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

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

This morning’s key headlines from

  • 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 todismiss president Viktor Yanukovych from office, and to free YuliaTymoshenko immediately. Once freed, Tymoshenko gave a riveting,passionate speech to the huge crowd in the Maidan (IndependenceSquare) in Kiev:

“There is a new Ukraine. The heroes of the Maidan aresaviors and the saviors of Ukraine. I wanted to come to thebarricades on Grushevskogo and I want to feel how our brave menand women were defending us and were willing to give their livesto 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 Isaw a man fall down the bars of the prison were holding meback. They died to give us the opportunity to change what we hadbefore. Each politician who might betray you should remember thefaces of the dead heroes.

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

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

It was never a fair fight. How can it be a fair fight when youhave a wooden shields against sniper rifles and kalashnikovs. Butthe people knew it was not fair and they continued. …

We must bring Yanukovych and the scum that surrounds him toMaidan. …

The snipers who put their bullets through the hearts of our heroesbut a bullet in all our hearts. And it will never be removed untilevery one of them is punished. Everyone will be punished for whatthey do wrong.

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

The call to bring Yanukovych back to Kiev to be punished will besignificant. The whereabouts of Yanukovych are unknown, but it’sthought that he’s in Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, near the Russianborder, after being prevented from taking a plane to Moscow.

There have been some reports that officials in Moscow are verycontemptuous of Yanukovych because he was took weak during the crisis.The people in Moscow prefer someone like Syria’s psychopathicpresident Bashar al-Assad who conducted “industrial strength” tortureand extermination on his own civilians, using sarin gas against hisown people. Yanukovych was apparently unwilling to do stufflike that, or he was prevented from doing so by parts of hisarmy, 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 electionshave been rescheduled to May 25, and she said on Saturday that she’sgoing to run for president, but she may not be able to win. She’sextremely unpopular with the eastern 1/3 of Ukraine, which consistsmostly of Russian-speaking ethnic Russians. The western 2/3 aremostly Ukrainian-speaking ethnic Ukrainians, but not everyone thereloves her either. She’s 53 years old, making her part of that old,corrupt generation, in the view of many activists. She was primeminister twice in the past, and there were a lot of problems bothtimes. As one Ukrainian activist said, “She’s good at leading arevolution, 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 ineastern Ukraine because of his opulent lifestyle and allegedcorruption. Even in the issue of aligning with the European Union orRussia, the issue that triggered the series of demonstrations inDecember, many people believe that Yanukovych’s flip-flop was made notbecause it would benefit Ukraine, but because it would benefit hisbank account.

The president’s walled-off compound has been well-guarded andcompletely off-limits to the public, and on Saturday it became clearwhy, as the guards were removed, and thousands of Ukrainians streamedinto the compound to see what was going on. Yanukovych had alwaysrefused to talk about his residence, admitting only to living in amodest house on a small plot inside the compound.

But what they saw was quite different. There were posh mansionsstanding amid manicured lawns. There were parks dotted with statues,ponds with fountains and wild ducks, a tennis court, a golf course anda colonnaded pavilion. There was a hovercraft and an entire Spanishgalleon. There was a guest house with marble floors, crystalchandeliers, a massive stairway with what looked like gold-coveredrailings, and a giant piano in a reception hall with luxurious beigearmchairs. Live animals included ostriches and deer, apparently forYanukovych’s eating pleasure. According to one activist, “It’s likewe entered Berlin and seized the Reichstag.”

Yanukovych released a video saying he had been forced to leave Kievbecause of “vandalism, crime and a coup.” He called his opponents

“I don’t plan to leave the country. I don’t plan toresign. I am the legitimate president. …

What I am going to do next is to protect my country from thesplit, to stop the bloodshed. I don’t know how to do it yet. I amin Kharkiv and I don’t know what I am going to donext.”

One thing is fairly certain: He’s not going to return to his palatialresident 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 thegovernment 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 internationalcommunity there will be consequences if people step over theline.”

The statement is reminiscent of last year’s speech when Obama set athe Bashar al-Assad used sarin gas against his own people. It’sunclear what “consequences” Obama had in mind in Ukraine. National Post

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