At least five protesters have died during overnight clashes with police in central Kiev in an escalation of the political crisis that has gripped Ukraine for over two months. Over 200,000 took to the streets after President Viktor Yanukovych reversed plans to strengthen ties with the European Union in favor of getting a bailout loan from Russia. Yanukovych responded by quickly passing laws which ban most forms of protest.
Violence broke out when police attempted to dismantle a camp and street barricades set up by protesters demanding that Yanukovych resign. Doctors at the opposition headquarters reported that five protesters have died of gunshot wounds, some from live rounds and at least one from plastic bullets. Another apparently fell from a 40-foot high gate to the Dinamo football stadium.
After three nights of violence, several black-robed Orthodox priests walked between the protesters and police, chanting prayers and carrying crosses and Bibles, in an effort to separate the two sides. Protesters and police agreed to a fragile truce until 8 p.m. on Thursday after President Viktor Yanukovych called an emergency session of parliament.
The opposition has given the president two days to call an election, saying there will be more bloodshed unless he does. After speaking with President Yanukovych, the Opposition Leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk said: "Tomorrow we will go forward together, and if it's a bullet in the forehead, then it's a bullet in the forehead, but in an honest, fair and brave way."
In other words, it's a giant mess in Kiev, and there's every indication the violence is going to resume in another day or so. When has any leader capable of such brutality ever voluntarily given up his power?
Due credit to these priests for their guts and efforts to stop the violence from escalating any further. There is one thing I've noticed, though. Wherever I see these priests, they have a small army of heavily armed paramilitary police at their backs. They were facing down the protesters, not the guys who showed up with guns and started shooting them dead.
Does that mean anything? I don't know. My impression is the priests were siding with the state, which was only too happy to use them as a form of crowd control. Tear gas and bullets not doing the job? Send in the priests. Maybe in the end it doesn't matter to them. They likely saved some lives and stayed in the good graces of the government, which is probably the best they could have done.
I hope I'm wrong, but I doubt it's going to work again. The next time Yanukovych sends out his goons the crackdown will be the real deal no matter what direction the priests are facing.
I hope I did not take the wrong side....;-(
Then again, is there a 'wrong side'?
Thank you for this very interesting post, haven’t paid attention to priests role at all before !
Disturbing on multiple levels. I do think the government is making the wrong decision here on the policy, but that's much less an issue than taking away what we in the US would call "first amendment" rights.
(But then, I am one of those oddballs who thinks a right exists whether or not a government acknowledges it. It appears I am in agreement with our "Founding Fathers" on this one.)
That's even more worrisome to me than the priests' role in this, even if their motivation is as we suspect. But of course the priests' actions are quite On Topic on this forum.
It's possible the priests are trying to convince the crowd to disperse because they don't imagine it can end in any other way but a slaughter of the crowd. In other words, telling these people not to martyr themselves over "nothing," rather than actually thinking the state is right. Can't be sure as I can't read their minds. But it sure would be remarkably "unchristlike" of them to take that stand, wouldn't it? The church(es) has (have) a fairly rich history of people dying for their beliefs, starting with jebus himself.
Even rubber bullets sometimes kill their target. The tolerance of the masses in eastern Europe is at a breaking point.
I often wondered what was going on in the minds of those young riot control police. Surely some of them have to be sympathetic to the cause of those they try to control?
Well it is hard to say, but unfortunately some seem to enjoy the protest and it doesn’t seems to bother them to use extreme violence and be that cruel...
Can be shocking: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0zD3pOG-Tk
These days, when I think of the Russian regime, I think of Pussy Riot, the fact that Russia actually continues to carry laws against blasphemy and either charged or threatened to charge Pussy Riot with it; I think of their treatment of the Greenpeace protesters, (piracy? really?); I think about their not only supporting anti-gay policies and legislation but passing NEW, fresh anti-LGBT laws; and I think about their toughening up restrictions against protesters.
I know little about the protesters except that there are many discreet factions each with their own gripes against Putin, but it seems to me that King Vlad is turning directly against the tide of civilization and reverting the world's first official atheist government into something that would be quite at home under the Czars.