World View: Torture of Ukraine Dissident Polarizes U.S.-Russia Relations

World View: Torture of Ukraine Dissident Polarizes U.S.-Russia Relations

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Ukrainian activist back from the dead, beaten but alive
  • Torture of Ukraine dissident polarizes U.S.-Russia relations
  • Ukraine protests lead to further crackdown on free speech in Russia

Ukrainian activist back from the dead, beaten but alive

Dmytro Bulatov
Dmytro Bulatov

The anti-government protests in Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine,have been simmering since late November, growing into violence withinthe last two weeks. But now it’s turned into a major proxy politicalshouting match between Russia and the West, because Dmytro Bulatov, a35 year old opposition activist, who had been presumed killed twoweeks ago, was found alive in a Kiev suburb, where he had been dumped,severely scarred and missing part of one ear. He said that he hadbeen kidnapped, and then tortured and beaten for a week by men withRussian accents. Ukraine’s pro-Russian government is denying anycomplicity in the kidnapping and torture, but it’s widely assumed thatthe men with the Russian accents were government thugs.

The anti-government protests began on November 21 after the president,Viktor Yanukovych, did a major flip-flop and refused to sign a tradedeal with the European Union, after saying for months that would sign.The move was seen as turning away from Europe, and turning towardRussia, which displeased the ethnic Ukrainians in the east, butpleased the ethnic Russians in the west. This view was reinforcedwhen Russia’s president Vladimir Putin offered Ukraine a $15 billionloan, thought to be incentive to encourage Yanukovych to join Putin’sEurasian Customs Union.

The protests had been dying down until January 16, when the parliamentpassed a harsh new law restricting protests and freedom of speech.The protests became larger and more violent, and remain so until thisday. even though Yanukovych has made several concessions since then:His prime minister and cabinet have all resigned, and the anti-protestlaw has been repealed. However, the protesters see these concessionsas a sign of weakness, and are demanding the resignation ofYanukovych. Yanukovych has been out of sight for a week with “theflu,” but aides say he’s refusing to resign.

The reappearance of activist leader Bulatov, apparently back from thedead but badly beaten, once again escalated the protests.

There had been some initial reports that Bulatov, who is recuperatingin the hospital, was going to be arrested on charges related to hisanti-government activism, but government officials say that they areonly detaining him in order to protect him. Kyiv Post and Interfac-Ukraine

Torture of Ukraine dissident polarizes U.S.-Russia relations

The news of the torture of Dmytro Bulatov was a bombshell that hit inthe middle of a long-scheduled security conference being held inMunich. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with oppositionleaders and said on Saturday in Munich that the U.S. and the EuropeanUnion supported the people of Ukraine as they sought a strongerdemocracy, and should not be coerced into associating with one country(Russia). According to Kerry:

“[The people of Ukraine are] fighting for the right toassociate with partners who will help them realize theiraspirations. They have decided that means their futures do nothave to lie with one country alone, and certainly not coerced. TheUnited States and EU stand with the people of Ukraine in thatfight.”

Kerry has apparently sided with the opposition, and is receivingcriticism because he seems to be saying that it’s democracyto overthrow a democratically elected government through streetdemonstrations.

According to Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, alsospeaking in Munich on Saturday:

“What does the inciting of street protests, which aregrowing increasingly violent, have to do with promoting democraticprinciples?

Why do we not hear statements of condemnation toward those whoseize government buildings, attack and burn police officers, andvoice racist and anti-Semitic slogans? Why do senior Europeanpoliticians de facto encourage such actions, while at home theyswiftly and harshly act to stop any impingement on the letter ofthe law?”

It’s funny to see Lavrov, a man with no morals whatsoever, claimoutrage and try to take a moral stand. He might have been remindedthat Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, and annexed two Georgianprovinces.

The Ukraine situation has grown from a local matter involvinganti-government demonstrators into a major international disagreementbetween Russia and the West. Al-Jazeera and Russia Today

Ukraine protests lead to further crackdown on free speech in Russia

Russian state TV is claiming that Russia’s liberal news outlets “arethe leaders of a fifth column that is preparing a Kyiv-style ‘Maidan’revolution in Moscow,” financed by Russian enemies in the West. Themost immediate target is a Moscow-based independent TV cable newschannel Dozhd (meaning “Rain”). On January 26, Dozhd ran a panel andasked viewers to vote if Leningrad (today St. Petersburg), besiegedduring World War II by Nazi troops, should have surrendered to savecivilian lives (the siege or blockade of Leningrad lasted from 1941 to1944 and more than a million civilians died, mainly from starvation).The St. Petersburg prosecutor’s office announced it has begun anofficial investigation of Dozhd: “To determine if the channel hascrossed the line of permissibility during the celebration of the 70thanniversary of the end of the blockade of Leningrad.” Many cableservices are dropping Dozhd from their lineups, and Pravda has calledthe Dozhd channel a liberal outpost run by Jews, homosexuals andreaction in Moscow, and splitting the power base of president VladimirPutin, as Putin himself is taking a cautious approach, whilenationalists and revisionists desperately call for a more aggressive,interventionist policy in Ukraine. Undoubtedly, the question ofRussian military intervention in Ukraine is at least being consideredin Moscow. Jamestown

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