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17 February, 2014  ▪  Roman Malko

A One-Way Ticket to the Olympics…?

Intrigue is brewing in Ukraine. Both unexpected and predictable. Will Viktor Yanukovych come full circle from the Olympics in Sochi? Will he be able to do this? And will he want to…?

The temporary calm in Kyiv, connected to the slowing down of the negotiation process between the government and the Maidan, appears to be coming to an end. There was no miracle. There were no results: no visible steps forward and no grounds to assume that there will be a positive resolution of the conflict. There will be no peace in Ukraine in the short-term. The government does not need peace, although it is also incapable of conducting a war. For this reason, it’s more than likely that there will be no war in Ukraine in the immediate future either; the classic kind that is celebrated in numerous history books. There will be a different peace and a different war, which are already taking place and coexist in harmony. If this trend continues, victory will definitely not favour the existing occupation regime.

Ukraine is sinking into quite a strange situation – it’s not even dual power. The government is simply not controlling most of the processes that it should be controlling, while society has long given up on it. People realize that dealing with the government is simply a waste of time, effort and nerves. Having freed a small, symbolic piece of territory and declared it free of the government’s bandits, society is not only coping well, having possibly shaped an ideal community, but is also gradually and confidently expanding it. Currently this is more spiritual than physical, but this is enough, because there is a precedent. It emerges that when the state machine is incapable of influencing society, there is greater order and the level of cohabitation is higher and more qualitative. And this model clearly demonstrates the extent to which Ukrainian society is more intelligent that those people, who stubbornly want to be considered the country’s ruling class, elite or power.

Society is no longer concerned about the impotence of those in power. Moreover, it is philosophically observing with pleasure how the rich and powerful are gradually losing the last vestiges of common sense and are transforming into real paranoiacs, facing the prospect of being locked up within the white walls of a lunatic asylum. But society is no longer prepared to listen to this rubbish. And this is not only because warm air is moving in and the barricades could melt, but also because there is nothing to wait for. Dragging out time is to no-one’s advantage – neither for the government, nor for society. Meanwhile, the authorities are firmly convinced that by acting the fool, they will be able to try to at least find some way out of the situation, re-arm and bring in fresh cannon fodder.

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However, everything is changing quite quickly. Too quickly. The unexpected activation of western democracies, the sharp collapse of the hryvnia on a background of empty budget coffers and the ever-increasing pressure of the protesters does not guarantee the implementation of such optimistic plans. The government is far too sluggish. Paralytically slow. Concentrated in one pair of hands that tremble with fear, it only reacts catastrophically late to challenges and tries to clumsily patch the breaches in its defence. Petty tyranny, brutality and fear – this is the only thing feeding it and with which its entire hierarchy is steeped from the bottom to the very top. If, at the beginning of the conflict, simple minor concessions would have been sufficient for reconciliation, today, even large concessions are not enough. Society is demanding everything, not to mention immediately. The removal of Mykola Azarov whom those in power have long wanted to get rid of will no longer buy calm.

No-one can say what will happen next, particularly within parliamentary walls. All hopes that the pro-government majority will find common sense and fall apart, the entire conspiracy about a multitude of discontented Party of Regions MPs, a rebellion, dissent and the triumph of justice – these are just empty words. The people with the mandates really have no idea about the situation. Inside, they sense that something is not right, but they cannot find the emergency exit. One opposition MP, commenting on the possibility of the collapse of the Party of Regions faction, said that there is not much point in expecting a miracle, simply because most of them are inadequate. These are people, who, according to his assertions, will never give up and will resist until the end; those who do not want to get blood on their hands, lack courage and herd together only until the leader storms in and threaten them with punishment. The most amazing third type of Party of Regions members includes those who are genuinely convinced, that they have to be paid for their defection. They approach opposition MPs and express interest in the price of such defection, hinting that the amount has to have six zeroes.

All of this seems to be true even if it is virtually impossible to hear an adequate commentary on the situation within the walls of parliament at this point. Those who understand the situation are insincere. Those who are sincere lack logic. Those who have logic lack common sense. Absurd self-promotion soars above all of this. Even the blood shed on Hrushevskoho Street can’t stop this.

Meanwhile, an outcome is close. Today, it’s still possible to ease tension by returning to the 2004 Constitution that curbs the President’s powers and reorganising the government. But the President does not give the go-ahead, because he wants everything to take place within the legal framework, and according to his calculations, this will take from two to six months. He likes to keep people guessing. After all, he still has to make time to fly to the tsar in Sochi, get some recommendations and negotiate guarantees – and only then can he continue the game. His advisor Hanna Herman has recently let the cat out of the bag, saying that “nothing will happen” prior to the Olympics.

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But will people, whose expectations haven’t even been destroyed by -22⁰C, wait long enough to see Yanukovych’s return? They are used to waiting, but they have re-thought, re-evaluated and done many things as they were getting used to it. Even discussions on federalism, to which the defenders of the regime often resort, and accordingly, the division of Ukraine, even the palpable escalation of violence and increasing tension in society, even the senseless provocation of unrest and fear, can no longer force people to wait submissively for the good will of the merciful president.

The fires burning on Hrushevskoho Street changed a lot of things. The blood that fell on the frozen Kyiv territory has forever turned the page of the slave period in Ukrainian history. People are no longer afraid of blood – they are ready to pay with their blood for something more than just existence. The striking examples of sacrifice and heroism, that have manifested themselves over several days of conflict, without exaggeration, have changed the consciousness, mentality and world-view of the majority of society. The women who broke up cobblestones in the freezing cold; young women who carried out the wounded; young men, who moved strangers’ cars under a hail of bullets, rescuing someone’s property; office workers, working as hard as a colony of ants, who brought in old tyres from all over Kyiv in their cheap and expensive cars, shovelled snow and built five-metre high barricades; grandmothers, who hauled canisters of hot tea to the front line; hard-working elderly men, who stood guard in the savage cold, so that their grandsons could get some sleep in order to fight another day, and finally, these grandsons-students, who cast aside their iPads and took the cocktails, sticks, shields and catapults just as well as the crusaders of old did, will never be what they once were. And the person that is still called the president won’t be the same either. Blood has made everyone equal and stronger.

The deadline, set by the militant part of the Maidan for the ultimatum to the government, expired on February 4. Not one of the demands, be they simple or complex, were met – prisoners have not been released nor does there appear to be a resolution to the crisis. The government continues to play, leading people by the nose, does a lot of talking, plotting and lying. The opposition gets offended, threatens the government and complains. The people stay silent and wait. The truce continues. For how long – no-one knows. Explosions and shooting can resume at any moment. So having flown one bright sunny day to the Olympics in Sochi, Viktor Yanukovych risks not only being unable to get back into his office, but remaining there forever as the guest of Vladimir Putin.


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