The “Snipers’ Massacre” in Kyiv

On October 17, at a symposium on “Negotiating Borders” organized by the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta, Ivan Katchanovski, an Ottawa-based scholar, presented a paper on “The ‘Snipers’ Massacre’ on the Maidan in Ukraine.” He argued that leaders of the Maidan gained power as a result of a massacre organized by their own supporters, using as evidence video footage, TV and Internet broadcasting, and radio intercepts, as well as bullet holes, in trees and other places.

The paper was received rather coldly. Indeed Bohdan Harasymiw, one of the organizers of the conference, ignoring the usual politeness one might expect would be accorded to a guest speaker, derided the paper as having neither theory nor analysis, while another participant from the host institution, Taras Kuzio, dismissed Katchanovski personally as an anti-Ukrainian, noting that his opinions mirrored those of Vladimir Putin and Russian propaganda organs.

On the other hand, after the appearance of this paper on a Facebook site, Volodymyr Ishchenko, Deputy Director of the Society for Center Research (Kyiv) who offers analysis on Ukrainian politics from a leftist perspective, described it as an important study, commenting: “This is the most documented and coherent interpretation of Feb 20 events I’ve seen so far…. And, of course, if it was proven that the incumbent government came to power in [sic!] the result of a huge bloody provocation, it must have political consequences.”

one notes some oddities about this paper

A reading of this 29-page paper would therefore seem warranted. As preliminary comments, one notes some oddities about this paper. On three occasions the author refers to it as an “academic” study. It is not. It is an unpublished research paper that has not yet been peer reviewed. That is evident from its layout, which is a chaotic listing of facts, one after the other, often in a very confusing manner. An editor would have asked the author to highlight the important facts and say why they are significant.

An editor would also have suggested the removal of passages that are completely off topic, such as the author’s allusion (p. 28) to Nazi, OUN, and UPA-led crimes in the Second World War, which are compared directly, without the addition of a single date, to deaths in Odesa and the Donbas in 2014.

The conclusion is a veritable jumble of illogical reasoning

Moreover, the paper appears politically driven, i.e. it sets out to prove that the change of regime in Kyiv last spring was illegitimate and that a democratically elected president (however corrupt) was forced out of power by a rightist-orchestrated coup. The conclusion is a veritable jumble of illogical reasoning and statements that do not seem warranted by the findings, which are themselves confusing, as will be noted below. Here is one example:

The seemingly irrational mass shooting and killing of protesters and the police on February 20 [2014] appear to be rational from the self-interest based perspectives of rational choice and Weberian theories of instrumentally rational action.

What these Weberian theories are, the reader is left to ponder.

Katchanovski declares that the massacre of protesters and police “represented a violent overthrow of the government in Ukraine and a major human rights crime” (p.29). After denouncing the “violent overthrow” as the root cause of all that followed, he makes another remarkable statement. While the evidence shows that both the Maidan opposition and the “far right” were clearly carrying out the killing of the 100-plus innocents in the square: “the involvement of the special police units in killings of some of the protesters cannot be entirely ruled out based on publicly available evidence” (p. 29) [my italics]. So were they involved or not?

The meat of the paper is a long chronicle of who was shooting from where and at whom. But it is very difficult to follow and the blurry photographs included do not help very much. At one point the author notes that the pro-Maidan snipers were holed up in Hotel Ukraina. On page 7, for example (lines 1-3) we read that, based on video evidence, two protesters were shot from this direction, one with 7.62mm bullet, and one wounded “in his backside.” Further, on page 25 (lines 1-2), there is a firm statement that “The types of guns and ammunition used and the direction and type of the entry wound among both protesters and policemen also confirm that the shooters came from the Maidan side” (p. 25).

Yet on page 26, the author cites a parliamentary commission report that the police on the Maidan were shot by firearms and ammunition that protesters stole from the police after raids on various arsenals in Western Ukraine. So how is it possible to determine the perpetrators if both had access to the same types of weapons? They could indeed have been members of the Right Sector. They could also have been police agents. We have no names or identities.

On page 19, one reads about gunfire from the Kozatsky Hotel and from the Trade Union building, as well as from the Main Post Office (p20). On this same page, the author cites a statement by an “unidentified intruder” to Internal Troops that people were “aiming a rocket propelled grenade launcher into the Hotel Ukraina from the 6th floor of the Trade Union building.” Assuming one wants to accept this statement as “evidence,” were they shooting at their own snipers? And hotels are rather large places; it seems unlikely that either side would completely occupy or control a building as large as Hotel Ukraina. The author informs (p. 15) us that ABC News reporters were based here, for example. There are other apparent anomalies. If the massacre and subsequent events constituted a coup by the Right Sector, then why are its supporters not in power today? One recalls their unceremonious eviction from the Hotel Dnipro on April 1, 2014. Can one have a successful coup that does not result in a takeover of power by the perpetrators?

If these events constituted simply a violent overthrow of a democratically elected regime, other things need explaining too: the subsequent holding of presidential and (forthcoming) parliamentary elections; and the explanation of why former President Yanukovych had been preparing for several days (if not weeks) to leave his residence, as evidenced by the fleets of vehicles moving his goods from Mezhyhirya. It was not a sudden departure forced by the threat of his capture. Central Kyiv after all is 12 miles away.

Not all of Dr. Katchanovski’s findings should be dismissed. He has raised some new evidence that suggests new investigations into the sniper massacres are much needed. The official version of events is indeed deeply troublesome and his gathering of new material is commendable. His paper does provide evidence that there were several separate groups of snipers, including anti-government ones.

The problem is that while the paper is not devoid of analysis—Bohdan Harasymiw’s comments were unjustified in this respect—it appears to be based on preconceived conclusions, all heavily weighted against the supporters of Maidan and the current government of Ukraine. In short it reads less like an academic paper and more like a polemic that addresses its findings in an unsatisfactory and unconvincing manner.

Virtually anyone interested in Ukraine with access to the Internet watched live feeds of the unprovoked police violence of November 30 and December 1, 2013, which in the eyes of many Kyiv locals transformed the protests from “Euromaidan” to a “Revolution of Dignity.” As subsequent election results corroborated, peaceful supporters of Euromaidan heavily outnumbered the violent activists of Right Sector and other forces. The protests and the attempt to form a more democratic government based on popular support must be given their due before any analysis of why events turned so violent.

That statement in no way implies that the new government was universally popular, or that Euromaidan was welcomed in all parts of Ukraine. Nor does it suggest that right-wing forces were not growing and problematic.

The author’s depiction of such groups seeking to benefit from the mass protests and use them as a means of taking power, even to the point of killing their own fellow demonstrators on the square, is an important issue. But the paper doesn’t debate this question; it simply assumes it as a given fact, in a conclusion that seems somewhat divorced from the rest of the paper.

It would have been advisable for the author to focus on his findings and offer some preliminary assessments as to what they might mean. If the reader discerns that the apparent purpose of a paper is to discredit and malign the current government, then it ipso facto becomes a political tract (and moreover one that appears to fall closely into line with the RT version of events disseminated in the Russian Federation), which then leads to suspicions about its methodology. A more objective approach is needed. Without it, even the most startling revelations will not receive serious attention.

Ukrainian Hostages Beaten, Tortured

As the Ukrainian presidential website reported Thursday evening, Ukrainian Navy commander Serhiy Haiduk along with several hostages was released from detention by Russian forces in Kherson region. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had ordered the regional authorities to free the detained hostages and allow them safe passage out of the region. The hostages were revealed to be AutoMaidan activists, and 2 are currently hospitalized.

Hostages were kept in the basement of the Republic military office in Simferopol since March 9th; the same which was seized by 100 Russian troops the day prior. According to UNIAN, the hostages said they were not fed for four days, and that the first day was especially trying as they were not allowed to drink, or the use of lavatory, and were also beaten constantly. They could not see their abusers faces as their heads were covered with bags and taped. One activist, who was placed in solitary confinement, said that there was no place to sit down, and because the room was so damp, he attempted to sleep standing up. The lone exception of the group, 64-year old Anatoly Kovalsky, said that while he was not physically beaten, he was abused mentally. In his case, he alleged that his captors constantly humiliated him and interrogators were regularly rotated every 10 minutes. According to Kovalsky, the interrogators wanted to know why the activists were in Crimea, their source of funding, if they were attempting to disrupt the referendum, and whether they had connections to Crimean Tatars or the Right Sector organization.

The two who were hospitalized, Andriy Shevchenko and Yuri Schekun, were treated for bullet wounds from a traumatic gun. Reports claim they were shot in the hands, fingers, and feet. The Center for Investigative Journalism identified the captors as members of Aksyonov’s guard.

Cinematographers from Babylon’13 remain missing since March 16th.

AutoMaidan activists have in particular come under persecution from authorities over past months, with leader Dmytro Bulatov making international headlines after he was kidnapped, tortured, mutilated and crucified by who he described as Russians.

The Hunt for Viktor Yanukovych

Viktor Yanukovych is a wanted man. Today Ukraine’s acting Interior Ministry announced the deposed president, along with roughly 50 other top officials of the collapsed regime, were being placed under criminal investigation with Yanukovych placed on the nation’s Most Wanted list. While he still seems to have symbolic, if not fading backing from Russia, Yanukovych’s support base has fallen through the floor among all but his closest associates. Even his own Party of Regions has denounced him as a criminal and murderer. But where did he go? Where is the sultan turned vagabond?

Known locations
Known locations

Shortly after it was announced that impeachment proceedings would be taken against him, Yanukovych fled the capital along with cohort Andriy Klyuyev. Rumors swirled over whether he had gone to Kharkiv, to attend the separatist Ukrainian Front conference, or Dubai. The latter, we now know, was a decoy; those following on the Twittersphere were quick to track his alleged flight information in an attempt to pin down. Yanukovych instead flew by helicopter to Kharkiv to avoid detection.

Tenant Prime Minister Turchynov claimed Yanukovych had agreed to resign as president, but after consulting with advisers, he disavowed the decision and submitted a pre-recorded tape claiming his right to rule. Yanukovych said he would not resign or leave the country, and called decisions by parliament “illegal” and that “The events witnessed by our country and the whole world are an example of a coup d’etat,” comparing it to the rise of the Nazis to power in Germany in the 1930s – a common line of rhetoric among Russian officials to shore up post-war sensitivities in the post-Soviet republic. 

Following the parliamentary procedures to transfer power to the new provisional government, Attorney General Pshonka and Taxation Minister Klymenko were stopped at the Russian border while trying to flee the country. Yanukovych then flew from Kharkiv to Donetsk aboard his helicopter, where he then, according to the State Border Service, tried to flee via a charter flight on one of two Dassault Falcon jets in Donetsk, but was stopped by border guards. The border agents were “met by a group of armed men who offered money for flying without the proper clearance”. Yanukovych then left by armored car, and spent a few hours at a state residence in the city – sources indicate he was abetted by Rinat Akhmetov. Former Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko (who we now know gave the official order to fire on protesters) also attempted to fly out of Donetsk and was denied access for similar reasons.

Yanukovych and Klyuyev
Yanukovych and Klyuyev

Yanukovych’s motorcade then left for Crimea, leaving state traffic police who protected him behind. The next day, February 23rd, he visited a private resort while intentionally avoiding state or known residences to avoid detection. Rada reputy  Oleh Lyashko claimed Yanukovych was seen at the Russian Naval base in Sevastopol where he was preparing to flee via Russian military vessel (this was reciprocated in media reports on the 24th). Ukrainian MiG fighter jets were scrambled during the search and it’s said at this time he was abetted by deposed defense minister Pavlo Lebedev.

Authorities attempted to intercept Yanukovych’s motorcade at the international airport in Sevastopol, but one step ahead, he never arrived. Authorities then lost his trail finally on February 24th near his family’s Crimean residence in the the former city of Balaklava, where he released those in his presidential secret service from duty who wished to stand down. The released guards then collected the weapons that officially belong to the government so they could be handed over to the authorities.

Oleksandr Yanukovych restored a series of historical waterfront homes and leased land for a private yacht club in this very area, which remains a possible site of hiding. Journalist Tetyana Chornovol meanwhile speculated that instead he was likely to flee by sea aboard his son’s private yacht, suitably christened “Bandit,” but local reports indicated the yacht hasn’t been seen in some time and GPS data confirms it’s last known location to be far away.

Following parting ways with a portion of his security staff, he, along with  his most loyal guards, narrowed the motorcade down to 3 vehicles and left, turning off all communication devices. Reports conflicted as to the whereabouts of Klyuyev: according to acting Interior Minister Avakov, he remained with the president; according to Klyuev’s spokesman Artyom Petrenko, he tendered his resignation to the president in Crimea on the 23rd, saying he “couldn’t stop Yanukovych.” He was then allegedly shot and wounded, with media stating the shootout occurred on his trip back to Kyiv. Petrenko claims Klyuyev is currently in an unspecified Kyiv hospital. 

On Wednesday, Klyuyev issued a statement through his press office, distancing himself from Yanukovych, denying his involvement in the Kyiv killings, and stating his intent to cooperate with authorities.

The trail in Crimea had appeared to run officially cold on the 26th, with Interior Minister Avakov admitting that the search was pulled back in Sevastopol to avoid possible armed conflicts in the troubled city. “I think we must not allow any military standoff or conflict to happen. I shall be extremely candid with you: it was one of the reasons why on the night when Valentyn Nalyvaichenko (the head of the Ukrainian Security Council) and I were in Sevastopol, in Crimea, we chose not to continue tough actions with respect of Viktor Yanukovych… Because at that moment we knew it was essentially an affront for armed conflict with grounds for [Russian] forces to interfere in this conflict… We made the decision that the future of Crimea is more important for us than the situation with Yanukovych,” he told a press conference on Wednesday.

radisson

Map of the Moscow area and his last known location
Map of the Moscow area and his last known location

The manhunt was escalated to an international search as reports surfaced that Yanu had successfully made he was through the Kerch Strait along with his son Viktor Jr. and into Russian protectionMultiple sources, stated to be confirmed by high-placed Russian officials and law enforcement, alleged that the night prior he had arrived in Moscow, and was seen at the Radisson Royal (confirmed by hotel management). There, he apparently spent all night until Wednesday morning on the 11th floor at a private club restaurant under heightened private security; fugitive former General Prosecutor Pshonka is believed to be with him and his other son, Oleksandr, is reported to have reunited the family.

He is now presumed to be in the Moscow suburb of Barvikha. An RBC report indicated that a house in Barvikha was purchased by a group of Ukrainian citizens for $52 million, and that the house is now under guard. “Yesterday Ukrainian citizens came with passports and without bargaining, bought it, said Russian politician Oleg Mitvol. Previous sources to RBC had indicated Yanukovych was stationed at a local resort.

Head of the Russian Foreign Affairs Committee Mikhail Margelov denied the rumors, saying that Russia wouldn’t risk giving him asylum. Later, the official newspaper of Russian president Vladimir Putin, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, [humorously] alleged that the CIA had whisked Yanukovych Stateside after offering him and his family personal guarantees of safety should he step away from the political arena. The paper followed by refuting Yanukovych’s asylum by the Russian Navy in Cossack Bay, Sevastopol, ‘Yanukovych is not in the facilities or ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet,’ citing an ‘informed military source’. Ultimately, the Russian Border Service neither confirmed nor denied the earlier reports on Yanukovych’s entering the country.

Interfax, citing Russian government sources, confirms that Yanukovych is indeed being provided asylum in Russia.

On February 27 Yanukovych resurfaced, sending a message to Ukraine declaring himself still the legitimate president of the country. In his address, he stated he was “forced to ask the authorities of the Russian Federation to ensure [his] personal safety from the actions of extremists.” A government source confirmed that Yanukovych’s request has been granted “on the territory of the Russian Federation.” Later, newly elected head of Crimea’s parliament, Sergei Aksenov of the fringe Russian Unity party said that he recognized Yanukovych as the true president of Ukraine and that he would obey his orders – and presumably provide him save haven should he return to Ukraine. Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky told reporters he was glad the Russian government has provided Yanukovych with security personnel.

In the evening, Yanukovych arrived in Russia’s Rostov-on-Don via airplane at 10pm local time to hold a news conference in Rostov-on-Don at 5pm on Friday February 28. In it he claimed he would return to Ukraine only if given security guarantees, and credited ‘patriotic officers’ with enabling him to escape Ukraine into Russia. “It was thanks to patriotic officers that I was able to get to Russia. Let me put it this way: officers who did their duty and helped me stay alive,” Yanukovych told reporters at the conference.

This story will update as new information becomes available. Last updated 2/28 at 10:45 am EST

Did Lviv Just Declare Independence?

On February 19th what happened in Lviv was passed under the radar by most news outlets and completely misinterpreted by others. Lviv declared its independence…or, well, it sort of did, but not really…in any sense of the true meaning of the word. The IBTimes sensationally and erroneously described Lviv as declaring its independence, which was then reciprocated by the Russian KommersantTSN was quick to use similar language. Mark MacKinnon of the Globe&Mail described the event as declaring its autonomy from Yanukovych’s government – finally some accuracy.

Here is a full translation of the decree (emphasis ours):

In determining this, we need to be organized, responsible and united, because only in this way will we protect your family, your country, your people.

The will of the community of Lviv, Lviv Oblast Executive Committee Board – National Council assumes full responsibility for the fate of the land and people.

The Executive Committee of the Lviv Regional Council – National Rada headed by the Chairman, Chief of Staff of national resistance of Lviv Peter Kolodiy included representatives of deputies, Self Defense Maidan other unions activists, public figures and well-known scientists.

The main task of the Executive Committee of the Lviv Regional Council – National Rada is to maintain life support and order in the region, facilitating in sending activists to Kyiv, the Kyiv Maidan everything you need.

Legitimate authorities in Lviv are popularly elected local councils and their created executive committees.

Most of the regional police station in Lviv has announced a shift in the direction of the Ukrainian people and are subordinate to the executive committee of the Lviv regional council – the National Rada.

The Executive Committee of the Lviv Regional Council – National Rada subjugates all executive agencies located in the region and calls on all public servants and citizens calling execute decisions and orders signed by the President of the National Rada, Petro Kolodiy.

The first thing of note would be the word narod, which in Ukrainian means “people,” but in the sense of a nation group (this gets sticky with political implications). We see the word used in the Ukrainian National Republic, for example. (the wikipedia page linked is incorrectly titled, as I have consulted the 1948 Press Service of the Foreign Representation of the Supreme Ukrainian Liberation Council – and the state was called the National Republic in official documentation, for example). I digress. The point in their naming is not that it is a new nation-state, but rather its jurisdiction extends to and for all Ukrainians. The will of the council (Rada) will act as sovereign to all persons within its territory, ensuring the security and wellbeing of all. They can do this because the regional police and Security Service have likewise declared their allegiance to the council.

The declaration also makes note that the authorities will be those locally elected, thus cutting off the authority of the now illegitimate Yanukovych regime. What’s notable, however, is that all executive agencies and public servants now fall under their purview. It’s also notable that no mention of this being a temporary or provisional measure was made.

Now, it should be noted that other National or People’s Radas have sprouted up in western Ukraine during the political conflict, but what makes this case special is that rather than just declaring its existence, it has declared its authority as legitimate. The first occupation of the Lviv Regional State Administration took place in January and the stated goal of the occupation(s) was to ‘take control of all state organs‘. On February 13, the General Prosecutor’s office had courts declare this very council illegal and illegitimate. This time around, however, there is no judicial oversight, the security apparatus in the region has recognized its authority, and more importantly, there is no government currently in Kyiv to supersede it or impose an alternative. It exists because it has no other option this time.

Lviv declaring regional autonomy is an under the radar spectacle. In Crimea there is serious debate on separatism, and as of today, the SBU is criminally investigating the Governor of Kharkiv Oblast and Mayor of Kharkiv for illegally discussing separatism – in news sources they have only mentioned instituting federalism; that is, increasing regional autonomy just as Lviv had days prior.

How long this will last is anyone’s guess. The mayor has said it is a temporary measure, presumably until presidential elections are finalized. It’s clear at this point that Lviv will not tolerate a Yanukovych appointed governor, and even if a new regime is brought in, it’s not certain that a Svoboda backed Rada would accept the authority of just any appointee from the Fatherland or UDAR camp. And even if their guard remains up, it’s unlikely the new judiciary will allow the de facto National Council to operate without some sort of constitutional reform. While Lviv did not declare independence from Ukraine in any sense of the word, it certainly wants to act more independently, at least for the time being. But let’s call a spade a spade.

Coup on the Horizon

Today’s deal of compromise between the united opposition and Viktor Yanukovych has yielded little love from the Euromaidan crowds. So little, that violence may come of it. The fragile peace agreement is beneficial insofar as it maintains the tempers of the Kyivan crowds, but baseline concessions may be too little too late.

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In response to the deal, Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh rejected the agreement, stating “We have to state the obvious fact that the criminal regime had not yet realized either the gravity of its evil doing,” and said the agreement failed to address the arrest of Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko, Berkut commanders involved in the murder of civilians, removal of General Prosecutor Pshonka and Defense Ministers, ban on the Party of Regions and Communist Party, and guarantees of safety for those involved in the opposition. He then called for the ‘people’s revolution’ to continue until there is a full removal of power from authorities. Euromaidan self-defense leader Andriy Parubiy insisted that elections be held as soon as possible, and reiterated that one of the main demands of protesters has been the resignation of President Yanukovych. Automaidan also announced it also would not accept anything short of Yanukovych’s resignation.

These are all valid claims. The concessions made today would have been acceptable to the crowds in November, maybe even January, but not after the massacre that occurred on the 20th. With blood on his hands, Yanukovych cannot command public confidence, even if it’s for 9 months. Nobody will pretend nothing happened for the next 9 months. A lame duck option isn’t possible.

Vitali Klitschko apologized to the crowd on Maidan if he offended anyone by shaking hands with Yanukovych, realizing he was at risk of losing the crowd, and thus the people’s, support. Activists on Maidan responded to the deal by booing opposition leaders. Then an anonymous Sotnia soldier took the stage with opposition leaders standing by speechless, and warned that if Yanukovych does not resign by 10am the next day, an armed coup would be staged. Even radical Oleh Lyashko expressed his support to the call that Yanukovych resign by the 10am deadline; “Either he resigns, or we take him away,” Lyashko told the crowd.

Yarosh made it clear that he and his men would not disarm or surrender state buildings unless the president capitulated. Coffins of the deceased were brought to the Euromaidan stage. To prove they weren’t kidding (unknowns) torched the summer home of pro-Russian and Putin family member Viktor Medvedchuk’s summer home. A message has been sent.

2014-02-21_11-04_Euromaidan_in_Kiev

In the early morning, Andriy Parubiy, speaking in his capacity as leader of Maidan self-defense and security, announced that all opposition factions had agreed to take further action, and that the military was with them. He made clear that all government buildings in central Kyiv were under their control.

Parubiy, it seems, has succeeded in finding arguments for the Maidan. God willing! Now all the leaders of the Sotnia [companies] are declaring their consent to coordinated action, including the hundreds of the Right Sector” – journalist Natalia Ligacheva

Parubiy reappeared appeared on stage with  military staff to a cheering crowd.

We’re in control of Kiev. We have seized control of the government quarter […] We created a headquarters in the Maidan and we will not tolerate any action without coordinating with it. We must show that when Kyiv is under the control of the Maidan, there will be order in Kyiv. Where there is Maidan, there will be order and discipline.”

At night, it was announced that Maidan self-defense formations had occupied all government buildings in Kyiv, including the Cabinet, Parliament, and most importantly the Presidential Administration. According to Parubiy, 700 (or 7 Sotnia, if that’s your preferred unit of measurement) currently occupy Parliament, 1,900 are in the Presidential Administration, and another 1,500 in the Interior Ministry. Their numbers grow as more conscripts join and disenfranchised police defect.

So far it doesn’t look like the Sotnia of Parubiy, Yarosh, and Danyliuk are going to wait for this to end on it’s own. They may just take it. And with the city devoid of police forces at the moment, it’s theirs for the taking. 

This article will update as the situation develops

Hepburn: Putin’s meddling in Ukraine sinister

The former colonel’s approach follows standard practices, which Putin acquired at the KGB. First, create chaos where you want to rule then oppress the population, introduce fear, force a crisis and, finally, take over by offering “salvation” from the opposition now called right-wing extremists, mobsters and terrorists.

Putin’s aggression in Ukraine has been escalating. He gained expanded control for foreign policy, defence and security ministries. Hateful anti-Ukrainian propaganda bombard the media in both countries and in the West to discourage support for the opposition. Currently, the most dangerous tactic is the insinuation Russia must be part of the resolution of the crisis, despite having had a heavy hand in destabilizing Ukraine by pressuring Yanukovych to drop progress to Euro integration at the 11th hour. Throwing the fox among the chickens is not the way out of Ukraine’s crisis.

As was the case under the former USSR, however, Western-grown neo-Russia apologists like Stephen Cohen, Dmytir Simes or under-informed pundits like Patrick Buchanan are Russia enablers. They snarl at the U.S. to stay out of Ukraine’s internal affairs, allowing Russia to advance as a peacemaker, despite ongoing documentation of its hand in the violence since protests began in November and war rhetoric.

Read the full article

Oksana Bashuk Hepburn, a former Canadian government executive, is a founding member of the Canadian Group for Democracy in Ukraine.

Minorities on Maidan: An interview with a Jewish Euromaidan self-defense unit leader

Does your self-defense unit contain other Jews?

In my unit are four Israelis with military experience, who, like me, came to Euromaidan with a desire to avoid useless sacrifice. I would say that our whole group are “blue helmets” (an analogy with UN peacekeepers). The mood is quite nervous at the Independence Square; many people want to avenge the blood of the victims, even more are tired of the inaction of the opposition  all these hotheads are full of illusions about what real battles are like and, accordingly, can’t imagine the consequences. They also don’t realize that on the other side of the barricades are people too, so our actions must not defame Euromaidan with a human face.

Have you encountered, not even outright anti-Semitism, but any condescendence? Do they see you as an outsider?

There was no shadow of such sentiments. I talked since the first days with Right Sector and the UNA-UNSO – with all the people that in peacetime would be unlikely to find common ground. I see myself exclusively as a Jew, and religious. Under my command are dozens of resistance fighters, Georgians, Azerbaijanis, Armenians, Russians – who do not even try to speak Ukrainian – and we have not encountered a manifestation of intolerance towards each other. All of them have respect for my religion – they already know what I eat, what not to eat, etc. and it has not caused any animosity.

Read the full interview (English translation)
Read the full interview (Russian)