Ukraine has a deep and painful history, one of invasions, regimes, war, and genocide. It is land scarred by horrific abuse; scars which equally testify to immense strength. This is a nation of survivors and fighters.
No matter what’s thrown at Ukraine, she gets back up and keeps walking.
2013 marked 9 years since the Orange Revolution, 22 years of independence form the Soviet Union, and 81 years since the Holodomor – the genocide of 1932-1933 that killed 7-11 million Ukrainians through forced famine under Stalin.
This background coupled with discontent over current politics, revived strong feelings and a spirit of revolt.
These last two months and especially the last two weeks have seen incredible and shocking events, and the trouble is not yet over. This is a story still being written.
It all began, November 21st, when a group of 2000 protesters gathered in Kiev after the President failed to ratify the EU Association Agreement. By December there were masses of over a million and the revolutionary movement, EuroMaydan, was born.
Things quieted down during the Christmas holidays. The protest camp in Maydan stayed put but numbers attending rallies were on the decrease.
Then came Black Thursday, January 16th, when 12 anti-protest laws dubbed “The Dictatorship Laws” were passed.
These new rules meant anyone could be arrested at anytime for anything. Simply meeting in a group was criminal, so was wearing a hat, and driving in a line of more than five cars. Freedom of speech and information also came under attack; investigating police or other officials carried a penalty of up to two years in jail, media was censored, and those not toeing the party line could be deemed “extremist”.
They plunged Ukraine back in time, back to the dark days of oppression.
For a country nursing a traumatic past, returning to a system resembling that period will inevitably cause distress. It’s like dragging a victim back to a torture chamber, they will fight with all their might to escape.
“The Dictatorship Laws” inflamed the people. Repulsed and outraged, submitting to these commands was not an option.
Why should anyone abide by rules stripping them of civil rights?
Parliament hadn’t even followed correct proceedings when passing them, so many considered the laws void and illegal.
Black Thursday reignited EuroMaydan with more flare than ever. Peaceful protesting exploded into riots and mass rebellion spread across the country. Clashes with police turned deadly when a 20-year-old protester was shot dead, January 22nd. More deaths followed, adding fuel to the fire.
12 laws brought 12 days of turmoil, pushing Ukraine to the brink of civil war. Between the day the laws were passed (Jan 16th) and the day 9 of them were cancelled (Jan 28th) tensions rocketed.
Deaths and causalities since Jan 16th:
- 6 dead + 14 unidentified bodies in the morgue.
- 33 missing: AutoMaidan leader, Dmytro Bulatov, was found alive after missing for a week, abducted by a gang of men who questioned, tortured, and left him for dead. He is now on authorities Most Wanted list. No one is looking for the abductors.
- 116 arrested
- 2000 injured
Journalists & medical workers
- 60 beaten by police
- 1 dead
- 285 injured
- 1340 ill with pneumonia and hypothermia
Kiev’s center is currently a warzone with military-style barriers dividing riot police and demonstrators. The front line is Hrushevskoho Street where barricades of burned out buses, bags of snow and stones, and burning tires separate the two sides. Dinamo Stadium is chalk black and the cobbled stones along Hrushevskoho Street have been ripped up.
Damage to the city is said to be $1.7 million.
Civilian and political groups have also seized 6 buildings including the Ministry of Justice which was returned to authorities 24hrs later after a threat of Martial Law.
All over the country there have been seizures of government buildings, protests, barricades, and clashes.
This map shows the situation in Ukraine the day the laws were cancelled.
Tuesday 28th also saw the resignation of the PM Mykola Azarov and his cabinet as a “concession” to the opposition. This hasn’t made much difference. The President will appoint another government but any opposition member who accepts a position will be seen as a traitor. For revolutionaries, working under Yanukovich is making a deal with the devil. Whatever trust the opposition has built with the people will evaporate. The fact is the President remains at the top. Until that seat is freed, Ukraine’s crisis continues.
I see several endings to the drama (or rather beginnings to the next sequel):
1. The opposition works with the President until next election – They’ve turned down offers to be in government once before. However they can always change their minds.
2. An early election – The President looks set on next year but who knows? He may decide otherwise.
3. Crackdowns on protests become more brutal – Prominent activists are now on a wanted list, 30 or more cars belonging to activists have been torched, and kidnappings and beatings of protesters are happening all over the country.
4. A civil war – The country is currently split. Civilians and opposition control most Western regions and the government controls most Eastern regions, there is a struggle between sides to control central regions. Unrest and protests is everywhere even in government strongholds like Crimea and Donetsk.
Present state of affairs:
So far the military is not involved but The Ministry of Defense has issued a statement by military officials asking for the President “to take immediate measures to stabilise the country”.
Is Martial Law next? And then …
I fear it is already too late for any peaceful solution.