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Friday, 31 January 2014

PHOTOS: Humans of Ukraine’s #Euromaidan Protests · Global Voices

PHOTOS: Humans of Ukraine’s #Euromaidan Protests · Global Voices:
Protesters help the driver by pushing his car up the street. Photo by Olha Harbovska, used with permission.
Protesters help a driver by pushing his car up the street. Photo by Olha Harbovska. Used with permission.
This post is part of our Special Coverage Ukraine's #Euromaidan Protests.
The short-lived adoption of laws limiting peaceful protests in Ukraine has sparked violent clashes between police and anti-government protesters on and off since January 19, 2014. The dramatic photos of the tense confrontations, sometimes shrouded in black smoke billowing from nearby burning vehicles, have circulated and stunned worldwide. 
The photos that seldom get play in mainstream media, however, are those of the human side of the long and harsh Euromaiden protests, as they are known, seen in images published on social media and photo stream accounts by protesters and journalists on the ground. 
These photos document how protesters have assisted one another to function as normally as possible, while attempting to topple a government they find to be corrupt and failing. Aside from keeping each other safe and warm, protesters often help those passing by to make it through the crowds and below-zero Ukrainian winter weather. Volunteers also provide free medical help to both sides of the protests.
A member of volunteer medical aid briggades. Kyiv. Photo by the creator of Facebook page 'Maidaners'. Used with permission.
A member of volunteer medical aid brigades in Kyiv. Photo by the creator of Facebook page “Maidaners”. Used with permission.
An elderly woman pouring hot tea to protesters. Photo by Olha Harbovska, used with permission.
An elderly woman pouring hot tea for protesters. Photo by Olha Harbovska. Used with permission.
People have set up improvised kitchens and tea stations in Kyiv and other cities to keep fellow keep protesters fed and warm. Volunteers also clean snow and remove garbage from the protest sites.
A man giving out sandwiches to protesters. Photo by Hanna Hrabarska, used with permission.
A man giving out sandwiches to protesters. Photo by Hanna Hrabarska. Used with permission.
Another tea station to keep protesters warm. Photo by Clashdot user Volye101, used with permission.
Another tea station to keep protesters warm. Photo by Clashdot user Volye101. Used with permission.
A woman volunteering to clean protest grounds in Kyiv. Photo by a creator of a Facebook page 'Maidaners'. Used with permission.
A woman volunteering to clean protest grounds in Kyiv. Photo by the creator of Facebook page “Maidaners”. Used with permission.
A man minds several caldrons of food being prepared for protesters, making sure the meal doesn't burn. Photo by Clashdot user Volye101, used with permission.
A man minds several cauldrons of food being prepared for protesters, making sure the meal doesn't burn. Photo by Clashdot user Volye101. Used with permission.
Amazingly, and as more proof that humans are social and creative creatures under any circumstances, entertainment and music in particular have been a huge part of keeping up morale during Euromaidan rallies. Sean Lennon, the son of legendary musician John Lennon, was moved when he saw how a live rendition of his father's famed song “Imagine” had been used during Euromaidan to send a message of peaceful retaliation against the establishment in Ukraine, calling it “awesome” on his Facebook. Live music remains a regular fixture at Euromaidan rallies throughout the country, an example of which is shown below:
A man playing violin to the protester in the center of Kyiv. Photo by Olha Harbovska, used with permission.
A man playing the violin to a protester in a Kyiv underground passage. Photo by Olha Harbovska. Used with permission.
There has also been a lot of visual creativity, with protesters creating posters, painting helmets, tents, etc.
A woman painting a tent at the main protest grounds in Kyiv. Photo by a creator of Facebook page 'Maidaners'. Used with permission.
A woman painting a tent at the main protest grounds in Kyiv. Photo by the creator of Facebook page “Maidaners”. Used with permission.
Despite clashes with police and coordinated police crackdowns on the protests, with six civilian deaths so far and thousands injured, the protesters often talk and interact with police agents during the protests, sometimes finding a common language and common ground. Below is a photo of a Ukrainian police officer on duty during the protests, who seems happy to have reached an agreement with the protesters to keep the peace and not use force:
A smiling policeman. He just promised not to use force against protesters. Photo by Hanna Hrabarska, used with permission.
A smiling policeman. He just promised not to use force against protesters. Photo by Hanna Hrabarska. Used with permission.
A volunteer defender of protest grounds in Kyiv. Has initiated the creation of human chanin between the protesters and the police to prevent provokations and violence. Photo by the creator of Facebook page 'Maidaners'. Used with permission.
A volunteer defender of protest grounds in Kyiv who initiated the creation of human chain between the protesters and the police to prevent provocations and violence. Photo by the creator of Facebook page “Maidaners”. Used with permission.
This post is part of our Special Coverage Ukraine's #Euromaidan Protests.
Images for this post were sourced by Global Voices authors Tetyana Bohdanova and Tetyana Lokot.

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Yanukovych, the luxury residence and the money trail that leads to London | openDemocracy #EuroMaidan 8 June 2012

Yanukovych, the luxury residence and the money trail that leads to London | openDemocracy: 8 June 2012

European leaders’ decision to boycott Ukraine’s Euro 2012 has highlighted the role of Yanukovych as the new black sheep of Europe. Yet Yanukovych made his own own ‘European choice’  long ago  – it is in there that he squirrels away his family’s fortune, writes Sergii Leshchenko
When  Viktor Yanukovych came to power in 2010, he announced that preparations for football’s Euro 2012 would be one of his priorities. And the main source of funding for the championship was to be his country’s exchequer. Money that could have been used to build hospitals would go instead to stadiums and motorways.
The first thing built by the state owned road construction company was a mini motorway on the outskirts of Kyiv. In a country whose roads generally resemble tank ranges, the appearance of a highway with a beautifully smooth surface was bound to attract attention. Official sources hastened to explain that it was built as part of the preparations for Euro 2012.
The only thing is that the road is not part of any transport network linking Ukraine with Europe. Officials used money destined for Euro 2012 to build instead a road linking the capital with Mezhyhirya, President Yanukovych’s private residence, which has become the symbol of Ukrainian corruption in high places.
Experts estimate the cost of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s new private residence at 75 – 100m dollars. For most of his career he was a public servant or parliament deputy, where his salary never exceeded 2000 US dollars per month.

Mezhyhirya’s history echoes that of the country

The Mezhyhirya residence was built in the Soviet period on the site of a monastery that had stood there since the 14th century before being destroyed by the Bolsheviks. The Soviet regime, under which Ukraine lived for 70 years, tried to provide for all its leaders’ needs. Top communists were rewarded with a package that included a house in the country – a so-called ‘dacha’. Mezhyhirya, which was at the disposal of the leader of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, fell into this category.
After Ukrainian independence the building was used to accommodate foreign delegations, but when in 2002 Viktor Yanukovych was appointed Prime Minister and moved to Kyiv from industrial Donetsk he decided he would like to live at Mezhyhiriya. Initially he rented it, but the Orange Revolution brought a fall in his living standards – a terrible thing for Post-Soviet Man. The new government, headed by president Yushchenko and PM Tymoshenko, evicted him from his home.
But a year later, after the fall of the Orange dream team, Yanukovych returned to the post of Prime Minister and secured the right to Move back into Mezhyhiriya, which was still government property. And another year later, in 2007, when he left his post, he took the house with him.
In Yanukovych’s final weeks as Prime Minister, his government illegally privatised  Mezhyhiriya. No money was paid to the state for its sale; instead, a couple of semi- derelict buildings in Kyiv were handed over in return (they have continued  to fall down ever since).
Mezhyhiriya, meanwhile, was acquired, without any competitive tendering process, by a Donetsk company called ‘MedInvestTraid’, which immediately resold it and a few years later filed for bankruptcy. Was someone covering their tracks?
In 2009, after an unsuccessful bid to create a political alliance with Viktor Yanukovych, Yulia Tymoshenko tried to return Mezhyhiriya to state ownership, but nothing came of it. MPs from Yanukovych’s party removed all the documents relating to the sale from the government departments involved.
The new residence of president Viktor Yanukovych is decorated with imported natural marble, Italian crystal and precious woods.
And a few months later Yanukovych became president, and could stop worrying about it. Especially since he had managed to register the deeds of the property in the name of several European companies, one of them British. 

What is Mezhyhiriya?

Yanukovych is now the proud occupier of 137 hectares (340 acres) of land on the banks of the river Dnieper. This is an area a little smaller than the principality of Monaco, which occupies 195 hectares. On the other hand, the population of the principality is 30,000, whereas the sultanate of Mezhyhiriya has but one single inhabitant.
The period after Viktor Yanukovych’s inauguration was ‘the golden age’ of Mezhyhiriya. All the buildings constructed in the Soviet period, where the Communist leaders had lived, were demolished. In their place rose a five storey palace of log and stone.
Once, Viktor Yanukovych even had an opportunity to boast about his property. On a visit to Berlin in 2010, he was speaking to an audience of local intellectuals and, wishing to pay a compliment to his host nation, he told them had imported German craftsmen to construct his estate and was very pleased with their work. 
The mansion itself, crowned with a roof of pure copper, was built by the Finnish company Honka, the world leader in the construction of log buildings of all kinds. Apparently Yanukovych’s home is the largest wooden structure ever built by Honka, and the company even wanted to nominate it for inclusion in the Guinness Book of Records. But its owner declined this honour.
The royal scale of the residence played, however, a bad joke on the president last winter, when its heating system could not cope with the coldest weather for six years. The president was left freezing in his drawing room, where the temperature refused to rise above 16 degrees Centigrade. 
Legends are being created about the presidential compound. Among independent Ukrainian journalists there is an unspoken competition as to who will first publish photos of this monument to national corruption.
The sheer scale of Mezhyhiriya is mindboggling. The Ukrainian Customs and Excise Department’s database lists details of fixtures and fittings imported for its embellishment. Each of the mansion’s Lebanese cedar doors cost $64,000. Three sets of wooden panelling for staircases came in at $200,000, wall panelling for the winter garden at $328,000, and cladding for a neoclassical column and parapet for a flight of steps at $430,000. In the course of one and a half years the overall cost of fittings imported for Mezhyhiriya was $9,416,000. 
The price of the chandeliers in Viktor Yanukovych's new residence has shocked Ukrainians. In a country where 35% of the population live under poverty line, spending 100 000 dollars on each individual chandelier seems excessive, to say the least.
The grounds around the house have been laid out as a formal park, with decorative planting and water features. The ‘Ukrainska Pravda’ newspaper, which has been following the Mezhyhiriya story for three years, recently published shocking photos of one of the estate’s features - a landing stage and pavilion on the bank of the Dnieper. Inside there is a stage and karaoke equipment – Viktor Yanukovych likes to spend summer evenings relaxing here. The photos show a building decorated in gold paint, with a marble floor – a kind of mini Versailles. On specialist websites one can also find photos of a gilt and crystal chandelier that hangs in the pavilion. It cost $100,000.
For a more exotic presidential leisure experience, Mezhyhiriya has its own private zoo, where one can admire not only local forest fauna but also ostriches and even kangaroos, imported specially for the president’s pleasure. A few years ago, however, this led to a catastrophe when one kangaroo escaped while being fed, and another died of pneumonia – they’re not used to temperatures of -15 in Australia.
The compound also includes facilities for more active leisure. An eighteen-hole golf course, visible on satellite photos, is under construction. It has been designed and built by French specialists, at a cost of 2-3 million dollars. 
The president is also very fond of horses, and is having a riding club with an indoor exercise space built. Foreign politicians who want to cultivate Yanukovych’s friendship – the presidents of Poland and Turkmenistan, for example - give him gifts of horses.
Finnish company Honka were in charge of construction on Yanukovych’s house. During one of his visits to Germany, the Ukrainian President himself praised the German specialists working on the site for the high quality of their work.
Viktor Yanukovych can also enliven his work days at Mezhyhiriya with a game of tennis or ten pin bowling, or a session at his underground shooting range. The president is a keen hunter, and has acquired another estate near Mezhyhiriya to satisfy this passion.
Another peculiarity of the president is his fear of being poisoned. Because of this he has had greenhouses built in his compound, designed to mimic twenty climatic zones. The idea is that anything Yanukovych wants to eat can be brought to his table directly from his own farm.   
Mezhyhiriya continues to expand. Last summer saw the completion of a yacht club, a garage complex for the president’s collection of 70 cars and a helicopter pad and hangar. This aircraft is, in fact, the subject of a separate tale of corruption. The president’s administration rented a helicopter for him from Blythe Associates Inc., a company registered in the British Virgin Islands which used to be a shareholder in the Austrian company that is Mezhyhiriya’s official owner.  In other words, Viktor Yanukovych has evidently been unable to think of anything better than to organise himself a personal helicopter out of public funds.

The poor Ukrainian president

Viktor Yanukovych spent his entire working life as a government official, and his wife is a pensioner. Before he was elected president he received a Ukrainian MP’s salary, equivalent to up to $2,000 a month. He has no official income to explain this level of expenditure. To buy one door for his residence for $64,000, he would have had to put by three years’ worth of salary, without even allowing for living expenses. 
Admittedly, Yanukovych’s latest tax return put his income somewhat higher. It turns out that last year, on top of his salary, he received $2,000,000 from a Donetsk publisher for an as yet unpublished, and indeed unwritten, book of memoirs. Given that his previous foray into literature was a fiasco – he was accused of plagiarism and the book removed from the shelves – it is not surprising that this large fee was immediately interpreted as a means of laundering the president’s shadier sources of income.      
In Ukraine, which occupies 152-nd place (out of 182) in global corruption listings, such facts about Yanukovych do not even raise an eyebrow. Corruption is endemic in the whole power vertical, from traffic policeman to government minister. That is why there was no public outcry at ex-Premier Yulia Tymoshenko’s seven year prison sentence. Her reputation is as stained by corruption scandals as Yanukovych’s.  
From the president’s lifestyle it is clear that he has hidden sources of income. Viktor Yanukovych realised that it would be impossible to explain away his enormous expenditure on Mezhyhiriya, so the deeds to the property were officially registered to third parties and quietly squirrelled away in European tax havens.
Officially,  Mezhyhiriya belongs to the Donetsk firm ‘Tantalit’. Its director is a complete unknown by the name of Pavel Litovchenko, a former employee of Yanukovych’s elder son. And, as Yanukovych’s younger son once let slip by mistake, Mr Litvichenko is now the president’s family lawyer.
 ‘Tantalit’ was set up and is 99.97% owned by an Austrian company, Euro East Beteilungs GmbH. After that the trail leads to the UK. The Austrian firm is 100% owned by a British company, Blythe (Europe) Ltd, with a registered address in London, at Formations House, 29 Harvey Street. Here, for a small sum of money, you can set up a ‘front’ company. The Russian speaking staff explain that post-Soviet oligarchs and officials also like using the UK as a cover for their dodgy income.
After London, the Mezhyhiriya trail leads to the pocket principality of Lichtenstein. All the shares of Blythe (Europe) Ltd belong to the Lichtenstein based P&A Corporate Services Trust. Blythe (Europe) Ltd also crops up in relation to Yanukovych’s hunting grounds near his residence. This enormous tract of forest, 300 square kilometres in area and home to wild boar and elk, is still formally the property of the state, but Viktor Yanukovych built himself a palatial hunting lodge there.
The entire property constitutes 140 hectares of valuable land which lies alongside the Dnieper river.
It too belongs to Blythe (Europe) Ltd. After that the whole hunting ground was surrounded by an anti-tank trench and patrolled by armed guards working for Yanukovych’s family. No one can go into the forest any more. Journalists from Ukrainian TV’s Channel 5 recently decided to have a picnic in the forest, as an experiment. They had not gone 100 metres before finding themselves continuing their afternoon under the watchful eye of armed special forces.
The story of Viktor Yanukovych and his residence highlights a paradox. Having completely rejected such European values as human rights and democracy, the Ukrainian president uses Europe as a place to hide his dirty money with impunity. European leaders who are critical of Yanukovych could put pressure on him through his European assets – deeds, not words. Oddly enough, that was once the slogan of the Orange revolution in Ukraine, which for a brief moment put Ukraine back on the road to democracy.
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Ukraine Army Decay Checks Egypt-Like Option as Rift Grows - Bloomberg #EuroMaidan

Ukraine Army Decay Checks Egypt-Like Option as Rift Grows - Bloomberg:

Photographer: Koerner/Getty Images
While the president’s inability to staunch a wave of popular protests in the city’s main square echoes the final days of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, Russian-born Alexander Defense Minister Pavlo Lebedev has said the Ukrainian army won’t get involved on either side.
As Ukraine looks to solve its escalating crisis, the nation’s military has so far been out of the equation.
Two decades of budget cuts have left the army a shadow of its post-Soviet-breakup self. Even with loyalists across the top of the command structure, the poorly trained and ill-equipped military is unlikely to be an option for President Viktor Yanukovych. Soldiers also loath getting involved in politics, unlike in other hotspots including Egypt.
“Morale is low,” Susan Stewart, the deputy head of the Eastern Europe and Eurasia Research Division at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin, said in an interview. “They are relatively poorly trained and their equipment is inadequate.”
While the president’s inability to staunch a wave of popular protests in the city’s main square echoes the final days of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, Russian-born Defense Minister Pavlo Lebedev has said the Ukrainian army won’t get involved on either side.
Yanukovych and the opposition are at an impasse after concessions by the government failed to end the spreading protests that turned deadly last week. With the cabinet’s resignation not enough to placate activists, the two sides are bracing for escalating tensions.

‘Urgent Steps’

The Ukrainian president, who went on sick leave yesterday, denounced opposition leaders and accused them of putting their political interests “above the existence of Ukraine itself.” The European Union warned that the conflict threatens to escalate into a civil war that may break Ukraine apart.
The country’s 182,000 military personnel have so far stayed in their barracks throughout the crisis.
The Defense Ministry today called on Yanukovych “to take urgent steps, within the limits of law, to stabilize the country.” Ministry staff members at a general meeting yesterday expressed “support” for Yanukovych and spoke of the “threat” to the territorial integrity of Ukraine if the crisis worsens, it said in a statement on its website.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a phone call with Lebedev last month called for restraint against civilians. Hagel cited the potential damage of any involvement by the military in breaking up demonstrations, while Lebedev said Yanukovych’s position is not to use the army against protesters, the U.S. Department of Defense said in an e-mailed statement.

Reduced Size

The size of the military pales in comparison with the 800,000-strong army the ex-Soviet republic inherited after independence in 1991, Yevhen Lupakov, head of the Union of Officers in Ukraine, said in a phone interview.
Since then, Ukraine transferred 4,400 nuclear warheads to Russia, according to David Cortright and Raimo Vayrynen in their book, “Towards Nuclear Zero.”
Plans to overhaul the armed forces have been “hampered by inadequate funding,” according to The Military Balance 2013, published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies inLondon. The military is capable “only of providing limited territorial defense” and “aging Soviet-era equipment increasingly needs to be replaced,” according to the report.
Joerg Forbrig, senior program officer for Central and Eastern Europe at the Berlin bureau of theGerman Marshall Fund of the U.S., said the military’s position in society doesn’t compare to that in Egypt and Turkey, where it has played a decisive role in times of crisis, he said.

Golden Eagle

Throughout the protests, Yanukovych has relied on Interior Ministry forces, police and the troops of the elite unit Berkut, the beneficiaries of budget allocations under the president.
Soldiers earn 2,500 hryvnia ($295) a month and officers get 3,000 hryvnia, Lupakov said. Personnel in Berkut, or Golden Eagle, earn about 4,300 hryvnia a month, about 50 percent more than regular police.
As the crisis escalated, Yanukovych started working on shoring up army loyalty, pledging to double soldiers’ pay. Soldiers were ordered to show their allegiance at special gatherings, according to Anatoliy Hrytsenko, defense minister in 2005-2007.
“The defense minister is loyal, but the troops may not be,” Stefan Meister, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, said in a phone interview.
Yanukovych is grappling with unrest that’s spread across the country criss-crossed with pipelines taking Russian gas to Europe. The crisis, sparked by the president’s rejection of a European Union integration pact, escalated last weak, leaving as many as eight people dead.

Bigger Berkut

If deploying soldiers is taboo, Yanukovych’s means are limited as Berkut numbers about 4,000 in the nation of 45 million.
“The opposition’s tactic is to spread the protests nationwide because Yanukovych doesn’t have enough Berkut forces,” Meister said.
With the government unable to count on the army, a possible avenue would be expanding Berkut. The weekly newspaper Zerkalo Nedeli reported Jan. 27 that there’s a government plan to increase the personnel of Berkut and a similar unit called Grifon to 30,000. The report said Grifon currently has 1,000 members. The government denied having such plans.
“I wouldn’t rule out that Yanukovych could resort to the violent route,” Stewart said. “It’s not the most likely scenario but it cannot be ruled out if he’s desperate and pushed into a corner.”
To contact the reporters on this story: Leon Mangasarian in Berlin; Kateryna Choursina in Kiev at; Daryna Krasnolutska in Kiev at
To contact the editors responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at; Balazs Penz at; James Hertling at
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Yanukovych’s Time Is Up in Ukraine; the West Must Prepare - Opinion - News - Ukraine Business Online

Yanukovych’s Time Is Up in Ukraine; the West Must Prepare - Opinion - News - Ukraine Business Online:

2014/1/31 11:11:48
Aslund: “The conclusion is twofold. On the one hand, developments in Ukraine can become quite dramatic. On the other, the West can counteract quite effectively. However, in order to be effective and resolve the Ukrainian drama in a peaceful and constructive fashion, the West needs to engage in serious contingency planning right now and comprehend that Ukraine is the current top international priority.”

By Anders Aslund*  | January 30th, 2014 | 05:04 pm

The Ukrainian drama has taken a drastic turn. President Viktor Yanukovych seems to be on his way out. On Thursday (January 30), he announced he was going on sick leave, but his illness has the feel of something indefinite. The faster he departs the better for Ukraine. But because of the dire financial and political situation throughout the country, with ramifications for relations between Europe and Russia, the West must focus immediately on Ukraine as the top international concern at this moment. Contingency plans for the demise of Yanukovych need to be put in place.

Revolutionary times have their own logic that is very different from the logic of ordinary politics, as writers from Alexis de Tocqueville to Crane Brinton have taught. The first thing to understand about Ukraine today is that it has entered a revolutionary stage. Like it or not, we had better deal with the new environment rationally.

A revolutionary situation comes with one well-known dynamic, that of a revolution eating its own children. Yet, this is not inevitable. Sensible forces can overtake the revolutionary dynamic. A rational political elite should try to get ahead of the train and drive it in a democratic direction.      

The first and most important point is that President Yanukovych is finished. Though duly elected in 2010, he cannot serve until the end of his term in March 2015. His fate was sealed in three steps. First, he initially campaigned for the European Association Agreement all fall, but then he refused to sign it under pressure from Moscow. That mercurial decision led to a popular uproar, including occupation of major public spaces throughout the country.

Second, on January 16, he had the parliament adopt nine dictatorial laws, which could have put all the protesters in prison. The threat of a crackdown gave the opposition no choice but to stand firm. Yanukovych had transformed the struggle to a winner-take-all battle. By January 25, the opposition occupied the regional administrative headquarters in half the country. Yet, the opposition leaders still found it worthwhile to negotiate with Yanukovych in spite of rising protests from the radical right. On January 28, trying to salvage the situation, the parliament revoked its repressive laws and the cabinet of ministers resigned. Still, the political process was alive with demands for more from the government.

Third, on January 29, Yanukovych committed a fatal mistake. He forced the parliament to vote for his version of an “amnesty” bill for political prisoners. Amnesty would only be given if the protesters first evacuated all the buildings they had occupied and ended their protests. The opposition, having lost all faith in Yanukovych’s credibility, found his gambit unacceptable. Moreover, Yanukovych went to parliament himself and personally threatened recent defectors. Even so, he managed to mobilize only a slim majority of 232 votes and 226 were needed.

With his recent actions, Yanukovych has effectively stopped the political process. The opposition is now focusing on one demand: his resignation. They also demand early parliamentary and presidential elections. Yanukovych is generally perceived to have stolen the parliamentary elections in October 2010, which were really won by the opposition, but he managed to keep a lid on until now. The opposition is also demanding a reinstitution of the parliamentary-presidential constitution of 2004, which Yanukovych had his obedient Constitutional Court abolish in October 2010. But in reality, the only topic that the opposition is willing to discuss with him is the conditions for his resignation.

Yanukovych’s downfall is not really surprising. He has made every conceivable political mistake all along, confusing a steamroller approach with political strength. Among Ukrainian politicians, Yanukovych reminds me of Vladimir Lazarenko, Ukraine’s prime minister in 1996–97, who lied patently while scaring everybody. Then he was suddenly gone. For laundering a now-paltry $130 million, Lazarenko has spent a decade in California’s overcrowded jails. I asked the wise socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz how this could have happened, and he told me in his usual forefront fashion: “He did not share.”

Similarly, Yanukovych has concentrated all power and wealth within a small group of young businessmen around his son Oleksandr.

It is not just the general public that Yanukovych has alienated. By my count, Yanukovych’s first government of 2010 contained nine oligarchic groups. Soon, the number declined to three, and now his government consists of no one but the “Yanukovych family.” In the last month, Yanukovych has alienated his last allies: gas oligarch Dmytro Firtash, metallurgical oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, and the old Donetsk group of Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov. Who remains after you have betrayed all your closest friends? Nobody! The big businessmen complain bitterly in private of the Yanukovych family extorting them and taking over their properties for little or no payment.

In the tax administration, ordinary officials are said to be no longer allowed to take the customary cuts while delivering all the extorted funds to the very top. Thus, the pervasively corrupt state administration also opposes Yanukovych. The same appears to be true of law enforcement, with the exception of 8,000 brutal riot police.

During the weekend January 25–26, Yanukovych lost territorial control over the country. Opposition activists have taken over half the country. The regional unrest has spread everywhere except for the Crimea and Lugansk, the two most Russian regions. In the parliament, Yanukovych no longer seems to have the support of more than 125 out of 450 deputies. Similarly, opinion polls suggest about one-quarter of the population is with him. Only the Berkut riot police and some hired thugs still support him, but that is a very fragile base. The president has simply lost administrative and political control over the country.

What Should the United States and European Union Do Now?

In the short term, the West should no longer call for negotiations between Yanukovych and the opposition. Rather the West should be ready to mediate in a negotiation to clear the way for his exit. For that purpose, the European Union should have a senior representative permanently posted in Kyiv during this height of the political crisis. EU Commissioner Štefan Füle would be the natural choice, having the greatest knowledge of Ukrainian leaders.

Personal sanctions should be imposed against those who pursue violence, but this stage may pass fast. Yanukovych could depart in many ways, and it is hardly meaningful to speculate how. It is more fruitful to discuss what may happen after Yanukovych has departed.

Presumably, a provisional government of all the opposition parties will be formed and new parliamentary elections held within three months. That parliament may in turn adopt a new constitution. President Vladimir Putin of Russia provided credits and ended multiple sanctions against Ukraine in his support of Yanukovych on December 17, 2013. Now he and other Russians are suggesting they will end their financial support and revive the prior sanctions that were lifted to discourage Ukraine’s turning to the West. With Ukraine high and dry as a result of Russia’s strong-arm tactics, the West faces a big agenda for Ukraine.

First, Ukraine will face a severe financial emergency. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) needs to engage immediately with a provisional government as soon as one is set up. A depreciation of the Ukrainian hryvnia appears inevitable, but possibly it can stop at 9.5 to 10 hryvnia per US dollar, against the current 8.5 hryvnia per dollar. Public expenditures need to be frozen and dubious enterprise subsidies need to be cut. Taxes are already high and cannot be raised further. The previous favorable tax regime for small enterprises needs to be reintroduced to revive small entrepreneurship. Finally, gas prices should be adjusted to costs and markets.

Second, there must be a response to the likelihood of Russia imposing severe trade sanctions, presumably prohibiting all imports from Ukraine, as Georgia and Moldova experienced in 2006. Here the United States and the European Union need to react sharply both bilaterally with Russia and in the World Trade Organization (WTO). To reimpose sanctions would violate Russia’s commitments to the WTO, and the West should prepare an appropriately severe response.

Third, there must be a response in the likelihood of Russia cutting its gas supplies to Ukraine, as it did in January 2006 and January 2009. Since about half of Russia’s gas supply to Europe still passes through Ukraine, such a step would be a serious concern for the European Union, which has ample legal means to retaliate against Russia. Indeed, Russia could lose its gas market in Europe if it carries out such an act once again.

Ukraine is too big and strong a country for Russia to be foolish enough to consider any military intervention, especially on the eve of the Sochi Olympics.

The conclusion is twofold. On the one hand, developments in Ukraine can become quite dramatic. On the other, the West can counteract quite effectively. However, in order to be effective and resolve the Ukrainian drama in a peaceful and constructive fashion, the West needs to engage in serious contingency planning right now and comprehend that Ukraine is the current top international priority.


*Anders Aslund is widely respected as one of the world top experts on the economies of Eastern Europe; he has served as an advisor to the governments of Russia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan. He worked with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace from 1994 to 2005, first as a senior associate and then from 2003 as director of the Russian and Eurasian Program. He also worked at the Brookings Institution and the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies. He earned his doctorate from Oxford University and has been a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute since 2006. For more on Aslund, link to:

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Thursday, 30 January 2014

#AutoMaidan leader Bulatov found alive eight days after disappearance (UPDATE) #EuroMaidan

AutoMaidan leader Bulatov found alive eight days after disappearance (UPDATE):

Jan. 30, 2014, 11:09 p.m. | Ukraine — by Kyiv Post Staff
AutoMaidan leader Dmytro Bulatov has been found alive but badly beaten and scarred.
© Olha Koshelenko
Missing and presumed dead, Dmytro Bulatov, the leader of AutoMaidan has been found alive more than a week after he stopped answering his mobile phone and vanished without a trace.
News website TSN reported Bulatov as saying he had been beaten and tortured and had his ear cut off by men with Russian accents before being dumped in the countryside near Boryspil, a Kyiv suburb. He was found in a village house after someone opened the door on which he was pounding, Channel 5 reported. 
Batkivshchyna lawmaker Yuri Stets first posted on his Facebook page at 8:30 p.m. that the 35-year-old activist was found, but provided few details, including whether he was alive. Then 1+1 TV journalist Olha Kosholenko at 10 p.m. posted a picture of Bulatov on her Facebook page, showing his face scarred and badly beaten, and clothed in blood-soiled attire.
Businessman and politician Petro Poroshenko (R) visit AutoMaidan leader Dmytro Bulatov at Boris hospital on Jan. 30.
He is reportedly receiving medical treatment in a private medical clinic in Kyiv.
Communication broke off with Bulatov late on Jan. 22 on the eve when more than 15 activists of AutoMaidan, a roving protest-on-wheels, were ambushed in Kyiv, beaten and detained by law enforcement personnel reportedly accompanied by hired thugs.
Police have provided no information about the conduct of their search for Bulatov after his wife filed a missing person report on Jan. 23. This led to suspicions of foul play, as was the case with EuroMaidan activist Yuri Verbytsky of Lviv who was kidnapped from a hospital on Jan. 21 and found dead in a forest outside Kyiv the next day.
The convoy of vehicles that Bulatov marshaled became a thorn on the side of authorities. Initially the group started to visit the residences of Ukraine’s leaders deemed responsible for violence against EuroMaidan protesters, including President Viktor Yanukovych’s lavish residence. The group then started patrolling Kyiv’s streets to defend the outer perimeter of the area of Independence Square from paid-for-thugs and other infiltrators. They also help supply EuroMaidan with fuel and produce.
On Jan. 16, parliament passed a set of laws that appeared specifically designed to punish the AutoMaidan activists. It forbade convoys of vehicles that numbered five or more, and criminalized the blocking of residences with prison sentences up to six years.
Kyiv Post editors Mark Rachkevych and Christopher J. Miller can be reached and

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Amnesty law: Yanukovych stopped mutiny within his party | Follow the Ukrainian protests #EuroMaidan

Amnesty law: Yanukovych stopped mutiny within his party | Follow the Ukrainian protests:

ImageYesterday, January 29th, the Parliament could have adopted not only amnesty law, but also constitutional reform and set a new majority, writes The Insider.
Initially, four amnesty bills providing for release of Maidan activists have been brought into the Parliament, with two coming from the opposition MPs and the other two from Party of the Regions (PoR).
While opposition factions were not ready to support PoR-drafted bills, pro-government majority representatives insisted upon their colleague’s Yuriy Miroshnichenko’s draft law. The bill gives all protesters 15 days time to leave all administrative buildings and streets (except Maydan) as a condition or applying the amnesty bill.
According to different sources, some part of Party of Regions’ members (at most those controlled by Ukrainian business tycoons Rinat Akhmetov and Dmytro Firtash) disagreed with the majority and were ready not only to support one of the opposition-drafted bills, but join the parliamentary minority and vote for constitutional changes.
This was a worrying sign for PoR-led majority, which decided to conduct a meeting and convince all faction’s members to support Miroshnichenko bill. Predicting possible split in PoR faction and parliamentary majority, President Yanukovych immediately came to Verkhovna Rada to personally press MPs to back Miroshnichenko-drafted variant and prevent the setup of a new majority.
Anonymous sources say that President was screaming, using obscene rhetoric, and threatening rebelling MPs with very tough sanctions.
After “the revolt” was put down, MPs supported draft law tabled by Miroshnichenko with 232 votes.
At the same time, some sources do not rule out that Russia could have been staying behind the developments that finally put obstacles on opposition’s attempts to make the most of situation in Rada. Russia has tightened customs checks for Ukrainian goods on its border boosting concerns among PoR MPs that have business interests in Russia.
By acting in this way, Moscow wanted to show what consequences Yanukovych may suffer if he decides to stick to peaceful political solution of the crisis supported by Western countries.
Under certain circumstances, newly adopted amnesty law gives Yanukovych levers to resort to violence, if protesters refuse to free administrative buildings and streets within two weeks. Violent scenario is inadmissible to the EU and the US, but, on the contrary, could be regarded with favour by Russia and its allies.
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This Is How Dangerous It Is To Report On The #EuroMaidan Protests (with images, tweets) · @Russian_Starr · Storify

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Putin pledges to honor Ukraine bailout deal | Video | #EuroMaidan

Putin pledges to honor Ukraine bailout deal | Video |

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A 'New Ukraine' Sculpture In Kiev By Street Artist Roti | Jaime Rojo & Steven Harrington

A 'New Ukraine' Sculpture In Kiev By Street Artist Roti | Jaime Rojo & Steven Harrington:

Trucks 4 Ton Marble Sculpture into Square with Crowd Watching

The Prime Minister and his cabinet have quit and the freezing crowds are still demanding the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych. Here in sub-zero Independence Square amidst the Molotov cocktails and burning tires appears a "New Ukraine," thanks to the just carved sculpture of the same name. Street Artist Roti channeled his rebellious graffiti ethos into this project featuring the image of a Ukrainian woman emerging from the depths. He hopes to inspire the demonstrators who have been mobilized for two months plus.
Inflamed since their presidents' sudden withdrawal from a trade agreement with the European Union (EU) in November, most say the real oxygen that is feeding this populist fire is disgust with a political class that became corrupt. With this unsanctioned gift of public art Roti examines and tests the ambiguous nature of illegality that also possesses beauty, claiming public space for a rippling people's movement that now looks like a revolution.
"New Ukraine" by Roti (photo © Chris Cunningham)

Writer, scholar, and occasional BSA contributor, Alex Parrish was perfectly placed in Kiev this winter to see the uprisings swell and to witness the carving out of this now historical public sculpture by Roti, as well as its placement. We are pleased that she shares with us today an essay that provides context and background for Roti's gift to The Euromaiden (Євромайдан, #EuroMaiden #EuroMaidan) and to the related events.
Roti's "New Ukraine"
by Alexandra Parrish
"Throughout history, art has served as a representation of religious, cultural, political and social movements," remarks Roti, the 25-year-old artist cum laude. Today, while many artists seemingly work for the market alone, others continue to negotiate the relationship of art to society. French artist Roti is certainly moving towards his own interpretation of such, particularly after the installation of his two-metre sculpture titled "New Ukraine" in the centre of Kyiv to express his solidarity with the current revolution underway.
Roti at work in his studio. (photo © Chris Cunningham)

By trade, Roti is a stonecutter specialized in sculpture; in a separate pursuit, he's negotiated illegality in public space via graffiti for the past decade. An artist in all regard, Roti's surreal work depicts the spiritual realm, the intangible realities that exist in the mind. He's found much success with his style, which has allowed him to travel with his work to New York, Atlanta, Paris and London.
However, it was his trip to Ukraine for the Gogol fest back in September of 2013 that sparked an intense appreciation and curiosity about the spirit of the art scene underway, predominately in the capital city of Kyiv. He spent a month deep within the community of artists who have "built beauty out of nothing;" in this experience, he learned how the individual could be a part of a collective. He promised to return, one day.
Roti at work in his studio. (screen shot from a yet to be released film © Chris Cunningham)

In late November of 2013, rumblings of a new revolution in Ukraine began. Acts of peaceful civil resistance and demonstrations activated Independence Square, the centre of Kyiv. These demonstrations were a direct response to president Yanukovych's decision to retrench from trade agreements with the European Union in favor of a renewed arrangement with Russia.
The movement, affectionately referred to as "Euromaidan," has been generally characterized in Western media as an aspiration for EU-integration. However, Ukrainian's continue to endure freezing temperatures and police intimidation for a more humanist cause -- they are through with Yanukovych's corrupt government and they demand a better quality of life (the average Ukrainian earns about $300 per month).
Roti at work in his studio. (screen shot from a yet to be released film © Chris Cunningham)

Roti, after observing the resistance through media outlets and Facebook feeds, felt a strong urge to return. Initially, he felt compelled to just be there. After much consideration, he realized he needed to do something. For months, he'd worked on the concept of a sculpture he assumed would install one day in Paris. Yet the movement happening in Ukraine assigned a new meaning to his initial idea -- a woman, emerging from water -- an allegory for the current revolution.
Two days after his initial proposal to several friends involved with Euromaidan, he booked a ticket to Kyiv. Two days after that, he miraculously managed to find a rose-marble stone and a workshop. The entire process fell into place so smoothly that his efficiency followed -- generally, he would work 14 to 16 hours a day carving and polishing the stone. By the 13th day, the stone was complete.
Roti at work in his studio. (screen shot from a yet to be released film © Chris Cunningham)

In the end, he saw life in the sculpture. The ripples had energy and movement. The face of the woman, while modeled after a friend and talented performer of the Dakh Daughters, represented the strength and perseverance of the Ukrainian population. Roti himself felt as if he'd emerged from a descent into the murky waters of insecurity. The sculpture, which he titled "New Ukraine," became alive in symbolism, hope and energy - everything he felt during his experience and understanding of Euromaidan.
Roti (photo © Alexej Zaika)

The installation took place on the day of Orthodox Christmas, January 7, 2014. At around 6:00 p.m., the procession into Euromaidan began with the Dakh Daughters, who performed traditional Ukrainian folk songs about patriotism and freedom; a truck carrying the four-ton sculpture trailed their spirited performance. "Around 200 people followed us into the centre," Roti observed.
Everyone was curious, even confused, as no announcements had been officially made. This was, after all, an illegal installation. No authorization was given. However, it didn't take long for those perplexed observers to understand why this was happening. "New Ukraine" was more than a gift; it was a proclamation of hope. After the sculpture was successfully hoisted from the truck to the ground, people sang and danced into the night in celebration.
Roti (photo © Alexej Zaika)

Two months into Euromaidan, the celebration of Christmas and the "New Ukraine" sculpture were hardly indicators of an end to the protests, although demonstrations began to decrease in number. On January 16, Yanukovych forcefully passed legislation that would colossally curtail a number of free speech rights, notably the right to assemble and protest. This move sparked civil unrest that ultimately culminated into a violent stand off between protestors and police.
The first deaths of the revolution were reported in the week that followed. Protests spread to nine other cities across Ukraine, marking a fundamental shift in the Ukrainian revolution. While Yanokovych has agreed to make concessions towards peace, talks have yielded no success. The situation may seem dire to some, but there is some hope out of all of it. Increasingly more government buildings are now occupied and riot police and government troops are vastly outnumbered.
Roti (photo © Alexej Zaika)

Since the rise in tension, greater media attention has been given to the movement and supporters across the world have asked their leaders to enact concessions on the Ukrainian government. During the World Economic Forum in Switzerland Friday, January 24, 50 Ukrainian sympathizers stood outside with signs that read "thank you for your concern, now do something."
In a way, this sentiment can be addressed to many of us. Social movements and revolutions require more than assembly, they also command a shift in ideology and action. Roti's "New Ukraine" sculpture in Kyiv is almost an unconscious rallying call to continue the independent and free ethos of graffiti with new disciplines.
Roti (photo © Alexej Zaika)

"If I use art illegally, in the graffiti spirit, by giving all this energy inside the stone," Roti explains, "it can leave an eternal trace of this movement." Likely, this stone will remain for hundreds of years as a continuous reminder of the Ukrainian revolution.
Roti (photo © Chris Cunningham)

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This article is also posted on Brooklyn Street Art.
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