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What happened in Ukraine?

There are lots of interpretations of what have happened in Ukraine since November 21, 2013 (the day the Euromaidan started). While I can’t be sure, what is known to third parties (i.e., people outside Ukraine and Russia), popular ukrainian and, especially, russian interpretations differ from what I believe it was. That’s why decided to write this article. No, I don’t claim, that what I believe is the absolute truth (yet I believe it’s quite close to it), but still my interpretation can be interesting for some readers…

Whatever they claim, actually we’ve had two crises in Ukraine – the first one was the Euromaidan and the second one is the Russian-Ukrainian hybrid war. Russians did a lot to stop and discredit the Euromaidan and launched the second crisis because they failed. Therefore, Russia is, in fact, a participant of both crises. Why do russians do this and how do they explain their motives, I shortly describe in indented paragraphs starting with “Russians believe”. It’s fine to skip such paragraphs though, if you want…

The very beginning


Viktor Yanukovych

I believe it’s a mistake to think, that the crisis started on November 21, 2013. I do believe it started long before – at least in 2010, when Viktor Yanukovych got elected the president of Ukraine. On November 21, 2013 this crisis just turned into the different stage… Having gained the authority the newly made president “didn’t disillusion” – corruption schemes (old and new ones) got intensified, raider seizures of enterprises got started, mass media began to turn pro-government again, and so on. Besides, the country continued to decay in general. People’s dissatisfaction gradually began to take the form of rallies. There were several “maidans“, which I would name “heralds” of the Euromaidan – thus, there were protests against the police brutality (including the one, which is known as the Vradiivka) and the Tax Maidan. Months before November 21, 2013 the government of Viktor Yanukovych was imprudent to promise the long-awaited changes through the eurointegration (that was perceived by people as a possibility of major improvements). But, on November 21, 2013, just a week before signing the association agreement with EU on November 29, 2013 in Vilnius, Viktor Yanukovych flopped on everyone. Once again! But, the very last time…

Russians believe, that the Euromaidan was organized and sponsored by the West (mainly by USA) to replace the pro-russian Yanukovych’s regime with an own puppet one. In particular, they claim, that it was implemented through pro-West NGOs (especially, mass media), which, according to their beliefs, inspired dissatisfaction amongst ukrainian people.

The East, the West, the fascists and the liberators

Ukraine-East-WestThe confrontation between the ukrainian East and the ukrainian West as well as the “infringement” of rights of Russian speakers in Ukraine also started long before the Euromaidan (not after it, for sure)… Thus, in distant 2006 according to the statement of the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation, it was venturesome to speak Russian in Ivano-Frankivsk (a city in the Western Ukraine). But, actually, it was “venturesome” only in this statement of the Russian MFA! In reality in Ivano-Frankivsk (the city I live and do speak Russian in) no one was persecuted for the Russian language.

The similar can be said regarding the fascists and Nazis – you were always able to find out, that there were many of them in Western Ukraine, only if you watched or read Russian mass media. In reality there are no popular truly Nazi organizations in Ukraine! For comparison, Russia has the plenty of such organizations (for example, RNU, NSS and Slavic Union). The only thing, which is close to the truth, is the popularity of nationalism in the Western Ukraine, but, in my opinion, this popularity was caused by doings of the Kremlin (and its henchmen)… Thus, western natives’ resentment and additional aspiration to protect the ukrainian nation were caused by the act of vandalism against the ukrainian national coat of arms on Mount Hoverla, popularization by russians of the “Ukraine project” theory (teaching, that Ukraine is an “artificial state” and ukrainians are “fake nation”), the statement of the Russian president Vladimir Putin claiming, that “Ukraine is not even a country”, and so on.

All these things did the job – western ukrainians started to loathe russians more, russians and eastern ukrainians, who trusted russian mass nedia, started to loathe western ukrainians more, and eventually western ukrainians having realized, how eastern ukrainians perceive them, started to loathe eastern ones as well…

Russians believe, that this was the West (mainly USA), who had been setting the ukrainian West at variance with the ukrainian East and Russia. To substantiate the popularity of fascism in the ukrainian West russians also often remind Stepan Bandera, who, they claim, was a Nazi ally (and he was not, actually).

The Euromaidan

Initially the Euromaidan intended to put pressure on Viktor Yanukovych to make him sign the agreement of association with EU in Vilnius on November 29, 2013… After the violent dispersal of the Euromaidan on the night of November 30, 2013 and after the failure to sign the agreement by the government (what was accompanied by lies) the Maidan also started to demand the resignation of the cabinet… After the “dictatorship laws“, that were adopted by the Verkhovna Rada (the parliament of Ukraine) with a number of procedural violations, the Euromaidan also started to demand the dissolution of the Verkhovna Rada… Also, soon after the rally had started people began to realize, that the president Viktor Yanukovych is the source of all these problems. Therefore, eventually the Euromaidan started to demand the resignation of the president.

But, whatever the Euromaidan demanded of authorities, they were not even intended to comply with those demands! On the night of November 30 Viktor Yanukovych attempted to intimidate the Maidan (with the violent dispersal), but got the opposite effect… After that authorities attempted to ignore the Maidan. Then through laws and courts they attempted to make people “not to prevent them from doing their job”… Only when it became already too late, the prime minister Mykola Azarov finally decided to resign (I guess, he had realized, how was it going to end). In fact, this became the only demand, that was met, but at that moment the Maidan already demanded a full reset of power. Certainly, demands of protesters were getting bolder as the Yanukovych’s regime was actually ignoring them during months!

Almost during all the time the rally lasted the Euromaidan was supported by the opposition leaders (they actually joined the rally in a few days after the start): Vitali Klitschko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Oleh Tyahnybok, Petro Poroshenko, and others. But their authority was never high!

Russians believe, that americans not only organized the Euromaidan but also led it.

The regime change

Photo by Reuters

Arseniy Yatsenyuk and
Oleksandr Turchynov,
photo by Reuters

On February 21, 2014 European Union representatives, the opposition leaders and Viktor Yanukovych (in the presence of Russian Federation’s representative) signed the peace deal aimed to settle the crisis. This deal stipulated the reelection of the president of Ukraine in… a half of year. Certainly, many protesters were not happy with the deal, as during just a couple of (preceding) months Viktor Yanukovych managed to spoil and take many lives! And now he was about to have another half of year! The opposition leaders, unlike ordinary protesters, were happy to find at least some resolution for the situation, but they did not have sufficient impact on protesters!

Most likely, having realized, that he is not going to get “odds”, Viktor Yanukovych decided to… escape (and it looks like he decided this before signing the deal). So, the very next morning the building of the government, the presidential administration and even the private residence of Viktor Yanukovych all of a sudden appear to be unguarded! Having realized, that their “boss” has vanished into thin air, Yanukovych’s former fellows started to cooperate with the opposition. Having understood, that Yanukovych, who was about to ensure implementation of the peace deal, had in fact duped them and understanding, that now these are going to be them, who people will demand of, the opposition takes the initiative and discharges Viktor Yanukovych using the parliament. After that in accordance to the Constitution the speaker of the Verkhovna Rada (Oleksandr Turchynov at that moment) becomes the acting president. Later Rada also accepts members of the new crisis cabinet (headed by Arseniy Yatsenyuk)

Russians believe, that this was a coup d’etat, that the opposition usurped the power and that this was the opposition, who used weapon to kill peaceful protesters and policemen. After this, according to their beliefs, the opposition seized the parliament and forced deputies to change the Constitution and to appoint the speaker and the prime minister. That’s why russians call the current regime in Ukraine a “junta“. They also think, that Viktor Yanukovych did not escape, but just travelled to Kharkiv to attend the party conference and only there he realized, that he was in danger. Russians also claim, that this was the opposition, who frustrated the peace deal.

The Crimea annexation

CrimeaThere have been given many reasons for the “return” of Crimea to Russia – first, it was the “threat” of persecution of Russian speakers (no one mentions this today, while it was called the main reason in due time), then it was the yearning to rectify the “historical injustice“, finally it was the threat of a NATO base establishment on the peninsula. In fact, all the reasons, except the threat of persecution, and the course of the annexation clearly indicate, that russians thought about the “return” of Crimea long before the Euromaidan! It’s quite possible, that the plan of annexation was scheduled for 2015 – next presidential election in Ukraine – or the similar date, but due to the Euromaidan russians decided to implement it sooner. Apparently the plan included not only the Crimea annexation but also the creation of a state from the southeast regions of Ukraine… Judge for yourselves:

During a short period a large amount of heavily-armed soldiers in the same uniform but without any identifying insignia appeared in Crimea. The very first thing, they did, was the seizure of the parliament building. In this way they ensured, that the right person was elected the prime minister of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. After that they didn’t seize local councils, administrations, buildings of SBU and MVS, as people of Maidan did, but blockaded Ukrainian military facilities, threatened the Ukrainian military and constantly gave them ultimatums to surrender… Being military men, they knew for sure, that ukrainian soldiers were not entitled to surrender without the corresponding order! The command of these “polite men” understood for sure, that no sane military man would give the order to surrender in such situation! Moreover, in such situation any self-respecting commander-in-chief would have to give the order to engage the “little green men” or to drive them from the territory! But Oleksandr Turchynov and the company, who just a few days ago were about to prepare an agitation compaign for the upcoming presidential reelection (according to the peace deal signed with Viktor Yanukovych) and who suddenly gained the state power, were not ready for such military conflicts! They did not yet realized, what had happened, and certainly suspected, that the escape of Viktor Yanukovych was some dirty trick…

All these indicates, that the Crimea annexation plan was developed not for the actual situation (but, for example, for a new president, who was going to be elected in 2015)! I believe, the idea was: The ukrainian military forces engage and attempt to drive the “polite men” out the peninsula. Meanwhile, it is “suddenly” revealed, that ukrainian troops “attacked” soldiers of the russian Black Sea Fleet, that is based in Crimea, and/or that many russian citizens (who “little green rebels” “suddenly appeared” to be) were killed due to their military operations. In this way Russia gains its “moral right” to quickly commit more troops to Ukraine. As the ukrainian army “luckily” appears to be ruined (accidentally?) and therefore cannot effectively resist the full invasion, russians reach Kyiv (the capital) or even further without any severe issues, like it was in Georgia in 2008. Then under the control of russian troops Crimea certainly goes to Russia and the Southeast forms the new state “Novorossiya“. This was to be a very quick war (like in Georgia in 2008), but fortunately the plan failed…

Russians believe, that crimean people chose to join the Russian Federation of their own free will, what, they claim, was proved by the “results” of the referendum. They also believe, that the referendum was organized and conducted by the legitimate authority of the peninsula and fully complied with the democratic standards. Russians think, that the decision to “return” the Crimea was made by Vladimir Putin off-the-cuff mainly to  prevent oppression of Russian-speaking people on the peninsula. Thus, they treat the failed attempt by the Verkhovna Rada to repeal the faulty law on regional languages as the attempt to persecute the Russian language. Other russians ensure, that Vladimir Putin was obliged to annex Crimea due to the threat of establishing a NATO base on the peninsula. Generally, russians are sure, that crimean people are going to live better and more serenely under the Russian Federation. Regarding the “little green men” russians have no doubt, that their order was just to secure the people’s will. Other russians claim, that this was the plan to seize the peninsula without a single shot fired, what shows how cool are special forces of the Russian army.

The Southeast unrest

SoutheastSoon after the regime change in Ukraine and concurrently with the Crimea annexation there arose the “people’s unrest” in the Southeast. It looked to be much like protests in the ukrainian West, that took place during Euromaidan – generally unarmed people occupied administrative buildings and barricaded themselves there or resided on squares for a long time. However, all these processes began to subside with time… Until there came heavily-armed militants and started to capture buildings of regional police offices. Many people argued, that this was an attempt of Kremlin to repeat the “Crimean scenario” in the Southeast, but as for me the difference was obvious: If in Crimea these were definitely troops in same uniform, on the East these were some military men in different uniforms. If in Crimea the “little green men” focused on the ukrainian military and provoked them in every way, on the East “rebels” started to seize weapons (that’s why they occupied buildings of the police and SBU). It looked like “rebels” decided to play the “Crimean scenario” themselves. Nevertheless, Moscow backed them all the time (and continues to back them now)…

In other words, if in separative movements in Crimea I saw a planned, well thought-out special operation, doings on the Southeast looked to be far less thought-out! If we suppose, that the Crimean operation involves the creation of so called Novorossiya, it’s also logical to suppose, that a part of participants of that operation was very unhappy with the failure to complete it and strove to continue despite the obvious frustration of the plan. But similar military operations get developed thoroughly during a long time and not depending on the situation. That’s why apparently the russian leaders refused to continue it (in the form, it was planned)… Instead, I suppose, they allowed “hotheads” from among of participants of the operation to “attempt” to carry out something similar, having warned that Russia would not be able to help them openly. This can be seen from the participation of Igor Girkin and Alexander Borodai in separative doings in the Southeast – both also worked in Crimea before. It looks like organizers of the eastern “resistance” got mistaken by the inertia of the ukrainian army in Crimea and concluded, that there will be inertia in the Southeast as well…

Russians believe, that these are ordinary rebels in the Southeast, who do not consent to the change of the regime and to the rule of the “junta”. They also think, that initially rebels strove for the federalization, what, they believe, could help resolving many issues raised in the Southest. Russians also wonder, why everyone thinks, that Vladimir Putin wants the Southeast to become an independent state – they claim, that, if he wanted this, he would just help “rebels” do this. In their opinion, the fact, that Putin have not recognized “Novorossiya”, prooves, that he has nothing to do with the crisis…



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