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Ukraine: separating facts from fiction

The turmoil of the Ukrainian revolution continues to reverberate all over the world. In many instances, press coverage works like the game of a broken telephone. The Western mainstream media is mirroring their governments’ mixed emotions about the growing unrest. Russophobes the world over are relishing the opportunity to thumb their noses at Putin, by claiming that the Ukrainian uprising represents the country’s rejection of its ties with Russia. In fact, Ukrainian society is culturally homogenized and inextricably intertwined with the Russian part of its identity, united by blood, marriage, migration and history. In spite of brewing tensions, the Ukrainian uprising is not anti-Russian in nature.

Ukraine: Burial of Mikhail Zhiznevsky
Ukraine: Burial of Mikhail Zhiznevsky
- Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

The initial protests started in November of 2013, when President Yanukovych abruptly abandoned a proposed trade agreement with the European Union. Police brutally attacked peaceful Kyiv protesters, comprised largely of students. Dozens were detained. That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Images of beaten, bloodied protesters quickly spread, galvanizing nationwide public outrage against Ukraine’s authoritarian government. Protests spread widely across Ukraine, including its eastern Russian-speaking regions. Protesters seized regional government buildings in several parts of the country.

On January 16, 2014, the government’s ruling Party of Regions, in cooperation with the Communist Party, passed the repressive laws that allowed riot police to use force and weapons in disbanding protests. This led to the escalation of violence, abuse and murders of protesters by the police, as well as hundreds of arrests. The laws were later repealed by Parliament and the protesters were offered a tricky conditional amnesty, subject to the opposition vacating government buildings they managed to occupy.

Contrary to the mainstream media’s rampant misrepresentations, the ongoing revolt neither seeks to sever ties with Russia, nor strives to ensure the immediate integration of Ukraine into the European Union. In fact, it is an uprising of the people against the government’s massive corruption and rampant civil rights violations. Protesters are demanding the immediate resignation of President Yanukovych, seeking wide-ranging constitutional, political and judiciary reforms. Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet recently resigned under mounting public pressure.

In a desperate ploy to hold on to his waning power, the President offered a package of concessions to the opposition, including government posts. Opposition leaders rejected his offer. As the tensions rise and the temperatures in icy Kyiv continue to fall, Yanukovych stalled the negotiations by taking sick leave, apparently hoping to simply outwait his freezing opposition. The President’s sick leave conveniently took effect before he could sign a bill repealing harsh restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly. Opposition leaders suspect that Yanukovych might be preparing to declare a state of emergency and crush the protesters with military might.

Vitaliy Klychko, head of the “UDAR” Parliamentary faction, said: “I appeal to Viktor Yanukovych: you are fighting with your own people! Stop the escalation of the situation. Do not set police and Special Forces soldiers against people. Stop the war against the citizens of Ukraine who have been urging for two months to hear their demands… The only way out of this terrible crisis is a complete change of power, against which the people revolted, and scheduling early parliamentary and presidential elections. Find the courage and do not repeat the path of Ceausescu and Gaddafi. Ukrainian nation will still win in this struggle.”

In the meantime, Western governments dread the thought of their populations catching on to the idea that corrupt, inefficient, totalitarian rulers can be removed from power by the very public that elected them. Aided by the mainstream media, they willfully obfuscate the facts behind the Ukrainian revolution. As long as naïve citizenry believes that Ukrainians are dying to get into the E.U., perhaps they will overlook the fact that their own democratic nations ruthlessly suppress protests and criminalize whistleblowing. Perhaps they won’t notice that the American judiciary is in a desperate need of a reform, to stop its endless puppeteering by the political powers-that-be.

New York Times nervously exclaimed, “No matter how incompetent, discredited or unhealthy he may be, Mr. Yanukovych is the democratically elected president, and to oust him by street protests and without a coherent plan or united leadership would be a recipe for further turmoil and a dangerous precedent.” To avoid a dangerous precedent of a proactive public daring to take back their rights, American news coverage is concentrating on the many follies of Justin Bieber, instead of truthfully portraying current events that are shaping world history.

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