Home > Holodomor | Ukrainophobia | Demjanjuk | d&d (Furman, Odynsky, Katriuk) | Zuzak Letters |

Mackenzie Institute | 06Feb2014 | Myroslav Petriw

Euro Maidan, the Ukrainian Revolution: Conflict of Civilizational Choice in the Geographical Centre of Europe

Ukraine, a young European country with a millennium of recorded history, is again experiencing spasms of protests in Independence Square, the Maidan Nezalezhnosty, in Kyiv (Kiev).

Ukrainians -- Ruthenians of historic Rus’ -- have known civilizational conflict before. They blunted the advance of Batu Khan’s Horde in the siege of Kyiv in 1240. The Great Khan’s multi-ethnic Asian empire raided further west, but fell back to lands east of Rus’-Ukraine. To Ukrainians, the Russian Federation is a renamed cultural continuation of that empire, and today’s conflict is a continuation of what began in 1240. By curious coincidence, the Maidan stands on exactly the same real estate where the Lyadski Gates [1] stood, the place where Batu Khan’s Horde broke through Kyiv’s defences on a cold December day nearly 800 years ago. December 2013 saw crowds numbering many hundreds of thousands stand there facing the armoured riot police of a Ukrainian government that is Ukrainian in name only.

The inhabitants of today’s Ukraine are divided, scarred by the genocidal policy of the USSR. In the words of Professor James Mace, the Cherokee-American turned Ukrainian who studied the Holodomor Genocide of 1932-33 (also known as the Terror Famine in Ukraine), “Ukraine is a post-genocidal society.” [2]

Prior to the Holodomor, lands where Ukrainian-speakers formed the majority had reached far east of Ukraine’s political borders. Today Ukrainian-speakers are a minority in their own land. They form a solid majority only in the western provinces of Halychyna and Volyn’ that were outside the USSR prior to September 1939.

Data from 2007 shows that out of a population of 46.7 million [3], 17.5 million speak Ukrainian at home, 19.7 million speak Russian and 9.19 million speak Surzhyk, a Creole language that is a blend of the two [4].

The significance of this as applied to Ukrainian politics was best expressed 150 years ago by the English philosopher John Stuart Mill when he wrote his treatise on representative government:

    …there is a still more vital consideration. Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. [5]

He continued by describing in detail the exact methods used by Ukraine’s politicians to pervert democracy in order to hold power.

    Among a people without fellow-feeling, especially if they read and speak different languages, the united public opinion, necessary to the working of representative government, cannot exist. The influences, which form opinions and decide political acts, are different in the different sections of the country. An altogether different set of leaders have the confidence of one part of the country and of another. The same books, newspapers, pamphlets, speeches, do not reach them. One section does not know what opinions, or what instigations, are circulating in another. The same incidents, the same acts, the same system of government, affect them in different ways; and each fears more injury to itself from the other nationalities than from the common arbiter, the state. That any one of them feels aggrieved by the policy of the common ruler is sufficient to determine another to support that policy. [6]

Following this recipe, the current President Victor Yanukovych came to power supported by the eastern Russian-speaking electorate. He overturned all constitutional safeguards putting himself in the undisputed centre of power. A Belorussian barely able to speak Ukrainian, he immediately began trading Ukrainian sovereignty for his own, and his supporting clan’s, economic advantage. He extended the Russian Black Sea fleet’s lease on Sebastopol in exchange for a temporary discount on the punitively overpriced Gazprom natural gas. [7] And so it came as a shock when he declared in August 2013 that Ukraine intended to sign an association agreement with the EU by that November during the EU summit meeting. This meant that Ukraine would not join Vladimir Putin’s Russian customs union. Imposing party discipline on his generally pro-Russian Party of Regions, he forced through much of the required reforms. The opposition held its breath in anticipation of a “Nixon in China” political shocker.

Not that long ago, under the very much pro-western President Victor Yushchenko, Ukraine had been rebuffed by Europe when on 9 November 2005, Commissioner Rehn stated that “The EU’s absorption capacity is stretched to its limits.” [8] Europe’s, and specifically Angela Merkel’s newfound receptiveness, may be explained by the discovery and exploration of two major shale gas fields in Ukraine. [9] [10] An energy independent Ukraine or even Ukraine as an energy supplier becomes very attractive indeed. This same reality made Ukraine’s European overtures a major threat to Gazprom and thus Putin’s Russia.

An information campaign was waged throughout Ukraine touting the benefits of Europe and in fact the majority of Ukrainians already favoured closer ties with Europe. Russia’s Putin reacted to this new direction with a vicious campaign of trade interruptions, threats, and anti-shale gas propaganda. [11] Yanukovych’s determination appeared to waver after a five-hour off-the-record conversation with Putin in Sochi on 27 October 2013. [12] This was followed by a secret meeting with Putin at the Moscow airport on 9 November 2013. [13] Coincidentally, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had refused a bailout of Ukraine’s bankrupt finances at about this same time. [14]

On 21 November 2013, while Yanukovych was in Vienna still talking association, his Prime Minister, Mykola Azarov (a Russian) declared that Ukraine would not sign the association agreement with the EU but would instead seek membership in Putin’s customs union. That day, the first protesters took to the Maidan. They hoped that this was merely a rift in Ukrainian politics and that Yanukovych would still sign with Europe. With that hope, crowds began to gather on the Maidan on 24 November 2013 for a peaceful demonstration in support of association, an event that had been planned and prepared weeks earlier.

Coincidentally on that same day an agreement with Iran regarding uranium enrichment was announced by the US and five major powers. It was generally understood that only Russian influence could achieve this and that Russian influence does not come cheap. The previous month’s IMF decision was seen to be somehow linked. [15]

On 28 November 2013, Yanukovych attended the Vilnius Summit. On 29 November 2013, he refused to sign the association agreement, proposing instead a tripartite negotiation between the EU, Ukraine and Russia, a proposal that was another embarrassing surrender of Ukrainian sovereignty. The crowds on the Maidan grew to enormous proportions. This was now a protest. But being an idealistic apolitical protest, political parties, their leaders and flags were not welcome.

Ill equipped to spend the night outdoors, the number of protesters dwindled to a mere 250 after midnight. At 4 a.m. on 30 November 2013, the Berkut (Golden Eagle) riot police troops struck. [16] The protesters, young and old, men and women were beaten and cleared from the Maidan. There were 165 injured of which 109 were hospitalized.

The next day, on 1 December 2013, a crowd estimated to be between 400,000 and 600,000 gathered on the Maidan, and seized the City Hall and the Trade Union Building. This time the three opposition parties and their leaders were involved. These were Oleh Tyahnybok of the Svoboda (Freedom) Party; Arseniy Yatseniuk of Batkivshchyna (Fatherland); and Vitaliy Klitchko of UDAR (Punch). They provided what had been lacking the previous day, namely structure, a communication network, marshals, and a voice that could state the threat “sign or else”. The “or else” was now clear. The protest demanded the resignation of the President, Prime Minister and his government and the calling of new parliamentary and presidential elections. Similar demonstrations took place in all major Ukrainian cities, and cities around the world. Predictably, the demonstrations in Ukraine’s east and south were much smaller.

One may be drawn to make some comparisons with the Orange Revolution of 2004, the widely publicized and ultimately successful protest against the falsified results of Ukraine’s presidential election of 21 November 2004. The so-called Euro Maidan revolution is larger but not nearly as well organized. It is very much a grass roots reaction.

The Orange Revolution had been prepared nearly a year prior, with members of PORA, an election fraud monitoring non-governmental organization, trained by the Einstein Institution in the US. [17] They had an enormous number of tents so that their positions would not be surrendered at night. They had food and medical supplies. They had steel drums and drummers to counter the noise of police beating on shields. They had marshals to maintain order and to catch provocateurs (government planted thugs whose actions could discredit the whole). They had strategies prepared, such as placing girls on the front lines facing the riot police. They had a communication network including the Maidan website that would report “enemy troop movements” of buses filled with police, enabling timely interdiction by roadblocks or protesters lying in front of vehicles.

This time it was different. The circumstances that caused this had not been predicted. There was no organization trained and ready. Due to a lack of tents the protest was weakest at night. However, just as nine years ago, small business was supporting the protest with goods and services. There is a unifying idea above and beyond politics and political office.

When in 2004, the Russian Federation was seen as just another not-quite-foreign country, today the pro-EU sentiment is actually a fear of Russia. There is a clear understanding that Putin’s customs union is the slippery slope to the renewal of the USSR or the Empire of Moscovy. Putin does not hide it. He called the collapse of the Soviet Union the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century. [18] He stated to George W. Bush that Ukraine is not even a real country. But those standing on the Maidan today have a clear understanding of who they are, and what they want to be. It is a younger crowd. It is a crowd of those that never knew the USSR.

Not surprisingly, when in 2004 the language of the Maidan was a 50/50 mix of Russian and Ukrainian, today Ukrainian dominates.

On 8 December 2013, the crowd grew to one million. Police were nowhere to be seen as activists of the opposition Svoboda Party knocked down the infamous statue of Lenin. It had once stood in New York at the 1939 World Fair, but was now an anachronism at Kyiv’s Besarabka marketplace.

Another test of the strength of the Euro Maidan came in the early morning hours of 11 December 2013. [19] At first the forces of demonstrators and attacking police were evenly matched, but the demonstrators had the high ground of the City Hall. In a replay of medieval siege tactics they poured water from above onto the assault force. At minus 10 degrees Celsius, the tactic worked as well as the boiling oil of old. The black-helmeted attack of the Berkut riot police was repulsed. The improvised barricades on Institutska Street held. The call up of reserves was heeded as fresh thousands poured out of their homes to join the protestors on the Maidan.

Local police and “Interior Troops” did not take part in the assault. It was the armoured Berkut troops that attacked shouting anti-Ukrainian epithets, clearly signalling their loyalty to a foreign state. As the sun rose, those black suited troops retreated.

Taxi operators struck by offering free rides to the Maidan. The president of Microsoft in Ukraine left his position to take his place among the demonstrators. [20] Social media is reporting worldwide in real time. A software programmer in Kyiv developed an app to support the Euro Maidan that instantly calls preselected team leaders giving exact co-ordinates whenever reinforcements are needed.

As New Years and the Christmas holidays approached the Euro Maidan continued to stand. But as could be expected its numbers dwindled. But on 25 December 2013, a hideous event broke the peace of the season. The young investigative journalist Tetiana Chornovil had recently reported on the palatial residence of President Yanukovych, and had just photographed the sumptuous digs of the Minister of Internal Affairs Vitaliy Zakharchenko, the man directly responsible for the actions of the police. [21]

Tetiana was driving home after midnight on the highway to the Borispil airport, when her car was cut off by a Porsche Cayenne. Her car was then repeatedly hit by the large SUV and chased after she performed a U-turn to escape the attackers. Her small car was forced off the road, and she was pulled out and severely beaten by two assailants.

On 1 January 2014, Kyiv witnessed a massive torch-lit march in commemoration of the birth of Stepan Bandera. Bandera was the wartime leader of the Revolutionary wing of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) whose Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) had battled both the Axis, and the Soviets. [22] His OUN had proclaimed the renewal of Ukraine’s independence on 30 June 1941, forcing Hitler to tip his hand prematurely.

The resulting arrest of much of the OUN’s leadership then revealed the Nazis true plans for Ukraine. Bandera was assassinated in 1959 in Munich by a Soviet agent. Symbolically both the red on black flag of the OUN and the national blue on yellow flag have become recognizable symbols of the Euro Maidan protests.

On 11 January 2014, an incident occurred that set the tone for what was to come. Several kilometres away from the Maidan, in the Svyatoshynsky courthouse the verdict of the “Vasylkivsky terrorists” was being read. These men had been charged in September 2011 for plotting to blow up a statue of Lenin that stood in Borispil, although the statue had been taken down by the city that previous June. Consistent with the “telephone call law” legal practice in Ukraine, these men were sentenced to six years’ incarceration.

In anticipation of this verdict the courthouse was surrounded by Berkut troops. A large group of civil activists were present in the courtyard. Present also was Yuriy Lutsenko, the former Minister of the Interior under President Yushchenko, who had been recently released from incarceration on trumped up charges himself. During the standoff, Yuriy explained to the militsya that by law they had to remove their balaclavas and identify themselves. This they reluctantly did. After Lutsenko left, the crowd continued insisting on this identification process. Soon a melee ensued and Lutsenko had to return to intervene. In the ensuing struggle Lutsenko was hit eight times with a blunt object and lost consciousness. He was taken by ambulance bleeding from a head injury.

As the Euro Maidan protesters continued to stand despite the Julian calendar Christmas holidays, a split in leadership appeared. Surprisingly the three democratic opposition party leaders continued to co-operate, but the non-aligned apolitical crowd formed a community council and elected the first of their planned rotating chairmen. This head was the singer Ruslana. The council immediately went about issuing an ultimatum demanding the selection of one single opposition leader.

Rather than uniting the Euro Maidan, this immature move merely introduced a fresh split. Oddly, it was the Yanukovych regime that by means of its thuggish stupidity united the Euro Maidan protest again.

After the 14 January Julian calendar New Year, the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) was sitting in session again. The main item of legislation was to be the budget, which presumably would incorporate the freshly negotiated Russian loan.

On 16 January 2014, in a surprise move the government introduced legislation aimed at destroying the Euro Maidan along with most principles of democracy and liberty. The legislation had been prepared over the holidays in the President’s administration office. During the legislative session, most people’s deputies were absent, and the electronic voting equipment was not functioning when the speaker called for a vote by a show of hands. Three seconds was all it took to determine that the vote “for” was 235, a majority, this despite the fact that there were only 119 deputies registered as being present. This new legislation provided for:

*    The State being able to ban Internet access.
*    Criminalization of libel when media criticized government officials, up to two years in jail.
*    Charges for blocking government buildings, up to five years in jail.
*    Up to 15 days arrest for unauthorized installation of tents, stages and sound equipment.
*    Up to 10 days arrest for participation in peaceful gatherings wearing a mask, helmet or other means of covering one’s face.
*    Requiring groups of more than five cars driving together to get permission from the Ministry of Interior Affairs, otherwise, the drivers face loss of license and vehicle for up to two years.
*    A broad definition of “extremist activities” as adopted to disallow NGOs and churches from engaging in support of civil protests.
*    Allowing trial and sentencing in absentia of individuals, including prison terms, in cases where the person refuses to appear in court and when criminal proceedings in the absence of such persons are pronounced possible.
*    Charges for blocking access to residential buildings, up to six years in jail.
*    Charges for gathering and disseminating information about Berkut (Ukraine’s special security force), judges or their families, up to two years in jail.
*    MPs being stripped of immunity by a simple majority vote in Ukraine’s Parliament (the Verkhovna Rada) thereby allowing initiation of criminal proceedings, detention or arrest with such cases no longer requiring any prior review by the relevant Parliamentary Committee.
*    Amnesty from prosecution as previously adopted by the Verkhovna Rada and granted to peaceful protestors who participated in protests since 21 November 2013 but this has now been extended to also exempt from punishment those who committed crimes against protestors, including Berkut and other law enforcement officials.
*    Registration of NGOs that accept foreign funds as “civic organizations that fulfill the functions of a foreign agent” facing high scrutiny, and additional tax and regulatory measures. [23]

This law has generally been interpreted as the end to civil liberty in Ukraine. While mirroring similar legislation in Putin’s Russia, in each case the punishments are more severe.

With the Feast of Epiphany on Sunday 19 January 2014 and with the Anniversary of the first Independence (1918) and Unity (1919) on 22 January, the Euro Maidan called for massive support from the people. And that they got. Eight weeks of peaceful protest were about to end.

It was on Sunday, 19 January 2014 that a column of cars from the Maidan drove south up the steep grade of Hrushevsky St. They were headed for the Verkhovna Rada, or Parliament Building. As the cars were even with the columned ticket gate to the Dynamo soccer stadium they were stopped by Berkut riot troops who then blocked the street with their buses and command vehicles. A shoving match ensued, pitting the crowd’s determination against the chest-high aluminum shields of the troops.

Vitaliy Klitchko, the leader of the UDAR political party and highest rated candidate for next year’s presidential election, arrived to intervene. He tried to convince the crowd to return to the Maidan to no avail. Eight weeks of standing while being ignored by their government was enough. [24]

What ensued was a battle where Berkut used rubber bullets, clubs and flash bang grenades, while the crowd responded with rocks and Molotov cocktails. After failing to tip the Berkut buses to form a barricade the crowd instead set them ablaze. Soon four buses and two command trucks were burning fiercely. The Dynamo stadium’s crowd control fencing served to fill gaps in this makeshift barricade. A water cannon truck was brought in to force the protesters back, but it was barely able to put out the fires. The end result was a skating rink no-man’s land between Berkut and the protesters.

The next day, 20 January 2014, the battle continued. Any shortfall of bottles for Molotov cocktails was offset by the use of fireworks fired horizontally. A slingshot catapult was moved into place to increase the range of the Molotov cocktails that were still available. This increased range allowed a second line of barricades to be constructed further up Hrushevsky St. Berkut was moved even further back.

At one point Berkut charged the barricades amid a storm of flash bang grenades hoping to disable the catapult. Unfazed, the protesters charged the armoured troops forcing an immediate retreat.

Quite surprisingly Hrushevsky St. was peaceful on 21 January 2014. The Berkut had called a cease-fire. But there may have been a more banal reason for this uncharacteristic turn of pacifism. As reported by activists on Facebook, the Berkut interior troops were forced to imitate a cease-fire because the so-called 1st Tulchynskiy Diversional Rebel Company successfully completed their operation. Around 2 a.m. on the 21 January 2014, about 12 rebels broke the stable delivery of supplies to the Berkut.

They began the operation on Ivan Mazepa St. (formerly Arsenalna) near Hrushevsky St. by setting fire to a government bus. While the police were busy with the fire, the company seized 10 cases of Teren (Ukrainian-made) teargas and flashbang. grenades (3400 units) according to one of the activists. [25] Although this report is unconfirmed, the fact that the next day Berkut was using Russian-made flash bang grenades that were reportedly six times more powerful than the Ukrainian ones gives this report some credibility. [26]

The Berkut troops were using enforcement methods that are banned by Ukrainian law -- they were throwing their Teren grenades directly under the feet of protesters, although they are required to keep them 2-3 metres away from people. As a result the activists suffered many injuries. They were also firing rubber bullets at journalists, aiming for their eyes. Some had been blinded.

Unity Day, 22 January 2014, began peacefully. It is the celebration of the union of Western Ukraine to the Ukrainian National Republic in 1919. It was also Independence Day, commemorating that vital event of 1918, although the Yanukovych regime did not refer to it that way to avoid the logical question, independent from whom?

There were some priests standing on the icy no-man’s land along with dozens of casual civilians viewing the battlefield and talking to the line of Berkut troops standing behind their shields. A few activists moved in bags of snow to begin the construction of a new line of barricades. Almost imperceptibly additional cohorts of troops moved into position behind this line. Later reports refer to the participation of the Jaguar special militia regiment from Vinnitsa.

It was a shock when the Berkut troops suddenly rushed forward charging the first line of barricades. A thousand armoured troops formed a turtle with their shields right up against the barricade wall, and began dismantling it from below. Over five hundred men remained behind in reserve. Two dozen defenders stood and pelted the Berkut turtle with rocks. Bottles for Maidan cocktails were in seriously short supply so only one exploded among the Berkut troops. Soon the barricade crumbled and the Berkut rushed through capturing and beating anyone that did not run fast enough. The line of burnt out vehicles was the second line of defence, but with so few defenders and even fewer bottles that line gave too.

Berkut was using the hastily imported Russian OMON issued flash bang grenades. They were visibly six times more powerful. The Berkut line of shields moved downhill to about the October Palace. The Maidan itself was preparing for an assault and speaker after speaker called for Kyiv residents to rush to their aid.

Meanwhile the Hrushevsky St. defenders that had retreated began piling tires and setting fire to them. Fresh forces from the nearby Maidan joined them. The logic of the tire fires became clear when thick black smoke billowed up the steep grade of Hrushevsky St. driven by a north-west breeze.

Soon the Berkut line backed up. An armoured BTR joined the line, but it was used only to move some burnt out buses. The protesters used hooks to drag their burning tires uphill. The Berkut backed up again. An hour later the burning tires were piled against the original barricade line of burned out vehicles and fifteen hundred Berkut troops were back at their original line. [27] [28]

The protesters suffered many casualties including wounded and captured as well as several killed. At least two of the dead were killed by gunfire. The first, an aspiring actor, Serhiy Nihoyan, was an Armenian Ukrainian from Dnipropetrovsk. He died of multiple wounds including bullets to the head and neck while defending the field hospital on Hrushevsky. The second was a Belorusian, Mykhaylo Zhyznevsky. He had left Belarus due to its repressive regime and became active in the Ukrainian National Self Defence organization. He was shot through the heart by a 9mm bullet.

Two bodies recovered from the woods near Kyiv had died of torture and exposure. One was identified as Yuriy Verbytsky, who had been kidnapped from a Kyiv hospital days before by unidentified men in black. The very first death had been reported by a hospital the day before. A young man fell or was thrown from the Dynamo stadium colonnade in a struggle with Berkut attackers. Amid the smoke and blood of the 22 January 2014 battle in Kyiv, Yuriy Lutsenko called all opposition deputies to the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) to form a National Council, [29] a parallel government to that of the Yanukovych clan. The head of this government, he suggested, would be the leading presidential contender, Vitaliy Klitchko.

This government would already have its own police (so far unarmed) in the form of the marshals in the crowd and the Avto-Maidan citizen patrol cars that had been effectively intercepting “titushky” the government’s paid thugs-for-hire. The “titushky” moniker comes from the name of one such thug that famously assaulted a lady reporter a few months ago, an act captured on film.

From the stage of the Maidan, Lutsenko also called for all gun-owners to come armed to the Maidan to join an armed defence force. This call has since been echoed by former Minister of Defence Lt. Col. (ret) Anatoliy Hrytsenko. [30]

On 23 January 2014, it was government law enforcement that was sowing chaos on the streets of Kyiv. The Avto-Maidan mobile patrols were successful in capturing many government paid titushky that were roaming the streets smashing cars. So now the DAI, Ukraine’s much-hated traffic cops were stopping suspected Avto-Maidan cars and smashing their windows.

The streets of Kyiv had become dangerous not because of the protest but because of the government’s reaction.

On 24 January 2014, Oleh Tyahnybok informed the crowd of the proposal that the three leaders received from Yanukovych during the last round table negotiation. He said that Yanukovych proposed to release all prisoners, and cancel arrest warrants for others in exchange for a simple retreat from the existing positions on Hrushevsky St. Tyahnybok asked the crowd to vote. To the apparent shock of Tyahnybok himself, the reply was a near unanimous call to continue the struggle.

That day, six of seven western “oblasts” (provinces) had de-facto become independent of the Yanukovych regime. The governors’ offices had been seized and the Yanukovych-appointed governors were forced to resign. Similar attempts at seizure of local administrations were taking place in six other oblasts in central Ukraine. Three northern oblasts including the Kyiv oblast’ were experiencing mass protests. But the remaining ten oblasts of the east and south appeared to be firmly in Yanukovych’s Party of Region’s control. On 25 January 2014 it became known that Yanukovych had offered the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister positions to Arseniy Yatseniuk and Vitaliy Klitchko. This transparent attempt at dividing the political forces and dividing the Maidan protesters from the opposition politicians was rejected. The peaceful protest of the last two months had become radicalized, united and hardened to a degree unimaginable a month prior. The people had lost all fear -- it was President Victor Yanukovych that was afraid.

The Balance of Power

The Berkut riot control troops (approximately 3,250 [31] strong) are loyal to President Yanukovych. The Interior Troops just under 33,000 [32] strong, are likely divided in loyalty. Some 23,000 [33] traffic cops (the DAI) can be used to interfere with transportation, and the bulk consider their future to be with Yanukovych. The armed forces number about 140,000 [34] and are considered to be poorly trained and demoralized. Ironically they are very likely the wild card if a widespread conflict continues. It has been speculated that this may be the reason martial law has not yet been declared.

The most unpredictable factor in this balance is Putin’s Russia. Despite rumours that many of the riot control troops are actually Russian OMON dressed as Crimean Berkut, Putin’s response to this revolution has been muted, and can be expected to remain so only until after the Sochi Winter Olympics. The presence of US Naval power in the Black Sea during the Olympics, [35] although not militarily effective, may also serve as a damper to any rash moves by the Russians.

Information Wars

Putin’s Russia is clearly supporting President Yanukovych in this struggle, although it will likely eliminate him like a used napkin even if he achieves victory. That is why it is important to understand the impact of the fact that the Russian language still dominates the airwaves and the informational space in Ukraine. Ukrainian language magazines are rare and Ukrainian language printed newspapers are limited to western Ukraine. Since the carrier signal for information is language, this factor in information wars is vital. The Russian speakers of the east and south tend to be monolingual. [36] Compounding this is the fact that Russian speakers are much less likely to have travelled to western countries. Speakers of Ukrainian or of Surzhyk (Creole) are to a great degree bilingual or multilingual. As a result, the Russian speaking part of the country lives in an essentially foreign, even Soviet, informational (and thus cultural and civilizational) bubble.

The Ukrainian speaking part of the country is more open to western values, although this sharp distinction is beginning to blur. Throughout Ukraine the rural countryside is more likely to speak Ukrainian, although large cities even within Ukrainian speaking provinces still tend to be more Russian speaking. [37]

Countering this is the fact that rural areas generally have limited access to television stations, their choice usually being limited to the government run UT1, and the pro-government INTER. Pointedly, during the height of the Hrushevsky St. battles, these channels broadcast concerts. The Internet is slowly changing this bias in informational space. And so it is notable that despite the fact that Ukrainians are still predominantly rural, today’s Ukrainian revolution (as opposed to that of 1918) is bourgeois.

The war on journalists that became apparent during the Hrushevsky St. battles has a strategic purpose in addition to the tactical one of limiting battlefield information. Also, as in other recent conflicts, DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks on websites and mischief from the entire spectrum of Russian cyber warfare expertise can be expected to be brought to bear. Even in Canada we have already experienced the mischief created when certain website URLs were added to anti-virus spam definitions. Yes, the cure can be as bad as the disease.

We can soon expect the activation of cold war fellow travellers old and new in true Soviet practice touting every permutation of the imperial policy of Putin’s Russky Mir. (Russian world) Just as in the case of the 2008 Georgian War, the disinformation machine can be expected to work overtime.

Often it is what is not there that is most important. The support from inhabitants of eastern and southern Ukraine has been weak. The mind-set of Russian-speakers locked inside the Russophone informational space is pro-Moscow. Clearly, genocide works, otherwise it would not be so popular. Observers of Ukraine’s struggles note that the lizard that won’t lose its tail often loses its head.


[1]    Independence Square in Kiev, Planner Go website, accessed 13 December 2013.
[2]    Iryna Shtogrin, Ukraine, A Post-Genocidal Society, Radio Free Europe website, 8 December 2008.
[3]    Demographics of Ukraine, Wikipedia website, accessed 28 January 2014.
[4]    Alexander Vyshniak, The language situation, Status and Languages in Ukraine: the Dynamics, Challenges and Prospects, Nations Forum website, 2008. Number given is the sum of “only” and “mostly” percentages multiplied by the total population in 2007.
[5]    John Stuart Mill, Considerations on Representative Government, The Project Gutenberg EBook website, last updated 6 February 2013.
[6]    John Stuart Mill, Considerations on Representative Government, The Project Gutenberg EBook website, last updated 6 February 2013.
[7]    Ukraine Hopes Russia Reviews Gas Contract – PM Azarov Rianovosti website, 24 November 2013.
[8]    Blow to Kiev as Brussels closes door to further enlargement, EU Observer website, 9 November 2005.
[9]    Ukraine and Shell sign $10bn shale gas deal, BBC News, 24 January 2013.
[10]  Chevron and Ukraine set gas deal, New York Times, 5 November 2013.
[11]  Russia is getting queasy about Ukraine’s shale gas plans, Mining.com website, 17 January 2014.
[12]  Yanukovych and Putin in surprise meeting, UkrainianJournal.com, 27 October 2013.
[13]  Putin spokesman: Yanukovych visited Moscow on Nov. 9, 2013, Kyiv Post website, 11 November 2013.
[14]  Oksana Grytsenko in Kiev and Ian Traynor in Brussels, Ukraine U-turn on Europe pact was agreed with Vladimir Putin, theguardian.com website, 26 November 2013.
[15]  Azarov: IMF - the main culprit breakdown agreement between Ukraine and the EU, Newsland website, accessed 15 January 2014.
[16]  Police violently break up Independence Square protests at 4 a.m. today; many injuries reported, Kyiv Post website, 30 November 2013.
[17]  From Dictatorship to Democracy, Albert Einstein Institution website, accessed 16 December 2013.
[18]  Putin deplores collapse of USSR, BBC News website, 25 April 2005.
[19]  EuroMaidan rallies in Ukraine - Dec. 11, 2013 coverage, Kyiv Post website, 12 December 2013.
[20]  General Director of “Microsoft Ukraine” went on vacation to participate in Evromaydan, fakty website, 11 December 2013.
[21]  Ukraine activist and journalist Tetyana Chornovil beaten, DW website, 25 December 2013.
[22]  Between Hitler and Stalin, Ukrainian Canadian Research & Documentation Centre website, accessed 4 February 2014.
[23]  Ukraine victim of new repressive laws - say Ukrainian Canadians, Ukrainian Canadian Congress website, accessed 18 January 2014.
[24]  Roman Olearchyk, Kiev streets erupt in clashes with police, Financial Times, accessed 20 January 2014.
[25]  Милиция на Грушевського осталася без ґранат активистьі Майдана перехватили партию боєприпасов, Новий Реґіон New Russia L.P. News Agency website, 21 January 2014 (Militia on Hrushevsky has run out of grenades – activists of Maidan intercepted a shipment of weapons).
[26]  espreso.tv/stream.
[27]  Matt Frei, comments Kiev, January 2014: black smoke in the sky, blood stains in the snow, Channel 4 News website, 22 January 2014.
[28]  Yuriy Lutsenko speaking to the Maidan, You Tube website, 22 January 2014.
[W.Z. Read English-language translations of Yuriy Lutsenko (22Jan2014) and Oleh Tyahnybok (29Dec2013) speeches on Euromaidan.]
[29]  Hrytsenko calls on gun owners to patrol streets, Ukrinform website, 25 January 2014.
[30]  Державна автоінспекція, Wikipedia website, accessed 28 January 2014 (State Traffic Police).
[31]  Interior Troops of Ukraine, Wikipedia website, accessed 28 January 2014.
[32]  Державна автоінспекція (State Auto Inspection) “Державтоінспекція нараховує майже 23 тисячі працівників” (The state Auto Inspection totals almost 23 thousand workers) Wikipedia website, accessed 28 January 2014 (State Traffic Police).
[33]  Збройні Сили України, Wikipedia website, accessed 28 January 2014 (Ukrainian Armed Forces).
[34]  US Warships available for security backup for Sochi Olympics, Stars and Stripes website, 21 January 2014.
[35]  Або німими, або російськомовними, Galychyna News website, 10 September 2010 (Either dumb or Russian speaking) “…Українсько-російська двомовність асиметрична, оскільки активне володіння обома мовами та двомовна практика властиві переважно етнічним українцям, тоді як абсолютна більшість етнічних росіян надає перевагу вживанню лише російської мови…” (Ukrainian-Russian bilingualism is asymmetrical, as the active use and practice of both languages are characteristic to ethnic Ukrainians while the majority of ethnic Russians prefer to use only Russian).
[36]  Mykola Ryabchuk, The Ukrainian “Friday” and the Russian “Robinson”: The uneasy Advent of Postcoloniality, Academia.edu website, accessed 28 January 2104.

Myroslav Petriw, a recipient of the Anna Pidruchney Award for New Writers, the Shevchenko Medal, and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, is President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Vancouver Branch, and author of the historical-political thrillers Скарб Ярослава (published 2003 in Ukraine), Yaroslaw’s Treasure (2009) and Yaroslaw’s Revenge (2012).