Insurgents Drive Big Escalation in Kiev and Western Ukraine

The non-conciliatory posture of Ukrainian opposition figures Vitali Klitschko and Arseni Yatsenyuk, in talks with German officials Monday, was a prelude to a new outburst of violence in Kiev yesterday morning. While those two were in Berlin, Svoboda Party head Oleh Tyahnybok prepared what he and Yatsenyuk claimed would be a “peaceful” march to “influence” the Supreme Rada (Parliament) to take up a resolution for return to the 2004 “Orange Revolution” Constitution. The core of the march was heavily-armed militants from Svoboda, Right Sector, and other neo-Nazi groups. Reaching a police line protecting the Rada, these forces attacked both the law enforcement people and a demonstration by majority Party of Regions (PoR) supporters nearby. They then stormed the PoR office, smashing windows and throwing Molotov cocktails. PoR Deputy Chairman Oleh Tsaryov told Russian state TV that two office employees were killed, one beaten to death and the other asphyxiated by smoke as the premises burned.

Inside the Rada, when its leadership refused to put the Constitutional resolution on the agenda (as this is not the lawful procedure for amending the Constitution), Svoboda launched its usual tactics to shut down the session: physically blockading the speaker’s rostrum. Svoboda’s m.o. should remind honest observers of the period when the Nazis paralyzed and stormed government and parliament offices in the late Weimar Republic, before their full takeover in 1933.

By nightfall, the Ministry of Health reported at least 13 dead, including six policemen. In the afternoon, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) and the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) issued a joint warning that “Extremists from the opposition have crossed the line. They are killing innocents on the streets of the capital of Ukraine, burning buildings and cars. Unless the disorder stops by 6:00 p.m., we will have to restore order by all means envisaged by law.” The Kiev Mayor’s office and the Ukrainian government warned the population to stay out of central Kiev. Subway service was shut down. Pro-opposition Channel 5 TV, which was live streaming from the Maidan, went off the air.

Police began to drive the guerrillas back toward Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti), using fire hoses, tear gas, and stun grenades. Into the night, according to Ukrainian live streams and Russian television, law enforcement still appeared to be holding back from a decisive move to clear the Maidan. The square and adjacent Kreshchatyk street are ablaze, as the guerrillas set fire to their own tent encampments in order to make a barricade of fire and smoke. Several existing barricades were broken by fire trucks and law enforcement vehicles. As of 4:00 a.m. on Wednesday, the Trade Union building — one of those occupied by the insurgents for the past three months — was on fire, with people trying to escape from upper-story windows; Russian TV said it was ignited by the guerrillas’ own incendiary devices, while pro-Euromaidan sources accused the police of setting the fire. Loud explosions have been heard, including one described on Russian TV as “a bomb thrown into the crowd,” but it was not known by whom. According to Russian TV, “several thousand” people remained in the Maidan Tuesday evening.

President Yanukovych met with Klitschko and Yatsenyuk in the middle of the night, with no clear result. According to Zerkalo Nedeli, Klitschko said “nothing good” had transpired because Yanukovych blames the opposition for the violence. Earlier, Klitschko had attacked Yanukovych for allegedly staging the escalation as a provocation to clear the Maidan, while sources in Yatsenyuk’s Batkivshchyna Party told Zerkalo Nedeli that the President was now prepared to negotiate Wednesday about a coalition government.

Interfax-Ukraine reported a resolution by the Supreme Rada of Crimea this evening, calling today’s disorders “the beginning of civil war.” It added that “the opposition interpreted the authorities’ numerous concessions as signs of weakness and took the amnesty [of persons detained in the disorders] as the occasion to regroup for a new attempt to seize power in the country by force.” On the national level, Tsaryov in his Russian TV interview also said that “the policy of negotiating with terrorists has failed”; that after today’s “crime against the state” — the attempt to seize the Supreme Rada, many more people in the Party of Regions will join him in saying that; and that now there is no other way to resolve the situation than by the use of force. The Crimean resolution said that Crimea “reserves the right to mobilize its residents to defend civil order.” There have been open discussions on Russian national TV of military measures Russia could take to protect Russian ethnic people in Crimea, in the event of a neo-Nazi seizure of power in Kiev.

The Russian Foreign Ministry today called on the Ukrainian opposition to “give up its policy of ultimatums and threats,” Itar-TASS reported. The official statement said: “What is going on in Ukraine is a result of the policy of appeasement of those Western politicians and European structures that, from the very beginning of the crisis, have been turning a blind eye to the aggressive actions of radical forces in Ukraine, thus prompting them to escalate this crisis.” Last evening, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stated his “extreme concern” over the violence in Kiev.

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