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Mackenzie Institute | 26Feb2014 | Myroslav Petriw
Situation Update: The Ukrainian Revolution
After the deadly battle of January 22, 2014, the Maidan, the Kyiv City
Freedom Square that was the epicenter of two months of protest,
experienced a period of relative calm. Against a background of fiery
speeches, the protesters on the Maidan began to expand their so-called
Maidan Self-Defense Force. Despite a call by both Yuriy Lutsenko and
Former Minister of Defense Anatoliy Hrytsenko  for citizens to bring
their legally registered firearms to the Maidan, there was very little
evidence of their actual presence.
The People’s Council on the Maidan had stopped short of creating a
parallel government. It must be remembered that the Maidan protest was
totally independent of the three opposition political parties and their
leaders. In fact, a new leadership was emerging that was much more in
tune with the tidal wave of public protest. This new reality made fools
of anyone, including emissaries of the EU and the USA, who thought that
negotiating with the trio of Klitchko, Tyahnybok and Yatseniuk meant
negotiating with the Maidan.
Yuriy Lutsenko, the former Minister of the Interior under Yushchenko
was becoming a fiery spokesman for the Maidan. Two years of
incarceration under Yanukovych had given him time to read literature
long banned in the USSR. An even more significant personality was the
so-called commander of the Maidan, Andriy Parubiy , whose talent lay
in his ability to coordinate the activities of the disparate groups and
factions that formed this national microcosm called the Maidan. Lesia
Orobets  a deputy to the Verkhovna Rada, who famously appeared there
in body armour after taking beatings from both police and some
parliamentary deputies of the Party of Regions, was the one best able
to voice the constitutional demands of the protesters. She painted a
picture of a minarchist, if not totally anarcho-libertarian, future for
Finally there was Dmytro Yarosh , the leader of the “Right Sector”.
Labeled a right wing radical by many in the foreign press, he is a
language and literature teacher from the eastern city of
Dniprodzerzhinsk, a former member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group 
and of Rukh , the movement for Ukrainian independence from the USSR.
Yarosh views the Svoboda Party as “extremist” for having needlessly
tacked on “socialist” to their nationalist agenda, and for having
adopted racist overtones. He led the patriotic youth
organization “Tryzub” before folding it into an alliance of groups
under the label “Right Sector” after the November 30, 2013 police
beatings of the Maidan protesters. Formed to provide a defence against
such beatings, fate had now turned the Right Sector into major players
on the stage of history. With members of his Right Sector now having
fought and died for the cause, Yarosh was demanding a seat at the
negotiating table. He would not allow his heroism to be sold short.
By the end of January 2014, the Maidan protest had an expanded Self
Defense Force that included not only the Right Sector, but also Afghan
War veterans and young volunteers from all over Ukraine. They were
organized into “Sotni” (Centuries, or Companies) of a nominal 100
fighters. Reportedly there were 32 such Sotni, totaling over 2800 men.
Each “Sotnia” (Century) was led by a Sotnyk (Centurion). Significantly,
one such Sotnia was led by an Israeli veteran of the IDF . He
commanded a force that included four Israelis along with Georgians,
Azerbaijani, Armenians, Russians, and Ukrainians. These units underwent
rudimentary training right on the Maidan .
The Yanukovych regime began an operation of sowing chaos throughout
Kyiv. The regime hired “titushky” (thugs for hire) to execute a wave of
violence, robbery and vandalism throughout the city, often accompanied
by police or traffic cops . The territory within the barricades of
the Maidan was the safest and most peaceful place to be in Kyiv. The
Maidan’s response to this chaos, staged as an excuse for enacting
martial law, was to commence Auto-Maidan car patrols throughout the
city. The hunt for marauding titushky included one famous incident when
Vitaliy Klitchko, the ex-heavyweight boxing-champion-turned-presidential-candidate, captured a titushko himself.
It was January 22, 2014 when one such member of Auto-Maidan was
captured by persons unknown. Dmytro Bulatov was driven outside the
city, held captive and tortured. With his hands nailed to a door, his
cheek was slashed, and part of his ear was cut off . He was then
abandoned in the snow near the village of Vyshenky, approximately 35km
outside of Kyiv. Dmytro reported that he was questioned by men speaking
Russian about whether the American Embassy was financing the revolt,
and whether he was an American spy.  They were particularly
interested in his recent protest visit to Victor Medvedchuk (a well
known agent of influence of the Kremlin whose child’s godfather is
Vladimir Putin himself). 
On February 11, 2014, a pickpocket was captured by members of the 14th
Self Defense Sotnia. Four members delivered the thief to the
police. The police instead arrested the four men and, as it turned out,
released the thief. The 14th Self Defense Sotnia marched to the police
station demanding the release of their men . The peaceful
intimidation worked. The four were released.
Some 200 protesters or Self Defense members had been captured, arrested
or otherwise held by the police all over the country during the two
months of protests. After various negotiations, the Verkhovna Rada
enacted an amnesty law on January 29, 2014. It was conditional on the
unblocking of certain city streets and the withdrawal from the Kyiv
City Hall building by 17 February 2014. Again, the vast gulf between
the Maidan and the various opposition politicians became apparent.
There was much resistance to any compliance with the unblocking
provision. Svoboda Party activists had to evacuate the City Hall by
force, ostensibly handing the structure into the care of the OSCE and
not the Ukrainian authorities. This still served to discredit Svoboda
for many Ukrainians even outside the Maidan. However, by Monday morning
17 February 2014, there was a narrow gauntlet passage opened for
traffic on Hrushevsky St and others. Protesters that had been held
prisoner throughout the country gained their freedom.
On Tuesday, February 18, 2014, a session of the Verkhovna
Rada (Parliament) was scheduled to be held to enact a proposal to
revert to the 2004 version of the Constitution. This change would have
stripped President Yanukovych of most of his powers. This was a promise
of real change. Thousands of protesters and citizens of Kyiv came to
the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament Building) to show their support for the
law that was being enacted. When they arrived, they found the building
to be surrounded by a cordon of Berkut troops and 2000 freshly hired
Inside Parliament the opposition deputies found that they could not
achieve quorum, as the ruling Party of Region members were nowhere to
be found. At first it was reported that they were in committee, but
later it became known that they had left by an underground passage 
and that there had never been any intention to vote on constitutional
change. The promise of this vote was part of an elaborate ruse that was
about to play itself out on the streets. The peaceful demonstration
outside of the Verkhovna Rada was attacked by the titushky. It was
reported much later that these savages beheaded two members of the Self
Defense Force and had scalped two others.  The Maidan Self Defense
Force engaged in battle both around the Verkhovna Rada and on the
intersection of Institutska St. and Shovkovycha St. where the arrival of
fresh Interior Troop forces was being blocked by demonstrators. Both
sides took losses as the Self Defense fighters forced the Interior
Troops back and actually entered the headquarters of the Party of
The Self Defense Forces were engaged in combat about 1.5 km from the
Maidan itself, which had been left at half strength. It was at that
point that the Yanukovych regime struck back. Fresh Interior Troops
poured in from behind the Dynamo soccer stadium and past dismantled
barricades overwhelming the Maidan’s defences. By nightfall, the
protesters on the Maidan were surrounded and compressed into an area of
a couple of football fields . In certain places, the Interior
Troops stood on the territory of the city square itself. Their advance
had finally been halted by hastily erected flaming barricades. All
night the surrounded demonstrators passed lumber and anything that
appeared flammable to the front lines. In a move of unbelievable
brutality, some Special Forces troopers set fire to the Trade Unions
building that bordered the Maidan itself. This building housed the last
functioning field hospital not overrun and destroyed by the troops
. Despite valiant rescue efforts by the protesters, there were
casualties inside that would be discovered days later.
Wednesday 19 February 2014 was a day of relative calm as both sides
regrouped. Unbeknownst to the protesters, Yanukovych was preparing an
assault on the Maidan that would involve 22,000 army troops, and
Special Forces snipers in addition to 2000 Berkut riot police . In
preparation for this illegal and unconstitutional move, Yanukovych had
already replaced the Chief of General Staff Maj. Gen. Volodymyr Zaman
by Yuriy Il’iin, a character more ready to obey such a directive.
Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Yuriy Dumanskyy resigned in protest.
 Fortunately this part of Yanukovych’s nefarious plan was derailed
as citizens far from the Capital stopped  or derailed trainloads of
military troops heading for Kyiv.
On February 20th, 2014, some members of the Maidan Self Defense that
were manning the barricades on the right flank decided to chase away
the Interior Troopers that were throwing Molotov cocktails at them all
morning. The surprised Interior Troopers ran. As battlefield
coordination and discipline on the Maidan was not the best, the Self
Defense lads did not stop, and ran after these cops along Institutska
Street. Interior Troopers standing on the hill by the October Palace
started shooting live fire at them. Seeing this, the center and the
left flank of the Maidan Self Defense charged rushing to their aid: the
first -- up the grade of Institutska St. and onto the stairs of the
"October", the second -- along Khreshchatyk towards the European Plaza,
right onto a company of fresh conscripts of Interior Troops, armed with
clubs, gas and stun grenades and guns with rubber bullets. The Interior
Troops retreated from the European Plaza, chased from there by sticks
and Molotov cocktails right up to the Dynamo stadium.
Those that had been manning the freshly constructed concrete barricade
at the stadium had already scrambled out of there -- and for good
reason: the self-defense forces by now could walk down from the already
captured "October" along the Museum alley and hit them in the rear. The
Interior Troops occupied this emptied barricade, but soon realized that
resistance was futile and requested negotiations. They were allowed to
go free on the word of honour of their commanding Major.
The Maidan’s losses that morning were approximately 45 killed: 15 on
Institutska and 30 on the "October Palace" (this includes those that
died later in hospital). It is clear that attacking with sticks and
bats against automatic firearms is not necessarily the best way to go.
But if you really need to, or "if it just happens" -- and then the Self
Defense Force proved that they could still win . All that took just
15 minutes to regain all the positions that the protesters had held a
In those 15 minutes Yanukovych’s plan collapsed. The Maidan Self
Defense had shown that they would retake and hold their positions even
without firearms. However, a day or so earlier in the distant city of
Lviv the local Self Defense had taken a police station and captured a
large cache of firearms. Fighters of this Lviv Self Defense Force
arrived on the Maidan armed now with Kalashnikovs.
At this very time, Yanukovych was involved in negotiations with the
three opposition political leaders that were being brokered by
emissaries of the EU. Aware of Yanukovych’s planned crackdown, a
terrified Radoslaw Sikorsky, the Polish representative, insisted the
opposition agree to a December Presidential election (a mere two month
shift from the constitutionally required one in February 2015). However
this concession, signed that same evening, signaled to all the waning
of Yanukovych’s power .
The Maidan would have none of such cheap compromise. The price in lives
was already too high. (As of the time that this is being written the
confirmed count of those killed since 18 February is 84 protesters and
16 police.) The Sotnyk that changed the course of history was
26-year-old Volodymyr Parasiuk , a video studio owner from Lviv. He
went on stage that night and declared that if Yanukovych did not resign
by 10:00am the next morning, his Sotnia, which was now fully armed,
would hunt him down and kill him. Dmytro Yarosh echoed this sentiment.
Near the Maidan stage, by the MacDonald’s fast food kiosk, was a
makeshift morgue with row upon row of bodies on display awaiting
When Victor Yanukovych stepped out of the Presidential Administration
that night he watched as his security guard detail turned and simply
walked away. In that moment he knew that he had changed from President
to fugitive. Security camera footage showed him leaving his opulent
Mezhyhirya residence that night by helicopter, suitcases in hand.
Since that bloody and event filled Thursday, much has occurred in
Ukraine to put it back on the path to normalcy. Parliament is sitting.
It has a quorum and a new majority thanks to defectors from
Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. Presidential elections are set for May
25, 2014. The Maidan is still holding the politicians accountable.
Berkut has been disbanded. Yanukovych is an international fugitive.
Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been released from prison,
but when she spoke at the Maidan her reception was tepid at best.
People had long realized that she could never be part of the solution.
Putin’s Russia is desperate. Black Sea Fleet troops moved to the
outskirts of Sevastopol forming checkpoints for vehicles entering the
city as a none too subtle challenge to Ukrainian sovereignty. The
Russian military commenced snap readiness exercises. Ever mindful of
the natural gas and oil reserves under the Black Sea shelf, Russia is
fomenting unrest in Crimea , a land ethnically cleansed of native
Crimean Tatars by Stalin. The 225,000 Tatars that have returned to
their homeland are opposing the Russian majority. Many having just
returned from the Maidan, are quite prepared to fight.
On February 25, 2014, Canada’s Minister of External Affairs, John
Baird, announced that he was leading a delegation to Ukraine  on
February 28th and that included MP Ted Opitz and Senator Reynell
Andreychuk, along with representatives of the Ukrainian Canadian
Congress. This was happening at the same time that US Secretary of
State John Kerry was warning Putin that it would be a grave mistake to
interfere militarily in Ukraine. The prominent attention that Ukraine
is getting from all western leaders may be a guarantee that these
matters don’t spin out of control. It would still be wise to remember
that the Maidan and the people of Ukraine will no longer be a
bargaining chip of political deal making. The infective nature of the
freedom that the protest stood for has been reflected in the image of
the crowd at a Moscow hockey game  chanting the famous greeting of
the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists:
“Slava Ukrayini!” “Heroyam Slava!”
Glory to Ukraine! Hail the Heroes!
To get the full story, please read our Briefing Note titled, Euro
Maidan, the Ukrainian Revolution: Conflict of Civilizational Choice in
the Geographical Centre of Europe by Myroslav Petriw February 6, 2014.
You can find it here.
 ipress.ua. “Euromaidan conference unanimously voted to
use firearms to defend activists.” Accessed February 25, 2014.
 Andriy Parubiy. Wikipedia. Accessed February 25, 2014.
 Lesya Orobets. Wikipedia. Accessed February 25, 2014.
 Ukrayinska Pravda. The Leader of the Right Sector: When
80% of the country does not support the regime there cannot be a civil
 Ukrainian Helsinki Group. Encyclopedia of Ukraine.
Accessed February 26, 2014.
 Popular Movement of Ukraine for Reconstruction.
Brittanica. Accessed February 25, 2014.
 Ukrainian Policy
 “Square Self-Defense in Action.” Published on February 4,
 Video untitled. Published on February 14, 2014.
 Ukrayinska Pravda. Trans. “Bulatov told the details of
his abduction.” Accessed February 25, 2014.
 “Ukraine protest leader says he was tortured into saying
he was a US spy.” The Guardian. February 6, 2014.
 Andriy Skumin “Kremlin-imposed “Ukrainian choice”. The
Ukranian Week: International Edition. Published July 3, 2012
 “Leave no man behind.” Published February 12, 2014.
 “Riots in Downtown Kyiv Today, Feb. 18, 2014 --
Afternoon Events from 12:01-12:45.” Voices of Ukraine. Accessed
February 26, 2014.
 Brendan Kiley. “Dispatch from Kiev: "Special 'Death
Divisions' Are Acting as a Supplement to the Usual Police Forces"”.
SLOG: News & Arts. Accessed February 21, 2014.
 Expres.ua News.
 Simon Shuster. “The Maidan’s Last Stand: Ukraine’s Protesters
Resist Police Crackdown.” Time World. Published February 18, 2014.
 Voices of Ukraine Maidan.
 Timothy Heritage. “Yanukovich planned harsh clampdown on
protesters: Ukraine deputy.” Yahoo News. Accessed February 24, 2014
 Ukrayinska Pravda. “The Deputy Chief of Staff Reports
 Caption translated: “Incredible! In Dnepropetrovsk, the
train stopped with the soldiers and tytushkamy. Cars uncoupled from the
locomotive!!” Twitter photo. Accessed February 21, 2014.
 ZFront Kharkov UA. “Revolution Ukraine Kyiv Maidan
counterattack vul. Instytutska 2014.02.20.” Published on February 20,
 Adam Easton. “Poland’s crucial role as Yanukovych’s rule
crumbled.” BBC News. Published February 25, 2014.
 Ukrayinska Pravda. “The Sotnyk that changed the course
of history: We needed to keep pressing.” Published February 24, 2014.
 Lukas I. Alpert and Jayl Solomon. “Russia orders
military exercises amid Ukraine tension.” WSJ. Accessed February 25,
2014; Updated February 26, 2014.
 Kathryn Blaze Carlson and Kim Mackrael. “Baird to lead
Canadian Mission to Help Ukraine Tilt Toward West.” The Globe and Mail.
Published February 25, 2014.
 “SHOCK! '' Glory to Ukraine! - Heroes of Glory!'' On the
match CSKA Moscow - Spartak Moscow!” Published on February 26, 2014.