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Darth Vader announces Ukraine presidency bid

Photo: Reuters

Promising to restore the former soviet republic's downtrodden fortunes, Darth Vader announced his plans to run for election as its president. AFP:

The Sith lord, or at least an unnamed costumed protester often seen on Kiev's Independence Square flanked by his loyal stormtroopers during the winter protests, has been chosen as the official candidate of the Ukrainian Internet party (UIP) which has become known for its theatrical public stunts.

"After winning intra-party primaries by a landslide, comrade Vader will be our party's candidate," said the UIP leader, Dmitry Golubov, who spent time in prison after being convicted of using the internet to run a credit card fraud scheme.

Sky censoring Ukrainian site, says it has "a white list of international media websites which are currently blocked"

Taras sez:

I noticed last week that access to the Ukrainian media website tsn.ua was impossible from the UK but there was no issue with me connecting to it via a US VPN connection. I asked Sky (my ISP) why that was the case. This was the response I received:

Sky Help Centre 16:00 (29 minutes ago)

to me

Dear Mr Ciuriak

Thank you for contacting Sky Help Centre.
Thank you for your enquiry, unfortunately there has been a white list of international media websites which are currently blocked and this site is affected by this. This means we are unable to assist in getting you access to this website.

I've left a message for Sky PR to find out what this is about.

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Leather stormtrooper mask from Ukraine's Bob Basset


Ukrainian leather mask-maker Bob Basset's unveiled his latest creation, a menacing stormtrooper that calls to mind the recent Euromaidan violence.

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Putin launches Russian invasion of Ukraine; UN security council meets


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 hunted

Ukraine's new government has issued an arrest warrant for Viktor Yanukovych, the ousted president who fled Kiev after recent unrest. Reportedly holed up in the pro-Russian Crimea, he's being charged with the deaths of dozens of protestors. Rob 6

Ukrainian president Yanukovuych flees Kiev as opposition seize the palace

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.

Lots more updates, in realtime, from the Guardian.

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Conservative western bloggers: Ukraine strongman's pay-for-play useful idiots

With all the discussion of whether the #Euromaidan protesters are acting on their own behalf or because they've been put up to it by foreign agents, it's worth revisiting an important story from last July. Buzzfeed reported on how the current ruling Ukrainian political party used fronts to pay bribes to American conservative bloggers who posted talking points about its campaign in a hotly contested election

An anonymous whistleblower has revealed that he was paid $500 to post favorable material about the Party of Regions -- the dictatorial Ukrainian ruling party -- during the last election. The payment was allegedly provided by "libertarian media strategist" George Scoville, through a laundering process that allowed the whisteblower and others to conduct their work without registering as foreign agents in DC.

Talking points -- some repeated verbatim -- from the Scoville memos appeared on RedState, Breitbart, and Pajamas Media. Scoville and the writers involved would not confirm or deny that money was changed hands for posts intended to influence the Ukrainian elections.

The writers involved characterize Scoville's memos to them as merely informational, part of the usual mix of material they receive from many sources. I receive a lot of this material, and post some of it -- for example, I have a post scheduled today from the ACLU -- but I always disclose the source of this material, always identify quotes when I use them and do not pass them off as my own words, and I never, ever, ever accept payment for editorial suggestions.

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I am a Ukrainian: powerful, viral video about Euromaidan

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.

I Am a Ukrainian

Scenes from a hotel near #Euromaidan

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.

Thank you to Marko Rakar for introducing us to Josip's photos.

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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]

See also: EuroMaidan: a Facebook revolution in the streets of Kiev

Ukraine Prime Minister and Cabinet resign

The Prime Minister of the Ukraine has tendered his resignation to the country's president, Viktor Yanukovych. The cabinet has also resigned. Arseniy Yatsenyuk, leader of the opposition Fatherland party, will become the new Prime Minister in a brokered deal between the president and the opposition. Parliament has vacated the country's brutal anti-protest law. Demonstrators in Independence Square applauded the announcement. The cabinet will remain in place for 60 days while a new government is formed.

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#Euromaidan: Must-see photos and stories from the front lines


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.

Here's hoping that all our readers in Ukraine are safe, especially Daniel, who wrote our first post on #Euromaidan.

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Ukrainian riot police strip protester naked in sub-zero weather

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.

berkut, polonenuy

Ukraine government sends text to protesters: "Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance"


Ukraine's dictatorship is revelling in its new, self-appointed dictatorial powers. The million-plus participants in the latest round of protests received a text-message from the government reading Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.

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Ukraine slides into full-blown dictatorship with brutal new law


(click for full)

Despite the valiant efforts of the motley opposition in Ukraine, the tame Ukrainian Parliament has passed a brutal law that slides the country into full-on dictatorship. Forbidden under the new law on penalty of high fines and imprisonment: driving cars in columns that are more than five vehicles long; setting up an unauthorized sound system; distribution of "extremist opinion"; "mass disruptions" (10-15 years imprisonment!); collecting information on police or judges; and more.

The new law also demolishes the trappings of democracy: you can be convicted in absentia based on unsubstantiated hearsay; MPs can be arrested during plenary sessions; the state can order arbitrary Internet censorship; and legal service of documents now consists of signatures or "any other data."

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