One week after Ukrainian strongman Viktor Yanukovuych fled Kiev and the government snipers who'd murdered dozens of protesters ran for the hills, Vladimir Putin has received approval from the Russian Parliament to invade the country. In Crimea, an area where armed gangs loyal to Yanukovuych have taken control, protesters have been beaten and been made to kneel. The Ukrainian navy has taken to sea. The Russian ambassador to the USA is said to be withdrawing. Russian tanks are in Crimea. The UN Security Council is meeting to discuss intervention.
Twitter's #russiainvadesukraine is a good place to stay abreast of affairs.
On the Guardian, Conal Urquhart is maintaining a running feed of new developments.
Yanukovych: "I'm won't sign anything with bandits who are terrorising Ukraine". Guess he's been on the phone to Moscow since yesterday— Shaun Walker (@shaunwalker7) February 22, 2014
Ukrainian opposition protesters have taken control of the presidential palace and demanded that the president Viktor Yanukovuych resign. Yanukovuych has gone into hiding and his whereabouts are unknown. The opposition leaders who signed an earlier peace deal with Yanukovuych face repudiation from the crowd in Maidan, who accuse them of selling out. Yanukovuych took to television to deny a rumor that he is resigning. The release of jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko is said to be imminent. Opposition parliamentarians are attempting to establish legitimacy as the new parliament of Ukraine. Politicians from the ethnic-Russian-dominated south and east have denounced the new government and vowed to govern themselves independent of Kiev. Protesters in the region are demanding reunification with Russia.
The riot police are fleeing their barracks, wearing masks to hide their faces.
A powerful video starring an anonymous protester called "I am a Ukrainian" has been viewed some five million times. The video was directed by Ben Moses, a documentary filmmaker who is working on a film about grassroots uprising. The video's narrator details the abuses and corruption of the ruling government, and calls on viewers to demand support for the protesters' cause. The comments for the video are filled with people claiming that it was produced by the US State Department as a political move to secure an oil pipeline and keep it out of Russian control.
It's clear that the US State Department has a long history of producing media -- propaganda, even -- aimed at swaying foreign politics, but the view that the protesters are aggressors here is laughable. For one thing, there is no question that the Kremlin has directly intervened in this affair, no question that the current government is happy to pass laws criminalizing all dissent, and no question that the police and government controlled militias are the aggressor, and have perpetrated a string of escalating, horrific acts of violence, including dozens of murders.
The Ukrainian opposition is, indeed, a weird and uneasy coalition of progressives, hooligans, everyday people and career activists. Its leadership is fragmented and ineffective. But it is also riddled with provoacteurs, its most effective leaders have been imprisoned, and it has been disrupted and undermined through a dirty tricks campaign worthy of Nixon or Putin.
The events depicted in the video did happen. The fight isn't "just about freedom" -- but it is about freedom, among other things: official corruption and incompetence, and escaping from the shadow of Russian political intervention and manipulation.
Josip Saric from Croatian national television is in a Kiev hotel near Maidan, and has kindly provided us with some snapshots of the surreal and troubling scenes, which range from bodies under shrouds in the lobby to impenetrable smoke outside the windows and bullet-holes in the walls.
Ukraine security forces torch #euromaidan's IT tent, kill journalist, beat tech protester to near-death
Protesters in Kiev's #Euromaidan camp report that yesterday's horrific violence -- which saw at least 25 protesters killed by police -- has continued to escalate. The #IT_Namet tent -- a fixture in Euromaidan, offering nonviolent IT support to protesters and journalists -- was targeted by government security forces who burned it to the ground, beating Alexei Lymarenko, one of the tent's volunteers to a state of near death. A journalist, Veremei Vyacheslav, was killed by police.
Here is a statement released by IT_Namet, asking the international technology community to support their efforts:
“From the very beginning #IT_Namet was built with the aim of a peaceful protest. Members of the IT-community never had weapons, except for tablets and smartphones connected to the Internet. So, the real purpose of security forces actions was not anti-terrorism, as it was claimed, but the destruction of unarmed people. We regret that tonight IT professional Lymarenko Alexei suffered. He was together with Ukrainian journalist Vyacheslav Veremei. Vyacheslav was killed, and Alex, who was beaten nearly to death, has serious traumas of his face. Although # IT_Namet was destroyed tonight, our beliefs and our support for peaceful protest remained unchanged. The “IT spіlnota” (IT community), which united people representing the IT industry, is expanding its activity beyond # IT_Namet. “IT spіlnota” will set out to spot the violence of authorities, to save people’s lives. Now every member of the IT-community can itself make his/her choice on the tools to protect their rights and the rights of people who yesterday were violated by their summary execution. We highly appreciate any actual support of IT-community abroad.”
Tech Protester in Kiev Badly Beaten, Journalist Killed, As ‘IT Tent’ Is Burned By Police [Mike Butcher/Tech Crunch]
An amazing post on Livejournal from Ilya "Zyalt" Varlamov gives a glimpse of life behind the barricades at the #Euromaidan uprising in Kiev, Ukraine. Zyalt's photos and text convey the diversity of the rebel lines -- "from students to pensioners" -- and the ingenuity they display in everything from homebrewed catapaults to morale-boosting drumming ("When casual stone- and grenade-throwing takes place, the knock is monotonous, in order to set rhythm and keep the morale. When Berkut attacks, drumming becomes louder and everyone hears that – for some it is a signal to run away, for some, on the opposite – defend the barricades.") At the end, we see the moment when the smoke clears and the truce begins. This is nailbiting, engrossing, terrifying stuff.
In this video, Ukrainian riot police have stripped a protester naked in subzero conditions and are parading him in public before putting him in a police van. The protester is stoic in the face of humiliation.
Daniel, who wrote our feature on #euromaidan, says that it's getting worse there: "Tires burning, police started shooting to kill, body count was at 7 this morning. Hard to say, lots of people disappear. I'm wearing bulletproof vest."
Of the protester in the video, he says, "look at his statue - what a spirit."
Stay safe, Daniel.
Ukrainian mask-maker Bob Basset made this grotesque mask depicting a baton smashing the wearer's face; it symbolizes political repression in Ukraine, and is being auctioned to benefit Hromadske.tv, a news outlet Basset calls "one of the last outposts" of "truly independent journalism" in Ukraine.
For more on the political situation in Ukraine, see our feature EuroMaidan: a Facebook revolution in the streets of Kiev .