KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine descended into a deeper spiral of violence on Thursday as both protesters and riot policemen used firearms in clashes and fear intensified that President Viktor F. Yanukovych would declare a state of emergency, a move that could herald the deployment of the military.
The former Soviet republic of 46 million hurtled toward a dangerous new phase of a three-month-long political crisis after a truce announced overnight by Mr. Yanukovych and opposition leaders collapsed amid accusations of treachery on both sides.
Short of calling in troops it looked unlikely that Mr. Yanukovych could restore his battered authority and regain control of the capital, Kiev, as a growing number of once loyal members of his ruling Party of Regions, including the mayor of Kiev, announced they were quitting the party to protest the bloodshed.
About the only thing that was entirely clear by Thursday afternoon was that protesters had reclaimed and even expanded territory in the center of Kiev that they had lost just two days earlier when police launched a bloody but unsuccessful assault on Independence Square, the focal point of protests since late November.
As the protesters, reinforced by swarms of ordinary Kiev residents, erected new barricades around their extended protest zone, a woman mounted a stage to appeal for help from foreign governments to prevent the president from declaring a state of emergency.
“A state of emergency means the beginning of war. We cannot let that happen,” she said.
What are foreign governments supposed to do to prevent Yanukovych from declaring a state of emergency? I appreciate the anxiety of the Ukrainian woman, but is this really our fight? No, it’s not. A commenter in The Guardian makes some interesting claims, among them 1) it’s no longer a question of the Orthodox Russophilic Eastern Ukraine vs. the Catholic Europhilic Western Ukraine; many in the eastern part of the country are dissatisfied with Yanukovych’s rule; and 2) however corrupt it may be, Yanukovych’s government was democratically elected, and a violent revolution is something we should all fear.
On the other hand, Prof. Perry Glanzer at Baylor sends the following just now; I reprint it with his permission:
I follow your blog and appreciate your writing. However, as someone who has lived and taught in Russia and undertaken research in Ukraine, I am concerned about your recent blog posting concerning these countries. You quote others claiming that the coverage is one-sided, but I think you’re missing another side that is also not reported in the media. I would encourage you to visit the web site of Ukrainian Catholic University and learn from their perspective (http://ucu.edu.ua/eng/). For example, please find a recent document I received from the vice rector of the university (he is also someone who went to the gulag during the Soviet period). I should note that the university leadership has been constantly harassed by the Ukrainian secret service and faced enormous obstacles in their work. I don’t expect the Chronicle of Higher Education to report that kind of story, but I would hope that you would bring a different kind of insight. Comfortable American conservatives have no idea what it is like to live under the kind of oppression those trying to build civil society in Russia and Ukraine constantly experience.
The vice rector’s letter follows below the jump:
What can Ukraine expect from the West now?
I write to you as a former prisoner of conscience of the Brezhnev era. All other titles are rapidly losing sense in the light of the bleeding Ukrainian Maidan.
All my life I admired Western civilization as the realm of values. Now I am close to rephrasing Byron’s words: “Frailty, thy name is Europe!” The strength of bitterness here is matched by the strength of our love for Europe.
If it still concerns anybody in decision-making circles, I may answer the question in the title.
First and foremost, stop “expressing deep concern”. All protestors on the Maidan have an allergy to this by now in these circumstances senseless phrase, while all gangsters in the Ukrainian governmental gang enjoy mocking the helplessness of the EU.
Take sanctions. Don’t waste time in searching for their Achilles’ heel: it is the money deposited in your banks. Execute your own laws and stop money laundering. The Europe we want to be part of can never degrade the absolute value of human lives in favor of an absolute importance of money.
Also cancel Western visas for all governmental gangsters and their families. It is a scandal that ordinary Ukrainians living their simple lives have to provide their ancestors’ family trees to obtain a visa while ruling criminals guilty of murder, “disappearances”, and fraud in the eyes of the whole world enjoy virtually free-entry status in Europe.
Do not listen to Yanukovych’s and Putin’s propagandistic sirens. Just put cotton in your ears. Be able to decode their lie; otherwise they will decode your ability to defend yourself.
Instead, listen to Ukrainian media sacrificing their journalists’ lives to get truthful information. Do not rely so much upon the information provided by your special correspondents in other countries who come to Ukraine for a day or two. Hire Ukrainians who live in this country to translate the Ukrainian cry of pain. Secure money for that right now instead of waiting for funds from next year’s budget.
Come to Ukrainian hospitals and talk to so-called “extremists” who want to “subvert the legitimately elected government,” those who have “cruelly beaten” policemen and “deliberately” blasted explosives to wound themselves. Yes, the face of war is cruel. But, arriving at the Maidan, these people repeated almost literally what King George VI said to his people on the 3 September 1939: “We have been forced into a conflict, for we are called… to meet the challenge of a principle which, if it were to prevail, would be fatal to any civilized order in the world.”
Go out of your zone of comfort! Just recall the coddled ancient Romans who refused to do that in time. Cajoling Putin won’t bring you security. Letting him take control over Ukraine could make the world peace even more vulnerable. A Ukraine divided by force won’t bring the world peace, just as a Poland and Germany divided by force didn’t bring peace to the world.
Let us conclude in solidarity with the King and the Ukrainian people: “The task will be hard. There may be dark days ahead, and war can no longer be confined to the battlefield, but we can only do the right as we see the right, and reverently commit our cause to God. If one and all we keep resolutely faithful to it, ready for whatever service or sacrifice it may demand, then with God’s help, we shall prevail.”