eveline lubbers on Mon, 13 Dec 2004 08:46:21 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-nl] Andere kijke op de Oekraine

Ja, we zijn nu toch zo lekker in het Engels bezig,
dit stuk vond ik in engels aktieblad, vond het verhelderend
omdat het een kijkje geeft voorbij de indelingen in 
oranje-blauw, oost-rest, autoriteiten-volk, westerse coup
of autenthieke revolutie.
De werkelijkheid blijkt een stuk ingewikkelder
(as usual zou ik bijna zeggen)

This week's SchNEWS: www.schnews.org.uk/archive/news476.htm


Friday 3rd December 2004, Issue 476





A special report from SchNEWS' Ukraine correspondent

Ever since the elections in Ukraine, hundreds of thousands people,
particularly in the capital, Kiev, have been out on the streets for
ten nights running. Some of them are living on the streets, expecting
a long stand-off with the authorities and, with the temperature about
-10oC, people have been living in tent camps in the centre of Kiev
(the biggest camp has about 500 tents with more than 5000 people
staying in them). Strikes have closed down universities, offices and
factories: sometimes with their bosses, sometimes against the boss's

In the Western media the whole event was portrayed first as the
action of opposition parties with popular support after the
opposition officially declared defeat in the presidential
elections. But soon the mood changed, and instead of "revolution",
TV-screens started to show the country's territory split into "orange"
and "blue" parts, while headlines spoke about a "divided Ukraine", and
insisted that opposition leader Victor Yuschenko's demand to stage
another round of elections is the major hope of crowds on the streets.

This isn't a blatant lie - but it's not exactly true. Not all the
people on the streets are active opposition supporters - a lot of them
just several weeks ago had no interest in party politics at all. The
decision taken by opposition leader, Yuschenko to demand a new round
of elections was a huge disappointment for many "orange" people, most
of whom don't use the word "elections", talking instead of
"revolution" or "uprising". There is no such thing as "divided
Ukraine" or "regional conflict". It's not about "east vs. west" - it's
about people vs. corrupt, criminal authorities.

For protesters it's not just a fight between two political
leaders, but a struggle to overthrow the authoritarian system
created and strengthened in Ukraine over the last 10 years.
Yanukovych - prime-minister at the time of the elections and
presidential candidate - was picked as a candidate by the current
president, Mr. Kuchma, in return for guarantees to the president and
his allies of immunity from prosecution for all his crimes, committed
while in power, as well as protection of their assets gained through
criminal privatisation.

Yanukovych's pro-Russian position made him popular in his home
region of Donetsk, but the rest of the country rejects his
kowtowing to Putin's Russia. His government acted in line with "a
doctrine of liberal imperialism", formulated by Russia's tycoons
several years ago.

Yuschenko is regarded as a pro-western politician, with informal
support from the US and EU, western values and a wife who's a US
citizen. It doesn't mean the country will be cut-off from Russia - he
likes to remind people that while he was prime minister (about four
years ago) - trade with Russia was much more active than now. But
politically he's an openly pro-Western politician. Some of his
supporters are NGOs and organisations financed by the west - but to
say that the events are a coup initiated or provoked by the US or EU,
would be to simplify things.

Mr Yuschenko became the first prime-minister to create the
conditions where people started to get their salaries and pensions
paid after a long period of economic chaos. Meanwhile, he managed not
to take (or was not given) any IMF loans. The most attractive part of
his programme for his supporters are rights and freedoms. He promises
to lift media censorship, installed by the current authorities,
encourage democratic freedoms and encourage greater economic
transparency. Now, it's nothing new for politicians to promise this
sort of thing, but he'll have to answer to his loyal and active
supporters anger if he lets them down after they took action to save

The Future's Orange

The majority went to the streets not to bring Yuschenko to power, but
to prevent Yanukovych from seizing it. The feeling from the people is:
"With Yuschenko - we'll be in opposition; with Yanukovych, there'll be
no opposition".

This expression of people power hasn't been seen for many years in
Ukraine. Busy with their own physical survival, the majority were
always regarded as apathetic, cynical about politics, and unable to
trust each other. That's why this "peaceful uprising", when millions
flooded the streets within hours shocked everybody. The momentum of
the "orange revolution" was so powerful that it looked like the
government would fall within days.

After the first days of total paralysis, with the opposition
insisting on a transfer of power, and more and more local councils
switching sides, negotiations started. These were initiated at "round
table" talks organised by, among others, the EU Commissioner Javier
Solana. The talks led to nothing, apart from giving the authorities
time to mobilise, gather supporters, and finally, to turn the image of
the conflict from "people vs. authorities" into "east vs. west" in an
attempt to absolve themselves from any political or criminal

The usual development of professional political leaders betraying
their people looks likely to repeat itself again. After realising that
the negotiations were a waste of time, the opposition pulled out, only
to be pressured into negotiations again by EU (and personally by Mr.
Solana who desperately tried to prevent any "revolutionary
developments") the next day. The result was a dubious agreement,
consisting of some conditions to be met by the opposition and none,
apart from not using force, by the authorities. The decision about the
elections was transferred to the Supreme Court.

However, while the party politics go on, in the street the best
initiatives are being organised by organisations and networks, who
make up the "non-party opposition" - networks of internet-activists
and street volunteers - some self-organised and militant, but
restricting themselves to using non-violent means.

This is the main result of this "orange revolution" - the biggest
example of non-violent self-organisation in Ukraine in a century.
Whoever comes to power will now face a different people, a people who
are no longer apathetic about the corruption of the party
parliamentary system. They have realised that they can defend their
rights together, and the old consensus "we can't change anything" now
rings hollow. So in the short term, if they manage to get rid of
censorship, systematic police brutality, corruption and state ordered
killings, that in itself will be a victory. But in the long run,
something new has been born. Call it "civil society" or "autonomous
networks of resistance", whatever it's called, it will influence
future events and, hopefully set an example to people everywhere.

* President Kuchma is notorious for his stifling of opposition,
murder of journalists and bleeding the economy dry while lining
the pockets of himself and his cronies.

* For a direct action/anarchist take on events see


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