Political consultations continued Friday in Ukraine, with dramatic announcements following quickly one after another. President Victor Yanukovych offered to sacrifice the government of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and appoint opposition leaders to head a new one. They refused, presenting additional demands, while proclaiming that they are ready to rule and to go ahead with the European Union deal Yanukovych halted last November.
Thursday Yanukovych had said that concessions would be made and compromises reached at a session of the Supreme Rada on Jan. 28, but after another night of smoke and barricade-building in Kiev, and clashes in a dozen cities around the country, he and his working group held three more hours of talks with Parliamentary opposition leaders Friday. Yanukovych’s deputy chief of staff, Andrey Portnoy, came out to announce that the President had offered concessions regarding the release of detained demonstrators, reform of the Constitutional Court, and negotiations to return to the 2004 Constitution (the opposition wants to curtail the expansion of Presidential powers in recent years). Also posted on the President’s website was a statement by working group member and Minister of Justice Yelena Lukash, that Yanukovych had offered the prime ministership to Arseni Yatsenyuk, head of the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) Party, and a special post as deputy prime minister for human rights to Udar Party leader Vitali Klitschko. If they accepted, Lukash said that Yanukovych would sign a decree to dismiss the current government of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.
Long-time U.S. Freedom House head Adrian Karatnycky (now at the Atlantic Council) was quoted by the New York Times) crowing, “Yanukovych blinked.” But Yatsenyuk tweeted “No deal.” Addressing the Euromaidan this evening, Yatsenyuk shouted that the opposition is ready to lead the country, but not until more demands are met, including full repeal of the Jan. 16 laws regulating demonstrations and release of ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko from prison. And he made clear his intention to go back to Ukraine’s deal with the EU: “Yanukovych said the opposition could head the government. What is our answer? Are we ready to assume this responsibility? We are not afraid to take responsibility for the fate of our country. We accept this responsbility, but this means Ukraine pivoting towards Europe. We are prepared to lead Ukraine into the EU.”
Former government minister and a funder of pro-EU agitation, Piotr Poroshenko, spoke from the Euromaidan stage as well. He had just arrived from hob-nobbing with the international finance crowd in Davos. Poroshenko loudly promised that “after we win,” Hrushevsky Street and the Dynamo Stadium will be cleaned up.
Confrontations in Kiev on Friday included televised videos of Minister of Energy and Coal Eduard Stavytsky negotiating with demonstrators for the return of his ministry’s building, seized during overnight fighting. That Ministry confirmed that all nuclear plants in Ukraine are on heightened alert in case they are attacked. In the evening, guerrillas were besieging Ukraine House, a building where government special forces were rumored to have massed. Earlier in the day, Minister of Internal Affairs Vitali Zakharchenko charged that the guerrillas were building weapons caches in the City Hall and Trade Union building, which they have held for two months. “Everyone who stays in the Maidan and these buildings will be considered an extremist,” Zakharchenko said ominously, adding that “the international community has no right to close its eyes to the actions of extremists in Ukraine.”
Clashes occurred in the capitals of eight regions of Ukraine, including not only the western areas, but also Poltava in the heart of the country. In some regions government buildings were seized, while in others police drove back attempts to storm them.
The issue of “foreign fighters” involved in Ukraine, raised Thursday by Yanukovych and Party of Regions vice-chairman Oleh Tsaryov, continued to be emphasized in Russian TV coverage of these events. Channel One Russia cited “experts” who say that the Maidan fighting cadre have been trained and are being led by people with combat experience in Syria, Chechnya, and South Ossetia, and that “there is some information” that veterans of Ukraine’s contingent in Iraq, part of the “coalition of the willing,” are also involved.
Vitrenko Joins with 28 Ukrainian Political Figures in Appeal to UN, EU and USA; Releases Own Call for a State of Emergency
Economist Natalia Vitrenko, head of the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, is one of 29 signatories to an appeal released today by Ukrainian leftist political party and Orthodox social organization leaders. Addressed to the UN Secretary-General and European and American leaders, it is titled “Stop the Guerrillas’ Marauding, Halt the Incitement to Civil War, a Coup, and the Disintegration of the Country!”
The statement begins:
“The political crisis in Ukraine is worsening by the day, taking the country toward fratricidal civil war, the loss of sovereignty, and the disintegration of the state. This is a foreign project to seize Ukraine. It is being implemented against the interests and the demands of our people. It is being carried out unconstitutionally and in violation of international norms and principles, which are based on peaceful action, free elections, freedom of speech, and respect for human rights. Since the international media reports deliberately distorted information about Ukraine, stated by politicians and officials in the EU and the USA, and this is used in support of the illegal actions of the guerrillas, we are obliged to make the following Appeal.”
The document then has three sections, covering:
1) The nature of the Association Agreement with the European Union, rejection of which became the pretext for the demonstrations now building into full-scale civil strife. Stating that the terms of the AA would wreck Ukraine’s economy, the statement adds that “Its embedded political convergence mechanism would liquidate political sovereignty as well, drawing Ukraine into the Joint Security and Defense Policy (JSDP). This anti-Russian project provides for the expulsion of the Russian Federation’s Black Sea Fleet from Sevastopol and Crimea as a whole, and draws Ukraine into the NATO military bloc.”
2) The neo-Nazi and neofascist ideology and symbols of the Euromaidan. Addressing the western leaders, the signatories say, “You should understand that, in supporting the actions of the guerrillas in Ukraine, by according them the status of ‘Euromaidan activists’ who are taking part in so-called peaceful actions, you yourselves are directly protecting, inciting, and egging on Ukrainian neo-Nazis and neo-fascists.” Providing details, they conclude: “Washington and Brussels are either following the risky course of ignoring the Nazi nature of the Euromaidan, or they are consciously closing their eyes and covering up the fascist ideology of the Parliamentary opposition and the Euromaidan in Ukraine. It is appropriate to ask: ‘Have the UN, the EU, and the USA ceased to recognize the Charter and Verdict of the International War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg, where the Hitlerite Nazis and their henchmen were convicted? Have human rights ceased to be a value for the countries of the EU and the world community? Is the Ukrainian nationalists’ devotion to Hitler and his mass murders of civilians now considered democracy?'”
3) “The rights of those citizens of Ukraine who condemn Nazism and neo-Nazism, espouse a different ideology, defend the sovereignty of Ukraine, and categorically reject the Association Agreement with the EU, while seeing Ukraine’s integration into the Customs Union as a way out of the crisis, are being trampled on! … We insist on the inclusion of our representatives in the negotiation process with the President of Ukraine and the Parliamentary opposition, and we ask you to support this demand. We also urgently request that you receive an authorized delegation of the signatories hereof, in order to obtain objective information about what is happening in Ukraine. We, as leaders of Ukrainian political parties and public organizations, express our concern that politicians and officials from the UN, the EU, the USA and the international community have a distorted perception of the events being organized to bring about a coup d’etat in Ukraine, and are not taking effective measures to stop this fascist coup. We call on the leadership of the UN, the EU, and the USA to immediately condemn the actions of Ukrainian Nazi organizations and, on their own part, to take the necessary measures to prevent a fratricidal civil war in our country.”
Natalia Vitrenko also issued her own statement, as authorized by the Presidium of her Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, which met on Friday. She analyzed the current situation as the lawful outcome of the attempts by international financiers to take over Ukraine and all Eastern Europe, which she has been fighting since 1991. “Today the Ukrainian oligarchy,” writes Vitrenko, “fearing to lose what it has looted, has allied with the EU and U.S. imperialists to sell Ukraine to the European Union. … The Ukrainian neo-Nazis were brought onto the political scene and cranked up, for the purpose of forcing the signing of this treasonous Association Agreement with the EU. Brussels and Washington, in alliance with the Ukrainian Parliamentary opposition, have opted for the horrific scenario of unleashing civil war.”
Vitrenko called on President Yanukovych to declare a state of emergency in this situation.