sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

August 15, 2014

Ukraine: Finally a Conflict Worthy of New York Times Coverage

Filed under: politics, Russia, Ukraine — Tags: , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 9:40 pm

Given how they are too post-modern for the conflict between good and evil,the New York Times doesn’t do well with moral clarity.  Israel fighting HAMAS is too much for them.  But here comes Ukraine’s Donbas region, with war full of no good guys, and voila– they get it!

LUHANSK, Ukraine — Every night, as darkness falls over Luhansk, the focus now of intense humanitarian concern and geopolitical intrigue, a cat-and-mouse artillery duel begins.

In a neighborhood of high-rise apartments, residents can readily identify the hollow pops of mortars as they echo among the buildings. After that, rebel fighters can be seen hastily dismantling the weapons and hauling them away.

An hour or so later, the Ukrainian military’s response comes: the whistle and boom of incoming artillery shells, fired from guns outside the city, in a fruitless attempt at silencing the rebel gunners.

You mean, it’s not Russian terrorists executing multiple large-scale false flag operations bombing Ukrainian cities?  While Putin’s fingerprints are all over the whole separatist business and some of his special forces are fighting in Ukraine, let me assure you, as a person who reads both Russian and Ukrainian, and knows people in Eastern Ukraine, few in Ukraine* believe the fairytale that Russian terrorists are slaughtering loyal Ukrainians.  And that it’s not a widespread opinion presents a problem for Kiev — the kind of problem that requires a radical solution.  Many Donbas residents are so convinced that it’s Ukrainian armed forces shell their towns, that they flee to Russia en mass, while others move westward into Ukraine where they don’t register as refugees for the fear of being drafted into Ukrainian army, but busy themselves with defacing Ukrainian flags.

NYT collected the following sample of popular opinion in Luhansk:

Polina Ivanova, a resident of one ravaged area, was sympathetic to the rebel mortar crew. “Look how many civilians are dying,” she said. “They are trying to protect us, and they have nowhere else to fire from. We are surrounded.”

She stood on a stoop in the predawn with Ekaterina Vladimirova, a neighbor who had a different opinion. “Both sides don’t care about us,” Ms. Vladimirova said. “For them, it’s a game. One shoots that way, the other shoots this way, and simple people suffer.”

Oleg Romanov, 29, said he huddled in terror with his wife and 1-year-old son in an apartment while “it booms all night long, and plaster falls from the ceiling.” He then rises at 4 a.m. to take his place in a line for water, and make the rounds of stores to hunt for groceries.

“The rebels fire Grads and leave, and then, of course, the answer comes back to that spot,” he said. “The rebels are long gone by then, but people are still around.”

That’s a pretty representative spread.

The only thing NYT missed in their story is that the utilities in Luhansk, Slavyansk and other Eastern Ukrainian cities were turned off by Kiev.  All in all, the paper of record should stop covering Israel and refocus on Ukraine, which they are infinitely more adept to cover.

It’s not just Ukrainians who question the official account.  Human Rights Watch checked out what’s going on in Donbas, and came up with a report confirming the use of Grad rockets by Ukrainian Army.  Yes, I know it’s HRW.

July 30, 2014

Illegals and Refugees

Filed under: politics — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 8:21 pm

Dear readers, any attempts to describe the new way of illegals as “refugees” is a manipulation. What else can it be? By the US law, a refugee applies for protected status outside the United States.  Those applying already in the US, get asylum status and a slower path to citizenship.  This is done to discourage foreigners from first coming to the US and *then* asking for protection — duh!  I was a refugee once, and my family spent a half a year in Italy waiting for papers (no, I’m not complaining).

Speaking of refugees…

For the purposes of discussing illegal immigration, the place of referral for status is key.  How would all these undocumented illegals like to go to some place outside of US and prove that they “have been persecuted or fear they will be persecuted on account of race, religion, nationality, and/or membership in a particular social group or political opinion”?

I suspect none of the “baby Jesuses” that madam Pelosi is so anxious to adopt fit the definition.  They are illegals.

June 19, 2014

Dear Parents of Russian Federation, Are You Nuts?

Filed under: parenting, politics, Russia — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 11:39 am

Echo Moskvy, one of the few opposition media sources (this is not an all-out endorsement, there are some despicable opposition figures in Russia) retells a personal story, corroborated with pictures, that previously made the rounds in Russian social media.  The event took place in late May:

Sick and sunburned, my daughter Ksenia returned from a Saturday celebration staged for Putin on St. Petersburg’s Isaakievsky Square.  5000 people, most of them from children’s’ choirs were appropriated to sing songs for the leader!  It was titled “The Limitless Wonder of the World”.

It was 30 degrees Celsius [~90 F – ed.] in Peter [St. Petersburg -- ed.] that day.  All 40 under the sun!  The children were sent off at 8 am.

Prior to the entrance to the square, the children’s choir was thoroughly searched. Documents were required (my child is 12, so I provided her birth certificate), then bottled water and juices brought by children were confiscated.

And then as usual – everyone waited several hours for the tzar, who’s always behind the schedule.  A five-thousand-strong crowd was blazing under the sun until noon.  The only entertainment was watching the snipers that swarmed all the roofs around Isakievsky Square.  Six out of the 37 children in our choir fell ill, and, our daughter observed, people were fainting right and left — volunteers and doctors were barely able to take them away and treat them with water.

Putin appeared for about 3 minutes in the middle of the concert, took pictures against the background of several thousand children (the leader and children — always a good picture!), then gave a short speech and departed.  The concert went on until 2 pm.

Ksenia did not last until the end of performance. She regained consciousness in medical tent where they threw water on her.

With all the traffic jams, the children returned to Sestroretsk by 4:30.

The child was hungry — she was not allowed to take any food — sunburnt, and in wet clothes, so she refused to go to the Birthday party of our friends’ child.

She also missed school on Monday because she wasn’t feeling well.

She is still not 100% after this show-off (Russian показухa — ed.) for the leader, which should really be called “The limitless shame of Peter”…

Words fail me.

Words fail me too, but for a different reason.  It’s not merely that the children got sunburnt — kids get sunburns — or even that so many of them fainted. It’s that the parents allowed the state to use their kids for propaganda purposes, when they should have expected the state to use them up and spit them out.

How to raise a slave

When in 2008 a group of Beverly Hills parents encouraged their children to sing a silly ode to then presidential candidate Obama, at least half the country was vocally disgusted by the creepy production.  But note, that was parents raising their own kids.  And while some of these parents surely think, in abstraction, that children belong to the “community”, they do not realize that the logical outcome of this line of thought is wholesale child abuse.

The fatalistic submission of St. Petersburg parents is not at all surprising.  When I was growing up in the former Soviet Union, subjects, young and old, were herded to all sorts of mass events.  We went because we went. Adults had their own parallel holiday — gave to Caesar what was Caesar’s and had a semi-discreet swig of vodka.  Children came, and our little selves were twisted into submission early on.

Not much has changed since the collapse of the Soviet Union.  It did not occur to the parent, who obviously dislikes Putin, to excuse her child from the event, however easy that would had been to do.  Nobody called in sick. Everyone knows their place.

April 21, 2014

Social Contract in Ukraine

Filed under: politics, Ukraine — edge of the sandbox @ 7:11 pm

I found this photo of a one-man protest on the feed of my onetime classmate from Kharkov, Ukraine.  This woman lives in the south-east of the country and is of ethnically mixed origin, Russian and Latvian, if I remember correctly, and is married to a man with an Ukrainian surname.  Although she opposed the Maidan protests and considers the current government illegitimate, she wants to live in a country called Ukraine She also opposes a war between her country and Russia as well as the partial mobilization declared by the temporary government in Kyiv.  This is a pretty common sentiment in Ukraine’s south-west.

The man is holding up a poster that reads “My son didn’t go to pre-school — he will not go to the army!”

Somewhere in Ukraine

His son didn’t go to pre-school because the lines to subsidized pre-schools are often so long that children grow up before their turn comes up.  Ukraine is in no way unique in this regard; I hear the situation in France is no different.  In any event, a viable nation doesn’t need an elaborate welfare apparatus to produce defenders of the state.

March 31, 2014

Odessa Conflict – March 30th

Filed under: politics — edge of the sandbox @ 2:46 pm

Near-riot on Potemkin Steps in Odessa, Ukraine between Maidan and Antimaidan:

March 28, 2014

Second Revolution Underway in Ukraine?

Or third, if we count the Orange Revolution of 2004.  The Orange Revolution peacefully reversed election theft by Russia-supported Viktor Yanukovich.  For a moment, Ukraine united behind democratically elected nationalist Viktor Yushchenko supported by the West.  Yushchenko eventually deflated, receiving a mere 5.5% of the vote in 2010 presidential election.  He was replaced by his former arch-nemesis Yanukovich (they’d since kissed and made up), now democratically elected.

In November 2014, demonstrators demanded the resignation of Yanukovich, who by now signed an agreement to enter Russia’s Customs Union, leaving the EU association.  Demonstrations, that had support of about 1/2 of the country quickly turned violent.  The violence was perpetrated by neo-Nazi groups Svoboda and Pravy Sektor.  One of the three chief leaders of Euromaidan, as the protest became known, was Oleg Tyagnybok (I’m going to spell his name with g‘s because I can and with an y because it sounds funny to a Russian speaker — inside knowledge, I know) of Svoboda.  Those protests were marked by chants of “Moskolej na nozhi” or “Stub moskals (derogatory for Russian) with knives” and wild hopping teens screaming “Kto ne skache, tot moskal” or “The one who doesn’t hop is a moskal”. Certainly, there was more to it.  Most Ukrainians, whatever their political leanings, were clearly fed up with poverty and corruption.  Many wanted to be a European country.  Most understood that neither the EU not NATO are in a position to include them.

Protesters waved the black and red flags of the Nazi-collaborating Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists/Ukrainian Insurgent Army alongside Ukrainian flags.  Nazis attacked riot police.  In other words, if Occupy or the Tea Party were doing it, they wouldn’t last a day.  Because we are not a failed state.  Yet.

Maidan leader from Svoboda party Oleg Tyagnybok

The protesters achieved their goal of overthrowing Yanukovich and installing their own “people’s trust” government.  Ukraine’s south-east, which voted for Yanukovich, is not exactly pleased with this turn of events.  Wasting no time, Putin chopped off majority ethnic Russia Crimea.  His previously waning popularity soared among the Russians; the nation was Crimea-crazy since the break up of the Soviet Union.  Now, the US, along with Britain and France found themselves in a curious bind.  Being the signatories to Budapest Memorandum, we promised to guarantee Ukraine’s territorial integrity in exchange for nuclear disarmament.  Needless to say, we have no appetite for going to war.  But why did we recognize the current government in the first place?  So far they’ve achieved two goals: Replacing one set of oligarchs with another and moving up the regularly scheduled election by a whopping 9 months.

Now, I’m happy Ukraine is disarmed because their current equivalent of secretary of defense is a Nazi, as are many other members of the provisional cabinet.  There are moderates in the cabinet, of course.  Among the Kerensky figures is the “people’s trust” PM Arseni Yatsenyuk who looks like a mix of a grass-hopper and a rabbit.  He proclaimed himself a “kamikaze” ready to make unpopular economic decisions.  That he did.  In the meantime, Putin annexed Crimea waiving the carrot of higher pensions and capital investment before the residents of the peninsula.

“Brilliant green” Yatsenyuk. The political leader was assaulted in the north-eastern city of Kharkiv in February. In the country where politicians are flamboyantly charismatic, this one was destined to be a kamikaze

The provisional Ukrainian government turned off Russian television and is readying prosecution of separatists from the south-east.  To behead pro-Russian opposition, “lustration” of political adversaries, Yanukovich’s Party of Regions is in the works.  Pravy Sektor, displeased with the slow speed of “lustration” and general lack of revolutionary progress, vowed a new, more radical revolution to accomplish the goals of Maidan.

In the meantime, former Chechen fighter and Pravy Sektor YouTube super-star “Sashko Bilyi” filmed on multiple occasions threatening and assaulting officials in the Western Ukrainian city of Rovno (Rivne), was shot and killed by local law enforcement, allegedly resisting arrest.  Rovno is the territory of Batkivshchina, the moderate nationalist party of Yatsenyuk and formerly jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Some call Tymoshenko the drama queen of Ukrainian politics

On the other hand, in the opening salvo of her Presidential campaign Tymoshenko released that audio of herself promising to “kill Russian-speaking Ukrainians with nuclear weapons”.  This didn’t deter Pravy Sektor, who, in the aftermath of Bilyi’s death immediately pledged to avenge him, from surrendering the Ukrainian Parliament, the Vekhovna Rada.  The radicals who strong-armed the revolution and now found themselves in positions of power don’t poll well, so it’s in their interest to start a civil war.

To add to this mess, Russian tanks are positioned on the Ukrainian border, and Russian TV aired national weather forecast that included Ukraine’s north-eastern regions of Donetsk, Kharkiv and Luhansk.  Protests across the south-east are ongoing, sometimes calling for federalization of the country, sometimes — for restoration of Yanukovich and/or the Soviet Union and /or the Russian Empire withing the 1917 borders.  Since Sacramento, CA, which boasts a sizable Russian and Ukrainian population, was not a part of the 1917 borders, the US might be off the hook.  But neither Poland nor Finland are.

Many observers anticipated that after the victory Kyiv nationalists will relocate their protest onto the enemy soil of south-east Ukraine, but that didn’t really happen.  Some Pravy Sektor revolutionaries did attempt to occupy government buildings in these areas, but they were kicked out.  A few shoot-outs notwithstanding, Maidan presence on the Party of Regions strongholds was limited.  Revolutionaries stayed home, parading through the streets of western Ukraine, and, being the only armed group there, harassing locals.

In a highly televised (in Russia) video, the citizens of the eastern Ukrainian industrial region of Donbas attempted to stop a Ukrainian tank.  (X-rated Russian language, real action starts at about 5:05):

Interesting times lie ahead for Ukraine.

March 4, 2014

Ukrainian Outtakes, Updated

Filed under: politics, Ukraine — Tags: , , , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 10:45 am

This was filmed last Saturday in Kharkiv:

These men are storming the regional administration building occupied by Maidan activists who moved into this east Ukrainian city when former President Yanukovish fled it.  The building was previously surrendered by the Kharkiv politicians “to avoid bloodshed”.  The occupying activists, by the way, are mostly of the Pravyy Sektor neo-Nazi group.  While surrendering the government building, kharkovites erected a fence around the Lenin monument on Freedom square:

Found on social media under the heading “Our square! Our monument!” is this Lenin. Around him are Ukrainian, Russian and Soviet (?) flags as well as the orange and black military honor ribbon. On the fence are the pictures of the killed Bertkut policemen and various signs

Pravyy Sektor also took over the building of fight club Oplot; the club was involved in a fight against Maidan activists in Kyiv a few months earlier.  The video filmed after the squatters were forced out of Oplot shows damage done to the club, including swastikas and Ukrainian neo-Nazi symbols (sometimes over Soviet symbols) as well as a picture of Nazi collaborationist Stepan Bandera glued to the window.  And — oh yeah – -empty liquor bottles everywhere:

And the people storming these two building in Kharkiv?  They are the ones disenfranchised by the current Ukrainian regime which about half the country does not support.  Some wrapped themselves in Russian flags, screaming “Fascism will not pass” and had some choice words for “banderlogi” or the followers of Bandera.

Frankly, I’m surprised that so many conservatives are convinced that anything good will come out of this (or any other) revolution and poo-pooing the possibility of refugees flowing from east to west and back.  In the southern city of Nikolaev the local Russian speakers almost pushed the protesters from the west into the river.  Ukrainian nationalist from the south-east might flee into the west of the country or the EU.

Here is a graphic I found on social media:

It reads: “Live in Ukraine and hate Ukrainians? There is a solution: Suitcase, train station, Russia”

And here are the refugees from Odessa crying for help in Sevastopol:

A street scene in Russian-speaking Odessa: Pravyy Sektor marching through the city chanting “Moskolei na nozhi” or “Stab moskalis with knives”, moskali being a derogatory term for Russians:

We hear stories of Berkut men stuck in Kyiv hospitals where they are said to be denied medical care and which they can’t leave because they don’t have civilian clothes.  There are stories of people attacked by the mob in Kyiv.

In the western town of Rovno, Maidan leader Alexander Muzychko [aka Sashko Bilyy] of Pravyy Sektor gave his version of “out of my cold dead hands” speech in which he proclaimed his willingness to established a new order by the power of the gun — that’s in a country with a very low rate of gun ownership:

This commissar has little patience for Ukraine’s political elite, on the side of revolution or against it, and despises those who arrived at Maidan rallies in luxury cars.  Muzychko, who fought on the side of the Chechens in the Russo-Chechen wars, is expected to be indicted for threatening a local DA:

Then there is this beyond parody video of Maidan protesters hopping up and down under the Nazi black and red banners and chanting: “The one who isn’t jumping is a Moskal” and then breaking into “Glory to Ukraine — glory to heroes” holler:

A video by Graham Philips from a stand off in Odessa:

People chanting “We will not surrender Odessa”.  Plus, waiving a Stalin flag:

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