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24 February 2014 @ 12:35 am
The People of Ukraine  
Nearly ten years ago, there was an election in Ukraine. It was a ballot for president between Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych won, in a ballot riddled with corruption. Yushchenko was ill: poisoned by dioxin. Rumours were spread that the horribly ill and facially disfigured Yushchenko had made up his poisoning as a stunt. Biological samples taken from him were analysed and the results published in The Lancet, showing that the 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin levels in his blood in 2004 were 50,000 times that of the general population.

The people of Ukraine stood up against these outrages in a movement called the Orange Revolution. For two weeks they protested, until a Ukrainian court overturned the election and sent the populace back to the ballot boxes. Yushchenko won this ballot with 52%.

His presidency was not smooth. Yulia Tymoshenko, his Prime Minister (and probably the politician with the best hair ever, which you may know if you know nothing else about her), butted heads with him on a number of issues. Several years passed in which some of the democratic goals of the Orange Revolution were met, and others were lost. He lived up to some of his ideals, and screwed up on others. In the 2010 elections, he lost to Yanukovych, who also defeated the third candidate, Tymoshenko.

While Yushchenko had been pro-European, as was Tymoshenko, Yanukovych was thoroughly rooted in Ukraine's Soviet past and sought stronger union with Russia and other pro-Russia states. He also oversaw the prosecution of Tymoshenko for a natural gas deal she had made as PM, which saw her jailed in 2011.

Like most leaders of most countries, he was popular with some of his constituents, and not with others. For some years the country muddled along. Then, last year, in the middle of discussions for Ukraine to move towards joining the EU, he declared that they would not be joining the EU, they would be instead turning towards a stronger alliance with Russia.

The people took to the streets. While some still felt allied to Russia, a significant majority had wanted to move towards the EU, and in a democracy, majority should rule. It was a calm and ordered revolution, with protesters taking control of the centre of Kiev, the capital, and moving into various government buildings. In December, an Australian journalist interviewed some women shopping in a boutique not far from the protesters. 'So, life is going on as normal for most of Kiev?' he asked. 'Oh yes,' said one of the women. 'But once we finish shopping we'll be heading back down to join the Revolution.' 'We are taking food,' said the other.

Earlier this month, things changed. The president's security forces had been rolled out in January, and they and the remaining police began to be more violent in their reactions. The protesters went from building barricades and burning tyres to smoke out their opposition to throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks. In the last week, bullets started to fly, apparently all from the side of the security forces and possibly police. In return, more rocks, more petrol bombs. A few days ago, twenty-odd people were killed, mostly protesters. On Thursday, in the hours that were meant to have been calmed by a truce, the violence increased. Security forces snipers shot at the protesters: medics and journalists on the scene described the shots as expert, a great many victims were killed outright, unlike the random wounding of most clashes with any general military force. Estimates of the dead range from 60 to the high 70s, again mostly protesters. Sixty-seven police and security forces members were said to have been captured.

In the parliament, a great many politicians protested vigorously against the violence. Senior officials resigned from the government party, many of the president's allies remonstrated with him and begged him to call a halt to the violence. On Friday, the army's second-in-command resigned, stating that the government had asked soldiers to put down the revolution. During the day, Yanukovych made several concessions in a bid to calm the situation down and appease the protesters.

The same journalist was there, among many others. He went down into the square, where the truce now held. He asked protesters if they were satisfied with Yanukovych's offer. There was bitter laughter. He asked what had happened to the captured police and security forces, 'We are releasing them,' the protesters said. 'They are Ukranians, we are Ukranians.'

Yesterday, Yanukovych fled. Suddenly the parliament was open to the people rather than walled off by walls of security forces. Inside the building, politicians began to work for constitutional reform that they hoped would prevent anyone ever doing this to the country again.

Outside the city, a large group of protesters and ordinary Ukranians went to the president's empty compound. Numbers may have been into the thousands. A massive, luxurious mansion set in formal gardens, it spoke of earnings far beyond the presidential salary. They did not riot there. They walked through, in orderly fashion, peering into windows and looking at each other in astonishment. Then, as the journalists who had accompanied them said, they queued in orderly fashion to use the lavatories.

Back in the centre of Kiev, the makeshift hospitals that had patched the wounded and shriven the dead gave up the bodies to their families as citizens began to tally the costs of their fight. A newly released Julia Tymoshenko wept before a crowd of 50,000 revolutionaries. The Speaker of the parliament was elected interim president.

Back at the presidential compound, ordinary citizens wandered through its private zoo, making sure there was food for the ostriches and deer. A young woman sat on the ground, bemused, patting a lamb and shaking her head.
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ashindkashindk on February 23rd, 2014 02:08 pm (UTC)
The world is a crazy, scary place! And (relatively) peaceful revolutions like this one always move me to tears. I have so many thoughts on this, but it's hard for me to put them into words in a language that's not my own.
veritas03veritas03 on February 23rd, 2014 02:45 pm (UTC)
My son went to Ukraine a few years ago with some friends who were visiting family there. We've been following the situation. I hadn't yet heard that Yanukovych had fled. Thank you for the succinct explanation of this situation.
Hueyphoenixacid on February 23rd, 2014 04:29 pm (UTC)
Oh I haven't heard about Yanukovych leaving yet. I'm glad things are calm now - it feels like there are waves of revolutions going around the world this moment.
Dedicated Escape Artistjadzialove on February 23rd, 2014 05:17 pm (UTC)
Thanks for spelling it out in such simple yet compelling terms. I had the main gist of what was going on, but I didn't know about some of that. It's a terrible shame that anyone had to lose their life over it, but it's pretty inspiring that the people stuck together like that and ultimately brought it all to an end. I don't think I understand how someone who is strongly suspected of corruption in an election that was overturned for that reason gets elected again. But then again, I can't understand so many people here in the US consistently and fervently voting against their own self-interest, so...

There's actually a whole lot I don't understand about the human race.
bk7brokemybrainbk7brokemybrain on February 23rd, 2014 06:12 pm (UTC)

Thank you for this!
宝井かりん: 大ちゃん - sweet princetakarai_karin on February 23rd, 2014 06:24 pm (UTC)
Appreciate you writing this (eloquent as always). I haven't been able to put in to words how I feel, though I am of course saddened by the deaths.

I was old enough to remember when Indonesia threw out our own dictator, though was too young to understand all the political intricacies. Although it was very terrifying and bloody and I'm not sure we're better off now.
ravurianravurian on February 23rd, 2014 07:13 pm (UTC)
Darling, can you put this on your tumblr so I can reblog it, please? Many thanks.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on February 23rd, 2014 09:19 pm (UTC)
Done! (I forgot I had one …) (And now I should really go to work in order to fund my cat habit …)
(Deleted comment)
(Anonymous) on February 24th, 2014 03:32 am (UTC)
It's blamebrampton: I have all the imaginative power of a brick when it comes to names ;-) And am at work so no logging in!
Jaeenchanted_jae on February 23rd, 2014 10:50 pm (UTC)
I think I learn more of international politics from your concise and insightful posts than any amount of US news coverage can provide.

Of course, US news coverage is often more concerned with the latest celebrity gossip than, yanno, actual news.
Lisbet Karlsdottir: Lisbet - black white flowerslisbet on February 24th, 2014 12:59 am (UTC)
Much appreciated - thank you for posting this.
quatrefoilquatrefoil on February 24th, 2014 01:20 am (UTC)
This is so heartening, at a time that we need it. Persistent demonstration really can effect significant change.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on February 24th, 2014 12:54 pm (UTC)
Yes, I agree. I don't think they have an easy path ahead of them: there are genuine divisions in the country and powerful external influences who won't be disinterested. But there does seem to be a genuine will amongst the parliamentarians and revolutionaries to work with the interests of all Ukranians in mind. I hope they succeed!
valkyrie17valkyrie17 on February 24th, 2014 01:39 am (UTC)
Thank you for this. It's so much clearer than I could piece together.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on February 24th, 2014 10:27 am (UTC)
I've missed out on several important things, but it's not a history, only a summation to remind me and to spur others on to more research.
auburnesha on February 24th, 2014 05:35 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this. Needed the summary.
mrsquizzicalmrsquizzical on February 27th, 2014 10:43 am (UTC)
the world is crazy.