Tag Archives: Ukraine

Kiev, Syria and The Forgotten War: German Fast News

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

Following a week which has been dominated by East-West tensions, Maria Wokurka provides the central European view on an increasingly divisive situation in this week’s Bottom Line from Germany.

Kyiv – voices from Germany

The world’s community has been focusing on the Ukraine and Kyiv. The protests and riots have led to the “Crimea crisis”.
Now Kyiv is in the urgent need of financial aid – and the EU is willing to help. The President of the commission, José Manuel Barroso, announced help in the form of eleven billion Euros. Russian’s president Vladimir Putin spoke of economic collaboration, in spite of the crisis.

In France, the foreign ministers of different EU states, including John Kerry and Frank-Walter Steinmeier as well as Sergej Lawrow, have met to diplomatically negotiate the crisis: some have claimed Moscow must eventually face international sanctions if it doesn’t end its involvement in Ukraine.

Germany’s federal government wants to abandon sanctions against Russia if today’s negotiations spawn a possible contact group. Without this contact group the sanctions will be on the agenda at the EU summit. While the German armed forces puts collaboration with the Russian armed forces on the test, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the foreign minister have sought to find a political loophole out of the drastic situation in the Ukraine.

The East-Europe-expert Hans-Henning Schröder said in an Interview with tagesschau.de that he is convinced that the good relationship between Russia and Germany could lead to a de-escalation in terms of the Ukraine. “Indeed, there is a really good connection between Berlin and Moscow. Even though there has been lots of criticism the last years, a big chance lies in this relationship.” According to Schröder, Germany is capable of acting as a negotiator between the West and the East. The online magazine Die Welt speaks of “Merkel’s walk on a tightrope between Putin and Obama.
There will be no easy solution. The foreign minister Steinmeier calls the critical situation in the Ukraine “the most problematic crisis in Europe since the Fall of the Wall.”

Has Syria been forgotten?

Since January the death count in Syria has stopped being recorded by Uno. The situation is a war but has become less prominent in the global media. The violence in Syria is part of the every-day-life. Every second Syrian citizen was forced to leave their home. Germany’s magazine Spiegel Online fears that Syria is becoming one of the forgotten conflicts such as Somalia or Iraq.

a.anis

a.anis

The Uno commissioner Antonio Guterres says: “Five years ago Syria has been the second most important country to receive refugees.” Now there is a dramatic change. “So far Afghanistan counted as the biggest refugee population, Syria is close to displacing Afghanistan.”

What is the current situation? The peace negotiations have temporarily failed. Assad has tried to reconquer districts in Aleppo but 10,000 inhabitants of the city have fled during the last months. The German authorities have said that 300 Germans are currently in Syria. How many of them are involved in fighting however is not known.

Export vs import – does Germany export debt?

Germany is currently being described as the trade world champion. Indeed, this name is flattering for a country that bases its political self-confidence on its economic strength. Brussels is skeptical and critical towards Germany’s economic imbalance.
Germany’s government has always referred to the country as remarkably competitive and that has been the best argument so far. But during the last few years the government signed several summit declarations. According to these declarations the huge economic imbalances worldwide are a central cause for recent crises. If Chancellor Angela Merkel appeals to, for instance, Greece to improve the competitiveness in terms of export numbers, there is no other way that countries such as Germany have to reduce their exports and increase their imports instead.

More export than import or vice versa – in general that is not the biggest problem as long as the imbalances stay within the bounds of possibility. That means that higher import countries must be able to afford these higher imports. Higher export countries, however, are exporting debts together with their commodities.

A view from the ground in Ukraine

In instances such as the one currently taking place in Kyiv, the maxim that “a picture paints a thousand words” is never more appropriate. In these stunning shots from Sasha Maksymenko for Pandeia, we view the city’s inhabitants caught in a piece of history. 

Ukraine: A view from the ground

In instances such as the one currently taking place in Kyiv, the maxim that “a picture paints a thousand words” is never more appropriate. In these stunning shots from Sasha Maksymenko for Pandeia, we view the city’s inhabitants caught in a piece of history. 

Russia, Ukraine and The West: Social Media Reactions to the Mounting Crisis

Sasha Maksymenko

What started as a ‘people’s revolution’ in Kyiv has spread to ‘foreign invasion’ in Crimea, as the future of the Ukraine hangs in the balance. Pandeia’s Jamie Timson, Daria Sukharchuk,  and Rebecca Thorning Wine look at the reaction to the crisis across social media in Russia and the UK.

Since Saturday evening, when President Putin  officially declared his intent to deploy the Russian army in Crimea, both countries have been living in a state of constant anxiety, eager for more news. Major media outlets worked all night, providing fresh news of the crisis. Countless editorials appeared, speculating about the consequences of the situation and reasons behind this decision, and ‒ most importantly  ‒ the possible economic sanctions facing Russia.

An hour after the Federation Council (upper house of Russian parliament) had ratified Putin’s decision, the first unrest spread across  social media and small scale protests could be seen in Moscow from Saturday.

 

On Sunday, 2nd of March, hundreds of people in Moscow and St. Petersburg went to demonstrations for and against military action in Crimea . All of them proclaimed peace in Ukraine as their ultimate goal ‒ but disagreed upon the actions that should be taken.

In Crimea meanwhile, the tension quickly escalated as the Russians took control of the Navy base in Simferopol and as this video shows, wasted no time in marking their territory:

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This reaction to the presence of Russian soldiers may say more about the predominance of ethnic Russians who live in the area than the supposed civility of the impending conflict.

In Moscow, intervention supporters  marched around the ring of boulevards in the centre. Most of them were Putin supporters, and members of ationalistic, Orthodox Christian and communist organisations, with slogans emphasising unity of Russia and Ukraine.

Anti-war protests took place on Manezhnaya square, next to the Kremlin wall in Moscow, and at Isaakievskaya  square in St. Petersburg.

“I see some 300 people…”

At least 200 people were arrested (the number differs across sources).

Arresting the demonstrators in St. Petersburg: people began screaming “Shame!” and “Berkut” (the name of infamous Ukrainian military police that fought with activists on Maidan in Kiev).

Задержания. Люди кричали беркут, позор. #нетвойне #спб pic.twitter.com/ebwzjMVrEV

UK Reaction

The BBC were quick to get their former US ambassador Christopher Meyer’s viewpoint:

While The Sun helpfully came up with this graphic laden image to explain the conflict:

Protests weren’t confined solely to affected region, as demonstrators gathered in Parliament Square in Westminster:

The Telegraph led with a story which suggests Angela Merkel has questioned whether Putin is in touch with reality:

Meanwhile The Guardian produced a graphic to show the military imbalance between Ukraine and Russia:

 

* European Updates to Follow*

 

Victims of Abstract Ideals: Protests across the Globe

From protests to civil war, the international stage has seen a sandstorm of political unrest. Luis Barrueto looks at these conflicts across the globe, with focus on the rising tensions in Ukraine and Venezuela in a Special Report for Pandeia.

In Ukraine, clashes between protesters and policy have turned deadly, amassing a death toll of over 100 people after a short-lived truce. In Venezuela, protesters have been on the streets for over a week now in demonstrations against their government that are rapidly becoming violent, with the death toll at 8 people so far amidst increasing tension with the government. While each of these conflicts may seem unique at first glance, all of the clashes began as a struggle by populations against their governments’ abuses and have intensified by state tyranny. Although admittedly with different levels of clearness, underlying each struggle is a shared conviction that their citizens should live their lives in peace and tolerance. Yet, their governments continue to silence the cries for freedom.

Venezuela

“The average person faces the fear of being murdered, kidnapped or assaulted not only by criminals but by the state itself”

Gabriel Salas, from Estudiantes por la Libertad Venezuela, has summarized the situation, above. The current protests began as a peaceful demonstration against the high degree of insecurity, the growing scarcity of common consumer products, inflation and the abuse of power that has been common since Nicolás Maduro rose to power in April 2013. Last February 12, the protest that demanded the release of several students detained without their due process resulted in violence that counted 3 killed people, 23 hurt and hundreds of detainees.

12593095174_9dc2826c7e_bFollowing this, counts rose to 13 official deaths, dozens of tortured individuals and many more captured, including that of Leopoldo Lopez, the assumed leader of the opposition after his call to the 12F protest. After his surrender to the state forces, the Venezuelan people seem to have awoken from the stagnation that the opposition leaders Henrique Capriles and his Democratic Unity Roundtable had found themselves in. Declarations by Lopez’s wife, Lilian Tintori, show this by asking for his formal support, long absent since the beginning of this crisis.

Constant repression has shown in two fronts:  the National Guard and so-called “collectives”, paramilitary organizations that have been used by the officialism to strike against the opposition in cases where policy involvement is too crude of a prospect. At the time of this writing, militarization seems even a bigger threat, though those who go off to the streets find the protest as the only alternative to the increasingly crude conditions of life in Venezuela.

Ukraine

In Ukraine, the movement endured a different sort of birth. President Viktor Yanukovich gave up on a trade agreement with the European Union, in exchange for a 15 billion bailout, three months ago. Maria Semykoz, Young Voices Advocate, explains that the motifs have changed since then:

“It started with the EU treaty. The regime used violence to crack down the peaceful protest. This shocked the society. From that point on,the protest was increasingly about holding those guilty in the first blood dropped on Maidan to accountability and ensuring police and state forces will not be able to beat up 11878993505_331302ebe6_binnocent citizens in the future. However, the regime didn’t get the message”.

Progressively, violence escalated towards its peak between February 17 and 19, rising the death toll to 26. “Citizens had little choice but to demand the president’s resignation – and with it, the dismantling the whole regime, wired to steal, lie, kill and torture. As we saw over the last 2 days, people are ready to stand behind this demand until death”, adds Semykoz.

After this escalade in violence, President Yanukovich declared a short lived truce that was broken within hours and added up to a 100 killings in total since the beginning of the protests. At the time of writing, the elite Berkut police unit seen as responsible for many of the deaths have been disbanded in attempts to quell the ever heightening tensions.

Thailand and Venezuela ignited protests domestically, whereas the shadow of Russia and the West have been all the more present in Ukraine and also, in Syria. “Russia’s involvement is complex, as it delves into power relationships surrounding the energy markets as well as Putin’s dream to resurrect Russian domination in the region”, explains Irena Schneider, expert in political economy for post-Soviet countries, adding that “Though Russia has tried to promote paranoia and fear of destabilization, too much blood has been spilled for the Eurasian project to maintain a shred of credibility for all free thinking, critically-minded people in the world”.

Dissent taken to the streets

All of these countries are struggling between the people’s will and the politicians’ impositions. Schneider argues that “the open society has a universal attraction, and has touched the hearts and minds of citizens in both Russia and Ukraine. The ideas of liberty are stronger than those of brute force and oppression”. Salas has argued that “young Venezuelan students go to the streets because they fear that life and all their dreams are shattered by policies that suppress individuality and prosperity”.

Both Venezuela and Ukraine show – with a difference of degree –  that when a government overreaches from its proper limits, citizens are willing to fight for ideals like democracy, liberty and justice.  As Benjamin Constant said, abstract ideas take concrete individuals as their victims.

Elie Wiesel wrote that “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented”. From a distance, readers of this article can do best by taking a side, get informed and put pressure on their own governments not to remain silent when they witness injustice.

 

 

 

Ukraine: ‘Real war in Kyiv now’

Photo Credit: mac_ivan [Flickr]

Sean Gibson gathers the scattered coverage of what’s gone on in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv – and beyond  – in the past day, as Maidan protests intensified from a stand-off with authorities to out-and-out pitched conflict in the streets.

Reports suggest that there have been upwards of 20 deaths as well as more than 1,000 injured people admitted to Kiev hospitals overnight.  Sources in the capital say that there are still 30,000 protesters manning the Maidan, surrounded by 10,000 riot police and armed forces.

Below you’ll find everything you need to get your head around what happened and just how exactly it happened, from videos and images to the words of ordinary people and both local and foreign journalists.  Their thoughts and their records speak volumes.

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This video emerged just in time to be shown on the BBC News at 10 in the UK. Fire raining down on an armoured vehicle.

Kyiv-based radio journalist Maxim Eristravi tweeted developments – his verdict on the gravity of the current conflict between authorities and protesters was accompanied by this chilling video post.

 

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Evidence of protesters tending to the bodies of victims of the day’s fatal violence, before nightfall.

 

Rumours began to fly in the evening of a city-wide blackout and the government’s deployment of hired ‘thugs’…

 

 

These enforcers did not wait long before claiming their first victims, according to several sources on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

Alongside all this, opposition leaders accused President Yanukovych of keeping them waiting while these hired soldiers went to work on the protesters.

 

Meanwhile the UK newspapers prepared their front page coverage for the next day, Wednesday.

 

 

The more creative coverage coming out of Ukraine didn’t taken long either.

 

 

The Wall Street Journal‘s deputy bureau chief in Moscow – and specially assigned Maidan correspondent – tweeted of injuries, deaths and attempts to rejoin the fighting from the field hospital set up at Kyiv’s St Michael’s Cathedral.

 

Well-known Ukrainian activist Doctor Olga Bogomolets was reported to have put the number of injured at 1,000.

 

 

At one point rumours sparked that opposition leader Oleksandr Turchynov had been shot by a sniper – perhaps even shot dead. But the rumours slowly distilled to truth.

 

 

Reports circulated that Kiev’s Trade Union building, a key opposition stronghold, had been set ablaze – with people trapped inside.

The US Ambassador – Geoffrey Pyatt – got involved, too, helping to direct traffic in the middle of the night.

 

The surge in conflict was not confined to Kyiv, as protesters make themselves heard – and seen – in Lviv.

 

Edward Lucas, senior editor at The Economist, issued a call for action late in the night.

 

Politicians in other nations worldwide began to act – although initially with as little success as the Ukrainian opposition leaders had enjoyed.

 

 

 

 

In a long, long day of violent clashes, it was not only the protesters who suffered but the authorities, as both the debris and the hospitals testified.

 

 

Pandeia will continue to track the development of events in Ukraine.  For alternative sources and to view a liveblog of the day’s major happenings, visit The Interpreter magazine’s website, and go to the Kyiv Post via this link to see a photoessay of the Maidan in flames.  Don’t forget to follow Pandeia on Twitter, too – it’s the fastest way we can let you know what we know.

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What’s missing from this narrative?  Have you seen a different perspective in Kyiv? Where is this current outbreak of violence going to lead?  Let us know your view in the comments below.

Lead photo credit: mac_ivan [Flickr]

Ukraine, Australia and Thailand: International Fast News

Credit: Ivan Bandura

The Bottom Line nails the big talking points and the lessons to be learned from the past week across the globe. This week, Sean Gibson reflects on the swelling anti-establishment protests in both Ukraine and Thailand, as well as a notable state intervention in the wild nightlife of Sydney, Australia.

UKRAINE

An increasingly seismic movement is being felt in Ukraine after the months-long Euromaidan protest arrived at a full-blown stand-off with the government two weeks ago.

An anti-protest law, which has since been hastily repealed, led to violent clashes and several deaths on the streets of Kiev. The running and pitched battles over several days last week sparked a flurry of activity elsewhere in the country, with several regional councils being stormed and occupied by protesters.

The uprisings began in the west but began to spread to the more traditionally Russian-influenced east, even as far as Zaporizhya – the home of President Yanukovich, who has found himself increasingly on the defensive in the past fortnight.

There is a weight of recent history in this colossal fallout that stretches far beyond the initial protest against the Ukrainian government’s recoil from more fully aligning itself with Europe and the eurozone bloc. Opposition leaders are now walking the highwire in negotiations with the president – torn between compromising for some tangible reward for their efforts, and staying true to many protesters’ desire for radical change – beginning with the ousting of President Yanukovich.

The protests themselves produced many contentious pictures. While in the UK the mayor of London Boris Johnson is pushing for the availability of water cannons the next time he is faced with a riot, the demonstrations in Kiev provided a startling showcase of the equipment in action. There were serious concerns about the use of water cannons with temperatures in the capital rooted around minus-10 degrees celcius, but the hoses were deployed regardless.

Perhaps of greater concern were reports that the Ukrainian authorities were wrapping stun grenades in nails in order to cause trauma – a tactic you might hope won’t gain favour elsewhere.

Amateur video recordings spread quickly around the world, many showing the decidedly rough treatment of protesters by the police. One showed a particularly disturbing scene of a male protester stripped naked and made to pose for photos with the ‘victorious’ peacekeepers. Several others revealed the scenes as those regional councils were breached and occupied by protesters.

*ADVISORY: VIDEO BELOW CONTAINS GRAPHIC/POTENTIALLY DISTURBING SCENES*

Beyond these outright traumatic scenes was something altogether more subtle and discomfiting. While plenty of protesters and witnesses of the Euromaidan clashes were able to succesfully harness online resources to share their stories and raise global awareness, the Ukrainian establishment showed they were equally tech-savvy by tracing mobile phone activity in the area around the protests.

The police then sent a text message directly to each phone informing them that they were “registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.

This message arrived in everyone’s inboxes shortly after the government pushed through a law banning public demonstrations. It is disturbing to hink that a state could blacklist you for even being near the epicentre of a disturbance. It’s a dark foreshadowing of a potential technological war in such stand-offs in future.

THAILAND

Although the remarkable scenes surrounding the stand-off in Ukraine finally bludgeoned their way into the western mainstream media, less has been seen of the ongoing tensions in Thailand.

On the 21 January the government declared a state of emergency in Bangkok and its surrounding territories, following two months of protest against the incumbent prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra.

Credit: Johan Fantenberg

The state of emergency can last for up to 60 days and permits detention of suspects without the charge, the enforcement of a curfew, a clamp-down on freedom of the press and – most pertinently in this case – prevents political gatherings of any significant size.

The governments has stressed that police, and not the army, will be enforcing the state of emergency, in what is the latest episode of an eight-year saga. The military toppled Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, from the prime minister post in 2006 and in a week’s time, on 2 February, the embattled premier will hold what is expected to be a largely pointless election. Yingluck will most likely win comfortably and the opposition has already promised a boycott

AUSTRALIA

Sydney is poised for a serious tightening of alcohol licensing laws, with central drinking establishments ordered to close their doors to new entrants at 1:30am and stop selling alcohol at 3:00am.

The intervention from the state government is an attempt to tackle alcohol-induced violence in the previously party-friendly city.

Credit: Natalie Ingram

Many people have expressed concerns that the new measures will drive revellers into the street in the middle of the night – despite the fact that premises can remain open until 5:00am – and that there isn’t sufficient provision for public transport to cope.

There are a number of exempted areas and bars further from the centre, as well as those within tourist accommodation, will not be affected.

Off licences, however, will be forced to shut up at 10:00pm – a measure which is currently operated in Scotland.

It is a moot point whether these measures will do enough to challenge the problems of drunken violence an to balance the impingements and logistical challenges they entail. Whether licensing laws are the appropriate route through which to tackle what is a fundamentally social and cultural problem is another matter entirely.

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Are you in Ukraine, Thailand or Australia? Where are the respective protests in Kiev and Bangkok leading in the long-term? Do you think revellers in Sydney should be so restricted? Let us know your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below and tell us what else has been going on in international news.

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Photo credits:

Lead image: Ivan Bandura

Inset (right): Johan Fantenberg

Inset (left): Natalie Ingram