Dear American colleague,
To tell you the truth, I was really astonished with positive reaction of the US Ambassador on the recent "law on the amnesty" http://www.kreschatic.kiev.ua/ua/4411/news/1391093898.html .Although in the private mailing and twitter he told that this news is inaccurate, neither an official note, nor any official denials followed.
Should this news be true, it means that Mr. Pyatt forgives the Ukrainian authorities for both the very "strange" substance of this law that actually makes all of the people arrested so far hostages of the regime, and the way this law has been adopted -- with impudent violation of the normal Parliament procedure. It also means, unfortunately, that Mr. Ambassador does not really understand what is going on in Ukraine and why the people are on the streets now. Last but not least, it is very strange to hear such words out of a diplomat, because he should be aware about the problem of credibility. The promise of the authorities to free the hostages is not credible by any means. Thus, further support of this law, in particular, and Yanukovich with his regime, in general, can just bring more violence and even death to my country. Why do I think so?
Let us start with the credibility problem. First, according to this law, by the moment the authorities release the hostages the Maidan should be already weakened. As of now, the insurgents control about one-third of the country, while if they free the administrative buildings at the regions, their control would shrink to less than one square kilometer. Secondly, the Maidan will get divided - because such a compromise would never be supported not only by the radicals, but also by the most of the protesters who understand the credibility problem better than a Western diplomat, and also for the reasons discussed below. This would further weaken the protest. Thirdly, there are no guarantees that the same or other hostages will not be taken and tortured again. In the “new old Cabinet” the siloviki are still appointed by Yanukovich unilaterally. The most of them are going to preserve their positions, and still nobody is going to be punished for the crimes they already committed (including the deliberate injuring of the peaceful protesters in the night of Nov.30 and afterwards, injuring and shooting the journalists, and the recorded war crimes, like torturing, destroying the first-aid hospital on Hrushevskogo, 4, etc.).
Hence, the only “guarantee” for the protesters that the law on “amnesty” provides is Yanukovich’s promise. Therefore, the “law on amnesty” is actually NOT a mutual compromise, but a (pyrrhic) victory of Yanukovich. It is telling that he had to brutally coerce his own faction at the Parliament in order to force it’s voting for this bill, as opposite to the one put forward by the opposition. And eventually it was not duly voted, since the procedure has been impudently violated.
Moreover, no one in the World is so foolish to believe in his honesty and good will - at least, after the dirty games he played with the EU agreement this Fall. The protests initially started mostly because the people lost the last drop of trust to the president of their country. Not to mention the attempt to dissolve the Maidan right after he promised to abstain from the use of force on Dec.10. Thus, this law is at best futile and will never work under the current circumstances. The Maidan people do no like to become victims, and the opposition leaders are not going to commit a political suicide. This goes without mentioning that the purely peaceful protest made no impression on Yanukovich so far.
I guess, this pity mistake (that, I hope, will be revoked soon) stems from a popular illusion that Yanukovich should be treated as a "legitimate democratically elected President", as, for example, in this (editorial!) article http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/01/31/opinion/time-for-a-deal-in-ukraine.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0&referrer . Yes, initially he was elected by decently free and fair elections. However, Hitler, Ferdinand Marcos, Lukashenko and many other tyrants had also come to power this way. It is just that afterwards they seized the power -- but this is exactly what Yanukovich did in part, and tried to finalize recently!
Before, and right after, the Presidential elections of 2010 many observers believed that under Yanukovich’s presidency Ukraine will enjoy more checks and balances than under Tymoshenko. The Parliament majority by the moment of his inauguration was also formed by decently free and fair elections. And it was in the opposition to Yanukovich, for which reason that he should normally have to negotiate with it (especially given that he was elected with only marginal relative majority, much less than 50%).
Nothing like this happened, however. Yanukovich has blackmailed the opposition MPs and formed a coalition that did not reflect the actual voters' will -- contrary to the ruling of the Constitutional Court (ironically, passed at the request of the PR's MPs) that has directly forbidden such a coalition. Then, by this illegal (not to mention its political illegitimacy) majority in the Rada, Yanukovich has appointed the loyal Cabinet, including the Minister of Interior; the loyal Attorney General, etc. And... rotated the members of the Constitutional Court. The new, loyal, composition of this Court had altered the previous ruling (again, against the law), and in such a way "legitimized" the coalition retroactively, post factum. Then, the Constitutional Court, now fully loyal, had revoked the Constitutional Reform of 2004 - again, in a very doubtful way, and without appointing the early elections that should follow this step according to its logic. As a result, Yanukovich has seized the authorities that he was never endowed by his voters. Thus, he seized the power. No surprise, the free and fair elections in Ukraine ended since then.
Those times I used to say that in such a way he sealed up the democratic "safety valves", which will lead to an explosion sooner or later. I guess, those of our business clients that trusted my opinion are now happy that they did, and acted timely.
But this was still not the end of the story. On Jan.16 Yanukovich has finally eliminated any opportunity for free and fair elections by pushing a package of "Draconian" laws through the Rada (where he controls the disciplined majority voting for a country's budget in 10 min.). Hence, in such a way he has seized the power forever, since these laws all together left no way to change the power by the elections. Moreover, these laws were not actually passed by the majority vote of the MPs (the photo and video evidences available), but Yanukovich has still set his hand on them -- now, in fact, violating the Constitution. Thus, he has committed a crime, and should be impeached -- if just the impeachment procedure, and an independent court, would be in place. But he, along with his predecessors, did not allow for stipulation of a legal framework for the impeachment procedure. Moreover, he has eventually destroyed the court system, particularly deprived it from the last traces of independency.
What would the Americans do in such a situation? Wouldn't they use their right to revolt? So did the Ukrainians.
By no means I justify the use of violence. Moreover I guess it was senseless and futile, or even strategically harmful for the protest. But I cannot condemn those guys who rested to it either. Because the government has declared the war to every consciousness citizen (including myself) by the impudent imposition of so called "laws" of Jan.16th. I guess, there were much wiser ways to carry out the battle (see http://krytyka.com/ua/community/blogs/chomu-my-ne-peremohly-sohodni, I hope the English translation will be available too), but if the people remain just dancing at the street in response, they will be treated like sheep.
Still, what the people at Maidan demand is NOT a "coup" (as the NYT article implies), but just de-seizure of power: (1) returning to the 2004 Constitution that contained at least some imperfect checks and balances (although I always add -- with more balanced control over siloviki); and (2) early elections. And these demands are subject to nearly consensus among the protesters: even the ultra-radicals from the "Praviy Sector" support them! Are they non-democratic? No way. So, why doesn’t the West support those demands? Is it just because Yanukovich do not like them?
I very welcome a compromise, could it be reached. But the cruel reality, and the main cause of the crisis is that Yanukovich is a bully thug, so by his very mindset he does not accept any kind of real compromise. The fact is that there are many millions of people very decisive in their unwillingness of living under his rule anymore – for different reasons, including the rampant corruption; monopolization of the politics and the economy; a shameless “auctioning” of the country’s future that resulted in concession to Russia for US$ 15 bln., and so on.
Any kind of a democratic and responsible political leader, a one that does care about the country’s unity and does want to avoid further escalation of the conflict, under these circumstances should have at least consider the Maidan’s demands seriously. Yanukovich does not, because he is not going to step down from power – whatever the price. What Yanukovich offers so far are mainly mocking and/or tricking, foxing the opposition (his adepts are openly proud of this!). This confirms that at least as of now he acts as an irresponsible and non-democratic dictator. So, why the Western authorities still back Yanukovich and call the rebels to commit a suicide by agreeing on his terms?
One could, of course, wonder why such a guy could have been elected in a European country having a universal franchise, educated population, and even the non-violent political culture (now, unfortunately, destroyed by him) that used to be so much praised by the West. This is a separate cumbersome question - for the same token one can ask how could it happen that Hitler managed to come to power in Germany. I can and probably will write on this soon. But the fact is that in Ukraine we now have a very unwise cleptocracy akin to Mugabe or Stressner. Now, the main question is how to make him go without a sanguine war.
We learned very well and now know for sure that Yanukovich understands only the use of force. This force can be of a different nature though. The more of a diplomatic and "soft" force will be used -- by the West, among all -- the less "hard" force will be needed to coerce Yanukovich for de-seizure of power: calling early elections and returning to the Constitution under which he was elected. The more statements like the ones I quoted above -- the more violence and death. Alas.
On top of this, please try to distinct between the protesters throwing the Molotoff cocktails on the police in the countries where it IS a genuine police; and the seemingly similar pictures from Ukraine. The police, by definition, acts strictly within the law, doesn't it? If so, the Berkut special force is NOT a police.
In general, we know for many years that the "militsiya" (police) in Ukraine is corrupted, widely uses tortures, and often acts against the law. However, what all of us have seen after the night of Now.30 was really outrageous. Since then, at least Berkut bands should not be called "police" at all. Even if they had an unpleasant order to disperse small and peaceful protest, the police could easily do it without a cruelty. Instead, the Berkut have been chasing the protesters, even girls, and beating them almost to death even one kilometer from the Independence Square. Moreover, now we can see how this "police" cooperates with the criminals, hire "Tonton Macoutes" -- or, rather, actually become them. The Maidan activists disappear, some of them are being fount tortured to death, some of them being kidnapped by the "civilians" later on appear in the custody with numerous injures, etc. These are not the ways a real police operates, this is the gangster style.