One last roundup

As it gets close to midnight in Ukraine, I’m going to make this (hopefully) the last roundup of the day. Obviously, if anything major happens between now and me going to bed, I’ll come back.

First things first – Victor Katolyk is still posting at The Periscope, but his comments are now on a new thread. There are lots of stories of Yanukovich supporters arriving in Kiev by buses and trains.
After his earlier comments prompted my ‘Uh-oh’ post, Obdymok has updated with some observations that put a more positive spin on the situation:

always hate to get it wrong, but the drama of the central election commission (cec) session and the sight of the goons, thousands of them, walking towards the cec shocked me.

flying punches is what i was thinking about, at least, when i watched the coal miners and thugs file by, for over five minutes, from my window on the 5th floor.

the feeling changed when i got a chance to get there and talk with them.

ordinary bodies shipped in. paid. but they are people. human.

pictures >here, and later a couple of interviews, boring ones.

ivan tavhen, an out-of-work 42-year old father of two from makeevka, donetsk oblast, said he was told it was a one day trip.

“i’m not infatuated by yushchenko and can use an extra hr. 200,” he said.

thousands of the big men, strong men, some wearing hard hats, others wearing cossack gear, just hung around the central election commission sipping vodka and eating pieces of sausage.

they are going back to their buses now.

meanwhile, on maidan, the party is in full gear.

they girls in wearing orange scarves did not get as scared, as i did at first.

the donetsk guys called them “chuchely,” but with a rough kind of affection. kinda like in magadan.

be brave! molodtsy!

From yesterday, but Embassy has interesting article on the background to the situation.
Maidan continues to report and mentions Yuschenko calling a general strike. This also gets mentioned in the latest BBC report which is slightly more concerning than others as it notes how both sides have referred to possible ‘civil conflict’. The problem comes, I think, in that both sides seem willing to talk, but don’t seem to be able to agree on an agenda for talks and indeed who these talks should be between. However, the hope has to be that tomorrow external mediators such as Kwasniewski and Walesa will be able to get them through the ‘talks about talks’ stage.
The Kyiv Post has an AP article about Putin – Putin increasingly walks alone – which looks at the ramifications for tomorrow’s EU/Russia summit and beyond. However, the fact that the summit is taking place tomorrow does make me hopeful that there won’t be any crackdown in the next 24 hours as Putin would not want that as a backdrop.
Elsewhere blogwise, Europhobia has a new post covering some of the same issues I am here, while the Head Heeb looks at the position of Ukraine’s Jews.

A few thoughts from me below the fold:

To try and sum up the day from my perspective, there were points this afternoon where I thought we could be just a short while away from a dramatic descent into violence on the streets of Kiev and elsewhere. As rumours flew around Kiev and echoed onto the internet (and as I mentioned in an email earlier tonight, we probably heard only 10% of the stories that were chinese whispered around the streets) it seemed as though the CEC meeting and declaration was going to be a flashpoint after which it would all go up. It would have been easy for Yanukovich to take power and move against the opposition then – as the reports suggested he would – and it’s to his credit that he has opened up a bit of space for air with his comments that no political position is worth anyone’s life.

We often talk of historical parallels between events, but I think we sometimes forget how much those parallels can influence our own take on them. Like many- and probably because of the rumours of Russian intervention – I’ve remembered Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968 and even Russia itself in the early 90s, recalling the awful prospect of military force ending protest. But we also have the images of 1989 and – as the Georgian flags in Kiev have reminded us – last year’s Rose Revolution to remind us that the tide is turning against that way, that when the eyes of the world fall on a place, deeds can no longer be carried out in secrecy.

I don’t want to stray into what others have called ‘bloggocks’ but I’d like to thank everyone who has mentioned this and raised awareness of it. I know Fistful has had its busiest day ever, and I suspect that’s true for many other blogs covering this as well. The struggle for the future of Ukraine won’t be won on the internet, but in the words of one of Amnesty’s mottos ‘It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness‘.

6 thoughts on “One last roundup

  1. The BBC is reporting that large numbers of Yanukovych’s supporters are now protesting in Kiev, near to Yushchenko’s supporters, and this is creating “an air of tension”.

    This could get nasty.

  2. I think – despite the protests – it should stay calm until after the Barroso/Putin meeting tomorrow – the government won’t want to risk alienating Russia, and the opposition leadership aren’t keen on violence, because they know if they instigate anything they’ll lose international support. Plus it’s very cold and late over there…

    As for busy days – 5 times my previous highest number of visitors today, and more than that for page loads… not bad!

  3. I think you’re right — both sides will play a waiting game.

    I think it may come down to who the Ukrainian armed forces side with. If Russian troops fire on Ukrainians, the Ukrainian forces may be pushed into siding with Yushchenko. There are reports on Maidan that they are doing this anyway, though I do not know how much credence to place on them.

    If the EU’s leaders have any sense, they will take a no-nonsense line with Putin.

  4. It’s not implausible that Kuchma would mistrust Ukrainian special forces, but from what I’ve seen so far, presence of Russian troops in Kiev should still be classified as a rumor. The opposition publicized this vigorously, but even the folks at Maidan can’t quite come up with a confirmation yet (an article in Ukrainian with several claims about the forces, of which the one about disguised Russian specnaz seems to have the weakest support.) On the other hand, I’ve read (somewhere?) that being responsible for illegal presence of foreign troops on Ukrainian soil counts as high treason under the law. If so, it could potentially provide legal cover for a coup d’etat. In practical terms I would be more worried about clashes between Ukrainians.

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