Ukraine! Its time…time to say what needs to be said. Time to tell it like it is. I’m not sure you all know exactly what’s going on here. Yes we get the varnished version from CNBC and CBS and CNN, but we just don’t get it. It gets pushed off the front pages unless people are dying en masse or there’s a real live battle. Yes, Putin is Hitler, the Russians are terrorists, the EU, NATO and the US are ineffective, it’s a lost cause, Yanukovych is Putin’s dog, it’s a civil war…we’ve heard plenty, but not much of it either tells the story or what’s really happening. Let me spend a few entries ‘splainin’ what I see going on around here. It ain’t pretty. Not at all. As a matter of fact those that want to avert their eyes from the photos and videos I’m posting, go right ahead. But please at least, read on.
Black Thursday, February 20th
You know the short story, over 100 killed on Black Thrusday, massive riots in Kiev’s Maidan Square with grandmas, grandpas, kids, lawyers, doctors, carpenters, laborers, students, all only 4 short months ago. So here’s the last decade’s worth of “how did we get here” in 3 paragraphs or less. Viktor Yanukovych, the fourth President of Ukraine from 2010 supposedly until 2015, famously left office the day after Black Thursday, escaping by the skin of his teeth! His blusterous attack on Maidan on February 20th ended his Presidency, as he secretly found safety in the bosom of Mother Russia. He remains a fugitive there today, less relevant with the new elections in May. The War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague will have something special for him in the future I’m sure. More on Yanukovych below, including photos of his multi, multi-million dollar estate in “What you Need to Know about Ukraine”. So many cartoons around Maidan of Viktor and Putin doing all sorts of crazy things. Here are some of the more sanitized versions depicting of course in an allegorical fashion, “they were in bed together”. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh such good stuff!
Yulia Tymoshenko the “Gas Princess” lost the election in 2010 by only a few percentage points to Viktor. She was the first woman Prime Minister from 2005 – 2010 and co-led the Orange Revolution in 2004. She was listed in Forbes Magazine as one of the top 3 most powerful and richest women in the world in 2005. Gas! She favors membership in the EU, free market, and reduction of ties to Russia. Ah the rub! Frankly no one in Ukrainian politics has staying power without being in bed with Russia. Yulia was thrown in prison on my first visit in 2011 and was suddenly declared innocent by the Supreme Court the day after ol’ Viktor fled to Russia. What a coincidence! Stunning! Amazing!
Petro Poroshenko the chocolate king was elected this past May as the fifth President of Ukraine. He also served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2009 to 2010 and as the Minister of Trade and Economic Development in 2012. From 2007 until 2012, he headed the Council of Ukraine’s National Bank. Yep so part of the original Yanukovych government. In the last two week, he signed the contested agreement for greater cooperation with the EU. He also has many factories churning out chocolate in Russia, employing many Russians and paying Russian taxes. He’s a pragmatist, but as is with them all, also an “oligarch”.
Are you seeing a pattern here? While we in the US accept that it takes lots of money to get elected to office, in Ukraine you must be part of the established State, which has been tied directly to Mother Russia since the time of Peter the Great’s in the early 18th Century, almost a century before our own Independence. Yeah, it’s a Russian novel!
These photos are by others, posted on kiosks in Maidan Square to commemorate Black Thursday
So goes the elections, so goes the politics. Read below in the “What you Need to Know” entry about the plight of the Ukrainian people. The Cliff Notes are, they usually make around $300/month, no one normal can afford a car, everyone lives in flats with their entire extended family, the streets, metro and infrastructure are pre WWII with little money spent on any of it since Khrushchev’s time. That coupled with an open internet and one of the highest college educated rates in all of Europe, trouble has been brewing for some time.
These are regular people in the streets, swinging pipes, shooting ancient rifles, wearing construction hard hats, walking around in fatigues, living on Maidan Square for the last ¾ of a year. Regular people. Unemployment has soared, poverty exploding, homelessness rampant, business failures common, boarded up stores everywhere. I’ve met engineers and scientists and college professors that are living in those tents on Maidan all winter long, were part of the fight for their freedom. I’ve seen children playing violin on the streets for money. I’ve seen old men playing the balalaika for money and regular people begging in the streets. The news media plays up the Russian speaking population as the catalyst, not true, everyone I mean everyone speaks Russian.
They want to be free, self determined, to enjoy the lives of the rest of the educated world. Two sides. The Ukrainian Nationalists don’t want to be a door mat for Russia any longer. They don’t want the oppression of economic and political freedoms that comes with the long repressive Russian government. The Separatists that support becoming part of Russia don’t want to worry about money, unemployment, poverty or homelessness. They want that huge iron clad safety net deployed as a foundation to their society. It often relates to age, the ol’ Soviets want Russia and modern intelligencia on iPhones and the internet want the EU. But it’s now life or death for them. It’s complicated and convoluted, it’s volatile and dangerous. When you’ve got nothing to loose, there’s nothing to loose! It could blow any time dragging the EU, the US and most of the West into an anachronistic war. Or it could just blow over.
Here are some links
RIGHT click on the link or you’ll loose your place:
The view from Kiev remains extreme…that the Russians have stolen Crimea, the crown jewel…that Russian military intelligence terrorists masquerading as Separatists operate throughout Eastern Ukraine, in Donetsk, Sloveansk and now Lugansk and Maripol. In any case, the facts are that Russian military personnel, hardware and technology have openly supported or instigated the “Separatists”, terrorizing the countryside and blowing Ukrainian military planes and helicopters out of the sky with pin point accuracy.
The open boarders remain a sieve, with an open doorway for an unending supply of more Russian military terrorists flooding into Ukraine. The US and the EU both know through intelligence that Russia is openly supporting and instigating such terrorism, creating a fake uprising. Its the exact same tactic used to take Crimea. The news media here suggests Russia is acting out of fear and not aggression or an anachronistic (seems to be the word of the day) view of Cold War politics. Putin fears loosing the 1970’s style sphere of influence his much worshiped Soviet Union enjoyed, with the EU and NATO closing in on their boarders economically and politically if not physically. That plus the conveniently ignored 1994 Nonproliferation Treaty based on the 1993 Massandra Summit between Ukrainian, US and Russia where the Ukraine received complete security assurances from the United States, Russia and Britain. So much for our honoring our treaties. http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2011/05/trilateral-process-pifer
Remember these are regular people, with regular lives and educations. They are families with careers inspired to stand up and put everything on the line. I’m here to relate to you what’s been happening and to report the “rest of the story”. You decide how to affect change; now you’ll know more and understand more and consider better options. The status quo will not work here. Continuing to do nothing is a non-starter. “It’s not going away.”
The conflict continues with the same fervor from Black Thursday through to today. Their goal, fighting Russian terrorism and aggression. Why should we in the US and the EU care? Simple, this could spill over into a wider regional conflict that would affect all of Europe, parts of the Middle East and drag the US into a larger war. When I say this to my friends in the US, I almost always get one of two reactions: 1. Boots on the ground 2. Do nothing. Period. I suggest neither is correct. American leadership is historically and currently crucial for any such endeavor and the US sometimes honors its treaties. Sometimes. There are many options other than the status quo to affect what’s happening here. People are dying and the powder keg cache rapidly growing. “It’s not going away” quite the opposite. What are the solutions? I leave it to you! What are the solutions!
Today’s news from the Front in Ukraine:
Railroad bridge blown, severing freight and passenger train travel to Southeastern Ukraine, 2 killed.
Passenger bus attacked passengers kidnapped and 3 killed near Donetsk.
Slavyansk liberated from Russian terrorists, the city lays in ruins
Lugansk a city of 1 million people under siege.
4 casualties on Maidan Square in central Kiev, skirmish with over 100 militia
I’ll bet you’ve not heard any of this from our news media.
Here are some links:
DO NOT watch this clip unless you really want to. It’s very disturbing, it’s Black Thursday.
Feb 20th, Black Thursday, CAUTION