Beyond the Cusp

February 25, 2014

Synagogue Firebombed in Ukraine

The place is Zaporizhia, southeast of Kiev, where the community’s Giymat Rosa Synagogue was firebombed by unknown assailants on the night of February 23, causing minor damages. The building showed the scars from traces of a fire on the facade of the balcony. The fortunate news is that there were no casualties and the authorities have promised to take precautions and to do whatever was necessary to arrest those responsible. The neck of a glass bottle was found near the area damaged by the fire affirming that a Molotov cocktail was the cause of the fire which also confirmed the suspicions this was the result of an intentional act. There have been other threats by forces from both the now deposed government including some threats made by government police and other threats came from elements from among the opposition protesters. The Ukrainian police claimed the Jews were behind the opposition to the government while those from the opposition were blaming the Jews for supporting President Yanukovych and his cronies and as such responsible for the deaths of opposition demonstrators shot by the government police. This is not a new situation for Jews living in a nation going through internal turmoil such as civil wars and other uprisings.

 

Even the United States had a major incident where Jews were victimized being held responsible for working against the government of the United States. This event came immediately after the end of the United States Civil War (War Between the States) when General Ulysses S. Grant as the military governor of the Kentucky Territory (governing the areas including Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi) ordered all properties, homes, cattle, horse and other assets confiscated from the Jewish residents and for them to be removed from the areas under his charge. Despite this situation being countermanded immediately as reports reached the White House, such while commemorative was too late to avoid much of the damage as the reversal of Grant’s orders took over a week before the new orders reached the area. Communications were quite a bit slower and the confusion quotient was fairly high, but there was no excuse for the order to have been given in the first place. If it could happen that Jews were singled out for scorn and blame without any proof of actions and chosen as others of equal or greater responsibility were not so treated is an anathema to any civilized society. Let us hope that nothing similar occur anywhere throughout the Ukraine which thus far appears unlikely.

 

Still, the Jewish communities in Kiev particularly and throughout the Ukraine have beefed up their security in response to the increased tensions. Reports from within the communities throughout the Ukraine tell of them putting their activities on hold out of safety concerns. There have also been arrest warrants issued for President Yanukovych and various members of his Administration over the violence perpetrated by security and police forces during the months of the demonstrations. Meanwhile, President Yanukovych was reportedly seen to be in a southern port in the company of Russian Marines. The area he was reportedly currently hiding is an area that is among those aligned with Russia as the majority of the citizens are Russians who were imported into the Ukraine during the reign of the Soviet Union in order to serve as a cause for Soviet forces to be injected and the rest of the Ukrainian population pacified. If there will be any shove back from Russia, it will be in response to petition from these Ukrainians as many may prefer to remain aligned and even ruled by the Russians. There have already been reports of demonstrations against the new government and calls from those demonstrating for the return of President Yanukovych as the duly elected President of the Ukraine. The struggle for the heart and soul of the Ukraine is not yet a settled disagreement and the potential for additional violence is still high enough to cause serious concerns until the new government has been elected hopefully as scheduled for May 25. A prayer for the people of the Ukraine and for calm to be the rule and not the exception and for the nation to heal and come together once a new government has been elected. Let us call for patience and for all anticipation be for changes through the ballot box and not the baseball bat.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

February 24, 2014

Ukraine Gets New Face Overnight

Yesterday the world awoke to find a new parliament and new Parliament Speaker attempting to straighten out the tangled disarray resulting from months of violence between government forces and demonstrators. Oleksander Tuchynov is the new Ukrainian Parliament Speaker and will hold the position until elections which are scheduled for May 25. The parliament will not have an easy task especially in the first initial weeks as they try and put the Ukraine back on a normal footing and return the society to a normal routine which has been impossible during the months of demonstrations. This will be even more difficult as the demonstrations melded together some disparate groups which each have their own agendas with some of them being so opposite as to be impossible to satisfy simultaneously. Some of the initial changes were the foreign minister Leonid Kozhara and the education minister Dykmitro Tabachnyk have been relieved of their posts, sixty-four protestors have been released from jail, and the president’s estate at Mezhyhirya has been nationalized. They have also declared that Ukrainian will be the sole official language of the Ukraine thus removing recognition of Russian usage in official circles. It will remain to be seen if there will be any place for the Russian language going forward though such is highly doubtful.

 

While it will very probably be many weeks before normalcy will have returned to Kiev, the rest of the Ukraine should have somewhat easier task of returning to normal as outside of the capital the demonstrations were less disruptive for much of the period only gaining power in the final weeks. The real question will be over the eastern and southern provinces where the population includes many Russians. There is a chance that these provinces may decide to split from the Ukraine and might even petition to become a part of Putin’s Russia or an autonomous state aligned more closely to Russia than to the Ukraine. It has been reported that there were some in these areas who had requested Russian protection should the protests break out in their regions. The reactions from the eastern and southern regions will require delicacy; something that could easily turn ugly if not handled deftly and with some degree of understanding. Making such tasks even more difficult will be the fact that the demonstrators do not come from one viewpoint and some of the groups who had banded together consisted of far right nationalists with a separate vision than many of the other parties and groups. The three main political parties, UDAR, Fatherland and Svoboda, which had claimed to have been working jointly during the demonstrations to oust President Yanukovych, will now be in direct competition in order to field and win the most seats they can in the upcoming elections.

 

The initial problem of removing the thuggish and dictatorial Presidency of Yanukovych and his cronies has now been realized may eventually prove to be of great benefit for the future of the Ukraine but right now it simply leaves a plethora of unanswered questions and a tangled web of new problems. Those tasked with putting the Ukraine in general and Kiev particularly back together and operating for the mutual benefit of all the people will be an uphill slog challenging those who are assuming power. The election in May is a mere quarter of a year, three months, into the future but the people will be expecting progress from their newly emplaced leaders before then and they will not be given much of a grace period. The real peril right now is the potential for a strong populist leader offering to solve all the problems if the people will simply trust them and give them the tools with the power to wield them effectively taking the elections and becoming an even worse problem than they just removed. This will become even more pressing of a possibility should the new government elected in May result in an ineffectual problematic governance that is basically a failure both economically and in keeping order. Should inflation become an even larger problem and start to run rampant, then there will be the situation which is susceptible to favor such a solution being adopted. It was just such a scenario with rampant hyperinflation and ineffectual governance of the German Weimar Republic after World War I that led to the rise of the Nazis and Adolf Hitler. The Ukraine currently has an enormous debt and a very weak economy that has suffered greatly from the disorder of the months of demonstrations. Their situation was partially due to the economic downturn which struck much of the world just over five years ago and the Ukraine still has not fully recovered. The economic recovery should be the first order of business once a newly elected government is in place. The only advice that they should receive is that government is more likely to be the problem than it is to be the solution. The best track for the government to take would be to make themselves as unobtrusive as possible, reduce regulations to a bare minimum, lower taxes on both the people and businesses and rely on free trade and unburdened free enterprise to lift the entire nation and people providing the best opportunity for a healthy economy. They should try to take a path which allows them to maximize their abilities to trade with the entire world and take steps to increase foreign trade relations as much as possible. This will require tactful handling of Ukrainian relations with Russia but they need to tell Putin that the Ukraine expects to continue to do business with Russia but also expects to be free to trade with the rest of the world as well. Europe also may need to step up and take steps to assure that the Ukraine will be accepted and thus allow them an alternative to survive any pressures from Putin and Russia. The one thing I am sure of is I am glad I will not be elected to any position in the next Ukrainian government and I wish those who are the best of luck.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

Update: The Russian government, which means Vladimir Putin, has recalled their Ambassador to the Ukraine to Moscow for consultations on the “deteriorating situation” in Kiev. In the United States National Security Adviser, Susan Rice, issued a warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin against attacking Ukraine in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” where she was quoted stating, “the United States is on the side of the Ukrainian people” having democratic elections with “the opportunity for the people of Ukraine to come together in a coalition unity government” representing them honestly after former President Yanukovych was removed ending his questionable Administration.

 

January 22, 2014

Ukraine Violence Expanding and Intensifying

As the violence in the Ukraine, especially in their capital of Kiev where demonstrators are estimated to exceed one-hundred-thousand almost daily, and as the legislature and President Yanukovych are granting the police with harsher laws which are due to take effect today, the confrontations show little sign of abating in the immediate future. President Yanukovych posted on his official website, “I ask you not to join those who seek violence, who are trying to create a division between the state and society and who want to hurl the Ukrainian people into a pit of mass disorder. Now, when peaceful actions are turning into mass unrest, accompanied by riots and arson attacks, the use of violence, I am convinced that such phenomena are a threat not only to Kiev but to the whole of Ukraine.” The stimulus for the violence comes mostly from the Ukraine government, mostly simply backing the decision of the President, chose to bow before Russian President Putin’s threats and hardball tactics where he gave the Ukrainian leadership a choice of continuing to open up and sign an agreement already negotiated with the European Union to normalize preferred trading agreements which could have led to admission of the Ukraine to the European Union and lose all trading ties with Russia and the possibility of an energy embargo by Russia cutting all flow of petroleum and natural gas in or out of the Ukraine along the Russian border. President Yanukovych folded almost immediately which will only serve to entice Putin to press his newly won advantage even further if the Ukrainian leadership should decide to placate the protesters, or should we call them rioters, and reopen talks with the European Union. The show of weakness before President Putin is raw meat placed in front of a starving wolf and could lead to the wolf taking your arm with the meat.

 

The demonstrations have escalated with the police using water cannons despite sub-zero temperatures as well as rubber bullets, tear gas and full riot gear. The use of truncheons has only served to enrage more citizens and the unrest grew as more citizens decided to join the demonstrations to protest the overt violence by police which many have believed was completely uncalled for and the main reason for the escalation by the demonstrators. There have been numerous government buildings and vehicles put to the torch and some of the front line demonstrators have taken to wearing helmets and other sports equipment as makeshift riot gear including makeshift shields and bats along with other blunt instruments making these demonstrators equally armed to the frontline police units. A British news outlet noted that the violence is confined to one central square, though it has raged out of control and the local authorities have been unable to keep the outrage contained. Reports claim that over a hundred demonstrators have been injured needing medical attention while three were reported to have been blinded and one lost an arm. So far, more than eighty police staff have required hospitalization; thirty-two protestors have been arrested; and thirteen face serious criminal charges including some who face sentences of up to fifteen years for “disturbing the peace.”

 

Meanwhile, laws were reportedly rushed through Parliament at the last minute that prescribe jail terms for anyone blockading public buildings, ban wearing masks or helmets at demonstrations, and making statements against the government a criminal act. These are the laws that are set to come into effect today according to the local news.

 

This harsh reaction made hastily is very likely to inflame the people further as they will see such laws as a return to Soviet style enforcement and suppression of the citizenry. The people of the Ukraine have properly recognized that their government sacrificed their future by surrendering to President Putin’s open threats. The Ukrainian people see their President as not having the backbone to stand up to Putin and this was just the last straw as they have also become fed up with his quasi-criminal activities which have included overt nepotism and the channeling of contracts to close friends without seeking bids. Add to this the arrest and imprisonment of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Volodymyrivna Tymoshenko whose popularity made her the greatest threat to President Yanukovych in future elections. The demonstration leadership has posted evidence of numerous crimes and other misdeeds committed by President Yanukovych and his administration on the internet requesting that Western Leaders freeze his illegal funds in foreign banks but thus far the United States, European Union members and other western leaders have ignored their pleas. There have also been posts by the demonstrators asking for the people of the world, especially those in free and democratic nations, to demand that the governments and other international institutions take a stand on the crisis in the Ukraine. These demonstrations and rioting is unlikely to end soon as the demonstrators are simply trying to claim the right to control their destiny and are going to continue to fight and anything the government does to suppress the voices of the people using violence and new criminal legislation passed targeting the demonstrators will only serve to fuel these demonstrations with the violence actually proving to be extremely counterproductive. This could probably be called the Ukrainian Spring and this revolution is all about freedom, liberty and the fight against corruption and Russian bullying tactics.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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