Just a few weeks ago an acquaintance published an album of photos cataloguing her experience living abroad in Ukraine for a time of some months. I scanned through them quickly, all of the photos were of beautiful flowering trees and smiling children, etc. etc. and I rarely have the patience for that brand of excess.
Something must have changed, and quickly, because last night when I was working on laying out this week’s Spectator (in stands now, check it out!) I watched Ukraine burn to the ground.
I was talking to someone this morning about the situation in Kiev and larger Ukraine, and was slightly surprised that they had no idea what was behind the destruction and violence dominating global headlines this morning.
That said, even I was a bit confused by the seemingly sudden escalation–what is happening in Ukraine now is the result of (depending on your perspective) either months or years of accumulating ire.
You’ve heard that beaten-to-death anecdote by now, right? The one about the frog in boiling water (for the unenlightened, writers who get turned on by cliche [like this one] have a bad habit of comparing larger socio-political events with the idea that if you put a frog in pot of water and boil it, if won’t be able to detect the increasing heat and will meet a presumably uncomfortable end*).
Well, it’s time to drag it down from the attic, dust it off, and exploit it again – because the violence happening in Ukraine right now is the reaching of a boiling point after months and months of relatively quiet building-up of tensions.
My aim today is to provide you with an excessively condensed and simplistic breakdown of exactly what led Kiev to this point and guess at what the future holds for Ukraine.
The easiest place to start is probably in Autumn of last year, when Ukraine’s government essentially ceased negotiations to become further integrated into the European union – mainly through a free trade agreement. However, Putin and pals up in Russia were apparently less than pleased with this inevitable arrangement and starting blocking all imports from Ukraine.
According to the BBC, Ukraine’s officials halted EU negotiations in hopes of placating Russia and restarting trade with that nation after seeing dramatic drops in exports and production.
Unfortunately for Ukraine’s officials, this pissed off quite a few Ukrainians–particularly those in the capital, Kiev.
These citizens began a series of protests that would eventually grow to a fairly substantial size. Ukraine’s president eventually tired of their prolonged rallies against him and his administration and began utilizing a large police force to quiet some of the protests.
The areas in which protestors were officially relegated to continued to shrink and shrink and they became increasingly aggressive in occupying various government properties. Yesterday, the protestors were planning on occupying an ongoing session of Parliament in hopes of advocating for regime change when they were met with police and significant gunfire was exchanged.
Protestors dismantled their stages and set whatever they could on fire. They blockaded themselves within a large stretch of downtown Kiev and occupied city hall.
Throughout the night, while the city burned, 20 were killed in ongoing violence. Government officials would announce the use of the military in counteracting the efforts of the protestors (who they referred to as terrorists) as these, reportedly, extended beyond Kiev – according to the New York Times.
At this point I had concluded my blog with a brief glance as to what might happen next. Then, I was surprised (again, slow down Ukraine) by an announcement that, in the middle of the night, Ukraine’s embattled government and the protestors had come to a truce.
Given the fervor we saw last night, I would estimate that Kiev is far, far from the end. Hopefully we’ll see a nonviolent resolution to ongoing concern, but if I had to guess I’d say that Ukraine’s people won’t be satisfied until their President is removed from office – and that he won’t be leaving without a fight.
*I feel obligated to tell you that this isn’t actually true and that frogs will jump out of water when they realize that it is getting too warm.