Dangerous Escalation in Kiev
January 23, 2014 • 12:23PM

During the night of Jan. 21-22 at least three people, and possibly five, were killed in central Kiev, between Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti), where pro-EU demonstrations have been ongoing, and the Supreme Rada building, which radicals have been attempting to seize since Sunday. Of the three victims, two were reportedly shot and one fell from the Dinamo soccer stadium, a launching position from which militants have been hurling Molotov cocktails at police.

Opposition leaders quickly blamed the Berkut special forces for the shootings. The Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs, which deploys the Berkut, denies using live ammunition, saying that they are trying to break up the attacking squads with fire hoses and rubber bullets. The new laws banning the use of masks and otherwise restricting demonstrations went into effect at midnight. TV clips in Russia and Ukraine have shown Berkut cadre beating people, as well as militants setting Berkut policemen on fire.

In the midst of the fracas, today, parliamentary opposition leaders Arseni Yatsenyuk (Batkivshchina Party), Vitali Klitschko (Udar Party), and the racist Oleh Tyahnybok (Svoboda Party) met with President Victor Yanukovych in person for three hours. They made no statement afterwards, except to shout to reporters, "We'll tell you everything at the People's Veche" — a national assembly that the opposition has been trying to convene for the purpose of regime change. Indeed, later on Tyahnybok announced at the Maidan that the opposition was now forming a People's Rada (or Veche) as "the only legitimate power" in the country. Batkivshchyna founder Yulia Tymoshenko, the jailed 2004 Orange Revolution figure and ex-Premier, had a message read out loud at the Maidan, saying that if the Berkut killed people, then Yanukovych no longer has the right to be President. She called on law enforcement to switch sides. A ruling Party of Regions MP said that an emergency session of the Supreme Rada, the existing Parliament, may be called as of today.

In this volatile and unsettled situation, U.S. and EU officials are acting as if everything were already clear. The U.S. Embassy in Kiev announced that "in response to actions taken against protestors on the Maidan in November and December of last year, the US embassy has revoked the visas of several Ukrainians who were linked to the violence. We are considering further action against those responsible for the current violence." The list has not been made public, but is rumored on Euobserver.com to include the Urkainian internal affairs minister and national security chief. State Department spokesman Marie Harf, in a statement also mentioning the visa revocations, called the violence a direct result of the Ukrainian government's refusal to conduct "real dialogue" and of the Jan. 16 passage of the new laws regulating demonstrations.

Jacek Protasiewicz, a Polish politician who is deputy chairman of the European Parliament, stated that if the Ukrainian government ordered the Berkut to shoot, then all relations between the EU and this Ukrainian government are over.

Dr. Natalia Vitrenko, head of the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine and of the National Resistance Front against the Eurocolonization of Ukraine, issued a 25-minute video Jan. 20 on the "hot phase" of the political crisis. She said that while many different forces (from soccer fans to the shadowy Right Sector group) are being blamed for provoking the violence, there are reliable reports that the neo-fascist Svoboda Party practiced targetted attacks on the police, at their training camps last summer. The violent phase of the demonstrations actually began the night of Nov. 29-30, when an organized unit of radicals attacked the police, she said, calling this a pre-planned escalation to violence for the sake of provoking a full-scale political crisis. She continued to emphasize that the demands for regime change are heavily financed and politically backed from the West. Linking Brzezinski's statement with Yatsenyuk's campaign for a People's Veche, Vitrenko warned, "Washington and Brussels want regime change." She described the opposition's attempts to set up a "parallel power structure" as a replica of "the Libya scenario," in which the West begins to treat opposition forces as the government, and noted that media favorable to the opposition are now pushing the line that the crisis cannot be resolved without foreign assistance. Vitrenko demanded that if there is to be a national dialogue, then her party and other advocates of economic integration with Russia, rather than with the EU free-trade looting schemes, be allowed to come to the table.