PM · Report this
Fnarf 6
@4, well, yes, but when? And with whom? The militant assholes in Svoboda are not advocating any kind of civilization or freedom I would want any part of. But Ukrainians who want to side with the EU, while not all or even mostly Svoboda, are nonetheless standing side-by-side with them. It's hard.

I'd be especially leery if I was Jewish, because the traditional solution to problems like the one Ukraine is facing is "fuck it, we'll never settle our differences, so let's turn and massacre the Jews instead".

I'm on the side of the EU, obviously. But it's not clear to me that the choice is obvious for most Ukrainians. Rock and a hard place. It's sucked to be stuck between Russia and Western Europe for what, 500 years? You must choose, or die, or choose AND die.
Posted by Fnarf on February 21, 2014 at 3:19 PM · Report this
The thing about a government with death squads is that whatever deal they negotiate with a foreign partner whatever benefits the deal might have for the public will certainly just line the gov's pockets. So the comparisons of EUs and Russia's "deals" are kinda meaningless. This government is totally down with killing its citizens en-mass. Therefore they should oust the president and try him for treason, just like Quisling!
Posted by JonCracolici on February 21, 2014 at 3:25 PM · Report this
@1 - Listening to the tapped Nuland phone call suggests that the Obama admin is doing something:…
Posted by anon1256 on February 21, 2014 at 7:25 PM · Report this
passionate_jus 9
@2 Svoboda will never come to power in a Ukraine that has close ties to the EU; the EU would make sure that they are pushed aside.

Svoboda is a very small part of the protesters, the majority of whom are not political at this point (except for demanding Yanukovych's resignation). They are the third largest member of the opposition (receiving 10% in the last elections) and therefore they unfortunately have a small say in what is happening. In a parliamentarian system that is how it works-- the other two parties couldn't kick them out at this point. They need them to defeat Yanukovych, which has to be the first priority.

A Ukraine that is aligned with Russia is much more worrisome for ethnic and other minorities (such as Jews, Roma, gays and lesbians) than a Ukraine aligned with Europe.

Kiev and Odessa both have thriving Jewish communities. My wife (who is descended from Jewish Ukrainians and left in 1913) and I visited several synagogues while we were there last summer. There is zero chance that a pogrom happens anytime soon.
Posted by passionate_jus on February 21, 2014 at 7:37 PM · Report this

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