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.


  1. There you are! Glad you're back, but I wish things were more settled in your part of the world. I did see the pictures of Yanukovych’s mansion on the telly. The people and cultures of most geographical areas are amazing. It seems to me people just want to live in peace and go about their lives. Somehow it all gets perverted by "leaders", greedy people, or fanatics and it all goes to hell in a handbasket. I can only imagine Siberia would be an amazing place.

    1. Thanks, Jono. I stole several of your cartoons for FaceBook. Thanks.
      The problem is that the world is run by those who show up.

  2. Thanks for continuing to update us on the events there. All very "interesting times."


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