Day: January 24, 2014

The Great Maidan

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Kyiv journalist Vitaly Portnikov again, this time on Radio Liberty, writing about the Yanukovych government’s failure to understand the nature of the protest movement that is advancing against it:

The government will simply start to switch police from the east to the country’s “difficult” regions, retake the objectives that were seized, continue negotiations from a position of strength … In the end, there will be no police and Berkut left in the east of the country. And then …  And then  the capture of administrative buildings in the east will begin. The residents of the eastern and south- eastern regions have no more “love” for the government than people in the western and central ones…

People are afraid, but when the repressive machine with its batons is evacuated to disperse the people in the central regions, their fear will vanish – together with the Russian “horror stories” about the split of Ukraine. Because the dividing line in the country does not follow a line between east and west, but the line between Yanukovych/authoritarianism and the Ukrainian people. And this lack of understanding on the part of the government in Kiev is its biggest problem: the problem that led to Maidan and is gradually and naturally growing into into a Great Maidan – a Maidan that will soon cover the whole of Ukraine.

The Silence of Russia

World_Russia_Russian_silence_017982_In Grani, Vitaly Portnikov writes about what he sees as a breakdown in the centuries-old relationship between the peoples of Ukraine and Russia:

Because the Russians are silent. They are silent when the people they so love to call brothers are being killed, tortured, humiliated, abducted from hospitals; all of it, of course, in the name of order and friendship with Russia, but even so. They are silent when the rallies are broken up. They are silent when the land so close to them is being brought to the precipice of a real war. In the whole vast country only a few dozen people are capable of getting out to the Ukrainian embassy or anywhere else to signal their protest and support.

This is a historic indifference. A new Ukraine may still emerge, but it will never have a mutual understanding with Russia at the level of values.The silence –  not even that of people, but of an entire nation that claims shared roots and a common outlook on the world – will, at the most crucial moment for Ukrainians, create a very real chasm of alienation that will not be so easy to fill in again.

What is happening today between Ukraine and Russia is precisely what once happened  between Russia and Poland, or Russia and Finland…