Archive for January 25th, 2014


Crossing the Rubicon in both directions – Ukraine

January 25, 2014

The western cities of Ukraine (predominantly) have now crossed the Rubicon. Both Lviv and Rivne have now thrown out the presidents appointed governors and taken control of the governors administrative buildings.

Lviv Governor forced to resign in the street.

They have both declared de facto they not only do not recognise the president any longer, they are also appointing their own administration.

It is de facto a declaration of independence from control of the core – the questions is how temporary that will be and how to step back from the edge?

For them to row back from here means certain lengthy prison sentences (or worse) – the same trap the violent protesters have put themselves in.

For the government to send in non-local authorities to restore order will most certainly now be met by robust resistance and probably more bloodshed and death. Local authorities have not arrested anybody and therefore now must choose a side – and doing nothing will be interpreted as choosing the side of those who have taken control of the administrative buildings.

If the majority in Lviv and Rivne stand and defend the “people’s administrations” – and that seems almost certain in Lviv – then Ukraine begins to irrevocably split unless a way to reach a face-saving agreement for all concerned can be found with the belief that no “accidents” or “administrative reprisals” will follow – and trust is scarce.

The problem with passing laws en masse that give the perception of being dictatorial when viewed through the collective lens, and particularly so when considering the way they were actually passed, with no way of effective protest as a remedy, no legal redress via perceived politically controlled courts, newly created potentially media muzzling legislation etc, is that once people commit to a course of action that in any way breaches these new laws (and so badly are they written this post can be inferred and certainly judicially ruled as a breach) knowing the disproportionate sentences these new laws carry, and probably good beating somewhere in the system along the way, is that many will consider there no point in stopping once they start.

When the first day of the introduction of the new laws led to the deaths of those protesting them at the hands of a state institution, even many moderate and a-political people believed the authorities crossed the Rubicon.

As is usual for diplomacy and negotiation reciprocity occurs in the way things are handled, and when that is done between the people and the State in the current circumstances and in the current manner, an out of control spiral to the bottom ensues – especially when there are those within both sides who are seemingly encouraging that scenario.

It currently appears the people are leading the opposition political leaders rather than the other way around.

That is where we are at now – out of control.

Much serious thought now need occur to explore routes out of this mess – to the acceptance of not only the political actors but also the majority of those who protest – and the wider constituency too.

By Easter this will in all probability be resolved one way or another – but within the next week it may get far, far worse than it is now.

This is no longer simply about trade agreements or the EU or the CU. That stopped on the night of 31 November/1 December. It is no longer about the Right Spectre provocations or disproportionate Berkyt response that night. I’m not even sure that it is even about a choice between a colonial/dictatorial past or democratic future in the broadest of senses any longer.

With the Rubicon being crossed in both directions by both sides in two distinct ways within the past 72 hours, this now comes down to a choice between the people serving the State or the State serving the people in each major urban centre in the country and the perceptions of events over the past 72 hours of those within when making that choice.

The problem is then that it is not as easy as saying East or West or the Dnipro divide. It is not as clear cut as which language you choose to speak as a first language either. The demographics of support for one direction or another do not match so easily such black and white divisions that are lazily repeated in western media – which is why they rarely, if ever, include any academic surveys to corroborate such claims and just expect it to be accepted.

The last opinion survey published showed 51% of the nation would accept only democratic governance. A further 25% would cede “some” rights for “additional welfare” – but only 20% would be prepared to live under a dictatorship.

Quite obviously far more than 20% of the population live in the East of Ukraine.  As this was a national survey, not all that 20% that would accept a dictatorship comes from the East either.  Therefore to expect the East to any more easily accept the loss of democracy than other parts does not hold that much water when put under any serious scrutiny.  Those regions may simply take more pushing to the brink than others.

The cross cutting cleavages that join Ukrainian society far outnumber the lazily repeated divisions that separate them.

Nonetheless, the issue at hand is that control from the centre has been lost and a swift and bloodless way for it to return seems a very slim possibility at the moment – though I truly hope that it is the only one pursued.

city halls

For now at least, the situation seems very grim.


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