World View: Obama Draws Another Line, Tells Ukraine Not to Cross It

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Freed Yulia Tymoshenko gives passionate speech to Ukraine's opposition crowds
  • Ukraine protesters storm Yanukovych's secret palace
  • President Obama draws another line, and tells Ukraine not to cross it

Freed Yulia Tymoshenko gives passionate speech to Ukraine's opposition crowds

Yulia Tymoshenko on Saturday (BBC)
Yulia Tymoshenko on Saturday (BBC)

On a day of fast-moving events in Ukraine, the parliament voted to dismiss president Viktor Yanukovych from office, and to free Yulia Tymoshenko immediately. Once freed, Tymoshenko gave a riveting, passionate speech to the huge crowd in the Maidan (Independence Square) in Kiev:

"There is a new Ukraine. The heroes of the Maidan are saviors and the saviors of Ukraine. I wanted to come to the barricades on Grushevskogo and I want to feel how our brave men and women were defending us and were willing to give their lives to protect this sacred place that will always be in our hearts.

I was blaming myself that I wasn’t able to be here. Every time I saw a man fall down the bars of the prison were holding me back. They died to give us the opportunity to change what we had before. Each politician who might betray you should remember the faces of the dead heroes.

In any case you should not leave the Maidan until everything you strive for is achieved. You should go on to the end. No one has the right to step back from here. There is no way back.

It was not politicians or diplomats or world leaders who made this happen. It is you, the people who stood on Maidan, who changed the situation.

It was never a fair fight. How can it be a fair fight when you have a wooden shields against sniper rifles and kalashnikovs. But the people knew it was not fair and they continued. ...

We must bring Yanukovych and the scum that surrounds him to Maidan. ...

The snipers who put their bullets through the hearts of our heroes but a bullet in all our hearts. And it will never be removed until every one of them is punished. Everyone will be punished for what they do wrong.

This nation will never again fall to its knees. No one will ever again do this to us because we will never let them."

The call to bring Yanukovych back to Kiev to be punished will be significant. The whereabouts of Yanukovych are unknown, but it's thought that he's in Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, near the Russian border, after being prevented from taking a plane to Moscow.

There have been some reports that officials in Moscow are very contemptuous of Yanukovych because he was took weak during the crisis. The people in Moscow prefer someone like Syria's psychopathic president Bashar al-Assad who conducted "industrial strength" torture and extermination on his own civilians, using sarin gas against his own people. Yanukovych was apparently unwilling to do stuff like that, or he was prevented from doing so by parts of his army, and so he's worthless to the folks in Moscow.

Yulia Tymoshenko received wild cheers during her speech on Saturday, but she's apparently not all that popular. The presidential elections have been rescheduled to May 25, and she said on Saturday that she's going to run for president, but she may not be able to win. She's extremely unpopular with the eastern 1/3 of Ukraine, which consists mostly of Russian-speaking ethnic Russians. The western 2/3 are mostly Ukrainian-speaking ethnic Ukrainians, but not everyone there loves her either. She's 53 years old, making her part of that old, corrupt generation, in the view of many activists. She was prime minister twice in the past, and there were a lot of problems both times. As one Ukrainian activist said, "She's good at leading a revolution, but not so good at leading the government." Telegraph (London) and Europe Online

Ukraine protesters storm Yanukovych's secret palace

An ornamental horse stands outside Yanukovych's residence in his secret Kiev compound
An ornamental horse stands outside Yanukovych's residence in his secret Kiev compound

President Viktor Yanukovych is disliked even among his supporters in eastern Ukraine because of his opulent lifestyle and alleged corruption. Even in the issue of aligning with the European Union or Russia, the issue that triggered the series of demonstrations in December, many people believe that Yanukovych's flip-flop was made not because it would benefit Ukraine, but because it would benefit his bank account.

The president's walled-off compound has been well-guarded and completely off-limits to the public, and on Saturday it became clear why, as the guards were removed, and thousands of Ukrainians streamed into the compound to see what was going on. Yanukovych had always refused to talk about his residence, admitting only to living in a modest house on a small plot inside the compound.

But what they saw was quite different. There were posh mansions standing amid manicured lawns. There were parks dotted with statues, ponds with fountains and wild ducks, a tennis court, a golf course and a colonnaded pavilion. There was a hovercraft and an entire Spanish galleon. There was a guest house with marble floors, crystal chandeliers, a massive stairway with what looked like gold-covered railings, and a giant piano in a reception hall with luxurious beige armchairs. Live animals included ostriches and deer, apparently for Yanukovych's eating pleasure. According to one activist, "It’s like we entered Berlin and seized the Reichstag."

Yanukovych released a video saying he had been forced to leave Kiev because of "vandalism, crime and a coup." He called his opponents "Nazis" and said:

"I don't plan to leave the country. I don't plan to resign. I am the legitimate president. ...

What I am going to do next is to protect my country from the split, to stop the bloodshed. I don't know how to do it yet. I am in Kharkiv and I don't know what I am going to do next."

One thing is fairly certain: He's not going to return to his palatial resident in Kiev. AP and CNN

President Obama draws another line, and tells Ukraine not to cross it

Before Saturday's events, President Barack Obama warned the government of Ukraine not to use violence against its own people:

"[W]e’ll be monitoring very closely the situation, recognizing that with our European partners and the international community there will be consequences if people step over the line."

The statement is reminiscent of last year's speech when Obama set a "red line" in Syria about chemical weapons, and then flip-flopped when the Bashar al-Assad used sarin gas against his own people. It's unclear what "consequences" Obama had in mind in Ukraine. National Post


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