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Ukraine

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paulbaxter
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Ukraine

Post by paulbaxter » Tue Dec 03, 2013 11:28 am

I'm an unrepentant Ukrainophile. Just thought I'd start with that to let you know my bias. I've made three trips there and made many wonderful friends, some of which I'm still in contact with via facebook.

Additionally, I've done quite a bit of reading on the history, politics, culture, and religion of Ukraine. It's a complicated place. It's also a place where much of the populace really feels that there is some possibility of making positive change (balanced by a great sense of helplessness as well).

I've been moved/concerned/interested in what I've been seeing in the past week or so from Kiev. The short version is this. Ukraine was entering negotiations with the EU towards some sort of introductory economic integration. The details of that arrangement are a bit beyond my knowledge. Ukraine sits in an uneasy vice between Russia and western Europe. They know, on the one hand, the the West is associated with openness, fairness, prosperity, and democracy. On the other hand, they are still very dependent on Russia for some essential things, like natural gas. They also currently have a no-tariff agreement with Russia. Nearly all Ukrainians speak Russian as a first or second language, and some of them consider themselves ethnic Russians.

Ukraine's president, Victor Yanukovich, from the Eastern, pro-Russian part of the country, told the EU that he wasn't willing to meet their requirement to release Yulia Tymoshenko from prison, so the talks are off. This has led to a massive protest in Kiev.

Some articles:
http://www.businessinsider.com/ukraine- ... ow-2013-12" target="_blank
http://www.forbes.com/sites/gregsatell/ ... e-matters/" target="_blank

The English Language newspaper from Kiev:
http://www.kyivpost.com/" target="_blank

video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqFdatdem64" target="_blank
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoTvgD_mgJU" target="_blank
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El Guapo
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Re: Ukraine

Post by El Guapo » Tue Dec 03, 2013 12:12 pm

Also, Russia was putting decidedly heavy pressure on the Ukraine to not enter into the deals with Europe, along the lines of "nice supply of natural gas that we're providing to you. Shame if something were to happen to it."

And the reason why Europe is insisting on the release of Tymoshenko (among other things, I think) is that she's a democratically elected former leader of the Ukraine, so imprisoning her was a fairly non-democratic thing to do.

Wish the best to the protesters. It's interesting that as the EU has lost a lot of its appeal within the current EU, it retains such a powerful appeal to those outside of it. I think because it's a democracy club, and further integration with the EU offers a better chance at better governance.

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Re: Ukraine

Post by paulbaxter » Tue Dec 03, 2013 12:54 pm

Of course one of the little wrinkles in this is that Tymoshenko rose to wealth and prominence the same way that all the other politicians have in that part of the world: through shady deals, bribes, kickbacks, etc. I have no doubt that she would have deserved a prison term had she done the same things in the US. However it is hypocritical, at least, for the Yanukovich government to have singled her out for punishment.
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Re: Ukraine

Post by El Guapo » Tue Dec 03, 2013 2:21 pm

Yeah (though I'm no expert on the subject) I don't think that Tymoshenko is a saint by any means. But she was democratically elected, and imprisoning former elected leaders starts to get into bad territory fast. Especially when the current President has less than sterling democratic credentials.

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Re: Ukraine

Post by Holman » Tue Dec 03, 2013 3:48 pm

I've been reading Anne Applebaum's GULAG and Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe. It would be nice to have good democratic news from the old Soviet bloc.
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Re: Ukraine

Post by El Guapo » Tue Dec 03, 2013 5:00 pm

Holman wrote:I've been reading Anne Applebaum's GULAG and Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe. It would be nice to have good democratic news from the old Soviet bloc.
Well the "Soviet bloc" included Eastern Europe, where there's plenty of good democratic news. I'm assuming you mean within the former USSR, and there's some good news there too - the Baltic States are fully democratic, and Georgia and Armenia are partly democratic.

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Re: Ukraine

Post by Holman » Tue Dec 03, 2013 5:47 pm

El Guapo wrote:
Holman wrote:I've been reading Anne Applebaum's GULAG and Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe. It would be nice to have good democratic news from the old Soviet bloc.
Well the "Soviet bloc" included Eastern Europe, where there's plenty of good democratic news. I'm assuming you mean within the former USSR, and there's some good news there too - the Baltic States are fully democratic, and Georgia and Armenia are partly democratic.
I mean that (for me right now) any good news from the region would be an antidote to those depressing books.
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Re: Ukraine

Post by paulbaxter » Tue Dec 03, 2013 9:08 pm

If you can find a copy, here book Between East and West is phenomenal. It's not focused so much on tragedy.

However, if, like me, you just really like stories about suffering, check out the PBS special about the Russian famine and the american efforts to feed the starving.

Link here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperie ... ne/player/" target="_blank
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Re: Ukraine

Post by Isgrimnur » Tue Dec 03, 2013 9:14 pm

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Re: Ukraine

Post by Holman » Tue Dec 03, 2013 9:20 pm

Just an aside:

My father-in-law's family were middle-class Jews from near Odessa. Like many others, they left for America in the wake of the 1905 pogroms, and then of course Stalin's famine and Hitler's extermination happened. All of this makes it surprising to learn that Ukraine still has one of the largest Jewish populations in Europe.
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Re: Ukraine

Post by Isgrimnur » Tue Dec 03, 2013 9:25 pm

Estimates on Wiki indicate 60% Jewish casualties in the Ukraine SSR. 1.5 million was reduced to 600k. That 600k would be equal to the pre-war population in Romania and a lot more than the pre-war poplations in a lot more of the affected areas.
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Re: Ukraine

Post by paulbaxter » Wed Dec 04, 2013 12:26 am

Holman wrote:Just an aside:

My father-in-law's family were middle-class Jews from near Odessa. Like many others, they left for America in the wake of the 1905 pogroms, and then of course Stalin's famine and Hitler's extermination happened. All of this makes it surprising to learn that Ukraine still has one of the largest Jewish populations in Europe.
Umm, the Jewish population there is pretty tiny. (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jso ... raine.html" target="_blank) There are Jewish tours from time to time. Have you seen the film Everything is Illuminated? Great film about a Jewish American going to Ukraine to look for his roots.

Steven Spielberg has collected a bunch of Jewish history film archives. Here's one about Jewish life in L'vov (L'viv in present Ukraine) in the early 20th century. There is *a* synagogue left in L'viv, which happens to be a city I visited twice. Oddly enough, plenty of Ukrainians hold on to the obviously irrational idea that Jews still run their country from behind the scenes somehow.
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Re: Ukraine

Post by Holman » Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:07 am

I must be wrong. I thought I'd heard that Ukraine's Jewish population was one of the largest in Europe.

The fact stuck with me since it seemed so unexpected. Obviously Jews have not had a fortunate modern history there, and I seem to recall it being discussed in the context of resurgent antisemitism.

Anyway, it doesn't really bear on the political events of this week.
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Re: Ukraine

Post by paulbaxter » Wed Dec 04, 2013 9:42 am

Holman wrote:I must be wrong. I thought I'd heard that Ukraine's Jewish population was one of the largest in Europe.

The fact stuck with me since it seemed so unexpected. Obviously Jews have not had a fortunate modern history there, and I seem to recall it being discussed in the context of resurgent antisemitism.

Anyway, it doesn't really bear on the political events of this week.
Well, it's a relative thing. There are quite few countries with even smaller Jewish populations. There's a chart here: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jso ... tml#europe" target="_blank
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Re: Ukraine

Post by paulbaxter » Thu Dec 05, 2013 10:13 am

This looks encouraging:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/06/world ... -home&_r=0" target="_blank

Government officials look like they are willing to negotiate with the protesters about early elections.

Of course one of the problems is that the entire political climate in Ukraine is corrupt, so I don't know that electing a different set of leadership will fix many of their problems.
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Re: Ukraine

Post by Jag » Thu Dec 05, 2013 10:37 am

Holman wrote:Just an aside:

My father-in-law's family were middle-class Jews from near Odessa. Like many others, they left for America in the wake of the 1905 pogroms, and then of course Stalin's famine and Hitler's extermination happened. All of this makes it surprising to learn that Ukraine still has one of the largest Jewish populations in Europe.

My family as well. Although I'm not sure if it was Odessa or Kiev. My Grandfather made audio recordings of his childhood hiding in the woods from the pogroms as the mounted Cossacks raided his village before they fled to the US.

It's probably why I have a soft spot for immigrants who want to make a better life for themselves in the US.

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Re: Ukraine

Post by LawBeefaroni » Thu Dec 12, 2013 3:15 pm

Guardian wrote:The EU's top foreign policy official said Ukraine still intends to sign an association pact with the bloc, as the US considers sanctions against the Ukrainian government over the crackdown on protests that have paralysed the centre of Kiev.

"[Viktor]Yanukovych made it clear to me that he intends to sign the association agreement," said Cathy Ashton in Brussels on Thursday, after returning from a two-day trip in which she met the president twice and spent time talking to protesters in Independence Square.

Also, I heard a great primer on the whole situation on The Bugle Podcast. It's here, at about 7m, 30s in. Highly recommended.
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Re: Ukraine

Post by Matrix » Sun Dec 15, 2013 8:41 pm

As Russian, who have discussed it with some ethnic Ukranians here in US.
It sucks to be Ukraine, since rush has zero problems being heavy handed and in addition to gas, it can blockade a lot of other Ukrainian exports. Ukrainian exports roughly equal between russian and EU, but EU unlikely to be so heavy handed, while Russia might do it even if it hurts her just to show it means business. It had to be something along the extreme lines for Ukraine to drop all talks with Eu and revert back to old agreements.

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Re: Ukraine

Post by paulbaxter » Sun Jan 19, 2014 2:49 pm

Looks like the situation in Kiev is turning violent. Here's a live stream:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrZcAsPK ... ture=share" target="_blank

If you haven't been keeping up, the government just passed a sweeping set of anti-protest laws.
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Re: Ukraine

Post by Holman » Tue Jan 21, 2014 2:17 pm

Well this is creepy: Ukraine Tracks Protesters Through Cellphones
The government’s opponents pointed to three recent actions by the government that they said were intended to incite the more radical protesters and sow doubt in the minds of the moderates: new laws passed last week circumscribing the right for public assembly; the blocking of a protest march on a side street; and on Tuesday, sending cellphone messages to people standing in the vicinity of the fighting saying, “Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.”

...

The phrasing of the message, about “participating in a mass disturbance," echoed that in the new law making it a crime to participate in a protest deemed violent. The law took effect on Tuesday. And protesters were concerned that the government seemed to be using cutting edge technology from the advertising industry for pinpointing potential customers for political profiling.
And just to make it more globally ominous:
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, blamed politicians from the European Union and the United States for encouraging the fighting between the police and protesters that broke out in Kiev, the capital, over the past three days. The situation in the city, he warned, was “getting out of control.”

“It seems someone is interested in this chaos,” Mr. Lavrov said, speaking at a news conference in Moscow.
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Re: Ukraine

Post by LawBeefaroni » Tue Jan 21, 2014 3:19 pm

Holman wrote:Well this is creepy: Ukraine Tracks Protesters Through Cellphones
The government’s opponents pointed to three recent actions by the government that they said were intended to incite the more radical protesters and sow doubt in the minds of the moderates: new laws passed last week circumscribing the right for public assembly; the blocking of a protest march on a side street; and on Tuesday, sending cellphone messages to people standing in the vicinity of the fighting saying, “Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.”

...

The phrasing of the message, about “participating in a mass disturbance," echoed that in the new law making it a crime to participate in a protest deemed violent. The law took effect on Tuesday. And protesters were concerned that the government seemed to be using cutting edge technology from the advertising industry for pinpointing potential customers for political profiling.
So the violent fomenters and criminal elements will pop the batteries out of their phones while bystanders, shop employees, fringe protesters, and gawkers/media will all be branded as criminals. Seems like a good plan. Image
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Re: Ukraine

Post by paulbaxter » Wed Jan 22, 2014 11:04 am

Protesters are being shot now.
http://www.kyivpost.com/content/ukraine ... 35376.html" target="_blank

US has been taking some action. This will have to be solved by the Ukrainians, though.
http://www.kyivpost.com/content/ukraine ... 35377.html" target="_blank
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Re: Ukraine

Post by paulbaxter » Thu Jan 23, 2014 4:08 pm

Received an email today from a friend who is pastoring a church in Western Ukraine. He said that one of the protesters who was killed was a friend of several people in his church. He was in a hospital recovering from wounds received while protesting when he was kidnapped and then beaten to death in an outlying forest.

There are multiple reports of people being bused in and paid by the gvt to cause trouble among the protesters.

Kiev Post web site is down at the moment. I have no idea if that is from gvt action, an outside attack, or just due to heavy traffic.

Good story from CNN about the current truce here:
edit: for some reason it won't post
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Re: Ukraine

Post by paulbaxter » Thu Jan 23, 2014 4:17 pm

trying again:
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Re: Ukraine

Post by LordMortis » Thu Jan 23, 2014 4:18 pm

The only way I have been able to get links to work is by embedding them in the URL tag. Otherwise they evaporate.

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Re: Ukraine

Post by Isgrimnur » Tue Jan 28, 2014 3:06 pm

The Prime Minister has resigned and the anti-protest laws have been repealed.
Parliament passed an amnesty bill Tuesday that would drop criminal liability for protesters who agree to leave the government buildings they have occupied during the demonstrations — but the opposition objected to its terms, and it is to be reconsidered Wednesday. Vacating public buildings has been a key government demand, but Oleh Tiahnybok, head of the opposition Svoboda party, said protesters would not leave the buildings they hold until Yanukovych’s Party of Regions also moves out — of the government.

Another leading opposition politician, Arseniy Yatsenyuk of the Fatherland Party, said he expects parliament to appoint a commission Wednesday to rewrite Ukraine’s constitution, potentially the most far-reaching of the reforms being broached this week.

Yanukovych said over the weekend that he would be willing to cede considerable power to parliament under a new constitution. Some of his opponents have suggested that he would be content to stay on as a figurehead if that is the only way to keep his job — and his immunity from prosecution.
...
Azarov, the prime minister who resigned Tuesday, was a leading skeptic about a proposed trade agreement with the European Union. He said the pact came bristling “with thorns,” and his view seemed to have prevailed in late November, when Yanukovych abruptly walked away from the deal.
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Re: Ukraine

Post by El Guapo » Tue Jan 28, 2014 3:12 pm

That seems like good news. Though probably far from over.

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Re: Ukraine

Post by Pyperkub » Tue Jan 28, 2014 5:15 pm

El Guapo wrote:That seems like good news. Though probably far from over.
Yeah, heard on NPR last night that the Ukraine is considered the most corrupt government in Europe:
DARIA KALENIUK: Many of us have seen the luxury mansion where Yanukovych resides. And when you have golden toilets and chandeliers for $80,000, helicopter pad and all this luxury, the question is very obvious, where is it coming from? And the answer is, of course, corruption and abuse of office.

FLINTOFF: Yanukovych says he only rents the home, which is valued at more than $75 million dollars. Daria Kaleniuk says the real ownership of the home is obscured by layers of shell companies in Austria and Britain. Critics like to point out that Yanukovych, who served two prison terms for criminal offenses as a young man, has never officially earned more than about $2,000 a month in his life, yet seems to have enormous unexplained wealth.

Andrei Marusov is the chairman of the board of Transparency International Ukraine. Last month, the organization ranked Ukraine as the most corrupt country in Europe. Marusov points to one case that's become a joke among the president's critics, the claim that his earnings come from authoring books.

ANDREI MARUSOV: Recently, he earned $5 million by selling his books. So for any Ukrainian writer, it would be just a fortune. And then there were a series of investigations. And people just didn't find these books on sale in bookshops or even in libraries, and so everybody is kind of, OK, what is going on?

(LAUGHTER)

MARUSOV: But none of these cases brought attention of the general prosecutor's office.

FLINTOFF: The anti-corruption groups also question the business activities of the president's son, Alexander Yanukovych. They say a bank owned by him increased its business by 10 times after his father became president. That's because government ministries shifted their business from a state-owned bank to the one owned by Alexander. Andrei Marusov says the president's immunity from official investigations will only last so long as he remains in power.
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Re: Ukraine

Post by paulbaxter » Wed Jan 29, 2014 9:09 pm

Really impressive collection of photos here http://zyalt.livejournal.com/986689.html
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Re: Ukraine

Post by Zarathud » Thu Jan 30, 2014 1:22 am

A former colleague who fled from Ukraine as a child said that Americans have no idea just how corrupt government can be. It would be as eye opening as her first visit to a US supermarket to find an entire aisle full of breads, rather than two or three loaves from the same company, if it was a good day.
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Re: Ukraine

Post by paulbaxter » Thu Jan 30, 2014 9:09 am

Zarathud wrote:A former colleague who fled from Ukraine as a child said that Americans have no idea just how corrupt government can be. It would be as eye opening as her first visit to a US supermarket to find an entire aisle full of breads, rather than two or three loaves from the same company, if it was a good day.
My friends in Ukraine rarely talk about it, but that's a bit like the fact that Americans don't spend much time marveling over our supermarkets--it's just a fact of life. If you ask them, they'll tell you. There's three particular areas that I've heard about, though I'm sure there are many others. One is that policemen there are seen as thoroughly corrupt. They don't get enough salary to live on, so they have to invent infractions to try to extract bribes. This might happen, e.g. at a random traffic stop. A second is the tax system. People negotiate with the tax officer. One version of this I heard was someone being told (several years back) that the official tax on their income was 90%, but that if they made a certain donation then it would all go away. A third is the basic squeeze on businesses. Someone in L'viv had the nerve to try to restore and operate one of the old luxury hotels. The city government basically made their life hell until they sold it back to someone related to the mayor.
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Re: Ukraine

Post by Isgrimnur » Thu Jan 30, 2014 10:56 am

paulbaxter wrote:L'viv
Which used to be Polish. After Yalta, the Soviets pretty much attested all the Poles and then released them when they signed agreements that they would all move west into what was determined to be Polish territory.
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Re: Ukraine

Post by El Guapo » Thu Jan 30, 2014 12:19 pm

The Soviets took a lot of German land and gave it to Poland, and then took a lot of Polish land and gave it to themselves, and moved all relevant civilians west.

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Re: Ukraine

Post by NickAragua » Thu Jan 30, 2014 3:51 pm

Yanukovich "calls out sick" (quotes are mine). Better get out while the getting's good, I guess.

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Re: Ukraine

Post by paulbaxter » Thu Jan 30, 2014 5:05 pm

Isgrimnur wrote:
paulbaxter wrote:L'viv
Which used to be Polish. After Yalta, the Soviets pretty much attested all the Poles and then released them when they signed agreements that they would all move west into what was determined to be Polish territory.
Which used to be Austrian, which used to be Lithuanian, etc. It's an area with a very complicated history. Anne Applebaum has a really fascinating book about that general region called Between East and West, which I highly recommend. FWIW L'viv today is very closely identified with a strong version of Ukrainian nationalism, to the extent that folks from eastern Ukraine think they are completely nuts.
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Re: Ukraine

Post by Matrix » Fri Jan 31, 2014 9:27 am

Ukraine considered more corrupt then Russia ( though they are close), corruption is eye opening. everything requires $$$ to get things done. Belarus is actually even worse then Ukraine in corruption, but its smaller so probably not as visible.

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Re: Ukraine

Post by paulbaxter » Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:57 pm

The Orange Revolution had it's own theme song (Razom Nas Bahato), but I haven't seen anything similar from the Euromaidan protesters.

However, I did run into this today. It's not native, and I really doubt it will catch on much, but I love the tune, and coincidentally I had had it stuck in my head for a couple of days BEFORE seeing this.

Happy Kiev:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7B5AXBFe ... ture=share
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Re: Ukraine

Post by paulbaxter » Tue Feb 18, 2014 2:23 pm

Saw this from a friend in Kiev today:
"Marshall law is in effect in Kiev without official announcement - subway is completely shut down, in the downtown the traffic is paralyzed, the roads into Kiev from other cities are closed, mobile internet is shut down (we still have broadband internet, but for how long?), Maidan is surrounded by thousands of riot police threatening to attack any minute...Riot police through load speakers is warning women and children to leave Maidan. The number of people on Maidan is still growing! We need a lot of prayers! We need God's miracle to stop a major bloodshed. Hundreds of people have been seriously injured today and 9 are confirmed killed."

News story:
http://www.kyivpost.com/content/kyiv/re ... 36993.html
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Re: Ukraine

Post by paulbaxter » Tue Feb 18, 2014 5:30 pm

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Re: Ukraine

Post by paulbaxter » Thu Feb 20, 2014 9:13 am

More violence and death overnight. This is from a friend in Kiev:
Brief update: VERY EXPENSIVE SHOW AT THE COST OF BLOOD AND LIVES -apparently, our president wanted to perform a "show" for foreign observers who arrived in Kyiv this morning to talk to him one more time before passing decision to implement sanctions against Ukrainian politicians responsible for bloodshed. The "show" started this morning when for no obvious reason riot police started retreating "", allowing protesters to run them past government buildings they had so "courageously" protected for weeks. In the process many protesters were shot dead - riot police is using firearms now. A few riot police were captured by protesters. The point of the "show" was to demonstrate to foreign observers how Maidan "extremists" are chasing poor riot police and taking over government buildings. President was probably hoping that angry people on Maidan will tear policemen that were captured into pieces. But instead protesters took their prisoners to the nearest police station and turned them in! Protesters are staying within Maidan perimeter, building up barricades and cleaning the terrible mess riot police left after two days of occupying part of Maidan. There are snipers on the buildings surrounding Maidan who keep killing people. Protesters are being shot by snipers not just outside of Maidan, but on it. Ten are confirmed dead, but many more bodies are still being gathered and this number will keep growing.
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