Friday, 23 June 2017 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

THIS IS NOT A PAYWALL

Unlike many media outlets, Truthout never blocks your access to the latest news: There is not a single ad or paywall on our site.

Instead, reader donations have kept us online for more than 15 years.

If you value what you read at Truthout, help keep our nonprofit newsroom strong.

Click here
to donate.

Euro Maidan 2014: The Ruptured Rebellion of Incoherent Revolution

Monday, March 17, 2014 By Derek Monroe, SpeakOut | Report
  • font size decrease font size decrease font size increase font size increase font size
  • Print

The monument at Maidan adorned with revolutionary flags including red and black of fascist OUN movement.The monument at Maidan adorned with revolutionary flags including red and black of fascist OUN movement.Arriving in the capital city of Ukraine, Kiev in the midst of the 10th week of protesters' revolt against Yanukovich government was a very surreal experience. While the center of the independence square (Maidan) has been renamed as EuroMaidan and completely built up with structures of all sorts, life outside of 1.5 square mile perimeter continued as usual. Supermarkets were full; the wealthy were shopping, sipping overpriced lattes in coffee shops and cruising up and down the city's premiere shopping district. Some common people were lining up at the side of the German Embassy on Chmelnitskogo street near a huge banner on the embassy building that proclaimed, "we are stronger together." Although it creates a very wry image of a country that looks like a person carrying another on the stretcher, having this degree of optimism on the wall while requiring a Euro 35 fee (a 10th of regular salary in Kiev) to enter its doorstep was, to say the least, strange. But it was a reality that had its own parameters of judgment and taste. Generally things were looking up in Kiev as the local and international elite was finally looking forward to the nearly finished Hilton opening its doors soon. At least the American universe is widening beyond McDonald's, the local language school with imported teachers, Mormon missionaries and the Hyatt where Sen. McCain allegedly stayed when he wanted to work his charm at the Maidan. To be fair to the senator with at least 8 houses, he would be considered poor by the standards of oligarchs bankrolling the revolution two blocks away.

Entering Maidan from the east, one had to cross a huge earth embankment filled with all kinds of materials some of which not necessarily associated with the building of anything. One could look up and see a great building-size advertisement for the latest Mercedes-Benz sedan. The Zapatista revolution zone itwasn't. The wide street filled up with foreign brand stores along with shoppers who were sparsely populating them was cut in half. As I approached the stage of this festival of political wishful thinking, I saw two older gentlemen introducing some great heroes of the revolution in a long gone era of very analog past. According to what they said, the revolution they were referring to was connected with the old stories of OUN (Ukrainian Nationalist Organization) and UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army) and their heroes: Klyachkivskiy and Bandera. Both men died fighting against the Soviets for the glory of Ukraine. Interestingly enough, missing was a complete story of what these two organizations also did, including both heroes. While the first one was responsible for ethnic cleansing of Poles and Jews from western Ukraine (Volhynia) that included the deaths - savage even by WW 2 standards - of 100,000 men, women and children, the latter headed the organization that collaborated with the Nazis and wanted to create a Ukraine for Ukrainians minus Poles, Jews and other "impure" undesirables. "Actually this white page in their history doesn't surprise me," said Pawel Bobolowicz, a Polish journalist who covered the revolution from the beginning. "They don't teach their history as Germans, French or even Poles do, therefore what you see here is making connections to something bigger than Maidan in order to create a myth of martyrdom and self-justification. The fact that many people they put on [a] pedestal are war criminals is completely alien to them and it will perhaps take two, three generations to finally analyze and understand these facts," Pawel concluded. "Plus, in these years, there was a very different historical experience. In 1941, when Hitler came to western Ukraine, he was a liberator; in the east, he was a demon and murderer, so here you have two completely different narratives at play. Plus, to be fair, nobody had their hands clean then and even now," he gestured toward the crowd below.

"The revolution will not be televised" reality of 1970, it wasn't. It was to be written, blogged, tweeted, instagrammed, facebooked, and texted about. To that end, one had a place to congregate and it was a revolutionary Press Center located in the Communist-era Trade Union building. Inside, on the second floor, it was staffed with an ever changing kaleidoscope of volunteers, writers, journalists, careerists, opportunists, important English speaking teenagers and homeless middle-aged people with laptops. The only steady fixture in the place was Patrick, an American - and very unfriendly one at that. He would be sitting at the table close to the staircase and the money room and would be constantly glued to his laptop at least 8 hours a day. With almost daily press briefings about nothing conducted by the three major political players such as Udar, Samoobrona and Svoboda (one center, one extreme right and one fascist), this was to become a place to work for the next week or so. The Press Center set-up was rather peculiar as it was located very near the money room where money was collected and counted from boxes outside. Every 20 minutes or so, there would be a troop of half a dozen young men in camouflage, masked faces and helmets armed with baseball bats walking in line to inspect the premises. Although the place generally was very safe, I later found out it the  military camp atmosphere was reinforced to remind us, journalists, of the revolution out there - just in case our bread with lard (salo) and obligatory pickle on the top got too cozy.

As I was just about to complain of loneliness and abandonment, I was referred to a handsome and lanky 18 year old who introduced himself in the manner one gets served at Applebees by your friendly but not too busy waiter. "My name is Svietoslav Yarosh and I can I get you an interpreter?"

I was told that there was a whole platoon of English speaking volunteer interpreters (mostly students) available to serve foreign reporters - who were perceived as clueless to the point of oblivion and were seen as sent to Ukraine as punishment. "Sure", I quipped although my Polish was good enough that I could do basic interviews with people on the street without help. Thus the grueling days began with many trips to the square to interview as many people in the 30,000 plus camp as possible. The majority were very angry to the point that even Ukrainian February was not be enough to cool them off.

On the eve of the upcoming confrontation, one could not dream up an idea of the revolution that would be more diverse in scope or varied in opinions of its significance. "For us this means everything" said souvenir vendor Viktoria Kovalova, who had traveled from Zhytomir to be at the square and make some quick cash to help her family. "Either he goes or let them bury us alive," she proclaimed referring to President Yaukovich.

The approximately 1.5 mile square of free territory that was run by different factions and their militias represented a new experiment in comparison to the failed Orange Revolution ten years earlier. Disappointed by the growing power of the oligarchy that became the de-facto political power class in Ukraine while the population's living standards were basically on a subsistence level, the revolution has returned, this time in a meaner and more military guise than ever before.

While the movement was galvanized by the November 30th, 2013 violent crackdown on peaceful students at the square, the resolve of many to get to the heart of the city – and Ukraine's ruling elite - had grown to the point of rage. The nationalists, fascists, liberals, democrats, soccer hooligans, opposition parties, housewives, workers and students joined up in an unlikely coalition to stand against the corrupt thievery of democratically elected President Yanukovich and his ruling Regions Party. This represented a rather interesting episode in history: all the powers of  society had united against him while at the same time did not offer an alternative. Thus the EuroMaidan became a de-facto Woodstock of opposition to the government while retaining its very original flavor of hate and dehumanization of the other side. While glorifying its own history and building its narratives, many oligarch funded opposition parties brought out their own politicians who used the Maidan stage for hot air grandstanding and blatant promotion of its own interests and agendas. While from the outside, the protest looked and still looks like a unifying force for all types of politics, inside, the story is completely different and the microcosm of what is most likely to emerge on a national scale. There were actually three sides to the conflict: the government (preserver of corrupt status quo), political opposition that the majority regard to be also a part of the system, thus the problem, and the people.

The revolution started perhaps as a spontaneous movement for a better Ukraine, i.e., an accountable one that can offer its citizens a future. However, it was then co-opted by a variety of different protagonists, including the opposition and ultra-nationalists who at this stage had minimal representation in both politics and the polls. The groups came out in force, well organized, well funded and ready to fight the government. This resulted in an ideologically and literally armed camp, a sort of utopia of wishful thinking and preconceived notions about the past and alternative future. In that set-up, for example, young fighters of Spilna Sprava (Common Cause) - a fighting unit with symbols of Waffen-SS painted on their helmets - protected young intellectuals of the student union in Ukraine house while fighting other nationalists and fascists of the Svoboda Party (Freedom Party) over access to the Ministry of Justice building.

The protestors' occupation of government buildings in the center of Kiev was a major blow to the Yanukovich administration which saw these actions as not only as illegal, but also an ultimate challenge to its authority. While every faction often fought for power within their own very limited field of control, they all retained separate command control structures. They also organized their fighting forces into Sotniyas (a hundred men troop) that would be responsible for defense of the barricades and control of law and order within each sector. The right wing adequately named Praviy Sektor (Right Sector) took responsibility for a de-facto decentralized military defense of the complex - although its resources were at the beginning limited to what were basically15th century weapons complemented by the occasional Molotov cocktail and catapults to hurl them at "the enemy. "

GEDC1389Collateral damage.

Meanwhile, back at the press office there had been a lot of hype and talk about people's this and people's that that made me wonder if we were actually talking about a re-run of 1917 or a right wing extravaganza based on old-fashioned for God, Country and ........(fill in the blank). Democracy would have to wait for an answer.

unnamed-1At Maidan, Yulia is bigger than Jesus.

I approached Sviatoslav with some questions about the funding of the whole enterprise. I was told by him earlier that the revolution is all self-financed and all the goodies one saw - including lights, Wi-Fi, pickles, buckwheat, salo, tea, coffee and variety of soups served to stave off cold (all variations of cabbage soup) - came from kind and generous people down below. While the funding of the revolution based on Dickensian looking types did not seem too credible, I followed the money boxes that were often emptied and filled every couple of hours. I gathered from the amounts collected that there wouldn't be a tree left in all of Kiev oblast to print 1,5, 10, 20 Hrvnia bills (US $1= 9.6 Hryvnia) and still be enough to cover even a quarter of EuroMaidan operating expenses, so I asked him what was really happening. I said the people have a right to know what is going on. Unfortunately Sviatoslav would have none of that as I was told that this revolution - and as any other revolutions out there - have to have their secrets, i.e., the enemy cannot know where we get the money and how we spent it. When I quipped that the enemy already knows that Viktor Pinchuk - Ukraine's premiere oligarch - pays for the press center among other things (as reported by Bloomberg), his eyes widened and he said quite angrily, "yes there are some wealthy people funding us, but you will get no files or spreadsheet showing where the money is coming or going." Forget about it.

There goes the peoples' revolution as advertised and the subject was dropped.

GEDC1377Frontline from behind the barricade.Contacts in places where vodka spoke louder than official lines told me: "Listen to the speech that your own 'F*** the EU' Nuland gave in Washington in December. I think it was also your own money, so let me at least buy you a drink for your contribution," the source joked - but I wasn't laughing. On December 13, 2013, in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington DC, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland confirmed that the US had invested in total "over $5 billion" to "ensure a secure, prosperous and democratic Ukraine" and she specifically congratulated the "Euromaidan" movement. Right next to her during that speech was a half-human size logo of Chevron Corp – a company that has a long history of exploration/exploitation of gas and oil in the third world. For the record, Victoria Nuland is married to Mr Robert Kagan, one of co-founders of the infamous "Project for the New American Century" (PNAC), the Neo Conservative roadmap for the future. The PNAC called for, among many things, regime change in Iraq and a strategy for securing global control for years to come. Moreover, back in November 2013, Chevron signed a 50-year deal with Ukraine's then President Viktor Yanukovich. After some exploratory drilling and field development, the deal would then go up to $10 billion territory. Ukraine's then government estimated that as much as 353 billion cubic feet of natural gas could be extracted every year that would make the country initially self-sufficient in the resource and over time an exporter rivaling Russia. My contact continued: "You see, it is amazing how far your American dollar can go in places that your people cannot even find on the map. And when it gets dark in the tunnel of BS, you might want to ask your friends at National Endowment for Democracy, USAID or even the Konrad Adenauer Foundation from Germany to lend you a flashlight. Just make they have batteries in them," the contact uttered his last words and disappeared into a dark night of Kiev's suburban wasteland.

It looks like there will be some serious contract re-negotiations in the offing when the revolution settles down to the boring business of governance.

Back at Maidan, the civilian side of the operation included clothing, rooming and boarding over 30,000 people who came into the camp from all over. While the most were people who were very patriotic and came to show their support for the idea of anti-Yanukovich independence, the political games behind their backs assured there would further escalation of the conflict rather than any political solution. The intent was to create a bubble like psychosis in the square where the huge screen would present repeated visions of Ukraine's glory, real or imagined, punctuated with pictures of the enemy and his clique. It was pure theatre of hate. All society's ills and problems were ascribed to the evil Yanukovich and restored glory along with EU accession were referred to as certain. Actually when it comes to illusions of greatness and prosperity, Maidan has had a very special place in the part of hell built on good intentions. According to it, the European Union was just waiting to take Ukraine into its embrace while opening its markets for its vast agricultural sector and subsidized gas from Russia that would flow in regardless of who was in power. The delusion was also retailed that Ukraine's own Jeanne d'Arc, the oligarch Yulia Tymoshenko, would ride in on a white horse and save the nation from the embrace of the evil Putin and his minions. The imagery got so grotesque that Yulia was portrayed next to Jesus Christ right by the stage while her activists also put her image onto huge cone-like structure that represented the X-mas tree of political wishful thinking on one hand and a collage of political distortion on the other. The stage itself featured a changing kaleidoscope of characters whose appearances would often end with the hypnotic "Slava Ukrainu, Slava Geroiom" (Glory to Ukraine, Glory to the Heroes) chant. This was often repeated randomly, outside any context as a kind of verbal talisman that would make things happen the more you say it. Sometimes the story would take a bizarre twist such as when current president of the provisional government Mr Yatseniuk came on stage and proclaimed that he did not accept a post of Prime Minister in Yanukovich's Government (offered to him twice) as he is not for sale. As if the post of any politician in any government of any country was based on the principle of not making compromises aka selling out  - which in retrospect was perhaps the charge on which Yanukovich himself was found guilty (he made a deal with the opposition that turned out to be not worth the paper printed on it, leading to his speedy departure from power).

In reality, myths were created and used to inspire and control people at the Maidan often referred to by political leaders as uncontrollable. This got to the point that basic drills to evacuate occupied buildings in case of Berkut (riot police) attacks became an exercise in failure. "Actually we don't like these drills at all as one time we had a situation that when we came back we found out our space taken over by Svoboda fighters and had to relocate accordingly," said one student who chose to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisals.

The cliché of nothing unifying more than a common enemy was true here, although the level of unification depended upon where one sat. For example,  the command center of one sotnya was supplied with much better food and drink than the street level troops had (this extended to the fire water  (personal test confirmed it to be 50 plus proof ) despite the official ban on alcohol at Maidan). While walking away from the command center, I was approached by four kids in their late teens (Ultras) wearing hoodies who greeted me with a "white power" chant. I asked the komandir (commendant) what that had been about as we walked down the staircase in the command building. "Nothing, they just want to practice English with you," he replied.

Despite all of this, there were also a lot of extraordinary ordinary people who believed in idea of non-violent persuasion. This included 40 something groups of housewives who would show up at the Police checkpoints and try to convince young men serving that the people on the other side are just like them and don't mean them harm. The volunteers - often people who had very little to give to the effort themselves - also powered countless soup kitchens, warming and clothing stations. Volunteers included older women who - hearing a foreign language - would come up and ask where you were from. Upon hearing the answer, the babushkas would the raise their hands in blessings and mutter some religious formula irrespective of the target's own religion or lack thereof. This was probably one of the most moving moments I have ever witnessed as their honesty and conviction that was more powerful and genuine that anything that could have been put on the screen anywhere - certainly including the stage at Maidan.

unnamed-2Praviy Sektor (Right sector) fighters getting ready for war.

Back at press center, the situation with me asking too many questions got a little bit uncomfortable for the ones around me. All of the sudden, people would not say anything in response to my hearty greeting of "Zdrastvujtie tovarishchi" "hello comrades in a great Soviet pioneer spirit of the bygone era." Before I had gotten laughs, but now it was quiet. After arranging an interview to see the other side at anti-Maidan (a government sponsored event of alternative reality), I was told not to go there as it was run by monsters of the regime who would eat me alive without ketchup or mustard. Disagreeing on that point, I arranged for an interpreter to be present. Fifteen minutes before our departure, I was told by Irina the interpreter that she was told by the American Patrick that she could not go with me and as matter of fact nobody will go with me anywhere from now on. In the only conversation I had had with Patrick until then, two days earlier, I asked him what his role was in the revolution. His answer was short and not sweet: "I'm the translator." Two other people I spoke with later confirmed that Patrick doesn't know either Russian or Ukrainian. Go figure.

As I prepared to leave, Patrick approached me and requested a conversation. He informed me that Irina could go with me as she was marked down as activist of Svoboda party and it will be extremely dangerous for her to enter anti-Maidan. When I then asked who she was, an interpreter or an activist and what she was doing here without disclosing her association to reporters who want to use her, I was told that she would not be working as an interpreter anymore and was relegated to work back at Svoboda HQ. When I then asked if other interpreters/translators are also affiliated with any other party, Patrick walked away without saying anything. From then on, I had my own interpreter from the outside and never spoke with Patrick again.

On Feb 16th, Yanukovich announced amnesty for all those who left the occupied buildings peacefully. Otherwise, the interior troops led by the feared and dreaded Berkut were to start the clearing out process as of 6pm on Feb 18th.

The announcement caused some consternation as one group left Kiev city hall after an almost three month occupation, while the other blocked entry to it, stating that it would not give in unless the government fulfilled its obligations now under the amnesty. In the end, the consensus was reached that Yanukovich could not be trusted and had to go, no matter what, so there would be a war after all.

The war. The order was given on the 18th to vacate the square or face consequences. Women and children were especially asked to evacuate by 6pm, although the metro stopped running below Maidan at 4:30 pm. Everyone was very nervous. The war started with police marching north on both Institutska Street and through the opening left by dismantled barricade near the Dynamo Soccer club stadium. The fighting started with police moving in Roman centurion like formations that would become covered with rocks, stones, projectiles and anything that could be thrown. The savage medieval-like war erupted with occasional use of firearms on both sides. The fires which were then set at the barricades to keep police and Berkut from advancing gave it a truly Dante-like setting with cries of the wounded (over 1000) on both sides - not to mention 26 dead, including 10 policemen and one Russian Journalist. The fire was used indiscriminately against the police, but also against the demonstrators themselves. The Trade Union building that was housing the press center and the headquarters went up in flames with accusations on both sides as to who had set it on fire. The fighting was not contained to the square only as there were shootings against the police out of the center and in the suburbs. To further inflame the situation, the government used roving squads of "titushki" goons to go after people who were fleeing the scene. Following the carnage and violence, which also included a burned water truck and armored personnel carrier, a truce was announced the next day.

unnamed-3Water delivery

Unfortunately, it was broken soon after as some revolutionaries decided to get it on against the police, so the fighting erupted again around the anti-Maidan camp where several participants in the attack were shot and heavy fighting erupted again just south of the square on Institutska Street. I saw a whole platoon of about 15 wiped out by shoot-to- kill sniper fire as people were trying to approach police positions near the Verkhovna Rada (parliament). By that time, the fighting had became vicious and without pardon. I could hear a Berkut officer yelling at his troops to maintain tight formation if they want to stay alive while stones and other objects were raining on them. However the most distressing thing I witnessed was the Svoboda or Spilna Sprava sotnya beat back the police attack leaving about dozen of them injured on the ground. The fighters went up to the injured policemen and then started to beat them as some kids as young as 18 started to call for their moms and god to defend them. Subsequently, the policemen were taken hostage. Then the most controversial event of the whole fight took place when snipers behind the rebel lines at Ukraine Hotel, which was also a makeshift hospital, started shooting at both sides. To this day, it is unclear who the shooters were and the provisional administration has refused to investigate the matter. Eyewitness reports stated that the shooters were dressed as opposition fighters from Pravy Sektor, but that is all the info known as of now. A leaked conversation between Lady Ashton and the Estonian Foreign Minister confirms the situation as suspicious at best.

GEDC1382Police (Milicija) Line.

Beside the serious international crises that arouse from the EuroMaidan revolution and the departure of the hated Yanukovich, what has really been achieved? And most importantly, what the Ukrainian people are going to gain from it? According to activist and writer Nataliya Gumenyuk who had been in the EuroMaidan from the beginning, "abandoning the 'Euro-choice' in Ukraine means remaining in the territory of lawlessness and tyranny, ignorance and kleptocracy." However, the opinions of the people on the ground were a bit more complex.

"It is really not about European values per se or actual entry to Europe as most people realize that Ukraine would not be accepted in a long time," said Maria, who was a student and volunteer at the student center at Maidan. "It was about the identity as most people really don't care about politics or who is even at the top. It is about living in normal country, on normal salary with dignity as normal person. We felt this government was robbing us of that; that is why we are here," she concluded. So the whole spin and divide between a pro-Euro side (the West) and a pro-Russia side (the East) as currently presented by the US and majority of western media is completely artificial and fake. Yes, there is a cultural and linguistic divide as the people feel culturally different, but they were also strongly identified with Ukraine as a multi-lingual and multi-cultural state. Not to mention millions of mixed Russian and Ukrainian couples that had not thought about their allegiances until the Maidan conflict exploded.

unnamed-4Barricade near the center stage , to the right it is Trade Union building, a revolutionary HQ.

First and foremost there is the great anger that drove the Ukrainians to the Maidan as they realized the last 24 years have produced a de-facto failed state. The first wave to truly reform it and to set the country on the right path was the 2004 Orange Revolution that brought professional politicians/oligarchs such as Yulia Tymoshenko into power. Soon after, however, the whole thing became all about politics and power instead of about the country and its needs. Ukrainians also had a very somber reminder in the progress of its neighbor to the west, Poland. In 1990, when both countries were just in the beginning of their independence, they both pretty much started from the same GDP and civilizational levels. By 2014, Poland - a member of EU for the preceding 10 years - wound up with a GDP 3 times higher than that of Ukraine with significant improvements in national infrastructure and standards of living since dissolution of the East bloc. That left Ukrainians deeply angry and frustrated about the state of their country being eaten from the inside by the graft and thievery of its government on one hand, and the concentration of oligarchical wealth on the other. According to the Kiev's newly folded weekly Korrespondent, the twelve richest businessmen in this country of 46 million had a combined wealth worth more than 20% of the total country. That combined with the reality that the economy is owned by 5 oligarchs and their families has created a socio-economic powder keg. Most countries that have kleptocracy and corruption on a wide scale still exist in relative peace until there is a certain level reached that makes normal life for most people impossible. "I will tell you the real story from real life how bad things are here," said a twenty something Yuri who had recently relocated from Kiev to Lviv in the west. "I know of someone whose family member was put in this situation. One guy had an accident at work that almost severed his leg. He was brought to the hospital where he was seen by a doctor. The doctor said: to re-attach your leg will cost you $5000. Here is the phone as you have 40 minutes to get the money so you better start making phone calls. When you come to Ukraine, you make sure you are healthy and there is nothing wrong with you," Yuri concluded.

The corruption stems from very low pay in the public sector where the government still as in Soviet times pretends to pay people and the people pretend to do the work. With standard pay in the health sector for a doctor of around 3500 Hryvnia (US$ 360) and teachers at 2500 Hryvnia ($260) per month and food prices near the European level,  daily existence has become a struggle for most people. The Orange revolution, despite its lofty promises and ideals, offered nothing but consolidated economic and political power for the oligarchs whose latest addition became Yanukovich's son Oleksandr, who, at age 40, became a $1 billion dollar man. The extortion became so pervasive that anyone who was in business that reached certain level of revenue was visited by the regime's men demanding a cut or threatening outright takeover. The courts were rubber stamps for the ruling party with judges appointed and not elected who also become entrepreneurs living off the corrupt system. However, that did not prevent US oil giant Chevron from inking a $10 billion deal with Yanukovich as he was just about to crumble. By some estimates, the amount of shale gas available in Ukraine gives it the fourth largest reserves in the world, so there is definitely a game worth entry according to many industry journals. The market of 46 million people is still considered very lucrative, as before the revolution many business hotels at Kiev's center were booked weeks in advance.

This all came to a halt and the country now is at the major standstill with two major conflicts.

First, is the conflict at the center, Kiev. Although Yanukovich left and the new provisional government took over, the EuroMaidan is still on as it is waiting for something to happen. While the new Yatseniuk government realized that the life line thrown to it by the IMF and the West is a loan that will have to be repaid over a long time, it also outsourced its independence in economic decision making. The terms of the IMF agreement to lend $15 billion are secret, but rumors fly that it imposes very harsh economic choices on the population, such as slashing energy subsidies and curbing public sector expenditures, resulting in coming austerity. At one point, Yatseniuk called his cabinet a "Kamikaze cabinet" as the choices he faces are now effectively making his tenure temporary until the next election. This is a political play by Yulia Tymoshenko and her party as she was released from prison and announced she will be running for office. During her announcement, she appeared at the Maidan stage and was widely booed due to her previous tenure as prime minister and political manipulator. The idea is to use her acolytes and the original team of the Orange Revolution to bring on the hardest measures which would cut the already meager salaries of public sector  workers along with their headcount, thus initiating a similar contraction in the private sector as well. Then Julia Tymoshenko will appear as Jeanne d'Arc on the white horse with "hero arrives" deliverance to a nation that wants a protector. This narrative has already been tried during the first Orange Revolution and it failed. So the country is now set for the rerun of 2.0 with the same people that ran it aground the first time around.

The EuroMaidan ushered in a new era of Ukrainian politics emphasizing power as the ultimate goal that justifies all means. When considering the legality of it through the lens of existing the Ukrainian constitution, it was a coup for all practical purposes as it enabled one narrowly defined group of political actors to take power without regard to the existing political process. It also relied on the grievances of people naive and gullible enough to be played by it. They are the ones who truly believed they created a better world for themselves and their children and that thus the sacrifice of over 100 lives on the altar of the promise of a better future was justified. They were wrong and the lives paid were spent for nothing. And for all of this pain and suffering, they got the first European government since World War II that is dominated by outright fascists.

GEDC1391Art installation off Maidan mimicking it.

As I was about to leave the press center for good and relocate (it was burned down two days later), I got an email. "Just one thing to remember, though. Maidan is nothing like the Occupy movement. We don't want to change the world, that's why we won't fail." said Sviatoslav Yurash. Spoken like a real politician anywhere. Welcome to the New Ukraine.

 

This article is a Truthout original.

Related Stories

Ukraine on the Edge
By Tatiana Zhurzhenko, Project Syndicate | News Analysis
Ukraine + NATO = Nuclear War
By Steven Starr, SpeakOut | News Analysis
Ukraine Hysteria, US Hypocrisy, Keystone Protest
By Peter Hart, FAIR | News Analysis

Hide Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus
GET DAILY TRUTHOUT UPDATES
Optional Member Code

FOLLOW togtorsstottofb


Latest Stories

Euro Maidan 2014: The Ruptured Rebellion of Incoherent Revolution

Monday, March 17, 2014 By Derek Monroe, SpeakOut | Report
  • font size decrease font size decrease font size increase font size increase font size
  • Print

The monument at Maidan adorned with revolutionary flags including red and black of fascist OUN movement.The monument at Maidan adorned with revolutionary flags including red and black of fascist OUN movement.Arriving in the capital city of Ukraine, Kiev in the midst of the 10th week of protesters' revolt against Yanukovich government was a very surreal experience. While the center of the independence square (Maidan) has been renamed as EuroMaidan and completely built up with structures of all sorts, life outside of 1.5 square mile perimeter continued as usual. Supermarkets were full; the wealthy were shopping, sipping overpriced lattes in coffee shops and cruising up and down the city's premiere shopping district. Some common people were lining up at the side of the German Embassy on Chmelnitskogo street near a huge banner on the embassy building that proclaimed, "we are stronger together." Although it creates a very wry image of a country that looks like a person carrying another on the stretcher, having this degree of optimism on the wall while requiring a Euro 35 fee (a 10th of regular salary in Kiev) to enter its doorstep was, to say the least, strange. But it was a reality that had its own parameters of judgment and taste. Generally things were looking up in Kiev as the local and international elite was finally looking forward to the nearly finished Hilton opening its doors soon. At least the American universe is widening beyond McDonald's, the local language school with imported teachers, Mormon missionaries and the Hyatt where Sen. McCain allegedly stayed when he wanted to work his charm at the Maidan. To be fair to the senator with at least 8 houses, he would be considered poor by the standards of oligarchs bankrolling the revolution two blocks away.

Entering Maidan from the east, one had to cross a huge earth embankment filled with all kinds of materials some of which not necessarily associated with the building of anything. One could look up and see a great building-size advertisement for the latest Mercedes-Benz sedan. The Zapatista revolution zone itwasn't. The wide street filled up with foreign brand stores along with shoppers who were sparsely populating them was cut in half. As I approached the stage of this festival of political wishful thinking, I saw two older gentlemen introducing some great heroes of the revolution in a long gone era of very analog past. According to what they said, the revolution they were referring to was connected with the old stories of OUN (Ukrainian Nationalist Organization) and UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army) and their heroes: Klyachkivskiy and Bandera. Both men died fighting against the Soviets for the glory of Ukraine. Interestingly enough, missing was a complete story of what these two organizations also did, including both heroes. While the first one was responsible for ethnic cleansing of Poles and Jews from western Ukraine (Volhynia) that included the deaths - savage even by WW 2 standards - of 100,000 men, women and children, the latter headed the organization that collaborated with the Nazis and wanted to create a Ukraine for Ukrainians minus Poles, Jews and other "impure" undesirables. "Actually this white page in their history doesn't surprise me," said Pawel Bobolowicz, a Polish journalist who covered the revolution from the beginning. "They don't teach their history as Germans, French or even Poles do, therefore what you see here is making connections to something bigger than Maidan in order to create a myth of martyrdom and self-justification. The fact that many people they put on [a] pedestal are war criminals is completely alien to them and it will perhaps take two, three generations to finally analyze and understand these facts," Pawel concluded. "Plus, in these years, there was a very different historical experience. In 1941, when Hitler came to western Ukraine, he was a liberator; in the east, he was a demon and murderer, so here you have two completely different narratives at play. Plus, to be fair, nobody had their hands clean then and even now," he gestured toward the crowd below.

"The revolution will not be televised" reality of 1970, it wasn't. It was to be written, blogged, tweeted, instagrammed, facebooked, and texted about. To that end, one had a place to congregate and it was a revolutionary Press Center located in the Communist-era Trade Union building. Inside, on the second floor, it was staffed with an ever changing kaleidoscope of volunteers, writers, journalists, careerists, opportunists, important English speaking teenagers and homeless middle-aged people with laptops. The only steady fixture in the place was Patrick, an American - and very unfriendly one at that. He would be sitting at the table close to the staircase and the money room and would be constantly glued to his laptop at least 8 hours a day. With almost daily press briefings about nothing conducted by the three major political players such as Udar, Samoobrona and Svoboda (one center, one extreme right and one fascist), this was to become a place to work for the next week or so. The Press Center set-up was rather peculiar as it was located very near the money room where money was collected and counted from boxes outside. Every 20 minutes or so, there would be a troop of half a dozen young men in camouflage, masked faces and helmets armed with baseball bats walking in line to inspect the premises. Although the place generally was very safe, I later found out it the  military camp atmosphere was reinforced to remind us, journalists, of the revolution out there - just in case our bread with lard (salo) and obligatory pickle on the top got too cozy.

As I was just about to complain of loneliness and abandonment, I was referred to a handsome and lanky 18 year old who introduced himself in the manner one gets served at Applebees by your friendly but not too busy waiter. "My name is Svietoslav Yarosh and I can I get you an interpreter?"

I was told that there was a whole platoon of English speaking volunteer interpreters (mostly students) available to serve foreign reporters - who were perceived as clueless to the point of oblivion and were seen as sent to Ukraine as punishment. "Sure", I quipped although my Polish was good enough that I could do basic interviews with people on the street without help. Thus the grueling days began with many trips to the square to interview as many people in the 30,000 plus camp as possible. The majority were very angry to the point that even Ukrainian February was not be enough to cool them off.

On the eve of the upcoming confrontation, one could not dream up an idea of the revolution that would be more diverse in scope or varied in opinions of its significance. "For us this means everything" said souvenir vendor Viktoria Kovalova, who had traveled from Zhytomir to be at the square and make some quick cash to help her family. "Either he goes or let them bury us alive," she proclaimed referring to President Yaukovich.

The approximately 1.5 mile square of free territory that was run by different factions and their militias represented a new experiment in comparison to the failed Orange Revolution ten years earlier. Disappointed by the growing power of the oligarchy that became the de-facto political power class in Ukraine while the population's living standards were basically on a subsistence level, the revolution has returned, this time in a meaner and more military guise than ever before.

While the movement was galvanized by the November 30th, 2013 violent crackdown on peaceful students at the square, the resolve of many to get to the heart of the city – and Ukraine's ruling elite - had grown to the point of rage. The nationalists, fascists, liberals, democrats, soccer hooligans, opposition parties, housewives, workers and students joined up in an unlikely coalition to stand against the corrupt thievery of democratically elected President Yanukovich and his ruling Regions Party. This represented a rather interesting episode in history: all the powers of  society had united against him while at the same time did not offer an alternative. Thus the EuroMaidan became a de-facto Woodstock of opposition to the government while retaining its very original flavor of hate and dehumanization of the other side. While glorifying its own history and building its narratives, many oligarch funded opposition parties brought out their own politicians who used the Maidan stage for hot air grandstanding and blatant promotion of its own interests and agendas. While from the outside, the protest looked and still looks like a unifying force for all types of politics, inside, the story is completely different and the microcosm of what is most likely to emerge on a national scale. There were actually three sides to the conflict: the government (preserver of corrupt status quo), political opposition that the majority regard to be also a part of the system, thus the problem, and the people.

The revolution started perhaps as a spontaneous movement for a better Ukraine, i.e., an accountable one that can offer its citizens a future. However, it was then co-opted by a variety of different protagonists, including the opposition and ultra-nationalists who at this stage had minimal representation in both politics and the polls. The groups came out in force, well organized, well funded and ready to fight the government. This resulted in an ideologically and literally armed camp, a sort of utopia of wishful thinking and preconceived notions about the past and alternative future. In that set-up, for example, young fighters of Spilna Sprava (Common Cause) - a fighting unit with symbols of Waffen-SS painted on their helmets - protected young intellectuals of the student union in Ukraine house while fighting other nationalists and fascists of the Svoboda Party (Freedom Party) over access to the Ministry of Justice building.

The protestors' occupation of government buildings in the center of Kiev was a major blow to the Yanukovich administration which saw these actions as not only as illegal, but also an ultimate challenge to its authority. While every faction often fought for power within their own very limited field of control, they all retained separate command control structures. They also organized their fighting forces into Sotniyas (a hundred men troop) that would be responsible for defense of the barricades and control of law and order within each sector. The right wing adequately named Praviy Sektor (Right Sector) took responsibility for a de-facto decentralized military defense of the complex - although its resources were at the beginning limited to what were basically15th century weapons complemented by the occasional Molotov cocktail and catapults to hurl them at "the enemy. "

GEDC1389Collateral damage.

Meanwhile, back at the press office there had been a lot of hype and talk about people's this and people's that that made me wonder if we were actually talking about a re-run of 1917 or a right wing extravaganza based on old-fashioned for God, Country and ........(fill in the blank). Democracy would have to wait for an answer.

unnamed-1At Maidan, Yulia is bigger than Jesus.

I approached Sviatoslav with some questions about the funding of the whole enterprise. I was told by him earlier that the revolution is all self-financed and all the goodies one saw - including lights, Wi-Fi, pickles, buckwheat, salo, tea, coffee and variety of soups served to stave off cold (all variations of cabbage soup) - came from kind and generous people down below. While the funding of the revolution based on Dickensian looking types did not seem too credible, I followed the money boxes that were often emptied and filled every couple of hours. I gathered from the amounts collected that there wouldn't be a tree left in all of Kiev oblast to print 1,5, 10, 20 Hrvnia bills (US $1= 9.6 Hryvnia) and still be enough to cover even a quarter of EuroMaidan operating expenses, so I asked him what was really happening. I said the people have a right to know what is going on. Unfortunately Sviatoslav would have none of that as I was told that this revolution - and as any other revolutions out there - have to have their secrets, i.e., the enemy cannot know where we get the money and how we spent it. When I quipped that the enemy already knows that Viktor Pinchuk - Ukraine's premiere oligarch - pays for the press center among other things (as reported by Bloomberg), his eyes widened and he said quite angrily, "yes there are some wealthy people funding us, but you will get no files or spreadsheet showing where the money is coming or going." Forget about it.

There goes the peoples' revolution as advertised and the subject was dropped.

GEDC1377Frontline from behind the barricade.Contacts in places where vodka spoke louder than official lines told me: "Listen to the speech that your own 'F*** the EU' Nuland gave in Washington in December. I think it was also your own money, so let me at least buy you a drink for your contribution," the source joked - but I wasn't laughing. On December 13, 2013, in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington DC, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland confirmed that the US had invested in total "over $5 billion" to "ensure a secure, prosperous and democratic Ukraine" and she specifically congratulated the "Euromaidan" movement. Right next to her during that speech was a half-human size logo of Chevron Corp – a company that has a long history of exploration/exploitation of gas and oil in the third world. For the record, Victoria Nuland is married to Mr Robert Kagan, one of co-founders of the infamous "Project for the New American Century" (PNAC), the Neo Conservative roadmap for the future. The PNAC called for, among many things, regime change in Iraq and a strategy for securing global control for years to come. Moreover, back in November 2013, Chevron signed a 50-year deal with Ukraine's then President Viktor Yanukovich. After some exploratory drilling and field development, the deal would then go up to $10 billion territory. Ukraine's then government estimated that as much as 353 billion cubic feet of natural gas could be extracted every year that would make the country initially self-sufficient in the resource and over time an exporter rivaling Russia. My contact continued: "You see, it is amazing how far your American dollar can go in places that your people cannot even find on the map. And when it gets dark in the tunnel of BS, you might want to ask your friends at National Endowment for Democracy, USAID or even the Konrad Adenauer Foundation from Germany to lend you a flashlight. Just make they have batteries in them," the contact uttered his last words and disappeared into a dark night of Kiev's suburban wasteland.

It looks like there will be some serious contract re-negotiations in the offing when the revolution settles down to the boring business of governance.

Back at Maidan, the civilian side of the operation included clothing, rooming and boarding over 30,000 people who came into the camp from all over. While the most were people who were very patriotic and came to show their support for the idea of anti-Yanukovich independence, the political games behind their backs assured there would further escalation of the conflict rather than any political solution. The intent was to create a bubble like psychosis in the square where the huge screen would present repeated visions of Ukraine's glory, real or imagined, punctuated with pictures of the enemy and his clique. It was pure theatre of hate. All society's ills and problems were ascribed to the evil Yanukovich and restored glory along with EU accession were referred to as certain. Actually when it comes to illusions of greatness and prosperity, Maidan has had a very special place in the part of hell built on good intentions. According to it, the European Union was just waiting to take Ukraine into its embrace while opening its markets for its vast agricultural sector and subsidized gas from Russia that would flow in regardless of who was in power. The delusion was also retailed that Ukraine's own Jeanne d'Arc, the oligarch Yulia Tymoshenko, would ride in on a white horse and save the nation from the embrace of the evil Putin and his minions. The imagery got so grotesque that Yulia was portrayed next to Jesus Christ right by the stage while her activists also put her image onto huge cone-like structure that represented the X-mas tree of political wishful thinking on one hand and a collage of political distortion on the other. The stage itself featured a changing kaleidoscope of characters whose appearances would often end with the hypnotic "Slava Ukrainu, Slava Geroiom" (Glory to Ukraine, Glory to the Heroes) chant. This was often repeated randomly, outside any context as a kind of verbal talisman that would make things happen the more you say it. Sometimes the story would take a bizarre twist such as when current president of the provisional government Mr Yatseniuk came on stage and proclaimed that he did not accept a post of Prime Minister in Yanukovich's Government (offered to him twice) as he is not for sale. As if the post of any politician in any government of any country was based on the principle of not making compromises aka selling out  - which in retrospect was perhaps the charge on which Yanukovich himself was found guilty (he made a deal with the opposition that turned out to be not worth the paper printed on it, leading to his speedy departure from power).

In reality, myths were created and used to inspire and control people at the Maidan often referred to by political leaders as uncontrollable. This got to the point that basic drills to evacuate occupied buildings in case of Berkut (riot police) attacks became an exercise in failure. "Actually we don't like these drills at all as one time we had a situation that when we came back we found out our space taken over by Svoboda fighters and had to relocate accordingly," said one student who chose to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisals.

The cliché of nothing unifying more than a common enemy was true here, although the level of unification depended upon where one sat. For example,  the command center of one sotnya was supplied with much better food and drink than the street level troops had (this extended to the fire water  (personal test confirmed it to be 50 plus proof ) despite the official ban on alcohol at Maidan). While walking away from the command center, I was approached by four kids in their late teens (Ultras) wearing hoodies who greeted me with a "white power" chant. I asked the komandir (commendant) what that had been about as we walked down the staircase in the command building. "Nothing, they just want to practice English with you," he replied.

Despite all of this, there were also a lot of extraordinary ordinary people who believed in idea of non-violent persuasion. This included 40 something groups of housewives who would show up at the Police checkpoints and try to convince young men serving that the people on the other side are just like them and don't mean them harm. The volunteers - often people who had very little to give to the effort themselves - also powered countless soup kitchens, warming and clothing stations. Volunteers included older women who - hearing a foreign language - would come up and ask where you were from. Upon hearing the answer, the babushkas would the raise their hands in blessings and mutter some religious formula irrespective of the target's own religion or lack thereof. This was probably one of the most moving moments I have ever witnessed as their honesty and conviction that was more powerful and genuine that anything that could have been put on the screen anywhere - certainly including the stage at Maidan.

unnamed-2Praviy Sektor (Right sector) fighters getting ready for war.

Back at press center, the situation with me asking too many questions got a little bit uncomfortable for the ones around me. All of the sudden, people would not say anything in response to my hearty greeting of "Zdrastvujtie tovarishchi" "hello comrades in a great Soviet pioneer spirit of the bygone era." Before I had gotten laughs, but now it was quiet. After arranging an interview to see the other side at anti-Maidan (a government sponsored event of alternative reality), I was told not to go there as it was run by monsters of the regime who would eat me alive without ketchup or mustard. Disagreeing on that point, I arranged for an interpreter to be present. Fifteen minutes before our departure, I was told by Irina the interpreter that she was told by the American Patrick that she could not go with me and as matter of fact nobody will go with me anywhere from now on. In the only conversation I had had with Patrick until then, two days earlier, I asked him what his role was in the revolution. His answer was short and not sweet: "I'm the translator." Two other people I spoke with later confirmed that Patrick doesn't know either Russian or Ukrainian. Go figure.

As I prepared to leave, Patrick approached me and requested a conversation. He informed me that Irina could go with me as she was marked down as activist of Svoboda party and it will be extremely dangerous for her to enter anti-Maidan. When I then asked who she was, an interpreter or an activist and what she was doing here without disclosing her association to reporters who want to use her, I was told that she would not be working as an interpreter anymore and was relegated to work back at Svoboda HQ. When I then asked if other interpreters/translators are also affiliated with any other party, Patrick walked away without saying anything. From then on, I had my own interpreter from the outside and never spoke with Patrick again.

On Feb 16th, Yanukovich announced amnesty for all those who left the occupied buildings peacefully. Otherwise, the interior troops led by the feared and dreaded Berkut were to start the clearing out process as of 6pm on Feb 18th.

The announcement caused some consternation as one group left Kiev city hall after an almost three month occupation, while the other blocked entry to it, stating that it would not give in unless the government fulfilled its obligations now under the amnesty. In the end, the consensus was reached that Yanukovich could not be trusted and had to go, no matter what, so there would be a war after all.

The war. The order was given on the 18th to vacate the square or face consequences. Women and children were especially asked to evacuate by 6pm, although the metro stopped running below Maidan at 4:30 pm. Everyone was very nervous. The war started with police marching north on both Institutska Street and through the opening left by dismantled barricade near the Dynamo Soccer club stadium. The fighting started with police moving in Roman centurion like formations that would become covered with rocks, stones, projectiles and anything that could be thrown. The savage medieval-like war erupted with occasional use of firearms on both sides. The fires which were then set at the barricades to keep police and Berkut from advancing gave it a truly Dante-like setting with cries of the wounded (over 1000) on both sides - not to mention 26 dead, including 10 policemen and one Russian Journalist. The fire was used indiscriminately against the police, but also against the demonstrators themselves. The Trade Union building that was housing the press center and the headquarters went up in flames with accusations on both sides as to who had set it on fire. The fighting was not contained to the square only as there were shootings against the police out of the center and in the suburbs. To further inflame the situation, the government used roving squads of "titushki" goons to go after people who were fleeing the scene. Following the carnage and violence, which also included a burned water truck and armored personnel carrier, a truce was announced the next day.

unnamed-3Water delivery

Unfortunately, it was broken soon after as some revolutionaries decided to get it on against the police, so the fighting erupted again around the anti-Maidan camp where several participants in the attack were shot and heavy fighting erupted again just south of the square on Institutska Street. I saw a whole platoon of about 15 wiped out by shoot-to- kill sniper fire as people were trying to approach police positions near the Verkhovna Rada (parliament). By that time, the fighting had became vicious and without pardon. I could hear a Berkut officer yelling at his troops to maintain tight formation if they want to stay alive while stones and other objects were raining on them. However the most distressing thing I witnessed was the Svoboda or Spilna Sprava sotnya beat back the police attack leaving about dozen of them injured on the ground. The fighters went up to the injured policemen and then started to beat them as some kids as young as 18 started to call for their moms and god to defend them. Subsequently, the policemen were taken hostage. Then the most controversial event of the whole fight took place when snipers behind the rebel lines at Ukraine Hotel, which was also a makeshift hospital, started shooting at both sides. To this day, it is unclear who the shooters were and the provisional administration has refused to investigate the matter. Eyewitness reports stated that the shooters were dressed as opposition fighters from Pravy Sektor, but that is all the info known as of now. A leaked conversation between Lady Ashton and the Estonian Foreign Minister confirms the situation as suspicious at best.

GEDC1382Police (Milicija) Line.

Beside the serious international crises that arouse from the EuroMaidan revolution and the departure of the hated Yanukovich, what has really been achieved? And most importantly, what the Ukrainian people are going to gain from it? According to activist and writer Nataliya Gumenyuk who had been in the EuroMaidan from the beginning, "abandoning the 'Euro-choice' in Ukraine means remaining in the territory of lawlessness and tyranny, ignorance and kleptocracy." However, the opinions of the people on the ground were a bit more complex.

"It is really not about European values per se or actual entry to Europe as most people realize that Ukraine would not be accepted in a long time," said Maria, who was a student and volunteer at the student center at Maidan. "It was about the identity as most people really don't care about politics or who is even at the top. It is about living in normal country, on normal salary with dignity as normal person. We felt this government was robbing us of that; that is why we are here," she concluded. So the whole spin and divide between a pro-Euro side (the West) and a pro-Russia side (the East) as currently presented by the US and majority of western media is completely artificial and fake. Yes, there is a cultural and linguistic divide as the people feel culturally different, but they were also strongly identified with Ukraine as a multi-lingual and multi-cultural state. Not to mention millions of mixed Russian and Ukrainian couples that had not thought about their allegiances until the Maidan conflict exploded.

unnamed-4Barricade near the center stage , to the right it is Trade Union building, a revolutionary HQ.

First and foremost there is the great anger that drove the Ukrainians to the Maidan as they realized the last 24 years have produced a de-facto failed state. The first wave to truly reform it and to set the country on the right path was the 2004 Orange Revolution that brought professional politicians/oligarchs such as Yulia Tymoshenko into power. Soon after, however, the whole thing became all about politics and power instead of about the country and its needs. Ukrainians also had a very somber reminder in the progress of its neighbor to the west, Poland. In 1990, when both countries were just in the beginning of their independence, they both pretty much started from the same GDP and civilizational levels. By 2014, Poland - a member of EU for the preceding 10 years - wound up with a GDP 3 times higher than that of Ukraine with significant improvements in national infrastructure and standards of living since dissolution of the East bloc. That left Ukrainians deeply angry and frustrated about the state of their country being eaten from the inside by the graft and thievery of its government on one hand, and the concentration of oligarchical wealth on the other. According to the Kiev's newly folded weekly Korrespondent, the twelve richest businessmen in this country of 46 million had a combined wealth worth more than 20% of the total country. That combined with the reality that the economy is owned by 5 oligarchs and their families has created a socio-economic powder keg. Most countries that have kleptocracy and corruption on a wide scale still exist in relative peace until there is a certain level reached that makes normal life for most people impossible. "I will tell you the real story from real life how bad things are here," said a twenty something Yuri who had recently relocated from Kiev to Lviv in the west. "I know of someone whose family member was put in this situation. One guy had an accident at work that almost severed his leg. He was brought to the hospital where he was seen by a doctor. The doctor said: to re-attach your leg will cost you $5000. Here is the phone as you have 40 minutes to get the money so you better start making phone calls. When you come to Ukraine, you make sure you are healthy and there is nothing wrong with you," Yuri concluded.

The corruption stems from very low pay in the public sector where the government still as in Soviet times pretends to pay people and the people pretend to do the work. With standard pay in the health sector for a doctor of around 3500 Hryvnia (US$ 360) and teachers at 2500 Hryvnia ($260) per month and food prices near the European level,  daily existence has become a struggle for most people. The Orange revolution, despite its lofty promises and ideals, offered nothing but consolidated economic and political power for the oligarchs whose latest addition became Yanukovich's son Oleksandr, who, at age 40, became a $1 billion dollar man. The extortion became so pervasive that anyone who was in business that reached certain level of revenue was visited by the regime's men demanding a cut or threatening outright takeover. The courts were rubber stamps for the ruling party with judges appointed and not elected who also become entrepreneurs living off the corrupt system. However, that did not prevent US oil giant Chevron from inking a $10 billion deal with Yanukovich as he was just about to crumble. By some estimates, the amount of shale gas available in Ukraine gives it the fourth largest reserves in the world, so there is definitely a game worth entry according to many industry journals. The market of 46 million people is still considered very lucrative, as before the revolution many business hotels at Kiev's center were booked weeks in advance.

This all came to a halt and the country now is at the major standstill with two major conflicts.

First, is the conflict at the center, Kiev. Although Yanukovich left and the new provisional government took over, the EuroMaidan is still on as it is waiting for something to happen. While the new Yatseniuk government realized that the life line thrown to it by the IMF and the West is a loan that will have to be repaid over a long time, it also outsourced its independence in economic decision making. The terms of the IMF agreement to lend $15 billion are secret, but rumors fly that it imposes very harsh economic choices on the population, such as slashing energy subsidies and curbing public sector expenditures, resulting in coming austerity. At one point, Yatseniuk called his cabinet a "Kamikaze cabinet" as the choices he faces are now effectively making his tenure temporary until the next election. This is a political play by Yulia Tymoshenko and her party as she was released from prison and announced she will be running for office. During her announcement, she appeared at the Maidan stage and was widely booed due to her previous tenure as prime minister and political manipulator. The idea is to use her acolytes and the original team of the Orange Revolution to bring on the hardest measures which would cut the already meager salaries of public sector  workers along with their headcount, thus initiating a similar contraction in the private sector as well. Then Julia Tymoshenko will appear as Jeanne d'Arc on the white horse with "hero arrives" deliverance to a nation that wants a protector. This narrative has already been tried during the first Orange Revolution and it failed. So the country is now set for the rerun of 2.0 with the same people that ran it aground the first time around.

The EuroMaidan ushered in a new era of Ukrainian politics emphasizing power as the ultimate goal that justifies all means. When considering the legality of it through the lens of existing the Ukrainian constitution, it was a coup for all practical purposes as it enabled one narrowly defined group of political actors to take power without regard to the existing political process. It also relied on the grievances of people naive and gullible enough to be played by it. They are the ones who truly believed they created a better world for themselves and their children and that thus the sacrifice of over 100 lives on the altar of the promise of a better future was justified. They were wrong and the lives paid were spent for nothing. And for all of this pain and suffering, they got the first European government since World War II that is dominated by outright fascists.

GEDC1391Art installation off Maidan mimicking it.

As I was about to leave the press center for good and relocate (it was burned down two days later), I got an email. "Just one thing to remember, though. Maidan is nothing like the Occupy movement. We don't want to change the world, that's why we won't fail." said Sviatoslav Yurash. Spoken like a real politician anywhere. Welcome to the New Ukraine.

 

This article is a Truthout original.

Related Stories

Ukraine on the Edge
By Tatiana Zhurzhenko, Project Syndicate | News Analysis
Ukraine + NATO = Nuclear War
By Steven Starr, SpeakOut | News Analysis
Ukraine Hysteria, US Hypocrisy, Keystone Protest
By Peter Hart, FAIR | News Analysis

Hide Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus