Friday, 31 January 2014


Is Yanukovych on his way out? I think he is, actually. He has lost so much support recently, that his power base is now really rather small. He still has supporters of course, but his response to the protests has been so heavy-handed that he has alienated many, many people in the country. One of the things that almost everyone here, even those who supported him politically, hates is the everyday reality of low-level corruption and brutality on the part of the authorities; by responding to the protests with even more of those, but at an altogether more extreme level, he has turned many people against him. Only the most hardened supporters can accept as necessary the beatings and shootings of peaceful protesters, the use of hired thugs, or "titushki", who are protected by the police, the torching of cars, the targeting of journalists, the kidnapping, torture and in some cases murder of protesters, not to mention the almost-farcical way in which a raft of extremely repressive laws were unconstitutionally pushed through parliament, only to be largely repealed two weeks later.

There are other signs that the tide is turning against Yanukovych:

His Party of the Regions has lost control of regional administrations in about half the country, and most of the others are facing unrest and disturbances. Again, the violence with which the authorities have responded to some of this unrest - notably in Dnepropetrovsk and Cherkasy - is proving difficult for people to stomach. In one region, his party voted to disband itself (!) and in two more the Communist Party, which has always supported it in parliament, has been banned.

The protests have gained a rather surprising ally in the form of groups of "ultras" - football fans from cities all over the country (including from Donetsk, Yanukovych's heartland) - who have sworn to protect peaceful protesters from the attacks of "titushki". Today I saw a video from a group of martial arts practitioners in Kharkiv, again traditional Yanukovych territory, declaring their willingness to defend their city and its citizens against illegal attacks.

People have blockaded barracks of the Berkut riot police to stop them being sent to Kyiv. Mothers of Berkut officers have appealed en masse to them not to go. The mayor of a town has refused them entry, because the town is peaceful. They now usually have their faces covered, or avoid looking at cameras, so as not to be recognizable.

A reserve army lieutenant-general published details of how soldiers could legally decline to be assigned to support the police. And there are rumours that one of the reasons the protests have not already been "cleaned" from the streets by the army is that military personnel are resisting orders to attack their fellow countrymen.

In the last couple of weeks, two of the wealthiest oligarchs in the country, Rinat Akhmetov and Dmitriy Firtash - until now strong supporters of Yanukovych and the Party of the Regions - have as good as abandoned him, unable to stomach the violence which he is inflicting on his people (and also maybe realising, as successful businessmen, that the economic and foreign policy choices he's been making are not to their best future advantage).

It's perhaps surprising that only a couple of the Regions' MPs have resigned from the party, but nevertheless a couple have. And, of course, this week saw the departure of the Prime Minister, Nikolai Azarov, which leaves a substantial group of Party of the Regions MPs without a leader, and thus with less reason to follow the President. Azarov has already left the country - ironically enough, for the EU! (Vienna)

A couple of days ago, parliament was to vote on the question of an amnesty for people arrested during the recent disturbances. It was clear there would an amnesty - the question was, would it be unconditional, or would preconditions be imposed? Sufficient members of the President's party (Akhmetov's group? Firtash's? Azarov's?) were willing to accept an unconditional amnesty that it seemed likely this would get through parliament. Hearing of this, Yanukovych himself made one of his increasingly rare ventures out of one of his heavily-protected homes to address his party. It appears that, basically, he went ballistic, shouting and raging at them, and threatening to introduce a state of emergency if they voted for an unconditional amnesty. The result was that parliament voted for an amnesty which required the protesters to vacate occupied premises, abandon their camps and dismantle all barricades before people who had been arrested would be released. Yanukovych may have succeeded in bullying his party into line, but the result is an "amnesty" that will yield no useful results, because the protesters simply will not comply with the preconditions. Indeed, as one commentator pointed out, to require that legal protests be abandoned in order for illegal arrests to be annulled is absurd and should be ignored. It surely will be.

The following day, it was announced that the President was ill with a "severe respiratory infection" and would be taking a rest from his duties, for an unspecified time ... He found the strength, however, a day later, to sign the repeal of most of the repressive laws he strong-armed through parliament on January 16th.

I think his time is up. Whether he realizes it yet or not is another matter ... 


Time to revive my blog ... So much going on here, and so much to say. Faceless is good for finding and sharing information, but not for anything reflective or analytical. So, back to "The Other Way" ...