Friday, April 18, 2014

Unmasked

On his Facebook blog, Ukrainian military expert Dmitry Tymchuk observes a difference in the behaviour of Russian forces in East Ukraine:
It is worth noting that earlier Russian troops tried to hide their affiliation to the Russian Armed Forces. But immediately after yesterday's signing by Moscow of the so-called Geneva agreements, they began to "legitimize themselves", though the Russian government sharply denies their presence in eastern Ukraine.
And in Novaya Gazeta a report from Slovyansk suggests that Russian servicemen are no longer bothering to conceal their identity on the ground.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Map of a Conflict

In the New Atlanticist, Taras Kuzio writes that the unthinkable has happened in Europe - Russia has invaded Ukraine. But there are obstacles in Russia's path:
First, the aim of the “green men” is to mobilize support for separatism in Russian-speaking eastern and southern Ukraine opinion, but polls do not give high levels of support for either federalism, a strong Russian demand, or for union with Russia. In a poll conducted by the Kyiv-based Democratic Initiative foundation, only 6 to 7 percent in eastern and southern Ukraine support their region’s separation and union with Russia. That support reaches its high, 18 percent, in the Donbass region, in the far southeast. Nowhere does secession have majority support.
Second, Ukraine ultimately will fight for its eastern regions, meaning there will be high numbers of casualties on both sides.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Navalny's new blog

The blog of Alexei Navalny, blocked by Roskomnadzor, now has a new home at navalny.com

Eurasianism and Separatism in Ukraine

Voices of Ukraine notes that the "Bravo" section of the Information Resistance Group has published a list and overview of organizations in Ukraine that use the presence of Russian and Russian-speaking minorities to provoke autonomist and separatist sentiment and also to threaten Ukraine's territorial integrity. One of these structures is the officially banned Eurasian Youth Union. From its Wikipedia entry:
The early-20th century Eurasianism ideology of a part of the Russian emigration and modern Neo-Eurasianism developed by Aleksandr Dugin has been declared the main ideology of the organization. Its ideology also features prominently Russian nationalism and imperialism, calls for the creation of a new Eurasian empire centered around Russia. On its website the movement declared the West and in particular the United States as its main opponent and termed it as the "main evil".

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Crimea Loses its Freedom

At Voices of Ukraine, Aleksei Fyodorov, a Crimea resident, describes the intimidation and threatening, Soviet-style behaviour of the civil and military authorities now that the Russian occupation is a fact of daily life:
When the “little green men” started to take over the peninsula, some people really were euphoric. I even entertained the perfidious thought that Russia would put its petrodollars into the Crimean economy and life would at last sort itself out. But that’s not how it turned out! Already after a few days some incredibly terrible things happened, it’s difficult to describe them, but to see them live is even worse. It’s like a nightmare or a horror film! A family of Crimean Tartars lived in our building, they had come back home at the beginning of the 1990s. The head of the family dared tell a Russian soldier that his armoured car was blocking the parking spaces near our building (it is on the edge of the city, almost as you come into town). The soldier immediately started swearing, then laughing loudly he commanded his comrade to ram the car. The front of his Lada Priora (bought six months ago on credit) was crushed and the Tartar, hardly believing his eyes, only just got out of the car.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Saturday, April 05, 2014

The Dangers of Yalta

In Project Syndicate, Yulia Tymoshenko writes:
Putin’s gambit is akin to the infamous Yalta Conference in 1945, where Joseph Stalin made Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt complicit in a division of Europe that enslaved half of the continent for almost a half-century. Today, Putin is seeking to make the West complicit in the dismemberment of Ukraine by negotiating a Kremlin-designed federal constitution that would create a dozen Crimeas – bite-size chunks that Russia could devour more easily later.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Institutska Street Massacre: Photos show SBU killers

The Daily Beast has published a set of exclusive photographs taken in Kyiv on February 20, showing   members of the Russian-trained anti-terrorist Alfa Team preparing to fire on protesters.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Obama's Brussels Speech

The Kyiv Post has the full text of President Obama's speech at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels today:

http://www.kyivpost.com/content/world/full-text-president-obama-gives-speech-addressing-russia-and-ukraine-on-march-26-341010.html

Excerpt:
...the world has an interest in a strong and responsible Russia, not a weak one. And we want the Russian people to live in security, prosperity, and dignity like everyone else – proud of their own history. But that does not mean that Russia can run roughshod over its neighbors. Just because Russia has a deep history with Ukraine does not mean it should be able to dictate Ukraine’s future. No amount of propaganda can make right something that the world knows is wrong.
In the end, every society must chart its own course. America’s path – or Europe’s path – is not the only ways to reach freedom and justice. But on the fundamental principle that is at stake here – the ability of nations and peoples to make their own choices – there can be no going back. It is not America that filled the Maidan with protesters – it was Ukrainians. No foreign forces compelled the citizens of Tunis and Tripoli to rise up – they did so on their own. From the Burmese parliamentarian pursuing reform, to the young leaders fighting corruption and intolerance in Africa – we see something irreducible that all of us share as human beings; a truth that will persevere in the face of violence and repression and, ultimately, overcome it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The "Russkiy Mir"

In his speech on March 18, Vladimir Putin made it clear that Russia will intervene to "protect" the interests of ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers around the globe, wherever they may live.

This policy is known as the "Russkiy Mir", or Russian World, and it is the continuation of a project that was launched in 2007, with the establishment of the global Russkiy Mir Foundation:
a Russian soft power initiative created by decree by Vladimir Putin in 2007, as a government-funded organisation aimed at promoting the Russian language, and "forming the Russian World as a global project", co-operating with the Russian Orthodox Church in promoting values that challenge the Western cultural tradition.

The "National Traitors"

On his Facebook page Sergey Markov has published a list of "traitors of Russia" who supported the "Banderite Maidan". They include

1 Andrei Makarevich
2 Navalny
3 Colllective of the radio station Ekho Moskvy
4 Collective of the television channel Dozhd'
5 Collective of the portal Lenta.ru
6 Arnold Schwarzenegger
7 The singer Ruslana
8 Yuri Shevchuk
9 Dzhigurda
10 Collectives of the group "Okean Elzy"
11 Collective of the group "Lyapis Trubetskoi"
12 Sergei Zverev
13 Valeria Novodvorskaya
14 George Clooney
15 Ksenia Sobchak
16 Viktor Shenderovich
17 Liya Akhedzhakova
18 Boris Nemtsov
19 Boris Grebenshchikov
20 Garik Kharlamov
21 Anna Sedokova
22 Irina Khakamada
23 Marat Gelman
24 Dzhared Leto
25 Mila Jovovich
26 Martin Gore
27 Zemfira
28 Vera Brezhneva
29 Vladimir Zelensky
30 Natasha Koroleva
31 Collective of the group "Serebro"
32 Mikhail Khodorkovsky
33 Bozhena Rynska
34 Collective of the journal "Snob"
36 Boris Akunin
27 The rapper Seryoga
28 Alexander Nevzorov
39 Nikas Safronov
40 Collective of the portal http://slon.ru
41 Garry Kasparov

Friday, March 21, 2014

Thursday, March 20, 2014

From the President's Address

"The most recent public opinion surveys conducted here in Russia show that 95 percent of people think that Russia should protect the interests of Russians and members of other ethnic groups living in Crimea – 95 percent of our citizens."

http://eng.kremlin.ru/transcripts/6889

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Interview with Dmitry Tymchuk

In Voices of Ukraine, Roman Grivinskiy writes about the well-known Ukrainian blogger and military expert Dmitry Tymchuk, and interviews him:
Currently, thousands of Ukrainians wind down their day with a visit to the Facebook page of Dmitry Tymchuk, Ukrainian officer, coordinator of the Information Resistance group and the Director of the NGO Center for Military and Political Studies. Every evening, the author publishes his summary report that contains operational information about the situation in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the situation in Crimea and on the Ukrainian borders. Day after day, Dmitry uses his unfailing greeting at the beginning [of the summary] (“Brothers and sisters!”) and the hope that the next day will bring Ukraine only good news, expressed at the end. InformationResistance group was created by Dmitry Tymchuk with his colleagues at the initial stage of the [Crimean] conflict; it actually took over the functions of government agencies that were supposed to inform the people and the international community about events in Ukraine. Over the past two weeks this very Facebook page probably became the most valuable source of information for most Ukrainian and international media. During this time, Information Resistance received 23,000 new subscribers! [Since this article was published 5 days ago, they have gained another 10,000+ subscribers –VOU editor].

Monday, March 17, 2014

Putin, Crimea and the legitimacy trap

by J. Paul Goode and Marlene Laruelle - March 13, 2014

http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/j-paul-goode-and-marlene-laruelle/putin-crimea-and-legitimacy-trap-nationalism

If Vladimir Putin appears, in the words of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to be ‘out of touch with reality,’ it might be that he views events in Ukraine through the lens of Russia’s domestic politics. Nationalism is, indeed, meaningful for Putin, but not for any sense of primordial or mystical attachment to ethnic Russians in Crimea. More that it has been a key element of the political toolkit used by the Kremlin to legitimise the status quo. The presidential administration has invested a great deal of effort and resources into replacing electoral legitimacy with nationalist legitimacy. If one wants to understand the decision to intervene in Crimea, one needs to understand the tactical uses of nationalism in sustaining the Putin regime.

In Russia’s domestic politics, nationalist politics are bound up with the establishment and survival of the regime.  Kremlin-backed nationalism is socially conservative and politically delegative. It justifies the existing hierarchy in Russia and places a premium on citizens’ loyalty rather than action. There is a circular relationship between Putin’s political domination and his claim to legitimacy: by ensuring electoral dominance, Putin claims a popular mandate, which validates his articulation of national values and definition of patriotic obligations on behalf of all Russians. The equation is then easily reversed and it becomes one’s patriotic duty to support Putin, especially against those who would disrupt the image of domestic political tranquility. This strategy has long been successful, both guaranteeing broad popular support for Moscow’s renewed self-assertiveness, and in shaping a consensual national identity. Indeed, like all nationalisms, it represents Russian values in terms of universal values and defines national membership in broadly inclusive terms. The cultural distinctiveness underpinning it is at the same time bound up with the historical arc of Russian statehood.

The former Soviet states play a unique role in this nationalist legitimation. Despite the claim to cultural and historical exception, the shared history of Soviet rule turns Russia’s post-Soviet neighbours into a series of distorting mirrors that serve both as instructive lessons and cautionary tales. Among Russia’s neighbours, no other state is as important as Ukraine in its connection to the way Russians imagine their past, present, and future: Ukraine is still part of Russians’ ‘mental atlas.’ In Putin’s Russia, protests in Kyiv since the Orange Revolution in 2004 have served as a cautionary tale in the state media about the excesses of democracy and Western interference in post-Soviet states. The collapse of the Orange coalition and election of Viktor Yanukovych as Ukraine’s president in 2010 was hailed by the Kremlin as validation of its worldview.

Certainly, the parallels between Russian and Ukrainian politics are difficult to escape despite the vast differences in population, ethnic cleavages, and resources. Both Yanukovych’s Ukraine and Putin’s Russia could be classed as ‘electoral autocracies’ — a kind of semi-authoritarian government possessing all the formal trappings of democracy while constantly subverting them. Putin does not perceive either Ukraine or Russia’s political opposition as an independent, organised, and peaceful movement working towards free elections and the rule of law. Rather, he views it as a vocal, aggrieved minority, lacking a clear platform, and funded by the West through a shadowy network of nongovernmental organisations. Russia’s fractious political opposition traditionally has proven to be its own worst enemy at the ballot box and so the Kremlin reasons that the opposition could only muster a challenge with external sponsorship. Hence, it must be operating on behalf of shadowy forces in the West. As Putin is fond of saying, ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune.’

Some of Russia’s more prominent nationalist organisations began to work together with the weak and divided political opposition, making it stronger and more credible. This uneasy alliance was embodied by opposition leader Aleksey Navalny’s participation in the annual Russian March on November 4 2011. Held on the outskirts of Moscow on the new ‘National Unity Day’ instituted by the regime, the Russian March brings together nationalist, racist, and xenophobic elements to parade (in masks) shouting slogans of ‘Russia for Russians,’ and ‘Stop Feeding the Caucasus.’ Nationalists also joined in the large-scale opposition protests of 2011-2012.

While the protests and the ‘Russian Marches’ were peaceful, Russia has witnessed a series of pogroms targeting both migrant workers and corrupt local governments, from Kondopoga in 2006, to Birуulуovo just last October. During a harrowing three days in December 2010, ultranationalists attacked foreigners, controlled metro stations, and effectively shut down central Moscow. Xenophobia is just the tip of the iceberg of a larger social malaise linked to socioeconomic transformations, a diffuse feeling that living standards are no longer on the rise, and a growing resentment against the state’ s systemic inefficiency, especially its endemic corruption.

A crucial similarity with the (former) opposition protests in Ukraine is the convergence of nationalists and political opposition in Russia on a common complaint: corruption and the lack of democracy. Broadly speaking, nationalists charge the Kremlin with failing to protect the ethnic Russian people at home and the lack of fair elections only sustains (and indicts) a corrupt regime. By contrast, the political opposition accuses Putin of subverting the constitution and denying Russian citizens the democracy they allegedly won by overthrowing the USSR in 1991. Both nationalists and political opposition believe they would have a legitimate stake in the running of the country if elections were free and fair. As long as they remain divided, they pose little threat to the Kremlin. However, a genuine alliance of nationalists and opposition could threaten the Kremlin’s base of support, especially among its youth, working class, and provincial constituencies.

Putin personally experienced just how quickly the ground could shift under his feet when he made an impromptu appearance at a Mixed Martial Arts match in November 2011 and was booed relentlessly by a crowd that ought to have been filled with typical supporters. The moment went viral on social media even as state television edited out the boos when re-broadcasting the event. In the wake of mass protests following the parliamentary elections in December 2011, the Kremlin briefly retreated, firing top Kremlin advisor Vladislav Surkov, restoring gubernatorial elections, and easing party registration requirements.

In the face of such a challenge, Putin’s re-election campaign in 2012 was never really about winning. The field of candidates lacked a single credible challenger. Rather, it was about recapturing legitimacy. Anti-westernism and especially anti-Americanism became staples of Putin’s repertoire, particularly the intimation that the political opposition was on the US State Department’s payroll. The revival of this anti-Western narrative is balanced with the Kremlin’s insistence on Russia’s European mission. The recent ‘morality turn’, which has been notable since the anti-Putin protests of 2011-12 (epitomised by Putin’s speech at Valdai on 20 September, 2013) did not call exclusively for Russia to find itself an identity, but rather to make itself the herald of ‘authentic’ European values, meaning family-oriented values and moral conservatism.

In a series of newspaper articles published in advance of the 2012 presidential election, Putin further elaborated a vision of Russian national identity in which all Russian citizens are Russian regardless of their ethnicity, but the Russian state is identified with ethnic Russian culture and language. This blurry vision of identity aims to be both inclusive and exclusive: exclusive of those who disturb Russian conventional identity (North Caucasians, labour migrants) but inclusive of all the others, whose integration depends on the occasion (those who are not ethnically Russian but who speak the language or heavily identify with Soviet or Russian culture). This identity is promoted by the Kremlin as a ‘Russian world’ (Russkii mir), which puts forward a concentric vision of Russian identity: ethnic and Orthodox Russians reside at the heart of it, but other types of identification with Russianness are welcomed, whether though language, history, religion, or territory. It featured prominently in the opening and closing ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics, where the Russian language took centre stage, followed by celebrations of Orthodoxy, traditional Russian culture, and Soviet-era economic development.

If Putin’s re-election validated his definition of the nation and claim to legitimacy, the post-election crackdown on protest, NGOs, and civil society signaled an end to the Kremlin’s patience with contentious politics. Yet the attempt to send Navalny to prison and remove him from the ballot for the Moscow mayor’s race in summer 2013 produced renewed protests in Moscow. The Kremlin once again backed down, granting a suspended sentence and allowing Navalny to campaign. Navalny fell well short of winning, though he proved more capable than expected. The incumbent, Sergei Sobyanin, narrowly secured a majority vote (which Navalny disputes), in part by appropriating the opposition’s complaints about corruption and migrant labor through a clever series of viral ads packaged under the slogan, Anyone but Sobyanin.

However, the Kremlin’s hope to appear in tune with the xenophobic mood of the population is probably destined for failure. Anti-Putin political forces—whether classic nationalists or ‘national-democrats’ like Aleksey Navalny—have at least as much legitimacy, if not more, from their condemnation of migration. Moreover, the authorities will fail in changing the negative role played by a corrupt administration, which prevents any normalisation of migratory flows.

In Ukraine’s descent into chaos over the last few months, the Kremlin saw the realisation of its own worst case scenario: opposition and nationalists combined forces to overthrow a regime structurally and culturally similar to Russia, albeit significantly more divided from within. Hence, the Kremlin’s depiction of today’s Ukraine as overrun by armed and violent ultranationalists has a certain self-referential quality about it: if such a turn of events is possible in Ukraine, it becomes conceivable (though not necessarily plausible) for Russia. Moreover, Russians do not have to imagine what Moscow would look like if roving bands of ultranationalist bandits were to seize power as long as the memory of the Manezh Square events of December 2010 remains available.

When placed in the context of Russia’s domestic politics, the intervention in Crimea serves an important purpose in confirming Putin’s claims about Ukraine’s new government and deterring defections from the Kremlin—a kind of inoculation against the form of regime change unfolding in Kyiv. Even in democratic states, deploying the military abroad compels social and elite unity and significantly raises the costs of dissent. If the intervention turns Russia into a pariah state, then Russia’s elite have nowhere else to turn precisely when opposing Putin is politically impossible. Moreover, the occupation of Crimea validates Putin’s inclusive and historical definition of the nation, as well as the use of force to defend its blurry borders.

The Russian intervention in Crimea drastically raised the stakes for both Ukraine and Russia. For Putin the issue is not just securing his regime domestically and avoiding Yanukovych’s failure. If the referendum is for Russian annexation of Crimea, he will have to legitimate the intervention and implement legal changes to integrate a new region in the Russian Federation. What does that tell us about the use of nationalism in Russia’s domestic and international policy?

Putin may have decided to intervene in Crimea to be sure Russia would remain the unavoidable stakeholder without whom the future of Ukraine cannot be decided (of course, it would have played a crucial role, regardless, given Ukraine’s geography, history, demographics and economy). His argument that Russia intervened to defend Russian citizens living in Ukraine is not necessarily a nationalist claim, as citizenship is not synonymous with nationality. But Russian citizens were not at risk in Crimea: even if the parliament in Kyiv was short-sighted in depriving Russian language of its official status in the country (a move which was later vetoed by acting President Oleksandr Turchynov), ethnic Russians—some with passports from both Ukraine and Russia—were not physically threatened by the interim government. Russia equally could have argued that it needs the lease of Sevastopol to remain unchallenged, or it could have called for an evacuation of Russian citizens if an actual threat was present.

Instead, by insisting on the relationship with Russian citizens abroad, Moscow created a subtext that implicitly bases itself on national identity and is understood by the Russian (and the Ukrainian) constituencies in both countries as a cultural argument for Crimea being legitimately Russian. This makes real the debate about the future of Ukraine and the role of Russia in it, especially as state television in Russia assails viewers with a narrative justifying Putin’s actions on behalf of Crimean Russians and questioning the historical basis of Ukraine as a state. It also authorises political entrepreneurs in Russia and Crimea to develop and extend Putin’s justifications for intervention. In Crimea, such entrepreneurship potentially involves moves on the ground that are not monitored or planned by the Kremlin, including uncontrollable local political groups, or militias and crowds that can create more problems than Russia would like to see. Such challenges only add to the costs of sustaining the Crimean burden.

If the intervention in Crimea authorises the use of force to patrol the boundaries of citizenship, it also serves as an opportunity for political entrepreneurs within Russia to justify violence or repression of non-Russia migrants and minorities. Some are already pushing for greater restrictions on foreign contacts for Russian NGOs and academics. In such an environment, political entrepreneurs may become ‘ethnopreneurs’ and seek to activate anti-migrant sentiment in ways that threaten Russia’s labour force. Moreover, it cannot be ruled out that Putin’s intervention in Crimea will exacerbate the Crimean Tatar issue. Crimea’s Muslim Tatars make up 12% of the population and generally are wary of integration with Russia. This opens the door to renewed secessionism in the North Caucasus. To stave off concerns from both Russian and Crimean Tatars, Tatarstan’s President Rustam Minnikhanov was rushed to Crimea to sign an ambiguous cooperation agreement, television from Tatarstan has been broadcast in Crimea, and a role in Crimea’s government promised to Crimean Tatars.

Having sent in troops on the grounds of defending ethnic Russians abroad, the intervention in Crimea puts Putin’s domestic claims to legitimacy on the line. Given the similarities between Yanukovych’s and Putin’s political systems, Russia’s characterisation of the new government in Kyiv as dominated entirely by Western puppets and radical nationalists (and its denial of civil society’s role) reflects both its own worst fears about threats to its rule at home as well as a challenge to its expansive definition of the nation.

The intervention creates a perverse set of incentives for pro-Kremlin actors in Crimea and in Russia to push for deepening the crisis, so reining in ethnopreneurs risks confirming the nationalist complaint that Putin fails to protect ethnic Russians. Yet allowing local actors to push the boundaries of the crisis means sacrificing Putin’s leading role in defining the nation. Meanwhile, continuing the present course confirms the opposition complaint that Putin denies democracy to Russian citizens, now likely to be tested with the forced choice referendum in Crimea on March 16.

Unfortunately, linking the tactical uses of nationalism in Russia’s domestic politics with intervention in Crimea yields a rather grim outlook: de-escalation of the crisis will only succeed if it can be de-coupled from a discourse of Russian national identity, but for Putin this would mean sacrificing nationalism as a source of legitimacy.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Ukraine: Analysis

Best analysis and prognosis I have seen so far, from Valery Dzutsev's LiveJournal:
 ...на Западе прекрасно понимают, что Крым и Украина это первые (ну или вторые) признаки русского экспансионизма в Европе. Т.е. если Запад побурчит и отдаст Крым или Украину России, то в скором времени ему уже придется сдерживать Россию в Польше, Прибалтике и т.д. Заверения Москвы об особой роли Крым в русском сознании никого на Западе не впечатлят, ну может быть только каких-нибудь особо впечатлительных репореторов НЙ Таймс. Ситуация явно напоминает расширения территории Третьего Рейха времен Адольфа Гитлера, который играл на противоречиях великих держав и на нежелании ввязываться в войну с Германией из-за казалось малозначительных стран и территорий.
Т.е. получается, что воевать с Россией Запад не хочет, но в то же время осознает, что Россия наступает и будет наступать, причем в самом буквально военном смысле этого слова. В таких условиях у Запада остается единственный приемлемый механизм противодействия России - серьезные экономические санкции, причем, даже со вредом для самого Запада, потому что экономический вред все-таки лучше, чем ядерная зима. Именно за-за этого никакого закулисного соглашения по разделу Украины, при котором бы Россия и Запада не потревожили друг друга санкциями, быть не может по определению. 
Это ведет, как многие уже говорили к повторению ситуации холодной войны, но больше это будет похоже на изоляцию Ирана, со своими особенностями. Идеологически Россия не претендует на какой-то новый миропорядок, она только действует согласно своей устоявшейся модели перманентного расширения империи в век утвердившейся модели государства-нации, что неизбежно порождает конфликты. Хотя дворцовый переворот возможен в Москве, более вероятным сценарием представляется все же довольно длительный период противостояния между Россией и Западом. 

Read the whole thing.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Ukraine - Situation on March 13 [D. Tymchuk]

Via Dmitry Tymchuk:

Итоги 13 марта на англ.
(спасибо Voices of Ukraine)

Brothers and sisters, here is the summary for March 13, 2014
(for summary from the previous day, see Summary of March 12).
The bad news:

1. We, the Information Resistance group, have prepared a map showing the disposition of Russian military troops across the perimeter of Ukrainian borders (see below). The picture is depressing. Our borders are only clear in the West. Meanwhile, North, South and East are packed to the rim with Orcs. A trivial analogy, but Ukraine does look like the only island of hope left in the kingdom of darkness. An army of 6,000 people and millions of unarmed patriots, against a horde of evil.

It is unbearably depressing that the Commander-in-Chief of our army isn’t simply unwilling to fight – he does not offer any other options, either. Our guys in Crimea are like Roman legionaries who, at the time of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, received no orders to retreat from Pompeii. They are standing under the deadly rain of ash and lava. We are on the brink of disaster, but no one is answering the fundamental question: what do we do? Frankly, this is terrifying. As terrifying as the sense of powerlessness can be.

Infographic - https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=468734096588584&set=a.211188579009805.47448.100003559926167&type=1&relevant_count=1

2. Today, Russia has launched the “second phase of military exercises” for their troops, including those near Ukrainian borders. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the exercises will continue through the end of March.

The fact that Russians lied about March 7, 2014 being the end date of their “exercises” was clear to everyone. Even yesterday, I personally couldn’t understand how they were going to explain the fact that the border regions of Russia and Ukraine continue to be packed with troops. It turned out that the Kremlin can lie with ease: it simply announced an “extension of military exercises.”

There is no doubt that these [exercises] are the preparation for invasion. The only question is whether the troops will be eventually ordered to cross the border.

3. The Ukrainian Navy Commander has made an announcement. I have read it three times and still could not understand a word of it. It’s none of my damn business to criticize the Admiral, but how could he announce that the Russian military were storming our units and threatening our men with weapons, while at the same time saying how “the Ukrainian Navy leadership is in control of the situation [at military units]“? What kind of “control” is he even talking about??

I think it would’ve been better to keep quiet about it all. Such words will only serve to further demoralize our troops, who are stuck between Russian aggression and strange statements from their own commanders.
The good news:

1. Towards the evening, there were reports that the Russian Foreign Ministry was ready to discuss the situation in Crimea under the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States formed by former Soviet republics] framework. But our diplomats demand that negotiations be held in Kyiv, whereas the Russians insist on Minsk [Belarus]. The outcome of this ongoing diplomatic dispute is unclear.

These are not direct negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, but only a “discussion” by Foreign Deputy Ministers within the CIS. It is also unclear whether this meeting will take place at all. But since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, this is the first signal that the Kremlin is, somewhere and somehow, ready to begin discussing the situation in Crimea, even if they will keep fighting for their interests and advancing their own demands. Before today, they were not willing to do anything like that.

2. Perhaps this is related to the previous point, but [the officials in] Moscow finally started to use their brains regarding the economic sanctions. Today, a member of the Presidential Economic Council Presidium of Russia [and a former Finance Minister] Alexei Kudrin announced that the economic sanctions of Western countries towards Russia due to the situation in Ukraine could have a stronger impact on the [Russian] economy than the Kremlin would like to admit. Will Russians be scared with the zero GDP growth in 2014? Are they prepared to tighten their belts for the sake of dubious moral satisfaction in oppressing their “brotherly nation” Ukraine? I don’t know. But the fact that a Russian pro-governmental expert has started making such declarations is definitely a sign of things to come.

3. The United States plan to extend the stay of USS George H.W. Bush [aircraft carrier] in the eastern Mediterranean. This is a good position to fully control the Russian Black Sea Fleet forces in the Black Sea. On one hand, Americans are far enough so as not to frighten the Russian warriors to death. But they are also close enough that, if need be, the hats of Russian sailors will litter the Southern Coast of Crimea, and their marine pea coats will float all the way from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk [Russian port on Black Sea]. The only bad thing in this situation is the fact that we cannot rely on our own Navy the way we trust in the Americans.

May the new day bring us good news of Ukrainian origin. We need it like oxygen.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Situation in Ukraine - Crimea - March 12

Via Dmitry Tymchuk
Situation in Ukraine, Autonomous Republic of Crimea
12 March 2014

Russian side continues to violate provisions of international agreements with Ukraine in Crimea

From 28 February till 11 March 2014 State Border Guard Service of Ukraine recorded 39 cases of violation of international agreements by Russian side, namely with regard to:

entry of Russian Federation military vessels – 15 vessels;

flights of Russian Federation military aviation – 14 cases, 48 flying vehicles;

border crossing in port of entry «Crimea – ferry» - 10 cases.

139 Russian Federation Armed Forces vehicles (including 6 armoured personnel carriers, 111 lorries, 6 special and 7 passenger cars, 5 minibuses, 4 missile systems) crossed «Crimea – ferry» PoE without appropriate permission from Ukrainian side.

Seizure of SBGSU detachments

At present, 47 SBGSU objects (namely, Azov-Black Sea Regional Directorate; Simferopol detachment; Kerch, Sevastopol and Yalta Coast guard Detachments; 10 BGS, “Simferopol-air” and “Crimea-ferry” PoEs; 29 surveillance posts) are seized or put out of action.

On 11 March at 16.00 appr. 100 armored Russian servicemen dislodged SBGSU officers from “Crimea-ferry” PoE. As a result, border control in this PoE is not carried out.

Seized border detachments are under permanent control of armored Russian Federation servicemen and representatives of so-called “self-defense”. SBGSU personnel is not allowed to enter these detachments.

Refugees escape from Crimea

Refugees continue going out from Crimea, basically they are of Crimea Tatar nationality. Thus, only on March 11th 158 people left Crimea, totally 557 refugees for the last days.


The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine actions for strengthening border regime and control over foreign citizens entering Ukraine.

The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine conducts special operations "Kordon", "Regime", "Frontier" in border areas with Russian Federation and Republic of Moldova, passport control at all border crossing points is enforced.

As a result, for the last 24 hours 305 Russian citizens were refused in entering Ukraine because of the declared purpose of visit inconsistency and possibility of their participation in extremist events at the territory of adjacent to RF oblasts of Ukraine (3500 Russian citizens for the last days.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tenyukh Explains

Ukraine's defense minister Ihor Tenyukh has explained why Ukraine's armed forces are not fighting back against the Russian occupation of Crimea - since Russia has not admitted that its forces are in the peninsula, there is no de jure open aggression, and therefore Ukraine has no legal right to offer armed resistance. A second reason is that no state of martial law has been declared in Ukraine - so the use of armed force would be a criminal offense, and would be treated as an attack on Ukraine's own people.

Tenyukh also said that the armed forces never considered the danger from Russia, and that to prepare for a confrontation with such a large and powerful adversary would require a great deal of time and money.

On the eastern border Russia has 220,000 military personnel, 150 aircraft, 60 ships, tanks and other armored vehicles - a force several times greater than that of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The Armed Forces of Ukraine have only tactics and fighting spirit. We have put all the armed forces on a state of combat-readiness in accordance with the plan of exercises. But the statistics are not reassuring."

Of 41,000 ground troops only 6,000 are really ready.

http://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2014/03/11/7018353

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sniper story does not tell all: journalist

Journalist Olga Khudetska lists the names of murdered Maidan activists whose death circumstances do not fit the bounds of the so-called “sniper” version of events.
Taras Slobodian disappeared from the Maidan. His body was found in the woods in Sumy oblast. Autopsy revealed that he was tortured.
25-year-old Maksym Horoshyshyn died on February 18 from gas poisoning which he suffered during clashes on Instytutska Street next to the government quarter. Doctors were unable to save his life.
Viktor Shvets went to the Maidan on February 18. He phoned his family at 11 pm, saying that everything was fine. At 4 am, family received a call from the morgue, saying that he died around 1 am. He was being transported, presumably still alive, to the Emergency Hospital from Mykhailivska Street, but was then taken to Shevchenkivsky district police station, stripped naked, and sent to the morgue on Oranzhereina Street. He was recorded as a police officer, because he had an ID card of a retired police officer on him.
Volodymyr Naumov was kidnapped and strangled on his way from the Maidan. His body was found on Trukhaniv Island in Kyiv.
Andriy Tsepun, 35 years old from Kyiv was beaten to death on the night of February 21.
Berkut officers doused Ivan Horodniuk in water and beat him on February 18. He did not survive.
Dmytro Maksymov’s arm was severed at the shoulder by a grenade explosion. Witnesses say that this was a live grenade.
Ihor Serdiuk was murdered on February 18 by titushky acting in tandem with Berkut officers near the Mariyinsky Palace.
Yakiv Zaiko died of a heart attack following clashes outside of the Verkhovna Rada on February 18.
Serhiy Didych and Oleksandr Kapinos died as a result of having an artery torn by an exploding grenade.
“And, of course, everyone remembers the beheaded body, right? As well as the 263 missing persons, right?” reminds the journalist.

Crimea - March 9

From the Facebook page of Dmitry Tymchuk:

Итоги 9 марта на англ
(спасибо Euromaidan PR)

Brothers, here is the summary of March 9, 2014
(for summary of the previous day, see Summary of March 8).

The bad news:

1. Some of our own politicians on the local and nationwide level suddenly started playing second fiddle to the Kremlin. Today, we have neutralized (hopefully successfully) two very dangerous rumors – about the mass betrayal of our border guards and the Russian saboteurs who flooded Kherson and Odessa oblasts. Our very own “public servants” disseminated these rumors.

I do not understand how they can be so irresponsible to behave this way. Under the rule of Putin’s beloved grandfather Joseph [Stalin], [the officials implicated for participation] in such tricks were, without further due, taken by their arms and brought into the cellar at the Lubyanka [KGB headquarters and its prison], and were put against the wall. And rightly so. Because it is one thing when a street vendor Aunt Dunya who sells seeds on the market shares this disinformation with her commercial partner Aunt Masha. But it is a completely different thing when it [disinformation] is broadcasted by a politician.

The task of bureaucrats and politicians as professional manipulators is to lie for the benefit of their country during invasion. And not to harm their own country. Learn from the enemy – Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov.

2. Today, a checkpoint at military airfield and military objects of the military unit A1387 were blocked in Dzhankoy [city in the north of Crimea]. Also, an airfield near Saky [Crimean city with major Ukrainian Navy bases] was seized by Russian troops. The occupiers immediately began to reinforce their formations, equip firing emplacements, and mount machine guns. The number of seized objects keeps growing. This contagion spreads around Crimea like ringworm in a hamster. If only it would not go further.
The good news:

1. First about us. After today’s commanding statement made by our Information Resistance group that denounced the inaction of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry and the General Staff, it was immediately followed by reaction. I was prepared for the moral and psychological Armageddon against us, and was ready to bark back (there is nothing to fear, but I never found anything pleasant about curses or threats). However … a rather constructive conversation followed. In general, we understood their position, and will be meeting with representatives of the military leadership tomorrow, to hear out their vision.

We are ready to broadcast any type of positive information, the main thing for us is to make sure that we are not being used blindly, and that we are do spread any “disinformation.” We have no right to deceive you, my brothers, and we never will.

2. According to our data, the Russians will continue to avoid using the firearms, as well as forestall the beginning of the armed conflict. Here special merit goes to our international partners – if the slaughter begins, they are ready for a very serious [military] action against Russia.

Of course, in this situation it is now extremely important to provide moral support to our troops in Crimea. They are exhausted and overwhelmed. But they are still standing. And this is important.

3. Putin and his military commanders are frantically trying to fix the mishaps they allowed to happen. It looks bad when the Kremlin broadcasts about the absence of Russian troops on the Crimean peninsula, and Russian military gladly admit it on camera. As a result, the “little green men” (Russian troops in unmarked uniforms) who have given our military ultimatums today in Yevpatoria, suddenly began to argue that they were a Crimean “self-defense unit.”

It is too late, gentlemen wearing suits from Yudashkin. The whole world knows what country you are from, whose orders are being executed, and what goal you are trying to achieve. You will not be able to turn into “freedom fighters” after being invaders, occupiers and aggressors, despite the magnitude of vain attempts by the heavy-duty Kremlin propaganda machine.

4. Tomorrow the Naval forces from the United States, Romania and Bulgaria will begin their joint military maneuvers in the Black Sea, near the territorial waters of Ukraine. I hope the reasons behind these naval exercises should not be explained to anyone.

Russians immediately drove their “Moskva” [Moscow] cruiser closer to the area of naval exercises, but those guys left a USS George H.W. Bush [CVN-77, aircraft carrier] around the corner just in case, that is capable of turning all Black Sea Fleet dislocations into landfills in a matter of two hours. So, the Russian clown act with the cruiser “Moskva” is to show-off for the visitors.

However, we still have no reason to celebrate. Let’s hope that tomorrow will bring us an excuse to do so.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Khodorkovsky on Maidan


"Мне рассказали и показали, что в Киеве сделали власти. Она это делала с согласия российских властей. Более сотни убитых, более 5000 раненых .... Я видел те фанерные щиты, с которыми здесь стояли против автоматных пуль - плакать хотелось. Это страшно."

"Это - не моя власть. Я хочу, чтобы вы знали - есть совсем другая Россия, есть люди, которые несмотря на аресты и долгие годы, которые им придется провести за решеткой, выходили на антивоенные митинги в Москве. Есть люди, для которых дружба между народами Украины и РФ важнее собственной свободы."

"Российская пропаганда как всегда врет. Здесь (на Майдане) нет фашистов или нацистов. Точнее, их не больше, чем на улицах Москвы или Петербурга. Здесь нормальные ребята - русские, украинцы, крымские татары, мои сверстники, воины-афганцы, прекрасные люди, которые отстояли свою свободу."

"Борітеся - поборете, вам бог помогає."

There's a full translation of the speech here.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Halt in the Wilderness

Halt in the Wilderness is a new Yahoo information and discussion group devoted to issues relating to Russia, North-Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. At present many of the posts to the group concern the crisis in Ukraine and the Russian invasion of Crimea, but it is hoped to expand the content. Although the group is restricted, it welcomes applications for membership from those who have a serious interest in the subject matter and would like to engage in reasoned debate.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

"If It's A Revolution..."

The real nature of Vladimir Putin's attitude towards the new government in Ukraine became clear during his news conference today. Essentially what he appears to be saying is that since the Ukrainian authorities came to power as the result of a revolution, they have no legitimacy - and therefore Russia can do as it likes with what it perceives as a non-state. It can overrun Ukraine's borders and violate its "non-existent" sovereignty with impunity.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Yulia Tymoshenko: Statement to the Ukrainian People

Batkivshchyna leader Yulia Tymoshenko has made a direct video address to the Ukrainian people:


From the statement:
"...we are not alone in this confrontation with Russia. In 1994 Ukraine signed the Budapest Memorandum with the U.S., UK and Russia guaranteeing our security in exchange for giving up our nuclear arsenal. Russia today is flagrantly violating its obligations and invading our territory. But I'm confident that the United States and Great Britain will never violate this Memorandum and will do everything they can to ensure peace in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin knows that by declaring war on us, he is declaring war on the guarantors of our security - the U.S. and Great Britain. I don't think that Russia will cross this line, because if it does it will lose.
"This should be the main reason for calm in our country."

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Dictator Psychology

As Russia's President Putin appears to be preparing to re-enact the Anschluss of March 1938, this time in Ukraine, it may be wondered whether what we are witnessing is a full-scale military aggression of a kind that has not been seen in Europe since 1968, or even since the Second World War, or merely an episode of tacky war drama culled from the cinema, designed for TV, and meant to impress a domestic audience back home in Russia. The preparations and build-up in Crimea certainly look convincing, but there's a question as to how far they will go, and whether they will lead to a full-blooded invasion and occupation of Ukraine.

The Russian government must be well aware of the consequences that would be likely to follow: immediate and comprehensive economic sanctions by the West, an expansion of the Magnitsky List with asset freezes and visa bans on Russian officials, an embargo of Russian companies and banks, exclusion of Russia from the G8 and other international bodies, and a great deal more. It seems improbable, therefore, that Putin is really willing to risk finally destroying Russia's already fragile and ailing economy and society by taking such a step - if, that is, he is a rational actor.

The explanation advanced by observers like chess master and human rights activist Garry Kasparov is that in the international and domestic public sphere alike, the rationality of Russia's leaders only extends so far - at a certain point it veers off into demagogic muscle-flexing and posturing:

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Yulia Tymoshenko on Maidan

Yulia Tymoshenko's speech on Maidan, February 22 2014.

Below are some fragments in English, mostly translated from Ukrainska Pravda's report. The whole speech covers much more ground  - when a complete transcript becomes available, I will hope to post it.
"You are heroes. You are the best that Ukraine has. Heroes do not die. You are the guarantee, the strength. 
"Today you and I have a few important things to do. First – under no circumstances do you have the right to withdraw from Maidan until you have completed all that you planned to do in Ukraine.
"If anyone tells you that you have already done your job and can go home, and that everything will be made fine and dandy for you here – do not believe such claims, do not believe a word of it.
"Until you have completed the job to the end, to the last step, none of you has the right to leave. Because it is you who have changed everything, not the politicians, not the diplomats, not the world, none of them was able to do it.
"We have to do a few important things, one of which is to bring Yanukovych and all that trash that had gathered around him, to Maidan.

"When the snipers fired their bullets into the hearts of the young men who were slain, they fired them into the hearts of everyone. And if those who organized it and carried it out are not punished with the toughest and most severe justice, you and I will not be worth anything. If we let them escape responsibility, if we forgive anyone who fired a bullet into the hearts of our heroes – we will live in shame for ever.
"Those who perished will be our responsibility for each step we take next.
"I understand that  that people have stopped trusting politicians.
"I will be the guarantee that you will know what is going on behind the scenes ....  I do not only repent, I ask for your forgiveness for all politicians, no matter to which party they belong.  I want to say on behalf of them  all - the politicians were not worthy of you, of your blood. I want to do everything to see to it that you will see different politicians , officials, functionaries. And to make you part of building a new country.
"If the new parliament, the new government are formed without you - it would be unacceptable.
"I am going back to work.  I will not let a single minute pass without making you feel  happy in your country."

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Institutska Street Massacre

This video (40 mins.) shows what happened on the morning of Thursday Februrary 20, when government snipers using automatic weapons shot and killed unarmed protesters on Kyiv's Institutska Street.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Miscalculation

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.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Futurists

The science - or some would say the art - of futurology emerged as an academic or semi-academic discipline in the 1960s under the influence of writers like Herman Kahn, Dennis Gabor, Wendell Bell and Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the Dymaxion House and the Geodesic Dome. In the 1960s and 70s "futures studies" - based on the analysis of possible futures and their causation patterns - became fashionable both in the United States and in Europe. While the American branch of futurology tended to focus mostly on practical projects - Stewart Brand's Buckminster Fuller-influenced counter-cultural Whole Earth Catalog being one of the most notable - in Europe there was a tendency to prefer theoretical speculations about the long-range future of humanity and the Earth. Although nowadays futurology is a term that - in a Western context, at least - mostly belongs to a bygone era, the term "futures studies" has survived, and still represents a considerable body of scientific, pseudoscientific, sociological and historical research associated with ecology and sustainable development.

In the Soviet Union futurology developed along rather different lines, and was mainly associated with government-controlled national economic, industrial and defence projects. Even today, more than twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the study of military futurology is alive and well in Russia, where it provides an underpinning and rationale for the current large-scale modernization and expansion of the country's military and defence capabilities. A glance at the website of the Russian Armed Forces broadcasting company Zvezda reveals a wide range of documents and videos devoted to the subject of Russia's place and role n the world, while journals like Voyennaya Mysl' (Military Thought) and Voyenno-Promyshlennyi Kur'yer present many articles and links to material of a more detailed kind.

As Stephen Blank points out in a recent Eurasia Daily Monitor article, the central task of institutions like the Academy of Military Sciences is to predict and assess military and other threats to Russia, and to elaborate ways of reacting and responding to them:
For Russian writers and officials, not only will contemporary and future war be a war of high-tech precision-strike complexes, it will also encompass a broad range of information warfare or even attempts at creating major economic disasters through conventional, non-nuclear, high-tech, precision strikes. This involves war from earth (or in the case of submarines underwater) to space to the digital realm. Indeed, Russia plans to create cyber warfare units by 2017 (RIA Novosti, January 30). Similarly Russia’s long-range aircraft will start using foreign airfields in 2014 to perform their missions (Interfax-AVN Online, January 22). Furthermore, writers like Konstantin Sivkov, First Vice President of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, call for imitating the United States’ move to a global strike capability using non-nuclear missiles. This capability is ostensibly for use against terrorists, but clearly also encompasses major theater war (Voyenno-Promyshlennyi Kuryer Online, January 22). Colonel Sergei G. Chekinov (Reserve) and Lieutenant-General Sergei A. Bogdanov (Ret.), prominent writers on information operations, even argue that “non-traditional forms of armed struggle will be used to cause earthquakes, typhoons and heavy rainfall” that can damage not just the economy, but aggravate the overall socio-psychological climate in any targeted country (Military Thought, October–December 2013).

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Drawing the Line

Valeriy Dzutsev, in Eurasia Daily Monitor:
"While solving in part the security issues in Sochi by implementing restrictions on the movements of broadly defined hazardous population categories, Russian government also draws the line separating the North Caucasus from the rest of the country. The solution may look attractive to the security officials, but the price for such a solution is that the North Caucasus is de facto becoming increasingly less and less associated with the Russian Federation."