Calling the scene in Independence Square, Kiev, “apocalyptic,” Andrew Higgins and Andrew Kramer of the New York Times reported on the demonstrations yesterday, during which 25 demonstrators were killed by the Ukrainian riot police, known as the Berkut. They write that what “began as a peaceful protest in late November against” Ukraine President Viktor F. Yanukovych’s “decision to spurn a trade deal with Europe and tilt toward Russia became on Tuesday a pyre of violent chaos.”
It seems that “in thinly coded messages,” the Kremlin “urged Mr. Yanukovych to crack down.” The Ukraine President “had repeatedly pledged not to use force to disperse protesters, but after meeting President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia at the opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, he had clearly changed his mind. The fighting also broke out only a day after Russia threw a new financial lifeline to Mr. Yanukovych’s government by buying $2 billion in Ukrainian government bonds.”
Who can blame the Ukrainians if they’ve had it with the long arm of Russia? When the Soviet Union collapsed, the Ukrainian economy (like Russia’s) was plundered by Kremlin cronies. And, of course, it’s only been 80 years since the Holodomor (“artificial hunger”), which was precipitated by Stalin forcing peasants off their farms onto collectives. According to historian Timothy Snyder, author of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin (which contains indescribably horrible scenes of the Holodomor), the resulting famine killed about three million.