Yanukovich retreating in Ukraine?

posted at 12:41 pm on January 24, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

So far reports are sketchy about the results of meetings between Viktor Yanukovich and religious leaders attempting to mediate the crisis in Ukraine that threatens to turn into a civil war. The Associated Press reports that the president has backed off of his hard line against protests and offered some concessions to the opposition encamped in the streets of Kiev, including an end to a disastrous attempt to outlaw demonstrations that led to fatal clashes this week:

At a meeting with religious leaders Friday, Yanukovych vowed that a special parliament meeting next Tuesday will push through changes to the Cabinet, grant amnesty to dozens of jailed activists and change harsh-anti-protest legislation, the Interfax and other news agencies reported.

If confirmed, those would be significant concessions, but stop short of the new elections demanded by protesters. The amnesty might go a long way toward getting the opposition to accept the compromise, although they will want to know what happened to several of their members who seem to have “disappeared” in custody of the police.

A larger concession might be in the choice of mediators for the conflict:

A senior European Union official met with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Friday, amid an uneasy political stalemate after days of clashes between police and protesters.

Opposition leaders have demanded the resignation of the government and early elections.

Yanukovych’s presidential website reported his meeting with Commissioner for EU Enlargement Stefan Fule but gave no detail of what was discussed.

Boxer-turned-opposition leader Vitali Klitschko said outside mediation was needed if any progress is to be made in talks between the opposition and government.

“International mediators must be involved in any discussion of the crisis in Ukraine,” he said.

The conflict started when Yanukovich reversed course on a proposed trade agreement with the EU and signed one with Russia instead. The betrayal sparked the march on Kiev, and led to the standoff and the ham-handed attempt to make demonstrations illegal rather than deal with the issue at hand. That radicalized both sides, which led to the violence. If Yanukovich accepts EU mediation, that will send a signal that the direction of his government into Moscow’s orbit may stop at least temporarily. One can imagine that Vladimir Putin won’t be happy to see that development and may have his own mediators on the way to deal with the EU. With the Sochi Olympics threatening to turn into a disaster, though, Putin has his hands full at the moment.

This hasn’t helped Yanukovich, either:

A video posted to YouTube, showing a protester made to strip naked apart from his shoes and kicked by police as he enters a van, has been widely circulated on Ukrainian media.

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry has apologized for the behavior of those shown in the footage and says it is investigating the incident.

A 17-year-old who says he was taking pictures of the protests, Myhaylo Nyskohuz, told CNN he was tortured after he was seized by Ukraine’s riot police, or Berkut.

“They beat me on my legs and ankles, they sprayed my whole body with pepper spray and made me lie naked and sing the national anthem,” he said, looking battered and bruised.

“They stripped me and took me through a live corridor of around 40 or 50 riot police, and each one of them beat me.”

The protesters have taken over a ministry building, ostensibly to keep warm:

After meeting with President Viktor Yanukovych for several hours late Thursday, opposition leaders told the crowds that he had promised to ensure the release of dozens of protesters detained after clashes with police, and stop further detentions. They urged the protesters to maintain a shaky truce following violent street battles in the capital, but were booed by demonstrators eager to resume clashes with police.

The truce has held, but early Friday protesters broke into the downtown building of the Ministry of Agricultural Policy, meeting no resistance. “We need to keep people warm in the frost,” said one of the protesters, Andriy Moiseenko. “We cannot have people sleeping in tents all the time.”

The demonstrators allowed ministry workers to take their possessions, but wouldn’t allow them to go to work.

The move followed the seizure of local governors’ offices in several western regions on Thursday.

Even if the opposition accepts the concessions, the protests won’t stop on a dime. Protesters also reinforced and expanded their barricades overnight, and show no signs of slowing down the peaceful demonstrations, even if violence has abated for the time being:

This has spread to several cities, especially in the more pro-EU western part of Ukraine. Even if Yanukovich holds onto Kiev and settles the situation down, Ukraine will still be on the edge of a civil war. An election might be the only tonic at this point.


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The Ukraine s/b against Russia/Putin and against the EU.

Schadenfreude on January 24, 2014 at 12:44 PM

Several big cities had their pro-Putin governments walk out over night, replaced by the revolutionaries.

Schadenfreude on January 24, 2014 at 12:44 PM

Ukrainians have had enough of Russia…..

http://www.historyplace.com/worldhistory/genocide/stalin.htm

redguy on January 24, 2014 at 12:50 PM

Ukraine has passed laws essentially turning the country into a full blown dictatorship and murdering any previous concept of free thought in that country. Elections would help, but those laws need to be removed from the books, convictions reversed, charges dropped, and police/govt prosecuted.

will never happen. ukraine is going all the way imo.

triple on January 24, 2014 at 12:53 PM

obama to give credit to his “pen and phone” in 3, 2, 1…

Schadenfreude on January 24, 2014 at 12:53 PM

“Kerry is our bestest foreign sec., evahhhh” — Biden

Schadenfreude on January 24, 2014 at 12:53 PM

Bad timing, ahead of Olympics, goodie!

Schadenfreude on January 24, 2014 at 12:55 PM

Ukraine has passed laws essentially turning the country into a full blown dictatorship and murdering any previous concept of free thought in that country. Elections would help, but those laws need to be removed from the books, convictions reversed, charges dropped, and police/govt prosecuted.
 
will never happen. ukraine is going all the way imo.
 
triple on January 24, 2014 at 12:53 PM

 
Is someone making changes to laws outside of established legislative procedures in order to benefit himself or something?

rogerb on January 24, 2014 at 1:00 PM

Or maybe even using government agencies as a vote suppression tool against political opponents?

rogerb on January 24, 2014 at 1:06 PM

Ukraine needs a “Czechoslovakia solution”, where western and eastern Ukraine become separate countries. There could be some conflicts over where to draw the line.

Steve Z on January 24, 2014 at 1:07 PM

Now if only things took a turn for the better in the Middle East ………………. not going to happen.

SC.Charlie on January 24, 2014 at 1:21 PM

Ukraine needs a “Czechoslovakia solution”, where western and eastern Ukraine become separate countries. There could be some conflicts over where to draw the line. – Steve Z on January 24, 2014 at 1:07 PM

The two state solution in Czechoslovakia was doable. In the Ukraine you are talking about civil war and relocating people from one part of a nation to another part. In post WWII the allies did relocate Germans from other countries back to Germany. Part of Germany was given to Poland. The Germans were forcibly removed from their homes and sent packing to Germany.

SC.Charlie on January 24, 2014 at 1:26 PM

An election might be the only tonic at this point.

You mean like in Egypt??

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.

Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826)

redguy on January 24, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Yanukovich has always been Putin’s puppet. Good riddance if he’s on his way out.

Red Cloud on January 24, 2014 at 1:35 PM

The conflict started when Yanukovich reversed course on a proposed trade agreement with the EU and signed one with Russia instead. The betrayal sparked the march on Kiev…

“Betrayal?” Putin offered a better deal?

David Blue on January 24, 2014 at 1:55 PM

Protesters also reinforced and expanded their barricades overnight, and show no signs of slowing down the peaceful demonstrations…

Peaceful?

David Blue on January 24, 2014 at 1:56 PM

Incredible photography

Murphy9 on January 23, 2014 at 5:59 PM

Murphy9 on January 24, 2014 at 2:01 PM

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.

Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) – redguy on January 24, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Oh, you mean like the War Between the States?

SC.Charlie on January 24, 2014 at 2:24 PM

Incredible photography all right. But it’s not photography of peaceful protesters making innocent demonstrations.

David Blue on January 24, 2014 at 2:35 PM

Who is supplying these rioters with food, sandbags and so on? When organizers hand out the helmets, which they do, who pays for those helmets and the organizers? Who pays for the tools and weapons? And why is the mainstream mass media not curious about any of this?

David Blue on January 24, 2014 at 2:37 PM

Incredible photography all right. But it’s not photography of peaceful protesters making innocent demonstrations.

David Blue on January 24, 2014 at 2:35 PM

Thank good there not being peaceful. The Yanukovich government only knows one way. Think of 5 January 1968 Czechoslovakia , the Prague Spring. That’s what happens to peaceful protesters when the Russians have their finger in the pie.

Walter L. Newton on January 24, 2014 at 2:52 PM

(Let’s try that again.)

Incredible photography all right. But it’s not photography of peaceful protesters making innocent demonstrations.

David Blue on January 24, 2014 at 2:35 PM

Thank goodness their not being peaceful. The Yanukovich government only knows one way. Think of 5 January 1968 Czechoslovakia , the Prague Spring. That’s what happens to peaceful protesters when the Russians have their finger in the pie.

Walter L. Newton on January 24, 2014 at 2:53 PM

If the Russians, and their Ukrainian friends, do not reach an accommodation with the resistance, and the resistance wins, it will poison the Ukraine for generations against the Russians, and further isolate Russia from the West.
Russia will find itself in the same position it was in during the mid-18th Century.
Of course, there is always the possibility that Putin will strike-out, like the angry man he is, and just turn everything to crap.

Another Drew on January 24, 2014 at 3:54 PM

Oh, you mean like the War Between the States?

SC.Charlie on January 24, 2014 at 2:24 PM

Whatever it takes SC

redguy on January 24, 2014 at 3:57 PM

http://www.businessinsider.com/understanding-euromaidan-2014-1

By opinion of a Ukrainian writer, 10 things one should know about Kiev.

Having friends of friends there, I’ve been watching this on a fairly personal level.

Short version, their president is corrupt as hell, typical Soviet-style operations. It has very little to nothing to do with the E.U. or wanting to join the E.U. and everything to do with Yanukovich and his cabinet of cronies acting as proxy for Vlad.

PXCharon on January 24, 2014 at 3:59 PM

If the Russians, and their Ukrainian friends, do not reach an accommodation with the resistance, and the resistance wins, it will poison the Ukraine for generations against the Russians, and further isolate Russia from the West.
Russia will find itself in the same position it was in during the mid-18th Century.
Of course, there is always the possibility that Putin will strike-out, like the angry man he is, and just turn everything to crap.

Another Drew on January 24, 2014 at 3:54 PM

The Ukrainian’s and Russians were never friends…..

Many of the protesters are descendants who were murdered by Stalin.

http://www.historyplace.com/worldhistory/genocide/stalin.htm

Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union, set in motion events designed to cause a famine in the Ukraine to destroy the people there seeking independence from his rule. As a result, an estimated 7,000,000 persons perished in this farming area, known as the breadbasket of Europe, with the people deprived of the food they had grown with their own hands.

But when Lenin died in 1924, he was succeeded by Joseph Stalin, one of the most ruthless humans ever to hold power. To Stalin, the burgeoning national revival movement and continuing loss of Soviet influence in the Ukraine was completely unacceptable. To crush the people’s free spirit, he began to employ the same methods he had successfully used within the Soviet Union. Thus, beginning in 1929, over 5,000 Ukrainian scholars, scientists, cultural and religious leaders were arrested after being falsely accused of plotting an armed revolt. Those arrested were either shot without a trial or deported to prison camps in remote areas of Russia.

While police and Communist Party officials remained quite well fed, desperate Ukrainians ate leaves off bushes and trees, killed dogs, cats, frogs, mice and birds then cooked them. Others, gone mad with hunger, resorted to cannibalism, with parents sometimes even eating their own children.

By the end of 1933, nearly 25 percent of the population of the Ukraine, including three million children, had perished. The Kulaks as a class were destroyed and an entire nation of village farmers had been laid low. With his immediate objectives now achieved, Stalin allowed food distribution to resume inside the Ukraine and the famine subsided. However, political persecutions and further round-ups of ‘enemies’ continued unchecked in the years following the famine, interrupted only in June 1941 when Nazi troops stormed into the country. Hitler’s troops, like all previous invaders, arrived in the Ukraine to rob the breadbasket of Europe and simply replaced one reign of terror with another.

So this “protest” has been brewing for almost 100 years…..
This will bring a civil/revolution war to Ukraine….one that Russia cannot win without killing hundreds of thousands. Maybe Russia will – or maybe they won’t. The difference is – it is not 1917 and now the whole world is watching.

redguy on January 24, 2014 at 4:04 PM

It is probably a good thing the Winter Olympics are going to be in Russia next month. Otherwise, a bad scenario of the Soviet, er, I mean Russian, military might intervene like they did in Georgia.

rlwo2008 on January 24, 2014 at 6:48 PM