3 Dec 2013

A proxy cold war, played out on Ukraine’s streets

Kiev today resembles a film set for a revolutionary movie, still looking for a suitable ending.

Outside the parliament, the crowd (tens of thousands of them) that have set up in Independence Square came here early this morning to provide an intimidating human backdrop to the parliamentarians sitting inside.

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While they were chanting “Resign! Resign!” and “Long live Ukraine!”, around the corner, on the other side of parliament, a much smaller crowd of pro-government demonstrators had amassed in front of a mainly empty stage where, now and again, a lugubrious folk singer would deliver romantic ballads about Ukraine.

In between the crowds, a phalanx of scary-looking riot police who, after last Saturday’s violence, had cleared been ordered by their superiors to be on best behaviour.

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Inside the parliament building itself, one deputy after another got up to make their case for one side or the other. When Prime Minister Azarov delivered his diatribe against the demonstrators in Russian, several dozen deputies from the opposition party banged their tables and shouted “Speak Ukrainian! Speak Ukrainian!” for about 20 minutes.

The mood in the chamber was charged and at times rowdy. And most of the people that we spoke to throughout the day had blithely assumed that the no-confidence vote would be passed and the government be forced to resign. In the end, they were to be disappointed. 03_ukraine4_w The prime minister, who had earlier described the demonstration as a coup d’etat, and his cabinet cling on to power. As for President Yanukovich, the man at the centre of this storm, he has packed his bags and disappeared on an official visit to China, where he is hoping that the cash-rich Chinese government will give his country many billions of dollars to fix the roads in Ukraine.

Whether this is an example of supreme denial or ignorance, or both, fixing the roads will not solve this stalemate. What’s happening in Ukraine is a fascinating proxy cold war between Europe and Russia, between two different sets of values, and between a country bitterly divided by both.

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8 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:

    Matt,

    Never mind fish, I smell CIA and MI6, the same old nutters who caused the Cold War in the first place.

    What?!……No “Ukrainian Dream”?………Get with the programme, Frei – You conformed to it for long enough.
    :-)

    1. Malcolm Cullen says:

      While I don’t doubt that the grubby hands of the CIA and their pals are all over the Ukrainian protests, I think they’d struggle to mobilise this many onto the streets if a large proportion of the population weren’t extremely unhappy with the recent turn towards Russia.

      Having said that, it wouldn’t surprise me if a certain ex-heavyweight boxer was being lined up by “our side” to promote and sustain the protests.

  2. Philip says:

    For all the weaknesses & ills in the West, Putin’s style of Government is a lot worse. The Ukraine is torn between the Russian east and the westernised & more heavily Ukrainian west, but it still beggars belief that in a supposedly independent country the PM could speak Russian rather than Ukrainian. The treatment of Yuliya Tymoshenka has been a disgrace. We should be doing our best to welcome Ukraine into Europe. I salute the brave demonstrators, putting their bodies on the line for something a lot more like democracy than they’ll get if Yanushkevich & Putin have their way.

  3. Neuk Craig says:

    “most of the people that we spoke to throughout the day had blithely assumed that the no-confidence vote would be passed and the government be forced to resign.”

    Which reports much more about what side C4 is on & indeed even reporting about, than it does about the actual events.

    As previously these demonstrations are being funded by western “non-“governmental organisations which, like WWF, Friends of the Earth and almost every “protest group” that C4 ever reports about, is funded by western governments.

    1. Philip says:

      And your evidence for that statement is? It sounds exactly what I’d expect from a tool of Putin.

      1. Neil Craig says:

        Phillip if you actually red the article you will find I am quoting exactly what Matt said here. What more evidence can be produced that he said it.

        Perhaps you would care to prove what you have said or indeed that you are not a “tool” of our government.

  4. Neil Craig says:

    Phillip before taking the British media line that we are a democracy and Russia isn’t may I point out (1) Russia has a democratic proportional electoral system which doesn’t disenfranchise parties that aren’t part of the “consensus”, unlike Britain & (2) opposition parties aren’t censored from the state owned media, indeed under their electoral law even small parties are guaranteed 21 hours of airtime during elections, which is about 20 1/2 more than the heavily censored UKIP get despite the string chance they will be the biggest party in next year’s EU elections.

    C4 may be keen on reporting demos against the government in Ukraine but when did they last report one in Britain that wasn’t by a government funded sock puppet? For example one against windmills or or the consequent fuel poverty.

  5. Robert Taggart says:

    Victory to the E U Forces.
    Wow, never thought tha would ever say that…
    Signed, Euro Sceptic !

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