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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Dispatch from Kiev: "The Price for Victory Was Very High"

Posted by on Sun, Feb 23, 2014 at 3:55 PM

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  • Chris Collison

Chris Collison, a former Stranger intern who works as a photographer and an assistant editor for JN1 TV in Ukraine, has sent another dispatch from Kiev now that President Viktor Yanukovych has fled to the eastern part of the country and the opposition—which many are skeptical of—has begun asserting its authority. (You can read his previous report from the scene over here.)

In brief, Chris says that protesters look like they want to keep the square, that there is a feeling of sadness for what had been sacrificed and distrust towards the "victorious" opposition, and that reports about far-right elements among the dissidents has been overhyped, partially by Kremlin supporters who are trying to discredit the popular protest:

It's amazing how much can change in a day. President Viktor Yanukovych fled Kyiv for eastern Ukraine where he got on TV and accused the opposition of staging a coup. Meanwhile, protesters held a party at his palatial mansion a few miles outside the capital. That place has long been a source of anger for Ukrainians since he privatized the land and used public funds for its upkeep. While strolling around the grounds, protesters found a zoo, a golf range, a vintage car collection, and all kinds of documents Yanukovych and friends had dumped into the river as they fled. I'm sure demonstrators will discover all kinds of interesting bits of information once the pages dry out.

I was on Maidan most of the afternoon and evening on Friday. It felt very surreal since exactly three months had passed since the first protest I attended in November. The weather was the same—raining, a little bit chilly. But everything else had changed since then. Whatever innocence the demonstrations and this country had back then has been lost. Even though the movement seemed to have won, there was little celebration on Independence Square. A feeling of relief mixed with deep sadness hung in the air. Protesters held more funerals for those who were killed. The price for victory was very high.

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  • Chris Collison

Opposition leaders addressed the crowd. Some people cheered, others booed or tried to argue with them. Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who had been imprisoned since 2011, spoke from the stage just hours after being freed. Although she still has a lot of supporters, some people in the crowd, especially those who were there only for the funeral, weren't impressed to see her. A few young women behind me held signs reading, "We are happy for you, Yulia Vladimirovna. Now go to hell."

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  • Chris Collison

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  • Chris Collison

While the movement is generally pro-West, there has been a growing sense of resentment toward opposition leaders and politicians in Europe and the US. People feel let down by empty words, and there is a sense that the movement was on its own throughout the ordeal. The phrase "we are deeply concerned" has become a big joke among people here.

It's hard to say who is in charge now. Elections have been called for May, but protesters don't look like they are ready to give up the square. Maidan supporters wearing hockey gear and carrying bats have been directing traffic and patrolling the streets to keep order. They are much friendlier than the police. I stopped and talked to a couple of groups of them last night on my way home. They all signed my helmet and thanked me for being in Ukraine. One of them had an American flag in his pocket.

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  • Chris Collison

There has been a lot of fear about the rise of far-right groups during these protests. It's true that extremists came to Kyiv to fight, but their role shouldn't be over exaggerated. The movement has broad support—liberals, moderates, villagers, Russian speakers, far-right, far-left, foreigners. The pro-Kremlin press has tried to make it sound like Ukraine is a breeding ground for neo-Nazis and fascists, but that simply isn't the case. These groups by and large have less to do with anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, etc. and more to do with fear of imperialism from Russia (political scientist Anton Shekhovtsov has written extensively about this).

People remember the atrocities carried out by Stalin against Ukrainians very vividly, and to some extent Ukrainians feel like they are fighting to maintain their independence. The other day, there were reports that Ukraine's chief rabbi had warned Jews to flee the country. But that was inaccurate. It was not the chief rabbi, but another Kremlin supporter. (See the correction in Haaretz.) Even my Jewish friends here think it's ridiculous.

The next coming months will be difficult. People are wary of the opposition, but if these protests have proved anything it is that Ukrainians are no longer going to let politicians get away with screwing them over. Hopefully the opposition realizes that they have a job to do and will carry through with their promises this time. The price was too high for them not to.

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  • Chris Collison

 

Comments (23) RSS

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Canadian Nurse 1
Wow. Thanks for consistently posting these dispatches. They've really helped my understanding.
Posted by Canadian Nurse on February 23, 2014 at 4:04 PM · Report this
rob! 2
...While the movement is generally pro-West, there has been a growing sense of resentment toward opposition leaders and politicians in Europe and the US. People feel let down by empty words, and there is a sense that the movement was on its own throughout the ordeal. The phrase "we are deeply concerned" has become a big joke among people here...
This.

Stephen Cohen has had lots to say about this over the last few days. I haven't digested it all, but I think the following links are worth reading to get an outside-the-mass-media view (same sources I put up earlier):

http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2014/02/20/me… (full transcript will be up in a couple of days)

http://www.thenation.com/print/article/1…

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/2/20/a_… (click "printer friendly" for full on-screen transcript)

Posted by rob! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZBdUceCL5U on February 23, 2014 at 4:28 PM · Report this
3
Jesus I hope we don't have to read this guys shitty poetry much longer
Posted by fetish on February 23, 2014 at 4:55 PM · Report this
4
@2, Yes that is the way the cookie (passed out by U.S. diplomat Victoria Nuland) crumbles. Baked in the hegemon's kitchen and addicting as hell.
Posted by Linda J on February 23, 2014 at 5:55 PM · Report this
5
Here's hoping left Ukrainians, right Ukrainians, Russophilic Ukrainians and Europhilic Ukrainians can work out a basis for living as Nukrainians, Unikrainians, whatever ... though history offers little ground for high hopes in this regard.
Posted by RonK, Seattle on February 23, 2014 at 6:35 PM · Report this
6
@2 I think Dr Cohen overstated his case a bit. I don't think the American media has ever denied that Vladimir Putin is an effective leader. He was Time magazine's person of the year in 2007. I've always thought Putin was a seriously hardcore dude and most of what I know about him comes from US media sources. I think Dr Cohen is saying inflammatory things to sell his latest book and that The Nation and Democracy Now are indulging their compulsive need to vilify the United States.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on February 23, 2014 at 6:55 PM · Report this
7
@6, your thoughts are dictated by your political philosophy. That's been evident in all your comments, so it's difficult to read what you say with any seriousness.
Posted by sarah70 on February 23, 2014 at 7:30 PM · Report this
8
@7 What do you see as my political philosophy?
Posted by Ken Mehlman on February 23, 2014 at 7:54 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 9
@8: "if you're fur it, i'm agin' it!" close?
Posted by Max Solomon on February 23, 2014 at 8:06 PM · Report this
WFM 10
What I don't understand is exactly why the regime collapsed so suddenly and completely. It looked like they were going full-on Tianmen against the protesters, killing like crazy, and then poof, they left town. Was it a case where they brought in hired thugs that went over the line and everybody who'd been sitting on the fence or reluctantly backing the regime was repulsed and sided with the opposition?
Posted by WFM on February 23, 2014 at 9:32 PM · Report this
seandr 11
Great stuff, Brendan.

I'd been trying to parse reports of involvement in the opposition by the "right" and by "nationalists", and it wasn't clear to me if that meant something like Nazis or simply Ukrainians who were fed up with Russian imperialism.
Posted by seandr on February 23, 2014 at 10:54 PM · Report this
seandr 12
@WFM: killing like crazy

The killing was supposed to break up the protests, but it didn't. And once the regime crossed that line, it was left with two choices - win back the country with overwhelming brutal force, or flee.
Posted by seandr on February 23, 2014 at 11:04 PM · Report this
13
@12, yup.
Posted by sarah70 on February 24, 2014 at 12:02 AM · Report this
passionate_jus 14
@10

One thing that destroyed the regime is the use of social media and the internet. On Youtube there was footage of lightly armed protesters (shields, stones, sticks) being shot by police snipers. That footage generated more than 3 MILLION hits in about 12 hours. A day earlier there had been live-feed of barricades being ran over by armored vehicles. And I was watching on Twitter as hundreds of updates rolled in by the hour.

This did several things include leading to protests growing around the country, even in Yanukovych's strongholds. It also led to international protests and for the the call of international sanctions. This led to the EU sending ministers to broker a deal between Yanukovych and the opposition. But by that time Yanukovych had lost all credibility and the protesters were not going home until he left office. That is what happens when you use police snipers to kill your own people and 3 million people around the world are watching.

Things might have been different in China in 1989 if there had been live streaming, Facebook and Twitter. It is a lot harder for governments to kill their own people en masse these days.
Posted by passionate_jus on February 24, 2014 at 7:47 AM · Report this
ferret 15
@10 It appears the opposition made a deal with the Interior Ministry, they would get some sort of free passage, (I don't know if they got immunity) if they stopped attacking the protestors. They also refused to continue Yanukovych's orders in attacking the protestors.

The Interior Ministry and it appears the Military had on Friday Night/Saturday Morning abandoned Yanukovych, which left a vacuum, and why he fled early Saturday morning. I am guessing that the order to shoot the protestors came from Yanukovych, and it was most likely a small group of shooters..Yanukovych also appears to lose support from MPs from his own party, and there are rumors that many of the governors of his political party have fled to Russia.

The Accord signed on Friday that was brokered by a couple EU foreign ministers, was already less than the paper it was written on by the time the ink dried. Yanukovych sealed his fate by the attacking the protestors on Wed and Thurs. As much as Ukraine is in chaos, it looks like those in power were threatened by the rule of law, and knew they could be criminally charged for the shootings...
Posted by ferret http://https://twitter.com/#!/okojo on February 24, 2014 at 9:06 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 16
@3: what poetry?
Posted by Max Solomon on February 24, 2014 at 9:31 AM · Report this
rob! 17
@10, further to @14 & 15:
...On Monday 17 February, Russia announced it would release another $2 billion of its 17 December 2013 agreed loan of $15 billion to the Ukrainian government, which The Washington Post credited as a reason for the protests. Russian authorities had been pressuring the Ukrainian administration to take decisive action to crush protests; and it has been noted that the assault on Euromaidan protesters by police was ordered hours after the $2 billion from Russia was transferred...
Here. (Sources are footnoted in the article.)
Posted by rob! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZBdUceCL5U on February 24, 2014 at 9:51 AM · Report this
ferret 18
@17 If you want to be taken seriously, don't cite Wikipedia, or any open edited sources. Wikipedia is great as a background source or as a portal to other references, but it shouldn't be used to support an argument, no matter if the information is valid, primary source, or the article is well documented.

Wikipedia is a dichtomy of information, both to be used to understand the complexities of the subject, but to be read with a huge abundance of skepticism.
Posted by ferret http://https://twitter.com/#!/okojo on February 24, 2014 at 10:03 AM · Report this
treacle 19
Thanks for the reporting Brendan and Chris. Greatly appreciated.
And amazing, if saddened, congratulations to the Ukrainian's resisting imperialism in the streets -- and the state violence.
Posted by treacle on February 24, 2014 at 10:56 AM · Report this
rob! 20
Oh for pete's sake, @18. This isn't a scholarly forum and I'm not propounding some thesis, I'm providing a jumping-off point for someone with a question, and Wikipedia at this moment, on this subject, is a better one than Google for someone with a casual inquiry. Everyone beyond high school understands Wikipedia's uses and weaknesses.
Posted by rob! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZBdUceCL5U on February 24, 2014 at 11:00 AM · Report this
21
The timing of this thing is amazing as Sochi likely tied Putin's hands. If true this would be consistent with report of groups of demonstrators on the offensive over the last few days.
Posted by anon1256 on February 24, 2014 at 12:16 PM · Report this
22
Thank you for posting these dispatches. It's very good to get information from somebody on the ground, who's been there from the beginning of the protests in November.
Posted by Lev on February 25, 2014 at 12:40 PM · Report this
23
@16 what poetry?

"The price for victory was very high."

Jesus. How Lord Greystoke is that? If you want to write a dispatch, write a dispatch; don't pass along philosophy rap like it's from an actual partisan and then TRY TO FUCKING PRETEND ITS SOMETHING ELSE. get the fouck outta heah.
Posted by fetish on February 25, 2014 at 1:11 PM · Report this

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