Discussion:
Kyiv is getting rowdy — again
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Sid Shniad
2014-10-19 21:23:52 UTC
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*http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/141014/kyiv-ukraine-radical-protesters-parliament-elections
<http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/141014/kyiv-ukraine-radical-protesters-parliament-elections>Global
Post October 14, 2014Kyiv is getting rowdy — again*


*Tuesday’s demonstrations began after protesters from the nationalist
Svoboda and Right Sector parties rallied outside parliament to lobby for
official recognition of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, a wartime resistance
movement venerated by nationalists but vilified by pro-Russian Ukrainians
for its temporary tactical alliance with Nazi Germany.Dan Peleschuk*




















[image: Ukraine nationalists]Enlarge
<http://www.globalpost.com/photo/6285566/ukraine-nationalists>
Far-right protesters clash with police outside parliament on Tuesday.
(Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images)

MOSCOW, Russia <http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/russia> —
Clashes erupted in the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday after nationalist
protesters marched on parliament to demand that lawmakers officially
recognize a controversial World War II-era guerilla movement.

Although organizers blamed provocateurs for stoking the violence and
sullying what they said was a peaceful demonstration, the event
nevertheless showcased how Ukraine’s fledgling government remains burdened
by the legacy of the street protests that brought it to power.

On one hand, demonstrators have helped pressure lawmakers to adopt crucial
reform legislation. Pro-democracy activists have hailed parliament’s
creation on Tuesday of a national anti-corruption bureau.

But on the other, protests that turn violent are casting a pall over
Ukraine’s uphill drive to democratize and providing fodder for Russia’s
powerful propaganda machine.

“It’s a kind of revolutionary democracy with elements of anarchism,” says
Vadim Karasyov, a Kyiv-based political analyst.

Tuesday’s demonstrations began after protesters from the nationalist
Svoboda and Right Sector parties rallied outside parliament to lobby for
official recognition of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, a wartime resistance
movement venerated by nationalists but vilified by pro-Russian Ukrainians
for its temporary tactical alliance with Nazi Germany
<http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/germany>.

Some observers blamed radicals from a separate ultranationalist fringe
group for deliberately inciting the violence after attempting to storm the
legislature amid a hail of smoke bombs and flash-bangs.

Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to Ukraine’s interior minister, said the
“provocations” could have been the work of “foreign intelligence agencies
of the Russian Federation.”

State-run media in Russia have consistently seized on any signs of
instability in Ukraine to further the Kremlin’s narrative that a “fascist
junta” took over after ex-President Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster last
February.

The Ukrainian authorities, for their part, often see Russia’s own hand in
that instability.

Gerashchenko said Tuesday’s violence ended with 50 arrests and injured more
than a dozen police officers.

Whatever the case, it was only the latest in a lasting trend of street
protests in Kyiv, where various pro-democracy, nationalist and other groups
regularly rally downtown or in front of parliament — although almost always
peacefully.

On Monday, hundreds of National Guard soldiers demonstrated outside the
presidential administration calling for an end to an extended military
draft that’s sent countless men to battle Russia-backed separatists in the
east.

Officials and activists suggested that protest was also engineered by
Russian intelligence services, the Kyiv Post reported.

In some ways, the regular demonstrations are sign of the times: the
government is still a long way from building functioning political
institutions, while the economy is still reeling from the effects of
mismanagement and graft.

Meanwhile, the security forces have struggled to beat back pro-Russian
insurgents in the east in a campaign many Ukrainians see as a fight for
independence from Moscow’s domineering grasp.

That helps explain why the second-most popular group ahead of the October
26 parliamentary elections is a populist party headed by Oleh Lyashko, a
firebrand nationalist who recently shot to fame for his vigilantism.

His group, appropriately named the Radical Party, is set to take around 12
percent of the vote, according to the most recent polls.

Widely criticized for his flagrant showmanship, Lyashko has still managed
to cultivate a following by filming his abuse of corrupt officials and
others deemed sympathetic to the rebel cause.

His antics appear to have encouraged an alarming wave of street justice in
which protesters seize officials and forcibly dump them into industrial
trash containers, allegedly for betraying public trust.

The most high profile victim of the so-called Trash Bucket Challenge was a
former top Yanukovych ally, Nestor Shufrych, who was badly beaten in the
southern Ukrainian city of Odessa earlier this month.

The dangers of such actions haven’t been lost on Ukrainian officials.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov condemned the trend shortly after that
incident.

“Just a couple more broken faces like Shufrych’s
 and Europe
<http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/europe> will turn away
from our victorious revolution,” he wrote on his Facebook page earlier this
month

Karasyov, the political analyst, says peaceful and violent demonstrations
will probably continue as long as Ukraine’s political institutions remain
feeble and the economy weak.

Civil society has matured in recent months, he says — evidenced by an
outpouring of grassroots support for Ukraine’s underequipped army — but
will still play a leading role on the streets.

“It will remain that way as long as the people are stronger than their
rulers,” he says. “That comes with both pluses and minuses.”
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