First Anniversary of Euromaiden Protests in Ukraine

Photo: Ilya Varlamov
Photo: Ilya Varlamov

It was a year ago, on the night of 21 November 2013, that public protests began on Євромайдан (literally “Euro Square”) in Kyiv (Kiev), ushering in months of demonstrations and riots in the centre of Kyiv. Citizens swelled the streets, but unlike the Orange revolution of years earlier, these protests took on a violent character.

Protesters demanded closer ties to Europe and an end to the massive corruption of both present and past leaders. These events lasted for months and were widely misunderstood both in the near abroad and in the West.

The Kremlin responded with an immediate and very effective misinformation campaign, much of it outright lies, by the Russian media. Moscow’s man, Yanukovich, was in trouble and the Kremlin needed Ukraine to further the “Customs Union” Eurasian economic space.

Most of the Western media did not do much better.

From the Russian perspective my fellow journalist Ilya Varlamov summed it up best. His comments once the scene in January are below:

“I came to Kiev. I came to see for myself what is happening here. Of course, an hour after arriving at Maidan, you begin to understand that everything what you’ve read in dozens of articles, saw in TV news reports is total crap. In the upcoming reports I will try to, as objectively as possible, to sort out this new wave of Kiev revolution.

Usually reporters try to answer the question: “Who came out to Maidan and why.” Depending on the political leaning, the answers are different. Some say it’s “fascists who came out to lynch the Moscali (Ukranian derogatory for Moscovites and Russians in general).”, some say “they’re bums and slackers, who’ve got nothing better to do” and “instigators on the government payroll.”

In reality, there is no answer. Those who came out are completely different. Remember, how a couple of years in Moscow there was a buzzword “angry townspeople.” Here you see football fans, retirees, office plankton. And everyone is standing together. A sweet, ol’ grandmother is pouring Molotv cocktail in a nationalists’ bottles; and a manager of a large company is carrying ammunition to the student.

And as it seems to me at this time, these people do not have a specific plan, nor idea of what to do next. Of course, individually, everyone has their own plan to “save Ukraine.” For some its “we need a couple of crates of AKs and grenades, we’ll sort things out here quickly.” Others “need to ask the world community for help and bring in the UN troops.” At this time there is no central idea of what to do, an idea that can unite and point in one direction the people at Maidan.

The only thing that is completely clear – people came out against Yanukovich.”

Media tent on Maidan. Photographer Ilya Varlamov planted a Russian flag inscribed "I am Maidan."
Media tent on Maidan. Photographer Ilya Varlamov beside a Russian flag inscribed “I’m for independence.”

By February 21 the riot police were in retreat and the parliament impeached Yanukovych. It is often ignored, but the parliament that impeached Yanukovich was his own parliament from the Party of Regions. Ukraine’s parliament installed an interim government until new elections could be held. They also ordered that political prisoner Yulia Timoshenko be released from prison.

For months the Kremlin denied any involvement in escorting Yanukovich out of Ukraine. When he at first surfaced in Moscow, the Kremlin pretended to be surprised and swore that they were ignorant of his whereabouts. Today, Vladimir Putin matter-of-factly will tell you that the Russian government sent operatives in to get their guy, and brought him to Russia.

The confusion in Ukraine played right into Russia’s hands. Using the false pretext that somehow fascists were in control of Kyiv, the Kremlin moved into Crimea and then the Eastern regions of Ukraine. The money saved by no longer paying rent for naval bases in southern Ukraine was a significant factor. The action was supported by most Russians who had felt that the Soviet Union (they predictably blame Nikita Khrushchev personally so as not to assign any fault to the CCCP) had been wrong to award the former centuries old Greek/Ottoman Turk territory to Ukraine.

Today, Crimea has been annexed to Russia after the democratically elected Crimea government was sacked in an overnight coup and replaced with a non-elected government that immediately called for a referendum on annexation.

Despite the signing of a cease fire in Minsk to end the violence in Eastern Ukraine, Russian troops and equipment continues to pour into the region. Will be fighting come to an end? That largely depends on whether Russia intends to carve out a “land bridge” to Crimea from existing Ukrainian territory.

(Photos and quotes by permission of Ilya Varlamov)

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Russian Tanks in Ukraine

Despite all the protests to the contrary, there are indeed Russian troops operating alongside rebel forces in Eastern Ukraine. The exact number is difficult to determine but there are several thousand, with some estimates as high as 15,000 or more. While they arrive across the border from Russia in unmarked tanks, armoured carriers, and modern trucks, it is clear that they are part of organized operations to assist Russian rebels in the dismembering of Ukraine.

Russian president Vladimir Putin left the G20 Summit in Australia early after encountering strong criticisms from his world counterparts. In typical fashion, he denied the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine, just as he had at first denied any Russian military presence in Moldova, Georgia and Crimea. However, the denial act is just that, an act, and it is getting a bit old. Nobody is fooled anymore, except perhaps those who would rather fool themselves.

When Canadian Prime Minister Stephan Harper greeted Mr. Putin at the G20, he reluctantly said,“Well I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I only have one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine,” Harper’s spokeperson Jason MacDonald confirmed that the Canadian PM had only reluctantly extended a handshake to the Russian leader.

In that spirit, the British Embassy in Kyiv (Kiev) tweeted a handy guide on how to spot which tanks belong to the Russian army. The tweet was a jab at the Kremlin, and rightly so. The hashtag read “ still denying ’s troops & hardware are in . Here’s a guide to help the spot its tanks:

Guide to Russian tanks

Even with hundreds of videos posted on UStream,YouTube, RUTube and other social media sites such as vkontake, the Kremlin seems to think that if they deny their military presence in Ukraine long enough, at some point the world will accept a lie as truth. Nothing could be further from reality.

Here is a civilian video recording of an unmarked Russian military convoy entering the Ukrainian city of Donetsk on the first of November:

The presence of organized Russian troops in Ukraine has continually escalated since this past summer. This video was filmed by Ukrainian civilians riding a public transit trolleybus near Luhansk:

Will we see a further push by Russia to establish a land-bridge to Crimea by carving up more Ukrainian territory?

Only time will tell.

Follow the Mendeleyev Journal on Twitter at: Mendeleyev Journal@Russianreport

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Russian Language Tips

Russian language

One of our favourite tasks at the Mendeleyev Journal is to help aspiring students learn more about the Russian language. That being said, we invite readers to take advantage of our resources here at the Journal:

– The Cyrillic alphabet.

Russian grammar.

– The Mendeleyev Journal directory of Russian language resources.

– Learning to read Russian signs.

– Learning Russian words and phrases.

– Learn all about Russian names.

Another great way to gain understanding of the Russian language is via localized sources and in this edition we turn to Sophia Tupolev. Sophia is a Russian-American, a seasoned expat in Moscow, and founder/director of the Russian Conversation Club. The club meets each Sunday, by advance invitation, and gives participants the opportunity to practice using the language in a friendly setting.

Sophia is also the Russia representative for American Citizens Abroad, an expat rights group, and most of all she is a fluent speaker of the language. We really enjoyed her recent article in the Moscow Expat Life magazine titled, Five Key Russian Words to Unlock the Soul.

Sophia suggests that the five words to unlock the Russian soul include Ремонт (pronounced reh-mont) meaning ‘renovations.’  Завтра (pronounced zavtra) means ‘tomorrow.’ Можно (pronounced mozhno) means ‘May I’ or ‘You may.’ Дача (pronounced dacha) meaning ‘country house” and the fifth word is Maмa (pronounced mah-mah), the woman who brought you into this world.

Sophia explains these terms and their unique place in Russian language, and the mysterious Russian soul. You may read the full article here.

If you’d like to know more about the Russian Conversation Club, check out the video below:

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