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The situation in Ukraine just before the fall of Yanukovych

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This webpage in Polish (click) - ta strona po polsku

Svyatoslav Sheremeta (Святослав Шеремета), recorded February 20, 2014

The author holds a doctorate in political science. He is a member of the regional council in Lviv. He describes the events that immediately preceded the fall of president Yanukovych.

Good evening. We are now living days that are crucial for Ukraine. These days of February are going to decide whether Ukraine will be in the future a free, independent, Ukrainian state. Our people is now undergoing a big test of maturity, of the desire to live in a free democratic state, of self-confidence, and of self-respect.

How and why the events unfolded

Ukraine is experiencing revolutionary events that have been dubbed "Revolution of dignity." It all started with the desire of Ukrainians to belong to the European family, the desire to see the leaders of the Ukrainian state sign the association agreement with the European Union. Unfortunately, Ukraine's leadership ignored the will of the Ukrainian people and, agreeing with what Vladimir Putin desired, decided not to sign the association agreement with the European Union.

Then, during the night of November 29, students and young people were dispersed brutally during a peaceful protest. After this event, then-fading Euromaidan resumed with renewed vigor. People headed to Kyiv en masse, and many public gatherings took place there. Hundreds of thousands went there. The March of Millions in Kyiv was attended by more than half a million of people.

Events that are taking place now are tragic, but they are also significant, because in the most recent days, beginning in the month of January, the peaceful protest in Ukraine unfortunately turned into bloody events. Blood was shed in Ukraine, for the first time in 22 years of independence. On January 22, the Day of Unity of Ukraine, people were killed for the first time. Also in January, large-scale violations of human rights began. Law enforcement officers and squads formed by police officers began to torture on a large scale people who fell in their hands. Many people were wounded and tortured.

In the last few days, even more tragic events are taking place. More than one hundred people were killed, about one thousand people were injured. This is an extraordinary crime against humanity and mankind, perpetrated by the Yanukovych regime. Everything happened under direct directives of Yanukovych and his clan — Interior Minister Zaharchenko, Kliuiev and other members of the Cabinet.

The situation in Ukraine on February 20

As of today, the situation is revolutionary both in Kyiv and in other regions of Ukraine. In Lviv, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lutsk, Transcarpathia, Khmelnitsky, Vinnitsa, Poltava, Cherkasy [all these cities are in Western Ukraine].

Unfortunately, the situation often gets out of control. In particular, people occupy a large number of buildings belonging to the state administration, expel police forces from these buildings and destroy or burn police documents. This happened in Lviv. In Lviv, during the night of February 19 people (activists) occupied the premises of the regional administration, the public prosecutor's office, the department of the interior, and the office of Security Service of Ukraine. In the public prosecutor office and in the police office, a large part of the documentation was burnt by activists occupying the buildings. According to information that we have, at the Security Service of Ukraine of the Lviv Region, the officers began to burn documents before the arrival of activists. This shows clearly that those in power or the Security Service representing them do not believe that the current power will remain in place.

Similar events occured in 1989-91 during the Velvet Revolution, when regional party committees under Soviet Union and the KGB organized mass sending of documentation to Moscow, and mass destruction of documents; at that time, they had more time to do this.

Today, in the regions of Lviv, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk, Volyn, in many cities of the center and in many regions of the center and west of Ukraine, the power has actually been fully transferred to People's Councils. The People Councils assume responsibility for the situation, as it is the case in the Lviv region, because the situation really started to go out of control, and in many cases revolutionary events could possibly evolve into massacres. Steps taken by People's Councils prevented this from happening.

According to information that we have, provocateurs (so-called "titushky") arrived in the western regions of Ukraine, and especially in Lviv, directly from Kharkov. The mayor of Lviv Andriy Sadovy called the events of 18 and 19 February in Lviv a humanitarian disaster.

Lviv region: how public prosecutors made the situation worse

The causes of the situation are on one hand the anger of people against those in power, and, on the other hand, the attitude of law enforcement and of the public prosecutor office. The latter lately did not do its job, and instead acted as a fighting force of public prosecutor Pshonka: it challenged in court all decisions of local government bodies that were taken recently.

The situation got really absurd when the resolutions on socio-political situation taken by the Lviv Regional Council, district councils, town and village councils, were challenged in court by the Prosecutor Office. The situation became blocked.

Of course, people were aware of these actions by the prosecutor office, they read about them in the press, they heard about them, and th caused anger. The anger was visible in the attitude of the people towards the public prosecutor office. It contributed to the occupation of the office's building, and to other things, that would better have been avoided, and that later needed to be stopped.

The situation in Lviv on February 20

As of today, the situation has returned to normal in Lviv. The control over the situation in the region has been regained by the Regional Council, the Lviv City Council, self-defense units and community activists who are patrolling the streets with police, and who do their best to ensure that the situation is under control.

It is significant that representatives of self-defense during the night of February 18 prevented destruction in the Consulate General of Russia in Lviv and in Epicenter hypermarket, as reportedly a longer-term plan existed to destroy the consulate: this would give some grounds for Russia to act.

In Khmelnytsky: head of Security Service arrested

Today in Khmelnytsky, during a session of the regional council, the regional head of the state Security Service in that city was arrested for giving the order to use fire arms against people. As a result of this order, one 20 year old protester was killed and three or four others are in serious condition in hospital. Immediately, still during the session of the regional council, the military state prosecutor office decided that the man will undergo criminal investigation, and during the investigation will be detained in military prison.

In Kyiv, the situation is extremely difficult, and the fate of Ukraine is going to be determined very soon in Kyiv, in Lviv and throughout Ukraine. We have great hope that the unprecedented heroism demonstrated by the Ukrainian people, by Ukrainian citizens, will be successful, will lead to victory, and Ukraine will be a free and democratic state.

The position of Yanukovych is weakening rapidly

Today took place the first session of the Ukrainian Parliament, attended by 239 members, who had encountered unprecedented fierce pressure from Yanukovych and from his gang. Many members of parliament from the Party of Regions attended despite of having been recently under tremendous pressure. As we recall, only recently, a few weeks ago, many members of parliament from the Party of Regions were ready to vote for a compromise with the opposition, but then Yanukovych came in person to the Parliament and, by threatening the members to bury them all under asphalt, persuaded the members of parliament from the Party of Regions not to vote together with the opposition.

Now many MPs are leaving the Party of Regions and vote together with the opposition, because they understand that the situation in Ukraine has gone too far. Indeed, in the 22nd year of independence of Ukraine, blood is being shed, people die, apparently during peace time. In fact, there is a war now in Ukraine, but it is not civil war, as some want to describe it, it is a war of those in power, under the leadership of Yanukovych, against their own people. I am convinced that no government has ever won a war against its people. The Ukrainian people will win.

Yanukovych and his supporters have trouble understanding reality

Will Yanukovych go? — this is one question. Another question is: at what price will he go, how much blood will be shed because of the maniacal desire of Yanukovych, his son Alexander and his clan to remain in power and continue robbing Ukraine. It is extremely unfortunate that many seemingly senior and wise people who are now members of parliament, who are in power, have not, until now, understood the whole complexity of the situation. It seems that until recently, Yanukovych and his entourage did not understand the complexity of the situation, did not realize that Euromaidan represents the will of the people, the desire of people to live in a free and independent Ukraine belonging to the European family, with high European standards. Until recently, they believed that Euromaidan is a special interest project paid for by someone.

I think that the recent events have opened the eyes [of Yanukovych's clan] to the fact that no one will die for money, and that ordinary Ukrainians are even willing to give their lives for the future of their children, for the future of their country. Apparently, Viktor Yanukovych is now like a zombie, maybe he has been like this from the beginning. The jail time he did, the fact that he perceives the world like a former convict, probably leave an imprint on today's situation in Ukraine.

In Lutsk, the community tried to force Bashkalenko, the newly appointed governor of the Volyn Region, to write a resignation letter. But this representative of the Party of Regions remained a die-hard supporter of Yanukovych, absolutely unable to adequately assesses the situation or to understand that people are dying. And he refused to do what the community was demanding. Then, he was on stage, handcuffed to the scene by active radical protesters, and even in this situation, he refused to resign.

This attitude is astonishing, because a majority of reasonable people and even many reasonable officials who supported those in power until very recently, started, after the mass killings, to choose the side of the people. As of today, many civil servants and law enforcement officials announced their support for the people and publicly declared that they had not taken oath to the president, but to the people of Ukraine. This happened in Lviv, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lutsk, Transcarpathia and elsewhere. So I think that in the next few days the situation in Ukraine will improve. A breakthrought in favor of the opposition and of the people is likely. Today's session of the parliament confirms this.

We are not safe yet

But there is a great danger that Yanukovych and his clique can act like a wounded animal, and take all sorts of inappropriate decisions, such as today's order of the acting minister Zaharchenko, according to which police is officially allowed to use firearms against protesters; this is absolutely not supported by the constitution of Ukraine or by the current legislation.

Regarding the recent events in Lviv: the situation is very complicated and very dangerous, because more than 1200 weapons were taken during the occupation of police buildings in the city and in the region. These weapons disappeared. Today the head of police in Lviv, Olexandr Rudyak urged activists to bring the weapons back. As of today, part of the weapons have already been returned to police, and we expect that this process will continue, and that all weapon taken during the events of 18 and 19 February in Lviv, will return to the proper place and will not be used. The use of weapons leads to casualties, to bloodshed, to death. I am confident that in Lviv the situation will calm down, and that unaccounted weapons will not stay in the hands of people.

I am convinced that Ukraine will be a free and independent state, democratic, belonging to the European family. I am convinced that Euromaidan will prevail.

This webpage in Polish (click) - ta strona po polsku

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Video production, translation: Marcin Skubiszewski

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