While attention has been focused on Russia’s occupation of Crimea, pro-Russian Ukrainians and uninformed observers have raised alarm in recent weeks about a purported resurgence of fascism in Kiev. Reports have circulated about the interim Ukrainian government supposedly banning the Communist Party, lifting bans on Nazi propaganda, or committing a host of politically unconscionable acts. Setting aside the utter improbability that any such initiatives would become the law of the land, these claims have certainly scared the crap out of some people.
For the West (and a minority of Russians), the storyline has been that a pro-democracy movement—which strives for human rights, dignity, yoga pants, and all that jazz—overthrew a corrupt Ukrainian regime that was merely a puppet of Russia. For Russians (and a minority of Westerners), it’s been that an armed group illegally seized power in a right-wing coup with the support of neo-fascists.
The political arguments surrounding the events in Crimea are similar to what you’d expect from the average American online political discussion, even if most of the Hitler comparisons are written in Cyrillic.
Thank God it’s Friday. If the cable-news talking heads had to hyperventilate for one more day about a World War III that’s not going to happen — unless Ukraine decides they’d like to play the Texans in a large-scale re-enactment of the Alamo — they would probably pass out and potentially die, doing irreparable harm to the hairspray industry.
Vladimir Putin certainly never wanted a war. He wanted an order of Crimea for delivery, and that delivery should arrive in a week or so. Granted, there are currently reports that Russian troops arestorming an airbase in Ukraine, and while that’s deeply rude, it’s by no means the beginning of WWIII. And if Putin is averse to war, Barack Obama is positively allergic to the idea, as though he has qualms about bringing civilization to an end.
The West seems determined to talk about this conflict in terms of “escalation” and “de-escalation,” “turning up the heat,” and a lot of other buzz phrases that are a poor fit for facts on the ground. Since the US doesn’t want to increase tensions, it has avoided doing anything with its military. Well, strictly speaking, it’s done three things.
With Crimea’s parliament voting to secede from Ukraine, Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian military installations in the peninsula has moved seaside. The Russian Black Sea Fleet prepared a special operation: the sinking of a decommissioned ship in the middle of Donuzlav Bay in order to prevent traffic in and out of Crimea’s port. VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky noticed that the unidentified men in military fatigues had suddenly disappeared from the bases — locals said that they’d gone to obstruct a mission of observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) from entering the region.
The blockade by Russia of Ukrainian military installations in Crimea continues. VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky spoke with families of personnel barricaded inside, who complained about the difficulty of getting food past the pro-Russian protesters outside. Russia’s supporters explained why they want Crimea to separate from Ukraine, and Simon negotiated his way through a Russian checkpoint to interview an officer on the Slavutych, a Ukrainian battleship stuck in the harbor of Sevastopol.
Five members of the feminist group FEMEN demonstrated topless in Times Square this morning against Russia’s actions in Ukraine. This protest was a continuation of the demonstrations which FEMEN has carried out throughout the world this month. They have protested from Paris to Crimea, speaking out against Moscow’s interference in Ukrainian sovereignty.
Crimea’s parliament voted to make the peninsula a full-fledged part of Russia on Thursday, declaring its intention to officially split from Ukraine. Members of the region’s council in Simferopol also voted to move a referendum on the issue up to March 16. Crimea has an ethnic Russian majority, and local politicians have already declared the referendum as a mere formality. The bigger question is what the Kremlin’s reaction will be.
Cheers to the Revolution: Kiev’s Beautiful Molotov Cocktails
Kiev’s Euromaidan protestors use fire to their advantage. With fire, the protestors were able to defend their barricades, extend their lines, and fortify their positions. They were mobilized throughout the city to collect as many bottles as possible, and thousands of Molotov cocktails were used to set fire to tanks, other armored vehicles, and buses. These little bombs were the only real weapon protestors had against the government’s well-armed forces.
Donald Weber spent this February in Kiev photographing for VICE. Follow our coverage of breaking events in Kiev on VICE News.