Friday, February 28, 2014

My love affair with books and discovering Jane Eyre: Fiction Friday

This is my oldest daughter's blog entry for today.

My love affair with books and discovering Jane Eyre: Fiction Friday - 
See more at: http://imaybshe.blogspot.com/2014/02/love-affair-books-jane-eyre.html#sthash.WEvxdfBE.dpuf

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ukraine - Crimea Heats Up

The new cabinet has been named except for defense minister who will be chosen by the Afghan vets who served on the Maidan.  Yatsenyuk is PM, no surprise.  Need some experience as many of the cabinet are very green, which is exactly what people wanted.  We have had quite enough of “experienced” politicians, thank you very much.  

The Rada is now the sole legal authority in Ukraine.  There is still a quorum of elected deputies, though “useful idiots” in the internet press I read are spreading the word that many have been illegally replaced.  They haven’t, though quite a few Party of Regions Deputies have run for their lives and others have jumped ship.  The remaining Party of Regions is now acting as opposition and has raised some valid criticisms of events to date.

I do wish the useful idiots would shut up.  Some big shot who once wrote for the Wall Street Journal and has a great deal of experience with Russia academic and otherwise, has a blog post about Ukraine that reads like it was written by Russian Television News aka the Kremlin.

We are bankrupt.  There is $400,000 left in Treasury.  Over $70 billion has been transferred to offshore accounts over the past 3 years, plus $37 billion in loans arranged by government have simply gone missing.  So we are in hoc some $75 billion plus the $37 billion.  The hard part will be tracing the money and getting as much back as possible.  It was ever thus.  The criminals steal the country blind and the people have to pay for it.  I understand some of the frustration the Greeks feel.

The Autonomous Republic of Crimea which is 60% ethnic Russia is in turmoil, aided and abetted by the Russian FSB.  Sevastopol is a Russian city, on long term lease from Ukraine, home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet.  The good citizens of that city have appointed a new mayor, a Russian citizen.  The parliament buildings in Simferopol were seized by 120 professionals, armed with automatic weapons, RPGs and machine guns.  They are either Russians or ex-Berkut riot police. 

Hard to say if disbanding the Berkut was smart or not.  A great many of them call Crimea home.  I mean, if you are going to have a group of trained professionals to beat, torture and murder Ukrainians, who better than Russians.  And of course, vice versa, I am sure.  People are sometimes reluctant to turn on their own.  Putin has used troops from one part of Russia to quell protests in other parts; likely the same was done by the USSR.  So unemployed Berkut, with no love lost for the new government and owing first allegiance to Crimea may be a problem.

There is talk of going back to the 1992 Constitution which declared Crimea an independent Republic; that was forcibly scrapped a few years later for the current one which left it part of Ukraine.  Crimea has long been predicted as the next Georgia.  Russia is already promising to protect her citizens.  Hard to say if anyone wants WWIII or not.  I think they are just saying to the new guys in Kyiv, “You want to be government so bad?  Here, govern this!” and hope they make some serious mistakes.

A bit more history, geography, too, that I just learned.  Khrushchev is always accused of being drunk when he gave Crimea to Ukraine, which is of course, a not unheard of possibility.  Crimea was occupied by a great many peoples over the centuries.  The Crimean Khanate, sort of the last remnants of Genghis Khan’s armies was absorbed into the Ottoman Empire, where it stayed about 300 years.  Catherine put the Turks on the run in the last quarter of the 18th century at about the same time she squelched the last remnants of the Zaporizhzhia Cossacks and Ukrainian independence.  So Crimea has been Russian as long as much of Ukraine has been but was not considered part of Ukraine.

Source: Google Maps
However, the peninsula is almost an island.  The very narrow neck of land joining Crimea to the continent holds a highway, railway and most importantly a huge irrigation canal that makes agriculture possible on the barren steppe of Crimea.  I thought I had a picture but can't find it.  My understanding is that it also provides water to some of the cities along the coast but don’t hold me to it.  Given the importance of the canal to the economy, it made sense to have Crimea part of Ukraine back in the USSR.

There is also a highway and railway coming into Crimea from the north east but it crosses some bridges to get there.  One of the demands of the Crimean Russians is a bridge from Kerch across the narrow neck of water into the Sea of Azov.
Source: Wikipedia


I wish this would settle down as I would like to blog about kids and cats and stuff.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine

The Rada are having problems forming a new cabinet.  Outside of the usual horse-trading among the coalition parties and the need to include some Party Of Regions, there are the protesters on the Maidan to consider.  The barricades have not come down because they fear counter attacks; they are staying put until the government gets it act together, likely after May 25th.  They are not making the same mistake they made in 2004.  Any cabinet appointments have to pass muster with the people and they do not want to see the same old same old.

The Russian propaganda machine is in full forward high gear as it stirs up fears in the Russian speaking south east and the 60% Russian Crimea.  The Rada did a very stupid thing when they cancelled the law making Russian language the almost-equal second official language of Ukraine.  It was hardly a pressing problem and gave the Russians a lot of ammunition.  They are now claiming all people of Ukraine will be forced to speak Ukrainian which is of course nonsense.

However Russian is the language of Colonialism; there was a time when Ukrainian language was suppressed which has not been forgotten by the Ukrainians either.  The Russian nationality of Ukraine outside of Crimea need to keep in mind that many of their ancestors were moved to Ukraine to replace the millions of Ukrainians who died in Stalin's enforced famine.

The people of Russia are opposed to the events in Ukraine according to a survey.  Of course they are.  I am sure that the people who watch Fox News are opposed to the government of Venezuela too.  When all you have access to is Фокс Нюз, there is not much likelihood of any other conclusions.  And if you do not agree with the government viewpoint in Russia (or previously in the USSR), what are your choices?

The Leftish press (Alternet, TruthDig, others) in America is picking up big time on a major Russian speaking point about Nazis and fascists having taken over Ukraine.  Even UK's The Guardian is getting into the act.  What troubles me most about the misinformation are the vitriolic comments, totally devoid of fact, especially those directed at Ukrainians who try to explain the truth.  It is a reminder that ignorance and hatred are not exclusive to Republicans and the Extreme Right in any country.

Please, please, read and spread this article from the New York Review of Books "Fascism, Russia and Ukraine".  It is well written and gives a great deal of information both historical and current about Putin's Eurasian Union and the ideology which drives it.  NYRB has several other good articles on Ukraine www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2013/dec/13/ukraine-putins-denial and www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2010/sep/21/whos-afraid-ukrainian-history .

See also The Globalist www.theglobalist.com/ukraines-global-meaning-four-theses/ and Financial Times www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/828ab8d0-9e3b-11e3-95fe-00144feab7de.html?siteedition=intl#axzz2uKSdS4WP

In other news, the Chinese Communist Party is working hard to clean up corruption.  They have no elections to lose; it is MUCH more serious.
www.trustedsources.co.uk/blog/china/the-net-closes-round-zhou-yongkang-and-his-network


Monday, February 24, 2014

Ukraine, Russia and Me

The news tonight was showing us through Yanukovych’s Mansion outside of town and the residences of the head of the Tax Department and the Chief Procurator, two most powerful men outside of Yanukovych when it comes to money.  If you have been to or have seen pictures of the museums in St Petersburg, you have some idea of the opulence in these homes.  While, as my wife said, old babushkas have not decent pensions to even live. 

There are arrest warrants out for the three gentlemen named above, plus the head of Security (all of whomat the moment are in hiding) who ordered in the snipers (special SWAT squad, not Berkut) and several other people. Evidence was found that Moscow security specialists were advising Ukraine on how to crush the protests Tuesday night.  Under other circumstances it would have been American advisors.  It is how the game is played.  

The protesters were monitoring mobile calls to the Berkut.  When they set fire to the Union Building and were able to get to the upper floors, they started coming under fire from the few rifles which were on the Maidan.  What ever orders they were given were refused with “(Expletives deleted), we are not getting paid for this”.  Which is how the attack was broken and why the protesters were still there in the morning.

Apparently the Berkut were pushing green young police officers with little or no training to the front of the line, which accounts for the youth of some of the dead militsia.  Crimea, which is 60% Russian, welcomed the Berkut home as heroes and wept at the funerals of the fallen officers while in Western Ukraine and Kyiv, the Heroes of the Maidan were laid to rest with all the tears, pomp and circumstance that could be mustered.

Barricades still manned in Kyiv; no one is sure when or how the pushback will come.  Or if.  I think all the reaction now will be led by the senior Yanukovych supporters (governors, mayors etc.) in the south east.  No word from Putin yet that I have heard though I saw him on TV this evening and know that he met today with his people about Ukraine.  The Russians leaders other than Putin are making lots of noise about the new regime of course.  The Rada has given them ammunition as it has already cancelled a Yanukovych law giving Russian language equal status with Ukrainian.  Language is one of the very sore points in the Russian speaking parts of Ukraine.

The mayor of Kharkiv and Dobkin, governor of Kharkiv Oblast, thought to have fled the country, are back in town.  Dobkin says he will run for President.  Oh, goody; another Yanukovych.

I hope they get it sorted out.  The Russian government is very angry and of course the Russian people don’t have a clue if all they watch is Russian TV News.  But there should be no reason that Ukraine, with a truly democratic government after May 25, should not be able to work with Russia and EU, though Putin most likely sees a democratic Ukraine as a major threat to his reign.   
Ukraine has felt like home since I first set foot here in January 1997, yet personally, I feel much more affinity for Russia, (as a country and a people, not as a bullying totalitarian empire).  The richness of its history; the colossal giants of music, literature, art; its people’s ability to survive under the worst conditions of wars, despots and poverty have intrigued me for years.

I love Siberia and the Siberians I have met.  Tanya said when she first came to Canada in 2000 that it reminded her of Siberia, as everyone in Canada was equal.  Siberia is very different from European Russia and Ukraine.  In Soviet times, she said, the farm directors never put themselves far above the rest of the workers.  Mostly it is because there never were serfs in Siberia and everyone in Siberia came from somewhere else; most of them not of their own volition.

Siberian Russia is a beautiful country.  I have seen so little of it but words simply cannot describe it.  And the far east, Kamchatka and Chukotka are on our list of places we want to see.  Of course, the Siberian Steppes are really what attracts me; the thousands and thousands of square miles of grasslands.  Much of it now under the plow, since the breaking of the “New Lands” in the early 1950s but still enough to overawe one with the vastness. 

When you think of the legions of nomadic herders that came west out of the Steppes and made modern day Europe.  Wave after wave, tribe after tribe over many many centuries.  Whenever the population got too large they just loaded up and headed west.  Where did so many people come from?  Someone said all they knew how to do was fight and flirt and in winter it was too cold to fight.


All my life I have had some strange affinity for Siberia so it is no surprise my wife is from there.  I always tell people that in a previous life I was a horseman of the Steppes, though others have assured me that most likely I was just part of his horse.

Ukraine - accurate article from someone on the Maidan last week

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Ukraine and the Great Game

Timoshenko is out of jail.  I have mixed emotions; sort of “Lord, have mercy; Baby’s got her blue jeans on”.  The Rada have been acting so responsibly and everything is going so smoothly in the transition to a “unification government” that I hope she plays it very cool.  Elections are called for May 25.

Yanukovych refused to resign so they impeached him.  No one knows where he is (Dick Cheney’s bunker?) and the presidents offices are emptier than the inside of my head. He has abandoned Kyiv and his billion dollar mansion no one was supposed to see or know about.  It is now a tourist attraction.  Watch for pictures.  It is awesome.

There are 4700 Deputies from SE Ukraine meeting in Kharkiv, declaring the new government illegal etc. and declaring they will not be governed by Kyiv.  The population of Kharkiv are lined up outside, protected by the police, in effect telling them to pack salt.  Even those of Russian descent do not want to go back under Moscow’s thumb or under the Party of Regions government.  If they could arrest the lot and throw them in jail it would go a long way to cleaning up the country.

Excellent article HERE by Conrad Black with history and background, topped by Repin’s famous painting “Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire.”  If Repin were still alive, he could do one entitled “Reply of Ukrainian Citizens to Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin”.

Which brings us to today’s history lesson.  There is often today the use of the term “reverting to ‘Cold War’ rhetoric”, referring to America and Russia.  This is nonsense as this rivalry of empires goes back at least 150 years before the beginning of the Cold War and was initially between Russia and Britain.  

All countries are unique but Russia is more unique than others. It is the world’s largest country, measured in geographic area, BUT it is virtually landlocked.  Major ports include Kaliningrad and St Petersburg on the Baltic, Novorossiysk on the Black Sea, Murmansk and Arkhangelsk (and a few others) on the Arctic coast and Vladivostok on the Pacific in the Far East.  

Looking at a map will quickly show you the problem.  Access to the Atlantic from the Baltic is easily blocked (ask the Germans); access to the Mediterranean from the Black Sea is only via the Dardanelles.  Shipping season, even for Russian icebreakers is pretty limited in the Arctic and Vladivostok is 9,000 km from Moscow. 

Russia is boxed and has been paranoid about it for a couple of centuries.  And paranoid of “the West” for even more centuries.  When you hear Putin rant about the West trying to hem in Russia, part of it is traditional Russian suspicion of The West and part of it is truth.

In the 19th century Russia was busy expanding its empire south into the ‘Stans.  The Great Game, as it was called was between Russia and Britain, to keep Russia out of Afghanistan (and India) and out of Iran and a warm water sea port.  The game was called on account of reign in the early 20th century as Russia had enough problems of her own.  It resumed with a vengeance after the war as America attempted to block expansion of the (now Sovietized) Russian Empire even as she expanded her own.

With the demise of the Soviet Union and with it the entire empire, Russia had a chance to modernize and democratize.  However that was blown in the 90s and one can argue the causes.  Of course The West got blamed for the entire 90s and in many cases, deservedly so.  They certainly didn’t help.  Chaos brings dictatorship.  It was ever thus and especially in Russia where the people want a strong Tsar with an iron fist.  Putin fills the bill admirably (not bad abs for an old guy, either).  He IS the government and along with his cronies are enjoying being the new nobility.

Putin seems determined to rebuild the empire and The West is determined to stop him, with the ever loving concurrence of the countries that they are pulling into the EU/NATO sphere of influence as they have no desire to be back under Moscow, many of them having been there since 1939 with a short hiatus when they were under the Nazis. For more on that, read Bloodlands.  Warning, it is not an easy read.

Ukraine is THE key missing piece.  “Without Ukraine, Russia is a country, but with Ukraine, Russia becomes an empire."  The country has had a rocky road since independence; has ranked even lower than Russia on the corruption scale of Transparency International; and has essentially failed to reform, modernize or grow.  As I mentioned earlier it was frustration with the totally disastrous “Westernizing” of Yushchenko and Timoshenko that elected Yanukovych in the first place.

When it became obvious he was going for closer ties with Russia, it was time he went and was replaced by a government which would forge closer ties with “The West”.  The people of Ukraine care that a change of government brings them freedom; brings them rule of law; brings them transparency; freedom from fear and extortion; a future.  “The West”, as has been proven over and over, doesn’t care a rat’s ass about any of that as long as the government is friendly to western investors.  So we in Ukraine can only hope that in fact we get the kind of government we desperately need.

The West has been busy for several years helping Ukraine prepare for the events of the past three months.  If you think that Maidan just happened, that the people just exploded and everything else sort of fell into place as time progressed, you are incredibly naïve.  There is a huge amount of training and preparation goes into something like this, to be ready to harness the people when they do explode.  Leadership and logistics; communications, public relations and defense, and on and on.  There are manuals on how to organize and carry out peaceful protests.  There are also manuals on dealing with protests that turn violent.  It also takes money.  Money to fund the training, money to support the protests.  Much, maybe most, maybe all, of the later no doubt came from Ukrainians but someone had to be organized to collect it and use it.

NGOs have been quite involved in training people, as they are everywhere.  It is called civil society development – how people can organize to help themselves.  Occupy was no spontaneous event; though many, if not most of the people who turned up did so of their own accord.  When you hear about Putin clamping down on NGOs in Russia and having them declare themselves as foreign agents, this is exactly what he fears and intends to stop.

Whether his turn will come or not, I don’t know.  If you want to know what business and politics is like in Russia, read anything by Anna Politkovskaya.  Warning, it is not easy reading.

As I write this, the meeting of deputies at Kharkiv seems to have come to nothing.  Some of the rats have escaped; others have been stopped at the border.  Yanukovych is still in the country as he was apparently blocked from trying to board a plane.

The Russian politicians, of course, as my mother used to say mad enough to chew nails and spit thumb tacks.


And I can hear Yulia on TV downstairs…

Friday, February 21, 2014

Ukraine – Winning the Peace

History has taught us well that winning the war is easy; winning the peace is the difficult part.  Revolutions have a habit of not always turning out as expected by those who manned the barricades and put their lives on the line.  France 225 years ago; Iran 35 years ago; Libya and Egypt just recently, to give a couple of examples.  Part of the problem is that the longer moderate reforms are refused and suppressed, the more likelihood of extremists taking over.  Ukraine was lucky; it only had a three day war.  Some of them have been on-going for 30 years.

The EU finally got its act together and in all night negotiations came up with a compromise solution which Yanukovych has agreed to.  Early elections (not very but at least this year, not next); back to the 2004 constitution which greatly limits presidential powers; a unity government and a few other things I can’t recall of the top.  At first the radical element on Maidan rejected it as they want Yanukovych resignation immediately as they do not trust him as far as you can bounce an anvil in a swamp.  But the army has not been called out, the Berkut and the cops have gone home and peace seems to have settled over the camp.  Even the Ukrainian TV stations are broadcasting news of the protests again.

Deputies are leaving the Party of Regions, enough that Yanukovych may not have a majority in the Rada.  The Rada voted unanimously on several resolutions (details HERE) including the constitution, and the firing of the head of interior security (the second most hated man in Ukraine), the state of emergency etc.  Timoshenko’s eventual release was one of them.  Having Yulia on the outside again will be different.  She will likely end up as president; it was close last time; with the new/old constitution she will not be a loose cannon at least.

I hope that Yatsenyuk and Klitschko get very serious cabinet posts.  They have been remarkable in all this.  They were NOT the leaders of the protest but exerted what leadership they could and certainly when it came to negotiating, were far better than the hotheads (who were critical on the battlefront, I give them that!!!).

But no one is going home.  Protesters are consolidating gains and holding on at least for now.  Whether the radical crowd will accept it or continue making trouble is the question but I don’t think they have the support anymore.  I could be wrong.  And nobody trusts Yanukovych, as I said.
Some interesting questions to be answered: both sides accuse the other of breaking truces and starting the violence and today there was a clip on Kyiv Post that bullets that killed the police and the protesters were the same.  Which could mean the same type but if it means the same weapons, then there were third parties involved, possibly unknown to either side.  Who stood to gain by the violence?  Russia if Yanukovych, cracked down violently; the West if it forced negotiations.  A dangerous game either way and certainly not beyond either Empire to do it.

Deputies from Crimea were seen on TV tonight threatening to join Russia.  Crimea is mostly ethnic Russian (60%) and was part of Russia until 1953.  Separatism has been an item since independence.  In 1996, the Crimean Tatars were allowed to return home after they had been exiled during The Great Patriotic War by Stalin.  They are Muslim and they are not in any hurry to be reattached to Russia in any way, shape or form.  (We laugh that they would rather join Turkey which controlled Crimea for a few centuries before the Russians and were a thorn in the side of Ukraine and favourite enemies of the Cossacks).

Hence the Kyiv Post clip below.
Feb. 21, 6:12 p.m. -- In a bid to tamp down pro-Russian separatist sentiment in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said on Feb. 21 that "it will use severe measures to prevent any action taken against diminishing the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine." The SBU noted that “certain politicians, local government officials, leaders of civil society organizations, and radically-inclined individuals have attempted to create grounds for escalating the civil conflict, and have spread autonomous and separatist attitudes among the people, which could lead to the demise of our as a united nation and loss of its national sovereignty.” In addition, the statement said that certain lawmakers of every level have begun separatist negotiations with representatives of foreign nations. “Open consultations are being held on the possible division of the country into separate parts in violation of the Ukrainian constitution,” read the statement. “This could lead to an escalation of conflict between different sectors of society, inciting ethnic or religious hatred and military conflict.” -- Mark Rachkevych

All of this is the easy part.  Once we have a new president, new cabinet, new constitution, new laws passed and so forth, the hard part begins.  Undoing generations of corruption, cronyism, extortion and lawlessness that have extended their tentacles into every part of Ukrainian life.  Because if we can’t, it will be back to the barricades one more time, in however many years.  And every time, it gets more costly.

The other danger is the Russian reaction.  Will they cut off trade and stop selling gas as they have said they would?  They accuse the West of forcing Ukraine to choose one or the other.  Not so.  It was Putin doing the forcing.  An initial trade agreement with the EU should in no way affect trade with Russia and if it actually does (cheap goods flowing through, originating in EU but sold to Russia as Ukrainian) then deal with it. 


But at least the streets are quiet tonight.  No more kids killed today though the death toll is 83 and may continue to rise as there are at least 17 in critical condition.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Ukraine. I break radio silence.

There is a great deal of misinformation about the Ukrainian situation on many North American news sites and even on the BBC.

Putin is trying to rebuild the Russian/Soviet/Russian Empire of which Ukraine is seen as a significant part.  Russia has Ukraine by the short and curlies and has been applying pressure for a long time to pull Ukraine away from the West and back into the Russian fold.  Anyone with even a small amount of knowledge of history will understand why Ukrainians resist that.

Most of Ukraine’s trade is with Russia.  Russia has used that leverage to warn Ukraine they will destroy the country simply by closing the borders to Ukrainian goods.  There have been “disputes” and slowdowns and last summer the border was shut for five days and created a panic in Ukraine.  Ukraine owes Russia billions in unpaid gas debts.  The official story is that Ukraine doesn't charge enough to cover the cost.  That may be partially true.  Unofficially, a great deal of gas money disappears between home and factory owner and the national account to pay the bill.

At the same time, Ukraine has huge debts for other stuff too.  Like Hyundai trains and Euro 2012 football matches (mini-Sochi) and so forth.  I am not sure if the debts of the country would match dollar for dollar the fortunes of the rich and powerful but close enough.

So when Putin told Yanukovych what would happen to Ukraine and to him if he signed any deal with the EU, he was between a rock and a hard place and went into survival mode.  The EU made it easy for him by demanding that Ukraine meet certain standards of honest and civilized behaviour on the part of the country’s government, which of course he could never agree to.

The original demonstration, mostly young people, students, was about closer ties with the EU.  If Ukraine has a future it is with the EU and they knew it.  Then the Burkut (bear-COOT) savagely attacked the demonstrators and Ukrainians surged to the Maidan.  The Berkut are the riot police.  (You know the kind.  In other countries, they shoot 14 year olds and old men and beat homeless people to death).

With no change in Yanukovych’s stance on EU and more acts of violence by his police, the demonstration changed from EU vs. Russia to get rid of Yanukovych.  To the everlasting shame of Ukraine, this guy and his parliamentary “majority” had been elected in what may prove to be the last fair and free election in Ukraine.  They knew what he was like but were so disillusioned by the total failure of Yushchenko and Timoshenko after the Orange Revolution that they actually voted for this thug.  Yushchenko and Timoshenko bear most of the responsibility for what is happening today, in my opinion.  And of course, other criminals have been freely elected to high leadership positions in other countries in the past, once in 1933 even.

Then to add insult to injury, the Rada (parliament) illegally passed a series of Putinesque laws designed to turn Ukraine into a total locked down police state.  The Communists and the Party of Regions huddled together and did a quick one-reading, show-of-hands straw vote and had it “passed” before the opposition who were meeting to discuss strategy even knew it was happening.  That was the last straw and the country exploded.  People who do not live here have no idea how corrupt this government is and how it impacts people’s day to day lives. 

People are fed up and they know that getting pulled into the Russian orb will only make it worse with NO hope of it ever improving.  The demonstrations were not organized nor were/are they controlled by the opposition political parties (Ukraine as 180 banks and 190 political parties).  The leaders of the two main moderate opposition parties tried to show leadership and negotiated with Yanukovych to the extent that they could.  

Resignation of Yanukovych and his government with early presidential elections, repeal of the draconian laws, amnesty for all arrested in the course of events and a return to the 2004 constitution were the demands.  A sort of amnesty law was passed and the Prime Minister resigned.  The cabinet ministers all resigned but continue to serve.  The “anti-protest” laws were more or less repealed.  But there was no real change in the situation and as time progressed, people were growing frustrated.

As always happens when moderates fail, the extremists take over because they have the drive and the will.  Ukraine has a couple of very “not-nice” parties, nationalists, extreme right wing, borderline neo-Nazis who refused to accept anything other than Yanukovych’s resignation and gradually their leaders gained ascension because they were willing to fight and to die. This does not mean that Ukrainians agree with them in any way but they are fed up to the teeth and will take leadership where they can get it.  And nothing pushes people to radical positions like desperation.

The neo-Nazis to my understanding are leading the fight now.  They held the line Tuesday night, pushed it back Wednesday and are holding it now.  They are armed with a few small arms and hunting rifles mostly to keep Berkut snipers off the roofs of surrounding buildings but there is no doubt they have shot directly at police.  I saw pictures of some of the dead militsia (police) and they are just kids, reportedly with little or no training.  Sent to die as PR.  The number of demonstrators dead is close to 50 I think last count.

The government have declared the ALL the demonstrators to be Fascist terrorist extremists and have begun anti-terrorist actions against them.  TV news is hard come by.  As of Tuesday, pro-opposition Ukrainian channels are showing old movies.  As Hugo Chavez said, “The revolution will not be televised”.  The only place you can get any news is the Russian channels which is like watching Fox News to get an idea of how things are going in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia or Central America.  The Russians are milking the Fascist thing to death.  Fascists are to Russians what Socialists and Communists are to Americans – great labels for everyone you don’t like.  And of course they are all terrorists.

All the TV coverage is of dead police and armed “terrorists”.  All the interviews are with government supporters.  It is hilarious until you realize that is ALL that Russian people get to see unless they are smart enough to go to the internet.

It is the fascist stuff that seems to be surfacing in North American news and of course drawing comments from those to whom anything Russia does against America is good.  Russia wants to expand her empire like the old days; America wants to block it.  That is fair.  In many cases in the past America supported the Yanukovyches of the world against those who were fighting for freedom and a future. For once they can support the good guys.

For those that question who the good guys are, it is the demonstrators, the people of Ukraine fighting against an extremely criminal government, fighting for freedom and a future for themselves and their families. It is NOT Eastern Ukraine vs. Western Ukraine.  People all over Ukraine are fed up and the demonstration/uprising/revolution has supporters in every oblast.  No one wants to see the country split.  It is just that the supporters of Yanukovych are stronger in the eastern parts of the country and have violently suppressed anything that even smells of a demonstration.

If Yanukovych wins this war (and it is a war he cannot afford to lose as he and all his “Family” and cronies will go to jail for life if they survive.  Ceaușescu didn’t.) Western Ukraine will separate or keep on fighting.  They will never go back.  They have had some experience with Partisan (guerrilla) warfare in the past and I expect if necessary it will again be “War even to the knife”, though I doubt it will come to that.

I have been terrified of Russian intervention (Hungary 1956, Poland 1968) but I think it is not likely to happen.  If even one Russian is identified here, Putin will lose face after all his harping about “Western Interference”.  (Makes me smile; like America bitching because Iran was interfering in Iraq).  This is up to Yanukovych to make or break.  Putin has his own means of interfering, depending on the outcome. On the other hand, if he were "invited" to assist against these terrorists...

Living in the countryside has its advantages.  We are reasonably safe from violence unless the entire country is up in flames.

Tanya just told me that there are 30 charters waiting a the airport to take officials out of the country.  Also internet may be cut off and mobile phone service too.  Gas stations may be shutting down according to one source and stores are only taking cash as banks are shutting down ATMs etc.  We had problems with ATMs for a while this afternoon but then they worked again  but...