As the Ukrainian crisis heads into its sixth day, time for another roundup.
First, I’ve found another Ukrainian news portal in English – Ukraine Now – which is covering other news out of the country as well as the crisis. On the blogs, Le Sabot has more photos and continues his fascinating background series on the election. There are several new posts on Foreign Notes, including an interesting analysis of Putin’s motives. Lobowalk has lots of stuff as well, including a story that reminded me of the opening pages of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy as police take a break because the protestors promise not to do anything while they’re away. Crooked Timber’s John Quiggin has an interesting article and more background by academic Tarik Ari. Meanwhile, Neeka’s up and has a photo of an amiable discussion between two men from different sides.
Neeka does mention trouble in Kharkiv, and it does seem that things aren’t quite as peaceful in other parts of the country – though there don’t seem to be any serious problems yet. The Financial Times reports that tear gas was used – once – in Chernihiv, while Maidan has reports of rising tempers in Kharkiv.
Scanning headlines in Google News, there appears to be no consensus amongst reporters as to the effect of yesterday’s talks. Some stress the importance of both candidates urging their supporters to reject violence, while others worry that the lack of agreement heralds the beginnings of a descent into chaos. I’m – as I have been for most of the week – in the optimist camp on this one, as I think what’s most important is that they’ve agreed to continue talking as a task force, even if nothing much else was agreed. Both sides are still waiting for the Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday before committing to anything, I think, though of course the Parliament could have an impact before then.
More thoughts from me below the fold.
Obviously, things are very quiet there as I write this given that it’s early in the morning, but there are still lots of people in Independence Square, even this early in the morning. One interesting facet of the week has been that the protests have grown as the week went on, to the extent that they’ve now spread out from the square to occupy much of central Kiev (by the way, if anyone can point me to a good English map of Kiev online, I’d be very grateful, though this map looks quite useful if you can read it). Looking at the webcam last night, I noticed that the crowds appeared to be staying for longer than they had earlier in the week, though that may be because Yuschenko’s speech to them after the talks finished was quite late at night.
Echoing this Transitions Online article, which suggests the Orange Revolution reflects deep changes in Ukraine, it seems as though Kuchma, Yanukovich et al have misjudged the nature of this from the start, and its that misjudgement that has left them on the back foot all week. They may have thought that there would have been protests, but that they wouldn’t have been large (and certainly nowhere near the size they have been) and that they could comfortable ride out the storm while not attracting much more than a slapped wrist from the international community. The problem was that the people hadn’t read that script and not only turned out in unprecedented numbers, but then kept turning out while the lack of a crackdown on the protests encouraged those who feared repression to come out and join them. By the time they realised they were in serious trouble, the world was watching and a clampdown had become unfeasible – and perhaps even impossible given the support the police and security forces have shown for Yuschenko.
The role of PORA in the mobilization for the protests has been noted, and they clearly have learnt from the example of Otpor and Kmara in Serbia and Georgia, but I think that what’s happened over the last week is about more than just the protests. In an earlier post, I mentioned the idea that Yuschenko is creating a parallel authority, rather than just a rival one or an opposition (see the Yorkshire Ranter for more on this idea) and I think this may turn out to be a key decision in resolving the crisis. He’s been able to create the impression that he is going to be President and is acting accordingly, giving the people something positive to rally towards rather than just a negative campaign of stopping Yanukovich from becoming President. This is probably one of the reasons why we’ve escaped having violent clashes so far, because the crowds have been celebratory pro-Yuschenko so far, rather than angry anti-Yanukovich and Kuchma.
Finally, a quick thought on the stories of secessionist sentiments growing in the southern and eastern Ukraine (the pro-Yanukovich areas). I go along with others on this, who’ve suggested that this isn’t likely to lead to a divided Ukraine, but is a recognition that the momentum appears to be with Yuschenko. It may be that this will develop into an issue for a future Yuschenko administration, and it could be that Ukraine ends up with a more federal system as a way to try and resolve these divisions.