January 01, 2014

Tug of War

Events in kiev after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision not to sign a pact with the EU,* putting his country on a path toward economic union, have struck a chord in Moscow. Both the Kremlin and opposition activists have seen what they want to see in Ukraine’s watershed moment, fitting it into their own frame of reference.

Predictably, President Vladimir Putin described the events as a riot organized by unseen enemy forces. Opposition observers, meanwhile, saw the hundreds of thousands of protesters on Maidan (Ukrainian for “square”) as evidence that Ukraine is somehow better, more organized, less fractured than Russian society.

“The events in Ukraine seem more like a pogrom than a revolution,” Putin said on December 2, asserting that the demonstrations were not inspired by people’s desire to choose a path toward Europe, but were an attempt by the opposition to “shake the acting legitimate power in the country... We see well prepared and trained groups of fighters,” he said, “and either the political opposition cannot control them, or they are just a political facade for extremism.”

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