For a long time I have resisted the temptation to write about politics. Personally, I hate politics, it always looks as if everyone has a secret agenda and whatever you want or decide, someone else will put a stop to it. Yesterday I attended a meeting in support of Ukraine’s EuroMaidan movement. A movement that we now know has had the Ukrainian government topple and the president scrambling to save his greedy ass.
When I first arrived in Ukraine in 2003, there was no talk of politics, nobody even seemed to have an opinion. The then president Kuchma did not allow for opponents to speak freely. The press was seriously controlled and nothing “untoward” could ever be uttered. While he was purely Russia-oriented, he also wanted his country to remain in one piece and in peace.
When his two terms were up and it was time to move on, elections were organized. In 2004 the elections were held and… rigged. The president-to-be was poisoned and his scarred/scary face was a live accusation to whoever had done that. The perpetrators were never found.
The Opposing candidate, Viktor Yanukovich received the congratulations of the Russian President, Vladimir Putin for winning the elections. In some regions of Ukraine the total number of votes reached 120% of the registered voters. Talk about rigging elections.
We all “know” who was behind it, nobody knows the real who and what. I guess we’ll never know. The elections were rigged against Viktor Yushchenko and the people started to be restless. Was this the way FREE elections were supposed to be? At first a few hundred people gathered on Maidan Nezalezhnosti, Kiev’s central square. Maidan means nothing more than “Square” but Nezalezhnosti means INDEPENDENCE. Independence from any foreign influence and pressure.
The few hundred people grew to a few thousand and the Orange Revolution was started. The Orange Revolution was started in a peaceful manner, simply by singing songs and peacefully chanting slogans. “TAK” and “YU-SCHEN-KO” were heard everywhere in the city and the country, many objects were covered in orange banners and flags. The then finishing president Kuchma even went so far as to order printing companies and textile companies to NOT make any orange products. All in vain.
At the height of the protests, several hundreds of thousands of people had gathered on Maidan and in its adjacent streets.
I witnessed myself, a TV company filming a homeless person a few blocks away from Maidan. The man was complaining about the terrible things going on on Maidan. How people would be better off getting back to their homes and their work instead of wasting their time on Maidan. Once the filming was over, the homeless person stepped back behind the wheel of his Mercedes 500 SEL… Lies and misinformation from the Party of Regions was everywhere and thus misinformed the world.
My own family and friends in Holland told me to come back and not go to this dangerous place. To which I responded by sending them these pictures.
After three months of protesting against the rigging of the elections, Viktor Yanukovich received congratulations for the second time from the Kremlin. This time to be revoked immediately when it became clear that the new president was to be Viktor Yushchenko.
Yushchenko’s task was enormous. He had promised the people to eradicate the paralyzing corruption of the country. He had not counted with the force that his opponent Yanukovich could muster to counter all his efforts. A scandal about Yushchenko’s son mostly broke the resolve of the president to get rid of corruption and when new elections came at the end of his term, there was no chance that anyone would vote for him again. The task he had set for himself to rid the country of corruption had proven too big.
Yushchenko’s governing period did have many positive effects on the Ukrainian people. For the first time in history, they knew that protesting could have an effect on the outcome of elections. Something that before 2004 was never even heard or thought of.
The elections were won with no surprise by former convict Viktor Yanukovich. As soon as he was in power, the first resolution was to change the constitution and make him sole responsible and final voter in power. In other words, the government could want any decision, if the president did not agree, the proposition would not go through. That looked like a serious problem to me at the time, but everything seemed to be normal and quiet in the country. The change of the constitution was ratified by the Court, while only the Parliament may ratify such a change. Yanukovich did not bother with such a details and declared the new constitution legal and good to go.
Unknown to me, since I did not want to get involved in politics, all of the opposing mayors, judges and other officials were gradually replaced with Yanukovich’s party members. The Party of Regions was now in power and nobody would ever be capable of dislodging them.
Now was the time of grabbing everything that was possible. The president seemed to be a simple puppet of the Oligarchs, the richest business men in the country. The people, however, became poorer and poorer. A feeling of helplessness came over the country, nothing can be done to stop the president and his cronies from stealing your business.
In fact, if you had a business that allowed you and your family to survive, you had a successful business. If ever you were able to grow your wealth, pay yourself a car and a nice house, eyebrows were raised and sooner or later you were required to pay protection money to the local government, the mayor or even any gang of people grabbing some power. Racket, in other words. Going to the police or militia as it is called in Ukraine, made no sense. The Militia is sworn in to protect the government, not the people. In the rest of the world we recognize the “Serve and Protect”, in Ukraine this had no meaning. It was better to PAY the militionair $150 than to resist and go along with a fine of $50 for driving too fast.
Then came the ever present issue of the European Union. Viktor Yushchenko had already initiated the first steps to an integration with the European Union. That had of course aroused the anger of the Kremlin. Hence the personal attack of the press on his family and the constant discrediting of his actions as a president.
Yanukovich had to pretend that he wanted to adhere to the European Union in order to “win” the elections. Everyone wanted this adherence to happen. There was no future in the economic pressure that Russia would have on the country. So he went along with the people and travelled to Europe, pretended to start negotiations and came home with promises.
Then came the time for actions. Yanukovich’s actions consisted of “disappearing” without anyone knowing his whereabouts. As it turned out, he was a guest in the Kremlin. To know what was said there is pure speculation, there may have been promises, threats or payouts. Nobody will ever know. But after his return to his own country, plans for adherence to the European Union were off the table and not discussable anymore.
Support demonstrations for EuroMaidan were held everywhere, including here in Winnipeg.
Despite pressure from his own government, no further discussion about the European Union was possible. Instead trade agreements with the Russian Federations were pushed through, ratified by the president himself. Don’t forget that he has full power to do this all by himself, he does not need any government for this.
As of November 2013, people silently gathered on Maidan Nezlezhnosti again to protest against a so blatant negation of their rights and dignity. As in 2004, more and more people came to the square to protest. At one point, the president deemed it necessary to force his way though the crowd, protected by a special army unit called “Berkut”.
Berkut has a reputation of being ruthless and without any compassion for their opponents. This act was seen as an act of pure disrespect and aggression from the president towards his own people.
Within weeks the movement had spread throughout the country. While it was still a peaceful movement, some people were hurt during skirmishes with Berkut in the capital.
Things started to escalate and Maidan Nezaleshnosti was turned into a scene of full scale war. A building that was converted to an emergency hospital was primed and set on fire by Berkut, killing most people inside. Some were lucky enough to break their legs while jumping out of the second floor onto the pavement below. The building had been set on fire on the top and ground floor with the use of petrol… The floors in between used as a hospital.
The protests were ended with a death toll of 82. 72 for the people, 10 for Berkut. Not counting the unknown number of people killed in the burned hospital. The continuous misinformation and lies that only the youngsters and students were protesting is negated in this collage of all the killed people on Maidan:
Yanukovich had lost his power over the country and tried to flee. His crossing of the border was refused by all customs officers, including by the ones he thought would still be loyal, customs in Donetsk. But there too he was refused exit of the country.
The time to mourn the victims had come.
Then it was quiet, nobody knew where Yanukovich was until he showed up for a press conference. He declared that he had always wanted to make Ukraine a part of the Russian empire again and that he would not fail the next time. He still felt he was the righteous president of Ukraine.
An outrageous thing to say.
As is now clear, Yanukovich sold out his country by stealing, robbing and taking everything possible from everyone in the country. Including from the ones that were his allies during the elections.
Today, Putin is back in force in Ukraine. He “asked” his government for approval of a military intervention in the Crimea, part of Ukraine. The permission was granted without opposition.
Russia has always wanted a warm water port, without it there is no way for Russia to be a World Power. With the lease of the port until 2047, signed by Yanukovich, this should have been enough. But Putin wants more. He not only wants the Crimea, but he wants all of Ukraine.
What he does not want to understand is that this New Ukraine he wants, will be the sourest thorn in his backend for as long as Ukraine would be part of his Russian empire. The Crimea is an independent Republic of Tartars, part of the Ukrainian territory. They are willingly part of Ukraine, they simply hate the Russians for many historical and political reasons.
Were Putin to take the Crimea, he would inherit a second Chechnya, but with more willpower to do damage to the Russian society than he can imagine. He would also lose the chance to get Ukraine “willingly” to join the Russian Federation.
Last night I attended a meeting in support of the Ukrainian struggle for independence. It was supposed to be a simple fundraiser with music and dance in support of those who were freezing on Maidan. Instead it was a sober meeting, in memory of the many dead on the square. I dare not repeat that there were 82 dead, that is the official number for now. How many have been incinerated in the blaze of the now gutted hospital is still unknown. People just arriving from Ukraine had a few things to say as well. People from Donetsk, the eastern part of Ukraine have no intention or wish to join Russia, they wish to stay with Ukraine. The only army the people from Crimea want to see in their streets is the Ukrainian army, most definitley NOT the Russian army.
The Ukrainian people is now awake and no longer accepting despots like Yanukovich. The new government after the May 25 elections this year will have to tread lightly and keep its promises. No longer will Ukrainians accept the complete sellout of their country.
As of today, protests against Putin’s actions in Ukraine are also popping up in Moscow, some 300 people have been arrested for protesting against the government…Thousands of others are still protesting, in Moscow, St Petersburg and many other cities.
All over the world, solidarity meetings are being held, just like the one I attended yesterday in Winnipeg.
Let’s end the outrageous behaviour of Vladimir Putin by requesting sanctions for the Russian Federation if this goes on. This is a dangerous situation for the whole world, not only for Ukraine. Should Putin violate the treaties signed by his own Russian Federation to respect the Ukrainian Territory, no paper that has been signed by Russia can then be held for valid. All bets will be off and a full scale war is not out of the question.
Some of the pictures here are not mine, obviously. They were taken by a good friend, Svetlana Yakushenko in Kiev, Ukraine. You can find more of her pictures by clicking here.