Tymoshenko was victim of government murder plot

The head of Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Committee, Tetyana Chornovol, has published transcripts of intercepted telephone conversations which show that Party of Regions MPs advised former President Yanukovych to kill Yulia Tymoshenko in prison. The tapes have also been released on YouTube, here.

Hat tip: Taras Kuzio

The Great Maidan


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.

Softly, Softly on Ukraine

For some time now, observers and political analysts watching the developing crisis in Ukraine have been wondering why the United States government has taken such a passive and secondary role in supporting the Ukrainian opposition, and why it has so far failed to put much pressure on President Yanukovych. On Monday, commenting on a Evropeiska Pravda report, Ukraine expert Taras Kuzio tweeted:

Why is current US administration so pathetically weak? US State Dept. asks Russia to go easy on Ukraine. http://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2013/12/9/7005750/ …

In an article for Up Front, Brooking Institution Senior Fellow Steven Pifer sees the situation like this:

[The U.S.] Congress, a traditionally pro-Ukrainian institution that used to mandate huge sums of assistance funds for Ukraine, now shows considerably less enthusiasm for the country. Notably, some on Capitol Hill have even begun talking about applying sanctions, which would have been unheard of in Congress just a couple of years ago.

The upshot is that the United States devotes less time and attention to Ukraine than was the case in the past. As a result, the European Union—the institution and individual EU member-states, such as Poland, Lithuania and Sweden—have taken the Western lead during the past several years.

Not having the United States on the frontline is, on balance, not a bad thing. As noted, the foreign policy agenda in Washington is jammed. Moreover, were the United States leading the Western charge, Moscow would regard it is a particularly dangerous geopolitical challenge. That would introduce to the complicated politics that are now playing out in Kyiv a U.S.-Russia competitive dynamic that would hardly be helpful to—and might well complicate—efforts to find a peaceful political solution to the current crisis

This can, however, be seen as a hollow excuse, an attempt to offload the burden of support for Ukraine from the U.S. onto Europe. As one U.S. commenter writes:

I hope our administration does not follow your advice but rather rises to the occasion of meaningfully supporting 46 million people and a nation being robbed of their national wealth. Over a 100,000 people in the US sent in petitions to have the administration take action against the thugs running Ukraine. There are 300,000 people in the streets in just Kiev – the position advocated above has to be a joke.

Moscow’s Information War on Ukraine

It looks as though the campaign of disinformation about the current situation in Ukraine is intensifying. As Natalka Zubar, chair of the Maidan Monitoring Information Centre pointed out two days ago,

During the last two years a great number of fake accounts in social networks were created in facebook, twitter and VKontakte, which were mostly sleeping before the beginning of November. Now these accounts are actively creating  white noise, jamming the communication channels and distributing misinformation.

The disinformation is distributed via the social networks and websites created solely for this purpose solely. Unfortunately, lots of misinformation is broadcast by other, even professional media. Most notable samples of misinformation were – the news about the restriction of cash flow by the National Bank of Ukraine and the news that the big number of European VIPs will not attend the OSCE summit in Kyiv.

Government sites are being under DDoS attacks. The access to legislative database of the Ukrainian Parliament and the current crime reports of Ministry of Interior are inaccessible periodically.

The situation in Kyiv is nearing a military state by the level of tensions. The activists on streets and all the citizens who watch the unaccountable and unprofessional media are kept in a state of permanent arousal expecting provocations, they are trying to check the rumors, which mostly appear to be misinformation.

The latest bout of activity in the information war appears to centre on the rumour, reported by British journalist Edward Lucas on Twitter, that Ukraine President Yanukovych has signed a strategic agreement with Putin that would mean Ukraine joining the Moscow-led Customs Union – news obviously designed to stir maximum trouble, and surely a provocation. The Kremlin is now denying that any such secret agreement exists, but Lucas says

To repeat: Yanuk did deal w Putin at Sochi. It included promise to join customs union later (by 2015). But what’s a Yanuk promise worth?

In an article headed Panic à la Lucas – Use Your Brain, Liudmila Yamschikova, Content Manager at Maidan Monitoring Information Centre, expresses some skepticism about Lucas’s tweets and appeals for a rational approach to the situation, and says:

These tweets are not very typical of a journalist of such a level. The thesis of the “concern of Western governments” alone is worth a smile. After all, governments do not report their concerns to the editor of a news magazine through unnamed sources. Whatever the real reason for these tweets… the reports do not look like a reliable source.