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Yanukovych Out in Ukraine?

ukraine-protestors-truck

The massive protests that have crippled Ukraine’s capitol have forced President Viktor Yanukovych out of Kyiv—and possibly out of power entirely.

AP (“Ukraine president exits Kiev; protesters take over“):

Protesters took control of Ukraine’s capital on Saturday, seizing the president’s office as parliament sought to oust him and form a new government. An aide to President Viktor Yanukovych said he had left Kiev for his support base in the country’s Russian-speaking east, but that he has no intention of abandoning power.

In a special parliament session, lawmakers warned that the country risks being split in two. The country’s western regions want to be closer to the EU and have rejected Yanukovych’s authority in many cities, while eastern Ukraine — which accounts for the bulk of the nation’s economic output — favors closer ties with Russia.

[...]

Hanna Herman, a close Yanukovych ally, told The Associated Press that the president was spending Saturday visiting Kharkiv, a city in Ukraine’s east which is the heart of his support base.

“As much as some people want it, he has no intention to leave the country,” Herman said. She said the president was to meet voters in the region and make a televised address.

The trip comes a day after Yanukovych and opposition leaders signed a European-brokered agreement aimed at resolving the months-old political crisis that has killed scores and injured hundreds. The agreement calls for early elections and constitutional reforms that reduce the president’s powers.

The protesters, who are angry over corruption and want Ukraine to move toward Europe rather than Russia, claimed full control of Kiev and took up positions around the president’s office and a grandiose residential compound believed to be his, though he never acknowledged it.

At the sprawling suburban Kiev compound, protesters stood guard and blocked more radical elements among them from entering the building, fearing unrest. Moderate protesters have sought to prevent their comrades from looting or taking up the weapons that have filled Kiev in recent weeks.

AFP (“Ukraine leader losing grasp on power; Tymoshenko set for release“):

The regime of Ukraine’s president appeared close to collapse on Saturday as the emboldened opposition took control of central Kiev and key government and parliament positions and voted to immediately free its jailed leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

An emerging power vacuum gripped the charred heart of the capital a day after Viktor Yanukovych and his political rivals signed a Western-brokered peace deal to end the ex-Soviet nation’s worst crisis since independence from Moscow in 1991.

Key government buildings were without police protection and baton-armed protesters dressed in military fatigues wandered freely across the president’s once-fortified compound.

“We have taken the perimeter of the president’s residence under our control for security reasons,” Mykola Velichkovich of the opposition’s self-declared Independence Square defence unit told AFP.

Thousands of mourners meanwhile brought carnations and roses to dozens of spots across Kiev’s iconic Independence Square on which protesters were shot dead by police in a week of carnage that claimed nearly 100 lives.

The Ukrainian police appeared to retreat Saturday from their entrenched defence of the pro-Russian government by releasing a statement in support of “the people” and “rapid change”.

While I have some twinge of concern about the ouster of a democratically elected government through mass protests, Yanokovych is a thug who has subverted Ukraine’s nascent democratic institutions and reversed most of the gains of the Orange Revolution. His treatment of Tymoshenko and other opposition leaders was particularly shameful, reminiscent of the worst days of the Soviet Union. It’s hard to look on the possible demise of his regime and the release of Tymoshenko as anything but good news.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Ron Beasley says:

    Will Putin send in Russian troops? This has to be humiliating for Putin who doesn’t like being humiliated.

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  2. James Pearce says:

    While I have some twinge of concern about the ouster of a democratically elected government through mass protests,

    I can’t even muster a twinge of concern about the ouster of Yanukovych’s government. It’s much deserved. His “democratically elected” government has been operating in a very undemocratic way.

    Also of little concern: the violent nature of the protest at the Maidan. Hate to say it, but a “peaceful protest” would not have this result.

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  3. ernieyeball says:

    @James Pearce:..but a “peaceful protest” would not have this result.

    February is Black History Month

    Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.
    Malcolm X
    Malcolm X Speaks, 1965

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  4. CB says:

    http://ukrstream.tv/videos/kontrataka_maidanu_20_02_2014_maidan_s_counterattack_20_02_2014#.UwkRDYWxo8t

    Watch a few minutes of this (it’s difficult to watch more), and that twinge will disappear entirely. The protestors are throwing rocks, ineffective moltovs, and setting up barriers. The Berkut are firing into crowds. Its hard to see that as anything other than an orchestrated crackdown, and undeserving of democratic respect.

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  5. ernieyeball says:

    @CB: The protestors are throwing rocks,..

    Where have I heard this before…oh yeah…

    During a press conference at the Kent firehouse, an emotional Governor Rhodes pounded on the desk and called the student protesters un-American, referring to them as revolutionaries set on destroying higher education in Ohio. “We’ve seen here at the city of Kent especially, probably the most vicious form of campus oriented violence yet perpetrated by dissident groups. They make definite plans of burning, destroying, and throwing rocks at police, and at the National Guard and the Highway Patrol. This is when we’re going to use every part of the law enforcement agency of Ohio to drive them out of Kent. We are going to eradicate the problem. We’re not going to treat the symptoms. And these people just move from one campus to the other and terrorize the community. They’re worse than the brown shirts and the communist element and also the night riders and the vigilantes”, Rhodes said. “They’re the worst type of people that we harbor in America. Now I want to say this. They are not going to take over [the] campus. I think that we’re up against the strongest, well-trained, militant, revolutionary group that has ever assembled in America.” Rhodes can be heard in the recording of his speech yelling and pounding his fists on the desk.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kent_State_shootings

    When the firing stopped, a slim girl, wearing a cowboy shirt and faded jeans, was lying face down on the road at the edge of the parking lot, blood pouring out onto the macadam, about 10 feet from this reporter.
    http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/0504.html

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  6. stonetools says:

    Looks like Yanukovych is out-again! Lets hope it sticks this time. I’m hoping for new elections soon and a peaceful transition.
    The problems? The country is broke, the opposition is divided and incompetent and the country remains as ethnically split as ever. The opposition could fail to form a government and the country could fall apart -or fall right back into Russia’s lap .
    Frankly, its just not all that clear if Ukraine can be a united nation even in the best of times, with everyone rooting for its success-and that is definitely not the case today.

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  7. DC Loser says:

    Yanukovych may be out of Kiev, but he’s holed up in Kharkov. I think it’s a real possibility Yanukovych and those who support him (who want a Russian aligned Ukraine) will get Putin’s support to split off the parts of the country who support him (the eastern rust belt and the coastal areas) and form a rump Ukraine with Russian military support. Putin has his hands tied with the Olympics. But once that’s done this weekend, he will probably act.

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  8. Chris Berez says:

    What are the chances of the country splitting into East and West Ukraine, with the East allying with Russia and the West allying with the EU? And does the likelihood of this possibility if Putin sends in the tanks? If Putin sends in the military, the United States isn’t going to be happy and I imagine neither is the UN. This could get a lot worse before it gets better. I hope that’s not true. Hopefully new elections are arranged soon. But then, if the west gets a leader more in favor of tying to the EU, how does the east respond? How does Putin respond? It seems like a split into two countries is the only way to end this.

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  9. anjin-san says:

    @ ernieyeball

    Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
    We’re finally on our own.
    This summer I hear the drumming,
    Four dead in Ohio.

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  10. DC Loser says:

    We’ve already set the precedent of “self-determination” ala Kosovo breaking away from Serbia. The Russians are still looking to pay us back for that one.

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  11. humanoid.panda says:

    @Chris Berez: The latest news from Kharkov is that there are protests there, and that the “Ukrainian National Front,” the rump organization set-up by Yanukovich to facilitate a secession had self-disbanded, so it seems that option is off the table.

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  12. While I have some twinge of concern about the ouster of a democratically elected government through mass protests, Yanokovych is a thug who has subverted Ukraine’s nascent democratic institutions and reversed most of the gains of the Orange Revolution.

    How about via impeachment?

    Ukraine President Yanukovich impeached

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  13. ernieyeball says:

    @anjin-san: The demonstrations picked up intensity here at Sleepytown U in May of 1970 after Cambodia was invaded. After the killings at Kent State, with an enrollment of 20,000+, this place came unglued. Thousands of demonstrators were in the streets of this very small town. (pop. 20k at the time) The State Police were already here. The National Guard arrived. Some of them were guys I knew that just days before had been active anti war demonstrators.
    Tear gas, billy clubs, fixed bayonets, rocks, bottles, mass arrests. The State Police made it a habit of teargassing off campus student houses after dark where the “agitators” lived. When people came running out the cops cracked their heads and busted them for violating curfew.
    Who started it? When it gets this bad everybody is itching for a fight.
    We were all waiting for the blood to flow.
    It never did. After two weeks of total anarchy the administration finally closed campus several weeks short of graduation.
    Walter Cronkite announced the closing the next day on The CBS Evening News.
    Everyone left town…The Vietnam War lasted another 5 years.

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  14. James Pearce says:

    @ernieyeball:

    Everyone left town…The Vietnam War lasted another 5 years.

    Reminds me of a paragraph I read in Steve Martin’s autobiography, Born Standing Up:

    Around this time I smelled a rat. The rat was the Age of Aquarius. Though the era’s hairstyles, clothes, and lingo still dominated youth culture, by 1972 the movement was tired and breaking down. Drugs had killed people, and so had Charles Manson. The war in Vietnam was near its official end, but its devastating losses had embittered and divided America. The political scene was exhausting, and many people, including me, were alienated from government. Murders and beatings at campus protests weren’t going to be resolved by sticking a daisy into the pointy end of a rifle. Flower Power was waning, but no one wanted to believe it yet, because we had invested so much of ourselves in its message.

    Flower Power…Dr. Ironfist never had much use for it.

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  15. ernieyeball says:

    Steve Martin huh…
    February is Black History Month

    I was born a poor black child. I remember the days, sittin’ on the porch with my family, singin’ and dancin’ down in Mississippi…
    Navin R Johnson The Jerk

    This is one of the few films I have seen in a theatre.
    Laughed my white ass off!

    A few years later when I was delivering telephone directories I laughed again when more than a few Black folks answered the door and broke out with “The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here!” when they saw what I had.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079367/trivia?tab=qt&ref_=tt_trv_qu

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  16. anjin-san says:

    February is Black History Month. As one of my black friends pointed out earlier this evening – “Sure was nice of white folks to give us a history month. Of course they gave us the shortest month of the year”…

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  17. dazedandconfused says:

    Seems like the one thing that gets a harrumph from everybody in there is “Yanukovich is a POS”.

    I don’t think Vladi though much of him, definitely unpopular with the people in West Ukraine, and I suppose the oligarchs are none too happy with his clumsiness and flagrant greed. Then, he ices the cake by dropping a Nuge in his pants and running when the going got tight, and without leaving anyone who could or would assume command of the defense behind, by the look if it.

    Might wind up being one of those unintentional brilliant moves though. Now the rebs have to try to govern. Be a big surprise if they are prepared for that.

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  18. Matt says:

    @CB: Man that’s a lot of gunfire and I’m positive few if any involved rubber bullets. Wow the balls of the protestors.

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  19. Tyrell says:

    Many of us who remember in 1968 the day that shook the world: Soviet tanks rolling in to Czechoslovakia and putting down reform efforts in a shameless move, after Brezhnev promised no interference, a day of dismay and anger in the free world. We hope that doesn’t happen again.
    This event seems to have gotten short time in the news around here. For the last few weeks it has been the weather, Olympics, college basketball. Local stations expanded the weather coverage and were also seemingly entranced with every story and triviality from Sochi.
    “those d_____ b________ds !!” (Nixon’s reaction to the Soviet invasion, 1968)

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  20. ernieyeball says:

    This event seems to have gotten short time in the news around here.

    Depends on where “here” is.
    Since my TV does not get any channels I rely on the internet for information on the events of the day.
    Don’t have to wait for “News Jive at 5″ to get my OTB fix.

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  21. Tyrell says:

    @ernieyeball: I look at various news sites. CNN is ok, but some of their reports lack details and are confusing. I have a neighbor who was talking to some of the Kiev residents on his amateur radio. That was interesting. We have had cable and internet in this area for about four years. A lot of people are still not on it. The local news is basically coverage of the local council meetings, news of wrecks, weather, school sports scores, and the constant “happy talk” between the people there on the desk (news, weather, sports at 6:00 pm, just one person at 11:00 pm, national anthem and sign off at 11:30 pm, after that they still show the test patterns!! On Friday nights they stay on until 1:00 am showing scary movies).

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  22. rudderpedals says:

    @Tyrell: Where in the world is Tyrell? There should be a contest. With prizes (of course).

    I can’t pick just one. I’m torn between the intermountain west, and a swath taking in the Ozarks and running to southern Illinois and then due east to southern Indiana.

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  23. anjin-san says:

    @ Tyrell

    Focusing on the shitty things the Soviets did makes it easier to ignore the shitty things we have done. It’s a lot easier to point at the other guy than it is to put one’s own house in order.

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  24. mike says:

    Is there an idiot’s guide to what is going on in Ukraine? I feel like I don’t know what the key issues are?

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  25. dazedandconfused says:

    @mike:

    Look for anything John Herbst has said recently. A smart guy who knows the place real well.

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  26. ernieyeball says:

    @rudderpedals:..If you travel east from the town of Ozark, Missouri into the heart of Southern Illinois and continue east you will find yourself in western Kentucky.
    Hoosier Hollow is north of Paradise.
    (Paradise Acres Trailer Park, Cambria IL)

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  27. rudderpedals says:

    @ernieyeball: Yes, that’s exactly what I was thinking about. At and between those two points is just beautiful, gorgeous country, with lots of small burgs that fit Tyrell’s description. If he lives there I’m jealous, jealous of the nice surroundings, jealous of landing gainful employment in such nice surroundings.

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  28. ernieyeball says:

    @rudderpedals:..If you want to make it in the Big Time you have to learn how to fly!
    http://www.courierpress.com/photos/2010/apr/30/59384/

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  29. rudderpedals says:

    @ernieyeball: I can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound like those guys. Maybe in a single engine airplane…

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  30. JohnMcC says:

    @rudderpedals: We could ask our friend Mr Tyrell to send us a picture outside his window and post it on Andrew Sullivan’s place. The skill his readership shows in identifying every ‘View for Your Window’ is a constant amazement to me. And for what it’s worth, I’ve thought of the gentleman as living in rural Wisconsin/Minnesota; there seems like a lot of ‘mid-western nice’ to his comments that quickly spills over into naivete.

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  31. Electroman says:

    добре!

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  32. rudderpedals says:

    @JohnMcC:

    Sullivan’s crew is scary, ain’t it? If I were Tyrell and wanted not to be seen I wouldn’t post a VFTW selfie.

    I’m guessing based on what little we have, the recent arrival of cable and there being just one lonely TV station. From that we’re more than 70 miles of flat country from anywhere or in rougher terrain sparsely populated to not justify more than a local station and expensive to cable. Far north ND, Minnesota, Michigan UP, and then the Adirondacks along the border through Maine work too.

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  33. grumpy realist says:

    @anjin-san: And why such a beastly month as February?

    Much nicer to have used May or September.

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