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 2013, 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.
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.
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.
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.