As events in Ukraine once again enter a critical phase, it seems evident that the current upheaval, now in its third month, was triggered by the Kremlin in the hope of starting a civil war in the country. This conflict it intended to use as a bogeyman in order to suppress dissent in Russia itself. However, the plan appears to have backfired: instead of a civil conflict, what has emerged in Ukraine is akin to a social and political revolution involving all layers of Ukrainian society in resistance to a tyrant-President and a government that has lost all touch with the electorate.
At present it’s still unclear what direction the new Maidan movement will take. As the Yanukovych regime applies brutal force under the Kafkaesque pretext of “anti-terrorist operations” – thus branding Ukraine’s own people “terrorists” – the peaceful opposition still has to overcome and reconcile its own internal divisions. It’s uncertain whether by the end of the present crisis the leaders of the resistance will be the same as the eloquent but somewhat disconnected figures who have so far emerged, or whether other hands and voices will eventually take command. What is clear, though, is that this is a people’s movement: a movement that reflects a widespread discontent and anger among all age-groups and social classes with the corruption and self-seeking of the political establishment that has gripped Ukraine in a stranglehold. As a protester says of Yanukovych: “We cannot trust him. There can be no compromise with a dictator. He must go.”
In opting for violence as a solution to its unpopularity, the Kyiv regime may have badly miscalculated, for the violence and its consequences can be redirected back to it, and may soon destroy it. With pressure exerted by the EU and the United States, and by world public opinion, the regime’s international legitimacy is likely to be further eroded and undermined. Instead of the “East-West” conflict scenario envisaged by the Kremlin and its Ukrainian clients, a national uprising has the potential to sweep first through Kyiv, then through the other cities and regions of the country, and finally over the border into Russia, where it may threaten Putin himself.