It’s now been three long months of a political nightmare turned bloody for Ukrainians. For us outsiders, the panorama is quite difficult to understand because of several reasons. First, much of the media coverage is superficial and/or manipulated, making it extremely hard to filter the information being bombarded through social media, newspapers, and other communication forums. Yesterday a friend of mine sent me an article titled “US Spent $5 billion to destabilize Ukraine” (Click here to access the article) written by a person who goes by the pseudonym Clark Kent. The article goes on and on trying to convince its readers that the backbone behind the riots occurring in Ukraine are organized by the CIA, the US Department of State, and by Washington and EU financed NGO’s. All of this desinformation has done nothing but confuse people even more so with regards to the political prospect of the largest country within Europe.
Luckily, last Friday I was able to briefly meet Aleksey Polegkyi, a dear friend of mine originally from Nikolaev, Ukraine, who now lives in Warsaw and has been extremely active in trying to put an end to these bloody protests. In the past weeks Aleksey has been a spokesman of awareness regarding the political climate of his country by organizing meetings, forums, radio interviews, and peacefully manifesting from the neighboring country of Poland, although his friends and family continue to live in Ukraine. Aleksey did a great job of explaining the situation to me in a nutshell, and although there are still many questions to answer, this is a good way to start understanding what’s going on.
Over a quick lunch, Aleksey began chronicling the panorama by giving me a jump start into the mind of the leader behind it all: the infamous Viktor Yanukovych (1950-), who has been presiding over Ukraine since 2010, and grew up in the eastern part of the country amongst a criminal world that was ravaging in the 90’s. “This fact determines his psychology”, he says. “He’s different minded, criminal minded, and does not believe in compromise at all”. On November 30th, Ukraine, a country which has been known historically to be peaceful, became the scene of a small manifestation of civilians who have become more than fed up with the current political situation of their country. Tied between an ideology pulled on the one hand by the longing to annex with the EU, and Russian pressure on the other, protestors manifested their strong yearning for peace and justice.
One month later, Yanukovych agreed to make negotiations with the EU and failed to do so. Shortly after, violence broke out, people were beaten, and the state’s armed forces became increasingly coercive. Yanukovych didn’t follow his word at all with regards to the awaited negotiations. That night a great crisis took place and a new totalitarian law that states that any person considered to be “extremist” or even anti-governmental would be sentenced to 5-10 years in prison- was created without following any proper legal procedures . “Just for publishing articles you could be considered an enemy. This legal situation is worse than what we had during Soviet times”, states Aleksey.
Towards the end of January the situation became far worse. Crowds began manifesting in front of the Parliament. On the 21st of the same month, different tactics of open terror began to be enforced by the government. Dozens of people were killed. “The police came to the hospitals to beat people, take some to prison, others were thrown into the forest and tortured. Forget democracy and free elections. It just became a question of survival”, says Aleksey.
The pressure by the US- who has taken, according to my friend, practical and legislative steps first in Congress, and later in the Department of State, to stabilize the country- has been significant. Meanwhile, the EU continues to only express their “deep concern” with the complicated situation. However, Russia’s standpoint has proven to be even more outrageous. According to Aleksey, “Putin’s dream is to build a new Soviet Union, an empire, and for him it’s unconceivable to see that Ukraine cannot control its citizens. He cannot accept that Ukraine is an independent country”. It seems to be clear that without Russian pressure, Yanukovych’s power would lose a great deal of its power, if not desintegrate. Although many Russians continue to believe that the US and the EU are enemies, more than half of the population has expressed its longing to have links with the west.
“This revolution is not post-Soviet Ukraine, it’s a generational battle. It’s a criminal war, a geopolitical game. What happened yesterday was a massacre. The people who are controlling Ukraine are not politicians, they are criminals”, says Aleksey. On the 24th of February, a police warrant was issued for charges of mass murder against Yanukovych, reason why he fled his home near Kiev by helicopter and until the moment his whereabouts are unknown. It has been rumoured that he reportedly tried to flee to Russia. The latest news speaks of violence erupting as pro-Russian protesters clash with Kiev supporters.
So what does the future hold for Ukraine? According to Aleksey, who was recently in the Polish Parliament to introduce sanctions against the people responding with violence, “it all depends on the EU and the US, and the active participation they will take”. For now, everything just remains a question of survival…