Ukraine, the Nuland Leak, and the Amnesty Law

A discussion on Crosstalk with Peter Lavelle in which I appeared discussing the Nuland leak.

I found some of the comments made by Taras Kuzio frankly surreal but judging from what I read on Kyiv Post he is pretty mainstream in Ukrainian opposition terms.

Two weeks earlier in an interview on RT I said that though the Ukrainian opposition had appeared to reject the terms of the offered amnesty law and were demanding the unconditional release of arrested protesters their anxiety to get their people released meant that if the government stuck to its position the opposition might modify theirs. See my first reply to the interview below

The news today is that the administrative buildings including the Kiev city administration centre and most if not all of the administrative buildings in the provinces have now been freed in accordance with the provisions of the amnesty law. I believe that as required by that law there has also been or will be a withdrawal from Hrushchevsky Street.

This vindicates both the comment I made in my interview and an earlier comment made by Anatoly Karlin in response to an article by Ben Aris that the seizure of unguarded government and municipal buildings did not in itself mean that a revolution was underway or that the Yanukovitch government was about to fall.

As it turns out the seizure of the buildings was deeply unpopular (opinion polls show only 16-18% of Ukrainians supporting it and attacks on the police) and only took place in those areas where the opposition was already strong highlighting the extent of the division of the country. In addition it seems that only in a small number of regions in the far west where elected local councils already support the opposition was the opposition successful in setting up alternative bodies of power.

What this episode shows is that EuroMaidan is very far from being an unstoppable force and that contrary to most commentary the Ukraine (except possibly in some places in the far west) is not in a revolutionary mood. There is profound disillusion with the government and with Yanukovitch personally but repeated calls for a general strike have gone unheeded and when the government takes a firm line as it did over the seizure of the Justice Ministry building and the amnesty law it is the opposition that tends to back down. No one in the Ukraine appears to be very popular with no political leader being the first choice of more than 20% of Ukrainians. This is a conflict being fought out within a small and unpopular elite with the total number of those involved never numbering more than tens of thousands (as opposed to hundreds of thousands or millions) and with most of the country looking on from the sidelines. Unfortunately this also extremist and self interested outside players disproportionate leverage as we see with many of the people on EuroMaidan (see Mark Sleboda about this) and as we saw with the Nuland leak.

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