In all the propaganda surrounding the events taking place in Ukraine, it is important that we don’t loose sight of some undeniable facts on the ground and the most fundamental principles of democracy and human rights.
To achieve that, we will ask some very concrete questions and answer them with publicly known undeniable facts.
Q. Who started the protests in Ukraine and Why?
A. All the mayhem started the day Ukrainian government refused a trade deal by the US-EU and decided, instead, to accept a counter-offer by the Russians. The next thing we know we have thousands of pro-EU Ukrainians gathering in the Maidan (freedom) Square and protesting against the Ukrainian government, largely peacefully. Why? To understand that, we must remember that Ukraine is a multi-ethnic multi-lingual country as shown in the map below:
Since it declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the country has remained politically divided along ethnic and linguistic lines between the broadly Ukrainian speaking pro-EU North, and Russian speaking pro-Russian Federation South.
To see how this ethno-linguistic divide becomes a political one, take a look at the polling from the 2004 and 2010 elections between current pro-Russia President Victor Yanukovych and pro-western Viktor Yuschenko.
Viktor Yanukovych lost the 2004 vote by 52 to 44. But he won in 2010 by 49 to 45 percent. In both cases, you can see a clear and consistent regional divide. And this is typical voter distribution in UKrainian elections.
This means there is a genuine and very close divide in Ukraine about where it’s loyalties should lay, and this gave rise to the protests against the decision of current pro-Russia Ukrainian government.
Q. Are the protesters pro-democracy rebels and freedom fighters?
A. It would be grossly unfair to label the pro-EU voters as pro-democracy and pro-Russia voters as anti-democracy so the answer is NO! These labels are just propaganda! Moreover, while initially the protesters consisted of peaceful pro-EU voters, the Maidan (freedom) Square was soon hijacked by ultra right-wing Neo-Nazi fascist groups armed to the teeth. As Alec Luhn writes for The Nation magazine:
The surge in violence sparked by Right Sector has revealed how uncritical and undiscerning most of the media has been of the far-right parties and movements that have played a leading role in the “Euromaidan,” the huge protests for closer ties to Europe that flared up in November and have taken over Kiev’s Independence Square (“Maidan Nezalezhnosti”). Protest coverage focused on the call for European integration and the struggle against the Yanukovich regime has largely glossed over the rise in nationalist rhetoric, often chauvinist, that has led to violence not just against police, but also against left-wing activists.
Q. Didn’t all sides sign an EU-brokered agreement to end the crisis?
A. Yes, they did! It was signed by all the Ukrainian opposition representatives included the leader of the UDAR political party, Vitaly Klitschko, the head of the Batkivshchyna opposition party, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and the leader of the nationalist Svoboda opposition party, Oleg Tyagnibok.
The breakthrough agreement was witnessed by EU foreign ministers who brokered the deal, including Poland’s Radoslaw Sikorski and Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier, as well as Director at the Continental Europe Department of the French Foreign Ministry, Eric Fournier.
Complying with the terms of the agreement, president Yanukovich announced early presidential elections and the return to the constitution of 2004, which limits presidential powers and widens the parliament’s authority.
Yanukovich also said a national unity government will be created.
The agreement also states that as soon as the new constitution is adopted, no later than September, the presidential election must be held until December.
In addition, there will be an investigation into the “recent acts of violence” committed during the anti-government riots. Under the deal, no state of emergency will be imposed in the country, while the government will adopt an amnesty “covering the same range of illegal actions as the February-17 2014 law.”
“Both parties will undertake serious efforts to normalize life in the cities and villages by withdrawing from administrative and public buildings and unblocking streets, city parks and squares” the text of the agreement reads.
However, what happened is that immediately after the agreement was signed – and perhaps emboldened by it – the opposition leaders started threatening that they will be storming the Presidential residence unless the President resigns by 10am the next morning. That was a clear and blatant breach of the agreement and the reason President Yanukovych had to leave the city. Immediately after the President left, the ultra right-wing armed groups occupied the parliament buildings, declared themselves as the legitimate government of Ukraine and declared the democratically elected President as ‘ousted’!
Q. Is this a US-backed coup?
A. Almost certainly! The US is well-known to have a hand in destabilizing governments around the world both during and after the Cold War. As J Dana Stuster writes for Foreign Policy:
“Several national leaders, both dictators and democratically elected figures, were caught in the middle of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War — a position that ultimately cost them their office (and, for some, their life) as the CIA tried to install “their man” as head of state. The U.S. government has since publicly acknowledged some of these covert actions”
It is generally accepted that the US has been directly responsible for the removal of 7 governments; Iran (1953) , Guatemala (1954), Congo (1960), Dominican Republic (1961), South Vietnam (1963), Brazil (1964), Chile (1973). Moreover, in recent years, the US has led invasions under the pretext of humanitarian interventions that have removed political opponents across the Middle East, Asia and Africa in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Tunisia, Mali and Libya.
A recently leaked audio recording between the Assistant US Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt further confirms US involvement. Western media headlines focussed on Nuland’s dismissal of the EU with her line ‘Fuck the EU’ during the chat – but of more interest outside the West was the content of the conversation, with the two seemingly planning out who was going to be included in the future Ukraine government, and how they were going to get that to stick.
Q. Can the armed groups currently occupying Ukrainian parliament be considered legitimate representatives of Ukraine?
A. No! Firstly, any armed group can stage a coup and take over government buildings, this does not make them legitimate. This is not how democracy works! So far, the only democratically elected legitimate representatives of Ukraine are President Viktor Yanukovych and his cabinet! Secondly, Ukraine is a nation of 45 million people! A group of protestors, even a 100,000 strong, is a small fraction of Ukraine’s voter-base and can have no legal or moral right to override the will of the people as manifested in the democratic elections of 2010!
The only democratic and responsible course of action, for all sides, would be to return to the February 21 agreement brokered by EU and implement it.