Militants Continue Violence in Central Kiev, Prime Minister Calls It Coup Attempt
January 24, 2014 • 11:30AM

Overnight from January 22 to 23, the violent protesters grouped on Hrushevsky Street in central Kiev set up new barricades and burned piles of gasoline-doused tires, shrouding the city's government quarter in thick, dark smoke. They continued to fire at police with incendiary devices and catapult launchers, in a scene like a medieval siege. Shops and cafes are closed on central streets, and some residents closest to the combat have been driven from their apartments, according to Russian and Ukrainian TV reports.

The political situation changed every few hours during the day. Talks were held by President Victor Yanukovych with opposition figures Arseni Yatsenyuk (Batkivshchyna Party), Vitali Klitschko (Udar Party), and the Oleh Tyahnybok (Svoboda Party), who then went to both Hrushevsky and to the main demo at Independence Square, to announce that Yanukovych had promised to release detained persons within three days. The crowds shouted them down. Then Tyahnybok, the racist radical from western Ukraine, organized a "show of hands" vote to end talks with Yanukovych, mocking the Parliament's vote last week on laws to restrict demonstrations; the crowd roared approval, which was then telegraphed around on the Internet. Yatsenyuk called for Hrushevsky to become "part of the Maidan" and be "peaceful."

Yanukovych also took phone calls from Barack Obama and Angela Merkel on Thursday. He asked Speaker of the Supreme Rada (Parliament) Volodymyr Rybak to convene a special session of the Rada on Tuesday, Jan. 28 to deal with the crisis. It was not clear how the Supreme Rada would be able to meet, since Hrushevsky Street is the main approach to it.

Crowds in the cities of Lviv and Rivne, western Ukraine, seized government buildings. In Lviv the Yanukovych-appointed governor was forced to sign his resignation, which he later withdrew. Law enforcement officers interviewed by Russian TV in the street in Kiev referred to "hundreds of well-armed and well-organized men," carrying out the assaults. Ukraine's Ministry of Emergencies charged that online social networking was being used to spread calls for armed insurgency.

At Davos, Ukrainian Premier Mykola Azarov said that the armed action by militants constituted a coup attempt. Also in Davos is Piotr Poroshenko, the confectionary billionaire and former government minister in the Orange Revolution period, who is a major funder of the opposition. Poroshenko was demanding that western officials freeze bank transfers related to any current Ukrainian government officials.

Growing Alarm at Neo-fascist Nature of Ukraine Opposition

Germany's leftist website telepolis again accuses the mainstream media of not reporting that the violence in Kiev can most likely be traced to extreme right-wingers or even neo-fascists. These are, on the one hand, split-offs from Svoboda, which disagree with the cleansing of the party's program, as requested by some western European right-wing parties that want to run an alliance with Svoboda for the Euro-Parliament elections in May. On the other hand, these are openly anti-Russian extremists of the UNA-USO, Trizub, and "Patriots of Ukraine," which form the "Rightwing Bloc" (also called "Right Sector") and reject any talks with the government, instead calling for armed struggle to take power by brute force.

While there is generally an international blackout, except from Russia, on the nature of the Ukrainian opposition, some voices have begun to speak up.

Jan. 13 — Oleksandr Feldman, president of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee and a member of the Parliament of Ukraine, posted an article entitled "The Sad Progression of the Ukrainian Protest movement from Democracy and the Rule of Law to Ultra-nationalism and Anti-semitism," which was reposted on The World Post on Jan. 23. The article chronicles to process of increasing dominance of the Kiev demonstrations by neo-fascists, and calls on Yatsenyuk and Klitschko to denounce the "neo-fascist drift of recent weeks and break off their alliance with Svoboda."

Jan. 15 — The CEO of the World Jewish Congress said today, according to The Jerusalem Post, that a Jewish man had been beaten in Kiev. It went on to cite MP Feldman's call for greater security for the Jewish community, and to document the beating of a defenseless Jewish school teacher in recent days.

Jan. 20—The Israeli embassy in Ukraine issued a statement, reported in interfax Ukraine, expressing its deep concern about attack on members of the Jewish community in Kiev. These included the beating of a Yeshiva student and a teacher.

Jan. 21 — An article in The Nation, entitled "The Ukrainian Nationalism at the Heart of 'Euromaidan'", reports on the increasingly visible role of Svoboda, which it identifies as a "far-right" party and "extreme nationalist," but foolishly plays down its Nazi character.

Jan. 22—Nicolai Petro, writing on the National Interest website, defends Ukraine's new protest law, as absolutely necessary, due to the nihilistic, violent nature of the opposition, which routinely beats up parliamentarians and others.