Attacks on Russian Orthodox Churches, looting in Kiev and other cities, beatings of Russian Ukrainians, arrest warrants for most of the ministers of the former government – these are some of the ongoing manifestations of the breakup of Ukraine after the president decided to move to safe territory in Kharkov in the east. As he did so, his car was shot at, as was that of the former speaker in the parliament. Other members of parliament were beaten, and their families threatened. The neo-fascist leader, Tyanhybok, has proposed that Ukrainians of Russian background be deprived of citizenship, and that Russian should be outlawed as a language. But now even Tyanhybok looks mild compared to the ‘Right Sector’, members of which will be part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, especially its ‘self-defence’ arm (The ‘Right Sector’ is an armed coalition that includes such lovely groups as ‘Trident,’ ‘Patriot of Ukraine,’ ‘White Hammer,’ and the Ukrainian National Army-Ukrainian People’s Self-Defence). While the Right Sector has been quite open about the fact that it set out from the start to seize power, Anonymous Ukraine has revealed that even the supposed moderate, Vitali Klitschko, also aimed at destabilising the government from the beginning.
It should be no surprise, then, that as the far right runs rampant, Russophobia has now broken out of the Maidan in Kiev and spread elsewhere. For instance, Orthodox Churches under the Russian patriarch are being attacked, seized and shut down. Even the preeminent centre of orthodoxy in eastern Europe, the great Kiev Pechersk Lavra (Monastery of the Cave) has been attacked. Not only is this a UNESCO world heritage site, but it dates back to the earliest days of Christianity in Kievan Rus’. Here Anthony (from Mt Athos) first established a simple retreat in a cave back in 1051. But it is under the Russian patriarch, so for those out to get Russians, it too is a target.
So is the majority in Ukraine – those of Russian background mostly in the resource-rich east – taking all this lying down? Not at all. A congress of deputies of the regions of south-eastern Ukraine was held yesterday in Kharkov. There was much talk of an ‘armed seizure of power’ and they questioned the legitimacy of the recent decisions in the parliament in Kiev, which does indeed seem to become rabid. (Among proposed bills are those banning the Party of Regions (Yanukovych’s party) and the Ukrainian Communist Party, and censoring Russian media which is accused of ‘biased’ reporting.)
All signs of a breakup of Ukraine. Some eastern and southern regions have decided that the Ukrainian parliament is no longer valid and will not abide by its decisions. Leaders have called for the extension of armed militias to stand up to any incursions from Kiev and western Ukraine. More and more voices are now calling for the separation of eastern and western Ukraine. Or rather, leaders in the eastern provinces – Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk and others – are saying that a declaration of independence is the best way forward. Will Crimea be first, since it is already an autonomous region with its own constitution?
More information here, here, here, here and here.
Ah well, I was hoping to travel to the Crimea later this year for a conference …