Friday, November 26, 2004

Ukraine

I really must say more about Ukraine than this. I only spotted this when I went into The Guardian for a very different reason
The learning chain of Europe's velvet revolutions is fascinatingly direct. One of the most active groups in Ukraine's democratic opposition is called Pora. Pora means "It's time", which is exactly what the crowds chanted on Wenceslas Square in Prague in November 1989. The student activists of Pora received personal tutorials in non-violent resistance from Serbian students of the Otpor ("resistance") group who were in the vanguard of toppling Milosevic. Those same Serbs also helped the Georgian vanguard movement Kmara ("enough is enough"). On Tuesday, a Georgian flag was seen waving on Independence Square in Kiev. In Tbilisi, the rose-revolutionary Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili interrupted his first anniversary address to speak a few words of encouragement, in Ukrainian, to his "sisters and brothers" in Kiev. Now the Ukrainian opposition has asked Lech Walesa, once the leader of Solidarity, that Polish mother of all east European peaceful revolutions, to come to Kiev and mediate.
'Freedom's front line', Timothy Garton Ash writing Wednesday. I could also highlight the remark that 'shamingly, Americans probably have done more to support the democratic opposition in Ukraine, and to shine a spotlight on electoral malpractices, than west Europeans have' or note that, in contrast to their attitude towards, erm, a certain Middle Eastern country, 'liberals' have regained their passion and their principles here. But that is being churlish. TGA's article says some very obvious but very important things. Read the whole thing.

A couple more points : Ukraine's food production is needed by Russia, but not by the EU (Bernard Guetta, France Inter, Monday). Russia has access to its Black Sea fleet via Ukraine (C4 News, Tuesday I think). Could any assurances be given about this ? And could Russia  believe them ?

One irony : if the Soviet Union had not taken land from Poland, Ukraine would not have had this 'problem' with a large Catholic population in the west of the country. But thankfully Poland has no wish to pursue territorial claims against Ukraine, any more than Germany has against Poland.

Thursday : one of the state-owned TV stations said it was no longer prepared to broadcast lies and would present balanced coverage. A private channel, which before closely followed the government  line, said it would start showing opposition demonstrations. 'State television stations are today's Bastilles', as TGA says.(BBC).

Friday morning : Lech Walesa may have appeared on the opposition's platform, but the current Polish president, Aleksander Kwasniewski, and Javier Solana are in Kiev to try to mediate. (BBC).

Meanwhile, The Daily Mail had Oleg Gordievsky on "The return of the cold war" (Thursday, P24-5). No comment. Except that he managed to avoid mentioning Gorbachev.
Update (Friday evening) : I almost mentioned that no-one had yet mentioned dividing the country into two, but this mentions that the extreme Russian nationalist Zhirinovsky (I will check that spelling when I can) has talked about splitting Ukraine and letting the western half go. He has a reputation for floating 'unthinkable' ideas, which become Moscow's policy in a couple of years.

(Saturday)
I have seen revolutions in the Philippines and the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. The dynamics on the streets are fascinating to watch. The way the crowds build until they reach a critical mass, so large that almost nothing can stop them. The mass senses it has enough power to face down the state. You can feel it in the air. In Kiev on Friday that tipping point had almost been reached.
From Our Own Correspondent - Kiev's shifting sea of orange

(evening) The opposition demonstrators even manage to organize Portaloos in Liberation Square.

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