HistoricalMullet: Maidan Revolution topples Yanukovych Regime
Parliament tries to Restore Peace
In an emergency session absent the ruling party MP’s, opposition parties passed several key measures by unanimous or near-unanimous votes. This includes the restoration of the 2004 Constitution, release of Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko from the prisoner, and removal President Yanukovych from office with new elections scheduled in May.
We’ll know by tomorrow morning – the end of the weekend at the latest – if the Kiev deal reached today will hold. It ‘seems’ to be a good deal. A democratically elected Parliament overwhelmingly votes to strip the powers of the President, including members of his own party, sack the Interior Minister in charge of the riot police and roll back the Constitution to the Orange Revolution.
Avoiding Civil War – but was this a Coup?
Coups can be tricky to call as they are not well defined. But normally a small body with vested legal authority such as military units, police, or departments of the government exceeds their legal authority to remove an official from power. General Sisi’s use of the Egyptian Army to remove President Morsi from power in Egypt and then crush the Muslim Brotherhood is a textbook coup. And though this is not the same as that, one could still call it a coup for failure to follow Constitutional procedures. But even though the vote had a less-than-legal flavor, it was approved by an overwhelming amount of democratically elected representatives – including many members of Yanukovych’s party. Though there remains a question of whether the vote was held by these MPs under threat of force from protestors (implicit or explicit).
A procedural irregularity and insurgency may be the least of concerns of the new government of Ukraine. Russia – who had helped orchestrate parts of the accords to grant blanket amnesty and free political prisoners wanted to keep Yanukovych in power during a transition. And they are not happy. Notably, Russian officials have not yet signed the accords they helped negotiate and after the vote to oust the President a Russian diplomat said Parliament’s actions “posed a direct threat to Ukraine’s sovereignty and constitutional order”. Although full-scale military invasion by Russia is not in the cards – they can exert extreme economic pressure on Ukraine and information influences.
One area where Russia concern is felt most keenly is in Ukraine. The euphoria of the Maidan Revolution in Kiev is not shared here. Protestors trying to show support for the Maidan Revolution are being beaten and called “fascists.” This reflects deep tensions in the country where the eastern half, with more Russian-speakers than Ukranian; tends to favor alignment with Russia more than the western half of the country, where the majority speaks Ukrainian. The “fascist” and “communist” labels are invectives hurled across this ethnographic line. There is a “kernel of truth” aspect to these insults. Ukrainian history in WWII is complicated including both collaboration with, and resistance to, Nazis. To the Russian-speaking people in the east, this remains seen as a betrayal of the “Great War” waged by Soviet communists. These historical roots carry forward to today, as some of those violent street groups on the barricades of EuroMaidan are linked to ultra-nationalist movements that if one squints, have fascist elements. And even though they might not be the majority, some of their leaders look set to take on increased roles if the government fully collapses. But more generally, accusations of fascist and communist have become a caricature proxy for western vs. eastern interests in Ukraine. Less about historical accuracy and more about identification of friend or foe.